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The western Avernus; or, Toil and travel in further North America Roberts, Morley, 1857-1942 1887

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Array         THE
WESTERN   AVERNUS
OR
TOIL AND TRAVEL
IN
FURTHER   NORTH   AMERICA
BY
MORLEY   ROBERTS
LONDON
SMITH,   ELDER,   &  CO.,   15  WATERLOO  PLACE 
All   rights    reserved  TO MY FRIENDS
THE AUTHORS   OF ' THYRZA'  AND   'THE  CRYSTAL AGE'  CONTENTS.
chapter
I. In Texas	
II. Bull-Punching	
III. Iowa and Minnesota	
IV. In St. Paul	
V. To Manitoba and the Rockies .
VI. The Kicking Horse Pass
VII. The Railroad Camps	
VIII. The Columbia Crossing .       .        ...
IX. The Trail across the Selkirks
X. The Golden Range and the Shushwap Lakes
XI. Round Kamloops	
XII. Through the Fraser Canon ....
XIII. Down Stream to the Coast
XIV. New Westminster	
XV. Back Tracks to Eagle Pass
XVI. To Vancouver Island and Victoria
XVII. Mount Tacoma Overhead   ....
XVIII. Oregon Underfoot	
XIX. Across the Coast Range    ....
XX. In San Francisco	
PAGE
I
18
26
37
52
63
74
95
103
125
139
153
171
179
200
225
232
247
260
283  0
WESTERN   AVERNUS,
CHAPTER I.
IN  TEXAS.
THE wide prairie of North-west Texas, with Nature's
sweet breath bearing faint odours of spring flowers,
was around me; a plain of few scant trees or smaller
brush, with here and there a rounded hill that emphasised the breadth of level land, and again the
general surface broken, by quiet creeks and winter
rain, into hollow canons beneath me, and beyond
them once more the gentle roll of grassy prairie, and
hills again. I looked around me and I was alone ;
and yet not wholly solitary, for about me strayed a
band of sheep, grazing the sweet grasses that were so
green when near, and which showed a faint tinge of
purple or delicate blue afar off. I was a Texas sheep-
herder. A month before I had walked the crowded
desolation of unnatural London.
My life had been one of many changes.    From
B THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
the North of England to the wide brown plains of
sunburnt Australia; from her again to the furrows
of the ocean for many months of seaman's toil and
danger ; then England's greatest city and life, irksome
and delightful by turns in her maze and prison ; then
ill-health, with all its melancholy train, and sudden
feverish resolution to shake from myself the chains I
began to loathe.
And it was thus I came to Texas, the land of
revolution and rude romance, and pistol arbitration,
whither my brother had long preceded me—a land
•of horses, cattle, and sheep, of cotton and corn, a land
of refuge for many crimes, and for those tired and
weary even as I was. So outward civilisation was
gone, and it was with strange feelings of delight that
I came into a new country to commence a new career,
although I knew that there would inevitably be much
labour and perhaps much suffering for rrie.
I came into a Texas town by no means greatly
different from other American towns that I had seen
and passed through in my swift flight south and west
from the Atlantic seaboard, save that all around it
was open unfenced prairie, with no fertile farms or
houses to indicate that a town was near at hand.
But I found, to my surprise, that Colorado City was
cold on that spring morning of 1884, and I was unprepared for it, for I thought myself far enough south
to demand as my right perpetual warmth and sunshine ; and it was only when I learnt that I stood on IN TEXAS 3
a plateau two thousand feet above the sea level that
the cold did not seem unnatural. My impressions
of the town and its people were favourable. There
were many men walking round the streets dressed
in wide-brimmed hats, leather leggings with fringe
adornments, long boots, with large spurs rattling as
they went. They were mostly tall and strong, and I
noticed with interest the look of calm assurance about
many of them, as if they had said to themselves : ' I
am a man, distinctly a man, nobody dares insult me ;
if anyone does, there will be a funeral—and not mine.'
Then the ordinary citizens of the place seemed
ordinary citizens, in nowise remarkable, and, as far as
I could see, neither they nor the others, who were, as
I soon discovered, the much-talked-of cow-boys, wore
knives or revolvers.
In fact, my impressions were exactly what they
should not have been, according to Bret Harte. From
him I had taken my notions of Western America,
and I had constructed an ideal in the air, in which
red-shirted miners, pistolling cow-boys, reckless stage-
drivers, gentlemanly gamblers, and self-sacrificing
women figured in a kind of kaleidoscopic harlequinade,
ending up in a snow-storm or the smoke of a gunpowder massacre. And I was disappointed ; but I
must not be unjust to a favourite author of mine, for
I owed it to my own imagination,
My brother was living in this town, and it was
-with very little difficulty that I discovered him.    We
B 2 THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
Hi
shook hands and sat down, running through our
different experiences. I detailed my disgust of"
London and the life I had led there. He gave
discouraging accounts of Texas, averring that the
water was vile, that 'fever and ague' was common,,
that it was too hot in summer and too cold in winter..
I learnt from him that almost everybody in town
carried revolvers concealed under his coat-tails or
inside his waistcoat, and that people were occasionally shot in spite of the peaceful look of the place..
Nevertheless, there was little danger for a man who
was in the habit of minding his own business, who
was not a drinker and quarrelsome, and did not
frequent gambling-houses and saloons. I vowed I
would go into none of them, and promptly broke it
when I went down town with my brother to get
clothes such as Texans wear, for he himself took me
into one and introduced me to a gentlemanly gambler,
who might have stepped bodily out of the story of
c Poker Flat'—a Georgian, dark and slim, with long
hair, dressed in blacky amiable looking, and a quiet,
desperado if need were.
I changed my apparel under Jack's advice and,
appeared in the streets in a very wide-brimmed grey
felt hat and long boots reaching to my knees, and
then, when I was 'civilised,' as he declared, we went
to his boarding-house, and he introduced me to a.
circle of Texan working men. I made myself at
home, and sat quietly listening to the talk about the IN  TEXAS
ivar—a subject the Southerner is never weary of—of
desperadoes, of cattle, and of sheep. Jack and I held
a council of two as to what was to be done. I wanted
to work on a sheep or cattle ranche, as I had learnt
the ways of these in Australia, and, although he had
not ever followed that business himself, he agreed to
go with me if we could obtain such work. A few days
afterwards we left the city in the waggon of a sheep-
owner, hired to do the work of herders for 25 dols., or
about 5/., a month.
So I once more dwelt under canvas, living a pastoral life, cooking rude meals in the open air on the
open prairies, forty long miles to the northward of the
town. And we went to work, building sheep ' corrals !
or pens of heaped, thorny mesquite brush, bringing in
firewood, cutting it, putting up tents—for my part
glad to be so far from men in that sweet fresh air, for
I began to feel alive, volitional, not dead and most
basely mechanical as at home in England.
We were in camp on the border of the creek that
ran by us with sluggish flow, as if it lacked the energy
to go straight forward. In front of us, to the south,
was a semicircle of bluffs, up which one had to climb
to gain the open prairie, that stretched" out green and
grey as far as eye could reach. Beneath the bluffs
was a level with thin mesquite trees, and on the
banks of the creek a few cotton woods, and beyond
it another level with thicker brush, and then a mass
of broken, watercut land, formed into small fantastic THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
canons that bit deep into the red earth, and clay, and
gravel, that lay beneath.
I led a busy life—up before sunrise, in after sundown. Then we sat round the camp-fire, smoking
and talking. Our boss was an Englishman, one
Jones, fair and pleasant; with him another fatter,,
ruddier Englishman, young, bumptious, and green
withal, but no bad companion. Beside them a Mexican, long-haired, with glittering dark eyes under the
shade of his big sombrero, small and active, taciturn
for want of English. I could have warranted him a
talker had we known his own sweet tongue. But my
Spanish was limited to a few oaths—Caramba!—with.
some others terrible to be translated, and Don Quixote
in the original has yet to be mastered. Then another
herder, myself, and Jack. Decidedly, England was in
the ascendant, and our Spaniard looked on dumbly,,
in contemplation, as his lithe fingers rolled cigarettes
one after another in the yellow Mexican paperr
dipping into his little linen bag for the dry tobacco.
At daylight breakfast, after a wash in the creek*.
Bacon and bread and coffee, morning, noon, and
night, with rare mutton and beans, red and white,,
cooked with grease and greasy. Then I went to the
corrals and let out my sheep and their lambs, the
oldest skipping merrily and the little new-born ones
weakly tottering and baaing piteously, while the
anxious  mothers  watched   their   offspring,  turning IN  TEXAS
round to lick them, looking at me suspiciously the
while.
With them I spent day after day on the prairie in
almost utter solitude, save for the gentle animals I
held in charge*    These would scatter out and fleck
the green prairie with white of wool, browsing on
brush and sweet grass, while the lambs played round
them, taking tentative doubtful bites at the grass, as
if not yet assured that anything but milk was good
for them, or stood sucking or lay asleep ; sometimes
waking suddenly with a loud baa of surprise to find
themselves in such a strange wide world, and then
rushing  motherwards  for  milk,  butting   with   persistence the patient ewes, who moved along gently
after other uncropped grasses.    And at ten o'clock,
when the sun grew fierce, they would take their noon -
time's siesta, lying down under the scant shade of
mesquites or the few rocks at the end of the bluffs
that ran down to the creek.    They slept and woke,
got up one at a time, walking round, then down again.
And I picked a shady tree  myself, taking all the
shade, not through selfishness, but they yielded it to
me for fear.    I ate my little lunch, and drank water
from the round tin flask encased in canvas that I bore
over my shoulder, and smoked a peaceful pipe, and read
a book I had brought out with me, or dreamed of
things  that had been, and of things not yet to be.
And birds came round, perching on the woolly backs
of sheep—birds of blue and birds of red, some with ■8
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
sweet  songs.     And from the shelter of low thick
'b
brush or tufts of heavier grass peeped a silvery
skinned snake with beady eyes, drawing back on
seeing me. Or a little soft-furred cotton-tail rabbit
whisked from one bush to another, throwing up his
tuft of a tail and showing the white patch of under
fur that gives him his name, gleaming like cotton
from the bursting pod. And that yonder ? It was
a jack rabbit, a hare, long-legged, quick running ; but
then he went slowly, and sat up and looked at me as
if he were a prairie dog of yonder town of quaint,
brown, sleek-furred marmots, whose cry is like that
of chattering angry birds. But he swerved aside
suddenly, Mr. Jack Rabbit. The sheep would not
frighten him, and I was as quiet as the windless
tree I sat under. It was a snake, not silver, but
brown and diamonded. He saw me coming and
slipped under the rock, and lay there, making a
strange noise, new to me but unmistakable. He
was a rattlesnake. Then maybe I would go a little
way from my herd and see an antelope on the
distant prairie, and between me and the deer, a sly,
slinking coyote^ swift-footed and cunning, a howler
at nights, making a whole chorus by himself; by
quick change of key persuading the awakened shepherd that there was a band of them on the bluff in the
moonlight looking down hungrily on the corralled and
guarded sheep.
Day by day this pastoral life went on, not all as IN TEXAS
sweet as an idyll, but with some content. But my
brother fell ill, and went back to town, and I was left
to my own experience, which grew by contact with
my Texan neighbours, with whom I got along pleasantly, as I was fast relapsing into primitive barbarism.
I read little, and the noon I spent in contemplation, or observation of the denizens of the prairie,
and at night the hour before sleep was spent in
smoking and chatter, and grumbling at the sameness
of the cookery.
I herded through all April, but in the beginning
of May I began to grow very weary of the work, and
begged fp ones to give me something else to do, no
matter what, so that I was not compelled to act dog
to his sheep any more. I was evidently unfit for a
herder, for the task grew harder instead of easier. At
last my ' boss' went into town and brought out
another man, and released me. I went to corral-
building, and wood-chopping, and to preparations for
.shearing, which would soon be ; and as I then had
Sunday free, I used to go fishing for cat-fish in the
creek, and caught more often demoniacal mud turtles,
which I unhooked with much fear of their snappish
jaws. And one Sunday I slew a great rattlesnake
nearly five feet long, as thick as my fore-arm. At
the end of his tail, as he lay half coiled up, was a
-cloud—strange, undiscernible—the loud rattles in
fierce, Buick vibration. I went into a state of in-
-stinctive animal fury, and killed him with a branch IO
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
wrenched from a mesquite, regardless of the sharp
thorns that made my hands bleed.
Our days and nights now grew warmer with advancing summer, which passed across the prairie and
left it barer and brown, and doubtless made the dulL
sheep remember, if remember they can, past shearings of other years' fleeces and quick coolness. And
shearing-time came on apace, for there were no more
sudden ' northers' that came from the frozen north,
that knows no early spring, to make us shiver in our
sleep and wake in early morning cursing the climate.
So, when our preparations were complete, the wool-
table set up in the corral, the wool-boxes for tying the
soft fleeces ready, the posts and cross-pieces erected,
for the canvas shelter to keep the glaring noon sun
from the backs and bared necks of the stooping
shearers, Jones went round and summoned the
* boys' to start to work. And our camp took a livelier aspect with its Texan youngsters. The English
element was in the minority. Then the ' boss' went
to town for more shearers, and came back with a band
of Mexicans, who looked at the white men sulkily,,
thinking, no doubt, that there would not be so much
money to be made, as they were not to have Mas
boregas ' to themselves. Among them was an Indian,
a dark-skinned Chickasaw, who spoke a little English,,
and confided to me that he thought very little of the
Mexicans. These were finer men, though, than my
little wizened Indian—tall, some of them, with easy- IN TEXAS
ii
motion, dark eyes, dark hair, over which the inevitable sombrero of wide shade, with vast complications
of plaited adornments around it, making it look
heavy and cumbersome.
Next day shearing began. Sheep huddled together in the corral bleating for their lambs, or
running to and fro for those left outside. Under the
rude festoons and curves of canvas, the wooden
platform, with a few sheep in front, and on the board
itself seven Mexicans, and the Chickasaw, and four
Texan boys bending over the sheep. The sharp click,,
click of the moving, devouring shears of sharp steel,
and the fair fleece, white and pure, falling back over
the outer unclean wool yet unshorn. The last cut,
and the loosed fleece-bearer, uncloaked and naked,
runs shaking itself into the crowding others, wondering
? if it be I,' and another dragged unwillingly by the
hind leg from its companions, while the parted fleece
goes in a bundle of softness to the table, to be tied
and tossed to the man who treads down the wool in
the suspended woolsack, for we are primitive here
and have no press. The clean new boards underneath us grow black, and every splinter has its lock
of wool. There is wool everywhere, and the taste
and smell |of it; we are greasy with the grease of
it, and hurt fingers smart with it, some little revenge
for the pain the sheep have for careless cuts, that run
red blood on the divided fleece.
And night time came, and the sheep stood in the. 12
THE  WESTERN A VERNUS
I
corral hungry, and wishing the vile yearly business
was over. And when we got up next morning there
was not a Mexican to be seen. They had disappeared
in the night, doubtless angry that there were white
men to divide the profits with them. Jones ' cavorted '
round somewhat, abusing Mexicans generally, swore
he would have no more to do with them, and went
for more white men. I sheared among these in order
to learn this noble pastoral art, as I wished to learn
everything; else, for no man knows when his knowledge
may be useful and even necessary to him. So we
had none of I los Mexicanos,' with their fearful oaths,
among us, and no Chickasaws or Choctaws. And
for two days the shearing went well ; then came a
cold day, congealing the grease in the wool until it
clogged the shears. One man, the boaster of the
crowd, left, as he said, because the sheep were too hard
to shear; as we said, because he was irritated that a
boy sheared eighty while he got through no more
than fifty. Then, as Jones was away, my fat ruddy
young countryman had charge, and, being unaccustomed to authority and lacking tact, quarrelled
with one, which led to all the rest leaving. So the
patient sheep were not yet shorn. Jones came back
to find things at a standstill, and, being a good-
tempered man, only swore a little at white men. But
the shearing had to be done, and the vow about
Mexicans had to be recanted. The waggon went
into town, and in two days eleven more Mexicans IN TEXAS
'3
came out, better men and better shearers than our
first band. The captain—el capitan—was a broad-
shouldered, lithe-waisted man, quick, keen, black, and
comely ; with him a one-armed shearer, a great
surprise to me, whose first movements on the board I
watched with interest. He and the captain sheared
in company, and between them made more money
than any other two—made it shearing and gambling
as well, for the maimed man was an adept at the
cards, handling them with a rapidity and dexterity
many of his two-handed companions envied and
suffered from. I still sheared with them, but not
regularly, for sometimes I tied wool, and sometimes
pressed it, and even occasionally herded again. I
found them friendly, and at night they sang melancholy Mexican love-songs or gambled with the light
of a solitary candle, crowding together in one small
tent, while I sat amongst them, rolling up cigarettes,
as they did, catching a few words of their talk ; or I
left them and sat by the fire with Jones and the
other herders, and perhaps a stray cow-boy who came
to sleep at our camp, or some of the young sons of
our near neighbours ; and in their conversation I got
the relish of a new dish that tickled my civilised
palate strangely. The flash of humour, the ready
rough repartee that permitted no answer, tumbling
one to the ground like a sudden tightening lasso
dropped over head and shoulders, were like singlestick play after rapier and dagger, hard but harmless.
—- *4
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
And at last shearing was over, and my Mexican
friends took their money, doubtless resolving to get
drunk and gamble in town, and make up" for the labour
through which they had gone ; and I began to think
of joiner too, for I had heard from my brother in far
northern Minnesota, and he asked me to come if it
were possible. I was ready enough to go, for it did
not seem to me that I was as well as I should be.
Perhaps the alkali water was doing me no good, and
I should feel better doubtless in the more bracing
northern air, drinking the purer streams that ran
from Minnesota's lakes and sweet-scented pine woods.
I would leave Texas behind me, and the open prairie
and its sheep, and bands of long-horned cattle, its
chattering prairie dogs and howling coyotes, and
prowling cougars, and try another country.
But before I could get away there were many
things to do, and some things to suffer—notably a
storm one night, a surprise to me, for it seemed that
the wind blew calmly on the high plateau, using its
energy in ceaseless breezes, not in sudden destructive
cyclonic convulsion. But one day the breeze failed.
The clouds came up from all quarters, opening and
shutting, closing in the blue, dark and thunderous,
with pallid leaden edges. We sat in our camp, not
thinking greatly about the matter, for so many
threatened storms had blown over. But presently
Jones got up, and went across the creek to the house,
remarking that he thought we should have rain.    The IN TEXAS
15
young Englishman soon followed, leaving me with
Alexander, an American herder, and Bill, a Mis-
sourian.
Presently we heard thunder, and a few heavy drops
of rain fell. We left the fire, and went into the big
tent and sat down. Then there was a low roar of
wind, and the rush of rain came with the wind and
struck the tent, that bellied in and strained like a sail
at sea. One moment of suspense, and, before we could
move, the tent was flat on top of us, and the howl of
the gale and the pattering of rain were so tremendous
that we could not hear ourselves shouting. One by
one we crawled out, and in a moment were drenched
to the skin. Our oilskins were under the tent; it
was utterly impossible to get them. The force of the
wind was so great that I could not stand upright, and
the rain, coming level on it, blinded me if I tried to
look to windward. The lightning, too, was fearful, and
the thunder seemed right over and round me. In the
dark I got separated from my companions, and crawled
on my hands and knees to a small mesquite and held
on to it, while every blast bent it down right over me
After a while I grew tired of staying there, and in a
little lull I made a bolt for the end of the corral,
which was a stone wall. Here I got some shelter,
though I was afraid that the whole wall might blow
over on me. As it was, some of the top stones were dislodged. So I stood up and leaned on it, with my face
towards the wind and my broad-brimmed hat over my i6
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
eyes to keep the sharp sting of the rain off. In
front of me were the sheep, and leaning over the wall.
I could touch them j yet such was the darkness that I
could see nothing till the lightning came, and then
they stood out before me a mass of white wool, with
the lightning glistening on their eyeballs for a momentary space. Then darkness. In one flash I could
see Alexander under one mesquite, and, twenty yards
from him, Bill under another. I shouted to them, but
the wind carried my voice away. Here I stayed for
two hours. Then the wind began to lull and the lightning to grow more distant; so, plucking up courage,.
and waiting for lightning to give me my direction, I
walked over to Alexander, and then all three got
together again. I wanted them to come over to the
house, for we could go round by the road without
crossing the creek, which here ran in a horseshoe.
Alexander said he would come, for he did not want
to be wet all night without any sleep, but we could
not persuade Bill. No, he wasn't going to get lost on
the prairie such a night as that j he knew where he
was, and that was something. So we left him. It
took us more than an hour to go less than a mile, for
it was still blowing and raining hard, and the lightning
was even yet vivid enough to blind us. Once we got
off the road, but I managed to find it again, and
about one o'clock we came to the house, where Jones
and Harris laughed at the wretched figures we cut.
However, we got out blankets, and, throwing off our IN TEXAS
IT
wet clothes, we soon forgot the storm. Next morning
the creek was full to its banks, and still rising. We
found Bill at the camp, still wet through, though he
had managed to find some dry matches and light a
fire. Both tents were down. The provisions in the
smaller one were all wet and much damage done-
Still it was well nothing worse happened. I do not
think I shall ever forget that night in Texas.
Three days afterwards, when Jones began to haul
his wool to town, I went in with him and Colonel
Taylor, his next neighbour, who was hauling for him.
It took a day and a half to get to Colorado, and during
the first day I killed seven rattlesnakes and two others.
On getting near to town we began to see signs
of the damage done by the storm. We were on the
banks of the Lone Wolf Creek, that runs into the
Colorado River. The waters had run out on the
prairie on both sides and swept the grass flat.
Against every tree was a bunch of drifted bush and
grasses, while here and there I saw a poor little
prairie owl or prairie dog, or a snake, strangled by the
water or struck by blown branches. In town, houses
had been washed away bodily, going down the creek,
and others had been turned round on the wooden
blocks beneath them. The whole place wore a dishevelled, disarranged look, as if some mischievous
giant had been through it, making sport for himself.
It was the severest gale ever known in North-west
Texas.
C 18
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
CHAPTER  II.
BULL-PUNCHING.
k»
I WAS in Colorado City again, with resources only
forty-five dollars, or about nine pounds English, and
had to go north to Minnesota, find my brother and
support myself, until I found employment again, on
that small sum. It was quite evident that I should be
"unable to pay my fare to St. Paul, Minnesota, and
I had to decide now what was to be done. Problem :
twelve or thirteen hundred miles to be overpassed
without paying one's fare over the rails. This would
have been an easy task to many, and some months
later it would have scarcely caused me so much
anxious thought, but I was then inexperienced and
somewhat green in the matter of passes, which are
often to be obtained by a plausible man of good
address, and in the methods of * beating the road/ or,
more literally, cheating the company.
My brother had told me that it was frequently
possible to go long distances with men who had
charge of cattle for the great meat markets of St.
Louis and Chicago, and  had, with  an   eye  to the B ULL-P UNCHING
J9
future, introduced me to a rough-looking young fellow
who was an Englishman, but whose greatest pleasure
consisted in being mistaken for a native Texan. He
followed the profession of a I bull-puncher,' that is, he
went in charge of the cattle destined for slaughter
and canning in the distant North, and made money at
it, being steady and trustworthy and no drinker.
Jones and I had come to town on Saturday, and
on Sunday morning I went to the stockyards to look
.about me, to watch them putting the cattle in the
cars, and to see if I might find my friend. I found
him too quickly, for no sooner did I come to the yard
than I met him. He asked me if I wanted to go to
Chicago, and offered to take me at once, as the train
was ready to ' pull out' I was in a dilemma. My
clothes and blankets were at the boarding-house, my
money was in the bank. I told him, and he settled it
•quickly.
* Leave word for my brother Fred to bring along
your things ; I will cash your order on the bank.'
I went with him to the office, signed my name on
the drover's pass after his, and in five minutes was
running at twenty miles an hour over the wide prairie,
leaving Colorado City behind the sand dunes in the
hollow by the river that gives it a name.
We had seven cars of cattle to look after. The
poor wretches had a weary journey before them, and
their release would be a sudden death. It was a
cruel change from the grassy plains with a limitless
c 2 ?5^!SS?5!*HSr-3SSBS
20
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
extent of sweet grass, to be shut in cars and jolted for
more than a thousand miles with but short intervals
of rest and release, for they remain in the cars twenty-
four hours at a time.
I found this bull-punching a very wearisome and
dangerous business. It is too frequently the custom
with cattle men to crowd the poor beasts, and put
perhaps twenty-two where there is only comfortable
room for eighteen or twenty. When a steer lies
down he often gets rolled over, and is stretched out
flat without power to move, as the others stand upon
him. It is the duty of the ' bull-puncher' to see that
this does not occur, or to make him get up. For"
this purpose he carries a pole, ten or twelve feet long,,
usually of hickory, and in the end of this a nail is
driven, the head of which is filed off in order to get
a sharp point of half or three-quarters of an inch
long, which is used for 'jobbing' the unfortunate
animal to rouse him to exert himself, and to make
those who are standing on him crowd themselves
together to give their comrade a chance. If this
point does not effect the desired object, the ' twisters I
are used. These are small tacks driven into the pole
at and round the end, but not on the flat top, where
the sharp point is. By means of these tacks the pole
catches in the hair of the steer's tail, and it can be
twisted to any desired extent. This. method is
effectual but very cruel, for I have seen the tail
twisted  until it was broken and  limp;   but,   as   a. B ULL-P [INCHING
21
-general rule, as soon as the twisting begins the steer
gives a bellow and makes a gigantic effort to rise,
which, if the other animals can be kept  away, is
mostly successful.     If other means fail the train is
run alongside the first cattle-yards, the car emptied,
the steer then having no trouble in getting up, unless
seriously   injured.     But   I  have  found  them  with
nearly all their ribs broken on the upper side, and
occasionally they die in the  car.     If the man in
charge is conscientious, he will be all over the train
whenever it stops, day or night, but very frequently
he sleeps all night and pays no attention to them.
The man I was with did most of the work at night,
leaving me the day.     If he needed help he called,
and I served him the same in the day.    He was perfectly reckless in what he did, and w^ould do what
many will  not  attempt.     He would foolishly risk
his life by entering the cars if he found it impossible
to make a bullock rouse himself, and as I stood outside  holding the lantern for him  I   was sick with
apprehension, seeing him hanging to  the iron rails
above the sharp long horns that might have run him
through like a bayonet.    Their eyes glittered in the
light I held, and they bellowed with fear and anger.
Had he fallen, the chances were a thousand to one
against his life ; he would have been crushed to death
between them or trodden out of the shape of humanity under their hoofs.    Sometimes he succeeded, but
sometimes all this danger was encountered in vain, 11
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
«
and the steer he tried to save would  be  dead at
last.
It was dangerous work clambering round the cars-
and walking over them when the train was in motion.
Dangerous enough at any time, but in the night, when
I carried a long pole and a lantern with me, I often
thought I should come to a sudden end beneath the
wheels. I had to jump on the train, too, when in
motion, or be left behind, and at junctions such as
Denison to walk among shunting cars and trains and
loose engines, whose strong head-lights blinded me,
hindering sight of some dark, stealthy, unlighted cars
running silently on the next rails.
We fed the cattle at Fort Worth, a bustling busy
town, the western capital of Texas, the scene of great
railroad riots since then, and at Muskogee, a quiet
dull place in the Indian Territory, reserved for Indians
—Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokees, and others, with
less familiar names. I saw but few of these, and the
men who loafed and idled round the stations through
which we passed on the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas
Railroad were for the most part whites, armed with
six-shooters, for it is not forbidden to carry them.
It seemed strange to see little boys, eleven or twelve
years old, strutting round with revolvers hung in
their belts.    Little desperadoes in training, I thought.
This country was sweet and green, and very
pleasant, with great stretches of wood and then open
pastures, and good streams and pools of bright water.. B ULL-P UNCHING
23
We ran through the Territory, through part of
Kansas andBnto Missouri, staying a few hours in
Sedalia.
I began now to weary of this endless journey, to
weary of the prairie that would never cease, and to
long for busy Chicago and well-farmed Illinois. It
was time, indeed, for me to reach somewhere, for I had
never taken off my clothes since leaving Colorado
City, and I slept in snatches, rarely slumbering more
than three hours at a time.
We crossed the rapid Missouri at Franklin, and
came to Hannibal, on the famous Mississippi. We
stayed some hours outside the town to feed the
cattle, and then ran through a tunnel hewn out of
solid rock on to the long slender bridge across the
mighty river. I sat on the top of the cars, watching
thdKimmense flood of waters that had come from
Montana and had yet to go through many a State to
New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Here and there
were beautiful islands with plentiful trees, green and
peaceful, separated from the busier banks on either
hand. The town was almost hidden behind the hill
under which we had come, and only its smoke, curling
overhead, pointed out the spot of many habitations ;
and some way down stream on the right was an old
picturesque building, that I fancifully converted into
an ancient ruined castle, aided by the thin haze and
hill shadows. It gave the touch of golden romance
and age that one so misses in that new land. ^k;—
24
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
We ran through Illinois and came to the great
city of Chicago early on Sunday morning, and we
gave up charge of the cattle, which would be almost
instantly slaughtered. Then I had to make up my
mind as to what I was to do. I went to the post
office and found no letters from my brother, although
I had asked him to give me directions there how to
find him. Perhaps he had written to Colorado City,
and I had just missed his letter ; perhaps he had
left St. Paul, and had missed mine. I was in a
dilemma. I knew not whether to go to Minnesota
or not I asked my friend, and he advised me to
return to Texas, promising to obtain me work with
cattle there, and ' at any rate,' said he,i you can come
up with me again when you want to.' This determined me, and I returned to Colorado Cityfjonce
more.
I spent an idle, careless, novel-reading time for
some weeks, for I could find no one prepared to give
me cattle to take North, as trade was slack and prices
low. I got a note from my brother at last, saying he
was near St. Paul still, and would wait for me. But
I could not get away again now, and perforce went
to amusing myself, making acquaintances in town,
mostly people my brother had known. I read and
smoked, and went into the gambling saloons, though,
fortunately, I have no taste for gambling. Then I
met one of my Mexican friends, and he shook hands
with me warmly, explaining in broken English that B ULL-P [INCHING
all the others were in the ' calabosa,' or jail, for being
drunk and disorderly. And soon afterwards I met
them going to work on the road in charge of a warder
armed with a long six-shooter. They shouted to me
and waved their hands, looking not unhappy, and
doubtless thinking it was destiny, and not to be made
matter of too much thought. I waved my hat to
them and saw them no more.
At last I determined to leave the town. I was
sick of it, and not well besides, for the water affected
me very injuriously. I began to make energetic
inquiries, and at last found a man who took me with
him. It was time for me to get away; my money
was fairly exhausted, and I did not want to go to
work in Texas any more. I left town on July 7 and
arrived in Chicago on the 16th; and but one thing of
-all the journey remains in my mind, and that is the
figure of Ray Kern, who had once been a cow-boy in
Texas, but was leaving it on account of ill-health,
"who was to be a companion to me afterwards in some
of my other trials and journeys yet to come.
When I bade farewell to my friends, Ray among
them, I had but 5 dollars left, or £1 English. 26
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
CHAPTER  III.
IOWA AND MINNESOTA.
I WONDER if it be possible of one who has never been
away from his own country and his friends, who has
always been in comfort and reasonable prosperity, to
imagine my feelings when I suddenly found myself
alone and almost penniless in Chicago ? I think it
impossible. My desolation was in a way unbounded,
for every person I saw of the thousands in that great
city, wherein I knew not a soul, save those I had left
never to see again, made me feel even more and more
lonely. I walked the crowded streets for hours,
hardly knowing in what direction I was going nor in
what direction I should go. My thoughts turned
first towards my brother, who was, in the state of my
finances, impossibly far away, and from him to my
friends at home. To these I was now a shadow, for
they were busy, and one from the many of a life circle
is but little. To me they were the only realities, and
I was walking among shadows who were nothing, and
could be nothing, to me, whose habits and thoughts and
modes of life had become, after four years in London,. IOWA AND MINNESOTA
27
intensely, even morbidly subjective. I had lived those
years in a state of intellectual progress, which had cul -
minated in a form of pessimism which only permitted
me to see beauty in art—in pictures of Turner, in music
of Beethoven, in the poetry of the modern ; and now I
was thrown on the sharpest rocks of realism, and the
awakening was strange and bitter.
On the second day in the city I wras even more
melancholy, and it was an almost impossible task for
me to seek work. But the necessity of so doing became
more and more urgent as my resources became less
and less, and I made some efforts to obtain employment
on the schooners of Lake Michigan. For I had in the
days of my more careless boyhood made a voyage at
sea, and along with the memory of storm and calm, of
channel and open ocean, remained some of the rough
practical knowledge of a sailor's work. But I had lost
the calm buoyant confidence and energy of those
days, and with the decay of health had come a degree
of diffidence which then made it difficult for me to push
myself among a crowd of rude and ignorant men, even
though I had enough plasticity of outward character
to make me, to their careless glance, one of their own
class. And the dulness of trade in Chicago that
summer added to my troubles, and made me unsuccessful.
That night I thought I should try to save money
by sleeping somewhere without paying for a lodging..
I had heard in London of boys and men sleeping in
I 28
THE  WESTERN A VERNUS
Covent Garden Market, and under the arches of the
bridges.    And now I was about to add this to my
own experiences.    I had been told that in the large
cities of America it was very commonly the custom
for the homeless to sleep in ' box-cars,' which I believe
would be called ' goods trucks' in England, and I
found at last, late in the evening, a spot where many
were standing on the rails in a dark corner not far
from Randolph Street.    After  some little  search I
discovered an open one, and after entering it and
•closing the  sliding door, I lay down on  the bare
wooden  floor, and with my head on my arms  fell
asleep.     I must have slept about two hours when I
was awakened by finding my habitation in motion.
I was very little concerned as to where it was going,
as I was in no place likely to be worse off than in
Chicago, and I might very easily have been better.
I left the matter in the hands of destiny, and turning
over fell asleep again.    But I was again awakened in
a few minutes by the car stopping,  apparently in
some building from the difference of sound.     The
door was opened, and a man entering the car saw
me and said, ' Hallo, partner, have you had a good
sleep ?'   ' Pretty fair,' I said, ' but I guess it's over
now.'    And  I got up to go.    The intruder was a
kind-hearted fellow, however, and as I went out he
told me there were plenty of cars outside that would
not be disturbed that night, and directed me where to
find them.    I  thanked him, but soon found myself IOWA AND MINNESOTA
regarded suspiciously by a man who was the night
watchman, who finally ordered me to get out of the
yard, which I was obliged to do, as under the circumstances I had no alternative, although I confess to-
feeling very much inclined to resent his doing his
duty. So I went out into the streets once more. It
was now after midnight, and I had little desire to
walk about all night. So after all my trouble I had
a night's lodging, for which I paid 25 cents, and was
accommodated in a room villanous enough looking to
be the scene of one of Poe's midnight murder tales.
Next morning I was still despondent, and walked
about aimlessly enough until I came to the Chicago,
Milwaukee, and St Paul Railroad station. I went in
and sat down to rest and to think. My thinking
discovered me no hope, but my prolonged stay there
was the cause of my again meeting with my travelling
companion, Ray Kern. He came in looking miserable
enough and pale and ill, but when he saw me he
brightened up as I had done, and we, who were but
of a day or two's acquaintance, grasped each other's
hands as if we had been brothers. Poor Ray was in
the same condition as myself, though he had a dollar
or two more to balance his being worse in health
than I was. We had a long talk of ways and means
and aims, and his experience helped us out of Chicago.
In all American cities there are employment offices,
which, on payment of a fee, furnish work, if any is to
be obtained, to suitable applicants.    They frequently «m»^b  v—iy»*i>».v
30
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
i\
send labourers long distances on the cars for very
trifling sums to work for the railroads, who furnish
passes for the number they need. Ray and I went
across the road to one of these offices, and found that
men were wanted to go to a little town near Bancroft,
in North-west Iowa, Kosciusko County, to work on
the railroad. The fee required by the office was 2 dols.,
but all I had now was 1 dol. 50 cents, and I was
rather hopeless of getting away, when Ray offered
the manager 3 dols. 25 cents to send us both out.
After some chaffering this was agreed to, and we
were furnished with office tickets, which would be
changed at the station for passes. I was now without
any money at all—not even a cent. But Ray, whose
kindness to me I shall never forget, helped me through
the day, and in the evening we started with about
twenty others for our destination, 600 miles away.
This system of sending labourers to distant points on
free passes is naturally taken advantage of by persons
who wish to go in the direction of the place where
the help is needed or beyond it, and very frequently
it happens that on reaching the end of the journey
there is scarcely one left of those who started. And
it was so in this instance. Of the twenty who left
Chicago, Ray and I were the only ones who got out
at Bancroft, for the others had quietly disappeared at
various stations on the way. We had been about
thirty-six hours on the journey, and during this time
we had passed through a farming country, which was IOWA  AND MINNESOTA
3i
for the most part uninteresting, and, in the northern
part of Iowa, to my eye positively ugly, as it there
consisted of level plains with no colour or trees to
relieve their dead monotony, save an occasional grove
of planted trees near a farm, placed to the north of
the buildings to make some shelter from the howling
* blizzards/ or winter storms, that rage for days on
the bleak and open prairie. And the natural melancholy of the scene was magnified for me by the
hunger, which increased as we travelled, for we were
both without money save a solitary half-dollar, which
Ray was preserving for emergencies.
When we at last reached our objective point
we were not encouraged by what we saw. On a side
track, a little way from town, stood three cars, one
fitted up as an eating-room with rough tables and
benches, and the others as sleeping-rooms with bunks
in them. We put our blankets down and went in
to get dinner, which consisted of huge chunks of
tough, badly cooked beef with bread, and potatoes
boiled in their skins. The plates were tin, the cups
of the same material, the knives rusty and dirty and
blunt. Our companions were of all nationalities,
they ate like hogs, and their combined odour was
distinctly simian. It was with difficulty Ray and
I ate our dinners, hungry as we were, for one had to be
ene rgetic to obtain anything at all, and the noise and
smell and close quarters made both of us, who were
by no means in rude health, feel sick and miserable. 32
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
After dinner, if I can call it such, we went out
and walked in silence up the line. Presently I burst
out, in unconscious imitation of the famous Edinburgh
Reviewer, (This will never do.'
Ray looked up and said shortly, ' Charlie, I agree
with you.'
We continued walking, and presently came to a
little * section house/ These are built at intervals
along all the lines in America. In them live a
1 section boss' and a small gang of men, who look
after a certain section of the line, seeing that it is
kept in repair. They raise the * ties' or sleepers if
they settle down, renew them when they rot, see
that the joints are perfect and the rails in line. Outside the house we met the ' section boss/ who asked
us if we had come up to work with the ' gravel-train
gang.' We said yes, we had come there with that
intention, but didn't much like the look of things, and
would prefer not doing it if anything else were possible. He seemed to be in no way surprised at that,
and said if we cared to come to him we could go to work
in the morning, promising us good accommodation
and board, the wages being, however, only #1.25 a
day—twenty-five cents less than that of the other job.
The cost of board, however, was to be somewhat less.
We engaged at once with him, and went back for our
blankets, paying our last half-dollar for our miserable
mid-day meal.
Our * boss' was named Breeze, and we found him IOWA  AND MINNESOTA
33
and his wife very pleasant and intelligent and kind.
The others in the gang were Swedes, who could not
talk much English, and Ray and I had very little to
do with them during the short time we stayed there.
For Ray seemed too weak to work, and using the
pick and shovel was so new to me that I made twice
the labour of it that the others did ; and, moreover, my
foot got so sore that I found some difficulty in working
with any degree of complacency.   After three days we
determined to leave and go north to St. Paul, if it could
be managed.    But we had great difficulty in getting
any money, as the men on sections are only paid
once a month, when the travelling car of the R.R.
Paymaster comes round.     But we signed orders for
Breeze to receive our money,  and got seventy-five
cents apiece, one dollar and a half in all, which constituted our sole resources.    Mrs. Breeze made us up
a parcel of food, and I gave her a little volume of
Emerson's c Essays,' which I had brought from England with me.   And thus we started north again.   Of
all the melancholy days' walks I ever had, that was the
most doleful.    Around us lay a miserable, flat, most
dreary prairie ; ahead of us stretched the long line of
endless rails, fading in the distance to nothing, and
overhead the July sun glared piteously on two disheartened tramps, who were most decidedly out of
place,|:wishing themselves anywhere—anywhere out
of that world.    Had Ray been well and cheerful, I
should have been more dispirited than I was, for in
D h
34
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
his state of health and mind I had to keep him up by
cracking jokes and singing songs when I felt more
like making lamentations or taking to sulky silence.
But he was so weak that we had to rest, and if I had
not kept him going we should have been there now.
At noon we camped by a waterhole, or small
swamp, and ate a little and had a smoke, and, feeling
hot and dust-grimed and wayworn, I stripped off
and had a bathe, while Ray looked on in silence.
By dint of hard and painful walking we reached
a farm in the evening. We went up and asked
for work. The superintendent was a Swede, a
nice enough fellow. He gave us supper, and next
morning set me shocking barley after a reaping
and binding machine, while Ray went out haymaking. Our wages were to be a dollar a day and
board. On the evening of the second day the
owner of the farm, a Congressman named Cooke,
came home, and, in American parlance, * fairly made
things hum.' In fact, we had to work too hard
altogether, considering that we began at sunrise and
worked till it was dark. Ray by no means improved
in health, and on that evening we agreed to leave the
next day and make another stage to St. Paul. I do
not think Cooke minded our going much, as he
thought we were unaccustomed to hard work. He
came in to give us the three dollars each as I was
rolling up my blankets, and noticing that I had a
book he asked to see it.     It was ' Sartor Resartus/ IOWA  AND MINNESOTA
35
Turning it over and over, he looked at it and then at
me, and finally said, * Do you read it ?' I answered
by another question, 'Do you suppose I carry it just
for the sake of carrying it ?' 'Weil,' said he, '1 am
surprised at a man, who can read a book such as this
seems to be, tramping in Iowa.' * So am I, Mr.
Cooke/ I replied, and, bidding him good-day, Ray
and I marched off, a little better in spirits, as we now
had seven dollars and a half between us.
That night we crossed the northern boundary
of Iowa and came into Minnesota at Elmore. We
had supper at the hotel, and found out that there was
a train going to St. Paul soon after midnight After
.supper we went out, and finding an empty box-car
we lay down to get some sleep. But the cold and
mosquitoes combined made it almost impossible.
On no other occasion have I ever found mosquitoes
so active in such a low temperature.
At midnight Ray got up, and went over to the
-conductor of the train and made a bargain with him
to take us to Kasota (which was as far as he went
with the train) for I dol. 5° cents each, which was
much under the regular fare. This is very commonly
.done in the States by the conductors; who put the
.money in their own pockets. Next day we were in
Kasota, a very pretty little place with lots of timber •
indeed, Southern and Central Minnesota seem generally well wooded. We found there was a freight
train leaving this  town at one o'clock, and I went
D2 36
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
over to find the conductor. I asked him what he
would take two of us to St. Paul for. He said,' Two
dollars each.' Now we had by this time only three
dollars and three-quarters left, so I told him that
wouldn't do, stating how our finances were, and offering him three and a half dollars. After refusing
several times, finally he said, 'Very well, you can come
along, though I expect you will shake a fifty dollar
bill at me when you get to St. Paul.' How devoutly
I wished it had been in my power ! We jumped into
the caboose, and at eleven o'clock that night we arrived
in St, Paul. We had then 25 cents between us,
which was very encouraging to think of. Five cents of
this we gave to the brakeman of our train to show us
a car to sleep in. We found one half filled with
sawed lumber, crawled into it, spread our blankets,
and lay down while our friend held the lantern.
His last words were: ' Mind you get out before four
o'clock, or you will go down south again.' After
about three hours' sleep we were wakened by the
yardmen switching or shunting the car, and making
up our bundles we dropped them out and followed
them when the car next stopped. Near at hand we
found a little platform about eight feet square, by a
house right in the middle of the railroad yard. On
this we spread our blankets, and only woke to find
it broad daylight, seven o'clock, and men working all
round us. We rolled up again, and in silence went
up into the town. 37
CHAPTER   IV
IN  ST.  PAUL
We placed our blankets and valises in a small
restaurant and walked to the post office. I asked
four men the way to this building, and of these only
the last could speak intelligible English, such are the
numbers of Germans and Scandinavians in some
parts of the States. I found two post-cards from my
brother ; one of which stated he was working near the
town, giving me an address, and the other, dated two
-weeks later, gave me to understand that he had been
unable to remain in St. Paul owing to scarcity of
work, and that he had left the city for New Orleans
by the river steamboats. This was not very satisfactory for me, for I had cherished some little hope
that he might have been either in a position to help
me to work or to repay me some money which I lent
him at Ennis Creek. Now I and my partner were
truly on our ' beam ends/ and 20 cents alone stood
between us and absolute bankruptcy. We walked
round the corners from the post office and sat down
on a seat in the public park. As consideration,
however, was in no way likely to appease our hunger, 38
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
U
which was now beginning to be inconveniently perceptible, I left Ray and went to see what could be
got for our cash remainder in the shape of breakfast.
After tramping awhile I bought a loaf for 10 cents
and butter for the rest, and we were now'dead broke.r
Ray was sitting in the same position as I had left
him, having no energy to move, poor fellow, and it
was with difficulty I got him out of the seat to come
and look for a quiet place in which to consume the
luxuries with which I was laden. A neighbouring
lumber yard seemed suitable, and we found a convenient plank on which I put the paper of salty
butter, while I divided the loaf with my knife.
This was a nice meal for two hungry men, but we
were glad enough to get it under the circumstances,,
and since then a loaf would at times have been a very
godsend even without the butter. I was sorriest for
Ray, for a cup of coffee or tea with his meal would
have done him good, and it was as unattainable as-
champagne or oysters and chablis. When We had
finished the bread I wrapped up the remains of the-
butter and hid it between two planks in a dark corner
of the lumber pile, for I thought it possible that we
might want it, though there' seemed little likelihood
of our having bread with it. As we still had tobacco,
we lighted our pipes and walked slowly along the
street, wondering where the next meal was to come
from. Perhaps, if I were placed in the same situation
again, I should not, in the light of far bitterer ex- n
IN ST. PAUL
perience, regard it as so dismal, and my increased
knowledge and savoir faire in things American would
show me ways out where I then saw, as it were, * No
thoroughfare' plainly written.
Ray was really too ill to ' rush round/ and he was
quite a deadweight on me, for he was hopeless.    In
ordinary circumstances his knowledge  would  have
helped me, but all it did now was to pessimistically
recall the blackest side of his former experience.    He
thought  it  almost  worse  than useless to go to an
employment office without money, and so it seemed
to me.    But when I left him on the park seat, and
began to look round without the dear fellow's most
dismal croaking to dishearten me, I plucked up courage, after making vain inquiries in various quarters,
to try an Employment Agency whose chalked board
outside  gave  evidence  of labour needed  in   many
different lines  of business.    There  were  fifty men
wanted to work on the streets.    This I considered was
very probable, considering the state they were in.
There were more wanted for the waterworks.    This,
too, would be no work of supererogation.    There were
teamsters, dairymen, and various others whose services were desired.    I walked in and- spoke to the
manager, who, finding I professed not to be a teamster, though  I   could  drive  reasonably well, nor  a
milkman, for lack of practice, offered me the  less
lucrative and probably more toilsome job of labourer
at the waterworks for the moderate fee of one dollar. 4Q
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
Never had the great American dollar assumed such
a gigantic size to me. Never had it seemed so far
away. Liberty in her cap was fairly invisible, and
the imagined scream of the bold eagle on the reverse
was 'faint and far.'
'Well, mister/ said I, ' I have not got a dollar/
' What have you got ?' was his answer, thinking,
I suppose, that I might have 99 cents. I surprised
him.
' I've got a partner.'
' Has he any money ?'
I might have answered in the language of Artemus
Ward—' nary cent,' but it did not occur to me.
(He's got as much as I have, and that's nix'
(corrupt German for ' nichts').
My friend looked at me, having no further remarks
to make.    I felt a crisis had come.
' Suppose you send us both out and ask the boss
to stop two dollars from our wages on your account
Won't this do ? You see we want work; we've got
to have it.    That's a fact.'
The manager walked to his big desk, wrote a note,
sealed it, gave it to me, and said, ' Come here at two
o'clock, and you can go out to the works with the
provision wagon.' I thanked him very quietly and
walked out.
Ray was as I left him. I composed my countenance to sombre dolorousness, and sat down beside
him, grunting out 'Got any tobacco ?'    No, the last «M«J
IN ST. PAUL
was gone. He seemed so miserable that I thought it
cruel to deceive him by my looks any longer, and
laughed till I woke him fairly up, and he saw by the
twinkle in my eyes that I had been in luck. ' So
you've got work ? ' ' Yes,' said I, ' and you too ; we
go out this afternoon to the waterworks.'
How hard must be one's lot when the news that it
is possible to earn a dollar and three-quarters a day,
by ten hours of hard manual labour, acts like a very
tonic and braces up the whole man ! Ray was for the
rest of the day quite a new being, in spite of his hunger,
which half a small loaf had not gone far to appease in
the morning. As for myself, I laughed and joked,
and, thinking I should be quite happy if I had some
tobacco, I managed to get into conversation with a
man near us, borrowed a pipeful, and smoked in calm
content.
At two o'clock we found the wagon at the office,
put our blankets in it, and set out on our walk, which
was seven miles, to the works. After a while, finding
the wagon move but slowly and the road plain, we
walked on ahead, and when we had made about two-
thirds of the way we came on three teamsters who
were having dinner. They gave us a friendly hail, and,
whether they fancied we looked hungry or not, kindly
asked us to sit down with them and ' pile in/ which
being interpreted signifies,' Pitch in and eat/ Under
the circumstances such an invitation was by no means
to be despised, and accordingly we consumed all there 3E3
42
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
was, yea, even unto the last crust, taking an occasional
drink at a very convenient spring, our companions
chatting merrily the while and laughing at my semi-
tragical, semi-comic account of our adventures since
leaving Chicago.    These were three good fellows.
After another mile or two's walk we came in
sight of the camp, which consisted of two huge tents
on the flat and two more on the side of the hill.
We could see a great trench or sewer cut in the
ground with derricks swinging up large iron buckets of
dirt, and men busily employed digging lower down,
breaking the ground on the line laid out for excavation, while some were laying beams in the cut to
prevent the sides from caving in. So down we went
and presented our letter. The boss asked if we had
had dinner, and as we said' No'—thinking it still possible to eat more—he told the cook to give us some,.
which we had little trouble in getting rid of. And
then we went to work with a gang whose boss was
called Weed, who was one of the nicest and most"
kindly men I ever worked under.
However, what he first set me to do very nearly
finished me. I had to take a big unwieldy maul, or
mallet, and drive down boards into the mud and ooze
at one side of the ditch, as they were then cutting'
through a kind of quicksand. The last week had
not made me very much stronger, as may be imagined,.
and it was only sheer necessity which made me stick
to it.     But I had to do something, and this was all IN ST. PAUL
that seemed to offer itself. Next day was even worse,
for I had a big Irishman with me, and as we had to
strike one after the other, he made it as hard as he
could by working too fast. I had some difficulty in
refraining from making a mistake and striking him.
However, that evening I made a friend of Weed by
offering to splice the rope into the big bucket. This
had been done so execrably by another man that,
when I turned out a neat and creditable job, he made
things as pleasant as he could for me.
We were working with as rough and as mixed a
crowd as it has ever been my lot to come in contact
with. There were Americans from most of the
various States and Territories, there were some Englishmen, and a promiscuous crew of Canadian and
European French, Germans, Swedes, Norwegians,
Danes, Finns, Polanders, Austrians, Italians, and one
or two Mexicans. I didn't see a Turk, but I wouldn't
like to say there was none.
We slept in a big tent with about fifty men in it-
There were upper and lower bunks, each holding two
men. Ray and I secured a top one, and had for our
left-hand companions two Swedes, while on our right
was an Irishman and an American named Jack Dunn.
I do not know what State he was from. This man
was feared by everyone in the tent. He was to all
appearance exceedingly powerful, and when in a bad
temper ferocious and ready to quarrel ' at the drop of
a hat/ as the American  saying goes.     At first he II
44
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
seemed to dislike me, and made some remarks about
Englishmen in general which I declined in such
company to make any cause for a disturbance. In a
day or two, however, he distinguished me by honouring me with his friendship, and we would talk for
hours while lying in our bunks, none of the rest
caring to object, even if they wanted to sleep.
He had not been two weeks out of jail when I
saw him, and he gave me accounts both of how he got
in and how he got out. And both showed him to be
a desperate man, and most uncommonly courageous.
It appeared he had been firing in a Mississippi
steamboat, and while he was in the stokehole one of
the negroes came past him with a box and struck
him on the elbow.    ' I cussed the black- / said
Jack, ' and he answered me back. I never could
stand sass from a nigger, and I picked up a lump of
coal and threw it at him. He didn't give me any
more talk. He died by the time we made the next
landing, and you bet I just lighted out in the dark.
They were after me, but it was more than a month
before they took me. So I got eighteen months'
hard labour for manslaughter. I thought of escaping,
but couldn't see a chance, and had been there nine
months when another chap escaped. I was just
mad to think that one man had the grit in him to
skip, while I lay in the thundering hole still, but
when it came out how he tried, I didn't care for that
way.     You see his partner four days after told how
I IN ST. PAUL
it was. He had crawled down a drain. The warder
got to hear of it, and of course off he goes to the
governor. The governor just said, " If he went that
way, he's in there yet." For you see there was a
grating or bars across the drain 120 feet down it.
Down they goes to see it, and sure enough there
was a mighty bad smell came out there. 'Twould
pretty nigh knock you down. The governor he gets
us all out and tells us this : " Now, boys," sez he, " I
want No. 20 out of there, and if I break down to
him it will take days and days, for it's all solid stone
and concrete over wThere he is ; and, besides, it will
cost a pile o' money. Now, if there's anybody here
with a sentence of less than two years, I'll see that
he shall get half of the full term remitted, if he'll go
down that pipe and fetch him out"
' Well, we all just looked at each other; some seemed
as if they'd speak, some turned red and pale. I thought
my heart was a-bursting, I heard it go thump, thump.
At first I couldn't speak too, but I thought if another
chap speaks afore me I'd just kill him as I did the
nigger. I holds up my hand, and when the governor
looked at me I says in a kind of queer voice, as
seemed to belong to somebody else, " I'll do it, sir."
The other chaps looked at me. Mebbe they thought
I was as good as dead too. Some looked glad, as if
I'd kind o' took the 'sponsibility off 'em. And how
did I feel ? I guess I felt all right in less than a
minute.    You see I was tired of the stone walls, and 46
THE  WESTERN A VERNUS
I seemed to see the river outside, and feel the wind
coming right through the solid jail, so I kind of
freshened up.
'Well, the boss he dismissed the other men, and him
and me and two or three of the warders goes down
to the pipe. I can't tell you just what size it was. It
was just big enough for me to squeeze into. There
was a coil of rope, about as thick as my thumb, and
after taking off all my clothes but a flannel shirt and
drawers and socks, I coils a yard or two round my
shoulders, catches hold in my hand, and got in, with
the rope tied round my heels so they could drag me
and him out.
' They told me I wasn't in more than twenty
minutes. Dunno. Seems to me I served nine
months in there ; the stink was just terrible, and the
further I got in the worse it was. And breathing!
Jehoshaphat! I panted like a tired dog, and I
thought I would burst. Sometimes I seemed to kind
o' swell up, and I couldn't move. And then, dark as
it was, I seemed to see fire and sparks, and my eyes
were hot, and I thought they was a-dropping out. One
time I think I got insensible, but I suppose I kept on
crawlin', for the warder that paid out the rope sez I
never stopped till I got him. Oh yes, I got him, after
crawlin' through all the narrow drains in America,
drawing miles' of rope that got so heavy and hard to
drag that every inch seemed the last   I  could  go. IN ST  PAUL
Christ, I wouldn't do it for the world again ! Before
I knew it I touched something cold and clammy with
my burning hands, and I shrunk up as if I'd touched
a jelly-fish swimming in muddy water. I got a
hitch over his heels, and they tightened up the rope ;
-as I told 'em to do if I stopped and gave it a pull.
And I don't remember anything more till I found
myself outside in the air, with something lying near
me covered with a tarpaulin. The doctor was bending
over me, washing the blood off my face, for draggin'
me out insensible I got scratched in the face on the
pipe-joints, you see. I lay in the hospital two days,
and every time I went to sleep I dreamt I was in
there with No. 20. Then they let me out, and I came
here.    Good-night, partner.'
There was also in the same tent a man named
Gunn, a very fine-looking young fellow, from Maine,
who had been three years in British Columbia, where,
according to his own account, he had earned a great
deal of money by making ' ties ' or sleepers for the
Canadian Pacific Railroad. This he had spent in
seeing his friends. And he was now trying to make
a (stake/ or a sum sufficient to take him back there.
We had a great deal of conversation about that
•country, and I was infected with the desire of seeing
it. It used to seem to me in England that it was
almost the furthest place from anywhere in the world,
and this had some effect in forming my plans, as I f
48
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
was too adventurous to remain satisfied in such a
well-known, near-at-hand spot as Minnesota.
I stayed at the works twelve days, during which
time I worked wdth the pick and shovel, rigged
derricks, spliced ropes, and mixed mortar for the
bricklayers, as the water was to run through a brick
tunnel instead of iron pipes, where the quicksand was.
On one occasion the man I was working with irritated
me, and I went over to Weed and asked him to give
me my' time'—i.e. to make up what time I had worked
there in order that I might get my money. He said,
' Oh, nonsense, what's the matter with you ? I think
you're a little bad tempered this morning. / don't
want you to go away, so go back to work.' I went
back and stayed four more days, but so anxious was
I to get away from such detestable work and companions that I made all the overtime I - could. At
last I worked one day ten hours in the ditch, went to
supper at six, at seven came back, and with a little
German for partner, pumped all night till six in the
morning, then had breakfast, slept two-and-a-half
hours, worked from 9.30 till six in the evening, and
after supper again went out pumping till midnight.
At a quarter to twelve I lay down on a pile of loose
bricks, as we were pumping turn and turn about, and
fell asleep. At midnight two others came to relieve
us, and it was with difficulty they woke me up.
Next morning I got what money was coming to
me  and went into town.    Ray would not come, so IN ST.  PAUL
49
I shook hands with him, bidding him farewell. I
now had a new partner, who was not so much to my
mind as Ray, and of entirely different character. Pat
M'Cormick was an American Irishman who had lived
mostly in Michigan and Wisconsin, working in the
pine-woods and 'driving' on the rivers. This driving
is taking the logs, which are sledded to the rivers from
where they are cut, down into the lakes, and is a
hazardous and laborious employment. The drivers
are wet for weeks together, and mostly up to their
middles in icy water; they stand on the logs going
down rapids which would destroy a boat, they ease
them over the shoals, and break ' jams ' that occur
when some logs get caught and those floating behind
them are stopped by them. Pat was a great drinker,
which unfortunately I did not find out till too late,
and besides, utterly reckless, though good tempered to
an extreme when sober.
We walked into town, creating some little amusement in the more respectable streets by our appearance. I had still my big-brimmed Texas hat on me,
which at the camp had earned me the title of 'Texas/
under which sobriquet I went for many months, as it
was passed on from one acquaintance • of mine to
another. Our boots were long knee-boots, and of
course uncleaned, and our blankets looked as if we had
just come off the tramp.
We walked round a little, and presently came to
an employment office.    Outside was a large notice.
E 50 THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
CANADIAN   PACIFIC  RAILROAD.
In British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains.
1,000 Labourers wanted at good wages.
ioo Tie-makers wanted by the day, or by the piece.
Steady work guaranteed for two years.
Perhaps, if I had not spoken with Gunn at the
camp, I might have passed this by, but his eulogistic
account of British Columbia had made me rather
anxious to go there. Besides, the natural tendency of
everyone seems to be to go west in America. In
Australia I had found it impossible to avoid getting
farther and farther into the heart of the country, and
it is possible that, if I had not made at last a determined effort to get back to Melbourne, I should in
time have come out at the Gulf of Carpentaria. Here
I had to go west, under the direction of destiny,
epitomised in Horace Greeley's ' Go west, young man,
and grow up with the country.'
We went in, and found that the fee required was
$>\ dols., or about 35^"., for which we were to be carried
i,600 miles through Canada to the Rocky Mountains.
As M'Cormick had insufficient money, I did for him
what Ray Kern had done for me in Chicago—paid the
extra amount, and, having bought provisions with the
balance of our money, we went off to spend the day
as best we could, for we were not to start till the
following morning. That night we crossed the river,
and finding a pile of hay in front of an unfinished  JA
52
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
CHAPTER V.
TO  MANITOBA AND  THE  ROCKIES.
It was the morning of August 7 that I left St Paul.
With our last money, as I said, we had bought provisions, which consisted of a couple of loaves, some
cheese, and a long sausage, with a few onions and
two or three green peppers. After buying this I had
twenty-five cents left.
All the 7th was consumed in running north from
St. Paul to the Canadian line, which from the Lake
of the Woods to the Gulf of Georgia follows the forty-
ninth parallel of latitude. After getting clear of the
Minnesota forests we ran into the Red River Valley,
prhich to the eye seems a perfectly level plain, green
and grassy but absolutely treeless. At nightfall we
were at Glyndon, a few miles from the Dakota line
and Fargo. At midnight we passed the Dominion
line at St. Vincent and were in Manitoba, through
the whole extent of which the same character of
the country prevails as in Northern Minnesota. We
reached Winnipeg that morning, and I devoted an
hour to seeing what I could of the town, which seemed **m
TO MANITOBA  AND  THE ROCKIES
53
to me to be an entirely execrable, flourishing and
detestable business town, flat and ugly and new.
The climate is said to be two months black flies, two
months dust, and the remainder of the year mud and
snow. The temperature in winter goes down sometimes to sixty degrees below zero, which the inhabitants will often tell you is not disagreeable; ' if you
are well wrapped up, as the Polar bear said when he
practised his skating/ I thought.
My  partner,   M'Cormick,  came   to   me   a  few
minutes before the train started and asked if I had
any money.
H   ' What for ? ' said I.   HH|      ^IIBbBH
Pat was ready with his answer. ' If you have, it
won't be any good after leaving here, and I want
some whisky.'
' Well, Mac, if I give it you, you'll get drunk.'
1 Drunk! I never was drunk in my life. Come,
Texas, you may as well. What's the good of money
if you don't spend it ? '
' If I do/ I answered, ' you'll repent it before long,
you bet your life ; and as to your never being drunk,
why you're drunk now.' And so he was, for some
of the others had been passing the bottle round
freely. But it wasn't any use trying to put him off,
so, for the sake of peace and quietness, I let him have
the last twenty-five cents I had, and he got a small
flask of whisky.
As I refused to drink any he drank most of it fl
54
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
himself, with the result that he began quarrelling with-
one of a bridge gang who boarded the train at Winnipeg. The altercation would have been amusing if
Mac hadn't kept on appealing to me, trying to drag
me into his troubles. He called the bridgeman a
very opprobrious name, and for a moment there was
great danger of a ' rough house' out of hand. Mac
wanted him to get off the train when it stopped to
have it out, but the other man, though not very
peaceable by any means, was not so drunk as my
partner, and had sense enough not to get left on the
prairie for the sake of a fight. So they sat opposite
each other Wrangling for hours, while I expected their
coming to blows every moment. Presently Mac came
over.
| Texas, give me your six-shooter/
11 haven't got one.'
' Oh yes, you have ; I know it's in your blankets.
I want it/
' Well, Mac/ I said, getting a little mad, ' in the
blankets or not, you won't get it'
Mac went off, muttering that I was a pretty
partner not to help him. Presently the bridgeman
i^tme over and sat down by my side. He began with
drunken courtesy:
' Sir, I thank you for not giving him your gun.
Perhaps you saved my life.' Then getting ferocious:
' Not that I'm scared of him/ Then a short silence,
and glaring fiercely at me : ' Nor of you either.    I've TO MANITOBA AND   THE ROCKIES
55
seen cow-boys, bigger men than you, and with bigger
hats too, but they didn't tire me. No, they didn't
tire me any.'
* That's good, pard/ said I ; ' don't get tired on
my account. I'm a quiet man, and don't often kill
anybody.'
He looked at me for a while, muttering, and got
up to go, saying, ' Oh no, he can't scare this chicken,
bet your life.'
A great many kept taking me for a regular cowboy who had got out of his latitude, especially as
Mac would always call me Texas.    And to illustrate
the absurd   ideas  so  prevalent about the cow-boy,
I may mention that when we were about to approach
Moose Jaw, in the North-West Provinces, which are
Prohibition Territories where whisky is forbidden, I
went into the next car to ours for a drink of water.
There was a little boy, about ten  years  old, there
with his father and mother, and it is evident he had
heard them speaking  about it  being  forbidden  to
introduce spirits into Assinaboia  and  Alberta.    So
after he  had taken a furtive  and  somewhat  awe-
stricken look at my hat, which, I am bound to say,
was of extremely formidable brim, with the leather ,
gear on it so much affected by Southern cow-boys, he
turned to his father, saying, ' Pa, if the police knew a
cow-boy had whisky, do you think they would search
him ?'    Of course the little fellow thought the hat a
sure sign of a desperate character, whose  belt was 1
56
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
certainly full of six-shooters and bowie-knives, and
whose mind ran on murder and scalping.
At Moose Jaw, where we remained for some few
minutes, there were a number of Cree Indians, bucks
and squaws, some of whom came begging to us.
These were the reddest, most bronzy Indians I ever
saw. They used, I believe, to be constantly at war
with the Blackfeet, who live nearer the Rockies.
I paid but very little attention to the scenery as
we passed through the North-West Provinces, though it
is not so wearisome as the Manitoban dead levels, on
account of the prairie being somewhat rolling, with
numerous lakes upon it, the haunt of flocks of wild
fowl. But the country is uninhabited. It seems to
me that we passed over nearly 600 miles of plain
without seeing a town or any habitation save a few
small houses of the section gangs. Of the millions of
buffaloes that used to be on these prairies there are no
signs save bones to be seen. In the United States
they have about 300 head in the Yellowstone Park,
and it is said there are a few on the Llano Estacado
or Staked Plain, in Texas and New Mexico. Some
exist, too, in Northern Montana and Southern British Columbia, in the most inaccessible ranges, for
the process of hunting selection has destroyed all on
the prairie and given rise to a mountain variety. I
confess, for my own part, that I have never seen one
wild in all my wanderings.
At Gleichen we were told we could see the Rockies,
m *   mtt
TO MANITOBA  AND   THE ROCKIES
57
and I was so eager to get beyond the vile monotony
of the prairie that I had my head out of the window
all the while for hours before we got there. And I
and Mac were now rather in straits. Our food supply
gave out after two days, and this was the middle of
the third. I had foolishly given a meal to a man who
had nothing with him at all, and we were now suffering ourselves, staying our increasing appetites with
tobacco. It does not, I imagine, predispose one to
revel in heroic scenery for one's baser mechanism to
go in pain and hollowness; but perhaps I had arrived
at a stage of ascetic ecstasy, for I hardly thought of
such needs the whole of that day, and was content in
hunger until night blinded my vision and brought my
soaring spirit back to its more material casing.
At Gleichen I could just discern the first faint
line of the far Rocky Mountains, hung like a bodiless cloud in the air over the level plain. As we ran
farther west it grew by slow gradations more and
more distinct, until at last the sharp, fine, jagged outline stood out clear against the blue. Yet underneath
that line was nothing, not even the ghost of the huge
solidity of mountain walls. It was stiff thin, impalpable as faint motionless smoke, yet by the steadfastness of peak and pinnacle a recognised awful and
threatening barrier.
We came to Calgary, a flourishing and well-
known town. Here numerous Blackfeet had their
teepees, or wigwams.    I shook hands with two of this n
1
58
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
tribe, the most noble of the Indians. Two tall old
men they were, one with smooth, tight skin and
glittering eyes, calm, steadfast, and majestic; the
other cut and carved by a million wrinkles, but strong
and upright, with a kindly smile. Ye two of the
Indians who pass away, I salute you ! Vos morituros
saluto !
Before Calgary we had crossed the Bow River,,
swift and blue, and heavenly and crystal, born of the
mountains and fresh from snowfield and glacier. As
we left the town we ran on the right bank, and being
now among the first of the lower hills which buttress
up the mountains from the plain, we went more slowly
up grade, looking down into the stream far below,.
The sun was shining, the air clear and warm, the
flowers, blooming on every earthy spot, and the grass
yet green.
In a few hours we ran up to the real entrance of
the Bow Pass. Tired of straining my neck out of
window, I left the passenger-car and climbed on to>
one of the freight-cars in front, and, spite of choking
smoke, cinder and ash, I kept my place till we ran into
the heart of the mountains and night as well, for I
wished to be alone with the hills.
It was the first time in my life that I had seen
mountains. I had been in Cumberland, it is true, and
se^i Skiddaw ; I had climbed Cader Idris, and had
lain there for hours, watching the vast stretch of sea.
and river and mountain ; I had been on the Devon
0
mm ■ < ■»
TO MANITOBA AND  THE ROCKIES
59
hills and on Derbyshire's peak. But these are not
mountains of snow and fire perpetual. They are, it
may be, haunted with ancient legend, but their newer
garments of story and fable have clothed their primaeval nakedness. We love them, but have no awe
of them. They are not sacred. But the untouched
virgin peaks of snow, the rocky pinnacles where eagles
sun themselves in swift and icy air, the dim and scented
pine-woods, the haunt of bears, the gorges of glaciers,
and the birthplace of rivers, these are sacred. If I
come to a solitude and say, 'Here man has not been/ if
I can say, ' That rosy peak no eye has ever viewed but
mine, who can reverence its glory/ then that place is
indeed sacred, though an awe may be on me that at
first precludes passionate love, permitting only adoration.
We are thousands of feet above the plain. Look
back, and look your last on the vast and hazy prairie
beneath you! In a moment you shall have passed
the barrier and be among the hills, you shall be within
the labyrinth and maze. Here is a vast gorge, now
broad with sloping bastions of opposing fortresses on
either hand, now narrow with steepest walls and impending rocks threatening the calm lakes that catch
their shadows and receive their reflections. Even as
you look do they not nod with possible thunderous
avalanche, or is it the play only of shadow from
opposite peak and pinnacle ? How these are cut and
scarped to all conceivable fantasy of art and incon- 6o
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
\
ceivable majesty of nature, how they are castled and
upheld with arch and bridge and flying buttress! This
is the aisle of the Great Cathedral of the Gods ; this
is the cave of ^Eolus, the home of the hurricane ;
this is the lofty spot most beloved by the sunlight, for
here come the first of the day beams, and here they
linger last on rosy snow covering the rock whose
massy base lies in the under shadow.
I was in a land of phantasm, and the memory
remains with me as a broken dream of wonder. As
1 write I catch from that past day shifting pictures,
and, half seen, one dissolves into the next to give way
in turn in the kaleidoscope to some other symbol of the
seen. For memories of such a pageant as a man sees
only once in a lifetime are but as conventional signs
and symbols for the painting of the unpaintable, of
the foam and thunder of the stormy seas, of the
golden sunset, of the fleece of floating cloud. So we
ran on into the night, and I slept with eyes and imagination jaded, at the end of our journey on the
western slope of the Great Divide of the Continent,
where the waters ran towards the set of sun.
It is almost as painful to me as I write to come
back again to the more sordid facts of my journey as
it was to be hungry. The troubles we pass through
vanish from our memories and the pleasures remain,
as the gold is caught in the sluice box while the
earth and mud run out in turbid rush of water. Now
I love to think only of the beauty I saw, and the pain TO MANITOBA  AND  THE ROCKIES
61
drops away from me as I dream my toils over again.
But the pain was real then.
On the morning when we woke in the Rockies we
found ourselves at the end of the track. We had
come nearly as far as the rails were laid, and quite
as far as the passenger-cars were allowed to run.
Round me I saw the primaeval forest torn down, cut
and hewed and hacked, pine and cedar and hemlock.
Here and there lay piles of ties, and near them', closely
stacked, thousands of rails. The brute power of man's
organised civilisation had fought with Nature and had
for the time vanquished her. Here lay the trophies
of the battle.
The morning was clear and glorious, the air chill
and keen, and through it one could see with marvellous distinctness the farthest peaks and the slender
pines cresting the shoulders of the hills 3,000 feet
above us. Before us stood the visible iron symbol
of jRower Triumphant—the American locomotive.
She was ready to run a train of cars with stores
of all kinds ten miles farther on, and now her
whistle screamed. Echo after echo rang from the
hills as the sound was thrown from one to the other,
from side to side in the close valley, until it died like
the horns of Elfland. We were to go with her, and
all clambered in. Some sat on the top, some got in
empty cars, with the side doors open. I was in one
with about twenty others. I sat down by the door,
opened my blankets and put them round me, for the
I WMH^PW^BBPWBBBwwpw^
62
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
■ii
I
cold grew more intense as we moved through the air
and watched the panorama.
By this time I was absolutely starving, as it was
now the third day since I had had a really satisfactory meal, and from Calgary to the Summit I and
Mac had eaten nothing. So we were glad when
our train stopped and let us alight. We were received by a man who acted as a sort of agent for the
company. He got us in group and read over the list
of names furnished him by the conductor of the train,
to which about a hundred answered. He then told
us we were to go much farther down the pass, and
that we should have to walk about forty miles, and
that we could get breakfast where we then were for
twenty-five cents. It was about time to speak, and,
as nobody else did, although I well knew there were
dozens with no money in the crowd, I stepped up
and wanted to know what those were to do who had
no money, adding that I and my partner were ' dead
broke.' And after this open confession of mine the
rest opened their mouths too, until at last it appeared
the moneyed members of the gang were in a very
small minority. Our friend agreed that we couldn't
be expected to go without food, and we had our
meals on the understanding that the cost was to be
deducted from our first pay. We had breakfast and
set out on our forty miles tramp down the Kicking
Horse Pass.
II CHAPTER VI.
THE  KICKING  HORSE  PASS.
I HAVE said there were about a hundred of us, and
soon we were all strung out in a long line, each man
carrying blankets and a valise, and some of us both.
I had had in earlier days some experience in travelling,
and took care not to overburden myself, as so many
of the others did, who were on their first tramp ; for
the ease with which it was made possible to leave the
crowded cities of the East, combined with the hard
times, had brought a miscellaneous throng of men to
British Columbia, many of whom had never worked
in the open air, but only in stores and shops, whilst
there were many who had never worked at all. It was
quite pitiful to see some little fellow, hardly more than
a boy, who had hitherto had his lines cast in pleasant
places, bearing the burden of two valises or portmanteaus, doubtless filled with good store of clothes made
by his mother and sisters, while the sweat rolled off him
as he tramped along nearly bent double. Perhaps
next to him there would be some huge, raw-boned 64
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
labourer whose belongings were tied up in a red handkerchief and suspended to a stick. I had a light pair
of blankets and a small valise, which Mac carried for
me, as he had nothing of his own. My blankets I
made up into a loop through which I put my head,
letting the upper part rest on my left shoulder, the
lower part fitting just above my hips on the right side-
This is by far the most comfortable and easy way of
carrying them, save in very hot weather.
We tramped along, Mac and I, cheerfully enough,
very nearly at the tail of the whole gang, as we were
in no hurry, and were yet somewhat weak. Presently
Mac picked up with another companion, leaving me
free to look about me without answering his irresponsible chatter or applauding his adventures in Wisconsin, where it appears he had very nearly killed
some one for nothing at all, while he was drunk, as
usual when not working.
I am fain to confess that my memories of the next
two days are so confused that, whether Tunnel Mountains came before the Kicking Horse Lake or whether
it didn't, whether we crossed one, two, or three rivers
before we got to Porcupine Creek, whether it was one
mountain fire we saw or two or more, I can hardly say
with any certainty. All was so new and wonderful
to me that one thing drove the other out of my head,
and when I think it was so while I was walking
slowly, I am lost in astonishment to see so many
fluently describe mountain passes they have traversed
1 THE KICKING HORSE PASS
65
in the train.    I am afraid the guide-books must be a
great aid to them.
Tunnel Mountain was more like a gigantic cliff
than a mountain. One could see the vast rock run up
perpendicularly till it passed above the lower clouds.
High from where I stood, perhaps 3,000 feet above me,
was a thingwhite line, which I was told was a glacier
300 feet thick. A thousand feet above us, small and
hard to be distinguished against the grey-brown rock,
were men working with ropes round them at a vein
of silver ore. How they had gained such a position
I cannot think, and how they maintained it, working
with chisel and mallet in the keen air and frost of that
elevation, is a greater puzzle. They must have looked
down and seen us crawling on the ground like ants.
The roar of the river, though at places it almost
deafened us, must have been like a bee's murmur to
them, and when the crash of a large blast hurled the
rocks into the stream the report would come as a
distant smothered roar.
The short tunnel ran through the outside of this
cliff, and, just beyond, a roaring tributary of the
Kicking Horse River made a bridge necessary. This
was not finished then, but it had to be crossed, for
there was no other way. It was sufficiently perilous.
Along the cross-pieces of the bridge lay the stringers,
pieces of timber 8 inches by 12 inches by 16 feet; these
were set on their 8-inch side, two together on each
side of the bridge, each couple at varying distances, 66
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
sometimes close together and sometimes running so
far apart one could scarcely straddle them. And these
were not bolted down, but were loose and trembling.
This was the path across ! Had one fallen nothing
could save him, especially if heavily burdened, for
there were but the large lower timbers to catch hold
of, and underneath, fifty feet below, sharp rocks and
a roaring stream of water.
At one place we came to a river or large creek
running over a flat with a very swift current, but still
not boisterously or with any huge rocks in it. As
the road ran into it on one side and emerged on the
other, we could see it was fordable. But still no one
seemed to like the prospect of wading through a
stream whose current might be strong enough to
carry a man off his legs and the water of which was
icy cold. One by one the stragglers came up, until
nearly our full band was congregated on the river
banks. We looked for some wagons to come by,
but could see none. At last, after trying in vain to
persuade some of the others to venture in, I took
off my trousers, boots, and socks, and with these
hung round my neck I waded into the water. It was
bitterly cold, especially as it was now a warm day
with pleasant air and sun, and the stream washed
against me so that I had to lean up against the
current. The others stood watching me, giving me an
occasional word of encouragement or a yell of delight
at  my  strange   appearance.     After  a considerable m m
THE KICKING HORSE PASS
67
•struggle I emerged on the farther bank in a red glow.
But my luck in another way was bad.    Just as I got
out a wagon came round the corner to meet me, and
in it was a woman—about the only one we had seen
since we had left the summit or the end of the track.
She burst into laughter at the  ridiculous  cranelike
figure I cut, standing with my garments and long
boots hung about me.    I turned and sat down in the
grass and made myself decent as soon as possible.
In the meantime, much to my disgust, some wagons
came up and carried the other men across.    I had all
my trouble for nothing, and my glorious example was
tost on the crowd.    After going another couple of
hundred yards we came again to a wide stream, and
this time I was myself carried over.    And then we
had a long tramp along the verge of a big mountain
fire, which was crackling and smouldering from the
banks of the river to the mountain tops.
At nightfall, or rather just before it, we came to
the Porcupine Creek, another furious tributary of the
main river, and here we had supper at one of the
railroad   camps.    Afterwards  we set about lighting
fires  for  our camping-ground, for we had but the
shelter of the pines that night.    We dragged brush
and sticks together, and borrowing some axes from
the camp we cut up some of the trees that had been
thrown down  by the wind in  the winter  or  been
felled by the men who made ties.    Four fires soon
lighted up our forest, and blue and purple flames shot
f 2 68
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
\
up, singeing the pines and sending up sparks into
the blackness overhead, where their branches touched
each other a hundred feet above. I think those fires
of mountain wTood upon the mountain always burn
with far more beautiful colours than those on plains
and lowlands, for here only, in the heart of the fire,
can one see the fiery red, and over are blue and
purple interlacings and shootings of purest colour
standing out against the dark background of balsam
and hemlock, while the curling smoke runs from
violet to grey and shadow.
For  an hour some of  us  flitted  about  in  the
darkness gathering in the firewood, and the rest lay
down   and smoked, or  propped   themselves  quietly
against the tree trunks, dreaming over the fire.    It
promised to be a chilly night.    The crescent moon
hung over a peak of snow, faint and new; but the
stars were jubilant and strong, like glittering sword
points in the deep transparent sky.    Already behind
the trees, where the  shadows from the fires threw
umbra  and  penumbra  on  the grass, were varying
degrees   of silvery  frost,  glittering brightly on the
darkest umbral cone  in the moonglow, and in the
lighter shadow only chilling and stiffening the slender,
infrequent grasses and the matted bundles of sharp
pine   needles.    Close   at   hand,   on   the  border   of
the  pines,  the creek  ran  over  a  bed  of   rounded
boulders,  here and there broken by a higher   rock
that  threw  a jet of foam in air.     It  ran   rapidly THE KICKING HORSE PASS
69
and hurriedly by, with its shriller song all but over-
powered in the deep strong bass of the distant river
of roaring cataract. Beyond the creek, in its own
shadow, for the moon's peak of silver snow showed
above the barrier, was the sombre forest, at first a
wall of solid blackness, breaking gradually with
prolonged sight into lighter brush and black trunk
below, with grey shadows and hollows over these,
and above again lighter and lighter shades then ran
to slender tracery against the blue, with here and
there one star glittering through the branchy oriel
■windows to the sky.
I woke, at midnight and found it sharp frost. The
fires had burnt to embers. Round about me in every
direction lay my companions sleeping, save one or
two unfortunates without blankets, who kept their
backs against the trunks of the pines and their heads
and arms upon their knees, crouching in a heap to
keep what heat they could in them, as they looked
into the fires and wished for day. I walked out of
the shadows of the forest to the banks of the creek.
The moon was sunk deep below the sloping shoulders
of her peak, and her pale fires had died from the
snow and ice. The stars glittered mpre radiantly in
a darker blue, and pine-wood and mountain shadow
melted into one upon the distant slopes. Looking
down the valley was vague darkness, and when I
walked a few yards from the rushing creek I could
liear plainly the wavering roar of the river palpitating 7o
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
musically through the calm cold air. Save that,,
there was no sound; everything was sleeping; and
when I turned away from the look of the red eyes of
fire that gleamed through the brush from our camping-
ground, I might fancy myself alone, with the voiceless spirit of the mountains brooding over me, one
with the night.
But the romance of the time fell from me as I
felt the air more and more chilly, and I went to
sleep again with my commonplace partner Mac,
whose ideal was, I doubt not, a whisky bottle and
nothing to do.
Next day another twenty miles through the great
gap torn in the forests for the right of way of the
railroad. The trees were hewed down, sawed and
hacked in pieces, and piled on either side, dragged by
horses or cattle. Cedar, white and red, fragrant balsam,
dark hemlock, the sheltering spruce—all the pride of
the forest went down before axe and saw for man's
triumph. Grey and red squirrels came peeping to
see what was being done in their troubled homes, and
the striped chipmunks ran and darted here and there
quicker than birds. We left the broad track and
took the road, narrow and dark. Here one wagon
could travel, but another could not pass it. It was a
way hewn out of the primaeval forest; it was full of
stumps and holes, with pools of water here and there,
and sloughs of mud enough to engulf a horse. Ruts
were a foot or two deep.    When a wagon met me I •.It*m
THE KICKING HORSE PASS
7*
would climb on a log or squeeze into the brush while
it went plunging by, threatening to drop to pieces
with every shock, creaking and complaining as for
want of oil. Yet the loads were not heavy, and the
horses, for the most part, good and well cared for.
On this ' toat' or freight-road the wagons went east
during one part of the day and west during the
othefl
At noon on this second day we came to the' Island/
a kind of flat just above the river, and far below
where the track ran. The work here was of a severe
character, as they made a ' fill' or embankment eighty
feet high, I should think, or possibly much more. We
scrambled down the end of this and went to get
dinner at the camp on the Island. Up to this time
they had always given us our meals in the tents with
knives and forks and plates, but here the cooks
brought out a huge can of soup, some potatoes, great
lumps of boiled beef, and a pile of plates and a bucket
of knives and forks. A chorus of growls rose up
from us on all sides. A cry was raised for our friend
the agent, who came out to view the scene. Some of
us pointed out that, if we were to pay for our meals,
we expected to be treated in a reasonable manner,
and not like hogs. Some of the ' boys' said it was a
regular ' hand out/ and that we looked like a crowd
of old 'bummers.'
' Bummers' is American for beggars, and a ' hand
out' is a portion of food handed out to a bummer or a 1
72
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
tramp at the door when he is not asked inside. The
agent looked as if he would like to say it was good
enough for us, but the crowd was too big, and too
ugly in temper, to play tricks with, and he temporised,
calming us down ; and finally, finding that we were
not to be appeased, said we need not pay for it, if we
ate it or not. We were hungry, however, and, finding
it impossible to get a spread, we had to make the
best of it; and soon all of us were fighting for knives
and plates and spoons and soup. We sat round in
groups, growling and eating like a lot of bears.
After dinner we started out again, passing every
half-mile or so a railroad camp; and now we began
to leave at each place some of our number, whenever
any of the contractors were in need of more men.
Mac and I were told with some others to stay at Ross
and M'Dermott's camps; but when we got there,
for some reason or another we did not like the look
of the place, and concluded that we would take things
into our own hands and go farther on. After leaving
this camp we came to Robinson and Early's, and
next to the large camp at Corey's, where they were
making a tunnel through blue clay. This was called
the Mud Tunnel. We passed on a little farther, and
came to a sub-contractor's. At this point we met the
agent, who had gone ahead of us on horseback. He
reined up and said :
I Didn't I tell you fellows to stay at Ross and
M'Dermott's?' MrfU
THE KICKING HORSE PASS
73
' Yes/ answered Mac.
I    ' Well, why you ?'   ^^^^^^^^HH
I Oh, we didn't care about that place.'
' What do you want then ? If you go on any farther
I can't give you any more meals/
I myself did not care about going any farther, and
said so.
' Then you can work at Corey's if you like.'
I turned to Mac and said, ' Come, Mac, what's the
:good of fooling ; come with me.'
' No back tracks, Texas. I'll stay here.'
It was settled finally that these should stay and
work with the sub-contractor, and I went back to
Corey's with the, agent. When I got there it was
dark and supper was over. I had a little to eat, and
slept that night in one of the dining-tents, under the
table, while above slept a New Brunswicker named
Scott, who was to be my greatest friend hereafter
both in British Columbia and California. He has
often told me since that my last words that night
were: ' I go to sleep to-night, lulled to slumber by
the music of the Kicking Horse.' 74
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
CHAPTER  VII.
THE  RAILROAD  CAMPS.
OUR camp was right on the banks of the riverr
which ran in a sharp curve round the base of the
hill through which the tunnel was being cut. The
Kicking Horse was furious as usual there, rushing at
the rocks which impeded its course and breaking
about them in foam, or leaping with a swing and a
dive over the lower and more rounded boulders.
Beyond it, on the other bank, was a thick wall of pine
and fir, and overhead the vast slope of mountain.
Our side was decorated with a medley of various-
shaped tents, round and square and oblong, so that it
was difficult at night for a stranger to avoid tripping
himself up with the pegs and ropes, or half strangling
himself with the stays carried from the ridge-poles to
the trees growing about all the encampment Besides
the tents there were two large log-huts or shanties, built
out of half-squared timbers with the bark only partly
removed, and up a little slope, on the other side of
the road which ran through the camp, stood a little
log-house and kitchen for the accommodation of some
-
^^^^^^^auu^ THE RAILROAD  CAMPS
75
of the ' bosses' and the head contractors. Beyond
this the hill ran up gradually into a maze of fallen
timber, with one little melancholy cleared space,
where a simple and rude grave held the body of an
unknown and friendless man who had been killed
some little time before I came. And still farther on
was the summit of the low hill under which the
tunnel was to be, and above again mountain piled
on mountain.
There must have been a hundred or more men employed at this work, which was of a hazardous and
dangerous character. The hill was being attacked on
both sides at once, and at the west end down stream
the tunnel was advanced to some distance, but at the
east end, though there, too, the hole had been run into
the hill, the work was to do over again, owing to the
tunnel having' caved ' in, in spite of the huge timbers.
The hill was composed of gravel on the top, then a
thick stratum of extremely tenacious blue clay, and
beneath that lay a bed of solid concrete which required blasting. I and my new friend Scott went to
work at the east end with a large number of others.
We had to remove the immense mass of clay and
gravel which had come down when the ' cave' had
occurred, and to cut back into the hill some distance
until it appeared solid enough for the new tunnel to
be commenced. As the cut into the hill was now
very deep, we worked on three ' benches.' The
lowest and farthest out from the  crest  of the  hill 1
1V
J
76
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
attacked the clay at the bottom ; the next, twenty or
thirty feet above us, cut into the loose gravel, taking
it in barrows to each side ; and the highest gang above
that again wheeled away the sand at the top and
cleared out the stumps as they came to them. The
highest gang worked in comparative safety j the next
in some peril, as they had to look out for the rocks
that might fall in their own bench and for those from
the upper bench as well; but the lowest gang were in
danger of their lives all the time, as from both benches
above them came continually what rocks escaped the
vigilance of those working over their heads. I worked
here myself, and without any exaggeration I can say
1 never felt safe, for every minute or so would come
the cry, * Look out below!' or' Stand from under!' and
a heavy stone or rock would come thundering down
the slope right among us. I had been working three
days, and on the third day a rock about a foot
through, weighing perhaps 80 lb., came over without
anyone crying out till very late. It came down and
seemed to be about to drop right where I stood, so I
made a prodigious jump on the instant, without having
time to see where I was going, and struck my right
knee under the cap on the end of a wheelbarrow
handle iust as the stone buried itself in the ground
where I had been standing. The pain was so great
that T had to sit down for ten minutes or more, and
when I got up I found* I could scarcely walk, as the
swelling was so great.    It was with difficulty I got to
I I THE RAILROAD CAMPS
77
the camp, and for five days I was unable to work.
There was a doctor, paid I suppose by the company,
who came along on horseback at intervals, and he
gave me some liniment and told me to rest During
these days I used to eat and sleep and read what I
could get, which was very little, so I was thrown back
on my old friend ' Sartor Resartus.' Sometimes
another man who was too ill to work would come
and talk with me, and at times I would go to the
banks of the river and watch the stream as it ran past
in such a fury and haste to get to the Columbia. I
was not now lodged in the tent, but in a curious
kind of gipsy arrangement which had been built by
another man before I came. It was made of hooped
sticks set in the ground, and over these were spread
pieces of old canvas and a big uncured bullock hide,
which indeed served admirably to keep out the rain,
but stank most abominably when" it was hot. Here
I used to He, as it did not permit one to stand or indeed to do much more than crawl into it, and look
out, having good vantage-ground to view both the
river and the road. At night I would make a fire,
and six or a dozen men would come round and spin
yarns, dry their clothes, and rake out embers for their
pipes. After a few days I felt well enough to make
an attempt at work, but was really unfit for it, and so-
worked but a part of a day at a time till I felt all
right. We were paid two dollars and a quarter for
ten hours, and had to pay five dollars a week for 78
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
board.    They did not make us pay for the lodging, as
may be imagined.
On the Sunday after I felt quite well, I and a
young Englishman, Tom, who shared my hide-tent,
went for a climb. We walked a mile up the river,
and turned off the road up a creek which ran directly
from between two lofty peaks, both of which were
above the line of perpetual snow. We walked for a
while on the side of the creek, stumbling among fallen
timber and brush, until at last it was such a thicket
on both sides that it became impossible to advance
a step, and we took to the water, stumbling on the
slippery stones, sometimes getting into holes up to
our knees. It was a steep climb. After making our
way up about a thousand feet we came to an impossible-looking place. The creek had cut deeply into
a slatey bed, and the sides were so steep and slippery
that our first attempts were unsuccessful. We tried
to go round, but the tangle of brush was so dense that
it would have taken us an hour's work with the axe.
Back we went to the foot of the little fall, and by
scrambling like cats we got up, wondering how we
were ever to get down. We still went on, finding it
grow steeper and steeper, until at last it was almost
like climbing up a cascade. I was in a profuse perspiration, and was kept damp by the spray. At last
we came near to the top of the timber-line, where the
creek branched into three. On our left hand, through
the few trees, rose the loftiest peak, cut into pinnacles THE RAILROAD  CAMPS
79
and deep gorges, and in these lay the glaciers, and on
the rocky slopes was a thin covering of new snow that
had been rain in the valley beneath us. Right from
the highest peak to our feet ran a tremendous slope
of crumbling fragments of the mountain, a 'rock
slide' 2,000 feet high, while on each side was a fringe
of lessening pines and scrub that failed at last from
the bare rock, which left no foothold. In front was
another peak, and on the left another, both bare save
for glaciers, and glittering in the sun.
We turned and went back. My companion ran
much faster than I, for I was afraid of hurting my
knee, as I found it more tender descending than
ascending. So in a few moments I was left alone, as
he would not wait. When I got to where the difficult
place was I was puzzled. Had I been quite well I
could have managed it, but to make anything of a
jump was impossible, and I could not get down without jumping. I should have been in a nice position
if I had sprained my knee. I might have been eaten
by bears before Tom would have thought of getting
anyone to look for me. So I sat down and considered. There was lying in the middle of the verge of
the fall a pine, from which branch and bark had long
been stripped. Its lower extremity was about sixty
feet away beyond the rocky pool where the water fell.
The whole trunk was slimy and slippery with green
water moss, as the spray kept it always wet At first
I did not think it possible to go down it, but the more >■
8o
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I looked at the way I had come up the more feasible
the tree looked, until at last I concluded I must try it,
hit or miss. I waded into the water, straddled my
tree, and backed over the edge of the fall. The spray
flew up and nearly blinded me, and my slide was such
a slippery one that it took all the grip in my legs to
keep me from going down at breakneck speed. I put
the brakes on with my hands too, and gradually
crossed the boiling pool, until at last the trunk got too
big for me to hold on to, and I slid the last ten or
twenty feet with a rush that landed me on my back
in the shallow water. I had cleaned off the weed on
the tree, but I had to get a stick to scrape myself
down with. The rest of the walk home was easy
after that
Scott, whom I mentioned at the end of the last
chapter, had meantime been discharged by one of the
foremen, who considered he did not do enough work*
He went to work for Robinson and Early, who were
near at hand. It was now nearly time for me to go.
On this my last day at Corey's I was working on the
top bench with five or six others, who were some of
the laziest men I ever saw. The foreman was not
with us all the time, having to look after the men
below, and when he turned his back, down would go
a wheelbarrow and one would sit on it, while another
would lie in the gravel. So, perhaps, only two or
three would be doing anything. This day, however,
as we were working right at the top of the slope,
y THE RAILROAD CAMPS
8r
grubbing out stumps, it was impossible for all of them
to hide at once. So they made up for this by doing
as little as they could while pretending to do a great
deal. I am not praising myself when I assert that I
was really doing more work at that time than any one
of the others, yet I was the one picked out for censure
by the same foreman who discharged Scott. I was
angry at this of course, and left work at 9.30, having
worked a quarter of the day.
This camp was not a very nice one to work
at. For one thing there were too many men, and it
was so broken up with day and night shifts that one
never knew where anyone else was working, and
scarcely where he himself would work next day.
Then the accommodation was so bad, and the cooks
so pressed that they found it impossible to give the
men their 'pie.' This piece of daily pastry is a
source of wonderful content to many working men.
Without it, let the other food be ever so good, he
feels he is being defrauded, and with it, though it be
only of dried apple and sodden paste, he will put up
with no potatoes and bad beef, or even none at times.
However, just before I left, the camp was split in
two and two sets of cooks appointed, with the result
that ours fairly gorged his men with pie. Instead
of the usual solitary quarter, which one had to eye
jealously or transfer at once to his own custody from
the rusty tin plate, to keep some greedy man from
getting two shares, whole pies were at the disposal of
G
1- $2
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
every one, and there was great gorging and contentment.
On the whole, I was not sorry to leave ; and that
afternoon I walked up to Robinson and Early's,
where Scott was, and was told by Early I could come
up at once and go to work in the morning. So I
packed up my blankets and walked up that evening
in the dark. This camp was divided into two parts by
the ' grade' or embankment where the rails would be
laid. On one side were the dinner and cook's tents,
the store tent, where one could get clothes and tobacco, the bosses' tents, and a big composite log and
canvas building with bunks in it. On the other side
were four neat little log-huts. I walked along the
c dump' or grade till I came to a fire where four or
five men were sitting, and went down and joined them.
Scott was not there. I did not know any of these
men, but, of course, in a country such as this was, that
would be no obstacle to my joining in the conversation. I soon found out that I should have to sleep
in the big tent with a crowd of Finns and Italians.
They told me that the ' grub' was good, that the
bosses were not bad, though they made their men
work hard. The wages were the same as I had been
getting at Corey's.
I took my blankets and camped on a pile of
balsam boughs in the lower bunks of the big tent.
■'Bunk'is here but a euphemism for the ground,as
bunk was divided from bunk by a six-inch log, with THE RAILROAD  CAMPS
83
the bark and some of the smaller branches on, being
nailed or tied against the uprights which supported
the top tier. I made my bed in the dark and slept,
covering my face over to keep the dust and dirt off
that dropped through from the top bunk when the
men in it gave a roll in their sleep.
Next morning I went to wTork ' picking on a slope,'
that is, smoothing off the sides of the hill above the
grade, as one sees it done in England when" going
through a railroad cutting. Scott was working near
the   camp  among  the  rocks,  where   blasting  was
going on.
strange one.
Surely the life I led for the next month was a
I was working in the same glorious
mountain scenery that had roused in me a fervour
of artistic appreciation that had resulted in a curious
state of forgetful ecstasy, blind and deaf to the actual
around me. But now, while working, I became
mechanical and base, the mountain opposite was
painful, and I longed for a change of scene, an hour
with the plain and prairie. Partly, no doubt, this
change resulted from the strain put upon my imagination by the perpetual contemplation of the most
magnificent scenery—a state of mind of which Ruskin
speaks in the ' Modern Painters' when writing of
the psychological effects of the various aspects of
Nature— and partly from the manual labour, in its
physiological effect of robbing the brain of the blood
that  ran   to   the  active  and   strained   muscles  of
g 2 84
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
perpetual effort. Perhaps it was also partly owing to-
the mental analysis and introspection which irksome
toil forced me to, when I chanced to work alone or
in circumstances which compelled my companions
to silence. Long suffering from bodily ailments in
London had induced, as it were, a morbid melancholy
of mind, which remained even when the troubles of
indigestion and bile were partially removed by Ifhe
keen mountain air, and the sense of unfitness for my
surroundings threw me back, when alone, into the
morbid introspective lines of thought that had been
my pain and solace in the solitary times of indifferent
companionship at home. I would repeat to myself as
I worked snatches of our melancholy modern poetry
that I knew so well. The indictment of life in the
' Lotus Eaters' came before the Grand Jury of my
passions and desires, and I found it a true bill. I
smiled bitterly to myself to think of the godsr
'where they smile in secret/ and as I laboured I
sang softly :
Hateful is the dark blue sky, Vaulted o'er the dark blue sea;
Death is the end of life.    Ah, why Should life all labour be ?
Yet, with the strange contradictions of man's
nature, when I was with the others I was the merriest
of all. There were some six or seven of us, English
or American, who came together in one of the little
log-huts, and we sang our songs and chatted and
joked round the- pine-wood fire that roared up the
rude chimney, as if labour were but a dream, or, if THE RAILROAD CAMPS
85
real, a delight.    There was  Scott, little, with keen
grey eyes, a reddish beard and moustache, light brown
hair over a broad forehead that betokened untrained
intellect, and  a  mouth  which  showed much possibility  of emotion.     He  was  not,  in   the  ordinary
sense of the term, educated, and was indeed ignorant
in many ways, but he had that desire for knowledge
which in so many goes farther than compulsory culture
towards the attainment of mental height.    After him
in my mind comes Davidson, a Canadian also, a bricklayer by trade, but by no means to be judged by the
standard of an English artisan of that grade.    He
had read a great deal in a desultory way, and was a
man of kindliness and keenness of thought, though
without possibility of culture such as Scott possessed.
Then comes  Hank, a rude, rough block of a man,
uneducated, powerful, with sensual  lips   and mouth
and rough shock of hair.    He played an execrable
fiddle most execrably, but his love for it and tolerance
and gentleness forced forgiveness from me, even when
the tortured strings drove me outside.
Another of our evening company was a pleasant
Canadian, who also played on the violin, not so badly
as Hank. He was somewhat melancholy, and I
thought at times that some woman was at the bottom
of his troubles. His name has slipped my memory,
out I think it was Mitchell. There was also a German,
Fritz, whom I shall speak of in the next chapter, as he
was my companion in the journey towards the coast. 86
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
We were a strange gathering at night-time, and
not without elements of the picturesque, I fancy, in
our strange interior of log-hut and confused forms on
blocks of wood before the fire, burning brightly, and
throwing a glare on the darkness through the entrance,,
which did not boast a door, but only a rude portiere
of sewed sacks.    We sang at times strange melancholy unknown ditties of love in the forests, songs ot
Michigan or Wisconsin, redolent of pine odour and
sassafras, or German Liede, for we were more cosmopolitan than a crowd of Englishmen would be at
home> and  did not insist only  on  what we could
understand.   I myself often sang to them both English
and German and Italian songs, and it seems strange
to me now to think that those forests heard from me
the strains of Mozart's ' L'Addio/ sung doubtless out
of time, as it was also out of place perhaps, and the
vigorous tune of ' La donna  e  mobile.'    But even
songs like these were appreciated, and often called
for, with ' Tom Bowling' or some other English sea-
songs.    Then we would  tell  each  other  stories or
yarns, and  I would repeat some   of my travels in
Australia for them, or explain how large London was,
or tell those who had never seen the ocean stories of
my own and my brother's voyages, or those of the
great English sea-captains.
Such evenings came to be a recognised institution,
and if I felt melancholy or savage one or another of
these men would come to the little tent I now had THE RAILROAD CAMPS
*7
all to myself, and say they wanted me to settle some
point in dispute for them. For now, by virtue of my
education, which was apparent to them, they made
me 'arbiter elegantiarum/ umpire and referee as to
pronunciation, and encyclopaedia, so that I was often
hard put to it by a dozen different questions, which
only a visit to a library could settle. I wrote for
them a song which was very much admired as the
culmination of genius. It was a song of the C. P. R.,
or Canadian Pacific Railroad, and all I remember is
the chorus, which was—
For some of us arc bums, for whom work has no charms,
And some of us are farmers, a-working for our farms,
But all are jolly fellows, who come from near and far,
To work up in the Rockies on the C.P. K.
From which specimen the reader will not estimate
my poetical powers so highly as the simple railroad
men.
Perhaps the most surprising incident to me during
the month I worked at this camp was the unlooked-
for appreciation of some lines which few ordinary
educated people at home really like, through lack of
finer insight It happened one Sunday afternoon
that I, Scott, Davidson, Hank, and Mitchell were
in one of the 'shacks/ or huts, and they were idly
listening to me while I was inveighing' against the
injustice in life, its vanity and uselessness. Nobody
but Scott was paying much attention, as I thought,
and turning to him I repeated Rossetti's last sonnet 88
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
in the 'House of Life/ the 'One Hope.' To my surprise Mitchell asked me to say it again, and then
made me copy out the first quatrain :
When vain desire at last and vain regret
Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
What shall assuage the unforgotten pain,
And teach the unforgetful to forget ?
Surely it was a strange enough thing for Rossetti
to come to my memory in this beautiful desolation,
but it was stranger still that his sorrow should find
an echo in the heart of a poor labourer, to whom we
so usually deny the power of real suffering, and the
spirit of appreciation of subtle rhythms and obscurer
imagery.
Often after that I spoke to this man, feeling that
to him had been given great power of suffering, or he
could never have understood. I believe that, if the
poets learn in suffering what they teach in song, we
also must suffer greatly before we can learn of them.
Meanwhile, in the daytime there was the usual
labour, such as drilling holes in the rock to blast it with
powder, whose explosion sometimes threw the heavy
stones a hundred yards into the torrent of the foaming river. We would dodge behind trees and get into
all sheltered places till the shot was fired, then come
out again and take away the debris, hammering the
larger blocks to pieces and shovelling up the smaller
into the carts. Then there would be slopes to make
smooth and round rocks and stones to be picked up msum
I
THE RAILROAD CAMPS
89
from the borders of the Kicking Horse, to make a' riprap ' or stone wall at the bottom of the embankment,
where the river would chafe it when swollen with
melted snow. It was often laborious and wearisome,
.and I never looked at the scenery then, except,
perhaps, when clouds gathered overhead, and rain
mist crawled along the ramparts of the hills, filling
the valley, until a shower would come upon us suddenly and as suddenly depart, when the mountain
wind rolled up cloud and mist and the sun shone bright
upon the hills above, dazzling with a sheet of new snow
that had fallen on us below as rain. Or sometimes at
evening, especially on Sunday, which in our camp was
an idle day, I would walk up the grade to the turn of
the river, and see, perhaps, the most exquisite picture
that remains in my memory. At my feet ran the
tumultuous current of the river, swinging quickly
with a loud murmur to my left, covered with short
crisp waves, with here and there a hurrying swirl and
breaking foam that showed a hidden rock. It came
towards me for three hundred yards, it may be,
showing a swift declivity from the mass of argent
foam as it turned the bend where stood a knoll of
noble pines. Across the stream from where I sat
were larch and pine on a spur shouldering rapidly
from the river to the mass of the main mountain.
Its side was cut away steeply by the wash of water,
and showed bands of coloured clay, and here and
there was a solitary tree marking its lofty line against m
90
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
the mass of the hill, emphasising by its sombre foliage
the red and yellow ground against which it rose and
from which it sprang. And in front was the mountain
itself, rising from its shadowy base, where the thick
forest of green marked its foot against the foam of the
rapid, to loftier height on height, whence the trees
showed less and less, until they were at last but a faint
fringe and sparse adornment of the line sharp against
the sky, and higher still a peak of solitary snow, rosy
in the sunlight that had left me in shadow for an hour.
If I walked but half a mile up the road I came
upon another beautiful sight, for there the valley pass
was broader, and had a long, almost level space,
beyond which was one of the queen peaks of the
Rockies, whose presence dominated many miles of
the valley.
It was after one of these evenings spent alone
with the mountains that I had a long talk with my
companions as to what they proposed to do. Some
intended staying on the railroad work until it was
finished, and some thought of leaving it soon, and
making their way into lower British Columbia over
the intervening ranges of mountains. This had been
my intention since leaving Corey's. It was quite
impossible for me to stay at such irksome labour
much longer, and I had tried to obtain what information I could as to the route. This was very sparse.
There were vague reports as to the immense difficulties
and dangers awaiting anyone rash enough to attempt
V^SS aapa
THE RAILROAD CAMPS
9i
it, and had I been very timid I should have been
scared into staying in the Rockies for the winter.
This I hated to think of, as the snowfall would be
tremendous and the cold very severe at that elevation
and latitude. There were four possible ways out.
One was to go back through the North-west Provinces
and Manitoba. This could not be thought of. For
one thing, I hate going back at any time, and in
America (forward ' was always my motto. Another
objection was that one would have in all probability
to walk great part of a thousand miles to Winnipeg,
as it was reported that the train men had very strict
orders to let no one ' beat' his way on the trains, and
of course I had insufficient money to pay my fare,
even if I had desired to do it. There was another
exit from the mountains which commended itself to
my imagination if not to my prudence. That was to
make a raft and go down the Columbia to Portland,.
Oregon, or rather to Kalama, W.T., first, and then up
the Willammette to Portland. A German at Corey's
had told me that this was feasible. He swore that the
Columbia was ' smooth wie a looking-glass/ and that
there was no danger at all. Others, however, told me
of the great falls of the Columbia and the rapids,.
and asserted there were so many terrible gorges and
canons and whirlpools to be passed through that
the river took a Dantean and Infernal colour in my
mind. And, worst of all, it was utterly impossible to
get a good map.    So this was laid aside as impracti-
I 92
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
cable. The next way was to go down to the Columbia
and take the 'trail' to Sand Point, on the Northern
Pacific Railroad in Montana, a journey of 300 miles,
which would take from fifteen to twenty days and
require one to pack a large quantity of food on his
back to provide for all possible accidents and delays.
The remaining route was to follow the railroad line.
This would lead me to the Columbia, then over
the Selkirk Range by Roger's Pass, and over the
Columbia again. As far as I could gather we should
then be in some kind of civilisation. But this, as
will be seen, was far from the truth. The fact of the
matter is that I could find no one who had been the
joufney, and the reports about it were so contradictory that in the Kicking Horse Pass it was impossible
to find out how far it was across the Selkirk Range,
whether it was 60 or 120 miles or even more. There
was a halo of romance thrown over the whole place
west of us, and when we passed in imagination the
Columbia for the second time all beyond was as truly
conjectural as El Dorado or Lyon esse. But this was
the route I determined to take at the end of September, when I proposed leaving the camp. But my
departure was hastened by the following circumstance.
I and some Finns and another Englishman had been
set to work in a very wet and nasty place, from which
we had to run the dirt in wheelbarrows over planks,
and as the nature of the place necessitated our getting
wet none of us liked it.    About ten in the morning
mmm THE RAILROAD CAMPS
93
Robinson, one of the contractors, came down to take
a look at us, and while standing on the bank spoke
sharply to my English companion, who answered him
back with no less sharpness. Next time he ran the
barrow out it capsized. He laughed, which infuriated
Robinson, who ordered him peremptorily to take his
barrow out of the way. The young fellow said, ' I
don't have to, Mr. Robinson.' This made Robinson
worse. He jumped down, grabbed hold of him, and,
being a very powerful man, shook him to and fro as a
terrier shakes a rat, at the same time threatening to
strike him. This, however, he refrained from doing,
and finally he ordered him to go to the camp and get
his money. Of course this was nothing to do with
me, but still I did not care to work for a man who
had as little control over himself as the contractor
showed, fearing that I might myself have a disturbance with him, which would end either in him or me
being disabled ; so when noon came I wTent and got
my time made up, and sold the order, which would
not be cashed for nearly a month, to Davidson, the
bricklayer. I went then to Fritz, the German, and
persuaded him to come with me. I should much have
preferred Scott or any of the others, but none would
leave the work for a while, though some of them had
it in their minds to go farther west before the snow
blockaded them in. So I rolled up my blankets and
found a nice tin-pot with a handle, which we should
call a ' billy' in Australia, and stole a cup and knife 94
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
and fork. The cook made us up some food in a
parcel, and with our blankets on our backs we set off*
down the road. As I passed the men sang out:
' Good-bye, Texas, take care of yourself.' I shook
hands with my particular friends as I met them at
intervals on the mile of work taken by Robinson and
Early, and set off into the unknown country with
18 dols., or a little over 4/. I saw my friend Scott the
last of all as we turned the corner. But we were to
meet again. k£M
95
CHAPTER VIII.
THE COLUMBIA  CROSSING.
Fritz and I passed through Corey's camp, as it lay
in our westward journey, and I was greeted, of course,
by some of my old companions, who asked me where
I was bound for. When I told them we were going
across the Selkirks, many of them really seemed to
think I might as well jump into the Kicking Horse.
One said,' Well, old man, if you really mean going,
you must have lots of grit, but I'll bet you a dollar
you will soon turn back.' I assured him that I was
not going to come back, and that I would die on the
trail first.    We shook hands and parted.
We had from Corey's tunnel about fourteen miles
to traverse before coming to the Columbia Valley
and Golden City, which was at the mouth of the
Kicking Horse Pass. Our way lay along the main
and only road, first on the left and then on the right
side- of the river going down. Beautiful as the upper
part of the pass is; I think that this last fourteen
miles  is in some ways   even more delightful.    We kV,
!
96
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
went for some miles by the side of the river, which
foamed and thundered over huge rocks, and rushed
through narrow openings to broaden out into foaming
rapids. Then we began to ascend, as it had been
impossible to take the road on a level without encountering the engineering difficulties of tunnel and
rock cut, which made the railroad in this lower pass
so costly. We went up and up the side of the hills,
until at last we were probably a thousand feet above
the river and the railroad track. Below us the stream
was at times calm and blue and then instantly torn
and fretted into foam. The road we were walking
on was sufficiently wide for one wagon, but there
was scarcely at any one place more than a foot or
two to spare, and sometimes there was so little room
that I had to scramble up the hill out of the way, or
stand on the lower slope of crumbling stone, while a
vehicle passed. , Sometimes I saw that a horseman
had to turn back for a hundred yards or more before
he could make his way beyond the wagon ; and the
declivities were of such a steep character that, had
the brakes given way at many places, horses, driver
and wagon would have rolled a thousand feet
below!
At last we began to go down, and came finally in
sight of the valley of the Columbia. We could see
the Kicking Horse quietly making its way across the
lon^ flat to the main river, and some miles awav,
under the heights of the Selkirk Range, we could THE COLUMBIA  CROSSING
97
catch a glimpse of the blue broad waters into which
it ran. We turned from the road, taking a footpath
which led us steeply down to Golden City.    It was
now evening.
Golden City is a beautiful and alluring name, but
I scarcely think that its most ardent supporter would
allow thatjt really deserved such an adjective. It
consisted, when I saw it, of a few log-huts and a few
tents. There were two or three stores, where goods
of all kinds were sold ; there were also several places in
which spirits could be obtained, I should imagine, if
one could judge by the amount of noise issuing from
some of the habitations. There was also a blacksmith's shop, and a blacksmith who was fairly busy.
It was at this town we proposed to buy our provisions
for the journey, and here we made more inquiries in
order to find out how far it really was across the
Selkirks. At the blacksmith's we found the very man
to make them of, as he was in the habit of going across
the range sometimes, and was now getting ready for
another trip. He tried to scare us into going with
him, offering to take us for iodols. apiece, but finding
that we meant going by ourselves he gave us what
advice he could, and told us that the journey from
Columbia to Columbia across the Big Bend was not
more than seventy-five miles, and that we had yet
to go eighteen miles to the north of where we were
then   before we  came  to  the  first  crossing of the
Columbia.
H 98
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
We went into a store and bought our provisions.
Here is the list:—
Flour
10   lb.
Boston biscuit   .
.    5 lb.
Bacon
.      6    „
Baking soda
2 OZ
Tea
•      i*„
Prunes
.    2 lb.
Hard biscuit   .
.    io    „
Butter
.   I 1
Of course we paid extraordinary prices, but I have
lost my note of them. I think the bacon was twenty
pence a pound, and, in such a place, of course it was
not of very fine quality. For reasonably good tea we
paid 3-y. 9d. a pound.
We walked three miles north, and camped a few
yards from and above the road in a pine-wood.
Fritz, who was the more active member of the two,
did the cooking, though I made and attended to the
fire. I have often noticed when travelling how one's
companion alters one's self. ■ In Iowa and Minnesota,
when with Ray Kern, I did everything and was most
active. Now, with Fritz, I was the lazy member of
the firm. We, however, did not do much cooking that
nieht beyond making tea, for we had cooked pro-
visions with us from the camp. After supper I lay
back against a pine, smoking dreamily and looking
out across the valley at the great barrier of the Se]M
kirks, which rose like a wall beyond the river. In
the advancing shadow of the evening the lower hills
were dark, for the sun was setting behind them. In
this darkness the black solidity seemed perpendicular,
but above, the indentations of the valleys could be THE COLUMBIA   CROSSING
99
seen, and over these were the snow-capped summits
piled one on another. As far as one could see on
either hand this wall extended, and just half-way
from sunwhite crest to shadowy base hung long white
cloud wreaths, motionless and sullen, just catching
•on their upper sides a faint glow from the sunlight
that yet remained on the peaks. And as I lay the
light faded away, the hills took deep violet and purple
hues, and they were deep and transparent as the
darkest amethyst.
I think that hour I spent watching the changes of
light and shadow on those unchanging hills was the
most peaceful of all my life. There seemed then in
life nothing more of sorrow than gentle melancholy,
nothing more of passion than lives in kindliest
memory, and no more pain at all. Then, if ever for
one hour in my restless life, I was at rest.
I slept that night the sleep of the righteous, on a
spot where the turf seemed soft and dry, from which
I removed the little sticks and branches of decaying
wood that dropped from the trees above me. The
scent of the pine smoke of our dying fire mingled with
the sweet native odours of the place, making a pleasant incense smell. In the morning I woke when the
first grey dawn was on the opposite hills, and as I
rolled over and put my head out of the blankets I
saw a little red squirrel sitting with his brush over
his head gnawing a crust of bread. It was, may be,
liis first taste of that civilisation whose last word to
H 2 IOO
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
such is shooting and skinning or a cage, after blithe
woodland freedom. Here and there a bird or two
chattered overhead or in the lower brush, preparing
for flight, and down the valley came sounds of other
life awakening—the neigh of a pack-pony or the bray
of a mule from the corrals of the Golden City. From
the river light wreaths of mist arose and gathered
with advancing day upon the hills, from whose crests
the rapid sunbeams ran to their bases, discovering
the huge gaps and gorges hidden from sight the
evening before. For it was day now, and time for
breakfast.
Our simple meal over, and the embers of our
relighted fire extinguished or but smouldering, we
made up our burdens. It was decided that I should
carry both sets of blankets, which would weigh about
16 lb., and the 10 lb. of flour, and Fritz took the
remaining provisions. We were then about equally
burdened, each carrying about 26 lb., which was no
small handicap, considering the country we had to
travel over. We both had plenty of matches, and I,,
for additional precaution, took a small medicine-
bottle with me filled with lucifers and tightly corked.
I had experienced in Australia the misery of camping
out without a fire, and I had no desire to make perhaps a week or ten days' journey on raw bacon and
flour if an accidental swim in a river or a heavy fall
of continuous rain should deprive us of the power of
making a fire.
I tffil
THE COLUMBIA   CROSSING
101
Our way now ran north, still following the line of
railroad work, to where it was to cross the Columbia,
eighteen miles from the Golden City. The grading
was here of an easy character, as it was a low embankment that could be made of the recent sands
and clays of the valley alluvium; consequently it
was let out in great measure to small parties of
working men, or' station men ' as they are called, who
were paid by the piece and not by the day. The
only difficulty here was the number of little bridges
that would have to be built, owing to the swamps
and back-washes from the Columbia, for this part of
the valley was absolutely flat. For part of the time
we walked along the road, and then along the grade
if it seemed easier and more direct. About half-way
to the Columbia, however, we found ourselves in
rather an awkward place. The grade ceased abruptly
on the edge of a deep sheet of water that had previously run alongside of it on our right hand between
us and the road for a mile or more. It was necessary
either to get across or go back. We searched for
some time before we found a place that seemed ford-
able, and that was rather doubtful. However, anything seemed preferable to going back, and I stripped
myself nearly to a state of nature and waded in,
holding clothes and blankets and flour above my
head. At the deepest it was only breast high, so I
arrived without mishap at the other bank, and was
presently joined by Fritz. 102
THE  WESTERN A VERNUS
Early in the afternoon we came to the Columbia
Crossing, where there was a rather lively canvas
town, consisting of numerous stores and saloons and
gambling-houses. We passed through it and went
down to the river, which was here of no great breadth,;
though strong and deep. We were ferried over for
twenty-five cents apiece, and in a few minutes stood
on the rude road in the thick forest. We were at the
foot of the Selkirks.
r IC
CHAPTER IX.
THE TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELKIRKS.
We were still on the wagon road, if road it can be
called, which was all stumps and rocks and hollows,
swampy and thick with mud. It ran steeply enough
up the mountain, through pine, balsam, hemlock and
birch, past a few railroad camps, for the first work on
this side of the river had been commenced some time.
As we walked we could hear below us the thunder of
the blasting, and could catch now and then sight of a
wreath of powder-smoke among the trees as it eddied
upwards. We came out at last, after a hard climb, to
where it was possible to get a view of the river and
Death Rapids. We were almost above it, and as we
looked down we could see the high walls of rock on
either sideBand the dark blue water before it broke.
This cafion has some dangerous whirlpools in it, and
I was told of many accidents which occurred to men
attempting to raft it. Two young fellows on a raft
were drawn into a whirlpool, both were sucked under,
one never to reappear, while the other was thrown up
before he became insensible, and, grasping a floating lit
104
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
pine trunk, he was saved. Once the railroad men
were going to raft some dump cars down the rapids;
the raft broke away from them and ran the gauntlet
of the rocks, and was brought to shore eleven miles
below.
It was now getting towards nightfall, and it behoved us to seek out a camping-ground. About
three miles from the river we came to a sharp bend
in the road and a little gorge or canon, down which
leapt a creek that ran across the road and plunged
into the valley. We saw a little clear space of velvet
lawn ten yards from the road, and, scrambling across
a pool upon a fallen tree, we laid our packs down
and built a fire. We were in absolute darkness
in a few minutes, for lofty rocks were round us
and thick growth of pine and brush above. The
spray from the fall leapt almost to where we made
our beds, and the damp air and seclusion "gave good
growth to the ferns about us. It was with some
trouble that we made a fire, as we had no axe with us.
We cooked some bacon, boiled some tea, and with
biscuit made a comfortable meal. Fritz's last words
to me that night were: ' If you wake early call me, for
I must steal an axe in the morning, for this is our
last chance of getting one, as far as I can see.'
I called him at early dawn: ' Fritz, how about
that axe ?' And I turned over and went to sleep
again. When I woke once more Fritz was making
tea.    I asked if he had got the axe.    He pointed to THE  TRAIL ACROSS THE SELKIRKS      105
my side, where it lay in the grass. He said : ' I went
down this creek till I came to the camp, but I couldn't
see one, so I walked right through to where they were
working and picked this one up. It is a good one,
but wants grinding. Now we must look for a grindstone.'
I   Of course I know the morality of this axe business is very questionable, but I lay all the responsibility on Fritz. 1 He suggested it, and he stole it.    It
is true I had the benefit of it, but I couldn't help that.
I   We rolled up the blankets and set off as soon as
possible.     This day we passed the last  contractors
and entered on the loneliest part of the road.    At a
surveyor's camp we ground the axe and made it a
useful weapon—in fact, improved it so much that we
considered now that we had at least a part title to it.
This day was the last day of comfort for me.   The inevitable hardships of the journey I thought little of;
but, unfortunately, my boots began to chafe me, and
gradually I wore a raw place on both heels, so that I
walked more than 130 miles, every moment in positive
pain and anguish.    I have at times in England considered a blister a thing intolerable, but  when  the
blister gives way for a raw bleeding place about the
size of a florin I think there is not much doubt that
the former is preferable. I In the evening we came to
the Beaver Creek and crossed it, and following the
road about a mile, after having had a talk with a
hunter who had his camp at the crossing, we made .
io6
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
ours under a thick balsam tree, cutting down another
small one to make our bed of the branches. We were
in tolerable loneliness. While Fritz made the supper,
I, still being lazy partner, went to the banks of the
creek and bathed my sore and aching feet in the cool
running water, watching the sun set on the peaks by
which the Beaver ran. We had a fine supper that
night. We had bought fifty cents' worth from the
cook of the last surveyor's camp we had passed, and
for our money we got biscuits, cakes, deermeat, bread,
and some fruit pie. So we made merry, and smoked
the pipe of peace and contentment |; while I put away
from me the thoughts of the misery I should endure
in the morning when I put my boots on again.
But the morning came, and the misery had to be
endured, although I put it off as long as possible,
walking round barefoot till we were nearly ready to
start. This is a bad plan, however, and in future I
washed my feet, dried them, warmed the boots at the
fire, and put them on the first thing. In this way
they get supple, and are not so harsh and hard when
one has to make a move. We started again, and
walked through the thick forest on a reasonably level
road that did not entail much climbing, until we came
at last to the road-makers' camp. I fere we' saw a
party of hunters, with black and grizzly bears' skins
hung up, and I began to think there were other
dangers, perhaps, to be encountered than those we had
reckoned on.    Our chief fear had been lest we should
Ik I +*m
THE  TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELKIRKS      107
run out of provisions, not lest we ourselves should
make provisions for a hungry grizzly ; and we were
badly armed, having nothing but the axe and my
bowie-knife. However, it could not be helped ; it was
to be done.
After walking a mile we came finally to the end
of the road, such as it was, and entered on the trail.
There were now three of us, for on this day at
noon we came upon a man camped in a little bark
' lean-to ' all by himself. He was suffering from an
access of bile and blues, brought on by drinking
heavily in Columbia City, and had dragged himself so
far. When we came by he had been there two days,
and as it was time to make dinner we stayed with
him and used his fire. We had a talk with him, and
finding him to all appearance a good possible partner,
we asked him to come with us. This he was glad
enough to do, as it was not by any means a nice walk
for a man by himself.    His name was Bill.
The trail upon which we were now walking was
a narrow foot or bridle path cut years before through
the forest. It had received very little attention since
it was first made, and was blocked every now and
again by trees that had fallen either by natural decay
or by force of wind. At times it was" full of large
stones, jrequiring some circumspection in walking to
avoid spraining one's ankle, or a mass of mud in
which one sank a foot deep. The brush, heavy with
rain and dew, dropped its moisture on us as we passed, io8
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
and the prickly devils' clubs made things unpleasant
for us as well.
At noon, or a little later, we passed through some
hundreds of yards of swamp, in which I had to walk
quickly and carefully to avoid getting ' bogged down,'
and, in spite of all my care, when half across it I fell
on my face and hands in the sticky mud, through my
foot getting caught in a slender branch of willow
trodden into it. I was a most melancholy-looking
object, and Bill and Fritz exploded with laughter at
my appearance, which was remarkable, no doubt, as
on arriving on firm ground I had to scrape myself
down with a knife and wash the mud out of my nose,
ears, and eyes at the first creek.
Towards evening we were overtaken by a bright,
smart-looking, young fellow, who was well dressed,
carrying an overcoat and no blankets. He was
walking rapidly, and would have passed us had it not
been near camping-time. After going a mile or two
more we found a splendid place among a few trees in
a fork of the creek, along the banks of which the trail
ran, and right under a magnificent peak or crowd of
peaks, which crowned an almost perpendicular wall of
rock two or three thousand feet high. Under the
trees we found a few sheets of bark leaning against
a horizontal supported by two sticks, which would
serve us as a shelter from any rain or dew. It was
now getting a little dusk.    Fritz set to work making
© o ©
a fire, Bill and our new friend sat talking, and I went THE  TRAIL ACROSS THE SELKIRKS
109
down to the creek with the flour and baking pow^der
to make some bread. It was necessary to get a
mixing and kneading place. I suppose a civilised
cook would find some trouble in bread-making under
such circumstances, but I was equal to the emergency,
and mixed my dough in the hollowed top of a rock,
and kneaded it on another flat stone. By this time
the fire was roaring, and I soon found enough ashes
to bake it in. In Australia, under similar circumstances, we used to cut a square piece of bark out of
a tree and mix the bread on that.
We cooked some bacon, making neat frying-pans
of our tin plates, having cut sticks that were slightly
bent at one end, which we split, to insert the edges of
the plates; and we boiled the tea as usual. Fritz
and I at Golden City had had an argument as to
whether it was best to take tea or coffee. He wanted
coffee and I tea. He had not travelled so much as
I had, and I knew from my life in the Australian bush
that tea was the best drink in the world when one
is roughing it. It was not long before Fritz acknowledged I was right, and he was as eager as I to
light the fire and ' boil the billy' whenever we stopped
during the day.
That night was the last of pleasant times, and it
was the best On the morrow my sufferings were to
commence in earnest. But here everything was
delightful—the well-situated camp, the shelter, the
trees, water brawling on either side; on the left the no
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
enormous wall of mountain with old glaciers here and
there, and drifts of ancient snow, and snow bridges,
under which ran the decreasing waters of approaching
winter; on the right three sister peaks of lofty snow,
and beneath them and all around the quiet yet murmuring forest. So we sat round the roaring camp
fire, on which we piled all available logs, smoking and
chatting and iokimr until the blaze shone its brightest
in the full darkness of night and threw faint shadows
and glows across the creeks into the forest on one
side and the mountain on the other. Our new friend
was a curious individual, who told us a number of
stories calculated to make us respect his personal
courage if they were true, and his powers of invention if they were false. For my part, I preserved
my usual attitude in such cases—I believed as much
as I could, rejecting the rest. In this way I obtain
much more enjoyment from yarns than the cold, incredulous critic. My own opinion is that he was now
in a hurry to get to a place where he was unknown.
I fancied that the police on the railroad line might
have a fancy to interview him. If I am wrong I beg
his pardon, for he afforded me much entertainment
by one story, the point of which consisted in his luck
in stealing ten horses in succession, at each fresh
capture leaving the horse he had wearied out as an
exchange, without being captured until in the act of
taking the tenth, when he was compelled to surrender
to a loaded gun held by a man who turned out to be
U4L THE   TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELKIRKS      m
his brother-in-law ! This story and another one about
his throwing a British Columbia sheriff in the Fraser
River, how he was captured, sentenced, imprisoned,
and how he escaped, kept us well amused until it
was time to turn in.
In the morning, after breakfast, he left us, as he
could walk much faster than we, owing to his being
unencumbered with blankets and much food. So we
bade him farewell. This day we came across a splendid
patch of huckleberries and blueberries, and putting
•our blankets down we all three ate solidly for about
an hour. These huckleberries are to my taste the
nicest wild fruit I have ever tasted, and bears are of
the same opinion, being extremely fond of them.
My feet were now in a horrible condition, and the
pain every step caused me was exquisite. I picked
up a pair of boots that had been thrown away and
tried to wear them, but found them even worse than
my own. It was impossible to walk barefoot in such
a country, or I would have tried it. It was simply a
case for endurance, and I had to support myself with
the knowledge that it could not last for ever. This
day we passed the summit or highest point in the
pass, which was a meadow of natural grass and rather
swampy. Just after passing it, and coming to the
streams that ran west, we found a poor pack-pony
lying in a swamp unable to get up. He had been
left behind as useless, I suppose; but it seemed a
cruelty to let him die of starvation, so we pulled him If I
112
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
ill
out and put him on his feet, hoping he would manage
to pick up a living. It was no infrequent thing now
for us to find these ponies dead alongside the trail,
and if what we heard was true one at least had been
the means of saving the lives of some men who had
attempted to cross the trail with insufficient provisions,
for they had eaten part of it.
As I stumbled painfully along the trail, now the
last of the three who was wont to be first, I overtook
an old blear-eyed individual carrying an enormous
pack nearly as big as himself. He was short and
thick, with boots up to his hips and a cap down to
his eyes. In his boot he carried a knife and in his
belt an old muzzle-loading revolver. His weather-
beaten and hairy countenance was devoid of joy or
sorrow, and it seemed to me that his mind was a trifle
weak.    He camped with us that night.
It had been raining since the early morning, and
we were sufficiently wet and miserable. If my feet
had been sound such a trifle as rain would never have
disturbed me, but when one is in positive anguish a
little additional discomfort sometimes is the last straw.
If it had been dry it would have been of no consequence where we camped, provided only that there
was wood and water, and there are few places where
there is not enough of one and too much of the other
in this mountain range. But as it was raining it was
positively necessary to find some shelter, and we walked
for an hour after dark, stumbling and cursing, looking
IMb THE  TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELKIRKS      113
for a good tree. At last, just when we were about to
give up and camp anywhere, rain or no rain, we came
on a delightfully thick spruce fir close to the trail.
This tree is the best shelter-tree in the world, I should
think. In appearance it is something like a lofty
pagoda, and the thick needles and downward slope
of the branches throw off all rain, even if it be wet
for weeks. We threw our blankets underneath, cut
some of the lower branches of it off, and were in a
dry circular tent, with a big pole in the middle to be
sure, but a plentiful soft bed of generations of soft-
shed needles. Outside we soon had a roaring fire,
throwing a red light into the murky air and diffusing
a pleasant warmth on all around, though the heavy
rain quenched the outside embers and caught the
floating sparks before they could rise a yard from the
blaze.
I slept magnificently that night, 'forgetting my
miseries, and remembering my sorrows no more/
But in the morning we had an unpleasant surprise. It seemed very bright when I opened my
eyes, although I knew it must be still early by my
sleepy sensations, and when I looked round I found
it had been snowing heavily during the night, with
the result that there were six inches of snow on the
ground. The trail was covered by it, and it seemed
as if we were in for a detention. However, it thawed
rapidly, and most quickly on the bare trail, so that we
were able to find our way with but little difficulty.
I 114
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
We were, as I have said, now well on the western
slope, but instead of there being less climbing there
was more. The path ran up one side of a mountain
and plunged down again on the other, and this was
the way with it all that day. The rain again commenced to fall, and the snow dropped from the trees
on my head and down my neck, so that I was wet
through in half an hour, and yet perspiring toiling up
the steep slopes. And while going up my heels were
torture to me, and when going down my boots, being
now thoroughly wet, gave me blisters on the toes.
The trail, too, was at times almost impassable for
wind-fallen trees, as it is no light thing, when one is
wet, weary, and heavily burdened, to climb over a
dozen trees, three feet through, every hundred yards.
And now, to add to our troubles, we came to a river
which had to be crossed, the Illecilliwet If we had
come there a day or two before it might have been
possible to wade it, but now, swollen with two days'
rain and melted snow, on the side nearest to us it
was five or six feet deep, and the current running
eight or ten miles an hour made it impossible to
attempt it. The only thing to be done was to fell a
lofty tree and to trust to its lodging in the shallow
water on the other bank, so that we could go over it
as a bridge. We put our burdens down, and selecting
a tree felled it in about three-quarters of an hour. It
fell with a tremendous splash into the river, and we
raised  a  shout of joy, seeing that it reached well THE  TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELKIRKS      115
across. But, alas, our joy was short-lived! Before
we could get on to it the rapid current took hold of
it, and slowly first, and then more quickly, it swung
right down stream and lay along the bank on which
we stood. There was nothing to do but to fell
another. This time we selected a loftier red pine,
and in another hour it crashed into the water, with its
slender top lying on the dry stones of the farther
side, I seized my blankets and the axe and ran out
on the tree, and after me came Bill and Fritz. I
scrambled through the branches half-way across, with
them close behind me, and then slowly, but surely,
the tree began to move and swing. I scrambled a
yard or two more on the trunk, that was here in the
water, and then made a jump into the stream on the
upper side, the water coming over my long boots. It
was icy cold, and it swept so strongly that it was impossible to go straight across, and so I was forced to
go down stream, with difficulty preserving my balance
on the boulders of the river bed. As I got ashore,
with Bill and Fritz a moment later, the stream took
possession of our bridge and swung it alongside the
first tree.    We had got over, and that was all.
We had left the old man behind, and I don't know
how he got across, although I know he managed it, as
I heard of him afterwards in Lower British Columbia.
I met some time after this a man who, recognising
him from my description, told me that he was known
as ' the man-eater,' through his having eaten part of
1 2 n6
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
his companion, who, having been caught in the snow
with him on the eastern slope of the Selkirks, had
died from starvation and exposure.
We camped, soon after crossing this river, in a
gloomy cedar forest. This is the worst shelter-tree in
existence, I believe. Its scanty foliage and infrequent
boughs make it little better than nothing at all, and
indeed sometimes worse, as one may select unconsciously a spot to camp in where the branches deliver -
a concentrated stream of water and allow the rain to
come in as well. But we found here another little
bark lean-to, and of course stayed there, as we were
all tired out, although we had scarcely done ten miles
the whole of the day. We soon had a good fire
lighted and began our cooking. Bill and I suggested
pancakes, so I mixed up a lot of batter in the cups,
and, having cut handles for our frying-pans, we began
cooking. Now, my notion of a pancake was, and is,,
that it should be large and thick and puffy, but Bill
thought they should be small, thin, and brown. Consequently, when I had my first one well under way,
Bill said, ' What do you call that ?' This was very
contemptuously. I was nettled. ' Why, a pancake.
What do you call it ?' ' Oh, I call it a pudding. You
wait till I get my pan fixed, I'll show you what a pancake is.' When he had his first one nearly done, I
said, ' Bill, what's that you're cooking ?' ' Why, a pancake. D—n it, can't you see ?' ' That's not a pancake,,
that's a miserable little hot cake.    It's only a wafer. THE  TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELK IRKS      117
TJiese are pancakes, Bill; see them, something to eat.'
Bill nearly dropped his in the fire.    ' Don't you think
I know what a pancake is ?    I've made 'em all over
America; and you—why, you're only an Englishman ;
what do you know, any how ?'  ' That's your ignorance,'
.said I;' I've cooked them in England, in Australia, in
the States, and now I'm cooking them on the Selkirk
Trail.    You're only an American.    Why don't you
travel and learn something ?'    Bill got perfectly furious, and if I had chaffed him any more it would
have ended in a fight over those miserable  cakes.
* Well, well, Bill, call yours pancakes.    They are pancakes, Bill; mine are only flapjacks.'  Then there was
peace in the camp, and the mollified Bill condescended
to eat a flapjack and say it was good, while I took
■one of his, saying it was the best hot cake—no pancake—I had ever eaten.
So we smoked the pipe of peace and lay down,
while the rain came through the cracks above us and
the melancholy wind howled among the dark and
gloomy cedars.
During the night the snow again fell, covering the
ground to the depth of four or five inches, and making
lis as uncomfortable as three poor tramps could be.
Still even so, I was, in spite of the pain and inconvenience I suffered, able to observe, in the bright
sunshine that happily broke through and mastered
the clouds, the beautiful effects of the snow on the
near and far landscape.    On the long arms of the ml
I
J   j
118
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
cedars lay bright patches of snow, and bush and
fallen trunks, and jagged stumps, whence the wind
had smitten the top of branch and foliage, had their
adornment. And in the distance, on the slopes and
shoulders of the hills, the snow on the green forest
showed thicker and more and more as the eye passed
upward, until the green gave way in the overpowering
mass of white on the laden limbs, frozen fast in the
lofty height, and the snow of the forest joined the
snow on the untimbered slopes, running at last into-
the never-failing frost of the peaks of the range.
It was well I could look at so much, for indeed
underfoot things were not so pleasant, and rock and
mud and morass made it almost impossible walking ;:
and when, on one occasion, we came to a roaring creek
which had to be crossed on a fallen tree, I nearly
came to a sudden end of my adventures by slipping
on the round wet trunk, although I was fortunate
enough to recover my balance. That night we camped
again in a cedar forest in a sharp rain, which had
come upon us suddenly in the late afternoon.
In the morning, when we came out of our damp
shelter into the wTet grass and brush, we found that it
had ceased raining, though the water still dropped
from the heavy branches as they swayed in the wind ;
and there was some blue sky to be seen among the
white clouds above the mountain tops. This day was
a repetition of the yesterday, tramping and climbing,
getting wet in the brush and drying again in the open, THE  TRAIL ACROSS THE SELKIRKS
119
when we came to a clear space below some mountain
peak which had been cleared of brush and timber, by
a gigantic avalanche or snow slide, from summit to
base. Below us at times we could see a confused
and hideous pile of jagged tree trunks—fir, pine, cedar,
balsam, spruce, and hemlock—piled one above the
other, and mixed with rocks and earth, in utter and
violent confusion ; while, looking up, we could see, too,
the ice and snow above the way cleared through the
standing forest. My own condition was, of course,
no better, for nothing but rest could do my feet any
good, and under the circumstances rest was impossible, so I had to plod along, trying to be as Mark
Tapleyish as might be, though I confess I doubt even
his serenity in such a state of things. But my burden
was now growing lighter, for the food was rapidly
diminishing, and we knew we could not be very far
from the second crossing of the Columbia.
Since we had crossed the Illecilliwet River we had
been on its left bank going down ; that is, we had
been somewhere to the left of it, though how far we
did not know. I fancy we were close to it on one
occasion, for this day we came to a narrow gorge or
canon, and on crawling to the edge and looking down
I saw a furious stream at the bottom two hundred feet
beneath me. But we knew that we had to cross this
river again before we reached the Columbia, and we
speculated anxiously as to how it was to be crossed,
whether  by raft or  swimming, for  there  was  very
' 120
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
little likelihood of its being fordable at the second
crossing if we could not ford it at the first.    But our
doubts   were   solved    about   noon,   when,   turning
sharply round a turn in the trail, we came upon a
broad and rapid stream.    We did not know whether
this was our river or not, but following the trail for a
while we heard the ring of an axe at a little distance.
There was evidently somebody thereabouts, and we
should  be able to  make  some  inquiries.    A little
farther along the trail we came to a small clearing,
and the first logs of a log-cabin.    Under a tree was
a rude table, made of a slab of split pine, on stakes
driven into the ground.    There was a log-bench permanently fixed, so that one could sit down.    Under
another tree was a smouldering fire with a camp oven
or skillet, a kettle, and some dirty pans lying in the
mud and ashes.    Near at hand was a small tent with
blankets and a  small pile of provisions, flour and
biscuit, with some  bacon   lying on  the flour sack.
On a big tree close to the trail was this notice:—
' Illecilliwet Restaurant.
Meals at all hours.'
This was then the Second Crossing, and looking
round we could see where the trail ended abruptly in
the river.
Presently the sound of the axe ceased, and a man
dressed in long boots, blue trousers of dungaree, with
a broad-brimmed hat, came out of the forest.    He THE  TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELKIRKS      121
was brown and bearded and unkempt. His hands
were brown, hard, and exceedingly dirty, his face the
same. We saluted him in a friendly manner, and he
gave us separately a ' Morning, pard ; on the trail, eh ? '
Then he asked us whether we wanted meals, stating
that his prices were 75 cents a meal ; that is, in
English money, ^s. \\d. Fritz and I declined to eat
at such terms, but Bill, who had more money than the
two of us put together, thought he would have something to eat without cooking it himself, and our new
acquaintance prepared him some bacon, boiled some
villanous coffee, and heated him up a mass of greasy-
looking beans. The bread was certainly solid and
satisfying, judging solely from appearances. While the
process of preparation was being gone through with deliberation we asked him how we were to get over the
river, and were told that he had a boat and would take
us across for 50 cents each. In order that we might
not attempt to raft it, he gave us an account of how
three or four men had fared before he came there.
They had, it appears, made a raft on which they put
their blankets and saddles, previously making their
ponies swim across, and when it was in mid stream
the raft capsized. They with difficulty escaped with
their lives, and their money, to the amount of about
600 dols., which they had carelessly left in their
baggage, was lost.
After Bill had finished eating, we went down to
view the boat.    This was an extraordinary structure, If
122
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
made of unpainted fir boards an inch thick. It was
shaped like a punt, flat bowed and flat sterned, and
looked as crazy and cranky a craft as could well be
imagined for crossing a rapid and turbulent mountain
river. However, there was nothing else for it, and we
determined to venture it, bargaining that we were
not to pay if we were upset and had to swim for our
lives. It was only possible for two at a time to
cross, so Fritz and the ferryman went over first I
watched them with a great deal of interest as the
river swept them down while they both paddled
furiously. But there was no accident. The ferryman
hauled his boat up stream along the bank until he got
well above where we were on the opposite side, and
came across again. Then Bill went over, leaving me
till the last. When it came to my turn I could not
help thinking of the proverb about the pitcher going
often to the well and getting broken at last, considering that the third time might be unlucky. So I took
some extra precautions, throwing my coat and long
boots off. However, things went very well, and I, too,
joined the others, and, having paid my 50 cents, we
started off on the last portion of the trail, as we
were that evening to come to the Columbia.
Bad as the trail had been before, I think that that
last piece of eight or ten miles was really, in many
ways, the worst. There was, perhaps, not such hard
climbing ; it was not so muddy; there were not so-
many rocks and stones ; but the fallen trees lay upon
I 4H*fi|
THE  TRAIL ACROSS  THE SELK IRKS
123
it in numbers innumerable. There would sometimes
be two or three close together, and twenty or thirty
in a hundred yards. We were crawling over them
nearly the whole day, until we were fairly wearied out,
and cursed the trees and the whole trail from the
bottom of our hearts. But the end of the trail was
now nearly at hand. We came at last to where it
forked, and on the tree was a notice of some one's
ferry over the Columbia, which was declared undeniably the best; on the other hand, there were
other notices equally commending another ferry. We
took the right-hand fork and went down and down
through the forest, on a trail which was now infinitely
better and clearer, with ways chopped through the
fallen trees. We were in high spirits—that is, the
other two were. For my part, nothing but rest could
make me ' feel good,' and there was no prospect of
that as far as I could see ; and I, speaking from experience, defy any one to be happy when there is a
goodly portion of skin wanting from his feet, and he
has nevertheless to walk, and to walk hard, and to
carry a bundle weighing ten or twenty pounds.
But still it was getting towards evening, and a stage
in our journey of unknown length was nearly completed, and there would be the respite of camping-
time. And presently we saw the forest thinning as
the trail descended; in front, above the tree-tops, were
other mountains, and soon below we saw the gleam
of blue waters and a stretch of sand beyond.    We mi
124
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
were at the ferry, we paid our money, and in a few
moments stood on the other side of the Columbia.
Standing silently, I looked back, and between two
snow-clad mountains I saw the great gap through
which we had toiled. The Columbia was behind
us, and the Selkirk Range and the Selkirk Trail
J CHAPTER X.
THE GOLDEN  RANGE AND  THE SHUSHWAP   LAKES.
1
I HAVE seen some rivers in my life in England, in
Australia, and in America. There are many most
beautiful streams in our own country—the upper
Thames with its gentle scenery and placid quietude;
the brawling Dove; the splendid Mawddach in Merioneth, between the mountains of Cader Idris and
Diphwys; the rapid Eden at Carlisle; and the turbid
Severn. In Australia I have seen the bright Murray
when it comes from the hills, the sluggish Murrfei-
bidgee, and the Lachlan; in America I have been across
the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Brazos, the Colorado,
the Ohio, and the Alleghany ; but never have I seen
a more beautiful and magnificent stream than the
Columbia River, at the spot where we had just crossed
it. It was bright, blue, deep and calm and strong |
not a speck of foam was on its bosom, not a break
or a wave marred its mirror, save where a Breath of
wind touched it lightly as a shallow's wing. Yet it
was so strong and earnest, and so bent on doing its
work in silence.   In the late spring and early summer 126
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I I
it is, doubtless, turbid and swollen with the rush of
melting snow, but now beauty, majesty, and strength
were equally joined—the beauty of the lake with its
colour, the majesty of a stream hurrying to the verge
of a cataract, the strength of a power that the beaten-
down barriers of the mountains had proved.
And before me lay a scene that I felt was worth
the toil and   pain and endurance that had brought
me there to see it.    There was no sunlight in the air,
for the sky was veiled with a sullen stretch of unbroken
cloud, and the air was calm and quiet.    Before me
was a stretch of white sand and shingle, over which
the waters had been running in the spring, and beyond
it, on the flat, a few pines and firs lifted their heads
above the  lower  brush, from  which rose the blue
smoke of some hidden habitations ;  and far above
this the mountains again, opening  into three great
and gloomy passes, south and west and north.    On
the loftiest peaks, the sentinels  guarding the ways,
lay the snow, and low down the bosoms of the hills
were  the  fair garlands of mist and cloud.     From
the northern pass the river ran, sweeping round the
bend to be lost to sight in the southern ways that
brought it at last to the Pacific.   Through the western
pass, a grand and narrow canon, lay our road over
the Golden Range.
We had been speculating all this day as to whether we should be able to get a somewhat civilised
meal, for the constant repetition of bacon and bread GOLDEN RANGE AND SHUSHWAP LAKES   127
was beginning to pall upon us. But if we had really
Iioped for anything we were doomed to disappointment, and all inquiries after a place to get a meal only
obtained us the information that we could buy flour
and bacon at such and such a canvas tent, which was
a store
In making these inquiries I spoke to a pleasant-
looking little man, who turned out to be the contractor
who had constructed the wagon road through the
Eagle Pass, upon which we were to make our way
west. He asked me where I was going and offered
me work, which I declined, as I wanted to get to the
coast. His name was Gus Wright, a man who is very
well known in British Columbia. Him I met again
in many different places.
As we could not get any one to feed us for love
or money, we bought some more bacon and set off
down the road in the dark, for it was now late evening,
hoping to find a good camping-ground. To make
things pleasant for us it began to rain, so that by the
time we came to an extremely well-ventilated bark-
shelter we were nearly wet through, and by the time
we had a fire going we were soaking.
We were camped in a swamp, with a few dead
trees around us and a rocky bluff overhead. The
wind rose in the night, we heard a tree fall in the gale
now and then, and the driving rain came in upon us
as we lay, dropping through the miserable roof, and
making the ground soft and muddy and. our blankets B
128
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
of little avail. In the morning we crawled out before
it was dawn and kindled the fire afresh to boil the tea,
sitting meanwhile on a log in front of it with our
blankets round us, smoking the first pipe.
At noon we came to a camp at a river and got a
good meal for 50 cents, and by four o'clock in the
afternoon we crossed the Divide after passing three
lakes, the last of which was the Summit. At the camp
here we had another meal, and walking four miles
farther came at dark to the best camping-place we
had found yet, as it was absolutely rainproof on the
three sides and the roof. Fritz and I were alone by
this time, as Bill had insisted on camping at the last
lake. Having had dinner so late, or supper so early,
we thought it unnecessary to eat again, and devoted
our energies to building a glorious fire to dry ourselves
and our blankets. We made it of cedar bark, which
burns furiously and throws out tremendous heat. We
were soon comfortable and slept magnificently. As
we made a late start Bill caught us up, and we tramped
along as usual. Our objective point was now the
Shushwap Lakes, which lay at the end of the road.
On these we were told we should find steamers, on
which we could get down to the inhabited parts of
British Columbia and comparative civilisation. In
the Rocky Mountains these steamers had given rise to
much discussion, and at first we had thought they ran
somewhere down the Columbia to the Arrow Lake,,
and it was only at the ' Illecilliwet Restaurant' that GOLDEN RANGE AND SHUSHWAP LAKES    129
we had heard positively in what direction we had to
go. On leaving Columbia City, or the Second Crossing,
we were told the day on which the next steamer was to
leave, and now we found we had to make the Lakes
this evening, or we should have to wait for the next
one.    So we pushed on, and it was a terrible day for
me.    Of course the road was much better than the
trail had been, but we made up for that by walking
faster, and my feet were getting worse all the while,
being so bad at times that I thought I should really
be laid up and perhaps entirely incapacitated.    We
hardly stayed at noon to make tea, and walked along
doggedly, without any means of knowing how far we
had come, hoping that we should find the distance
shorter than we had been told.   But it came to night
time and a renewal of rain, and still there was no
end.    We camped at last, for a while, close to the
road by a pool of water and ate some supper, and
then started out wearily in the dark, without saying
anything to each other.     It was a case of walking
against Time, and  I felt sure that he would get the
best of us.    I began to get tired in addition to the
pain, though I said nothing. I could see Fritz on ahead
of me, plodding along, and behind me I heard  Bill
splash, splash through the water on the roads, with an
occasional curse as he stumbled against a stone.    We
were now in a thick dark forest, and   began to be
a little alarmed, as occasionally I heard noises in the
K if! I
130
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
V
brush which might be caused by bears. Afterwards
I found out that they were quite numerous along here.
I had no wish to stumble up against one in the dark
without any weapon save a knife, so I called to Fritz
and asked him if he would camp. No, he was going
to the Steamboat Landing. Bill wanted to go on too,
so I gave in and we walked another mile. Then Bill
called me, and I called Fritz. Bill was going to camp
anyhow, so he said, but still Fritz was inexorable, and
as I thought that we really could not be far I determined to walk on as well. But after the next hundred
yards I began to feel as if it was more than I could do
to lift my legs up. My boots seemed as heavy as lead,
and my head began to swim, and I almost fell asleep
while walking. At last I stopped : ' Fritz, I'm going
to camp right here.' ' Very well, I'm going on.' So
he left me. But presently I heard him call, and thinking something might have happened I got up, and
walking a hundred yards I came to my valiant Teuton,
who had ' caved in' at last. He could go no farther,
so we cut down a balsam, made a bed, and slept as if
we were never going to wake. The bears might have
eaten one of us without waking the other, I believe,
and it is fortunate they did not try.
In the morning we made breakfast and set out on
our last stage, which was about four miles. As we
knew.we had missed the steamer we did not hurry,
and only got to the Landing about two o'clock in the
afternoon.    We found Bill there, for he had passed us GOLDEN RANGE AND SHUSHWAP LAKES   131
as we slept in the bush without noticing where we lay.
By this time he was nearly drunk, as it was possible
to get spirits to drink here.
On making inquiries we found that the ' Peerless '
steamer would come up next day and leave soon
after for the towns of Kamloops and Savona's Ferry,
so I had time to look after my miserable feet, which
were now in a condition to entitle me to go into
a hospital. However, by bathing them and doing
nothing, they began to feel a little more comfortable,
and the sores dried up and the new skin began to
form.
We were not now in a town, or anything resembling
-one ;  it was merely a store and whisky saloon, kept
by two partners,  Murdoch and Hill.    Opposite the
house, which then consisted of a big bar-room with
shelves in it for liquors and dry goods, and a room for
•eating, was the stable with some hay in it.    Besides
this there was a log-hut some distance away.    This
constituted the  whole  settlement,   at  that time, of
Eagle Pass Landing.    It was on the borders of the
Great Shushwap (pronounced Su-swop) Lake, which
was here nine or ten miles across and surrounded by
mountains, which are high enough certainly, but to
me  looked  mere  hillocks  after   the giants   of the
Rockies and the Selkirks.    The Eagle River, which
•came down the pass we had followed, ran into the
lake about a mile from the  house, and behind the
k 9 Ilfl
132
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
hill which bounded our view of the lake in front was
the Salmon Arm, into which ran the Salmon River.
At the junction of the Eagle with the lake waters
was another river, of which I knew nothing at this-
time.    It was called the Spallumcheen or Spullama-
cheen, and came down past an agricultural valley as
I was told, though it was hard to believe that there
was any land in British Columbia level enough for
farming, if I  could  judge  from what  I   had  seen.
Behind the house were steep mountains covered with
pine, fir, and birch, but there was no snow to be seen.
It was a curious enough sight to sit in Murdoch's
and see the little gathering of men there.    Murdoch
himself was a short, strong-looking man with a good-
natured face and agreeable manners, though rather
rough, and getting a little grizzled in the beard.   Hill,,
his partner, was a small, boyish-looking fellow, who
looked slightly out of place in these wild regions, in a
decent suit of black and a good felt hat.    Then there
was a man named Fairweather, I believe, who talked
in a loud and boisterous, bullying tone, as if anxious
to make men believe he was a dangerous person, who
must  be  treated  with consideration.     One or two-
others, who were waiting, like ourselves, for the boat,
completed the company.    At times the door would
be pushed stealthily open, and an Indian with a soft
felt hat over long greasy hair would slide in and show
us a pair of well-worn moccasins on flat feet, and
ragged trousers and coat to match.    He would bring: GOLDEN RANGE AND SHUSHWAP LAKES   133
a skin or two—a marten or a beaver or perhaps a fox
-and would argue with Murdoch or Hill about the
price in a language of which I then knew nothing,
and which I supposed to be Indian, but which I afterwards discovered to be Chinook, a barbarous trading
jargon made of English, Indian, and French.    Then,
perhaps, a squaw with her papoose, both a little dirtier
than the man, would enter and stare round.    They
would consult in their own tongue, and then make a
bargain or go out without trading, to give way in turn
to some other Indians with fish or deermeat
Altogether I found plenty to amuse me without walking or falling back on my solitary book,
I Sartor Resartus,' and when I got bored or too lazy
even to smoke, I retired into a corner and put my
head on my blankets and slept for awhile.
In the evening, after supper was over, we gathered
round the stove and talked about the railroad, and
we who had come from the other side had to give
accounts of the progress made there. And then some
one from Kamloops or lower down would tell us in
return how the road was progressing under Onder-
donk, the contractor who had the main British
Columbia portion of the C. P. R. under contract.
Then would follow yarns and jests, and presently we
would pull out the blankets, spread them on the floor
where there was least tobacco-juice, and all would be
sleeping and snoring.
On the evening of the second day the steamer II
134
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
came round the point and blew her whistle, which?
echoed again and again among the mountains, and
presently she ran gently on the gravelly beach and
let half-a-dozen passengers ashore, who came straight
up to Murdoch's. One young fellow rushed in, insisted on standing drinks to the whole crowd, and
seizing a box of cigars went round inviting everyone
to take a smoke. Meantime I inquired as to when
the steamer was to go, and, finding it would not be
before morning, I came back to get my share of the
fun, if there was to be any. However, there was little,,
save a few glasses of whisky and a loud gabbling of
voices, though some of us amused ourselves by trying
to set beaver-traps. These are made of steel, with
immensely strong springs, and it is quite a trick to-
set one. Few can do it without treading on both
sides, and it was delightful to see a very light man
trying in vain. I could manage it after a few trials.
There was only one among us who could set it by
hand simply, without treading it, and he was an old
trapper. Bear-traps, which are, of course, much more
powerful than these, can only be set by using a
lever.
In the morning we paid up what we owTed, and
I got a dollar's worth of bread and deermeat from.
Murdoch, for my cash was now necessarily getting
very low. In fact, when I went on board and paid
my seven dollars to go to Savona's Ferry, which was
as  far as the steamer went, I was again penniless,.
Ifc GOLDEN RANGE AND  SHUSHWAP LAKES    135
which seemed then my normal condition. So it was
impossible for me to pay fifty cents a meal on the
boat and the same for a bed.
The boat was of the usual American shape, with
lower and hurricane decks, and was a stern-wheeler,
such as, I believe, have lately been introduced in the
Nile navigation. She was capable of doing twelve
knots or more an hour, and it was certainly necessary
that she should be able to make good headway, as the
current in the rivers between the lakes is at times
tremendous.
We had reckoned on being in Savona's Ferry,
about 100 miles away, the next day, but we were
doomed to disappointment; for, instead of going
direct to Kamloops and then on to Savona, the boat
turned to the right instead of the left and picked up
a big ' boom of logs,' which she was to tow down to
the saw-mill at Kamloops. These were logs cut and
thrown into the lakes, and then collected into the
boom, which consists of logs connected with a chain,
making a ' pen,' as it were, to keep them together.
So, instead of going.down flying, we had to crawl
along, doing about three miles an hour. The scenery
was pleasant enough, and at times grand, sometimes
heavily timbered and sometimes bare, with the hills
terraced as it were. The lake water was deep and
dark, and cold to those who were not used to mountain
water, but to me it seemed absolutely warm.
When  we left  the  Great  Shushwap Lake, and L\
1^6
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
ran through the connecting river, which was part
of the south fork of the Thompson, I had my first
view of the Pacific salmon. Standing on the bows,
and looking down into the clear, transparent water,
I could see hundreds of large fish, from ten to thirty
pounds, darting about in every direction. There were
fairly tens of thousands of them. At intervals along
the banks there were camps of the Shushwap Indians,
living in little bark shanties, along the front of which
were hung hundreds of split salmon drying in the sun.
The little brown children, some of them naked as
they were born, would come out and stare at us, and
their dogs would yelp and dash a little way into the
water. Out in the stream there wrere a few canoes
with a squaw paddling in the stern, while the ' buck'
stood up forward with a long spear watching for the
passing fish.
My life on board those three days was commonplace and quiet. I slept and smoked and ate my
bread and deermeat, and at times talked with some of
the deck hands, who were full Indians or half-breeds.
Some of the latter were fairly good-looking, and one
was positively handsome, while the former were for
the most part as ugly as possible.
I read a little, too, in Carlyle, and fancied myselt
Teufelsdroch on his travels, though mine were certainly
of a different character from those celebrated wanderings. And perhaps I borrowed a scrap of a newspaper, which would set me speculating on what the GOLDEN RANGE AND SHUSHWAP LAKES   137
country was like down stream. And sometimes I
wondered whether I should get work, and if so what
work, and if not what I should do, and so on. Consequently I had no sense of ennui on me, and if Fritz
or anybody bored me I could easily take refuge in
sleep or in the scenery.
So we slowly got down the river, coming more
and more into land which looked possible at least for
grazing stock, and in places fit for farming, and soon we
began to pass stock-farms. We could see bands of
cattle and horses, and here and there a house on the
river banks, back from which the country now had
all along the curious terraced appearance I had
noticed occasionally higher up. The timber got less
and less, and the appearance of the country was
drier. I was told that we had now passed out of the
up-country Wet Belt, and were in the Dry Belt, where
rain did not fall all the year round.
At last, after a journey which would not have
seemed long if I had not known how much faster we
might have travelled, had it not been for the logs behind us, we began to come near to Kamloops. I had
determined to go no farther than this on the boat,
and on representing the matter in the proper light
to the captain he returned me the extra fare I had
paid to Savona's Ferry. This two dollars was now
all my capital.
Late in the evening of the third day, on coming
round a bend in the river, we saw the lights of a town, 138
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
and a quarter of an hour after the steamship had
blown her whistle we were moored alongside the
wharf at the Flour Mill, and taking my blankets on
my back I went ashore, after bidding Fritz farewelL
I was in Kamloops at last. 139
CHAPTER  XL
ROUND   KAMLOOPS.
After asking where I could find an hotel, I walked
from the wharf across a bed of sawdust which was
wheeled from the saw-mill adjoining, and came to
the street of which Kamloops consists. In a few
minutes my blankets were lying on a pile of rugs and
valises, and I sat down by the stove to get warm in
the bar-room of Ned Cannell, the best known and
most popular hotel-keeper in the town. There were
fifteen or twenty in the room, most of us smoking or
chewing; a few were in the boisterous stage of incipient intoxication, and some two or three were lying
helplessly on the floor. I could hear snatches of
conversation. ' Come, step us, boys, what's your
liquor ?' ' Take a smile ;' ' Oh now, don't give us
taffy;' 'What's this you're telling me ?' or,' Say, Jack,
got a chew o' terbacker? hand us your" plug.' Then
there was talk of the railroad, which, of course, was
the all-absorbing topic, some prophesying prosperity,
and some universal ruin and desolation as its result.
' See now, pard, Montana was a good country before 140
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
the Northern Pacific was put through, and what is it
now ? Why, a few years ago cow-boys were getting 45
and 50 dols. a month, and now wages is down to 25 or
30.' Everybody judged solely from his own experience,
as men mostly do in matters which affect the pocket.
I found there was no work to be done except
railroad work, and of that I had had a sickener,
and when I found that white men's wages here were
only 175, dol. for such work, and that there were
hordes of Chinamen introduced into the country to
compete with our race, I began to think I had come to
a curious country. But I lay back taking it as easy
as possible, and, under the narcotic influence of much
nicotine, sank into a lethargic state of indifference; in
fact, I chewed myself into a state of coma, like Dickens's
Elijah Pogram. About a quarter to twelve some of
the company began to go, and, as all the beds in the
house were full, about a dozen of us slept in our
blankets all about the bar-room, and in an alcove
where stood a diminutive billiard-table.
In the morning I was out early and took a look
at the town. It consisted then of a long straight
street of wooden houses, some of them quite handsome structures, especially when I compared them
with the log-shacks I had been living in. This stre'et,
on both sides of which were houses, runs at some
little elevation above the river, which is here the
Thompson, with its fall waters, as the South Fork
down which I had come the day before, is joined by
kc ROUND KAMLOOPS
M
the North Fork, the junction taking place right in
front of the town.    Across the river, in the corner of
land washed by the two rivers, was the Reservation for
the Kamloops Indians, with their dirty little town of
miserable huts, and behind this a steep, barren, and
treeless mountain, which had the peculiarity to me
of always looking as if it was partly in shade and
partly in light, owing to the difference in colours of
the mass.    In fact, it gave me somewhat the same
impression, in that respect, as St. Paul's in London
does when one sees the clean and discoloured portions
of the stones in contrast.
On the opposite side of the South Fork was a
stretch of flat country running gradually up in the
background to hill and mountains and a confusion of
peaks. These mountains are but sparsely wooded in
comparison with the ranges in the upper country.
My object was now to get work if I could, so I
went to the saw-mill and the flour-mill, but was unsuccessful there, and I found nothing in the rest of the
town. When I was thoroughly satisfied that it was
useless to trouble myself any more in this place, I met
Bill, who was in an advanced state of intoxication.
He rushed out of Edward's hotel, clawed hold of me to
keep himself up, saying, ' Come and have a drink*
Texas ?' I would much rather have left it and him
alone, but thedijwas no denying him, and I had to
take something. Then it was,' Take another,' but I
refused firmly. 11
14'
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
' Well, anyhow, you'll come and have dinner with
me, Texas ; 1 know you can't have much money.'
Now this was very kind, and I did have dinner with
him, though he worried me all the time by behaving
as if he was in camp under a cedar, glaring round
wildly, clawing at things unsteadily, and capsizing his
tea on the table. Still, it is nothing uncommon in
that country for a few men at table to be drunk,
and nobody marks them if they are not quarrelsome.
After dinner I thought it was time to get out of
town. It was no use staying there with i dol., which
was now all I had, and I thought there might be a
chance of getting work in the country, as 1 was told
that there were many cattle ranches in this part of
British Columbia. So I slung my blankets on my
back and set off, consoling myself with the thought
that, if I was unsuccessful, at any rate I was going
west, and might reckon on reaching the Pacific in
time if I did not starve on the way. I set off on the
road which led to Savona Ferry, and walked steadily
in spite of my feet, which soon began to hurt me
again, although they had been better during the last
few days of comparative rest For three miles or
so my way lay uphill through a dry, barren-looking
country, with here and there the efflorescence of alkali
showing among the coarse grass and whitening the
baked mud at the bottom of the dried water-holes.
The trees were bull-pines with red scaly trunks of
1 foot or two in diameter  for the most part, with ROUND KAMLOOPS
143
liere and there a fir, or occasionally a tree that looked
like a dwarf cotton-wood. Here and there were a few
horses, that lifted their heads to look at me, and then
went on grazing assiduously. Then I would come
upon a band of cattle. These would start a little,
then run into a cluster, and stand staring with the
boldest in front, perhaps pawing the dusty ground
•or bellowing. They would stand so until I got out of
sight, and then some would come to the next rise
to have another look at my departing figure. Four
miles from town I came to a woodcutters' camp, and
stayed awhile to talk with the one man in camp,
who was from Missouri, but had not been there for
twenty years. From him I learnt there was a ranche
about seven or eight miles farther on, and I bade him
farewell and tramped along, making nearly four miles
an hour. As I came round a curve in the road, past
a dried alkali lake which was white as snow, I saw a
little house on a rise with farm buildings near at hand,
and on the side nearest to me a man was working
with two horses, driving them round and round in a
ring, while he stood in the middle holding the reins,
or lines as they call them in America. There was a
woman with him who was using a hay fork. On
coming closer I found they were thrashing out grain
in this primitive manner, something in the way they
must have done in the ancient days spoken of in the
Old Testament, when it was forbidden to muzzle the
oxen that tread out the corn.   I climbed over the fence iff
El
#j»
144
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
and went down towards them.    As I came up the
man stopped his horses.    He was a hard, wiry-looking  individual,  with  keen   eyes, scanty  beard  and
moustache, weather-beaten skin, a good mouth and
teeth.    He wore long boots, into which an ancient
pair  of blue trousers were tucked, a waistcoat unbuttoned showing a white shirt, and no coat.    His
hands  were  hard  and  muscular,  with   the   glazed
appearance on the backs one so often sees in old
seamen.    In spite of this rig-out, I saw at once he
was not  an  ordinary   British   Columbian, but   was
probably an educated man, and possibly an Englishman.    I was more puzzled by the woman, who was
an Indian I could see, short and strong-looking, with
strongly-marked features, and such a look of intelligence  and such a smile on her face that I  almost
doubted my first impression as to her race.    I spoke
to him, ' Good afternoon, sir ; are you the boss here ? '
He smiled : ' Well, I guess I am, unless she is,' he
said, pointing to the woman, who grinned, and then
laughed   genially,  but   said   nothing.     ' You're  an
Englishman ?'    I confessed to my nationality, and he
said, ' So am I.    Are you travelling?'    I explained
that I was looking for work, and asked if he could
help me to get any.    ' I'm too poor to hire anyone
just now, and I must get on as I can by myself,' said
he, ' but you can go up to the house if you would like
a cup of tea ; my wife will give you some.'    I thanked
him and went  up to the house, and  sat down in ROUND KAMLOOPS
145
the kitchen, where I was soon drinking tea and eating
corned beef. Presently my host came up and sat down
to talk. He told me that his name was Hughes, that
he was an Englishman, that he had been a sailor in
the East India trade, had left the company and taken
to running opium into China. After this he came to
California soon after the days of '49, and mined for
fourteen years in that State without much success,
and since that time he had been in British Columbia
working for Gus Wright, the man I had met up at
the second crossing of the Columbia, and mining on
his own account, and that now he was in the cattle-
raising business. In return for this confidence I told
him my history, how I had been in Australia and at
sea, speaking of my life in London and my adventures
since then. Finally, it grew so late while we were
talking, that he asked me to stay there all night and
make a fresh start in the morning.
That evening, after supper, we had a long talk
about things in general—about emigration, about
English politics, in which he still took an interest,
being an ardent Conservative. This is, I find, very
often the case with Englishmen living abroad, though
I found their adherence to Conservatism was, for the
most part, based on the belief that that party is the
most consistent in foreign politics and pledged to an
Imperial policy. On the other hand, the Liberalism
which would allow the Colonies to go their own way
is thought contemptible   and   narrow-minded   and w&
146
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
selfish. I may take this opportunity of saying that I
have found the Colonies generally more devoted to
the mother country than she generally is to them,
although the affection of the human parent for the
child is, as a rule, greater than that of child for parent.
From politics we ran into philosophy and religion,
and we chatted for hours on agnosticism and atheism,
on religion as it is and as it should be, and diverged
into literature. I found him a very well-informed
man, considering everything, and by no means bigoted.
He told me, however, in confidence that he was
not beloved by his neighbours, and I found this to be
true ; but, considering their general ignorance, that
was a compliment to him.
Before going to bed he told me that I might
possibly find work at the next ranche, belonging to a
Mr. Roper, who was a good boss, he said. If I was
unsuccessful there I could go over to the-Lake, about
three miles from Roper's, to where the railroad was
being made, and try there. Finally, if I was unsuccessful at both places, I might come back to him, and
he would give me a week or two's work at a dollar
a day. So I thanked him, and went to sleep on a
pile of rugs in the corner of the room.
In the morning I had breakfast, shook hands with
him, in case I should not come back, and set off down
the road. I found Mr. Roper, but could get no work
there, so I went over to Ferguson's on, the Lake,
where two tunnels were being made. ROUND KAMLOOPS
147
I found Mr. Ferguson, but he, too, had no work for
-me unless I could drill. As I was unable to tackle
this job on account of ignorance, I walked down the
grade, finding large gangs of Chinamen at work at
different places, in charge of a white man, who was
•called the ' herder.' This job is not always a happy
one, although it is well paid, for the Chinamen who
work on railroads are the very scum of China, 'wharf
rats' from Hong Kong, and are evil and desperate.
Consequently it is no uncommon thing for a ' herder'
to get killed or badly beaten by them if anything
goes wrong, and sometimes in protecting himself he
will have to shoot several of them when they run at
him with picks and shovels.
After walking some distance I came to the boss
of part of the work, who gave me directions how to
gejftback to Hughes's Ranche without retracing my
steps. I had to climb up a terribly steep hill, and
then walk two or three miles through open timber,
finally coming out just at the spot I had aimed at.
I went down to the ranche and shook hands with
Hughes. That evening I bathed my feet, which had
broken out again in sores and blisters, and Mrs.
Hughes gave me a pair of buckskin moccasins, in
which it was a perfect delight to walk after going
about in my big boots. I stayed at this ranche two
weeks, and was kindly treated in every way. We
had good food and plenty of it, and did not work long
hours.    I gathered rocks for a stone wall and drove
l 2 w
I
148
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
a scraper team to fill up holes round the near farm
buildings. Sometimes I dug potatoes or gathered
beans, and at night we had long conversations about
all possible things, or I read the English illustrated
papers or wrote letters. My health here was better
than it had been at any time since I had left home,
for the air was magnificent. The scenery was not
grand, but beautiful and quiet Below the house was
a stretch of flat meadow, beyond it birch and cotton-
wood, over these ranges of grass with a few bull pines,
and above and beyond these the spurs of the range
which divided us from the Nicola Valley.
At last one night Hughes told me that he had no
more need of help, and that we must part on the
morrow. I was more than sorry to go, but at any
rate this comparative rest had done me much good.
My feet were thoroughly healed and I had fifteen
dollars in my pocket. In the morning I set out alone,
this time determined not to stop or stay until I reached
the coast I promised to write to Hughes and he
promised to answer.
That evening I reached Savona's Ferry at the
west end of Kamloops Lake, and stayed in a hotel
kept by Adam Ferguson, one of the handsomest men
I ever saw in British Columbia.
I was now in the Alkali Dry Belt, where the rain
is very scanty and the ground brown and the grass
parched and burnt. The water is often very bad and
unfit for drinking.    My next day's solitary walk was ROUND KAMLOOPS
149
-over a high, almost level plain, on a good road with
a few climbs, when it plunged into a canon and came
up again on the other side. The scenery was desolate but beautiful, the hills were rounded but in the
distance lofty, and here and there the country was
cut up into mounds or buttes and bluffs, with now and
again terrace rising above terrace. The hillsides were
o o
cut sometimes like irregular channelling in an Ionic
•column, and the few trees gave the place a more solitary look than if it had been bare. As I had crossed
the Thompson River at Savona it was now on my
left hand, and it ran turbulently over rock and rapid
far below me, in its calmer intervals bright and blue,
while the noise of the rapids was like the roar of the
breakers when one hears them from a long distance.
At times the winding road took me far from the river
.back towards the hills, and sometimes I was in the
middle of a plain, the only sign of life in it. I had
•dinner at the Eight Mile House, so called on the
lucus a non lucendopr'mciple, for it was thirteen miles
from Savona and twelve from Cache Creek. Here I
found three teamsters at dinner, who were bound the
same way as myself, with empty wagons. I remember
one went by the extraordinary nickname of ' Hog
Hollow Bill,' which I found out afterwards was given
him because he came from a place of that name in
Missouri. I started to walk before they had their
teams hitched up. . While I was getting ready to go
the woman who kept the house went outside to see 150
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
one of the men tie a kettle to the tail of an unfortunate cur who had made his home there.    Her child
began to cry aloud about something, and she ran in,,
caught it up, saying: ' There, duckie, don't cry; come
and see Jim tie a kettle to the doggie's tail.'    I was
happy to see that the instrument of torture parted
company with the dog after the first hundred yards,,
while this mother was giving her child a first lesson
in  cruelty  to  animals.    After walking  a  mile  the
wagons caught me up, and I was invited to take a ride
on one of them, and by this means I got into Cache
Creek  before dark.    This place consists of two or
three houses, a hotel, a store, and an express office.
The Buonaparte Creek comes down this way, and it
is here that the wagon-road turns off to Cariboo, the
great mining-place in British Columbia.    I got vile
food and viler accommodation, and all the bar-room
talk   was   about   the   extortionate  charges on   the
railroad.    They told me  about a horse, which was
worth 40 dols., for which the owner was asked 75 dols.
for transportation.   He told the railroad men to keep
the horse.
In the morning I continued the journey on the
wagon with my friendly teamster, and after going'
through much the same country came at noon to
I Oregon Jack's.' Oregon Jack had been in British
Columbia more than twenty years, and had never been
sober since he entered the country.    It is not known ROUND KAMLOOPS
i$i
how many years he had been drunk in Oregon, but
testimony from all sides averred that his intoxication
had been constant on the north side of the 49th
parallel. He was a little bald-headed man, with red
face and leering, satyr-like eyes, and he certainly was
drunk when I saw him, though able to talk fluently
about being perfectly sober, ' though I was drunk
when you were last here, Bill.'
We afterwards passed Cornwall's, the hotel kept
by the Governor of British Columbia. This was the
quietest, most comfortable hotel on the road, with lots
of English papers lying round the rooms. In the
evening we came to Eighty-nine—that is, eighty-nine
miles from Yale, and stayed at French Pete's. There
were a dozen wagons here, going up and down, and
the teamsters made things so lively that soon after
supper, which was cooked by French Pete's Indian
wife, I took my blankets outside and got into my teamster's wagon and slept there comfortably, although
it was a rather frosty night. The hills on both sides
of the river were now drawing closer together and the
character of the country was changing, as if we were
approaching mountains again. I asked the. teamster
about this, and he said I was coming now to the
Cascade Range, and that I should enter the canon at
Cook's Ferry. Accordingly a little afterwards I began
to see larger hills and mountains, while the river ran
more rapidly over rocks, breaking in foam down long 152
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
rapids, and when unbroken running round the bends
with a quiet velocity even more impressive than the
noisy rush of the broken waters.
Soon after noon we crossed the bridge at the ferry
and passed to the left side of the stream. This was
the end of the track in this direction.
Since leaving the summit of the Rocky Mountains,
where I had last heard the whistle of the eastern
locomotives, I had traversed mountains, lakes, and
plains on foot, by steamer, and by wagon, and had
come 360 miles to hear them again. And I had yet
180 miles to pass before I should reach the coast.
«■» 153
CHAPTER   XII.
THROUGH   THE  FRASER  CANON.
I HAD, up to the moment of my leaving Cook's Ferry,
deluded myself with the thought that I was coming at
last to some beautiful evidences of civilisation. After
passing each comfortable ranche and seeing the prosperity of fat cattle and plentiful horses, I said to
myself,' I shall soon be in El Dorado, where, perhaps,
there is a library with books to be read ; perhaps there
may be men who are civilised and educated, even so
far the delightful victims of our pleasures as to be
acquainted with chess. Then, instead of playing
draughts on a tree stump, rudely marked out with a
burnt stick, in the primaeval forest, I may sit by a fire,
with a cup of coffee near at hand and a pipe of good
tobacco, and astonish my opponent with a crafty
Muzio or a well-played Evans. Or I may play mild
bumblepuppy, or even whist, instead of fiecre poker,
or insidious euchre or assassinating cut-throat' But
now it seemed that my airy visions and dream castles
were to be shocked and shaken down. My library of
books eager to be read, my chess-table with opponent ill
154
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
waiting, my smoking cup of coffee, vanished from my
imagination when once more a tremendous barrier of
rock and mountain, thrust high into the black clouds
above, came before me and shut me for a time,
unmeasurable until passed through, from level land,
if such there were, and from coast and Pacific, whose
imagined roar was driven from my ears by sound of
wind and river.
For the Cascades were in front of me, frowning, and the Thompson ran mockingly past, while
I toiled slowly up the road into the labyrinth of
hills. I      I
And yet I was light-hearted, for my feet were
whole and sound, and I heard again in my pocket the
jingle of pleasant silver. The road, if steep at times, was
at any rate well made, and the change from the cloudless blue of the Dry Belt to the broken harmony of
cloud and clear sky, mist and rain, and green of tree or
grass, was sweet. So as I climbed I watched the fretting
river that had worn its way through these hills for
thousands of years—for a geologic age perchance, and
when I rested I sat on a fallen tree under which, when
in its first youth and glory, perhaps the pioneer Indian
who found the pass had come, and upon whose fallen
trunk had rested, it might also be, the most adventurous of the white trappers when the Hudson
Bay Company were sovereign in these solitudes. And
when I wandered from the road and sat down by the
river, or lay by a little brawling creek to rest, I was,.
nil*.    . THROUGH THE ERASER CANON
15*
as it were, the first myself in this realm of nature.
The white trapper was yet unborn in the home of his.
fathers, and the Indian a little farther yet in the unknown, while his tribe are on the plains of the east or
among the timber of the coast. Or the abode of his-
fathers is farther yet, even beyond Alaska—yea, even
beyond Behring's Straits, in the mystic land of Asia,
mother of nations, fertile and not yet past childbearing,
though a Sarah among the younger lands.
But no ! am I dreaming or awake ? For there is
my Indian coming down the pass ; verily an Indian,
and a dirty one, with his long greasy locks and the
moccasins. This is no pioneer. No ; but here is the
white man's pioneer. I hear a shriek and a rush and
a roar, and as I look up, staring across the foam to
yon shelf of rock, on it there sweeps, like an embodied
hurricane, the Engine and the Train, the Power and
the Deed. And my pioneer of Indians looks not
up ; his thoughts are far away, perhaps to the times
before the white man was ; or, perhaps, they are but
dreams stomachic as to where the next dinner may
be begged.    For so has the Indian fallen !
Have the elder races halted ?
Do they droop and end their lesson .  .  .
"We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers ! O Pioneers !
So went that day's walk in the canon or valley
of the Thompson, so soon to lose i|b name and be
mingled with the waters of the greater and longer If
156
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
ft
[III
river the Fraser. And as the evening came on the
sky got sullen and drooped wearily, until it rested on
the mountains, and a chill, sharp wind came from the
gorges, keen and hard and piercing, like the ranked
spear points of an invisible host or close flight of
unseen magic arrows. And I walked quicker and
quicker, for I was but thinly clad—nay, almost unclad
against such ice breezes from the north, and still in
solitude. But I came round a corner and saw four
Indians—two women, one old and one young, and two
children, a boy and a girl. The older woman was of
any age, but surely nearly ready for her rest in those
quaint fantastic graveyards in which the Indians put
their dead, adorning the guardian railing with globes,
spikes and strange painted figures of carven cocks,
and figure dummies on the graves under tents, to
keep off the snow and hail and biting wind. Yet
she was heavily burdened with a large roll of blankets or rugs, in the middle of which was perhaps
a package of evilly smelling salmon, supported by a
broad pack-strap on her forehead. And the poor
little children were bearing packs bigger than themselves. It was happy that the wind was behind them,
or how else could they toil up that slope, although so
much better a road than their old ancient trail, which
at times came in sight as the white man's broad way
crossed and supplanted it, leaving the briers and
brush and weeds to encumber and choke it up ? The
old woman greeted me : ' Clahya.'    ' Clahya,' said I, THROUGH THE ERASER  CANON
157
and passed on, melancholy for myself, but sadder yet
for them.
And yet another step, and I see the earliest lights
of Lytton stretched along a little flat; I see the
Fraser, turbid and swollen, bursting from its northern
hills ; and I see the Thompson's blue beauty overpowered in the whitened stream, like a bluebell
smitten by discoloured snow. But still it shows, as
might a petal, along the nearer shore a thin, diminishing band of light amethyst against the broad
colour of grey jade.
And now I come down to men's habitations,
where Indians and whites dwell together. I walked
into the bar-room of Bailey's Hotel and found my
white host as drunk as an Indian might be, yet good-
tempered and smiling and amorous of his fiddle,
which he embraced lovingly. It was there I stayed
that night, amid some noise and disorder, while outside the rain and sleet drove down from the hills.
In the early morning, after breakfast, I set out
again on another solitary stage ; and now the Jackass
Mountain was to be climbed. I know not why
Jackass, unless it be that none but a jackass could or
would climb it. Be that as it may, it was a long and
steady pull against that height, and I j was tired and
nigh breathless when I paused on the summit, where
a bridge hung against the wall of rock above, and I
could look down eleven hundred feet of almost sheer
depth to the Fraser that was silent beneath me !    The i58
THE WESTERN AVERNUS
rain had ceased in the morning, but the air was damp
and chill. The clouds capped the pine-clad heights
and drooped in long streamers down the slopes,
touching bold rock and precipice into faint mystery,
and leaving dew or unshed rain on fir and pine. The
swift river crawled slowly below, like a train that
seems to fly when we are in it and to lag dismally in
the far background, and its roar was hidden in the
faint murmur of the wind or the startling chirp of bird
or squirrel. And even now, as I write, from that bridge
could one see the river, for it crawls by as it has
crawled for ages that are an eternity to us. And I
-saw it for an unspeakable moment, and passed down
the steep and precipitous road, above whose verge
trees that sprang from roots clutched round rocks
two hundred feet below showed their slender waving
crowns and spire of branches.
From my mind now all trace of the picturing
vision of the day or two ago had passed, and books,
or chess, or men of converse were far removed from
my mind ; and yet the vision had been no deceitful
one, nor had a lying spirit lied to me. I was nearer
to civilisation, to a pioneer camp of civilisation than
I knew, and the next house was the spot I should
have dreamed of. I came to it. It had all the semblance of a hotel—verandah and benches outside,
big front door to let the weary or thirsty traveller in
■or to drag the intoxicated one out for refreshment
and sobering.    I went up, took hold of the handle, THROUGH THE FRASER  CANON
159
muttering to myself, ' It is surely dinner time. I
:smell something.' Had I been he who said, ' Fee-fo-
fum,' I should have smelt the blood of an Englishman.
The handle turned but the door was locked. | It
was strange but explicable. Perhaps every one inside
was asleep—and drunk. Perhaps they had stayed up
till morning playing poker, and were tired. So round
I went to the back door. Yes, there was somebody
there; for dinners don't cook themselves, except as
in Lamb's story of Roast Pig, and this savour in the
air was not porcine. Another step brought me to
the door. I peeped in, and fell back more than
surprised. I was surely dreaming. I looked again.
I saw an individual in a cassock—long and black!
He turned and saw me. What he saw I know not
•exactly—a tall ruffian, with red curly beard, long
moustache, brown hair, long and nearly to his
shoulders, brown eyes, and a big broad-brimmed hat,
my dear old Texas' hat, now much ventilated with
holes, and blue trousers tucked, of course, into long
and muddy boots. I saw a pleasant, bright, youthful
and intelligent English face, and when he spoke I
heard my mother tongue spoken as it should be
spoken, in a manner which it seemed to me I must
have forgotten, for it sounded so strange*
' Good morning, sir. Can I get dinner here ?'
said   I.     'Come  in,' said  he, 'and   I will ask  Mr.
S .'    I went in, and he led me to what had been
the bar-room in this old hotel, for such it had been. i6o
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
Heavens! what an alteration from the days whei*
men lounged and drank and spat here! For whiskjr
and liquor shelves,books and a bookcase ; for hacked
benches, comfortable lounging-chairs ; for floor adornment of saliva and discarded chews and old cigar
stumps, neat carpets ; and instead of smoke reek and
brandy fume, odour of calf and morocco and vellum !
I sat down stunned and astonished, not able yet to*
realise what I looked like in such a place, else should
I have disappeared through the window, or put my
bull head through the panel of the door, and gone off,
like Samson bearing the gates of Gaza, a giant through
fright. The opposite door opened and another cassock
appeared—another mage. But he spoke in a pleasant
voice and held out his hand, and when he learnt what
I wanted, which at first I had forgotten, having to
fish round for my stray intention in my surprised,
dislocated mind, asked me cordially to join them at
dinner if I would excuse the rough fare, which, he
said, could not be much in such a desolate place.
Fare ! why what was fare to me if I was to dine
with two magicians, two wizards, with, by-the-by, a
third in training? For there was a bright young boy
face to be seen too, and another gentle voice. Would
not a Barmecide feast satisfy ? for then I could talk
the freelicr, and interchange mind with mind, and
be, perhaps, witty or humorous or pathetic, though,
Heaven knows, I was a pathetic figure enough to
those with eyes to see and hearts to know. THROUGH THE FRASER CANON
161
So we sat down to dinner—salmon, bread, potatoes,
with pie to follow.
M   We talked. P   'H'*   X   Wf '    W    HB^
' Have you come down from the upper country or
are you going up towards Kamloops ?' asked the elder
magician, clean shaven and healthy and bright-eyed.
,' I'm just tramping down from near Kamloops,
where I was working,' said I, ' and I'm bound for the
coast, to see what can be done down there.'
' How did you like Kamloops ? '
' Not much. Too much drunkenness and fighting.
I am rough myself, as you see, but I like quietness
and order.'    This was a little hypocrisy.
' You are an Englishman, are you not ?' said the
younger clergyman.
' I am ; everybody finds that out. So are you, both
of you.    Is it not so ?'
' Yes, we are both from the old country.'
'Well, it is an extraordinary place to find two
clergymen in. I must own I was so surprised that I
felt as if I was dreaming. I thought I was coming
to an ordinary hotel, and then to see you here!'
' That is nothing ; very often men come along and
insist this is an hotel. Of course it used to be one.
Won't you take some pie ?'
' Thank you,' and a piece of very suspicious-looking paste was put on my plate.
The younger   man,  whose  name   I   found  was
M 162
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
1
Ill
Edwards, looked very doubtfully at it as he gave it
to me, and said, ' I made that'
' Indeed ; then it must be good,' said I, courteously.
' Oh no ; I never made one before in my life, and
the paste seems so hard, and unlike pies that other
people make.'
I tasted it, and it was like a board, solid, unbend-
able, durable, and waterproof. ' Pray, sir, how did you
make it ? '
' Just of flour and water.'
' What, no grease or baking soda ?'
I    ' Not a bit.'    BHhB       H.     H '   ^^|
I broke into a peal of laughter. They were so
kind and sociable that I was now at my ease. ' Then
it is certainly a new kind of pie.'
Mr. Edwards looked very rueful. ' Well, I'm sure
I never thought it was so hard to cook. There's some
flour and water mixed up now in the kitchen, and it
won't stick together, but lies in flakes, however much
I knead it'
I burst out again into a very broad smile. ' Put
more water in, sir, and see if that will do any good.'
' Well, Mr. , I wish you had come along a little
earlier, and your advice and assistance would have
given us a better dinner.'
' A better dinner I don't want It is far more
pleasure to me to talk to two of my countrymen, who
are educated, than to eat a dinner that would suit a
gourmet!
1 1
THROUGH THE FRASER CANON
163
' Well, then, let us go into the book-room and have
a smoke.'
In the library they gave me some good English
cigarettes, and we all sat down. But it was impossible
for me to be there and not examine the shelves.
' Pray, sir,' said I, ' may I look at your books ?'
and without waiting for permission, so eager was I,
went to the opposite shelves. They were rather disappointing, however, there, being mostly theological.
I ran my fingers along the shelf: Eusebius, Mosheim,
Milman, Paley, Butler—familiar enough names, but
not in my line at all. When I came to Eusebius
I read the name out.
' Do you know him ?' asked Mr. Small, smiling,
thinking, doubtless, he was a name only.
' Why, no, I don't know him, but I've seen him
quoted in Gibbon's " Decline and Fall." '
' Oh,ljndeed, have you read that ? '
' Yes, sir, I read it first before I was twelve, and
once since then.'
Then to another shelf. Poets here: Shakspere,
Keats, but no Shelley—too much of an atheist, may be,
I thought—and various others. And then the classics
—Horace, Virgil and a huge Corpus Latinorum, and
another of the Greek poets and tragedians. I came
to Catullus. ' I think Catullus is my favourite, sir,
among the Romans.    What do you think ? '
'Well, I am rather surprised. Can you read
Latin ?'
M 2 164
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
' A little. I learnt some, and I have.managed not
to wholly forget it, like most when they leave school
or college.'
' Then were you at college ?'
' Not at Oxford or Cambridge ; though I know
both well.    You are of one of these universities ? '
H ' Oxford,' said Mr. Small.    H-    ^^^^^^|
'And you, sir?' said I, turning to the other.
' Only from Durham.'
Then I sat down again, and we had a long and
delightful conversation. Mr. Small showed me a
beautiful edition of Horace published by Bell and
Daldy, illustrated with cuts from coins and medals.
He read an ode or two, the ' Fons Bandusiae, splen-
didior vitro,' and ' Persicos odi apparatus,' and I
read Catullus's ' Lugete, Veneres Cupidinesque,' the
most wholly delightful piece of poetry in the whole
range of Latin literature; and finally, getting more
enthusiastic, we came to Greek, and Mr. Small read
from some of the plays of the dramatists, kindly
keeping to those I knew, for my knowledge of Greek
was always small, and confined to the dramatists and
a little Homer. In fact, I ground my way through
Sophocles, ^Eschylus, and some of Euripides with aid
of translations, solely for the sake of the poetry.
Then we ran on into English, and talked for hours
of the poets, until it began to grow dark and the wind
howled and a little rain fell, and it was time for me to
go, before the fiercer rain began.     So I shook hands THROUGH THE ERASER CANON
165
with both my friends and the younger boy and set
out, as they wished me ' God-speed' and turned back
into the lighted room. And I was in mud and water
and forest and mountain, and the shades of Greek
and Roman flew before the blast like dried leaves
from the tree of knowledge.
These two gentlemen were High Church English
clergymen, who had come out there as missionaries
for the Indians. What a terrible sacrifice to make !
It seems to me waste of such lives ; but yet what
goodness of heart and strength of conviction must
have led these to leave a land of culture and expatriate themselves among these mountains, and men
ruder than the mountains !
So I thought as I walked along, splashing in the
pools made by the rain that had fallen as we had
been talking. And as it grew dark I came to some
houses. I knocked at the door of one, and was
answered in Chinook by a slattern of an Indian
woman whom I could see through a crack in the
door. I insisted on English, and finally got out of
her that there was a hotel farther on. Another
mile of tramping and another house. I tried again
and found this full of Indians and half-breeds, who
told me to go farther yet. Finally I came to the
hotel, after two more miles of tramp in bright moonlight, for the clouds had passed away. And the moon
above me threw such strong shadows of blackness
under brush and tree, and such silver floods on the 166
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
open ground, that the alternation of light and shade
gave the appearance of snow.
I stamped into the usual bar-room, greeted the
owner of the hotel and store, nodded to a man by
the stove, said 'Clahya' to an Indian woman with a
baby, and sat down to smoke and dry myself.
And in the morning, clear and fresh, but threatening rain, the road lay before me again. Again
miles of solitary walking towards the Elysium that
lies beyond the rainbow. At noon I came to Boston
Bar, the commencement of the wildest and most
terrible part of the Fraser Canon, where the mountain
bases lie close and closer together, and the fierce flood
of water boils and surges through its deep and narrow
chasm, until it breaks its bonds and frees itself at
Yale. This Boston Bar is named from the bar of
sand and shingle in the river, which was in early
days a great mining place, and is even yet worked at
times by Chinamen. Just below the Bar is the sullen-
looking gorge, fringed with clouds, into which road
and river run.    And this was my way.
This cafion is other than the cafions, passes, and
gorges in the Rockies and Selkirks. All are narrow
and mountainous, heavily clad with timber, but there
is something about this that makes it stranger and
wilder and sterner. It may perhaps seem so in my
mind, because the days I passed in it were cloudy and
sullen, with every now and then a gust of wind and
an hour of rain, for it was then nearing winter, and THROUGH THE FRASER CANON
167
though the snow lay not yet upon the mountains,
the air was shrewd and bitter. But the main feature
which influenced my mind was the steepness of the
lofty precipices, from whose heights fall after fall,
cascade after cascade, leapt to the valley a thousand
feet at a bound, swayed by the wind like silver
ribbons, or dissipated into foam and spray. And
here I noticed how strangely slow the water of a
lofty fall appears to come down. There is no swift
plunge of mighty waters such as Niagara's, but the
slow dropping of the thin light line of the mountain
stream, running through a fringe of misty cloud that
hangs upon the breast of the hills.
And all along the road were evidences of the
Indians. In the trees were boxes built to keep dried
salmon in, secure from thieves and prowling beasts,
and here and there were slender stages built out over
the terrible stream, on which the Indians stand when
the salmon come up the river, holding a net like a
magnified racquet-bat, in which they catch the fish
as they pass. Graveyards too there were at intervals,
each stranger than the last. And I came at evening
with a new companion, the man who was at the hotel
with me the night before, to another little wayside
inn, kept by a Portuguese from the Azores, who gave
us the best meal that I had eaten for many a long
day. It was necessary, for that fatal pie had given
me a terrible attack of indigestion, which lasted three
days. If
168
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I spent a pleasant evening in that little house in
the lonely canon, while outside the river chafed and
roared, and the river of wind over it swept down
between the hills, eddying and swirling over the
trees, as the rain pattered ceaselessly on the roof,
gathering in pools on the road, and running down to
add to the turbid volume of the Fraser.
It was nearly noon next day before we started,
and then it was made in desperation of its clearing
up. But, as if to cheer us for our courage, the clouds
drifted away before a cold north wTind and the rain
ceased. So we came to Hell Gate dry, and could
stand with some patience for a while to see the river
roar through the pass of ill-omened name.
Here the river ran at its narrowest, and here it
must have been the deepest. The huge rocks jutted
out on each side into the boiling current, and were
bare and black-looking. The river looked strange
and dangerous, alive and struggling like a python in
the toils, and at times ran backwards on the surface,
while below it was fiercer still, finding its destined
way down through cavern and bar, and leaping at
last to the surface to roar above the level of the
main stream, curling and coiling and eddying in confusion worse confounded. Here at flood-time, after
snow-melting in the distant northern home of that
river and in the Golden Range, source of the Eagle,
and the lakes whence come the Thompson, its tributary, the waters rise in revolt and despair, and storm THROUGH THE FRASER CANON
169
this Bastille Gate of Rocks, climbing higher and
higher,Hbaring louder and louder still, whirling pine
and fir trunks down like straws, to suck them under
in a maelstrom that makes the quick eye giddy,
finally lifting its foaming crest above the barrier, to
scream like a freed eagle and leap rejoicing down
the wider ways. And when it passes and the floods
are over, where is the road ? Washed into the stream,
and the bare rock is left. See, as we stand here, on the
road high above our heads is a red line painted on the
rocks. So high can this river rise, and it may be
higher yet.
So, after watching the Gate for an hour, we passed
on and found a bridge below, and crossed thereon to
the right bank. Surely we were nearly to Yale. But
it seemed impossible. How could a town be put into
this canon ? The shelf of rock on which the trains
ran in such seeming peril above the terrible waters
had been cut and carved out by huge labour or
years. Was it possible a town could be near ? It
was possible truly, and we were close to it when we
turned and saw a vast pool of quiet water, with a
long eddy that took a floating log round and round
for an hour as we sat smoking in quiet, never letting
it approach the verge of the lower rapid. Round
this pool were tremendous mountains steep and sheer,
but across the water, on a little flat, was a house right
under the hills, and on the sand an Indian canoe.
On the highest crests of the hills the hand of winter tift
170
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
had been laid, for there was a gleam of scanty snow,
and save that house which sent up no smoke as sign
of habitation, making the scene thus even more
desolate than snow and sullen mountain could by
themselves, there was no appearance of life.
So we rose and took up our blankets, and a
hundred yards farther on we came round a corner, and
Yale was before us, snugly settled down on a little
flat space at the foot of the hills, smoking from
many chimneys, while on the beach under the town
lay a steamer. We were then on navigable waters.
We and the Fraser were free of the hills. I turned,
looked up the canon, frowning and stupendous, and
walked into the town. I7i
CHAPTER XIII.
DOWN  STREAM  TO  THE  COAST.
That night I and my partner, who was a little
insignificant chap, ' a man of no account,' slept and
ate at the nearest hotel, a very refuge for tramps,
undelightful, dirty, with bad cooking and worse beds.
Kept by a semi-intoxicated, wholly disreputable
landlord, who kept on giving me good advice with
regard to my morality, which, he feared, would be
undermined by the license and drunkenness among
whites and Indian ' klootchmen,' or women on the
coast, it was the haunt and rendezvous for undelect-
able characters from the other parts of the town. We
were first amused by two or three of the Yale demimonde, who came to Taylor's to get more drink,
being at that time rather more merry than wise, and
the more drink resulted in a quaint fandango, or
semi-cancan, danced, on the floor first and then on
the counter, by a bright little dark-eyed Mexican
girl, with brilliant teeth and coils of hair and a strange
dress of purple and reddish colours interwoven, who,
as she danced, sang snatches of Spanish songs and 172
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
English too, every now and again cursing volubly
in both. And late at night there was a ferocious
encounter of tongues between our host and his housekeeper, a voluble, vicious, snap-eyed woman, who
stuck out her chin and placed her arms a-kimbo, the
cause of dispute being Taylor's half-bred Indian child,
which this virtuous woman, '.far above rubies,' declined to wash or otherwise tend on account of the
luckless infant's illegitimacy. Result: furious war of
tongues, and at times I feared a personal encounter.
Both appealed to me. ' Should I wash a dirty little
Indian bastard, sir ?' says she. ' Don't you think she
should, sir ?' says Taylor plaintively, but getting fierce
again when talking to her. The end of it was banging of doors and screaming inside, while Taylor himself and an old white-haired Mexican took charge
of the little girl, who had been seated on the floor by
the stove all this time playing with a rag doll, paying
no attention to the raised voices.
In the morning we started off again to walk to
New Westminster, which I here learnt was the largest
town on the mainland of British Columbia. We
followed the line of railroad, walking along the track,
and passing on numberless bridges across streams and
sloughs through a flat timbered country. That day we
made thirty-six miles, camping at last t in a fence-
makers' camp, where two white men were superintending a large gang of Chinamen engaged in
fencing off the line.    It was bitterly cold and very DOWN STREAM TO   THE COAST
173
late when we got to the camp, but the two white
men gave us some coffee and sat talking with us for
some time, though their conversation's tendency was
not encouraging, as they ran down New Westminster,
averring that it was unlikely any one would get work
in such a dead-looking town. Finally, they went to
their little tent, while I raked up some more wood for
the fire and lay down beside it, to wake at intervals
all night long shivering with the cold. My partner
made a little shelter of a pile of ties near at hand,
and shivered there by himself till early dawn, when
he came out to me, seating himself over the fire like
an Indian, with the water running out of his rather
weak eyes, making clean channels down his unwashed
face, for he did not, I imagine, very often wash.
This day another long walk over flats, and we came
out to the river Fraser, now broad and placid, with
islands and bars in it piled with drift-wood and brush,
and long back washes half as broad as the river, but
shallow and weedy. Then to Harrison River, bright
and clear and blue, a Fraser tributary, and dinner at
a Chinaman's restaurant, where we had a plentiful
and well-cooked meal served by the owner himself,
who spoke good English to us, Chinese to his pig-
tailed compatriots, and fluent Chinook to his Indian
wife, who held in her arms a curious child with the
characteristics of Indian and Chinaman stamped
unmistakably upon it. The father admired it immensely, and was, it seemed, very fond of his wife *74
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
who, for her part, was stolid and undemonstrative, as
most pure-bred Indians are, except when under the
influence of liquor.
Then away again over the long bridge, and that
night we stayed with an oldish French farmer, who
lived on a swamp in a new wooden  house  all by
himself,   and he served   us well, and   talked   queer
French  to me and strange  English, and made me
very comfortable, charging next   to   nothing for it,
making  our  thanks   for  our  night's   entertainment
hearty and  not  merely perfunctory.    And at noon
we were at the Mission, eighteen  miles from New
Westminster, and  there we determined to wait for
the  steamer, having had  enough walking.     So we
stayed at a boarding-house for our meals, and slept
in an old disused mill, where the wind had free entrance through cracks and joints and warped seams,
and the ceilings and ties and joints were covered with
long cobwebs, and an infrequent rat came out squeaking for the flour and grain that were wont to be but
were there no more.    And I slept, eking out my thin
blankets with dirty old sacks.    Next afternoon the
' Gem '   steamer came   down   stream.     Poor  little
wretched steamer to be so miscalled : ' Coalscuttle ' or
* Hog-pen ' would have made good names for her. The
captain and one more made up the crew—two all told.
The  captain  usually  steered,  and  the  other   man
engineered and fired up, and one or the other would
rush  out  when making a  landing to hitch a rope DOWN STREAM  TO   THE  COAST
175
round a stump ; and when wood ran low they would
run her ashore near a pile, the noble skipper getting
out to throw half a cord on deck. Then they had
to take it aft before they could back her off. So we
made slow progress, even with the current of the
noble river Jmder us, especially as every little while
we stopped to take a few squealing pigs on board or
some sacks of potatoes.
We had a few fellow-passengers, one of whom,
a Mr. Turnbull, kept a temperance hotel in New
Westminster. I had a talk with him, and finding
that he was, to all appearance, a really good-hearted
man, I determined. to stay at his place and bestow
my last dollar or two on him, for my cash was now
nearly run out
The scenery on the river was placid but beautiful.
The hills were not high as a general rule, but still
two or three ranges were in sight that were mountains. And far above all in the distance glittered
the silver, snowy, truncated, volcanic cone of Mount
Baker, solitary and alone, in Washington Territory,
for we were now near the southern border of British
Columbia. This peak rose above the clouds, towering 10,000 feet and even more. And there were long
bright reaches of waters before us, with willows trailing on the banks, and every now and again we saw
a stretch of back water, silent and still, windless, with
reflections in its depths, while before and around us
the dancing waters of our flowing river threw back 176
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
the sunlight. And we were nowr in tidal waters
On the right the frowning Pitt River Mountains
and the entrance to the Pitt River. In front we saw
a white building—a cannery for salmon—and round
the bend the town, built on the river front, and running
up towards the crest of a hill that showed a gaunt
fringe of pines and firs, robbed of their foliage and
branches by a forest fire. And beneath them fields
of stumps and clearings.
And we came to the solitary dark wharves,
which made one imagine that this had been once a
busy town, and was now living in the memory of
the past and the hope of the future, like a bear in
its winter cavern, supported by its accumulations of
summer fatness, and dreaming of the berries of the
later springtime.
And so to the Farmers' Home. Saturday night,
and November 2. I was but sixteen miles from the
sea, the Gulf of Georgia. In a little over seven
months I had come from New York, having journeyed
nearly 8,000 miles in train, on steamer, and on foot;
over prairie, mountain, river, and lake ; in pain, and
misery, in joy and delight, with Fear and Hope my
companions; and now I could in imagination hear
the roar of the breakers of the ancient ocean of the
Pacific and smell the sweet brine odour of its illimitable waters that rolled to Australia and Japan, and
between these, as through wide-opened gates, against
the dark African continent half a world away. DOWN STREAM TO  THE COAST
177
I left the wharves and passed up dark Front Street
to Main Street, bustling and well lighted, and I was in
the Farmers' Home, looking a strange wild man of
the woods amongst the well-dressed citizens of the
place, who sat round the fire in the smoking-room,
discussing with eagerness a murder at the fail, for
that day one jailer had shot another. And my first
comment would have been a strange one to a civilised
ear. I thought, 'What a fuss about a murder ! This
is evidently not Texas, and killings are scarce.' And
so it is in British Columbia ; murders are comparatively rare, and Judge Begbie is a hanging judge, who
is feared by the wilder emigrants and settlers and
citizens, whites, English or Canadian or American,
the Indians and the Chinese. I sat down among them
in silence, but soon found a congenial spirit in a man
who had travelled, who spoke up when I ventured to
express my surprise at there being so much excitement
about a solitary murder, and we soon found that we
were agreed on the point In the course of a violent discussion that followed we mischievously supported the Texas and Southern method of relying
on pistol arbitration. ' At any rate,' said Johnson, my
new friend, ' if a man gets into a row in Texas he
won't be kicked and jumped on, and it is better to be
shot. And a man there does not rely on his superior
brute strength, for a small man js just as likely to
be smart with weapons as a giant, or smarter.' Then,
as  talk   began to be rather hot, I turned the con-
N 178
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
versation to work, and found out that there was small
chance of getting any if it were not on the railroad
work at Port Moody or Port Hammond, unless I
should happen to be lucky enough to fall into a job
at one of the three saw-mills in the town. And
then my inquiries elicited that there was a library in
the town. My dreams were true then ! And there
were actually chess-players to be found there! So
when I got tired out I went to bed and dreamed I
was in the library at the British Museum, and that
afterwards I played chess with Zukertort at Simpson's
in the Strand and beat him badly. 179
CHAPTER  XIV.
NEW   WESTMINSTER
SUNDAY I spent in letter-writing, in conversation, or
sulky sullenness—or, better and more euphemistically
—contemplation, retrospect, and forecasting. Prophesying unto myself from the past gave little hope
of good, so my last mental resource was proverbs,
such as ' It's a long lane that has no turning' and
' Every cloud has a silver lining,' and so on. Here
I was down again to one and a half dollars, in a
strange place, with no friends save my no-account
partner from up country, who had no more money
than I. It began to seem to me that I was a very
wanderer, a male Io driven by gadflies from plain to
mount and mount to sea and strait; that I was a
footless bird, not of Paradise but of an Inferno ; that
I was a thistledown on an* endless wind, with never a
friendly eddy to drop me down to root and grow,
though it were but to a thistle. And I bethought
myself that I had consumed eight months in travelling,
that I had seen much and suffered much, and rejoiced much as well, and that it was at last time for
N 2 i8o
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
It
me to stay for awhile and gather in shekels, if it
were in any way possible, else it would be perennial
seed-sowing by the wayside and never a harvest, and
no harvest-home with songs of sweet thanksgiving
and return. So I said, ' If I can but turn my hand to
something in this town, however humble and ill-paid
it be, here I will stay ; for my health is better, and it
is time I fed my mind with something over and beyond scenery of pines and peaks, of cloud and mist
and dew, and the wonderful music of the organic
winds of the worlds and the Psalm of Nature to the
unknown God.'
Therefore, next day, when my cash amounted to
twenty-five cents, I sought and found work in a sawmill—hard and laborious lifting of timbers, arranging
of boards and planks, carting and carrying of sawdust, flooring boards, headings and scrollings, sashes,,
doors, what not. Twelve hours a day, minus one
half hour for a hurried dinner—6 A.M. to 6 P.M.;.
enough for a giant, enough for me, and at first more
than enough. Board and thirty dollars a month for
this labour, every cent earned, and more than earned
surely, by sweat and fatigue of muscle, and contact
with Chinamen—that strange, indomitable, persevering, vile, and wonderful race.
So to work I went, and was very nearly discharged
the first morning by the superintendent, who declared
that he knew not what had come over men who came to
the coast from the east, for they all wanted a ' soft seat,1 NEW  WESTMINSTER
:8i
a ' soft snap,' which is, being interpreted, a light and
■easy job. Wrongly enough in my case, however, as
he found out when he sent me into the mill to work
with a mighty man from Michigan—M'Culloch, one
of the finest Americans I ever knew—strong, long
and lithe, quick of motion, quick of eye, large-handed
and large-limbed, clean-coloured, moustached and
•otherwise shaved, with the pupil of one eye pear-
shaped, making him strange as a man with eyes of
two colours, like the Hereward of Kingsley's, sharp
and lively in speech, kindly of heart, liberal in opinion,
atheist, human, and lovable.
Next a young sawyer, Johnny—little Johnny, as
we called him—small and bright, and strong as a
young bull when he got hands and knees under a
log or ' cant' of lumber ; a fighter, and a ready one ;
pugnacious as a gamecock, and quick as lightning
with his small hands, but pleasant and friendly if one
who cared not for quarrels watched the glint of his
eyes and made an occasional soft answer to this
wrathful bantam.
Then Indians, half-breeds and Chinamen mingled
and ever changing, and the chief sawyer beyond, a
deceitful man, a speaker behind backs. Between him
and Johnny great enmity existed as it seemed.
In such company in the half-open mill, one storey
up in air, I passed the days, with the whirr of belts
above and below, the scream of the circular saws
as they bit the advancing log of pine or spruce or
9 i I
m
I
H8I
Ej\
1
1   ill
III
J
182
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
Douglas fir, with the strips of bitten-out wood thrown
out in a stream, and clouds of smaller sawdust, with
the smiting of mallets on wedges in the cut, and the
heavy fall on the greasy skids of the divided tree.
And then, in the pool below, stood a long figure with
a pole balancing on a round log, pushing it into its
place, then the hammer driving in iron clamps or dogs,
and the chain, revolving on the drum, dragging the
ponderous tree to the saw, and then its rolling over
and over on to the carriage, and afterwards more saw-
screaming and sawdust and wedge-driving. So hour
after hour, till the trees, rude and huge, fall into planks
and boards and squared timbers—large for bridges
or small for posts or pickets, and the waste cut into
laths, and the sawdust burning in the gaping furnaces to drive the saw again. Then sudden whistle
screaming, and hurrying figures, while the saws revolve slower and slower, and all is still, so that one
can hear his own voice, and the hum of the saw only
lingers in the unaccustomed ear; then dinner devoured,
not eaten, and a smoke, and the whistle, and the saws
turn quicker and quicker, and all is to do again till
dark and supper and rest.
So went the life, and the days were quick and
laborious. The superintendent spoke to M'Culloch
one day:
' What kind of a man is that long fellow with the
big hat ?' [j^^^^B^^^^H      S^^^l
' Well, Mr. G , he does not know much about. NEW WESTMINSTER
183
saw-mills, but I just tell you he is a rustler. He gets
round quicker'n any man in the mill, in spite of his
long legs.'
' Why, I nearly fired him the first morning ;   I
must have made a mistake.    I thought he wasn't any
good.'
Now a ' rustler' is a great Western word, and
expresses much. It means a worker, an energetic
one, and no slouch can be a rustler. So this was
high praise. And' fired ' means, in that oversea, overland language, being discharged, so Mr. G did not
mean me any good. But when he saw I could work
we were friends, and he did me many a good turn.
We slept, some four or five of us, over the dining-
room, and the rest lived in cabins, or little huts, some
of them boarding themselves, being married either
to white women or Indians, or perhaps not married.
My friend in our sleeping-room was a German—Pete—
a great character, who had lived many years in California, and who had been working at various intervals
at the mill and up country at other saw-mills, or at pile-
driving or bridge-making, just to make, so he said, 20
dols. and a suit of clothes to go back to California with.
But when the 20 dols. were collected- he would disappear and be found sitting in front of a hotel, blandly
inviting passers-by to take a drink, and when the
money was dissipated he would come back to make it
over again, being in deep dumps and very virtuous for
the future.    He had been seven years trying to make 184
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
the money and the clothes, but though he was always
dressed well enough he could not get that new suit
and the dollars both at the same time. Pete was a
great favourite of mine.
The library, of course, I did not leave long unat-
tacked. The third day, after working-time, brought
me to it, and there were actually lots of books and
some boards and chessmen, and, better still, men playing. I went in, dressed as usual in my working garb,
having no other, and sat down to watch a game which
was being contested between a man with weak eyes,
who had a great grievance, as I afterwards found out,
and a man named Collins, with whom I got to be quite
friendly. Both played fairly well, but I knew I could
beat them. I had been a fourth-class player in London,
and had played regularly at Gatti's in the old chess
corner, in the Adelaide Gallery, for more-than two
years, so I was probably more than a match for any
Western player. When the game was over, and the
man with a grievance had aired it for half an hour,
talking vehemently because he had been deprived of
the librarianship of this very place, I asked his opponent if he would give me a game. He looked at me
out of the corners of his eyes, as if wondering if I could
play. And I took the vacant chair. First game was
won in less than twenty minutes. My opponent
looked at me, as if he thought I had made a great
mistake. The next one was played by him more
carefully, and it took me three-quarters of an hour to NEW  WESTMINSTER
185
mate him. Then a look of stern resolution came over
his face, and he put his head in his hands and studied
-every move. But I beat him in an hour. He sighed
and looked dazed, but shook hands with me and said
I was the best player in British Columbia.
Then, to console him, I told him how I had learnt to
be a player, and that I had actually, by a fluke, twice
beaten a man who had once, by a fluke, beaten
Zukertort He looked greatly relieved. I very often
played with him afterwards, and let him win a game
now and again to keep him in good temper.
Then I- went through the bookshelves, with the
librarian showing me a light, and I saw enough to
make me promise to be a subscriber, at the moderate
terms of 50 cents, or 2s. id., a month. I brought up the
money next evening and took home Buckle's' History
-of Civilisation,' a book I had never read through
before. There were 2,000 volumes in the library,
and during the time I stayed in New Westminster I
devoured most of those that were worth reading, for
there was a vast amount of engineering and military
matter, left by the English troops who were formerly stationed in the locality, which had no interest
for me.
Then on Sundays I would take a walk, sometimes
with a companion, though usually alone, and sit down
•on the river bank and look at the stream and the
scenery beyond it, or climb the hill at the back of
the town, whence I could see Mount Baker's white cone 186
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
across miles, yes, fifty miles of forest, high and shining
or, turning towards the west, catch sight of the glitter of
the straits, and beyond, the peaks of Vancouver against
the blue. East, thirty miles away, stood the Pitt River
mountains, snow covered, beautiful and near in the
clear transparent air. But first glance with me at the
river, on our right broad and clear and wider than the
Thames at Westminster, and across it at these narrow
flats, with a few shanties on them scattered here and
there, with blue wreaths of smoke above their chimneys, and a long low white cannery, reflecting the
sun, under the gentle slope of a hill covered with fir
and pine. Then see how the river spreads out above
this to twice its breadth below, bending away to the
right until it takes no reflections, but throws out
sparkles from the ripples of a solitary gust of wind
and in a moment is lost to sight, while beyond its
farther bank rises slope after slope of the hills beyond
the Pitt River until, on the left, the high peaks are snow
against the blue heavens, and the long shoulder or
the dim range runs down in curve and sudden lower
peak to hide the farther fainter hills of Sumass.
Ah, how beautiful it was, even for a discontented
being like myself!
So, working and dreaming, time ran on till well
into December, and winter came on us with rush of
white wings and icy breath. First the hills covered
themselves with snow, and the north-east wind came
down the reaches of the river, blowing into the open, NEW WESTMINSTER
187
mill like the wind of death, making me rush out for
increase oi clothes, until at last I worked in all the
shirts I possessed and coat and waistcoat. Then
cakes and floes of ice came down stream, and came
back again with the flood tide ; there was grinding
of huge blocks against the shore and piling up of
jamming floes in mid water; and perpetual roar for
days till the bitterer frost suddenly spanned the
stream with cold fingers, fixed it, and grew in power
of solid dominion up and down, growing thick and
strong. And snow came in the streets, drifting over
and over; from the houses depended stalactites and
icicles four feet long, and blunt stalagmites grew up
below.
Upon the hilly streets in town, boys and girls
were laughing, shouting and screaming, running down
hill in sleighs, c coasting' as they call it, with swift
velocity, sometimes capsizing without much harm
done. And we had time enough for play, for the
logs were set fast in the thick ice and the ' buzz-saw'
was silent, the fires out, and snow upon the piles of
sawed lumber. So we ate and drank and slept, and
I read through the library steadily : Gibbon's ' Rome *
again, with story of Alaric and the grave of the
Busentinus, and Attila the Hun and Mahomet and
the Turk, in the slow majestic sentence ; Vasari's
1 Lives of the Painters,' graphic, inaccurate, delightful;
and reading on without system, or attempt at any,
Alison's ' History' and Motley's j Netherlands,' ter- 11 L
1   ■
I
88
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
rible and picturesque, a favourite of my boyhood, and
Buckle's book of destiny and necessity, 'The History
of Civilisation.' Then a canter among the fields of
science : Huxley on the ' Origin of Species,' and
Darwin's book itself, the most delightful book of
science, that puts all Nature into one's hand; and
Carlyle's ' Essays,' and Landor, whose ' yEsop' and
'Rhodope' I learnt by heart almost, with its beautiful
pathos and marvellous rhythm of unequalled prose.
Then snatches of 'Noctes Ambrosianae,' and Maginn's
' Miscellanies,' and Locke's ' Human Understanding'
as a cold douche, and 'Middlemarch,' 'Bleak House,'
and my favourite novel of novels, the ' Tale of Two
Cities.' So I filled up my time, at any rate not to
disadvantage, save that the bitter weather and my
greed for books kept me indoors without exercise,
and this was to be revenged on me afterwards. And
then came to me, from England, Virgil and Horace,
for which I had sent, and I dipped here and there in
these.
So Christmas came and passed away, and it was
the dead of winter.
During all this fearfully cold weather, of ice and
snow and bitter wind, we lived in the room above the
dining-room without any fire. G , the superintendent, told us several times that we could get a stove
and stove-pipe from the carpenter's shop if we liked
to put it up ourselves. But no, we were absolutely too
lazy to do it, and used to lie in bed nearly all day, NEW  WESTMINSTER
189.
or stand round the pipe that came through our floor
from the room below when that stove was lighted.
We would walk about with blankets round us,
looking like Indians, and sometimes we went in for
making a noise—dancing, singing, and fooling, just
to keep warm. And we actually went through it ail-
without a stove until the thaw came, and then we got
it and made big fires. ' Pete,' said I, ' we are deuced
cunning fellows and show lots of foresight. It wTill
be cold next winter.'
Our room, too, was often a sight to look at,
especially when we had a row about whose turn it
was to sweep out, with the result of general sulkiness
and declarations that ' I Won't' and ' I won't,' until
somebody got desperate and hurled a mass of dust
and rubbish, chips and rags, down the stairs. So we
were tormented with fleas for our folly, and had
uncomfortable days and nights through laziness.
On December 29 some one proposed a walk over
to Granville, or Burrard's Inlet. I wish he had been
hanged before he suggested it. But I thought a
tramp would do me good, for I had been suffering
from vile headaches for some days before. So I and
Pete, and John Anderssen, a Swede, and Charley, my
partner from the upper country, and another Swede
set out after breakfast in the snow. It was hard
walking, going crunch, crunch in it; but still the road-
had been beaten down a little, and one could find
reasonably good  footing if walking  in  Indian file..
I II
I.
190
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
II
About eleven o'clock we came to Granville, and
walked down to the mill and long wharves, where
ships loaded lumber for South America and Australia. Then the wind began to blow, and it was
fearfully chill and bitter, searching me through and
through as it swept over the Inlet, a kind of fiord,
laden with concentrated frost. Some of us ate dinner,
though I had little appetite, for my head was nearly
splitting, and I rejected all tobacco, sure sign of something very wrong in a man who had used it for ten
years. Then we set out homeward at two o'clock.
And what a walk it was! At first we kept close
together, talking; then we plodded along in silence?
as the low sun at last disappeared with pale glow of
gold, and the gibbous moon stood out half way up
the sky before us, brighter, it seemed, than the sun.
Yet we had not done half our homeward twelve
miles. We began to get thirsty, terribly thirsty, and
some took up snow and chewed it ; but I thought it
was not good, as I fancied I had read so in some book
of travels, and still plodded on with my tongue nearly
as dry as it had been on some horrible days of travel
in sunburnt New South Wales. And it grew colder
and colder still in this forest. The wind had dropped
and it was calm and still, but the frost grew out on
the bushes into diamonds, glittering before us on
twig and pendulous snowy branch, and the unbroken
snow on both sides shone with innumerable millions
of sharp spicules, keen and crystalline.    The moon NEW WESTMINSTER
191
1
cast blackened shadows on the white, and her splendour came down on us with such lack of warmth
that her light seemed a ghostly cataract of freezing
water, and the sharp stars stabbed us with spears of
cold when we came out of the shadow of the forest.
Then came a faint shout from behind. Tired as I
was, I turned back. Pete was seated on a log, swearing
he was going to die ; Anderssen lay in the middle of
the road in snow and moonlight, chewing snow with
his head down, talking unintelligible Swedish and
mixed English, and cursing. I sat down by the ditch
at the side of the road and put some snow to my
burning forehead. We must have seemed a queer
crowd in that silent forest.
Presently Pete. ' Charley, I can't get up, I'm
stuck fast to this log. Am I going to stay here and
be frozen to a snow image ? ' ' You can if you like,'
I said, sulkily and selfishly ; ' I'm not, if I can rustle
through it' I got up, fell on my knees, and rolled
into the snow at the bottom of the ditch. ' Come and
pull me out, Pete.' ' Can't get up,' said Pete solemnly.
' You then, John,' to Anderssen. John growled and
lay still. ' You hog,' said I, ' quit chewing that snow ;
you'll die there if you don't.' John muttered : ' I die
in the road and you in the ditch.' Then the other
Swede came across and held his hand to me, and I
scrambled out of the brush and snow. I went over to
Anderssen and kicked him gently in the ribs : ' Get
up, or I'll knock seven bells out of you.    Give me
. 1
0 wm
j
192
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
your hand.' I got him up, and we pulled Pete off his
log. ' Now,' I said, ' you may lie down and die ; I
won't come back any more. Good-bye.' So I and
the other Swede set off again, plodding desperately,
for I really felt as if I must have a drink or die myself, and I would not touch the snow. Presently we
came through a patch of dead timber, and saw the
lights of the town two miles away at the bottom of
the slope. Half a mile farther brought us to a little
log-house,where two woodcutters lived. In we went,,
and I drank about a quart of icy water, and out
again. I was tired now, and my head was nearly
bursting, with my temples throbbing hard. Every
step I took seemed as if it was my last, for I thought
I was shod with lead, and my legs were heavy and
half dead. And the cold grew worse and worse. At
last we came down to the flat, and another quarter of
a mile brought me to our boarding-house. I stayed
and turned off, my partner the Swede said nothing,,
marching straight ahead up town. I got to the door
of the dining-room, turned the handle, and fell inside
on my hands and knees, very much surprising two of
the bosses, one of whom was Mr. G .    He said 1
' Hullo, got back, eh ?' I couldn't answer him at
first, but I got up, shut the door, and fell on a bench
near at hand. He saw I was about done, and he very
kindly got me a cup of tea from the kitchen. Then
he asked where Pete and the others were. ' Coming
along behind if they're not dead  yet,' I said, and NEW  WESTMINSTER
193
then I went upstairs, threw my boots off with a great
effort, fell into my bed, and drew the blankets over me.
In five minutes the blood was running through all my
veins like molten lead, and I was in a high fever. I
fell asleep and did not wake till morning. Looking
up I saw Pete in bed. ' You're not dead then, Pete ?'
said I, and he solemnly shook his head. ' Pretty near
a go, though.'
I never felt cold like it in all my life, although it
was not really very intense, as the thermometer in
town did not go quite down to ten degrees below
zero, which is nothing to the temperature at Kamloops and farther east, where it sometimes goes down
to 300 and 400 below, or at Winnipeg in Manitoba,
where 6o° below is not uncommon in winter. I
suppose I suffered more than I should otherwise have
done, owing to my being in a very bad state of health
at that time. For two weeks after this I was ill, for
five days in bed, living on biscuits and milk. Then I
recovered somewhat for another week or two, and
then went down completely with bilious fever, and
lay nearly dead for three weeks, coming round at last,
when I was but a long ghost and a skeleton.
During this winter, when I was reasonably well,
both before and after the fever, I used sometimes to
go down to see some of the men who lived in the
little cabins close at hand. This was an Indian town
as well, and the Indians and whites used to live together
in a fearful state of dirt and drunkenness.    Indian
O 794
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
women have few of them any notion of modesty left
now, since the whites came amongst them, and the
consequent license resulting from the state of manners
was curious to see. Sometimes I walked into a cabin
to find everybody drunk, perhaps some on the bed,
some on the floor, or under the table ; or there
would be a wild hubbub inside, with fragments of
English, Chinook, German or Spanish, of the real
guttural Indian with its strange clicks. On coming
in, drink would be offered me, or I would be invited
to send for some, and the ' jamberee ' would get worse
and worse, until finally there was a fight or a scratching
match and loud oaths and yells.
One of the mill-men, an English sailor, went about
continually with a black eye or his face scratched with
the ' ten commandments,' until at last he was relegated
to the discipline and sobriety of the jail for a period
of three months for having broken open the door of
an Indian woman to assault her on account of some
fanciful amatory grievance. Sometimes the constable
would make a raid and take a woman to jail for being
drunk, but this was in the daytime, for he dared not
come down round where we lived in the dark, as
several had sworn vengeance on him if ever they
caught him there when they had a chance of getting
"away without being discovered.
Thus my time passed away with sickness, riot,
disorder, reading, and writing. Yes, writing too, for
I wrote this winter an autobiography, psychological NEW WESTMINSTER
195
at that, with snatches of verse and long letters to
England. This MS. I sent to a literary friend of mine
in London, but it never came into his hand, having
been lost in the post. Then I learnt some Chinook,
so that I could speak a little to the Indians. And a
-strange enough jargon it is—English, French, and
Indian; and English and French corrupted and
altered to suit the vocal Indian peculiarities, or
•becoming I, as \ dly ' for' dry.' There are some strange
words, as ' hyas puss-puss ' for the mountain lion or
cougar, the northern representative of the South
American puma ; ' hyas' means great or large ; and
' hyin,' plenty. ' Moos-moos' is cow, and ' moos-moos
•glease,' butter. The great salutation is, ' Clahya, tili-
cum,' or' How goes it, partner ?' ' Siwash' is an Indian,
and ' sitcum siwash ' a half-breed. I never progressed
very far in this gibberish, but I could say 'yes' and
' no,5' nawitka' and ' halo,' and,' What do you want ?'
' Ikta mika tiki ? ' and so on, and gestures and English
did the rest
And then the frost broke up, and soon the mill was
running again, and the river swung to and fro with
burden of ice blocks, grinding on shingle and against
wharf and pile. But I was yet weak and did little
work for a fortnight, spending my time leisurely and
in repose or in the library, until I got fat again and
turned to throwing board and plank—fir, pine, cedar,
and spruce—like a machine as before. And I was now
in debt to the mill, and had to work a month to get
bf
1
o 2 L--
196
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
y
out of the obligation ; and, besides, I owed a doctor's
bill.     So I had not, so far, made much more money
by staying in one place.    It was now February, I had
been nearly four months in New Westminster, and
was   30 dols. worse off than nothing.    However,   I
felt reasonably contented, having some little leisure,.
for we did not run full time, and besides, something was
always going wrong with the machinery or the belts,
which gave me opportunities to get to chess or books.
But I doubt if I should have been in such a serene
state of mind if the mill had owed me money, for it
seemed they were in a bad way financially.    If a man
left it was hard, nay, almost impossible, to get what
was due to him; and even  when  they discharged
any one  it was necessary for him  to wait days to
ret   a  few   miserable   dollars.    One   man   worried
>
the   manager  so  for  his   money, which   was   only
40  dollars, that at last   H threatened to kick
him off the  place if he  troubled   him   any more I
Then another man wanted his, and   H- offered
him an order for it on the Victoria agency of the
firm. ' But how am I to get to Victoria without a
cent ?' said the unfortunate individual. ' Oh, get
on board the " Teaser': and beat your way,' or,
more literally and in English, cheat the steamer by
stowing away. Strange advice under the circum-
stances truly! The Chinamen employed in the mill
struck work until they got their money, which was
found for them with great difficulty.     Some of the
Cf
S NEW  WESTMINSTER
197
creditors, men in the town, merchants and others,
could only get payment by taking lumber for it,
and the mill was constantly being sued in the courts,
and we looked every day for somebody to come down
and take the mill in execution, or something equally
desperate. In fact, someone seized 120,000 feet on a
schooner loading for Victoria. So I thought it lucky
they did not owre me anything.
By the middle of March I began to make a little,
and it grew up slowly to about 20 dols., which, considering the little likelihood there was of my getting it,
seemed a huge sum. However, I determined to make
it 30 dols., and then try to get paid in cash, not in
clothes and hats out of the stores. But an incident
happened that prevented the sum to my credit going
beyond 23 dols., and that was in all probability the
best thing for me under the circumstances, as if I had
let it go to 30 dols. I should never have got any of it.
It was the first week in April, and we were all at
dinner, twenty at the table at which I sat and about
ten at the other, with a Chinaman to wait on us and
two cooking. Now this waiter was a very insolent
individual, rather strong, with well-developed arms,
who had for some time worked in the mill. He was
the cause ofBny leaving the place. Wanting some
more meat, I asked him for some civilly enough, I am
sure, but none came. Thinking he might have forgotten, I asked again, and still no meat in any reasonable time.   The final result was that  I thrashed m
798
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
the man, and some one  ran to the office and told
H , the manager, that I was killing a Chinaman.
Just as I sat down in he rushed. ' Who's been
making this disturbance ?' 'I have,' I said. ' Then
I discharge you.'    ' That's all right about discharging,.
Mr.   H ,' said   I,  ' but can   I get my  money ?'
' You can get it this afternoon,' and out he went.
' Served the Chinaman right, old man,' said Mac
and Johnny, ' but we're sorry you've got to go.' Then
they and another went to the office, and wanted to
know  if the Chinaman  was to be discharged too.
' No,' said H .    'Well,' said Mac, the spokesman,.
' if he isn't discharged we'll all go and shut the mill
down.' So the Chinaman went too, and Fraser, the
book-keeper, who was a very good friend of mine,
actually charged him with two cups, a plate, and a tin
dipper which had been smashed when we-were in the
thick of the fight, and, what's more, made him pay for
them.
And thus it was I left the mill, for I did get my
money, though the manager had to borrow 20 dols.
to pay me. It was lucky that it happened as it did,
for in about ten days the concern went bankrupt, and
nobody got any money at all.
That night I went up town, taking good care to^
look about me as I went through the Chinese quarter,
and bade farewell to my chess and library acquaintances, and in the morning, after long deliberation as
to whether I should take the ' Teaser' to Victoria or the ' Adelaide' for Yale, I made up my mind to the
latter course, and started for Kamloops again to visit
my. old boss, from whom I had received many kindly
letters since arriving in the towm of New Westminster.
NEW  WESTMINSTER
199. 200
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
CHAPTER XV.
BACK TRACKS TO EAGLE PASS.
So I was bound up-stream once more, leaving sawmill and library behind me. Yet I carried a few
books, for I had Virgil and Horace, and a volume
or two of poetry, Coleridge and Keats, and 'Academy
Skits' for '84, and the illustrated catalogue of the
Institute of Water-Colour Painters, which had been
sent to me, and which I was now taking up to give
to Hughes. So my blankets were heavier than when
I came down, for I had even left my 'Sartor Resartus'
with him as a present, as I thought I might do myself
good by a change, especially as I nearly knew it by
heart, having read it through many thousand miles of
travel; to say nothing of my habit of poring over that
same volume at breakfast when in England, to which,
without meaning any disrespect to Carlyle, I believe
I owed more than a moiety of my indigestion and
congestion of liver.
And I was in the Fraser again, this time to fight
the current for a hundred miles or so to Yale. And
it was a very pleasant trip.     Our captain, one of the BACK  TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
201
well-known pioneer families of British Columbia, a
Moore, the one-armed one, was a very delightful
companion, and Jim, the mate, was as good. Then
we had two Chilliwhack farmers, and one from
Sumass, and a Chinaman or two. When we tied
up for the night at the bank below Chilliwhack, for
we started late, we sat down and talked and smoked
most amicably, and when they found out I could
sing, it was ' Sing us another,' ' Come and take a
drink, you must be dry,' and then sing again; and
then Jim and the skipper beguiled the intervals by
telling dreadful stories of going up the Fraser and
getting, steam up to 150 lb., when the boiler was
only certified for 60 lb. Then he told a yarn about
the steamer that blew up under similar conditions
ten miles or so below Yale, and another of the boat
we were then in, when they one day had the tiller-
ropes break in the most perilous place on the river,
and had to let her drift blindly, till she hung in an
eddy behind a rock, giving them a chance to mend
the gear. Then we sang more songs and had more
drinks tijl twelve o'clock, and I spread my blankets
out and went to sleep, with the consciousness that I
had done my duty in singing at any rate, for I was
as hoarse as I could be.
In the morning there was a frightful fog of mist
and smoke, caused mostly, however, by the latter,
which came from a glorious mountain fire above
Pitt   River, which  we  had   seen   the  night  before.
pi «
202
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
The whole side of the mountain was red hot, and
the horseshoe ring of the outer flames shone gloriously bright, while there was a mile of dull ember
in the midst of it.
In consequence of this fog we had to go very
slowly, at times stopping altogether, and at last,
when we thought, or rather the captain thought, for
I had no notion at all, that we were near Chilliwhack,
the deck-hands shouted, and someone answered out
of the fog, and next moment we went bump against
the high bank, stem foremost, and soon made a landing, and parted with two of our friends.
Then   it  gradually cleared   up, and we  ran   on,
fighting  the  stream   at  intervals, but ' making  the
riffle,'   or  crossing  the  rapid, without  resorting  to-
bacon hams in the furnace or a nigger on the safety-
valve, as was the custom in the palmy days of steamboat racing on  the Mississippi   or the  Sacramento.
And   then we  ran   through lovely reaches of calm
water, and past huge piles of drift-wood stuck on
sand-bars, and came to Hope, whence the trail runs-
to  Similkameen, the  last new  gold   find in British
Columbia.    After that came fierce fighting with the
stream, and again we tied up and waited for morning ;  then riffle after riffle was triumphantly passed,,
the whistle-scream echoed from the entrance of the
canon,  and   I  was  at  Yale  once  more, somewhat
exercised  in   mind   as to  the means of getting  tx>
Kamloops without walking and without paying my BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
20'
fare, which was too much for my pocket. Now
the main office of the railroad was then at Yale,
where A. Onderdonk, the well-known and much-
abused contractor, whom the men usually called
Andy or A. O., had his residence, and it was often
possible to get a pass up country to work on the
road, either grading or track-laying, without paying
for it. I had no intention of working at this kind of
work if it were possible to do without it, for I now
considered myself a cut above a mere railroader,
being a saw-mill man, for railroading is considered
by all who do not follow it as a ' low-down job,'
nearly as bad as the dog's-meat man's in London.
So I went up to the office and bored two or three
officials, even speaking to the great Andy himself,
who is a good-looking and pleasant individual, until
at last I was told to jump on the train in the morning
for Ashcroft or Barnes, near the Black Canon, where
I could get work.
Down I went early, with my blankets on my back,
having slept that night at Taylor's, where the usual
racket and fandango had been going on, and found a
dozen or two others who were bound for the same
place on the same terms, and besides these I came
across Fraser from the mill, who was going up to
Eagle Pass to be book-keeper for a contractor doing
grading and tunnelling along the banks of the Big
Shushwap Lake. We got in the train and started up
the canon.    I was glad enough to get to Ashcroft, or 204
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
\\n
at any rate out of the worst of the canon, for the
narrow shelf of rock on which we ran, the vast blocks
of overhanging stone, the perilous high-trestle bridges,
and the black depth of howling waters beneath, kept
me in a state of mental tension, especially when we
slashed round a curve or went down an occasional
sharp descent that made me imagine the train was
flying in the air. We got out at Ashcroft, in the
Alkali Dry Belt, but I put my blankets on my back
and marched a mile to Barnes's Hotel, and slept there
that night, after having had the worst supper I ever
paid 50 cents for, spending the evening in a crowded
bar-room amid noise and smoke and half-intoxicated
railroad men from the camps near at hand. In the
morning I started on my walk to Hughes's Ranche,
which was about forty-one miles from here. I passed
my companions of yesterday working with pick and
shovel in a mixed gang of whites and Chinamen,
and tramped along the railroad track between the
rails, for the line was now roughly finished as far as
Savona's Ferry, at the foot of Kamloops Lake. It
was a weary, thirsty walk, for it was almost impossible
to step except upon the ties or sleepers, and these
were set so that to go from one to the next made
me walk with a ridiculous short step, and if I missed
out one I made an immense stride. And I could
not step in between, for the line was unballasted ; that
is, the space between the ties was not filled up with
earth or gravel.    Then there was no path alongside
m BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
2d
the track ; or if there was, it was painful to walk upon
on account of the rocks. The water in the little
creeks that ran down the hollows in the hills was
terribly alkaline, soft and horrible to taste, so that
as I tramped on the awkward ties, watching every
step, with a burning sun glaring on the bare soil, I
grew thirstier and thirstier, while the beautiful blue
stream of the Thompson, down far below me, or
shining farther off yet in the distance, mocked my
parching tongue, and the musical whisper of the
water, as it ran over the rapids, sounded like a fiend's
rejoicing voice. So I stumbled along, tasting almost
every stream I came to, unless I saw the white alka-
line incrustation on its banks, in the hope of finding
good water. But in the twenty-one or twenty-two
miles to Savona I only found one that was passable.
I tramped into that little settlement, or rather into
the newer portion, since called Van Horn, after one
of the C.P.R. officials, at three o'clock, ' peted,' done
up. I came to a Chinaman's, who had ' Restaurant'
painted outside, with some Chinese characters as
well, and walked in. I began to demand dinner in
the usual way one speaks to Chinamen there, but
found he could talk very good English indeed. He
gave me a good dinner too, and I sat there smoking
and talking till half-past four, and then started, hoping
to get to Hughes's that night, although the distance
was seventeen miles. If I had taken the wagon-
road I might have done it, but thinking it would be 206
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I. J ^
shorter to follow the railroad along the lake until I
came to Cherry Creek, which ran down through his
land, I kept on the track, taking the bare grade, until
that gave out at places and I had to scramble round
bluffs or rocks, until it was dark, and I came to a
camp where there was only one man, who refused
me a cup of tea. I thanked him for his courtesy,
and started to climb the hill in the dark to discover
the wagon-road, as it would have been out of my
way to go farther on the grade. At last I found the
road, and set out on the last six miles in total darkness, but when I had done three, arriving at Roper's,
I felt I was done up and could do no more. So I
opened the door of the hotel and walked into the
bar-room. Next morning I left for Hughes's and took
three hours to do three miles, such was my fatigue
from the day before. I found Hughes "working by
the house, shook hands with him, and went and lay
down, enjoying dolce far niente for that day at any
rate. I stayed there some days, working a little,
sometimes shooting, and sometimes trout-fishing, for
there was a plentiful supply of small brook-trout to
be caught there, and one afternoon I hooked out
forty.
Then I went into Kamloops and stayed a day or
two to look out for work, but seeing no chance I came
back for a little while and then went again; Finally,
acting on my friend's advice, I determined to go up to
Eagle Pass again, as work was reported lively there, BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
207
and a town building up rapidly. My 23 dols. was
now nearly exhausted, and when I got into town I had
insufficient to pay my fare up to the lakes, and so I
went to the captain of the' Kamloops' steamer, and he
allowed me to work my passage up. So down I went
to the fires, and passed wood for the fireman, stowing
it away whenever they took more on board, working
like a demon. One time I stowed away three cords
of four-foot wood without resting. First my shirt
came off, then my undershirt, then I slung the wood
without even that, with the perspiration rolling off me
in streams, getting into my eyes, and running down
into my very boots. It was little scenery I saw at that
time, as I was down in the stoke-hole nearly all the
while. At last we came up to the landing, and I
could hardly recognise the place. Instead of three
buildings there were more than a hundred, all strung
along the foreshore, and new ones were going up, and
everywhere one could hear hammers going and the
axe, while on the beach was a crowd of men, and piles
of merchandise, of lumber, casks and odds and ends
innumerable. Had it not been for the unchanged
mountain background I could not have thought it was
the almost desolate spot I came to after my tramp
over the Selkirks and through the Golden Range.
o o
I went ashore and up to Murdoch's, finding the
place in the throes of dissolution and regeneration,
pulling down and rebuilding at once. At every step
I came across acquaintances from the lower country or 2oS
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
men I had met in the Kicking Horse Pass.    There
seemed much business doing, especially for carpenters,
who  were in  great  request, and, judging from  the
number of drunken men, a vast quantity of liquor was
being disposed of, although it was forbidden to sell it
without a  licence from the Provincial Government
and with or without one by the  Dominion Government, which led to a conflict, to which  I  shall refer
afterwards.    At the present time Murdoch was the
only man with a licence, but still  it was  possible to
buy whisky anywhere.    I went into   the bar-room,
threw  my  blankets in a corner, shook hands with
Murdoch and one or two acquaintances, sat down,
lighted my perpetual clay pipe, and took in the scene
and conversation.    There was an immense amount of
railroad talk, and I soon saw it would be easy enough
to get work of that kind if other things failed.    I de-
termined not to do any of it if it could be avoided,
and thinking that Fraser might be able to get me
something to do, I went down to the end of the town
and got an Irishman, voluble and semi-intoxicated, to
pull me across the lake for four bits to where he was
working.    When I got across I  found he was somewhere else, and  waited  for three hours, meanwhile
getting most vilely hungry, and ageing as it were, for
I soon suspected myself a fool, which would, according
to the ' Night Thoughts,' indicate my age as thirty, and
soon afterwards I seemed to know it, and that means
forty.    At last I could stand no longer to watch the BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE  PASS
209
salmon and lake trout leap for flies, and I got into
another boat, paying another four bits to get back. So
my trip was in vain, and cost me a dollar, which I
could ill afford. On arriving at the landing I had a
good supper and was rejuvenated, though I had now
but half a dollar left, and half a dollar in the mountains of British Columbia only means one meal, or
two drinks or four cigars, whereas in Melbourne it
would have the larger significance of four dinners and
a single extra glass of beer, and even in London
Bohemia the initiated is a long way from starvation
and the archways with 2s. 2d. to his credit, or even
with but a splendid shilling.
So I was very pleased to meet Fraser in the main
and only street that night, for I borrowed five dollars
from him, which was given kindly and gracefully.
Indeed, one thinks of five dollars there as one would
think of five shillings at home, and I spent a dollar when
I had plenty of them, which truly was only occasionally,
as if mere silver was nothing. Fraser promised to see
if it were possible to get me a good job with his contractor Mitchell; but next day I was fortunately put
beyond any need of troubling him for work or further
loans by getting employment at 2.50 dollars, or
10s. $d. a day. My' boss ' was one of the best men to
work for I ever met, a Mr. G. F. Kyle, a Canadian, who
had risen to a good position in Onderdonk's employ.
I never saw any one who had anything to say against
him, but, on the contrary, everybody had a good word -
■•$
<l
2IO
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
for him. He was a tall, strong, pleasant and good-
featured man, somewhat English looking, with a sharp
eagle eye and that undefinable look about him of a
man who knows other men—somewhat similar to the
appearance and quick, penetrating glance of ' our only
General,' whom I had often seen in Pall Mall and
the War Office when he was Quartermaster-General.
He made me work hard while there was any necessity
for it, but then he worked himself, and was as energetic
a ' rustler' as British Columbia held. My first month
with him was one of almost continuous labour, Sunday
and week-day and overtime, so that I made about
eighty dollars that month, subject to the deduction of
a dollar a day for board. We built a stable and a
warehouse for the stores for the railroad work in the
Eagle Pass, for the first twenty miles of which Kyle
was superintendent. Then I grubbed up stumps,
cleared up all round, graded off the yard into a slope,
cut poles in the forest, helped load up the wagons,
weighed the stores out—potatoes, bacon, and flour—
marked them, and so on. So for that first month I
had my hands full indeed. Beside Kyle there was a
book-keeper, a Mr. Requa, who was also a very agreeable individual, and with whom I got along very well,
so well indeed that he told me I was a first-rate worker
and hadn't a lazy hair in my head. I said, ' Wait
awhile, you don't know me yet, for I can be as lazy
as the next man.' Then there was the storekeeper,
little Mac, who had been a telegraph operator in the BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
211
lower country. He was extremely conceited, and
would tell me, ' I am so different from other fellows,
you know, Charlie,' as indeed he was, but not in any
way to give him much reason for boasting. Besides
these there was an old white-haired watchman, with
whom I had some trouble about the horses. He was
going to break my neck, but it is still whole. There
were also two teamsters, one a good-looking, somewhat soft young fellow, genial and pleasant, Bob by
name or nickname, and Joe Fagin, tall, clumsy, with
huge strength, being capable of lifting 800 lb., hairless
on the face, ruddy and reasonably good-tempered, a
great swimmer and a splendid driver. Then there were
two carpenters, one of whom insisted I was a runaway
man-o'-war's man. The other was a gambler, and
dropped his money at stud-horse poker or faro as
soon as he made it. These two went away as soon
as the store was finished.
All this time building was going on rapidly in the
town, and money was very plentiful and circulated
freely. Half the town would be drunk at night, and
there was a fight or two every evening, and black
eyes were plentiful as dollars. The Swedes were the
worst for drinking, getting intoxicated early in the
morning. One day I came across six lying in a pile,
close to our warehouse, by the edge of the lake. One
was lying with his head down hill and his hair touching the water. I tried to put him right, but as he was
a heavy man, weighing perhaps 14 stone, with another
p 2 i -
21
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
heavy fellow lying across him, I was unable to get him
up. While pulling away at him I woke one of the
others, who was the least drunk. ' Get up,' said I,
' and help me get your partner out; his head's nearly
in the water.' ' So much the worse for him,' said the
other sleepily, and dropped off to rest again. I put a
hat over the man's face to keep the burning sun from
him, but when I came round again he had taken it off.
So I let him lie.
Then there was a well-known individual in town,
a Welshman whom we all called Taffy, who rejoiced in
perennial drunkenness and black eyes. He was always
fighting and always getting whipped, but, as he kept
on, I suppose he liked it One day he called a carpenter, whom I knew, an opprobrious name, and got
badly choked and beaten. Our method of fighting
there was different from what is considered fair in
England. When a man falls or is knocked down,
his opponent gets on him, choking or thumping him
with his fists, and sometimes, if any sticks or stones,
c clubs' or ' rocks,' are lying within reach, they are
brought into action, and, besides, biting and eye-
gouging are not considered absolutely wrong, though
seldom resorted to. Consequently, as Taffy was
usually too drunk to stand up, he got the worst of
his perpetual combats, unless he came across an
opponent who was drunker than himself. This,
however, would be very rare, as any increased intoxication would result in sleep and quietness.  When BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
213
Taffy got to that stage he went down to his boat
and lay under a tarpaulin, and one day, when Mac,
the storekeeper, and I found him there, we cut him
adrift and sent him out into the lake, where he floated
round for an hour or two, an object of universal
interest
While working here I used to see Major Rogers,
the surveyor who had surveyed the line through the
Kicking Horse Pass and the Selkirks. He had been
in the mountains seven years at this task, and he and
his men toiled and suffered fearfully at times. His two
nephews were with him, and were fine, good-looking
young fellows.
After my first month times were much easier for
me, as I had very little to do except to attend to a
few horses in the stable and help load the wagons ;
consequently I used to lie on a pile of grain sacks in
the stores and read novels. Then we would go in
swimming, perhaps twice a day, and I would take a
walk up town, looking into the gambling saloons or
chatting with my acquaintances, who were not a few.
And then I got my old chum Scott again, from the
Kicking Horse Pass, who had followed my footsteps
over the Selkirks in company with Davidson. When
I saw him he was purser on a lake steamer, the' Lady
Dufferin,' and we had a great palaver together.
He told me that he and Davidson had often talked
about 'Texas,' as he still called me, wondering what
had become of me.    He was glad to see me again, 214
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
as glad as I was to see him.    He had had a hard
time crossing the trail, though not so bad as I, for
his boots fortunately did not chafe him, and, besides
that, his time on the trail had been shorter, owing
to the extension of the wagon road.    We met constantly after this, until at last he left the steamer,
being unable to stand Bill Fortune any longer.    This
man, an uneducated Yorkshireman who was ' bossed*
by his  wife,  was owner of a little  saw-mill  below
Kamloops.    He used to cause some amusement by
blowing his little steamer's whistle at intervals from
the time he came in sight round the point to the
time he disappeared again, unless he was too much
intoxicated  to pull the rope.    When Scott left his
employ  he took to running whisky into  the town,
but without much success, as the police confiscated
his biggest venture, which almost ruined my friend, as
he had put all his cash into it that time.    I used to
tell him it served him right for trying to make money
out of whisky, for I was then, and am now, a prohibitionist, although not a total abstainer.   I am quite
sure  that I went through sufferings and privations
both in British Columbia and afterwards that would
have almost killed a man accustomed to drink spirits,
and I have often been six months at a time without
drinking anything intoxicating, even when it almost
risked my life to refuse.    Nevertheless, in some company I have had to drink, and I myself have deemed
it occasionally politic to swagger into a bar-room and BACK TRACKS TO EAGLE PASS
215
say : ' Step up, boys, what's your liquor ? ' just to show
a rough crowd I was not too ' high-toned ' to drink
with them, or too mean to pay out a dollar now and
again.
It was getting towards the end of June, when one
evening Kyle sent for me to say that he wanted me
to come out with him the next day to bridge over
some sloughs, and that he needed another man, too,
who was to be an axeman. So I went round and
hired one, and next morning this man, Williams,
whom I had met before at Kamloops, and who was
Taffy's partner, and I set out together up the road and
were presently joined by Kyle on horseback. We all
worked together, felling trees across these sloughs
to make temporary bridges for the men to cross who
were making the grade. We took all the morning to
do three, and then Williams and the boss and I ate
our lunch on one of the trees in the middle of the
swamp, dipping up water in a tin cup to drink. I
was not much of an axeman ; indeed it is rare to find
an Englishman who can do very much with that
instrument, as it requires a long apprenticeship, so
Kyle did great part of my work in showing me how
to do it. He knew very well I worked hard, but then
he could, from knowing how to handle an axe, do
twice as much as I in half the time, with half the
exertion, and he would be calm and smiling where
I was sweating and puffing, striking every blow in
a different place.    After lunch we went up to the -
i6
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
Eagle River, and hailing the other side a man came
across in a boat, or a vile apology for one, like the
thing I had crossed the Illecilliwet in. However, we
got across safely, and went farther up to another
slough, and after working there awhile we left
Williams at the job alone and came back to the
river. Here Kyle told me he wanted to make a
ferry, though he did not explain how he was going to
do it. We had brought out with us in the morning
two coils of rope, which he had left in the boat.
When we got to the river again, to where this punt
•was, a quarter of a mile above where the railroad was
to cross, we got in and I took the oars. As we
drifted down Kyle told me what to do. There was
just above the railroad crossing a long dead tree,
bare of branches, lying on the bank, projecting halt
way over the stream, which is narrow but extremely
rapid, running at least eight miles an hour. I was
to let the boat drift right under the point of this tree,
so that Kyle could throw a running noose over the
end of it, which, as he stood up, would be four or five
feet above his head. So down we swept, quicker and
quicker, until at last we were right under it. Kyle
threw and missed. ' Pull, pull, G— d— it, can't you
pull ?' he said. I swore back,' Can't you see I am
pulling ?' But it was no use. I could not make any
headway, strain as I might, with a flat-bowed thing
against which the waters stood up. So down we
went, and  I had to pull to the  shore  nearest our
'
it-UK] BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
217
camp. Then Kyle took the rope, when he had
recovered from his fit of irritation, and walked out
on the tree and put the loop on and came back again.
My heart was in my mouth, for if he had slipped
he would have had a hard struggle to save himself.
However, he came to the bank in safety. Then he
brought the rope down to the boat, and, holding on
to it, we swung out into mid stream, and then tried
to steer her over to the other side. We found it impossible to make the shore without letting the rope
go, and then it would have been a great chance. So
back we went, and Kyle pulled his watch out and
said, ' It's past four now, and I promised to see someone in town at five. I must go, and you must get
over and bring Williams across.' ' Yes,' said I, ' but
how the devil am I to do it ?' 'I don't know,' said
Kyle, and strode off. I sat down and laughed. He
and I could not get across, and now I was to do it
myself. Then I grew serious, for I could not see how
it was to be done. I looked at the stream and the
strong eddies, then at the boat and the rude oars or
paddles, then at the tree and the rope. I thought it
impossible, and was very nearly turning round and
walking off without even attempting it. However,
I hit on a plan at last. I thought I could try at
any rate, and if I was drowned it would be Kyle's
fault, and I would, if possible, haunt him. My
greatest fear, however, was not of drowning but of
being carried down the river, which would deprive 218
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
the men working there of all means of crossing at
the old place. As I sat down, making plans, one of
these men came to the opposite bank and asked how
their boat got there, and when I told him he made
some uncomplimentary remarks about Kyle. I asked
him how I was to get across, and he said I couldn't
do it. ' Well, I've got to do it.' ' Well, you can't,'
and he disappeared. Then I got into the boat, laid
hold of the rope, the loose end of which I tied to a
stump, and hauled myself slowly up stream, hand
over hand, until I was right under the tree again, and
the water boiled in over the bows. I let go, jumped
to the seat, snatched the oars, was caught in an eddy,
and came just where I wanted to. So far so good ;
but the question now was how Williams and I were
to get back again. If I had been able to bring the
loose end of the rope over it would have been all right,
but that had been impossible owing to its being too
short. To start from that side without any rope, just
in that place, would have taken us and boat probably
a mile down stream. So there was nothing for it but
to take the boat back to the place Kyle had brought
it from, and a delightful task that proved. The
banks were thick with brush, and trees projected over
the water everywhere. One of the railroad men got
in and tied a rope to the bows, and Williams and another hauled it up while I scrambled round the brush
to pass the end on when they came to an impassable
place    Three times I fell in, once I had  to swim BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
219
and once I was dragged out by the scruff of the neck,
before we got it back, and many were the curses
levelled at my boss for his ' darned ingenuity ' as the
man in the boat called it. At last Williams and I
got across, and set off just at dusk to walk eight
miles or more to town, thinking that we had at any
rate got over the worst and that the rest was plain
sailing or plain walking. But we were greatly deceived. As we walked down the embankment of soft
sand in the middle of the cedar forest the sky rapidly
darkened and the wind came down in heavy puffs,
like the forerunner of a gale. Up to this time I
had not seen it blow much in British Columbia,
except for a little while once at New Westminster,
so I thought it would blow over and be nothing of
consequence ; but, instead of doing that, it came
down heavier and heavier, until it ceased puffing and
came in violent blasts, each lasting longer than the
other, and fairly screaming in the trees. Then needles
and dead branches began to fly, and presently a tree
crashed down and then another. We had got by
this time to a long slough with a log-bridge lying in
the water across it, and on both sides there were
parties of men at work. We saw them standing up on
the grade looking round, and then one made a run
and then another, trying to find a better place. Then
the gale's force suddenly increased, and a dozen
cedars came down at once all round us, with a roar
like thunder, and all through the thick timber they MB
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220
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
fell right and left, one lodging against another, then
both would go. And the fires lighted by the men to
make their supper roared and crackled in the wind,
sending out clouds of sparks and red embers. And
the rain began to fall heavily, blown stingingly right
in one's face. I ran out into the middle of the
slough on to the bridge, thinking it might be safer,
but when out there the tall trees seemed to bend
over to me, and I ran right across to where the others
were scuttling round like holeless rabbits, trying to
find a shelter.
And meantime there was a perfect windy pandemonium in the forest, roars and shrieks of wind, and
crash, crash, crash came more trees, here, there, and
everywhere, some into the slough, some across the
grade near where we were standing, and others in the
distance; the rain was piercing and stinging, and
sparks flew into the forest and set fire to the brush,
and were extinguished again and again.
Finally, after about an hour, it began to lull, and
came less and less, and no more trees fell. Presently
Williams came across the slough and we made a
fresh start home, and after a weary tramp in the
rain got to the store. I went in. ' Hallo,' said
Requa, ' you look like a ghost, or as if you had seen
one.' Mr. Kyle was sitting near. ' Mr. Kyle,' said I,
' I brought Williams over, but you let me in for a
nice thing. We had to drag that boat up stream and
I fell in three times, and afterwards we nearly came 1
BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
221
to an end on the grade with the wind. Trees are
lying all over the work.' He was grinning till I came
to the last, but that touched him a little, for he was
in a great hurry to get the job finished, and anything
likely to delay it made him wild. So he stopped his
smile and said, ' Very well, that will do ; I'll go up
to-morrow.' They had had it nearly as bad in town,
and there had been a big waterspout on the lake.
The amount of fallen timber must have been immense, and that so much of it fell was owing to a
fire that had been through the forest the year before,
which had burnt round the butts of the trees and
weakened them.
Soon after this came the Fourth of July, which,
strange to say, was kept with games and rejoicings
and fights and much intoxication, just as if it had
been on American or United States soil. We had a
horse-race down the narrow street, and jumping,
throwing the hammer and tossing the caber. In the
afternoon came running and an incidental fight,
because our brawny blacksmith kicked a dog out of
the way of the runners. ' Don't you do that,' said the
owner. ' I'll kick you off too.' ' Will you ?' No
sooner was he dared than the blacksmith knocked his
opponent down and kicked him just over the eye.
Then the constable interfered and got a blow in the
mouth. There was every prospect of a general
milee, but things quieted down and the games went
on, and at last we had a tug of war, in   which  I
m 717
m
i)
*?99
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
was picked on one side. I confess our side was
beaten, however, and the others drank the keg of
beer, which was the prize. By this time it was dark,
and at least 75 per cent, of the population were drunk
and vociferous, and there was great howling down the
street all night, and lugubrious procession of black
eyes and swollen heads next day.
In the middle of the month I had a trip down to
Kamloops on a very unpleasant errand, for Kyle sent
me there with some others in charge of the body of
a young fellow who had been killed in his tent one
night by a tree falling on him when asleep. I had
to go to the funeral, and was glad enough to get
back to the pass again to my horses and novel reading in the hay.
I read a good deal of trash this time, and only
remember Hardy's ' Far from the Madding Crowd,
the best novel I had seen then for many a long day.
And then I got Meredith's ' Diana of the Crossways,'
and the first volume of Ruskin's ' Stones of Venice,'
and became temporarily learned in voussoirs, spandrels, arches, ornaments, &c.
During this month we had still a very lively time
in town, with occasional intervals of comparative
quiet for a day or two when Mr. Todd, the magistrate,
came up from Kamloops, for then the unlicensed
liquor dealers would hold their hands and go quietly,
so that no one could be very drunk in town. One
day he came into our store, when it was fearfully warm, BACK TRACKS  TO EAGLE PASS
223
and sat down sighing. ' Don't you find it rather dull
here, Mr. Todd ?' said I. ' It is a little dull after
Kamloops.' ' Well,' said I, smiling,' you can bet your
life it will be livelier when you leave town.' He
smiled himself, rather feebly, and left me sewing
sacks, to keep myself from dying of ennui and heat
combined.
When I look back on those months they were
really very happy. I had not too much to do ; I
was saving nearly ten pounds a month ; I had novels
and my two classical dead friends, and my unclassical
live friend Scott, who would come in and argue about
religion, and get me to tell him something about
Darwin, in order that he might try to controvert
what I said. Then there was our daily swimming,
canoeing in Indian canoes, and jabbering with
Indians, and rowing over to Major Rogers's place
at Sickamoose Narrows. And good board was to be
had, even in this place. Better than all, I did not
suffer from home sickness, which can so unaccountably destroy all pleasure in life at times.
And then I actually had a long conversation with
another educated man, a Church of England clergyman, from Kamloops, who had come up to do a little
preaching to those who would listen. And these
were few. I took care of his horse, and so got acquainted with him, and one night he came down to
the stable to see the animal, and then we sat down
on the edge of a boat—Taffy's boat, by the way—and ^
mm^s
224
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
argued of strange things, * free will, fixed fate, foreknowledge absolute,' and the 'origin of evil,' and
finding that the discussion would be interminable for
lack of something we could really agree upon, we
went off into English literature, having a pleasant
talk about many different authors. Then I told him
about my meeting the two clergymen in the Fraser
Cafton, and made him laugh about the pie, although
his knowledge of cooking was no greater than Mr.
Edwards's, the author of that most abominable crust.
So altogether I did not spend those three months
to any great disadvantage, and I was sorry enough
when Mr. Kyle told me he would not require my
services any longer, as there was so little to do. I
had been expecting this for some time, as during the
last two weeks I was with him I did not do a good
day's work. So I took my money, bade farewell to
Eagle Pass Landing, went on board the 'Peerless/
and back to Kamloops.
•»
'    1 225
CHAPTER XVI
TO  VANCOUVER  ISLAND  AND  VICTORIA.
In Kamloops I sent home ioo dols., leaving myself
about 40 dols., thinking that would be sufficient to see
me through a period of rest, but I was sorry before
long that I had not kept it, as will be seen.
I went over to Hughes's, and stayed there a few
days, doing a few odd jobs for him, and hunted a little
and fished. I met an old acquaintance there again,
an Indian woman, Mary, who had been .married to a
white man near Kamloops, who nearly killed her with
a shovel. So she left him, and when I knew her was
living with an American from Maine, who certainly
did not try to kill her, but still used to beat her.
They would go into town together and get drunk, and
then fight and squabble. I got her to make me a pair
of moccasins, which I lost going down to the coast.
I had a pleasant week at Hughes's place, not doing
more work than made me fit to eat a good dinner, and
we had great talks and discussions, making plans of
meeting one day in London, which may yet come to
pass.    Then at last, getting tired of doing nothing
Q V
I
226
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
&
and earning nothing, I thought I would go to the
coast again.
So I bade my friend Mr. Hughes farewell, and
off I went to Savona. I found an old saw-mill friend
at Van Home, a man who was half an Indian by
dint of living with them, who could talk Chinook as
fluently as English, and with him I started to walk
down once more, firmly determined not to pay the exorbitant railroad fare ; and I walked the whole way to
Yale again, looking in at my friends the clergymen's
place near Jackass Mountain, of course, as I passed
by. They gave us dinner, and we stayed to service
with a crowd of Indians, and heard them talk to
them in a strange soft tongue, very different from the
guttural language of the coast.
Then to Yale, and thence by steamer to New
Westminster, and the Farmers' Home.
I had been so careless of money coming down that
I found I was running short once more, as usual with
me, and as the mill had ' started up ' on a different
basis I went to work there again, but had trouble with
another Chinaman, and was discharged for knocking
him down. This was the second time. It was very
unfortunate.
I had only about 10 dols. If I had had four times
as much I should have bought a rifle and hunted and
trapped that winter, but under the circumstances I
thought it best to leave British Columbia, especially
as I was told the Chinaman was going to take me to VANCOUVER ISLAND AND   VICTORIA      227
court, and I should have been heavily fined if he had.
Of course I could have got help to pay it if it had
come to that, but I thought it best to avoid accidents,
so I jumped on board the ' Teaser ' for Victoria. The
last incident of note in New Westminster was my
meeting with a Japanese sailor, who had been looking on in the mill when I had the difficulty with the
Mongolian, and who insisted on shaking hands with
me for thrashing him ; for these Japanese cordially
hate their neighbours, and regard them, as this one
and many another told me, as ' pigs and dogs.'
We ran down out of the river and were in the
.Straits of Georgia, on the sea. Not the open sea, for
it looked more like a large lake, yet it had the smell
of the brine and the long roll of the sea, and the seaweed, and it was pleasant to me, whose last sight of
open salt water had been outside of Sandy Hook.
We ran across the straits, down, a multiplicity of
-channels, among a thousand islands wooded to the
very edge of the water, and came at last into the
land-locked, pleasant little harbour of Victoria.
I had by this time picked up a companion or
partner on board. He was an Englishman who had
beenBn the Cape Mounted Rifles and the Mounted
Police of the North-West Provinces east of the
Rockies, from which he had been discharged as an
invalid. He was a tall, strange individual, in a sort
of velveteen jacket, evidently a gentleman, and with
Q 2 K %
228
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
a good voice and English accent, but there was something uncanny about him. One might suspect him or
being haunted. We talked a great deal of British
Columbia, and I found he had been at Hughes's once.
Then I remembered Hughes had told me of such a
one who came and asked for work during haying time,
and when terms were agreed upon said he would like
to go and read the newspaper that afternoon, and,
finally, that he thought he would not work there, but
would try to get a job that would last longer somewhere else. I found out he was the same individual. He had since then been at the Spullamacheen
Valley and was going to Victoria to try to get admission to the hospital.
In Victoria I went to the same hotel, and slept in
the same room with him, and was rather alarmed at
the wild way he talked. He was clearly insane. He
raved about his relatives in England who had robbed
him of his money, of his comrades in the Mounted
Police who had put forth evil reports about him, and
even about the people in Victoria, who knew what had
been said of him, for he had heard them talking about
him in the streets. I went to sleep, but not without
some misgivings, glad that he had no razor in his
valise, for he looked no unlikely subject for homicidal
mania.
Next day I was relieved by his getting admission
to the hospital, which, unless I am much mistaken,,
would be a first step to his obtaining a permanent VANCOUVER ISLAND AND   VICTORIA       220
refuge at the lunatic asylum, certainly the best place
for him.
I was now coming down gradually in cash, and
was in a very fair way to have nothing at all. It
really seemed to me that it was my fate to be perpetually in financial difficulties, for no sooner did I
get anything than it vanished again, and when I got
a good job it would not last. But then a bad one
would not either. I was perpetually in anxiety, and
sometimes even felt inclined to spend my last dollar
or two recklessly, in order to know the worst at once
and be no more in suspense. As I was walking about
town in a state of mental inquiry as to ways and
means, occasionally asking for work at some likely-
looking place, I met suddenly my two friends from
the canon. Now I was a pretty object to talk to
-clergymen in a populous city. It is true my old
Texas hat had been discarded at Eagle Pass, but I
was nevertheless only in rough working clothes, and
doubtless the state of my pocket might have been discerned by a keen observer in my dejected face. Nevertheless my wild appearance did not daunt Mr. Small
and Mr. Edwardes, who bore down with smiling faces
and shook hands, making all sorts of inquiries. Then
I walked down the street with them, feeling something like a prisoner between two policemen, and many
were the curious glances cast at me by passers-by
when they saw me in such company. Perhaps they
thought I was  a brand snatched from the burning. ■**
M ]|P
1    I'
I F
1   1 I
In
230
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I met a man from the hotel in which I was staying,
and his astonishment and temporary paralysis were delightful, and I had to stand a considerable amount of
chaff about my ' high-toned ' acquaintances when I left
them, after promising to lunch'with them next day. I
tried to get off, but they insisted, so I went to a good
restaurant with them, and surprised the waiter, who*
at first, I have no doubt, thought I was an unfortunate
man these two charitable individuals had brought in
to save from starvation ; but when he saw the terms we
were on, and heard snatches of our conversation, he-
looked at me with more respect and a great amount
of subdued curiosity. After lunch we went out and
hired a boat, and I pulled them round to Esquimault
Harbour, and we took a look at H.M.S. ' Triumph/*
Coming back we got into a religious argument, and I
fear they got to look at me as a very heathen, for my
views and pessimistic philosophy of life seemed, no
doubt, extremely wrong viewed from their standpoint,
and it was with the sorrowful charity of shocked yet
forgiving spirits that they parted from me for the last
time. And I was left alone to come back from metaphysics to the reality I philosophically denied, and
from subjective introspective analysis of motives impelling to action, faith, or belief, to the objectivity of
nearly penniless pockets and need of paid employment.
That afternoon I went down to the wharves and
asked the mate of the steamer ' Olympian,' which ran VANCOUVER ISLAND AND   VICTORIA       211
0'
down the Sound, to let me work my way to Tacoma,
and after several refusals, as I refused to be denied,
he told me to take a truck, and I helped discharge her
cargo and then to load her up again, working like a
horse, running and sweating along with the regular
hands.
So I left Victoria and ran down Puget Sound,
calling in at Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, Port
Madison, and Seattle, doing little or nothing on the
way down, as there was no discharging to do until I
came in the morning to Tacoma. ^ *^i
2 9 2
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
l! ,
CHAPTER   XVII.
1
MOUNT TACOMA OVERHEAD,
As I had had breakfast on board the steamer, I
was not obliged to pay out anything from my scanty
stock for meals, and I went up town to look for work,
I soon discovered that I had jumped out of the frying-
pan into the fire, and there was even less to be done
in Tacoma than in Victoria. I tried road contractors
and house builders, but could not even get work at
mixing mortar. I went to the coal wharves and
tried to obtain employment trimming coal, but every
one was full handed. Then I walked down to the
great saw-mill, and tackled every one about the place
without success, until at last I came to the man who
superintended the loading of the vessels at the mill's
wharves. Yes, I could come down in the afternoon
and go to work. Then I wanted to know the wages.
He looked at me. ' Oh, it's the wages you want to
know ! Then you can wait till you find out' I got
wild and ' talked back,' and finally told him and the
mill to go to a warm locality, for I didn't want his MOUNT TACOMA   OVERHEAD
r\ <•> *y
233
work, and wouldn't work under him at any price.
This, of course, was not true ; but then I had never
been answered in that way in all my life, and it very
naturally made me angry. And the fact that he
answered in such a way showed me that men must
be very plentiful, or he would not have' ventured to
speak so, for the bosses are polite enough when hands
are scarce. I walked off boiling, and made up my
mind to leave Tacoma and the Sound and go to
Portland. Then I would go to sea again and get
out of America. I began to think I had had enough
•of it.
I walked up town, and, in order to reduce myself to a cool and quiet state of mind, I climbed the
hills beyond the main street, for I desired to see
Mount Tacoma, which I had been told was a lofty
and magnificent mountain. After a while I turned
and looked back, but could see nothing, for all the
level land across the head of the Sound was filled
with a mass of vapour. I sat down and waited, and
presently mist and cloud began to shift and roll in
the wind, that bared to me at last the most glorious
mountain I had yet seen. The peaks of the Rockies
faded from my memory, and the snowy pinnacles of
the Selkirks—even the white cone of Mount Baker—
were hidden and diminished, as this white miracle of
rock and ice and snow rose before me, towering nearly
fifteen thousand feet above the sea that was at my
feet and the level lands at its base.    Its tremendous w
««■
]^r^mi
*34
THE  WESTERN AVERNUS
IK; ,
majesty is not lessened by division of peaks nor
marred by additions ; it is one and indivisible, solitary,
patriarchal yet childless. It lifts its ancient head for
ever above the clouds ; the storm thunder rolls below
the thunder of its loosening avalanches : the scream
of the soaring eagle fails to pierce to the olden silence-
of that height; and only the fires of the stars are-
above the cold sharp jewels of its glittering icy crest;
only the splendour of the sun can kindle it to responsive rose, that magic colour beyond even the ethereal
glory of the rainbow and the tinged fleece of floating'
clouds at even. It is imperial, antique, beyond worship, eternal and godlike.
I had seen a mountain, and one unsurpassed in
Alps and Andes.    Is there a greater on I fimalay?
I came back slowly to earth after that, not this
time from the depths of subjectivity but from the-
rapt state of ecstasy that one knows so seldom, when
one becomes one with Nature for a while, and an un*
reasoning pantheist, when one's eyes are blind to anything but the glory of the universe, and one's ears,
are deaf to the anguish of the world, and forgetful
even of one's own. I was alone that hour, and I am
glad ; a voice would have iarred on me like a false note-
in an exquisite sonata, and even another silent like-
myself would have kept me to the earth and reality.
For that time I was a mystic, a theopath, and a
believer in dreams and visions, and the mountain was
alive, theurgic, whole and part of me, and the sea- MOUNT TACOMA   OVERHEAD
239
strait beneath and the sky above were ways for spirits
and spiritual ministering, and sacred.
Yet I came back to reality, pain, anxiety, to converse with brutish men, and weariness of the flesh.
My plan was now to get out of this town and go
to Portland, that was now so near to me, in comparison with the huge distance when I had dreamed
of a raft voyage down the Columbia from the Rocky
Mountains. As it was impossible for me to pay my
fare, since I had but two dollars and a half, there
remained two courses open to me. I could walk or
'beat my way' on the train. I declined walking; I
had had enough of it in British Columbia, toiling to
and fro over mountain and road, so there remained
but ' beating.' I had to find a freight or goods train,,
and in it an open or unlocked car in which I could
secrete myself, so that I might be taken to Portland
without any one knowing. And even if I was found
out perhaps a dollar would set it right with the conductor or brakesman, who are, as a rule, not above
making an addition to their pay. So I went down
to the railroad yards, and was told by a man to goto a certain hotel, kept by an ex-conductor, who would
be able to put me up to the tricks and tell me what
train would be best for me to take. I went there, and
found out that there was a train at four o'clock next
morning going to Portland. I learnt the conductor's
name, but was told to keep out of his way. I could
find out nothing about the brakesman. *.*
236
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I went down in the evening to the place from
which the train would start, near which there was a sawmill, and I soon made friends with the night watchman, who promised to find me a good pile of sawdust
to sleep on, which would save me paying for a bed,
which I could as ill afford as when I was in Chicago.
I sat down by the fire and talked and smoked with
him till ten o'clock, and then together we hunted up
some good shavings and sawdust, and I spread my
blankets out and went to sleep most placidly.
Next morning, at half-past three, he called me, and
I rolled up my blankets and went out into the darkness to seek my train, after shaking hands with him.
When I came to the cars I went along trying the
doors, and was nearly caught by the conductor.
However, I hid in some lumber until he passed by,
and then came out again, finding, fortunately, a car
with the end door open. I jumped up, put my head
in, and finding there was room I dropped my blankets
inside, following them as quickly as possible, shutting
the door behind me. I found there was very little stuff
in the car, but making my way nearly to the other end
I kicked a soft yielding mass, which grunted out:
* Hallo, partner, where are you coming to ?' ' Didn't
see you, pard, it's too dark,' said I; and then thinking
I had heard the voice before, asked : ' Ain't you the
Irishman I spoke to last night ? ' ' Yes, I am.' So
we knew each other, and presently, when the engine
whistled and rang her bell, and started out, I lighted MOUNT  TACOMA   OVERHEAD
237
a match and took a look at my companion and my
travelling carriage, or ' side-door Pullman,' as the
' tramps' and ' dead-beats ' facetiously call them. It
was new and smelt most villanously of vile paint,
there were some planks in it, dirty and evil, the floor
had cracks in it, and the sides as well. My Irish
friend was a man about thirty-five or forty, or even
more, bearded and dirty, with a longish upper lip
and a sulky inward look—in all respects a man whom
I did not desire as a companion or a friend. He was
lying down with his head on his blankets, chewing
tobacco. I spread mine out and rolled myself up in
them, and soon went to sleep, waking up every time
the train stopped. About two hours from the time
of starting, when we were side-tracked, waiting for a.
train to pass us on the single line, the door was suddenly shot back on its slide and a young fellow leapt
in. 'Hallo, you fellows, where are you bound for?'
' Portland,' said I, sitting up and biting off a bit of
tobacco to show I was at my ease. ' Well, you'll have
to put up the stuff (Anglice, put down some money),
or you can't travel.' ' How much will do it?' said my
Irish partner. ' A dollar and a half each.' We both
swore it couldn't be done. ' I haven't got a dollar and
a half,' I said. I lied. I had 2.50 dols. Then he
came down to a dollar and a quarter. ' Yes,' said I,,
' but suppose we give you the cash now, what will
happen if the conductor comes along ?' ' That will
be all right'    'No, it won't be all right, brakie;   I si
1
.£,
m
238
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
know this man's name, it's M , and you know it
isn't all right.' This took him aback. 'Well, I'll tell
you what I'll do. If you'll give me a dollar and a
quarter after we get across the Columbia at Kalama
I'll let you ride.    If you get bounced by M before
then it will be my loss, and if it's over the other side
it will be yours.' ' That's a bargain,' said I ; ' you
shall have it when we cross.' So he went away, and
I went to sleep again for a while, and then woke up
and sat smoking and thinking about the stories my
brother used to tell me about beating his way in New
Mexico. Very often men will ride on the engine
above the pilot or cow-catcher, and sometimes even
inside it. Then some men travel on the passenger-
trains, on top of the cars, or on the baggage-car at
the end where there is no door—the ' blind baggage,'
as it is called. And, besides this, there is what is
known as the ' universal ticket,' a board with notches
in it to fit on the iron stays under the passenger-
coaches. Some, too, will ride on the brake-beam. In
fact there is no method, however hazardous it may be,
that is not practised by men who want to go somewhere in a hurry or without walking. My Irishman
told me that he was travelling in Oregon once, and was
standing up between the freight-cars, with his feet on
the coupling, holding on to the steps with his hands.
A brakesman coming along on top noticed him, and
demanded a dollar, which the Irishman either wouldn't
or couldn't pay.    The brakie came down a step and 1
MOUNT TACOMA   OVERHEAD
239
■made a kick at him.    ' I  grabbed hold of his leg,'
said he, ' and held him.    He couldn't let go with his
hands or shift his other foot.   It was a pretty position.
But I got tired myself, and at last I sez : " Will you
he quiet if I let yez go?"    "I will," sez he, for he was
•scared I should pull him down and throw him under
the wheels, and devil the good in his hollering for the
row of the train.    So I lets him up.    And what do
you think the murdering blagaird   did ?     He goes
right back to  the   caboose, I guess, and fetches a
coupling-pin' (of iron, about one inch thick and ten
inches long) 'and comes over me and sez: "Take that,
you dam bum," and lets drive at me.   When I see him
lift his arm I pulled my six-shooter.    The pin came
down an' just missed me, an' I shot at him.     Away
he goes forward, and presently the train slackens up.
Sez I : I It's time I left, if I don't want to be killed."
So I jumps off, and rolls twenty feet down a bank.   I
•scrambled on me hands and knees about twenty yards,
for I was hurt, and I couldn't run, and got into a thick
bush, an' I lay low.    The fireman and brakie and the
conductor came huntin' me with lanterns, and two o'
them had guns, and I heard 'em swear to kill me.    I
cocks mine and says : " Not if I can help it."    Twice
that brakie came within five yards o' me, and each
time I was just going to shoot him when he turned
off.    At last they gets tired, and goes on board the
train, cursing horrible, you bet    I wish I'd killed the
bastard anyhow.' 240
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I
I    I I
II rl
With such  yarns  we beguiled  the time,  and I
began to think that we were going ' slick' through to-
Portland, but I reckoned without the conductor. When
we stopped at a small station, after running  about
five hours, the door slid back' again and a   different
head looked in.    ' Hallo, boys, how are you making
it ?' with a sardonic grin that boded us no good.    ' Oh,
well enough,' said I.    'Are you going to Portland?
' That's where I'm going.'    ' Then you had better get
out and walk.'    I grinned and sat still.    ' It's far easier
this way.    Ain't you going to let us ride ?'    ' Not by
a darn sight.    You've come ninety miles, and that's
good  enough.'    ' Well,' said I at last, ' if I must I
must,' and I grabbed my blankets and jumped out,,
thinking at any rate  that  I   had   saved my dollar
and if the * con' had found us on the other side the
dollar and the ride would have both been lost.    So
I rolled up my loose blankets on a pile of ties, while
the Irishman sat smoking alongside philosophically.
I heard a colloquy between the brakie and the conductor.    The former was angry with the latter  for
spoiling his little game, and the conductor evidently
enjoyed the whole business.    Finally he said : ' Who's
running this train, you or I ?    If you don't like what
I do you can get off and walk.'    So the brakie ' dried
up' and said no more.    Presently the  train moved
off, and I found myself at Cowlitz, ten miles from
the Columbia, and set out to walk, soon leaving the
Irishman behind.    After walking five miles, I heard MOUNT TACOMA- OVERHEAD
241
a hand-car coming along behind me, with some
section hands working it along by means of the lever,
' pumping,' as it is commonly called. When they
came up with me the boss stopped it and invited me
to take a ride and pump with them. So I was on a
hand-car again, for the first time since I had left the
section in Iowa, where Ray Kern and I worked for
three days. In a very short time we ran into Kalama,
and I went and got some supper and slept in a big
deserted house that had been built when the town
had a ' boom '—i.e. when there was great speculation
in lots and building, and a great future was predicted
for it. This is the place where the cars run across
the river on a big ferry-boat ; from the farther side
they then go to Portland.
Next morning I went across with the passenger-
train, paid a dollar to go to that town, and soon
arrived there, an utter stranger with no friends and a
dollar and a half in my pocket. This was just as
usual, however, and by this time I began to get used
to it, and did not feel as miserable as I ought to have
done. I went to a cheap hotel, had supper, and next
morning began to look for a ship to get out of America.
I was not particular where I went—England, Australia,
South America, or China.
I had a notion then in my head to go to China,
thence to Singapore, thence to Calcutta, and then
home to England through the Suez Canal; or I
could go to Australia, and thence to Calcutta, in some
R 242
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
of the ships that take Australian horses for mounting
the Indian cavalry. I had been to sea before, indeed
I had served as an ' able-bodied seaman ' between
England and Australia for a while, and though six
or seven years had elapsed since my more youthful
escapades, I thought I had still enough of the business
at my fingers' ends to carry me through. So I walked
down to the wharves along the Willammette (accented
oh the second syllable), and the first vessel I came
to I was lucky enough to get a job in. This was
a barque, the 'Coloma,' of Portland, bound to China
with lumber and returning Chinamen. I spoke to the
mate at the gangway as he was tallying lumber down
the chute into the bow-ports, and afterwards to the
skipper, presenting him with my brother's certificate
of discharge, as I had lost my own by shipping once
before in England for New Zealand in a fit of pique—
a foolish love affair—and then backing out just before
she sailed. I was told to come to work in the afternoon. I brought down my bundle, had dinner, and
stowed lumber down in the hold with my new companions. It was hard work, lifting heavy planks,
forty feet long, in a confined space, driving them in
with a sledge-hammer or using another plank as a ram.
Then sometimes lumber would come down without
much warning, through the carelessness of the man
on the look-out for it, and it was necessary then to
jump for one's life, or at any rate to save one's legs.
My shipmates were a mixed lot.   ' One was  a MOUNT TACOMA   OVERHEAD
243
Frenchman from France, not a Canadian Frenchman,
who spoke very bad English, so bad that I had to
make him talk French slowly when I wanted to
understand him particularly, but at other times I
would let him ramble on unintelligibly, throwing in a
few remarks at random to make him believe I was
listening. Another was an old Englishman, formerly
sailing in the steamers from England to the West
Coast of Africa : a little man he was, whose boast was
that he never got drunk, although he drank to excess.
He told me many horrible and circumstantial accounts
of fever-stricken ships, and how once he made canvas
shrouds for eighteen men on the voyage home, the
only survivors of passengers and crew being himself,
the captain, two firemen, and an engineer. There
was a Newcastle-on-Tyne man, a Geordie, fair and
blue-eyed and strong and broad-shouldered, a gay
Lothario of seamen, and a babbler concerning
* bonnes fortunes,' but a good-hearted, pleasant
Englishman. After him, in my mind, comes an Irish
sailor, long in America, lithe and loose-jointed, perpetually smiling, mirthful and mirth-provocative, loud
and witty, a great joker, a natural humourist, a born
low comedian out of his element. He made me
laugh against my will, waking me in the dead of
night by stumbling into the fo'cs'le half-drunk. His
first remark in the dark would make laughter and
sleep struggle against each other in me, and by the
R 2
if K*
11
244
THE  WESTERN A VERNUS
time he had the lamp lighted I would be shaking in
my bunk and shouting.
Down below, working in the hold, it was the same ;
time ' could not stale, nor custom wither his infinite
variety' of facial contortion and remarks. Once he
nearly caused me to fall from aloft by making me
laugh until my sides ached.
He was delightful so, and at the same time an
inimitable raconteur. Three times had ships sailing
from the Pacific coast to England foundered, compelling him and the rest of the crew to the boats,
after laborious pumping day and night, until some
died of fatigue and some jumped overboard.
Then in the West Indies, one time, the cook died
of yellow jack, and the captain made him cook, much
against his will. He got on well enough for a while,
cooking beef and potatoes, as the bread came from
the shore. But one day the skipper brought ten
pounds of rice on board, and told him they would have
rice for dinner that day in the cabin. Now Jim
knew as much about rice as a man would who had
only eaten it, and thinking, from the size of the bag,,
that it would about do for the three in the cabin»
leaving perhaps some for himself, he began to cook
the whole of it. His account of the progress of that
cooking was delightful: how it swelled up and
thrust the lid off, and began to pour out on the
range; how he snatched more saucepans, and how
those  filled  up  and  came over ;  and how, finally,
HLi MOUNT TACOMA   OVERHEAD
245
every available pot he had was choking with rice,
while he was ladling it out, blind with excitement, on
to a board. His tragic accents and facial play would
have made his fortune as a story-teller.
At night time he and Geordie and I went up
town, but after a little while I always left them, to
avoid getting drunk, as both of them could drink
buckets of lager beer, while five glasses would be
more than enough for me; indeed, four would make
me crawl along the gang-plank to the t'gallant fo'cs'le
for safety. Then they would come in, boisterous and
singing, at midnight.
Our officers were mixed, as usual. The captain
was very quiet, and, as far as I found him, very considerate.
The chief officer, or first mate, was a big, heavy
man, weighing about fifteen stone, loud-voiced but good-
tempered, and yet rather a dangerous man to handle,
I fancy. At any rate, I had no desire to try conclusions with him. The second mate was my particular
aversion, and it was through him I left the ship. I
had soon found out, when once on board, that as my
sea-education had been very hasty I had forgotten a
great part of it after six years of the' land, and that
made this second mate take a dislike to me. Then
he had a particularly bullying way of speaking to all
of us, and I disliked it very much. He used to look
at me sometimes as if he was saying, ' Wait till I get
you to sea.'    Now I could have whipped him if it had 246
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
only been between us two, but I knew that if I had
trouble with him at sea I should have to reckon with
the mate as well, and I could not have whipped him
And, to make things worse, one day the second mate
set me to grease down the mizzentopmast, and would
not give me a bo'son's chair. I refused to do it, and
the ensuing altercation was heard by the captain, who,
ordered him to give me one, saying I could not be
expected to do it without. This made him thoroughly
my enemy. So, after I had been on board two weeks*
I determined to leave, although I had signed articles,
and having got my money due for working with
lumber, which was paid every Saturday night, and a
little more of that due to me from the monthly wages
on the pretext of wanting to buy some underclothing,
I left her early on Monday morning with my blankets
and five dollars cash, intending to see if I could not
get work in the country in the valley of the Willam-
mette. And if I was unsuccessful I could walk south
towards California, keeping in my mind, as an ultimate
possible destination, the city of San Francisco. 247
CHAPTER  XVIII.
OREGON    UNDERFOOT.
All Oregon was before me where to choose, and I
determined on that southward course, I was sorry
indeed to feel myself forced to leave the ' Coloma,' but
still I knew it was probable I should have come to
Hong Kong in irons, or maybe not at all, for the occasional brutality of American officers is incredible, and
far beyond anything that occurs in English ships. So
I cast loose and let myself into the stream of Destiny,
that runs for ever southward to that ' common sink,*
San Francisco ; whither, sooner or later, all men on
the Pacific slope must come for awhile, drawn by the
magnetic influence of a great city.
« Portland, that flourishing, detestable, Chinese-
ridden town, that selfish city, I left without regret.
Here they believe that the part is greater than the
whole, that their prosperity overweighs calamity even
of greater Oregon, and that all the rest was made for
them.
So my time in America had not come to an end,
and the 'terminus ad quern' was unknown and unknow- *2
f    1
ah
248
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
able. I was thrown back again on myself, and my
late companions were behind me and a cloud-covered
path before me.
I went over the river and took a ticket for Aurora,
so that I should get a good start into the country far
from the city, as the farther I went the more likelihood there would, be in all probability, of obtaining
work. And when Aurora came I sat still in the
cars, in order that I might go a little farther without
paying for it If the conductor had not come to me
I would have gone on as far as the train went, but he
politely reminded me that my ticket had been for
Aurora ; so I had to get out at Hubbard, and walked
down the line after the disappearing train.
I felt most melancholy for the rest of that day,
and my thoughts ranged forward without finding any
satisfaction, and backwards with regret. It seemed
as if I had no will of my own; that I was but the
sport of Necessity and Destiny—a straw on a stream
to be carried on or lodged on a bar, as it might be.
The sky of blue was dull, and the singing of birds
melancholy, and the wind a dirge and a wail. I was
too much alone, and dwelt in a cave without light;
no natural cave-dweller or troglodyte, but a prisoner
with all natural friendly impulses and affections repulsed and rejected. Like a vine that finds no
support for its tendrils to grow on and to be uplifted
by, I ran along the ground, thrown down. My sacrifices were rejected, my fires quenched, and the heavy i
OREGON UNDERFOOT
249
smoke ran low in the air, portending storm. I was
raging, nihilistic, anarchist, a mutineer against gods
and men, a sneerer, a scoffer, atheist even as to Nature
and Loveliness; a misanthrope, a misogynist, a re-
viler of all things, a Sadducee, a Philistine. For the
iron entered my soul. And I walked like a whirlwind,
with a pestilence and despair in me, self-contained
and wrathful. I ate in silence or went hungry in
silence. I rose up in starvation, and lived on apple
orchards like a bird of prey forced to hateful fruits,
lacking blood and flesh. I passed men on the road
and spoke not. If they spoke to me I did but
stare at them, and went by in strange quiet. This
for days. Then I came back to myself somewhat,
yet still walking as if towards a fixed goal that was
far off. I asked for work and asked in vain ; there
was no work and no money, and the hospitality was
niggard and mean and unbountiful. I was no happy
tramp who never worked, preferring to beg and lie in
the sun or steal; I was strong and tall, and could do
most things ; yet no work. I passed quiet Salem and
widespread Albany, and through Eugene City without hope. At night I camped out without supper;
in the morning I awoke cold and chilled through, and
walked in hunger. I bought but little, and got a
meal now and again for chopping wood. I split much
during that journey, oak and pine, madrona and
manzanita. I drove the axe down vengefully, as
though an enemy's head was beneath the keen edge. w
pgm
250
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
I filed saws for people.    I did all things that came
to hand ; but no work yet to be obtained.
And I left the fruitful, cursed Willammette Valley,
and strove across the range to the valley of the North
Umpqua River, walking, recklessly and hard, nearly
forty miles that day.   And that night found a human
being on the range, a farmer and a man, who spoke
kindly and asked me in.    I remember him gratefully.
Then through Oakland, old and new, and across the
North Umpqua River to Roseberg.   Still no work, and
starvation.    And I left the road, crossed the South
Umpqua, wading it, and went up Rice Creek into the
hills,   meeting  no work  but  more  friendly  people.
Then to Olallie Creek, for I heard of rail-splitting to
be had.    I came to a little house belonging to some
men owning sheep.    My hope  proved vain.    They
had nothing to do.    That night I slept a mile away
down in   the quiet  valley, getting breakfast  in the
morning.    And then the trail to Cow Creek, and to
Riddle.    This was a pleasant walk, and I began to
recover from my fit of depression.   The air was bright
and kind and large.   I could breathe.   And as I went
along the ridges of the hills I looked down on peace
and  solitude, and sunlight and shadow.     And ever
and again, as I walked quietly along the unfrequented
trail, a deer would jump through the brush and plunge
leaping down or up the hill.    And I sat down and
took out my Virgil and read part of the Sixth Book,
and got up calmer and better than I had been for OREGON UNDERFOOT
2<;i
days.     I  had   come  up  from   the  Avernus  for  a
while.
I came at last out of the trail on to a road and
a little house on the side of the hill. Beneath lay a
stretch of plain with farmed land and houses, and
beyond a line of willowy creek, and beyond again
hills. Under the verandah of the house sat a man
reading. I went up and said ' Good day,' which he
pleasantly returned. I saw I had come across no ordinary farmer. He was an educated man evidently,
with good forehead and head and keen eyes, though
spectacled. His hands were finely shaped, though
hard and brown as his face ; good teeth and supple
lips, and a fine smile ; young, about thirty-five perhaps. I sat down beside him. Presently he gave me
the paper, and I sat down and read the news. I asked
him for a bit of tobacco, and he gave me nearly half
a pound. Then he asked me to stay for dinner, and
introduced me to his wife, a gentle, pleasant, girlish,
graceful figilre, with much intelligence if slightly uncultured. Her pet fawn, with large ears and lovely
eyes, made friends with me. After dinner we sat and
talked. He was manager of a mine near at hand, an
assayer and practical miner, a chemist too. He took
me to his little laboratory, and I showed him that I
remembered a little of the chemistry I had learnt in
days gone by, and mentioned some of the best known
names in that science. Then we spoke of books, and
I   found   him   well   informed   even   outside   of   his let
s'
OC7
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
specialty.     So I spent a pleasant hour or two, and
parted with him regretfully.
I came down to Cow Creek, and passed on to
Canyonville, sleeping in the canon in a barn that
night, walking next morning fifteen miles before I got
breakfast. Then I ran into the wilderness again of
Wolf Creek, and spent 25 cents of the last little
money I had in buying a can of salmon, which I
devoured sitting on a log in the forest, and came at
night to Grave Creek, and split a pile of oakwood,
getting a good supper thereby and a long talk with
the hired girl, who was pretty and pleasant, not
deeming me a common tramp.
Then onward next day as hard as ever. And I
came past Grant's Pass and saw Rogue River in the
rain, and sat in a deserted barn, thinking what a fool
I was to be there, while the rain came to sleet and
snow, and the wind was bitter. Then to Woodville,
and 25 cents gone for supper, and sleep in a barn,
and no breakfast. And I came now to an'old English
farmer's place, still asking for work, and still finding
there were more men in the country than were enough
to do what was wanted. Then I saw the .Rogue
River Valley, beautiful, level to the base of the
frowning Siskyou Mountains of Northern California, that lifted peak on peak of snow above that
smiling valley. I walked miles through it in vain,
and turned at last to Jacksonville, having then but
one dollar. OREGON UNDERFOOT
253
I recklessly had supper and a bed that night I
had come 300 miles from Portland in twelve days.
Next morning I breakfasted with an old farmer,
with whom I talked, telling him my adventures. He
was a tall, thin, careful-looking individual, shaven.
He said but little, but at last asked me whether I
would go to work for 10 dols. a month. I would
have willingly worked for nothing for a week or two,
just to take a rest and be sure of my meals and a
place to sleep. Indeed, I offered to work for the men
on Olallie Creek for three days for nothing on that
account So I jumped at the offer. He said he
lived near Waldo, sixty-five miles away, and that he
was not going back for three days. He offered,
rather unwillingly as I thought, to pay for my board
in town until then, but I said no, that I would walk
there, for I didn't want him to think that I was one
of the very numerous class of men who would suddenly disappear at the end of the three days. So he
gaveBne his name and directions, and I set out,
having, when I had settled my bill at the hotel,
thirty-five cents left to carry me sixty-five miles.
However, I had served a good apprenticeship to
starvation, and did not doubt my ability to walk the
whole distance on nothing, since I was sure of a meal
at the end. So I left Jacksonville with a lighter
heart than I had since leaving Portland behind me.
That day I walked steadily about twenty-five miles,
having nothing to eat but a pound of dry biscuits. i
1
254
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
I slept in a barn. Next day I started without breakfast, until I came to a farm at ten o'clock, where I
got a meal for my last twenty-five cents. The country
received but little attention from me, though it was
worth more, as it was a gold-mining district I
passed the Applegate River, and many places where
they were sluicing away the gravel with water,
' hydraulicking' as they call it, filling up the river
with ' slickens ' or soft mud. I walked all day with
some degree of hunger, and slept in a barn, by this
time ravenous. Next morning no breakfast, for I
would not ask for it, as I knew I could get to my
destination that day. I walked through Kirbyville,
and then went out of my way. I was put right by
two men, who asked me where I was going. When
I told them they looked at me with pity : ' You are
going to work for the meanest man in all Oregon.'
This was consolatory, but I answered I was ready to
work for the very devil himself sooner than work for
nobody at all, and walk and starve.
Then I got lost again, and went nearly ten miles
out of my way, for this place was so full of roads in
every direction that it was impossible for a stranger
to keep right. At last, by dint of inquiry, I made
my way to what I imagined was the house. On one
side of the road were barns and stables surrounded
by a fence, and behind, forest and hills ; on the other
stood a ramshackle old house, dirty outside, un-
painted, with moss-green roof, with piles of rags and OREGON UNDERFOOT
255
old boots on the verandah, and more rags stuffed in
the broken and uncleaned windows. It was antique
but unvenerable, ruinous but not majestic. It looked
like a miser's house. I went through a little badly
hung gate, that was pulled to again by a string with
an old saucepan hung to it for a weight, and went up
to the door.    H , my boss, had told me there was
a man named Pete working for him. I knocked, and
getting no answer turned the handle. The inside
was worse than the outside. I shut the door, and
going to the back of the house saw somebody
working in the orchard. I crossed the fence and
went to him and said, ' Are you Pete ?' ' Yes,' he
said.    ' Then, for God's sake, come and get me some
dinner.     H   sent me out to work here, and  I
haven't had anything to eat since yesterday at eleven
in the morning.' It was then three in the afternoon.
Pete grinned and left his potato digging. He was a
fine young fellow, keen-eyed and intelligent, with the
figure of a man who has worked hard, but no harder
than is sufficient to bring out all his strength ; his
skin was beautiful and his eyes bright blue. He was
confident, rather selfish, very self-reliant j a man to get
on in life if it could be done.
He made me some tea and cooked bacon, bringing out good bread, meanwhile talking about H .
This man had formerly been a lay preacher, through
some extraordinary want of knowledge of his.own
.character.     He  even   then  used  to swear  volubly, 2^6
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
much to Pete's astonishment when a child, as he
averred. Then he gave up what he had no vocation
for, and turned all his attention to farming and
money making. Pete prophesied evil times for me,
but told me to stand no nonsense and talk back if
necessary. This I felt quite able to do, and generally
I thought myself able to ' hold up my end' in a row.
Pete and I spent all next day together digging
potatoes  and   making  fences,  and   in   the   evening
H  came home.    Pete stayed   three days  more
and then left So I was left alone with my ' meanest
man in Southern Oregon.' I did not find him very
difficult to get along with however, for I worked hard,
and if he growled in spite of what I did I growled
back. The weather was very bad, raining nearly all
the time, but I lost scarcely an hour through that. I
had four to six horses to look after and the stable to
clean. I fed these and about twenty head of cows
and calves. I did what milking was to be done. I
chopped the wood, got up in the morning to light the
fire, and often cooked the breakfast. Then we hauled
firewood and made fences. I rode for letters and
after cattle. I did everything, and he did nothing at
all at first, for his hand was but then recovering from
a felon or whitlow. Pete told me that a man who
had been there before me had had a very bad hand
with the same disease, and that IT  had charged
him four dols. a week for his board, and made him as
uncomfortable as he could, jeering at his sufferings. OREGON UNDERFOOT
257
Then he got one himself, and behaved like a sick
child, 1 . .^^H i^^^^^l
One day, when I came in from the field, I found
H 's brother Angus was in the house.    He had
i&'
come from Crescent City, in Del Norte County,
California, having been further south, working in the
redwoods of Mendocino County. A greater difference could not be between two brothers. Angus was
fifteen years younger, stout and ruddy, with a full beard
and an open, pleasant smile. He had the greatest
contempt in some ways for the other, declaring that
all the meanness of the whole family had centred in
him. His coming was a great relief to me; I had
someone to talk to ; and then, as Angus worked there
and I with him, he would quit work before I could
have done had I been alone.    Then if H  ever
growled he would take up the cudgels for me as I sat
silent smoking by the fire. Then he did all the cooking, which not only resulted in greater freedom for me,
but in better bread and food, though there were great
rows at intervals between the brothers about the tea,
as the elder liked it weak and the younger strong.
All this time I did various kinds of work, sometimes harrowing with three horses, sometimes hauling
rails. And then all three of us went out felling
timber, and we hewed out logs to build a place to put
roots and potatoes in, using axe and broad axe,
'weapon naked, shapely, wan,' as Walt Whitman
calls it. If!
»: '
1
258
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
On Sundays I would take the rifle and go hunting,
-not so much to kill anything as to get away from our
miserable little interior of dirt and smoke-grimed
ceiling beams, cobwebby rafters, and windows through
which the fowls came to pick up the unswept
crumbs from the floor. Kitchen and dining-room in
one was as dirty as sleeping and sitting-room, even
though Pete had so far revolutionised appearances as
to make H  suspect him of wasting time in the
very necessary job of cleaning up. So it was a relief
to go up the mountains after deer, even if I mostly
killed none. It was a good place for hunting, and a
good time, for the snow on the upper hills drove them
down, and I could, if I hunted carefully, often see them.
I hardly ever shot at them, but stood watching. One
day I saw either an elk or a most majestic deer, and
would certainly have killed him if he had not been
too quick for me. Then I could watch an occasional
fox or the long-haired grey squirrels with their winter
fur. And I usually got drenched through and through,
and came back soaking to attend to the horses and
the cattle, for nobody else would do it. <
So time went, and my month began to draw to a
close. My affectionate regard for my employer did not
increase with more knowledge, as I found him selfish,
close, and querulous, and, in spite of my previous experiences when out of employment, I determined to
leave at the end of the month if he would not increase
my wages to at least 15 dols. a month, and go across ! I
OREGON  UNDERFOOT
■S9
the Great Coast Range to Crescent City, and thence
to San Francisco. So the night on which I had completed my term I spoke to him, and was refused any
advance. He paid what was owing to me, 8 dols.
75 cents, for I had had some tobacco and one or two
other things. Next day, however, it began to rain
furiously without ceasing, and the creeks got full and
overflowing, and  a  passing  neighbour  told  us the
Illinois River was not fordable.    At noon H told
me I could stay till it cleared up if I liked, on condition
of working, and so for nearly a week I did all the
stable work and odd jobs as usual. During this last
seven days I walked over to Waldo to see if I could
get some letters I thought would be lying there for me
from Hughes, to whom I had written on my first arrival
on this ranche. I had to cross the river on a big flume
or aqueduct built to carry water across the river to a
ditch for a hydraulic mine. The sight beneath me
was magnificent. The river was fairly roaring in its
rocky channel, red and turbid, running ten or twelve
miles an hour, beaten into foam on the huge rocks in
its midst and hurling the spray into the air, while the
flume on which I stood trembled with the burden of
water it carried and the shock of the stream below.
I found letters at Waldo from my friend at Kamloops,
and next day I left Mr. H  and set out over the
Coast Range.
S 2 »!      .    tf£*
260
THE   WES TERN A VERNUS
II
CHAPTER XIX.
ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
I HAD made preparations for a three or four days'"
walk, packing up some bread, bacon, and a little tea
with a small bag of parched maize or Indian corn,
while I put some stripped from the cob, but unparched,
in my pockets. I had no exact knowledge of the
distance to Crescent City in California, from which
steamers ran to San Francisco, but knew it was between seventy and ninety miles or thereabouts, and, of
course, as the road was very lonely, it was necessary
to be provided with food. And then my finances
would not have permitted me to pay for my meals,.
even if I had been able to buy them, inasmuch as the
fare from Crescent to San Francisco was, I had been
told, about 7 dols.
The week's rain and storm that had kept me
from travelling had had a terrible effect on the roads.
At stated intervals during the summer it was usual to
run a stage from Waldo to Crescent, but this was now
abandoned for the present for great part of the way,
owing to the roads being ' washed out.'    The rainfall ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
261
had been terrific at the ranche, for at least an inch
and a half fell in ten hours one night, and the wind
had done some damage. There were vague reports
of disasters on the coast, which most probably arose
more from the likelihood of such occurring than from
actual knowledge. What was of more importance to
me were the facts that the Illinois was still unfordable,
necessitating a detour over the flume, and that all the
creeks in the valley were likely to be very full; and I
found, after passing Waldo, that I had occasionally
some difficulty in crossing one or two, while the road
itself was muddy and full of pools of water. I walked,
however, in good spirits until nightfall, and camped
about twelve miles beyond Waldo, at the foot of the
range, in a miserable hut with no doors or windows or
flooring. All possible wood had been burnt by other
travellers, and I had great difficulty in kindling a fire,
partly from the scantiness of fuel and partly from
the dampness of everything. I took my knife and
scraped off the outer bark of a big fir-tree close at
hand, and took some of the dry under bark ; then I
gathered up little bits of sticks, putting them inside
my shirt to dry ; finally, I took some gum or pitch
from an old axe-cut in the tree, and with the aid of a
letter from a friend in London, who little thought to
what end his letter would come, or in what way aid
me, I managed to make a poor blaze and to keep it
in long enough to boil some water for tea. I need
not have taken so much trouble if I had cared about 1      p.
*-
1    "               f
262
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
tearing some of the shingles from the little hut, but I
never liked to do that. There are some men who>
will always do this, but I had some little considera-
tion for those coming after me, and if every one
camping in a place took some of the building for
a fire there would soon be no shelter.
I cooked a little bacon, ate that and a piece of
bread, and drank the cup—the tin cup—of tea. Then
I went into the shanty and spread my blankets.
There was every prospect of a bitterly cold night, for
it was now getting towards the end of November.
The wind was chilly, and moaned outside and came
through the openings and cracks of my abode. My
blankets were old and thin, and the ground even
inside was damp. ,My fire outside was now extinguished, with but a smouldering ember the wind
puffed into momentary redness and a little wreath of
smoke, and there was no wood to make one inside
without aid of an axe. The situation was lonely and
dismal. Below me ran the creek, not singing sweetly
and placidly, but groaning and hurrying. Thick
forest went back to the hills all round, while overhead
the sky, moonless and chill, showed frequent clouds
and an infrequent fugitive star. The nearest house
was three miles from me, down the road on which I
had come, and was uninhabited. To make matters
worse 1 got an attack of nervousness, a.thing most
unusual with me, so that my imagination became
heated, creating  panthers, cougars, and  bears, that
_. J ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
263
would come and devour me in the night. To be sure
there were these animals somewhere on the hills, but
hitherto they had never alarmed me, not even in the
Selkirks, where they were really numerous, and here
they were scarce. I tried to lull myself with the
notion that it was late enough in the season for the
bears to be in their winter quarters, fast asleep and
dreaming, but all the time I knew I was but deceiving
myself, and every howl of wind I converted into a
growl of nocturnal predacious animal—bear or wolf or
mountain lion. And it grew colder and colder, until
it was nearly freezing. I lay on my right side and
dropped off into uneasy slumber. Presently I woke
and found my left side nearly frozen, so I turned
over and lay awake for awhile until that side grew
a little warmer. Again I went to sleep, and woke
once more with a start to find the other side cold.
So went the night, until at last I woke, shivering
all over, in the very earliest dawn, finding a white
frost outside. I made a little fire again, drank some
tea, and started off before it was fairly light, recovering courage and confidence as I grew warm with walking hard and climbing. The road was fairly good,
and I had no dangerous creeks to cross. I climbed
up and up in the fresh morning air, with bright sunlight above me and no fear or threatening of rain,
until I was far above the valleys in a very winding
road. The hills were not covered in all places by
timber, and I could see far across the depths, which *&*
264
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
were filled with glistening clouds or mists, beneath
me.
About seven o'clock I came round a turn in the
road that ran high up the hillside above a deep
vvalley or gorge, that was filled with cloud. The sun
was behind me, and here, to my great delight, I saw
a similar phenomenon to the Spectre of the Brocken.
On the dense white fleece of cloud was a sun ring or
halo, and in it, magnified to gigantic size, my own
figure. I threw down my blankets and shouted with
joy. I was all alone with my own ghost, my enlarged
and liberated cloud-spirit, my likeness, but great,
spiritual, free, apotheosised, among the gods. And
from cloudland he returned my salute as I took off
my hat, and waved his arms as I waved mine. I was
free there from grossness; I was etherealised. idealised,
poetic. And what a background even for a spirit, for
a god ! The little valley of my sun-shadow ran out
into a larger one, filled with a sea of glistening cloud
that lay still in places, or rolled and heaved solemnly
like a light sea freed from the heavy chains of gravity.
It lay not level, but in hills and long upward curves,
indicating faintly the possible outline of the under
hills, and here and there one loftier height thrust through
the veiling mist fir and pine, like a far ocean palm
island, when the island is not seen, and the trees are
unbased and dreamlike, fantastic, divided from earth,
and skyey. And the mass of mist was white, shining,
fleecy and glorious, while beyond miles of it rose higher ACROSS   THE COAST RANGE
265
range after range, with the farthest capped with frost
and snow, glittering like diadems of jewels.
I looked long and breathed in that air, and turning
I bowed solemnly to my cloudself, who bowed again.
I took up my burden and walked on in a curious state
of mental exaltation, oblivious of the future and the
past, regarding simply the scenery, the sun and the
clouds beneath and above me. Yet the walk was
arduous enough, though the worst was to come, for I
was climbing up and going down all the while, while
the road took most disappointing turns, and frequently
I could have saved miles of tramping had I had wings
to fly across a narrow valley or gorge round the head
of .which the road ran. Still I felt so well, for my
nervousness had fled with the night, that I did not
grumble, and when I came at noon to a good cabin,
or house, I made dinner with care and sang while I
prepared my frugal meal. This house belonged to a
man named Bain, who had a notice put up on the
door asking travellers to be careful of fire, and I
thanked him for the hospitality of open door by
writing a few lines of rude verse on the name-
scrawled wall with a burnt stick, signing myself ' A
Tramp.' I had no notion of any place-to camp in at
night, though I thought it possible that I might reach
Smith River, on which there was an hotel, as I had been
told by Angus H .    So I walked on cheerfully
enough, meeting not a soul on the road, and at last it
began to grow towards evening without any sign of a •kfce-
!    101
266
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
house or river. About half an hour before sundown
I was walking along the road on the side of the hill,
and across the valley, which was deep and thick with
trees, I could see that I should have to make my way
in exactly the opposite direction to which I was then
going, after coming to the head of the gorge. This, of
course, rather irritated me, although my anger was
unreasonable, as the road was just so long, and I
could not make it shorter. Still such a round made
me anxious to camp, as the road, I could see, made
quite a fresh start up the hill, and evidently Smith
River must be many miles away yet.
Finally, I plunged deep in the valley, and I found
at last a kind of broken-down hut or house, with a
roof on, by the side of a creek, in silence and shadow.
I looked at it for awhile and sat down, but the aspect
of the place was so forbidding, so chill and damp, and
so fearfully lonely, that I took up my blankets again
and walked on, chewing corn as I went, determined
not to stop or stay until I came to the river and the
hotel. I came out just at sundown on the top of a
very high ridge, and I fancied I caught a faint glimpse
of far sea, but was not sure. It rapidly grew dark,
and I walked hard and harder. Finally, there appeared
a deep valley, or canon, in front of me, with a narrow
streak of silver turbulent river 4,000 feet below, and
opposite another wall of mountain westward. 1
plunged down the road, and I fancied I saw the
gleam of a far-off light  close  by the river.    The
— ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
267
descent was difficult and dangerous. The rains had
washed out the earth and gravel and smaller stones
of the surface of the road, so that it was like going
down the dried bed of a mountain torrent. Every
hundred yards or so the way zigzagged to and fro,
seeking the easiest way down. Twice I fell, and
times innumerable I only just saved myself. At last
it grew so dark that I could only distinguish the road
by the absence of brush. And the roar of the river
below grew louder and louder. After an hour and a
half's hard stumbling over rocks I came on to level
ground, alongside the river, and with difficulty at last
found a bridge across, and saw the lights of a house
near at hand. This was my resting-place for the
night.
Inside the main room were two men, one with a
wooden leg, the owner of the establishment, a great
hunter in spite of his infirmity, and the driver of the
stage from Waldo, who had passed me during the
night as I slept and shivered in that hut There were
two women, wife and sister-in-law of the one-legged
man, a child, and two hunting-dogs. There was a
good wood fire, and I was glad to sit down and smoke
in front of it, being little inclined for talking. Soon
after I came in supper was announced, but I declined
taking any, my ostensible reason being that I had
had supper before coming down into the valley, and
the real one that I was anxious to keep all the money
I could in my pocket for my San Franciscan fare.    I
I ■'csr
rsBBSt'
268
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
was hungry enough, however, and could well have enjoyed a good meal. However, I promised myself a
breakfast. That night I slept on a lounge or sofa in
my own blankets, and was charged nothing for accommodation, so I only spent 50 cents for my morning
meal. After eating I started to go up the opposite
mountain, which took me about two hours' hard
climbing up another zigzag of a road. On the top
was a kind of plateau, almost bare of trees, and it was
easy walking, with a fine view of mountains behind
me. At noon I went down into another valley, coming
on a deserted mining town of several houses and two
hotels, with all the furniture removed, including doors
and window-sashes. This desolation of past habitation made the scene more chill and lonely than if
there had been no dwellings at all. I was very hungry,
so I lighted a fire and boiled some tea.
In the bar-room of the largest hotel I found the
hindquarters of a deer that had been left by some
hunter, possibly by my one-legged acquaintance, and
although it was somewhat flyblown I found it fresh,
and by aid of my bowie-knife I managed to get some
good pieces of steak, which I toasted on a sharpened
stick over the fire.    Then I cooked some bacon.
I had now a choice of roads—one the old and the
other the new. The former was the shortest, the latter
the best. After some consideration I chose the old road,
and had some frightful scrambling over rocks, at times,
too, having difficulty in discovering what was the road ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
269
and what was not. Finally, I got in better walking on
a gentle slope. I was now eagerly looking for sight
of the ocean. The Gulf of Georgia and the Straits of
San Juan de Fuca, the land-locked waters of Puget
Sound, were but salt water ; they lacked the enchantment of the sea. And I came over the long ridge,
and before me was the deep sea—not a gulf or a
channel or a strait, but the mighty main, the vast and
tremendous waters of the mysterious Pacific, misty
and grand, the ocean that Balboa saw from the silent
peak in Darien. I sat down quietly on a knoll of
dwarf manzanita, so still and quiet that the shy birds
came and sang to me, and a wondering rabbit peeped
from the brush and played before me ; and as I drank
in that sweet fresh air and watched the majestic expanse of far faint blue I seemed to see that the earth
was round, huge, and curved; and beyond the horizon
I saw, with spiritual insight and in trance, the long
brown plains of the great Australian continent,
whereon I too had wandered in the years passed by;
and in front lay the long coasts of ancient populous
Asia ; and yet farther beyond that illimitable expanse,
far across zones of calm and cyclones of wind storm,
and belts of terrible thunder-cloud, lay the shores of
the Dark Continent, full of mystery. And Europe, my
home and birthplace, was behind and beneath me.
I thought of Vasco Nunez, the discoverer of this
ocean ; of Magellan, who had blundered through the
narrow straits that bear his name, and of Vasco di I
270
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
Gama, who had entered on its waters round the far-
off stormy Cape; of Pizarro, on those shores of Peru
to the southward; and of our Drake, who chased the
Spaniards through these seas ; and I drew in with
ecstasy the air that all those strong old voyagers and
sea-captains had breathed in the times when something was yet unknown, and there were possibilities of
Eldorados unmarked on any chart, when charts were
graved on horns with strange adornment of gaping,
imaginary sea-monsters, such as the young Amyas
Leigh wondered at in the etched ivory of Salvation
Yeo. ^^H^^^l: ' j IH : ^^H
And I looked still, and  the   mystic water grew
alive, subtle, serpentine, and more mysterious, coiling
and wonderful. She became eyed like the peacock's
tail, with faint eddies of currents, and personal and
feminine. This was the ocean from which the earth
arose, this was the grave to which she descended to
be renewed ; and the eyes grew intense and vivid,
prophetic and full of kindness unutterable, and of
cruelty. In her was the beginning of all things and
the end ; she and the sky were time and space, and
symbolic. From her came the primaeval slime of life,
and she was full of dead men's bones. Ships sailed
on her bosom, and in her depths they lay shattered,
broken, sunken, dwelling-places for her monsters, evil
as the thoughts that never pass men's lips. Her eyes
were as those of one who knew all things, and her lips
were touched with the melancholy of cruelty satiated, I
ACROSS  THE  COAST RANGE
27'i
and yet her hands and fingers were eager for slaughter.
She was calm and silent as a handmaiden of Fate,
but passionate in her hair and eyes even as a sleeping
fury ; for in her dwell all things evil and good, and
all knowledge and all power and all possibility of
being.
And there was more of grief than of joy in my
heart, for I remembered I was a man, and finite, and
the spirit of my race, and the desire of love came
upon me, and while the birds sang, and fearless
squirrel and rabbit played in the wind-rustled man-
zanita and the slender grasses, I was oppressed and
cold at heart, and I was glad to take up my burden
and the burden of life and walk on and on, to save
myself from thought. So I walked on downward,
for I had done with climbing, and I saw in the far
distance, across the level lands between sea and mountain base, the smoke of Crescent City. Down narrow
paths, and all winding ways, through roads cut deep
with the wash of rains, I still went on, among brush
and a few scanty trees. And at last I plunged into
a dark forest and a steeper path, and as I stumbled
over bare roots and rocks I grew wrathful, and
cursed the whole Pacific from Behring's -Straits to the
southern unknown lands of the South Pole, from San
Francisco to African Zanzibar, and the Pacific coast
and Horace Greeley, and the strange longing that had
brought me West. For it grew darker yet, and still no
sign of habitation or indication of nearing any, while *r*fc-
272
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
I came down into mist and fog, damp, chill and
penetrating, making the gloom worse, hanging in
wreaths among the thick .growth of trees, touching
brush with damp dews that dropped on me as I
walked. Twice and again I fell and rolled over, the
last time wrenching my ankle severely ; but I walked
in spite of it, desperately determined not to camp
out in a gloomy place if perseverance could bring me
to a better. And suddenly the path grew level, and
I came out in the aisle of a very forest cathedral.
I was in the redwoods, the most majestic of all trees,
save only their elder brethren, the gigantic sequoias.
These were huge and solemn, some ten feet and more
in diameter at the butt, rising bare of branches to 200
feet above me, where they spread out in thick crowns,
that darkened yet more the obscure and misty air of
night. I stood for a few moments to admire them,
even tired as I was, and then with difficulty I discovered the road. I found that it forked here. I
stood and considered again. The straight road was
most probably the road to the town, the other would
probably lead to some house or camp. I determined
to turn off, and as a reward for my reasoning |[ saw
a light less than a hundred yards away. I passed
through the barn-yard and knocked and went in.
There were two men, rather well dressed, and a very
ladylike woman. We talked for a while and they
gave me supper, and said I could sleep in the barn.
The hay was wringing wet, through the leaks in the ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
27
:>
rroof, but I managed to get to sleep in spite of any inconveniences after the walk I had had, and next
.morning I had still thirteen miles to do to reach
Crescent City, and I started without breakfast, and
did the whole distance wearily and fasting. My
road ran still through the redwoods, and if they were
solemn and weird at night they were more beautiful in the daytime. Under them at times was
thick brush, from which they rose like towers or great
lighthouses from the breaking of little waves, and in
other places they stood by themselves, springing
straight from the bare ground, or moss, or scanty
turf. These had grown for so many centuries, and
.had such great life in them, they were so grand and
solemn and kinglike, that I felt they had personality.
It seemed nothing short of murder to hew and saw
them down for planks and post-making, for housebuilding, and shelter for little men, who lusted to
destroy in an hour the slow, sweet growth of their
.unnumbered years. We come with our quick and
furious .flood of life to a quick conclusion ; they, with
the slow sap under bark and in the wood, rise imperceptibly to majesty, and fall at the end of their long
term by overgrowth of summit and crown ; they sink
at last under the burden of natural honours, and
mingle slowly in long decay with the soil in which
they were rooted. But men come and destroy them,
as barbarians in the pathetic, silent senate-house, and
^nature is wounded and bleeding.
T *^»
74
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
I came out on the banks of the Smith River again
and was ferried over, and was asked no fee. I was
astonished at the lack of greed, and the natural sweet
kindliness of the man, a Charon fair and young, which
is so rare in all countries, and, alas ! much too rare in
America. I thanked him courteously, and he bowed
and wished me well most knightlike, pushing back
across the stream, and I passed again into the redwoods, climbing up through a sweet tangle of thick
brush with the great god-trees rising from it, and then
descended and came on a flat, more bare, with willow
and birch, and no more redwoods. And I began to
hear a faint roar, like a singing in my ears. But it
grew and grew till I recognised the sound of the sea,
the roar of breakers, the eternal ocean voice. It put
new life into me ; I walked faster, though I was faint,
until I came where I could hear the separate roar of
separate waves—distinct thunders. I sat down under
a tree by the roadside and lighted my pipe, and, to
save myself from vain imaginings of possible things,
I took my Virgil and again read part of the Sixth
Book. And when I came to the middle I thought,
' I am not yet out of Avernus, and who knows if
I shall return to the lucid stars and lucid earth, for
there is much to be passed through before my time is
at hand.'
So I came at last to Crescent City, and found it
dull and vile, with work scarce, so they said, and men
'plenty.    I was truly in golden California, but not in. ACROSS   THE COAST RANGE
■75
the land of wine and oil, of fleeces and fat beeves.
Being hungry and disconsolate, it was necessary to
eat, and I ate the worth of 25 cents and was more
refreshed. The steamer for San Francisco was lying
in the bay, loading timber, and was to sail in the
night, having been delayed by the storm, which had
torn away part of the pier and driven driftwood
upon the very streets of the town.    So I went to buy
my ticket.    Now Angus H had told me the fare
was 7.50 dols. As I had started on this last journey
with 8.50 dols., and had only spent three-quarters of
a dollar—50 cents at the Smith River Valley and 25
cents in town—I had 7.75 dols., which would leave
me 25 cents with which to make a start in San Francisco. But when I got to the office they demanded
8.50 dols. as the fare, and I had it not. I used much
persuasive eloquence and rhetoric to induce the agent
to make a reduction, opening up fully the state of my
finances. But he was adamantine, flinty, and I could
make no impression on him. I appealed to the
chief man, a general of militia, and calling him General
I asked him to ' fix ' it for me. But no ! he would do
nothing. The fare, the full fare, and nothing but the
fare. So I went out to consider. To walk to San
Francisco meant 300 miles of semi-starvation at
least if I did not obtain work. I furiously determined
to go by that steamer or perish in the attempt. I
took stock of my possessions. Had I anything to sell ?
My clothes might have been worthy of acquisition by
t 2 ■M***JPI
-276
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
a museum of antiquities, but even then I could not go
in that vessel ' Berserker.'    My blankets were old and
thin ; besides, I attached a superstitious value to them.
They were part of myself.    Had they not travelled
in Australia with me over hill and plain ?   Had they
not been wet with salt water in my voyages ?     And
they had done me great service in great need in all
parts of America.    No !    I would as soon part with
my skin.    Then I had a bundle of letters from men
■who might be celebrated one day, literary Bohemians
of London, who had not forgotten their Waring on his
travels.     There  were  photographs  too.    But these
would not fetch  money in   the market.    Finally, I
came to my Horace and Virgil.   Was it possible there
were men with a knowledge of the Latin tongue in
this  wilderness,  this  end   of the  earth?    Or  were
there some burning with thirst to acquire such knowledge ?     I  walked   up   the  street  and  came  to  a
notice :—
Walter Jones, B.A., Advocate,
Teacher of Latin, Greek, and Mathematics.
Ml
Ye gods ! I stared, thinking I was dreaming!
This was the man. I pushed open the door and
entered, acting on the spur of the moment. I saw a
little sad-looking man, with a good forehead and
shabby clothes. There were lots of books there too.
He received me courteously and asked my business.
I   sat  in  silence  for  a  moment,  wondering  if he ACROSS THE COAST RANGE
277
thought I wished to learn Latin or Greek or even
mathematics. Then I told him I wanted to get to
San Francisco, and then, interrupting me nervously,
he said:
* If it's money you want, I'm very sorry, but I
haven't got any myself.'
' I'm not surprised,' I answered,' that an educated
man should be without in such a brutish wilderness.
But I did want money—75 cents—and I want to sell
you this Horace or Virgil for it'
' I can't, I can't, I haven't got a cent, and I'm in
debt too. But perhaps you could sell it to Father
Grady, the Roman Catholic priest'
' Is he an Irishman ?'
p ' Yes.' H''H^^H|H^bh|HH
' Then I don't want anything to do with him. I
have a premonition of the kind of man, and somehow I don't like Irishmen, especially if they are
religious.'
' Well, I can't do anything for you but that. 1 m>
really sorry. I could see, when you spoke, that you
were an educated man, and I would do anything I
could for you. But I am positively unable to make
a living here myself.'
I was sorry for him. He looked ill and weak. I
was at any rate well and strong, and could do manual
labour.
' Well, thank you, Mr. Jones. I suppose I must
try the reverend father.' -'■"I.!
*»5.
Hi
278
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
'' Yes, do, and come and tell me how you get on
with him.'
I shook hands with the little man and made my
way to the priest's house. He came out to me. I
was right. He was just the kind of low-class peasant
Irishman that I detest most cordially. The very look
of him made me half sick, and I very nearly turned
away without speaking. However, I opened my
business to him, and told him Mr. Jones had sent
me. ' Thank you, I don't want either of them. I
know them by heart already' (said I to myself, ' You
lie'), ' and I have copies with me of course. But you
might try Mr. So-and-so' (I forget the name) ' the
hotel-keeper.'
I thanked him as civilly as I could, which was
not over courteously, for my gorge so rose against
his fat conceit and complacency.
I found the hotel-keeper. He was an intelligent
man, but half-drunk. 'Yes, I am something of a
classical scholar, but I don't read these books now.
I don't want 'em.' Then a look came into his eyes
I could not quite fathom. ' But,' said. he, ' do you
see that tall man down the road, with a plank on his
shoulder ?' ' Yes,' said I. ' Then you go and ask him.
He's the best scholar in this city, bar old Jones.'
I turned away and went after the man with the
plank. I had serious doubts, when I came close to him,
as to his scholarship. Good-natured idiocy seemed
more his intellectual station among men than learning. ACROSS   THE COAST RANGE
279
I went up and told him that the hotel-keeper had
sent me. He burst into a roar of laughter. ' Ho ! ho !
ho ! Why, man, I can't read or write at all. Ho!
ho! ho!' and he put his plank down and sat on it to
laugh at his ease. I was in a fearful rage. I turned
to go back and assault my jocose friend, but as I went
along I thought, ' If I do they'll have me in gaol too
quick, and I have no friends here at all.' So I thought
better of it and restrained myself, although I was
fairly boiling. It would have gone hard with him,
even after second thoughts, if I had met him face to
face.
I went back to the office and tackled the General
once more, but in vain. Then I determined to jump
on the steamer in spite of them, and if I got on and
out to sea they should have no fare at all. If I could
not manage to get on board with the other passengers
when they went off to her I would borrow a boat
and try to get on her in the dark. So I went down
in the evening and found a crowd of people waiting
until the boat was ready for them. A big barge, or
scow, laden with lumber was to take them. When
word was given for the passengers to come forward
I tried to get down, but the agent or,clerk was too
:smart for me, and demanded my ticket. I had none,
of course. Then the fare. ' How much ? ' said I, as
if I didn't know.
' Eight and a half dollars.'
' I've only got seven dollars and six bits.' pjf^
^w^^** *=*•!■
! ww»5
®am
R5»Bffi:
2£0
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
' Then stand back.'
So down the others went until I was left alone on
the pier with the clerk and one or two lookers-on.
He came over to me.
' How much did you say you had ?'
I told him.
' All right, you can go.    Hand over.'
I handed over, and then said : ' You may as well
leave me two bits to get a meal with in San Francisco.'
He looked and hesitated a moment, then gave
me back the twenty-five cents. I thanked him and
went dowm to the scow, and presently we got on
board. I had ' made that riffle ' at any rate, and was
not compelled to risk the ' conveying' of boats and
stowing away.
When we got on board I went down into the steerage
and found one more white man and four Chinamen
in it. This place was a veritable Black Hole. There
were four double bunks, each holding two men, a big
chest in the small space between the bunks, and the
rest of it was taken up by the steps. The only light
came from the hatch above, and was supplemented
by an evil-smelling oil lamp. I am cosmopolitan
enough, Heaven knows, and have consorted with all sorts
and conditions of men—Australian blacks, Hindoos,
Malays, Japanese, Indians, and all kinds of Europeans
—but of all I have been thrown into contact with I
most thoroughly detest the low Chinese.    And now ^p
ACROSS  THE COAST RANGE
281
I had to spend two whole days, at least, in close
quarters with them. I chummed in with the white
man, who was a nice, good-looking young fellow—a
milker and butter-maker—and slept in the same
bunk with him ; but we had to eat with the Chinese,
and as they were violently sick when we got out to
sea they managed to make things very unpleasant.
I stayed on deck as much as possible, and when I did
go below I went there to sleep. Yet these two days
are black ones in my calendar, though blacker ones
were yet to come to me. On the evening of the
second day we came to the Golden Gate, and ran
through it into the great bay of San Francisco. It
was a beautiful sight, but I was too melancholy and
anxious to enjoy the sight of sea and cliff, of lighthouse and quiet shining water, and the hills gleaming
in the setting sun that sank behind us. As we passed
up the harbour the city was gradually lighted up with
gas and electricity, and the waters grew gloomy and
gloomier yet. We threaded our way through ships
at anchor, and passed dark wharves with others
loading or discharging, and at last made fast ourselves to the wharf at the foot of Mission Street
Outside on the wharf were numerous 'huses to hotels,
and as we touched the sides we were boarded by a
crowd of hotel-runners, shouting and screaming:
' The International,' ' The American Exchange,' ' The
Russ House,' and eulogising the merits of a dozen
others.    The man from the ' American Exchange * tfW*
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
came to me as 1 sat on my blankets smoking, and
was most urgent I should go with him, and would
not let me alone. At last I turned to him, and said :
' It's no good, partner, I'm no catch. I'm dead broke.'
He left me, and when things began to get a little
quieter I picked up my bundle and went over the side.
I was again in a strange city, and all that 3|had was
25 cents—one shilling, and a halfpenny over. 283
CHAPTER  XX.
IN  SAN  FRANCISCO.
In the steamer I had had plenty of opportunity for
reflection as to the course to be pursued on arrival in
San Francisco, but all the mental exercise had resulted
in was the conclusion that I should be in a very bad
fix indeed when I got there, and that I should, if possible, leave it at once. As it was a great shipping
port, in fact the port of the whole Pacific coast, my
mind naturally turned to going to sea again if nothing
else turned up. So when I slung my blankets on my
back and walked along the city front towards the
better-lighted portions of the city, I determined to
look for a sailors' boarding-house, the proprietor of
which would take me in if sailors were at all in
demand. I came in front of what I afterwards found
out was called the Ferries, at the foot pf Market Street,
and went to where there were a lot of saloons, eating-
houses, boot-black stands, peanut vendors, and newspaper sellers, and asked a man to direct me to a
sailors' boarding-house. He pointed to the saloon
before me and I went in, and asking for the boss told 284
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
him I was a sailorman, and that I wanted to find a
house, acting in a jaunty, devil-may-care manner.
' Hev you got any money ?'   ' Nary cent'    ' Then
I can't do anything for you.   Hell ain't fuller of devils
than San Francisco is of sailors, and most of thern
dead broke.    My house is full up now.    Perhaps you
might stand a show at the Arizona Hotel on Clay.'"
He came outside and showed me which way to go.
In Clay Street, a dirty dark narrow way, I found the
other house, and had no better luck there.   I asked the
proprietor to let me leave my blankets for a while. Then
I went out and found another house, and was again refused, this time roughly, and without courtesy such as
the other two to whom I had applied had extended to
me.    It must be remembered that I looked rough
enough to be a sailor a dozen times over, and I could
very well affect the old sailor roll, which now was no
longer natural to me.    So I looked like one who had
been taking a spell in the country.    However, it was
no good trying these houses, and after talking for a
while with a sailor, who confirmed the statements of
the boarding-house keepers about the numbers of idle
men in the city, I thought I would go and look for a
lodging.    I found one in Clay Street, and after paying
20 cents for my bed I put my blankets in the trunk-
room and went in and sat down in the sitting-room.
There were more than twenty men in this place, which
was bare of adornment save a quack doctor's advertisement on the walls.    The tables were wood un-
Mtfl IN SAN FRANCISCO
281
covered and somewhat hacked with knives, the floors
were dirty and covered with saliva, old chews, and tobacco ash, while two or three spittoons of rubber were
full to overflowing.    There were chairs, however, and
not benches, as in many lodging-houses.   The denizens
of the place were not to me, after what I had seen, in
any way strange, but I fancy if some cultured, educated
man direct from London civilisation had been dropped
into the room he  would have been struck   by  the
scene.    The  room   was   well  lighted with  kerosine
lamps, but a dense cloud of tobacco-smoke hung from
the ceiling to the heads of those who were seated, and
the gabble of tongues made the place a very Babel,
for some were talking at the tops of their voices, some
playing cards at the tables, laughing and occasionally
even yelling, and there was a ring of others round the
stove keeping up a loud and animated conversation
. with all the interest of a round game, in which victory
remained with the longest and loudest talker, and ignominious defeat and forfeit to him who ceased first.
Then there were others round the wall, some asleep in
spite of the din, others with their chairs tilted back,
sunk in coma or reflective study, and some with their
heels on the vacant table, chewing tobacco and spitting
with vast differences in accuracy of aim at the overburdened spittoons, one of which was most gruesome
to  see,  and betraying occasionally faint gleams of
aroused interest when a lucky shot was made in this
modern American game of Korra^os. "**"
w«0kSS8'
286
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
The faces, figures, and dresses of these men were
as various as their moods, attitudes, and occupation,
and after a little while spent in quiet observation,
with my chair tilted back against the wall, the differences began to be very perceptible to me. One of the
loudest talkers was an American Irishman, and his
professional occupation was evidently something to do
with coal, as I noticed the grime of coal-dust round
his eyes, which comes off only after repeated washings.
He was slight, dressed in blue dungaree trousers and
an old shiny black coat His face was merry and red,
and his brown eyes twinkled as he made a joke at a
stolid-looking Swede or German, with a face as motionless as a block of wood, who, nevertheless, at times let out
a flood of broken English which I could scarcely understand. There was another, manifestly a sailor, rather
smartly dressed, with a bright face and a. red knotted
handkerchief under it. He was evidently at home,
and noisier than a man of forty usually is when sober.
There was a big, heavy German, whom they addressed
as ' Bismarck,' who sat playing casino, or seven up,
or some other card game, sometimes joining vigorously
in the talk and thumping the table till the lamp
jumped and the light flickered up the chimney. Then
there was a very fine, handsome-looking young fellow*
who was a cigar-maker as I found out afterwards, with
well-cut features and a pleasant laugh, who usually
sat with his heels on the table.
There were men, too, who looked as if they did
HI IN SAN FRANCISCO
287
nothing—'bums' in fact—others whose trade it was a
puzzle to discover, and some who seemed, like myself,
to be from the country. It was a curious mixed gang,
and I was glad at last to take my lamp and go to
bed in a little narrow room, in which the bed took up
most of the space. There were nearly two hundred
of these apartments, separated from each other by
wooden partitions with an open roof covered with a
mosquito netting, and I could hear the snoring of my
neighbours in various keys, and notes from deep bass
to shrill treble, while one or two ran through the
whole gamut, some occasionally choking and waking
themselves.
In the morning it was a very serious question
with me. I had five cents—2\d.—and no prospect of
breakfast. Of course I was hungry, and the fact that
it seemed impossible to appease the growing famine
made me worse. I walked out and up and down to
consider things, and finally, after taking a smoke, I
determined to go to the British Consul, to see if he
could get me a ship. I found my way to his rooms
near the Post Office, and had an interview, not with
the Consul himself, who is an august and unapproachable person, but with a short stout man of sailor-like
appearance, who heard my story, briefly told, and gave
me a note to the captain of an English ship, asking
him to ship me if possible. I went down, found the
vessel, and after waiting dismally for two hours,
kicking  my heels  on the wharf, and disconsolately *"V"
**fc
288
ZtfS   WESTERN A VERNUS
watching the boats in the bay, I was told that the ship
would not sail for six weeks and wanted no hands at
present, as she had more than enough staying by her.
Then I tried a dozen other vessels without success,
and got so weary, hungry, and disgusted that I went
back to Clay Street, and sat down in the house for
an hour or two, still having a little tobacco to prevent
me from suffering too acutely from famine. Then I
went again to the Consul's, but got no encouragement
there.
I went up Market Street and tried to divert my
attention from myself by taking a look at the city,
whose fine broad streets, and street cars or trams that
run without horses, being drawn on an underground
cable, had great attraction for me. I noticed, too, the
cosmopolitan character of the place, the numerous
races to be seen, and the beauty of many of the
women ; but as evening drew on the calls of hunger
became so piercing that I went back again to my
lodging-house, and sat down thinking where I should
get something to eat and how to get a lodging. At
last I determined to spend my last five cents, and going
to a restaurant got a cup of coffee, telling the man
that the ' nickel,' or five-cent piece, was my last money.
He gave me a dough-nut to eat with the coffee. This
was the first I had eaten for twenty-four hours. I
thanked him and went back again to the house,
thinking that I should have to spend the night in the
streets.    I sat down and got into conversation with IN SAN FRANCISCO
289
the man next to me, and I opened up the talk by
speaking about the state of things in the city, and he
told me that thousands were out of work, and that
there was every prospect of its being a hard winter to
working men. Then I told him I was dead broke,
and asked his advice as to where I should sleep.
' Well,' said he, ' the clerk here is a good fellow, and
won't turn you out; you can stay in this room all
night and sleep, on a chair or on the floor. There's
lots of fellows do it' This was some consolation, for
I did not desire to tramp about the city and spend
the damp cold night in the open air. I asked the
clerk at ten o'clock if he would let me stay, and he
said that that would be all right if I came up when
the others had gone to bed. At half-past eleven I
came up, and he let me in the room, from which the
lamps had been removed, and I found there five or
six other men whom I had seen about the place
during the evening. One was quite an old, respectable-
looking man, another was a jolly-looking individual,
who carefully spread some newspapers on the floor
in the warmest corner and lay down on them. The
others were nondescript fellows, rough and dirty. I
drew a chair up to the stove and slept for an hour
very uncomfortably, then I lay down on the bare
boards and slept uneasily until four o'clock, when Jim,
the clerk, came in and roused us up by calling out
' Breakfast,' which seemed to me a very poor joke
indeed, as I was about as hungry as I could be.    We
u THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
went out and washed in the lavatory, looking a miserable lot of wretches, and I went down into the street,
lighted dimly by lamps, for there was yet no sign of
It was absolutely necessary for me to get something to eat. It could be put off no longer. So, after
thinking awhile, I went down to the wharf where the
steamer in which I had come from Crescent City
was lying, and had a talk with the night watchman, whom I asked to give me some breakfast He
gave me some coffee and bread and meat, which I
ate ravenously, and went away thanking him for his
kindness. I ate nothing else all day, and spent the
time hunting for a ship, and at night slept on the
bare boards as before. Next day I went in the forenoon to an employment office, not with any hope of
getting employment, having no money for fees, but
just to do something. But my luck was great. I sat
down on a bench, above which was a notice board
with requisitions for milkers, butter-makers, coachmen,
choppers, and labourers of all sorts, among a crowd
of men, some of whom I knew by sight, when in came
my old friend of the Rockies and Eagle Pass Landing,
Scott! I jumped up and we shook hands warmly.
He was dressed well, and had a gold chain across
his waistcoat. I was as rough-looking as possible,
and just as I had been when I saw him last, save
that my hat was new. He asked me how I was
* making it,' or getting  along,  and I told  him just IN SAN FRANCISCO
291
riow it was with me. He gave me 25 cents, and
I went out and got a 10-cent dinner at a cheap
■eating-house, where they give a great deal for the
money. Scott had left Eagle Pass soon after me
and had gone direct to Victoria, and then to San
Francisco, where he had been for some weeks, working
part of the time. The remaining 15 cents kept me
for that day and the next, as I spent nothing for
lodging, and then he gave me a little more. At the
•end of a week from the time I had come to the city
he told me he had heard of a chance for work for me,
and I went up to a store in Market Street, owned by
a man whose possessions ran into millions of dollars.
He told me to come round in the morning and I
could get a day's work. I came accordingly at seven
o'clock and went to work without having had breakfast, my supper the night before having consisted of
a cup of coffee and a roll.
I helped two men, one. a Swede, the other an
Englishman, to clean out the cellar or basement of
some new buildings, carrying up heavy timbers, iron
boilers, bricks, and glass frames, hard work at any
time, but laborious in the extreme on an empty
stomach. However, my Englishman was a good little
fellow, and lent me 15 cents, with which I got the
best meal I had had in San Francisco. At night
I got a dollar and a half, my day's wages, and was
told to come again on Monday, as this was Saturday.
I was now quite a capitalist, and by eschewing the
XJ 2 292
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
luxury of a bed  I could manage to live for sometime.    I worked again on Monday, and then my boss
told me to come up to his private house next night,
as he wanted a man to get some rock and gravel out
of a quarry to fill up his yard and make a good floor..
I was to sleep in the barn.    I went up and lay in a
loft among bales of hay and innumerable rats, who'
ran along the bales and then jumped on me, waking
me up all night long.   Sometimes half a dozen would
charge  across   me at once, and if I made a noise
it would only quiet them  for a  minute, and their
games would begin again.    In the morning I went
to work in the quarry, and kept at it for ten days,,
taking all the dogs of the establishment to bed with
me at night, whereby I saved myself from rats, but
was troubled with fleas and an occasional fight over
my recumbent figure.
" My meals cost me a good deal during this time, so-.
when I left I only had about nine dols., upon which I
lived for nearly three weeks, still  staying in  Clay
Street, where I now had a bed, paying a dollar a.
week for it.
Scott by this time was working in a Turkish bathhouse, and was at any rate making a living.
I tried hard to get employment myself but without
avail, and gradually my small store of silver got less
and less as I went back into my old condition, even
though I nearly starved myself, exercising great self-
control in the matter of meals.     And in these days I IN SAN FRANCISCO
29
j
passed into the company of books, and in them found
the only true nepenthe. They were a refuge and a
consolation, for in them I sought strength for my
weakness, and renewed courage, and did not seek in
vain. They are indeed steadfast friends to the
afflicted, and wise counsellors to the wavering and
infirm, and but for them who can say what might
have been my lot ? If there are no fields of amaranth
beyond the grave, there is even asphodel on this
hither side, and in the company of the mighty men of
old we wander at last in a discoverable Eden, and by
the very borders of the fabled lakes of Elysium. For
the end of culture is a salvation of the soul from all
things foul and horrible, and the ghastly phantoms
born of despair, whether it be engendered of the
pestilential miasma of our lower humanity or the
Triendless desolation of utter misery.
I came down at last to no money at all, and
in desperation I sent home for the 100 dols.
which I had remitted to England in Kamloops.
Then I had at least forty days to get through.
Times were now terribly hard in San Francisco.
It was estimated that there were at least 20,000
men out of work, to say nothing of women and
children. Londoners have nowadays some faint
notion of the struggle for life among the poor of
London, and the unutterable miseries they suffer
during a bad winter, but they still think that America
is a paradise, and that there can be no want there,
1 294
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
especially in the Golden West. But they are much
mistaken.
I had to take again to sleeping on bare boards,
and I was much luckier than many others, who slept
in doorways, and on the piles of potatoes on the
wharf, and sometimes went to the police station
and got a bed there. Then there was a fearful
struggle for food. I used to sit in the lodging-house
room and hear men, whom I knew to be near starvation, telling each other of hotels and restaurants
where they would give men food, warning each other
not to go to others lest they should be given into
custody. I knew one man who lived for months by
going down to the iron-working places and machine
shops in Mission Street, and asking the men who
were lucky enough to have work to ^ive him what
was left when they finished their dinners. Another
lived on a friend who used to bring twice as much
as he could eat to work with him. '. Then some were
without food for two days at a time. For my own
part, Scott helped me considerably, and at last I
found out a charitable organisation from whom I
got much help, promising to repay them when I got
my money from England, and I did so. The secretary was a fine, kind old fellow, and used to get me
to clean the office windows, giving me a dollar for
two or three hours' work, finding me a job at gardening sometimes.
He knew I was an educated man, and, in spite of IN SAN FRANCISCO
295
my appearance and poverty, treated me as an equal-
Then at last I had quite a stroke of luck. I met in
Clay Street, one day, John Anderssen, the Swede
who had worked with me at the mill in New Westminster, and who had been with me on that terrible
winter's walk. He took me down to a schooner and
got me a job helping to discharge her. The work
was fearfully heavy, and I had to run all day long
dragging heavy planks ; but the pay was good—
four dols., or 16s. Sd.} for nine hours. It is one of the
hardest things a man can do, and there are thousands
of working men who are unable to do it. Yet I stuck
to it for a day and a half, when the work was done,
and made six dols. This was quite a windfall, and
I lived for two weeks on it, having a bed again, after
three weeks on bare boards. It was now the beginning of 1886. But I hoped to get my money from
England early in February, and then things would
be better. Meantime I spent my time in walking
round the city, with which I got thoroughly acquainted,
and in reading in the library. Scott I saw at frequent
intervals, and when I was in good spirits we used to
renew our old discussions about religion, and he used
to make me read the letters I wrote home, for he had a
great admiration for my epistolary style, and considered
me a complete letter-writer of a very high order.
Then at nights he used to take me off to some revival
meeting, which would be more comic to me than any
theatre, as the way such affairs were carried on was new -»ll Ifl-
»«^0&K&-mm In * *
296
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
to me, for I had never been to any before. I think
Scott had a dim hope in his mind that I should be
converted to active religion, but he was doomed to
disappointment, as my sense of humour was too great
for me to forget the rank absurdities of speech and
demeanour of these apostles. It surprised me, however, to see with what fluency even manifestly uneducated people could tell their experiences, until at
last I discovered that their method of talking, when
they got stuck, was to interject a stream of 'Praise
the. Lords' until they thought of something else,
finally attaining a rapidity of utterance in some cases
worthy of the main demi-god of the platform, round
whom would be sitting a circle of devout hysterical
girls.
During these weeks of comparative ease, owing to
my six dols., I never ceased trying to get work, but it
was no use, and finally I got so disgusted that I left off
trying, leaving things in the hands of Destiny. The
number of men in town seemed, if anything, to increase,
and the employment offices were fairly besieged by
applicants. Some poor fellows actually committed
suicide, and I saw more than one in the morgue who
would have been alive, I doubted not, if work had been
obtainable. I used sometimes to go to this morgue,
not, I think, out of morbid curiosity, but simply from
sheer ennui, when I felt incapable of reading. And
it had generally an occupant or two, for San Francisco
is fertile in violent deaths, and in five months I know IN SAN FRANCISCO
297
there were ten murders at least. Murders I call them,
though a corrupt bench and jury usually bring it in
anything but that, and acquit the guilty person if he
or she have sufficient money or influence.
In that same morgue I one night saw a woman
lying dead—a woman with a most beautiful, calm face,
splendid hair and delicate skin; a woman of a common
history and the old perpetual tragedy of our life and
society. Young and lovely, with a beautiful voice, she
left her husband's home, God knows by what drawn or
driven, and was for years an outcast in the streets of
San Francisco, and yet, in spite of disease and want
and drink, her fatal beauty remained with her scarcely
diminished, and the touch of sudden death purified her
and made her saintlike—to me at any rate, though I
doubt if the group of ghouls around her thought so,
though another wretched woman, her companion for
years in the polluting and polluted ways of that vile city,
^sat by and wept.bitterly with her face in her hands,
and her hair dishevelled like the locks of an Eastern
mourner.
For three months San Francisco was a city of sorrow
and despair to me, of laborious occupation or worse,
of none at all, of poverty, of starvation, of discomfort.
When   I   think  of those miserable nights  on  bare
ft
planks, in vile smell of tobacco, I shiver. It is a nightmare to think of myself standing outside in the dreary
street, with my equally unlucky companions, looking
up at the windows of the sitting-room, to which Jim I-* *-       n   _
1):
298
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
would only allow us to come when the lights were
removed, as sign that the rest had gone to bed. And
the uneasy sleep and the dreams of better things, and
the awakening to misery and starvation—it was bitter.
The walk in Oregon, bad as it was, and the Selkirk
trail are nothing, in my memory, to these most evil
days in that city, when it seemed little indeed that
kept me at times from the tables of the morgue. And
even when brighter days came at last, and my long-
expected money came from England, I could not help
seeing the misery of others, which was so patent to
me who had gone through it myself. In those days I
was an Anarchist, a very Nihilist and the sight of rich
prosperity filled me with fury, and a millionaire was a
loathsome object, a vampire, a bloodsucker. Even
now I shiver to think of the horror of that time, when
it seemed as if every avenue of hope was closed, and
black necessity drove me slowly backward to the
waters of suicide. It was at times vain to try to read; I
onlysaw my own history in the pages, and the headings
Misery and Starvation. It was vain to try to think of
things past when I was bound to the wheel of the
present, crushed and maimed. I had no patience, no
hope, no charity. I was tortured by the lack of all
human feelings in me. I was at times a brute and
carnivorous. Then I grew sad and melancholy, no
more savage and wild, and I sat clown by myself"
in silence, and would have wept for sheer misery and
utter loneliness had not my tears been dried up.    And IN SAN FRANCISCO
299
sometimes I gre,vjBalmost delirious, and came into a
new world, suffering from a calenture, viewing a mirage;
and my veins bounded, and I was strong and wise,
philosophic, calm and virtuous, and then cast down in
utter confusion, sweeping like a lost boat over a cataract
to the whirlpools of a lost soul. Yet at times I was
merry, and laughed and joked with my fellows about
our sufferings, and made light of them, and then went
out cursing. And all this for lack of work, for lack of
a little money, and because I had known other things,
and was, it may be, cultured, and in many ways gifted
beyond my poor brutish friends.
It was thus I learnt the misery of cities and the
perpetual warfare and bitter fight for life. I have no
need to go now to the slums of London in search
of a new sensation. I will keep away unless I can do
good there, for the sight of such misery would come
back to me with more than a hundred times the effect
it would have on even some delicate highborn lady,
who from motives of compassion and curiosity has
gone to the dreadful East-end in winter time. Do
these not look at the sufferings they see as if the
sufferers belonged to a lower, different race ? It may
not be so, but I fear it is too often.. But I know
I was even as these—starved, hopeless, miserable,
passionate, hating, and their sight and memory are
dreadful.
And how strange the contrast to me with a little
money !   New clothes, and a bath and plentiful meals. o
oo
THE   WESTERN AVERNUS
Lo 1 a new man, careless, laughing, and too forgetful.
The change was too sudden, and I changed too much,
and for a time became callous. I had suffered ; then
let others suffer. I had starved ; was I to help others,
that I might perhaps the sooner starve again ? Should I
not take some luxury, because others lacked necessary
things ? I grew selfish and went off reading, or I took
long walks to look at the sea breaking on the ocean
beach, or the bright bay, to see things while I was in
the humour for them. I thrust aside my past sufferings, and with them those of the rest. Yet this was
but a reaction, I think. I had been strained almost
to the breaking-point, and now I was let loose. I
had been played up so harshly that more than one
tuning was wanted to make me tolerable. I was
weary of seeing evil when all things seemed evil. I
was a passive Manichaean, on the whole on the side
of good, but a non-combatant. Then between Good
and Evil. There was no Good and Evil. It was
' thinking made it so.'    Perhaps it was that
' A little discord makes My music sweet,'
Saith God upon His throne ; ' so let men beat
Their painful breasts and moan.'
And my life ran in calmer channels as I sought
vaguely for work, knowing that it would ere long be
necessary, yet not striving earnestly for very lack of
power. I passed into the world of books, remaining
in the library for hours, and I read the' Meditations of
Marcus Antoninus' and Blake's' Poems of Innocence' IN SAN FRANCISO
\OL
once and again, understanding much, and, I am fain
to say, looking at some as a child might at Sanskrit
in the Devanagari character—as something occult,
mystic, hieroglyphic, and secret. In some other cities
I should have spent much of my leisure in picture
galleries—in Melbourne, for instance—but in this city
of outer barbarians there is no such thing, and little art
and few artists. Chromos and oleographs such as
one sees in London are infinitely ahead of much water
and oil painting in San Francisco ; and to look at the
many villanous daubs that hang there, even in good
shops, was extremely painful to me, who at any rate
had seen, and seen often, the best in London—Turner,
Danby, Gainsborough and Reynolds, and Rossetti's
marvellous morbid work, and all the old schools,
Italian and Venetian, and Lionardo da Vinci, and
had sat and dreamed vague dreams unexpressed anywhere or by anybody, except by Pater's words on
La Gioconda, and who had read Ruskin over and
over again. Then even etchings and engravings were
from old worn-out European plates, and were ghastly.
So I was forced back to Nature again, and yet went
willingly, and sat for hours on a rock on the ocean
beach and heard the sea thunder, and saw the white
foam lightning on the dark blue of the turbulent
waters, taking good care to turn my back to the cliffs
that soulless, enterprising Americans had placarded
with advertisements of champagnes and brandies
unknown  to  European   merchants,  such  as   Piper-
i *^IWj'.. . —
J
02
THE- WESTERN AVERNUS
II
Heidsieck. Or I went up Telegraph Hill, above the
bay, and saw the huge ferry boats running to Oakland,
Alameda, San Rafael or Saucelito with foam tracks
behind them, and the merchant ships lying at anchor
with delicate tracery of rope and spar against the
calm water, or the opposing hills, above which rose
the winter-crowned crest of Mount Diablo or Tamal-
pais, and heard the near current of humanity on the
wharves and the roar of traffic and handling of far-
brought merchandise.
At last it was undoubtedly time for me to be at
work, for living even in dreamland costs money, and
the veriest Buddha has to live on victuals and drink.
In the middle of April I received an offer of work
on a ranche in Lake County, to the north of San
Francisco, on the condition that I should engage
myself for a year. Having still some money left, I
declined to put myself in such fetters and shackles,
knowing that the very fact of its being impossible for
me to leave would inevitably make me anxious to do
it But in the beginning of May I began to feel very
anxious, for my hoarded dollars decreased one by
one. I went to a great bookseller's in town and undertook the work of a ' book agent.' I had to wander
round the city with a large sample atlas under my
arm, going into every place I thought might offer me
a chance to dispose of one, and suffered during some
days the misery of trying to induce a man who manifestly was not in need of my book to nevertheless buy it IN SAN FRANCISCO
3°3
The successful book agent is a man who can read
character, who is pliable, ready, quick-witted, and not
to be repulsed. He must have brains, but cheek, impudence, or what is often called 'gall ' in America, is
far more necessary, and it was most decidedly in this
that I was lacking. I sold a few and made 40 per
-cent, on my sales, but 80,or 100 per cent, would
not have compensated me for the shame and diffidence I experienced in entering house after house
for a whole day, with perhaps only one success to be
scored to me, and only too often I worked hard and
made nothing at all. Finally, after three days, which
were absolutely blank, I sold my sample copy at a
sacrifice, and renounced a business for which I was
•evidently unfit.
In the second week of May my luck began to
turn. I had come down at last to five dollars, then
four, three, two, one, and then I had none at all. I
was dead broke again, and without prospects. Up
to this time I had dwelt in a fool's paradise, and was
a kind of dreamy Micawber, but the rude shock of
finding myself again without cash awoke me like a
cold douche, and I set to work ' rustling' for a job.
And as it was spring there was some likelihood of
my being able to find it, even if I had to put my old
blankets on my back once more and go out into the
vast Californian country on speculation. But by a
happy chance this was spared me, and I was glad,
for it would have been most extremely bitter for me „..%.,..
WH»
304
7W£   WESTERN AVERNUS
to have made another tramp like my British Columbia
or Oregon journeys, perhaps in starvation and suffering,
once more.    I had met a certain English merchant in
San Francisco, a man of wealth and many ranches.
To him I applied for employment.    He could give-
me none, and sent me away disconsolate, but the day
after I received a message from him, and the next
morning found me on my way to Sonoma County,,
to work upon a vineyard and stock and grain ranche-
The wages were but small—20 dols. a month—and I
found the work sufficiently arduous, but I made up-
my mind to stay there in spite of everything until I
had enough money to take me back to England, for
after being out in the cold so long I desired to feel
the warm air of civilisation on my cheeks once more.
The situation of the ranche was beautiful.    At
the back of the farm buildings rose  a precipitous
mountain clothed on its lower slopes with fir and
birch and pine, while above the trees ran rocky peaks
that  shone  rosy red  in the summer's  setting sun.
Across the valley rose another chain of hills more
bare of timber, and the lands between us and this-
farther range were green with vines and golden with,
wheat and corn and barley.    From the higher peaks
of the mountain I saw the waters of San Francisco's
bay, and at times the haze and smoke of the city
itself, while nearer lay mapped out beneath me farm
after farm and vine plot after vine plot, verdant and
flourishing. IN SAN FRANCISCO
305
My work was very various, and required a man
who had some knowledge of many things, and certainly I think my experience had so far fitted me
for it. I was stableman for one thing, and in that
capacity sometimes had charge of as many as a dozen
horses. Then I harnessed and ' hitched up' all the
buggies and carriages, and had to keep them and the
harness clean. I was milkman, milking four cows,
taking charge of their calves and feeding them on
hay and grass, and occasional apples and pears in the
season. My spare time in the summer was devoted
to picking and drying apricots, plums, greengages,
magnum bonums, and peaches, and when the summer
still further advanced I had to see that our fifty
horses came up to water at the ranche, for the heat
dried up the pools and springs in the pastures. There
were 300 sheep, and these I looked after during
lambing and brought to water also. Half the day
I was on horseback, for the most part riding a black
Californian ' broncho,' who threwr me twice ' buck-
jumping,' and on the first occasion nearly killed me.
But before I had done with him I made him kind and
tractable, teaching him some school tricks, such as
backing and going sideways, and he learnt to follow
me when I went on foot.
My companions were for the most part Italians,
who swore most diabolical and blasphemous oaths,
but who were kind and pleasant, hard workers too
and  steady.     My particular partner was a Swede,
x i »•    i%k
306
THE   WESTERN A VERNUS
' Andy,' who was a sailor, and had been a passenger
on the ill-fated ' Atlantic,' and he and I got along
extremely well, sleeping in the same room, an apartment decorated with illustrations from the English
' Graphic ' and ' Illustrated.'
I stayed there through haymaking and harvest
and thrashing, until the vintage. There were 300
acres of vines—Mission, Zinfundel and Berger, and
many others—for it was the largest vineyard in Sonoma
Valley, and during this time I used to go down the
vineyard on horseback, carrying a rifle to shoot the
half-wild hogs who broke in to get the sweet, plentiful
grapes. And ere the end of the vintage I left. The
work was not in every way suited to me, and it grew
more and more irksome as my small stock of money
increased, for when I saw an avenue open for escape
to England and civilisation, converse with uneducated
men grew intolerable, and I longed for the society of
those whose interests were not merely bucolical and
pecuniary, whose talk was not of bullocks, • for how
can such get wisdom ?'
So at last I bade farewell to my companions, sang
' L'Addio' to my Italian friends, and went down to
San Francisco, and next day took the overland train
for New York. It was a glad release for me, that
swift flight overland, that triumphant progress through
the long sunburnt plains of Southern California, the
high plateaux of sweet-breath'd Arizona, the land of
the beautiful maiden, through New Mexico of cattle IN SAN FRANCISCO
307
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ceaseless currents to the island of my birth, and
England at last.
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