BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

A wide dominion Bindloss, Harold, 1866-1945 1899

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When are the "Ends of the Empire"? and
which are the OVer-Seas ? At " the Ends " of one
may arise the beginnings of other Empires to come.
It is notorious that wherever an English-speaking
community settles and opens up new lands, it speedily
speakj for itself as a Centre; and so rapid is the
growth of the great Colonies, that Ministers to-day
•writing despatches to Dependencies overseas, receive
their answers from nations to-morrow.
But great as is the growth of the Empire and the
enterprise of its peoples, the new native-born literatures
take years to germinate and generations to arrive.
'Thence comes it that often "we do not understand the
atmospheres of the new English-speaking peoples, and
often misunderstand the problems, the ambitions, the
attitudes, befitting them as new races. And "while
the British Empire grows richer daily in patriotic
fervours, in speeches, in splendour, in cant, and in
the oracular assurances of Statesmen, the English
people seeks to understand its cousins by the interchange of cablegrams, by debates, and by all the
ambiguities of official memoranda.
It is, however, the artist's "work to bring the people
of his nation and their atmosphere before the eyes of
another. It is the artist alone, great or small, "who,
by repealing and interpreting the life around him,
makes it lining to the rest of the "World. And the
artist is generally absent! In the case of the English
in India, ten years ago, "while the literature of
information "was plentiful, the artist was absent;
Mr. KJpling arrived and discovered modern India to 14S  WBR.C4RY."
the English imagination. And to-day, in the midst of
a general movement for Empire expansion, with talk
of Federation, Jingoism, and with the doing of real
work, the artists in literature are generally absent,
the artists who should repeal the tendencies, the
hidden strength and weakness, the capacities of the
new communities.
The aim of " The OVer-Seas Library " is purely
experimental. It proposes to print literature from
any quarter that deals with the atlual life of the
English outside England, whether of Colonial life or
the life of English emigrants, travellers, traders,
officers, over-seas, among foreign and native races,
black or white. Pictures of life in the American
States will not necessarily be excluded.
c' The OVer-Seas Library " makes no pretence at
Imperial drum-beating, or putting English before
Colonial opinion. It aims, instead, at getting the
atmosphere and outlook of the new peoples recorded,
if such is possible. It aims at being an Interchange
between all parts of the Empire without favour, an
Interchange of records of the life of the English-
speaking peoples, and of the Englishmen beyond seas,
however imperfetl, fragmentary and modest such
records or accounts may be.
The Editor will be glad to receive any MSS.
addressed to him, c/o the Publisher.
11, Paternoster 'Buildings,
London.  The . .
Library .
& 3Ll0t of tbe Series.
and beauty."Saturday Review.
" No lover of adventures will call the book
stoo'."-S>e?/a?or.a>   '
piece "Star.
- ■'$
111 rights reservec
IN  CARIBOU        ....
AS it was with their forbears in the old
days when the keels of the Northmen
first grounded on British sand, so there is
still hidden in the heart of the English race
a somewhat egotistical belief that their special
business is to subdue and set in order the
waste places of the earth. Weighed down
by this responsibility the Englishman abroad,
especially of the tourist species, occasionally
makes himself ridiculous by interference in
matters he does not understand, while downwards through the centuries Governor and
Statesman have made disastrous blunders whose
effects other centuries will be required to efface.
But in spite of failings the best of the
Anglo-Saxons have gone far with their task,
for now the rank and file at least are producers rather than plunderers, who cover
the great waste prairie with leagues of yellow Introduction
wheat,   or  with infinite,   patient labour
the  forests  away.     Few  of   these   hea
money  to   carry  back  with  them,   but
build   new   homes   in   the   wilderness,
tunnels, hew trails, lay railroads, and so
ready a wide land for those who come after
them. Thus it happens that as the mother
country grows overcrowded and, it may be,
overcivilised, when in the swarming, smoke-
blackened towns the many go badly fed, or,
crushed down by surroundings, sink into an
automaton resemblance to the machines they
tend, new lands across the ocean are waiting
where they may walk erect in clean sunlight,
win with healthful labour a sustenance out of
the kindly earth, and through their children
impart fresh vigour to the race. So the
strength of England overseas would seem to
be that in many of her colonies the poor may
gain all that man is entitled to by toil which,
if arduous, carries no degradation with it, and
instead of grinding down soul and body to
a mechanical sameness leaves the toiler an
independent individual with a responsibility of
his own. Introduction
Now the writer is quite aware that all this
has been set forth much better before, and
that in by-gone ages the Hebrew prophets pointed out to an arrogant nation that
the State grows rotten when scantiness falls
to the many and profusion to the few. Still,
having seen them engaged in it, he ventures to point out again the business of the
real colonists. Some take up the task because
the love of free air and space is born in
them, and others perhaps because through the
fevered restlessness which first impels them
they dimly recognise it is their mission. So,
in spite of rampant commercialism, and what
the author of "Alton Locke " calls the devil's
cry of getting on in the world, there are many
British—highly trained official and nameless
adventurer—who, though often blindly, suffer
manifold evils and occasionally perish for the
good of the race alone, all the way from the
deadly steam of the tropics to the snowfields
of the north, neither seeking nor receiving any
rich reward. And in various regions the writer
has watched these, the true Empire builders,
at their work, as well as the spurious kind—
J3 Introduction
the fortune-makers. The work of the latter
is mostly evil—cities whose sole industry is
mining-share gambling, where the vile of every
nation are gathered together, and half-naked
native harlots sit openly in the streets. These
are the modern prototypes of Sodom and
Gomorrah, as Judas Iscariot was, in the old
days, of the land-jobber; but one cannot fully
appreciate the genius of the latter without
having seen him swindle half a lifetime's
savings from some unfortunate settler.
So*with hesitation, and leaving the moral
of it henceforward to be dealt with by abler
hands, the writer would attempt to show how
the rank and file live and work in that
wide Dominion which stretches westwards from
Labrador to the blue Pacific, because having
dwelt a space with them he knows the conditions under which it is done. Also in threading
these few reminiscences together the personal
element is merely used to introduce the real
story of others, while the experience of any
three or four individuals is only of interest when
it is that of thousands more. Further, and with
due deference to better-known delineators, he
14 Introduction
would try to show that he found them neither
roving swashbucklers nor eccentric ruffians, but
a sturdy, sober, law-abiding people, engaged
in a grim struggle with natural difficulties.
They are also a loyal people, and, omitting
the habitants of Quebec, and the colonial-born
Scotchmen of Ontario who cleared the way
for them, essentially English, with a due
respect for all that is good in established
custom and tradition. As a result, in their
land one may search in vain for the vagaries
of a democracy run to seed and blind irreverence of everything which are too glaringly
prominent in certain other colonies.
Thus, in kindly memory of those who shared
with him the rain-soaked blanket, and gave
him freely of their last provisions ; of comrades
who went further than the rude apprenticeship,
and are even now hewing trails which will
presently grow into great roads through the
redwood forest; and of others whose work is
over and sleep undisturbed by the passing of
a white man's foot in the stillness of the bush,
he ventures to commence a halting narrative.
IT was a nipping day of spring when the
old Afghan hauled out from her wharf
at Liverpool, bound with emigrants to Canada.
A feathery jet of vapour roared aloft from her
escape-pipe, forming a blur of incandescent
whiteness against the blue above ; the winches
whirred their hardest, but their clanging was
lost in a clamour of voices. Every foot of the
long flush deck seemed packed with humanity,
piles of quaintly assorted baggage cumbered
the hatchways, and the crew stumbled helplessly through the mixed-up chaos.
The throng were men of many nations and
b 17
J The Overseas Library-
different modes of speech, but mostly the poor
and downtrodden, who, tired of a hopeless
struggle in the closely packed older world,
were going forth in search of a wider field
in the new. And gazing at them one could
not help the thought that the older countries
were driving out their best, for the virtue of
long endurance sometimes sinks into apathetic
slothfulness, and these were the bolder spirits
who, leaving all behind them, were ready to
venture into the unknown. They had answered
the first part of Hamlet's question with a resolute negative. Nor, although we looked for
it, could we see the cast-off and irreclaimable
section in evidence. Life in a new land means
labour, so the latter usually stay at home.
Of course there were many British, for it is
the destiny of part of the Anglo-Saxon race
to suffer many evils and too often perish
opening a way for future generations into the
waste places of the earth. These were chiefly
young lads who had not yet learned that life
is a serious business, and looked forward to
sport and adventure in the Dominion. We
stood by and watched them with mingled ap-
18 A Wide Dominion
proval and pity, for there is something in the
departure of an emigrant ship which curiously
stirs the heart. So they swarmed about us,
burly, tow-haired Prussians in black leather
jackets, also their hereditary enemies from the
channel shores of France, tall and sinewy
giants who spoke the Swedish tongue, and
men with swarthy, faces from the coasts of the
Exactly what brought two of the party there
was our own business, but we were bound out
with the others in search at least of experience
in the wider spaces of the West. Differing
from many, we had a shrewd suspicion we
would not find fortune there, and in due time
we got the experience. Tom had been plucked
for colour-blindness on his final examination
for a captain's certificate, and I with the wanderer's spirit found the cramped life at home
grew tame. This, of course, was lunacy, as
candid friends had said, but destiny is stronger
than environment, and I went out, as I partly
recognised, because I could not help it. Tom
had learned much at sea, and I a little in
erratic  ramblings   and   the   harder  kinds   of
M The Overseas Library-
sport, chiefly that connected with salt water,
and   possessing   some   aptitude   for   manual
labour   we  were   going,   so   we   trusted,   to
grow wheat upon the prairie.
Presently a vibrating boom of the whistle
rang overhead, the propeller began to throb,
and a storm of voices broke out along the
crowded deck. Others answered from the
pier, but that farewell had something of a sob.
There were smiles and tears from the women,
another greeting went back down the screw-
tossed wake, and the last link had been broken
between us and all we loved at home. I caught
sight of a little handkerchief waved apart from
the rest, raised my hat once more, and then
resolutely turned my eyes to sea. The old life I
was fading, and every stroke of the engines
carried us so much nearer the new. Also I
remember Tom said huskily, " Five years I I
fought my way in foreign-manned sailing ships,
five more in short-handed cargo tramps—and
then the Board of Trade took my bread away.
Well, there are other lands than England, and
perhaps better luck elsewhere. I wonder of all
this company how many will come back again?" A Wide Dominion
I understood what brought the tremor into
his voice, for though she had been as a stepmother to us we loved the old country, and we
knew it then. Still, it was a glorious afternoon, clear and keen and cold, a cloudless sky
above us and a turquoise sea below, and our
spirits rose as we watched the tall spars swaying
lazily across the blue. The love of the sea
was in us, as after much undergone upon it it is
in the writer still. So we rolled out past the
red-painted lightships which mark the devious
channel through leagues of fretted sand, out
into the glow of crimson that flamed in the
north and west, while when this faded a bright
flash trembled across the white-streaked tides
beneath the Calf of Man. There was little
sleep that night, and less order. The ship
resembled a babel, for men debated in diverse
tongues about their possessions, or fought for
coveted berths, at least among the emigrants
with whom we have to do. In spite of fantastic garments and unwashen faces these were
more interesting than the saloon passengers, for
they had not the mask of polish, and the real,
raw human nature was made clearly manifest. The Overseas Library
Early next morning we forged through the
Sound of Rathlin against the east-bound tide,
and the Afghan whirled the spray aloft as she
rolled in stately measure along the wild Irish
coast. Next she touched at Moville to embark
a further contingent of Donegal peasants, and
above the cracking of car-whips and the howls
of the Jehus there rang the old erse keen.
Then after the roar of the parting whistle she
turned her bows to the north, and trembling
to the engines' stroke lurched past the crags of
Malin out into the Atlantic. By this time the
passengers had partly settled down, and it was
just as well, for the old Afghan had two thousand tons of steel in her lower hold for the
Canadian Pacific track, so she reeled like a
pendulum with every lift of the sea, down from
one rail to the other with a vicious jerk which
tried the surest feet. Being naturally inquisitive, for which we suffered, we descended
when night came into the bottomless pit of the
steerage. Now matters are ordered better in
the regular passenger boats, but though that
was but a few years ago things were different,
and I remember it was blowing hard when we A Wide Dominion
gained the head of the ladder. A nauseous,
musky odour came up from below, and I shuddered a little, while Tom laughed softly.
' Nothing!" he said. " This is the fragrance
of Araby to what you'd find in a coloured
labour ship stewing under the line, with one
pint of condensed water to each man a day,
and cholera and dysentery let loose among
I afterwards learned his words were true,
but that was bad enough for the present, and
soon clutching a stanchion we stood on the
orlop deck, which sloped away beneath us
towards the vertical, just as a clattering
avalanche swept past. There were tin cups
and basins, bent plates and hoop-iron knives,
bundles, wooden boxes, an overturned child
or two, divers seasick Teutons, and a substratum of filth, and it all brought up together'
amid guttural profanity in the lower side. A
woman in draggled garments sat wedged in
with three children among some boxes, wailing
heart-rendingly. The tier of up-heaved berths
emptied part of their contents, human and
otherwise, and then we sprang for the second
23 The Overseas Library-
ladder before the ddbris rolled back. Down
on the deck below the smells were even worse.
A line of swinging-lamps diffused a sickly
glow, and here prone forms lay littered everywhere, while with heels braced against the
timber of berths like cattle-pens a group of
Norwegian fishermen were contentedly playing
some game of chance. Then amid dirt, confusion, and temporary despair, we found two
men who had served her Majesty upon the sea
engaged in a forlorn hope of instituting order..
One, as we afterwards learned, had not been a
petty officer; the other had, and we noticed the
instinct was still upon him, for he called his
companion "Sir."
Now three different sets of gutter-urchins
travelled in that ship, sent out by organised
charity to make a fresh start in a happier
country. Two were cared for, in some
degree, but the third was not, and we
found some fifty wretched lads whose food
and blankets had been stolen, huddled, half-
frightened, half-seasick, behind a partition.
Ex-leading-gunner Robson, or whatever his
rank   had    been,   was   busy   collecting    the
24 A Wide Dominion
clanging tins, and making attempts at intervals to restore the sickest to their berths.
"What is it you are blubbering for?" we
heard him say to one, and the answer was to
the point, " Nothink to eat all day, sir, an'
them foreigners took all my things away. But
please look at Charlie here ; he upset down the
ladder and split his forehead."
He had, for the next we turned to wore a
grimy, crusted handkerchief round his head.
His hair was clotted, and great smears of half-
dried crimson covered' his jacket. Then the
other naval officer used words which should
have cost him five shillings, for though he had
descended in the social scale he fulfilled one
requirement for that penalty. After this he
turned to us and said, " I don't know who you
are, and I haven't a card of my own, but if
you're willing to help me there is plenty you
can do. First we'll interview the'steward, and
then the doctor."
When we found him the former blustered,
but his interrogator had not lost the art of
commanding men, so he concluded apologetically,  " What can we do with this crowd,
25 The Overseas Library
sir, with our small complement? I daren't
wake the chief doctor for a steerage passenger,
and the assistant won't come here when he's
busy with rich women in the saloon."
Then our new friend broke out, " By the
Lord he shall, if I have to bring him by the
neck!" and presently we returned with the
overworked stripling who wore the crimson
braid. For half an hour we laboured, and
then having comforted the urchins somewhat,
climbed back on deck, the writer devoutly
thankful to be once more under the windy
vault of indigo and to breathe the clean freshness of the white-ridged ocean. That was but
the beginning of a continued friendship, and
when Mellard—the rank is omitted—passed
out of our lives he left behind him the memory
of a man with many weaknesses but a kindly
Two days later the strong breeze died, and
for several that followed, shouldering apart the
long undulations with a drowsy roar at the
bows and beating them into lines of white by
the thudding screw astern, the steamer lurched
on to the westwards, a tiny strip of blackness
26 A Wide Dominion
in the centre of a great azure circle, the dingy
trail from her funnel blurring the cerulean sea.
Also, at seven each morning, Mellard and
Robson marched their lads on deck, saw them
well sluiced with wholesome brine because other
water was scarce, and then with sand begged
from the bos'n made them scour their cups
and dishes into the likeness of burnished silver.
Afterwards they were marched to the steward's
pantry, where each received his due share,
while when breakfast was over berths and
floor were scrubbed down. So the little outcasts travelled in sweetness and comfort, and
grew ruddier with every day of the pure ocean
air, while Mellard, who had doubtless done
evil, did a good work then. Meanwhile, their
proper guardian, a clean-shaved, aesthetic curate,
displayed himself daily upon the saloon-deck,
where he probably found it his business to see
to the spiritual welfare of the young lady passengers, who—and he was a handsome man—
' clustered about him, and listened worshipping.
Still, there was reason in Tom's blunt summing, " Some day, if his own tale is true, when
that fellow's log is overhauled it won't be a gilt
27 The Overseas Library
halo he'll get as his reward;" but, as he added,
this was not our business.
It was about that time a serious disturbance
troubled the peace of the ship. Now the Briton,
as a matter of course, looks down upon all
foreigners, and most of the former nationality
considered it degrading to live with men who did
not know their speech. For this they had some
reason, because those of Southern extraction had
trying ideas on the subject of personal cleanliness. So one day the captain was summoned
in a hurry, and following in his wake we found
a very respectable battle going on in the orlop
deck. Amid howls in many languages men
strove to stab each other with doubled-up soft
knives, banged their enemies' faces with
dinged-in tin plates, or rolled over and over
among the trampling feet. Boots, basins, little
loaves saved from a previous meal, and other
sundries were hurtling in the air, and presently
we discovered that the British community were
trying to drive the others on to the deck below.
"Four hundred of them at it from all appearance !" said the skipper serenely. " They
usually get up a circus like this, and when it's
28 A Wide Dominion
over the damages are very few. That's one
reason why we insist upon the slop-shop knives.
I couldn't stop them with treble my crew, and
it's best to leave them to settle the matter
their own way. Once the weaker lot give in
we'll have quietness."
The matter was shortly settled, and the
skipper proved right, for by twos and threes
the dirtier portion of the emigrants were
dragged to the ladder and dropped through
with little ceremony on to the deck below,
while when the fray was over a party of
Britons and Scandinavians with blackened
eyes and dishevelled hair commenced quietly
straightening up.
Next we met the dismal fog which broods
almost eternally over the banks of Newfoundland, and with the whistle booming blundered
half-speed by the telegraph, but faster by the
screw, through the thick of the fishing fleet.
Each time the haze thinned a little there were
glimpses of swaying spars, while barque and
ketch and schooner plunging catheads under
at their anchors flitted endlessly by. Then
the whiteness closed down again, and as the
29 The Overseas Library-
streaming bows cleft the dim grey roll apart
the tinkle of bells answered the whistle's
warning. There were narrow shaves as a
matter of course, and collisions are not rare,
but the old Afghan came through safely and
met a snow-laden gale under Anticosti, while I
well remember the first clear sight of our new
country. It was a bitter morning, and yellow
sunshine fell coldly out of a frosty sky. Under
a heaven of cloudless blue the grim Laurentian
ridges rolled back snow-covered towards the
lonely North, while between the snow and
water were sombre streaks of pinewoods and
tin-roofed settlements. The bows were ribbed
with ice, frozen spray spangled the deck, and
the whole picture was cold and desolate.
" A hard country! " said one who had lived
on the prairie, "and you don't get luxuries.
Still, it's a real great country for the right kind
of man."
Towards evening, the snow came down
again, and as we groped our way past nests
of islands I sheltered behind a deck-house
listening to the talk of the British emigrants.
One speech was characteristic, and I give it A Wide Dominion
from memory. "Why did I come out?
Because I had a missis and three children
at home. I'm a strong man now, I am, but
I won't be very long, and then it's the big
doors of the Union I'm feared of for the missis
an' me. How can you save with a family on
fourteen shillin' a week! But I left her a little,
and they thins turnips and harvests. I'm goin'
to team it this season, they say the wages is
good, an' then if all goes well I'll take up free
land an' bring them out next spring."
There was his whole story in a nutshell, and
this was a sturdy ploughman of sober, quiet
speech, so I wished him God-speed, though I
did not say it.
I also regret to record that the last night
our little party ever spent together was celebrated by a carnival in the room where four
of us lived in harmony and picturesque disorder. Some one played a banjo until the
others broke it, and when the musician retaliated and riot commenced I wisely went
on deck, where I presently saved from a
watery grave the scion of a once famous
family.     As   it  was afterwards  explained,   a The Overseas Library
genius had been feeding him with whiskey
through a pipe, and he pointed out that
tobacco taken in that way strangely affected his
head. To judge from what happened after, that
rescue was, humanly speaking, mistaken charity,
for one household in the Dominion holds a bitter
score against him. Next morning, sliding out
of grey mist the Afghan breasted through the
slushy ice, and made fast under the ramparts
of historic Quebec, the first steamer to enter
the St. Lawrence that season. Then a bidding
of farewells followed a wild scramble for luggage, and with a last regretful look at the
steamer we went clanking through Quebec in
the big emigrant train into a region where
everything was new. CHAPTER II
IT was three days, I think, to Winnipeg,
in the long colonist train, and though I
have travelled the road since, that journey left
the sharpest impressions. For a time the big
cars rolled smoothly through Southern Ontario,
which was long a forest wilderness and is
now the garden of Canada. The grim North
Britons who made it so have gone back to
the dust, but, as with all work well done, their
deeds live after them. Like the first Hebrew
leader they fought a weary battle without seeing
the victory, hewing down the conifers and
sowing the sickly oats that withered off among
the rotting stumps, and dying poor left their
children to reap the harvest. The Frenchman
had been there before them trafficking in furs,
and left the land as he found it, a desolation, The Overseas Library
but they came of a colonist race, and to-day fair
cities stand upon their graves.
So we swept past snug homesteads and
many orchards, now frost-bound and naked,
but soon to be rolled in the pink-flushed sheen
of apple blossom, fields of furrowed loam, and
broad pastures, while save for the split-rail
fences, and the big bell clanging through the
streets of some wooden town, one might have
been translated into the Scottish lowlands.
Then up past Sudbury into the wilderness,
rattling under rock-scarred hills, and pounding
through pine forests, over trestle-bridges, and
past the boulders of lonely lakes, through the
region Wolseley traversed when he crushed
the half-breeds' rebellion, while here and there,
not yet rotten, we saw the bateaux he had
built. Then, by many a tiny settlement,
shingle-roofed and built of wood, we lurched
along the Superior shore, the wide, blue lake
beneath us with its thin fringe of crackling ice,
walls of red granite above the bouncing cars,
and a savage region of stunted pine and bare
rock ridge rolling north beyond. • Also we
dimly recognised what the men had done who, A Wide  Dominion
spanning river and muskeg, or blasting a pathway through the heart of glacier-ribbed ranges,
drove that swift steel highway three thousand
miles from sea to sea across the Dominion,
binding the older worlds together by the
hands of the new.
It was by one of the many branches of the
Lake of the Woods, I think, on the Manitoban
border, that a certain episode happened which
we had afterwards cause to remember. We
lounged on the platform of a colonist car, a
misty, forest-filled valley, hemmed in by overhanging crags, opening up on the one hand
under faint moonlight, and on the other a dim
expanse of water, while the resinous fragrance
of the conifers mingled with the odour of creosote which reeks along each Canadian track.
Angry voices broke out in the car behind, and
Tom, who loved excitement, shoved me in
through the door. Now the arrangement of
a colonist car is this. At the one end is a
small compartment, with a door invariably open,
for smoking. Beyond, and on either side of
the central alleyway, are transverse benches
with a sliding board between them to  sleep The Overseas Library
upon, beside hinged shelves which may be
drawn down from the roof above. You may
purchase little curtains to screen them off, and
then spreading a blanket, get what sleep you
can, if the hard, polished maple does not find
out too many soft places.
A couple of gaudy nickelled lamps were
swinging erratically, and under the uncertain
light Mellard stood with a bottle in his hand,
insisting upon the company drinking some
loyal toast, for he seemed to labour under the
impression it was her Majesty's birthday.
Another, who said he had been a journalist
of Cork, steadfastly resisted, and when Mellard
reproached him for his lack of loyalty, reached
out and smote him suddenly in the eye, while
two inebriated citizens of the greatest republic
encouraged him to " Sail in, and break up the
Britisher." Mellard retaliated, and things
began to look ugly, for the odds were three
to one. A rush was made upon our injudicious
friend, and when we interposed it became
clearly evident that here below at least the
peacemaker is not always blessed, for that
bottle got home with violence upon my fore-
36 A Wide Dominion
head. Then for a few moments confusion
followed, until a brakesman restored order by
the aid of an iron bar, and Mellard was hustled
for safety into another car with his garments
rent half-way to the neck.
Meantime, a fragile English girl of refined
appearance shrank back in a corner of the
noisy car, fear mingled with the disgust on
her face, which the husband who strove to
comfort her could not quite allay. He was
also an acquaintance, and when the turmoil
was over, and wiping the dust of battle from
our heated faces we went out on the platform,
he presently joined us.
"I'm afraid your wife was frightened. This
is no place for her. What made you bring her
here ?" said Tom in his offhand way, and
perhaps because of a certain kindliness which
softened their bluntness he could ask any question without incurring resentment. I glanced
at the other, who hesitated before he answered.
He was a thin, pale-faced man, stamped with
the mark of intelligence, and, it seemed to me,
inherited disease, while we had already noticed
his hollow cough at times.
37 The Overseas Library
Then he said slowly to Tom, " You have been
good to me, and I don't mind telling you.   I was
assistant clerk to the municipality,until they
had to make room for a councillor's nephew.
Very hard on me, but a usual thing, you know.
I couldn't find another berth, and Flora and I
were to have been married before the trouble
came. Poor Flora! she was unhappy at home,
and we determined to face the worst together.
So we sailed the day after the wedding, and all
my little savings are invested in a stock ranch
owned by a man I knew north of Calgary.
They say it's a healthy country, and we're
neither very strong, you see."
I could make no fitting answer, and dare not
express pity, for it seemed a hopeless case ;
but when he went away, Tom said savagely,
I Doesn't it seem an infernal shame. A well-
taught, winsome girl! and the life will probably
kill him in six months—he's evidently gone in the
lungs—then God help the poor woman! What
can a girl like that do in a rough country ? "
We met the pair later under other circumstances, and once it seemed as if the prediction
would be justified.
38 A Wide Dominion
But the trans-continental journey has been
fully written about, and it is not the writer's
intention to compile a railway guide. It was
a weary combination of harassing vibration
and a monotonous throb of whirring wheels,
stuffy heat from the stove alternate with
icy draughts, flitting pine-trees, and boys
peddling "oanges" at so many cents apiece.
Still, one would ask the question, why do the
conductors prowl through the cars all night
rousing one from restless slumber with an
eternal demand for tickets, so that the worn-
out pin the long sheet of paper to the front of
their berths, and occasionally find it stolen
when they awake. Then the woods were
left behind and we ran out upon a level waste
seamed with stunted willow groves and mostly
flooded. It was springtime on the prairie, so
the natives assured us, and we took their word
for it, although from appearances the fact
seemed doubtful. Snow beat against the
windows and the flat stretch was streaked
with white, while the eye fell everywhere upon
sheets of water. Ice still dammed the creeks,
and, deprived of their proper channel, the
currents spread over the land. 39 -—
The Overseas Library
At last, and devoutly thankful, we stood in
Winnipeg station waiting for the train to pull
out on the final stage of our journey. For some
hours we had wandered through the square-laid,
Keystone city, handsome in spite of its curious
mixture of stone and wood, which, standing
half-way between sea and sea, may some day
rival Chicago. There was a roar of steam from
the big locomotive, and an exchange of farewells
—for this was a last parting of many friends—
and with the big bell breaking through the shouts
of " Good luck! " we rolled on west again. I
recollect that night well, for it was bitterly cold,
and our new skin coats crackled distressfully as
we huddled in the corner of a second-class car.
Hail rattled on the glass, and icy draughts
swept through, while a commercial drummer
kept dinning into my drowsy ears the assurance
that this was a great country. Tom, because
it was forbidden, insisted on smoking, and I
remember he once emptied the hot ashes playfully down a companion's neck, who suddenly
woke with fury, when the other said, "It was
only meant in kindness, for if you sleep doubled-
up like that, you'll go off in a fit."
X. A Wide Dominion
At last my eyelids closed, and I must have
lapsed into slumber, for I seemed to be walking
in warm sunlight on an English lawn, though
some one persistently pointed out what a high-
class region this was for a real live young man.
Then I was wakened with a jerk to a sense
of loneliness, and blinking under the curtain
shuddered at the snow-clogged prairie, while
the hoot of the whistle rang overhead and there
was a grinding of brakes.
" Moosomin," said the drummer, "and a
smart place it is—one of the smartest on all
the prairie. What do you think of it, stranger?
If you only knew it, you are a lucky man.
You haven't got rising towns like this in your
hide-bound country."
Tom, who followed my example, doubtless
saw the black loom of three gaunt elevators,
with a cluster of low buildings behind them
against a cloud-banked sky, and his answer
was emphatic, "Since you've asked the question, I'll answer frankly. An unmitigated dog-
hole ; and if this is one of the smartest, what
on earth are the others like ? "
There was  a  yell of " Moos-oomin!"  the
4i The Overseas Library
throb of wheels grew still, and leaving the
drummer staring in pitying surprise, we dropped
shivering on to the uneven track. Some one
flourished a lantern, and we stumbled through
the snow to the baggage car, where a drowsy
official asked questions about the number of
our check. Then he said, "Stand clear," and
three boxes came flying through the air to roll
down some feet of incline from the graded track.
The bell commenced again, the long train
rolled away, and we were left standing desolate
among the snowdrifts of a strange country.
"Well, I'll be hanged!" Tom said, though
I am not sure the word was hanged, " and this
is one of the pleasant ways of their great
country. It's my humble opinion they're only
half-civilised. However, we can't stay here
and freeze for ever."
I remember struggling with a weight of disgust and loneliness while I stared at the single
black patch of building and beyond it the reach
of dim prairie. There was a young English
lad with us, and with difficulty we dragged the
heavy boxes into the station, where Tom beat
savagely on the door of a lighted room.    Now A Wide Dominion
we had already learned that the Western railroad hand is in no way characterised by slavish
servility, so we were not surprised at what followed. A man flung the door open, scowled
at us, and said, " Shove them right in here,
and be quick about it." After this, he superciliously watched us drag the baggage in, and
banged the door in our faces.
Tom bestowed a hearty kick upon it, and,
his patience breaking down, challenged the
official to come out and be taught civility.
But either because he was sleepy, or that
civility had no value in that region, the official
did not come, and Tom said wrathfully, "Well,
we had better look for food and rest. I suppose
there is some kind of hotel in the place."
Floundering through two feet of slush in
what probably claimed to be a street, we found
a rickety edifice which bore a legend describing it as the " Tecumesh" something, and
here again we pounded on the door. After
some ten minutes a window was thrown up,
and an angry voice demanded with many
adjectives what we wanted.
1 Some breakfast," Tom answered fiercely,
43 The Overseas Library
and the voice recommended us to seek it in the
bottomless pit, after which the window came
crashing down.
" A nice people!" Tom said, "and they seem
quite proud of themselves. Anyway, we can't
. stay here starving, and with the help of the
chart Charlie sent we'll manage to find his place
by the compass. Failing that, we can bring up
at Caesar's ; he said it was more than half-way."
So, cold and hungry and worn out, we prepared for a march which might be thirty miles,
while Caesar's was twenty, for our resident
partner, in case he was too busy to meet us,
had sent a rough sketch showing the trail.
It was a heardess undertaking, and the grim,
cold welcome was curiously trying, but as Tom
said we did not expect luxuries, so we were not
disappointed. The very young Englishman,
however, seemed utterly cast down. He had
come out with a brand-new rifle and romantic
ideas of following wild cattle upon fiery mustangs, slaying scores of timber wolves, and
other heroic things, and now the hard reality
was too much for him. Perhaps Tom remembered the black-robed woman who had placed
44 A Wide Dominion
her son in his care, for he laid his hand kindly
on the lad's arm as he said, " Take heart, it's
only the beginning, and all beginnings are bad.
You said you wanted to go to sea, and you can
take my word for it the sea is very much worse
than this."
For perhaps two hours we plodded across a
wide waste of grass, clogged with snow in the
hollows, withered and harsh above, and a
bitter wind lashed our faces with the intermittent flakes. Then the snow ceased and an
angry flush of crimson broke through sombre
clouds in the east, while as the light grew
brighter we saw in all its nakedness and lonely
grandeur the breadth of prairie. Round the
four points of the compass ran the swelling
levels, as it were an endless succession of
frozen waves, while here and there birch copses
rose up like islands. Spring was unusually
late that year, and as we shortly heard just
a night or two before a blizzard had swept
the white waste, in which six persons perished.
But the story of how hungry and aching
we plodded south across a circle that ever
crept   onwards  with  us   might   grow  mono-
45 The Overseas Library
tonous, and sometime before noonday a
moving speck in the distance grew nearer and
larger until it resolved itself into a waggon
and team. The driver, who resembled a polar
bear in his coat of skins, asked few questions,
for the prairie settlers are a very kindly race.
So, though it meant a ddtour of many miles to
him, he at once offered to take us to our new
possessions. Then cloud and grass and birch
cppse flitted swiftly by, while lying upon a sack
of grain I watched them languidly out of half-
closed eyes, until at last I sat upright, partly
awake, for we had arrived.
Against a ridge of birches stood a tiny frame-
house, the straw-pile granary behind it resembling a mountain of hard-packed snow. A
broad stretch of knee-high stubble ran all
about it, and this is the general aspect of a
prairie home. Then the recollections grow
hazy, for I was almost asleep, and I only
remember vaguely answering questions and
swallowing a little food, after which I forgot
everything on a couch of furs above a substratum of prairie hay whose fragrance is that
of thyme and peppermint. CHAPTER III
THERE are people who write newspaper
articles, and occasionally pamphlets,
with the laudable object of showing how easy
it is for an industrious man to enter the prairie
with nothing but good intentions and build up
a competence by settling on Government land,
though it is sometimes added—perhaps through
fear of a hereafter—that £100 capital is an
advantage. Also there are settlers who cheerfully testify how they came in with empty
hands, and to-day, after a few years' pleasant
experience, possess extensive wheat-lands and
many head of stock. Now the writer has a
great regard for this hardworking and generally truthful race, so, after learning the history
of some and how they did it, he would only
ask the question, "Why do they say such
things?"    Had it  been any other class who
J The Overseas Library
made the statements he could hardly have
avoided the conclusion that they were lying
deliberately. Of course, men have worked up
from nothing to a state of moderate wealth, but
where one succeeds hundreds fail, and at the
best of times it is a very trying process. The
successes are quoted everywhere, but the
failures no one hears about.
In our own case we paid the equivalent
of ^30 sterling yearly for the 320-acre farm
partly " broken," had bought implements, oxen,
and horses which considerably exceeded that
;£ioo, and when we totalled up preliminary
expenses the result was appalling. Still,
shirking the question what would happen if we
lost that crop, we set to work in earnest at
the spring ploughing. As Tom said, " We are
either going to get rich, or be cleaned out
The first operation was to burn the stubble
off, for straw being unsaleable in the North-
West, but little is cut with the ears. So
the flinty, yellow stalks stood knee-deep upon
our possessions, until one day of bright sunshine when a rush of scented breeze swept the
48 A Wide Dominion
prairie we laid bundles of oiled papers along
the windward side. A box of sulphur matches
did the rest, and when the broad wave of
crimson had licked up the last of it we were
ready to begin. With the help of the resident
-partner we led the three teams, two half-broken
horses and four oxen, forth. Charlie, the
former, had been when I last saw him an
awkward, bashful youth in an office at home.
Now four years' hard work in the Dominion
had transformed him into a handsome, resolute
man, and instead of adding coarseness had
indued him with a curious refinement.
I can still recall the tall, sinewy figure in
long boots and blue canvas overalls, standing
beside the oxen with a smile on the snow-
bronzed face, while his bearing was rather
that of a cavalry officer than a field plodder.
It was a revelation, and testified plainly
what a new country could do. Nevertheless,
his instructions were not explicit: " We've no
time to be particular, and the great thing is
to turn the clod over, so start right in, and
see what you can do."
Amid a few blue-water expletives from Tom
D 49 The Overseas Library
we somehow hung the harness about the oxen ;
then I gripped my plough-stilts, and for the
first time drove the steel-tipped share into the
black alluvium left by some post-glacial deluge
thousands of years ago. I had once or twice
handled a plough at home, but it was harassing
work, because the ways of oxen are devious and
hard to understand. Buck and Bright seemed
always tired, and on the first excuse would
lie down peacefully, while the former insisted
on rubbing his shoulder against his comrade,
with the result that he edged him sideways
over half the ploughing. Tom's beasts did
likewise, and being of inventive turn of mind,
he spent one night knocking wire nails through
two boards, which we afterwards hung about
the rubbed ones' necks. This was not, however, a great success, for Buck seemed to like
it, and next day I could not keep my team
straight at all, so we took counsel together,
and with several hours' misspent labour filed
every nail-point sharp as a needle. The result
of this was disaster, for the first time Buck
rubbed himself he flung his heels in the air,
lowered his head with a bellow, and followed
50 A Wide Dominion
by Bright plunged off with the upset plough
across the prairie, until fouling themselves in the
traces the two came down together in a mixed-
up, kicking heap. When we had disentangled
them the senior partner, waxing sarcastic, said,
I This may be interesting, as a pastime, you
know, but it isn't helping us to get in the
wheat, and if you break those beasts' legs it's
a hundred dollars gone out of our capital."
In order to gather the harvest before the
autumn frost it is necessary to commence
ploughing as soon as the surface is soft, with
the result that every here and there the share
brings up with violence on a still frozen lump.
Oxen and horses learn this by painful experience, and a good beast knows just when to
stop to save the vicious jerk upon his collar.
Ours did not, however, so each time the
traction increased they halted, and it took
minutes to persuade them there was no frost-
bind ahead. At this Tom lost his patience
completely, because as he said, " A deck hand
is hard to drive, but it takes all the dignity out
of a man to stand half the morning arguing
with an ox."    Also at the expiration of each The Overseas Library
noonday rest they waded deep into a miry
sloo where the melted snow formed a miniature
lake, and neither clods nor endearments might
induce them to come out, until I followed with
a pikel and wet myself to the waist. But in
spite of difficulties the ploughing went on, and
furrows more or less serpentine covered part
of our holding. Then the harrows were run
through it, and we had assistance with the
sowing, while it was characteristic of a kindly
people that our neighbour Jasper, when asked
by older friends to lend them his seeder, said,
"No, you can sow well enough by hand. The
new men yonder can't, so I'm going to send
the seeder and best team to them."
All this time we rose at 5 a.m., fresh,
contented, and vigorous, to labour until the
long northern twilight faded into dusk, and
often after when there was any moon, and
it became apparent that a healthy man can
out-tire a beast. An unbroken sweep of azure
hung ever above us, flooded with yellow
sunlight or strewn by lambent stars. Every
breeze stirred the pulses, and our rusty bacon,
molasses, and flapjacks might have been deli-
H A Wide Dominion
cacies, while, there being no time for cleaning,
we lived among the stove-baked clods and
several inches of dust. Meantime a flush
of greenness crept over the white prairie,
the crackling grasses grew tender, and were
chequered by mosaics of flowers. Then when
the last bushel of seed-wheat had been buried
in the loam, there was virgin sod to be
I braken " and hay to cut for the winter, and
this was not an easy matter. The natural
grass on the levels is far too short to be worth
cutting, so one must gather it in the swampy
sloos where it grows waist-high, and thus
the hay-harvest is collected from anywhere in
a radius of four or five miles. Further, sawn
lumber on part of the prairie is worth its
weight in silver; birch logs fit for building
are particularly scarce, and thus for lack of
shelter implements are mostly kept just where
they last were used. It took a day to find
the rusty mower half-buried in a sloo, another
one hammering and oiling, and then the work
began, and each night we walked home under
the moonlight beside a load of wiry grass
scented like a nosegay with wild peppermint.
53 The Overseas Library
And so we laboured, growing harder and
stronger every day, though now and then
the thought would rise whether that cold-green
rising wheat would return us many dollars or
be blighted by the frost. Next we cleaned
out miry wells, tried to thin down the gophers,
drove ten miles to a birch bluff for fuel, and
did the myriad " chores" which occupy a
setder's leisure. Idleness is an unknown
quality upon the prairie, so much so that the
writer once engaging to do certain farm work
was told that while he rested at dinnertime the last man carried water for the cattle.
Thus summer burned on in shortlived heat,
the green flush on the prairie faded into white
again, and thirsty mosquitoes came forth in
their millions. Therefore we worked anointed
with rankest kerosene, while when Tom had
almost lost the sight of his eyes he enveloped
head and shoulders in a meat-safe kind of net.
But one incident broke through the even
tenor, and as this was typical its relation may
not be out of place.
Ingram, of Ingram's bluff, came up out of
Ontario a good  many  years  ago,   a worthy
54 A Wide Dominion
descendant of his rugged forbears. He had
gathered together unto himself lands and cattle,
but prosperity had not changed his nature,
which was of the hard and stiffnecked kind.
Now for the good of this region where
prairie-fires are prevalent, a wise regulation
has been drafted which requires every settler
to plough parallel furrows about his holding
which will generally turn a fire aside. But
because the law said, "Thou shalt plough
fireguards so many furrows broad," Ingram
declared he would not, and commented freely
upon the mental infirmity of the men who
framed that regulation. There are others like
him, and if the authorities had known them
better they would have made it penal to turn
these furrows, because in a free country men
occasionally find strange delight in doing the
opposite of what they are told.. Once I remember a hotel-keeper alluding to a certain
prohibition act much as follows : " Ruin us! no
sir, no ruin at all—it works out just like this.
I'll sell as much, contraband, at a dollar as I
did for twenty-five cents on the square, and
they'll  plank  it down willingly for the satis-
55 r
The Overseas Library
faction of beating the law." So Ingram sinned
with cheerfulness and deliberate intent, and
he nearly suffered for his folly.
One night we drove in a box-waggon across
the prairie, for Driscoll, our neighbour ten miles
away, having sold his cattle well, was giving a
feast to celebrate his victory over the unscrupulous dealers. It was a clear, cool night, with
a breeze one drank in like wine waking low
music from the rippling grass, and save for this
the beat of unshod hoofs rang monotonously
through a great silence. We were none of us
given to sentiment, but something in the great
arch of ether overhead and the vast dusky plain
below held us still with a sense of infinite
majesty. Even Tom felt this, for he said,
" Reminds me of the breathless nights we lay
rolling under the line—what is it in sea and
prairie that makes you think at times what you
can't put into words? Charlie, stop that pipe
squeaking, it jars on the fitness of things."
Charlie laughed half aloud as he filled
it again, and shook the reins a little as
we breasted up a slope. Then we gained
a higher   level,   perhaps   a   beach   of  some
56 A Wide Dominion
prehistoric sea, and could see the great sweep
of neutral and purple extending until it melted
into indigo along the horizon. This was round
three sides. On the fourth a rolling dinginess
blotted out the stars, and below lines and blurs
of crimson came creeping out of the smoke.
I Several fires coming down-wind," said
Charlie sententiously. "You can smell the
burning already. Never saw them brighter,
and I wonder how many obstinate fools are
going to be burnt out to-night."
Now except in thrilling narratives, and just
when a gale is blowing where the sloo grass
is high, a prairie fire is rarely dangerous to the
traveller who, when he sees it coming, has
sufficient sense to go another way. It travels
with a kind of impressive regularity, and
when he perceives where its path lies, on the
principle of not disputing with a rattlesnake
the ownership of its hole, the wise man turns
aside. So Charlie, as Tom said, altered the
course a point or two, and we held on unheeding until a rapid beat of hoofs came out
of the dinginess. It grew rapidly nearer and
louder, until a man leaning forward over the
57 The Overseas Library
neck of a lathering horse flashed past us like
a whirlwind. Charlie hailed him sharply, and
we caught the breathless words he flung over
his shoulder: "Fire heading for Ingram's—
blanked fool Ingram won't plough fireguards.
Driscoll's party's coming; I'm leading the way."
Whatever may be the settlers' faults they
stand by one another in times of adversity,
lending a poorer neighbour seed-wheat or
implements, and gladly sharing what they have
with the less fortunate. So much so that it is
said a few close-handed persons have risen
to affluence by purchasing nothing of their
own. This the writer would plainly testify in
memory of their kindnesses to him, although
he cannot say as much for the inhabitants of
the cities. Thus without a comment Charlie
pulled round his horses, and as the half-broken
bronchos quickened their stride, we heard a
clamour following behind. Louder and louder
it grew until, and because our team's strongest
point was trying to kick the front of the
waggon in, a mixed-up mass of rigs ranged
level with us. There were spider-wheeled
sulkies, light box-waggons, four splendid horses
58 A Wide Dominion
stretching out at headlong gallop before a
larger one carrying a gang-plough, and one
burly figure on horseback leading them in their
flight. For a time our little bronchos held
their place, and we swept on neck and neck
through the dewy darkness, the cool wind
lashing our faces and the clods whirling up
Clinging to the edge of the waggon I held
on for dear life, the light frame bouncing and
groaning under me, while Charlie's form
swayed to and fro upon the driving-seat.
With a thunder of hoofs and a whirr of wheels
we rushed at a sloo, and crackling harshly
the tall grass went down under the pounding
feet, while behind four galloping horses the
waggon with the gang-plough was hustled
down the hollow like a field-gun going into
action. Then some one shouted, " Rah, we're
going to do it yet. There's Ingram's straight
ahead, and the fire's not past the bluff," and
again Charlie yelled words of wild encouragement to the little horses; but how we reached
Ingram's and fought the fire there demands
space in another chapter.
PRESENTLY a birch bluff loomed up
ahead, a mass of ebony foliage outlined
against crimson, for the fire was also hurrying
towards Ingram's somewhere not far behind.
Now upon the prairies a bluff is generally no kind
of head or hill, only a straggling wood of wind-
dwarfed birches, and that mass of interlacing
branches looked horribly dangerous. But the
western settlers travel by compass, straight
across deep-sunk ravines or through the scattered woods, and now in time of urgent need they
were not going round. So amid a smashing of
branches yells of warning rang out ahead, and
I saw the gang-plough waggon hurled headlong
at the wood, and held on the tighter knowing I
should witness an exhibition of reckless horsemanship. A branch slashed me across the
forehead, brushing away my hat, the waggon
60 A Wide Dominion
tilted half-upright as two wheels left the
ground, and I could just see the horses as they
plunged through matted leaves. Then there
came a shock which set every bone in my body
quivering. Still Charlie sat bolt upright with a
steady grip on the reins, and his wild whoops to
the horses rang out above the din.
Somehow we came out safely, and saw much
nearer than we liked a broad crimson crescent,
perhaps eight hundred yards from wing to wing,
rolling leisurely but irresistibly along, licking
up the prairie grass under a cloud of sparks.
The pace further increased, though that seemed
impossible, for it was above all things desirable we should reach the threatened homestead
well before the fire arrived, and disregarding
the risk of badger-holes we thundered on in a
mad race across the dim prairie. At last, shaken
half to pieces, I flung myself thankfully to
earth among the rearguard of the salvors, but
where Tom and Charlie went to I never knew,
for the waggon was swallowed in a chaos of
shouting men and plunging beasts. Still
through it all I could hear big Driscoll's voice,
as with flung-out hands he gave his orders.
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Next, being willing to help at anything, I
found myself holding the heads of a struggling
team, while a man I did not know was busy in
an apparently hopeless attempt to harness them
to a plough. At intervals he reviled me for
unhandiness, until it seemed he should have
finished when I struck the nearest horse and we
started suddenly on a fierce race with destruction. The matter was easy, to understand that
is to say, though somewhat difficult of execution.
If we could plough so many furrows across its
pathway the fresh mould might turn the fire
aside. If not Ingram's homestead would
assuredly go up in smoke, and that roaring
line of fire appeared ominously near. But the
prairie sod crackled under the biting share, and
I strove to check the horses from bolting incontinently into the tall wheat, until it was time to
swing the plough at the end of the furrow. We
did it with difficulty, holding our own place
stubbornly among the followers, for the team
was badly frightened, though not before one of
them had fouled himself in the traces, and I was
further encouraged by scathing comments on
my general ability.   Then I glanced up to wind-
62 A Wide Dominion
ward, and saw a rolling red wave, now rising
now falling, move down towards us. The
horses saw it also, for they strove to stand
. upright, and performed other trying feats of
equine gymnastics. But, twice lifted from my
feet, and once kicked badly, I held on, and was.
rewarded by hearing my companion's gasping
opinion about the blanked stupidity of a raw
Before we had turned half that furrow wreaths
of hot smoke blew in our faces, and how I kept
the horses to their task I do not exactly know.
There were also better teams doing similar
work, and presently with a cracking of whips,
breathless shouts, and horses hitched on anywhere a clevis would hang, the gang-plough
came up and passed. I could hear the hoofs
tear up the virgin sod, and the matted roots
parting under the parallel shares, while the
black clods swirling off from the mould-
boards curled over behind it like the wash
of a steamer's propeller. Single teams also
met us working the opposite way, and then the
matter ended so far as we were concerned, for
a  rush   of   hot  air  scorched  our   faces,   and
' '
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folds of acrid smoke blotted out everything.
Thereupon the team went mad altogether, and
I was left sitting stamped upon and choking in
the smoke, while with upset plough and its
holder trailing behind together they vanished
completely. I did not know what became of
him, though I could hear gulps of vivid language rise from somewhere among the wheat,
and did not very much care, for whatever were
his virtues he possessed a wicked tongue.
When at last I limped shakily to the end of
the furrow I saw scared horses bolting across
the country, and realised that we had commenced another phase of the battle.
" Rustle round with the wet sacking," roared
Driscoll, " it's bigger than I like, then stand by
and do your levelest. There won't be much
left of Ingram's if it gains a footing."
So the line spread out extending for attack,
and men waited quietly with armfuls of wet
sacking while waves of intense heat beat on
their dripping faces. Being new to the business,
I took Driscoll's hint to keep the fighting line
supplied with fresh-soaked grain bags from the
man-hauled waggon, and then the flaming cres-
64 A Wide Dominion
cent rolled right up to us. How high it was I
could not say. It seemed twenty feet, but was
probably scarcely six. It checked at the first
furrow, and roaring fiercely stretched forth
little red feelers to catch the tufts of grass
between, that they might act as a bridge and
help it across. Then with swinging grain bags
the men fell upon it, stamping, smiting, and
shouting like beings of another world, with
dense smoke swirling round them and red
sparks overhead.
Just how long this lasted I could not say,
probably not five minutes though it might have
been a day, for my throat was stuck together
and breath seemed taken from me by the rolling
smoke. Still, I know I blistered my fingers
and burned holes in my garments dancing and
clawing probably uselessly at little spurts of
flame, while men who waited fresh supplies
heaped anathemas on my name. Some I could
hear gasping and sobbing in the fervent heat,
smoke-choked and blinded, but hanging on to
their post, while one drenched with water and
savage with pain charged right into a fizzling
mass  and tore at  it  in  fury.     Then,   while
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their garments smouldered, a half-breathless
roar of triumph ran along the line, for two
divided walls of fire rolled on across the prairie,
leaving Ingram's homestead unscathed between. .
Thereupon the blackened Driscoll stood up
on a waggon, and said, " This is what comes
of pig-headed foolishness, and all the food in
Ingram's wouldn't feed a third of you. So
we'll go back to my place and begin again
on the fun, and when the harvest's over we'll
fine him the most gilt-edged spread ever seen in
Western Canada. You'll have to ride double-
banked, for I should say half the horses are
making record time on the way to Dacotah."
Driscoll was probably right, so, packed like
barrelled herrings in the waggons or riding two
and two, we journeyed towards his holding,
making the night hideous with our songs of
victory, while far off along the horizon the
coyotes raised their voices and howled in harmony. Then a broad red moon lifted herself
from out the sea of grass, crept upwards from
the horizon, and silver radiance brightened
across the prairie. In due time we reached
Driscoll's,   where because  water  is  scarce in
66 A Wide Dominion
summer, most of us ate first supper just as
we were, and joining in the dances neither
the salvors nor their partners seemed to
enjoy it any less on account of black faces
or the print of sooty fingers on the calico
Mrs. Driscoll also sprinkled the wounded
with oil and flour, and I remember afterwards
sitting by her on the strawpile-granary, which is
the refuse from the threshing piled up many
feet thick over a birch-branch framing. Wind-
packed and weighted by snow, with walls a
fathom through, or sometimes twice as much,
it answers its purpose very effectively. My
hostess was a buxom matron of thirteen stone
at least, and during a dance I did not know had
stamped on me cruelly, so now devoutly thankful that she did not want to dance again I
dipped her up refreshment from a pail of
Ontario cider. Mrs. Driscoll was a power in
that country, and had taken a fancy to me.
Also, if her speech was homely her worth was
genuine, and I had heard of the many kindnesses she did with an iron hand. She had
been a dairy drudge, she told me with extraneous
1 The Overseas Library
details, at home, and now ruled over Driscoll's
homestead, six hundred acres of plough land,
and I don't know how many head of stock,
though I had their full pedigree from the beginning, and with some reason she concluded
by saying, " So you see this country is quite
good enough for me."
By this time the moon was high above us,
lighting the prairie to its far circumference,
and the narrowing shadows of stock-shed and
granary were black as ebony. In the space
between them stalwart men and comely women
moved through quaint country dances with
many figures, which had been combined from
those of North Britain and measures trodden
in the olden days of France. A French-
Canadian, with the habitant's inherited skill,
wiled sweet music from a battered violin, and
the air he played was three hundred years old.
The men who kept time to it were such as any
nation might have been proud to own. Straight-
limbed, athletic, with neither stamp of care on
their faces nor toil-bent shoulders, they looked
what they were, a free and sturdy people.
Nevertheless, they  probably  worked   half as
68 A Wide Dominion
hard again as the average British labourer.
Their women were like to them, clear of eye
and ruddy of skin, and though attired mostly
in the work of their own fingers they had little
cause to envy their sisters at home. It is
perhaps worthy of mention that throughout
Western Canada you rarely see an untidy
woman—at least the writer did not, even far up
in the bush, which is the more remarkable considering that often every article they purchase
must be " packed " weary leagues on the husband's shoulders.
Nor was there the taint of alcoholic indulgence
in any of them; indeed in that region the almost
universal beverage is green tea, and though some
set forth its evils, at least it does not produce
beast-like, half-useless men and besotted women.
Instead, there was only clean-hearted merriment, and again the influence of healthy
environment was made manifest. Perhaps the
time may never come, but if the mother country
has urgent need of her outland sons she will
have little cause to be ashamed of them when
they answer the call.
The scent of wild peppermint hung gratefully
I The Overseas Library
in the air, the music was strangely soothing,
and the straw-pile soft, and I suppose when my
hostess went away I must have fallen asleep, for
after a space of oblivion I suddenly became conscious it was time for us to go. The guests
were slipping harness and saddles on the remaining horses, ready perhaps for a thirty mile
journey, women chattered about the hostess, and
Driscoll's loud-voiced banter was ringing everywhere, so after a hearty hand-grip we started
out contentedly for a ten-mile tramp home.
This was because our horses, upset by the fire,
had evidently taken a week's holiday.
The prairie was weird and ghostlike in the
dim grey light, the merry voices died away, and
the mournful wail of a coyote followed us
instead as we strode on into a region of silence,
shivering a little in the cool breeze of dawn.
Later, with a noisy beat of wings, a flight of
half-seen crane lumbered by overhead, a fox
slunk across our pathway doubtless on some
prairie chicken's track, and with a shrill scream
to its fellow a hawk dropped like a thunderbolt
from the neutral vault. The creatures of the
prairie knew it was time to be up and doing.
70 A Wide Dominion
Then a crimson streak broadened and brightened
along the horizon, the red sun leapt up above
the wide white sea, and I remember it was
characteristic of the country that when the
first golden rays touched our faces our paces
quickened as Tom saluted the new bright day
with a burst of song. CHAPTER V
THUS the scorching summer changed to
autumn, and that it can be fiercely hot
on the prairie the writer, who has stewed in the
tropics, is free to testify. Still, each time the
sun dipped a little cool breeze sprang up, and
even in the blaze of noonday one could always
work. This, however, had little to do with the
thermometer, and was probably due to something in.that invigorating air. Bronzed to the
colour of coffee, clad mostly in ragged blue
shirts, we only grew more contented with
constant labour, and the one thing we missed
was sufficient water. The well was fouled by
gophers, of which more hereafter, and our
domestic washing was generally conducted in
a neighbouring sloo which for some unknown
reason held a little moisture. There garments
went in grey with the fibrous dust of grass, and A Wide Dominion
came forth mouse-colour, while I now and then
rode six miles for the luxury of a bath.
A little creek zigzagged across the sea of
. grass, deep sunk in a ravine like a railway cutting, which is the usual fashion of a prairie
stream. In one place under the shadows of a
willow bluff lay a few sluggish pools whose
banks of fissured and shrunken mire bore the
spoor of many thirsty creatures. By wading
knee-deep through ooze and reeds one might
reach depth to swim, and wallow with swinging
left arm through lukewarm water in and out
among dappling shadows and patches of golden
light. Sometimes I had strange company during these ablutions, for from leagues of dusty
grass coyotes, badgers, jack-rabbits, and other
beasts of the kind had foregathered there, and
once a grizzled timber wolf, who had wandered
from the north, flitted among the trees until I
hid myself behind the reeds that he might come
and drink. It also happened later, when I
helped to relay a portion of the Canadian Pacific
track across a white waste of Alberta where
spirals of bitter alkali dust whirled like snow-
clouds before each fiery breeze, that we rode
73 The Overseas Library
eleven miles on a trolley past bitter lakes for a
draught of clean water. But that is a reminiscence which has nothing to do with the story.
Meantime the wheat grew tall in broad belts
of cold indigo-green which rippled musically
like the waves of a lapping sea, and now and
then I stood and watched it swaying against a
background of yellow-white prairie. Overhead
the cumulus rolled slowly in milky masses
across the sun-flooded blue, while straw-pile
and sod-built stable flung breadths of neutral
shadow upon the grass, day after day the
same, and seldom monotonous. There was,
however, more than artistic interest in that
picture, for most objects in the foreground
were the work of our own hands, and the
bright wash that toned it was the hope of
prosperity. With blistered palms, and bleeding
fingers, we had called that wheat up out of the
prairie, built and shovelled in scorching heat
and had fairly won what was promised in the
sweat of the brow. And now, if all went
well, we would shortly reap the fruit of our
Among the episodes I remember best was
74 A Wide Dominion
the monthly house-cleaning, which we started
with a shovel, for the floor was deep with clods,
and then opened wide both windows that the dust
might blow right through, which it did in clouds
as though the place were burning. Then we
sprinkled wet wild peppermint upon the boards,
rubbed the guns down with vaseline, and rested
contented to inspect the result. Trophies of
splendid wheat and oats hung festooned upon
the wall, moths as large as sparrows were
pinned along one end of it, while the littered
tool and harness rack gave the last touch
needed of picturesque disorder. But all pleasant things have an ending, and in due time the
rude awakening came.
We were driving. back one Sunday from a
visit to a neighbour thirty.miles away, and the
afternoon was sweltering though the sun was
dimmed by a curious misty halo. I lay in the
waggon bottom on a sack of prairie hay, and
Tom sat beside me sucking drowsily at his
pipe, while the senior partner drove and made
calculations as to the proceeds of the harvest.
Wheat that year was seventy-five cents the
bushel, cash down, delivered at the elevators, The Overseas Library
and he proved to his full satisfaction this would
leave an ample balance after paying all expenses. I also speculated upon the presents
I would send home to prove my friends'
predictions wrong, and presently Charlie set
forth how next year after sowing a double
acreage we should enjoy a holiday in the old
country—all of which was somewhat premature,
as transpired shortly.
By and by I looked up to find the sun had
gone, blotted out by a streak of ragged vapour,
while a bank of sombre clouds rolled up from
the north. Higher they crept and higher in
"dingy masses, and perhaps it was partly contrast, but a livid, unearthly radiance seemed to
flicker across the whitened prairie. A circle of
withered buffalo bones, such as sprinkle the
grass lands from Brandon to Calgary and are
collected by the Blackfeet for sugar refining,
gleamed almost incandescent beside the green
fringe of a sloo, and a few crane's feathers
became specks of dazzling white.
Then the heavens were wrapped in an intense
blue blackness, and a little rush of breeze, icy
cold this time, awoke a shrill pattering from the A Wide Dominion
grass. The horses instinctively quickened their
pace, and Charlie looked anxious.
"A hailstorm brewing, and a bad one at
that," he said. "We'll make for the big bluff
yonder, and look for shelter. You haven't seen
it hail here ; well, you'll witness something that
will surprise you."
It did not need a touch of the whip to stir
the team to their best, for the beasts knew by
experience what it meant to meet the battering
hail in the open, and they stretched out at a
flying gallop. The ridge of stunted trees
seemed rushing nearer, a long growl of thunder
rolled clashing among the cloud-banks overhead, and before the next one came a broad
sheet of fire smote down upon the grass. The
team lost their heads at that, and half-frantic
dashed in among the trees, where Charlie had
a struggle to halt them in the thickest of the
wood. We were only just in time, for with a
deafening crash of thunder the heavens were
opened, and the hail came whirring down. It
was not the fine grain one sees in Britain, but
the murderous hail of the North-West, huge
lumps of ragged ice, some of which were almost
77 The Overseas Library
the size of walnuts. There was blackest darkness outside the bluff, within nothing visible
but a driving sheet of ice smashing through
the leaves, and a constant fluttering down of
mangled foliage. It rattled like grape-shot
upon the waggon, drove the horses mad with
pain as it struck their skin, and once, when I
held them from bolting, my face and hands
might have been thrashed with rods, while
Charlie's cheek was freely bleeding.
Then the wind came and filled all the bluff
with tumultuous roaring, through which we
could hear the birches thrashing each other,
and now and then the crash of a falling tree.
Swinging branches lashed us, so that afterwards
my shoulder was coloured with patches of blue.
The torn-off twigs whirled down like leaves in
autumn, and that we were not slain altogether
was probably due to the fact that there were no
trees large enough. This may have lasted ten
minutes, perhaps a few longer, then the turmoil
suddenly ceased, and one bright shaft of sunlight pierced through the battered wood. We
emptied the ice and twigs from the waggon
and there seemed a hundredweight of it, and
78 A Wide Dominion
then went forth into a glorious freshness. The
sky was clear blue behind us, and the grasslands flooded with mellow light, but one black
arch drove on southwards to spread devastation
over a hundred leagues of prairie. It is curious
that while one at least of the party ought to
have been warned by experience, we should
have no premonition of what awaited us. So
we laughed and chatted as the horses hurried
along on their homeward journey, until crossing
a rise in the evening beyond which our holding
lay, the bronze paled in Charlie's face, and he
stood up saying hoarsely, " Good Lord! look
at the wheat."
Then he laid the lash along the horses' backs,
and no one spoke until we sprang to earth
beside the first furrow. Then a numb sickness,
mingled with a sense of cold fury which too
many poor mortals know, came upon me, for
there was only ruin where the wheat—had
been. A battery of field-guns driven through
and through it could not have done half that
damage. Broad swaths of half-hardened stems
had been cut down as by a scythe. Green
blades and swelling ears lay beaten into ribands
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and partly buried in the steaming earth, while
as if in grim irony, one tiny corner had been
left unscathed. Afterwards it was cut, and
thrashed out—forty bushels, and that was all we
ever reaped of the hoped-for harvest. Strange
to say, our next neighbour's holding, only a mile
away, was not touched at all, for the storm in
question swept on into Dacotah, blotting out
one breadth of grain and sparing the next,
leaving ruin chequered behind it on a draughtboard principle.
Tom unharnessed the horses, and the senior
partner swore softly and viciously as he prepared a meal, but having little heart for food I
wandered half the night after coyotes across
the prairie. In that frame of mind it would
have been a relief to murder something, which
was of course reprehensible, but this is a plain
story. Also, when I was roused at dawn from
a broken sleep to face the position again, I
found Charlie sitting in the doorway and staring
at the rising sun with bloodshot eyes. There
was only ruin before us, for our last dollar was
almost spent. We had gone in too heavily, as
others had done before, instead of reserving
80 A Wide Dominion
something to meet a bad harvest. Between
autumn frost which spoils the grain, seasons
of unusual dryness, and devastating hail
. throughout much of the North-West, the
proportion of lost crops is often heavy. There
are successive bad years, and others equally
good, so the man with money to tide him over
times of adversity may on the whole do well.
Later, we took counsel together, and after
much discussion, and some dissension, decided
to remain and try another year working on
credit. It was a forlorn hope after all, for
there is very little actual money in Western
Canada, and the credit system is one of the
blights of the country. With interest at 10
per cent, or more, as it was then for that kind
of risk, under the best of circumstances we
could hardly hope to earn more than food to
eat, while another bad harvest would involve
us hopelessly. Still, such is the way of a
country where crops are hypothecated before
they are sown, and any man may obtain implements on a written promise. The dealers take
the risk of the weather, and after a disastrous
harvest all suffer alike. Also, it sometimes
F 81 The Overseas Library
happens that when the storekeeper comes
round to collect payment he finds the settler's
dwelling left desolate, with a legend chalked
on the doorway for the benefit of sorrowing
creditors: " Busted, and lit out for British
So we prepared to make the best of it, which
meant living on the scantiest of rations until
the next harvest came, and might have done it
but that fate intervened in the shape of the
gopher. Now the humble gopher being a
factor in the settler's life merits at least passing
mention. He is an insignificant creature like
a British squirrel with a similar tail, though rat-
fashion he burrows in the ground, but what
two rats could eat in a week one gopher eats
in a day. Also his greatest weakness is half-
ripe grain, and he can clean up a field of wheat
almost as neatly as a Toronto binder. Thus,
in a disastrous season what the smut and frost
spare the gopher takes, and for his special
benefit the Government serves out free strychnine to the settlers.
So during the rest of that autumn the gophers
troubled us, among other things they should
82 A  Wide  Dominion
not have done, tunnelling through the cool
mould about the well, into which they fell by
scores and perished there. The result was that
all we ate or drank was flavoured with gopher
extract, and our tempers having been sorely
tried, this led to heated arguments. The senior.
partner maintained there were more condemned
gophers upon our holding than anywhere else
in the Dominion, while the others declared there
were not, and, frivolous as it may appear, it was
these disputes which eventually split up the
partnership. So Tom and I determined to go
on further West, while Charlie remained behind
in the hope of better luck next year. Poor
Charlie had had a hard time, twice losing a
season's wages when the harvest failed and his
employer had nothing wherewith to pay, and
another two years' savings had been swallowed
in the present venture. I remember the day
we parted, and left him nailing up door and
window preparatory to a month's track-grading
on the Souris railroad.
" Goodbye, and the best of luck to you; we'll
forget our differences," he said. "If I can help
it, that wretched Hudson shan't get in here and
83 The Overseas Library
camp.    Once inside he'll stop all winter, and
I'm pretty sick of him."
The individual in question was a Bachelor of
Arts who drove round the prairie all summer
peddling patent nostrums and German oleographs. In the winter he boarded himself
gratis upon some settler, and the testimony was
that he not only refused on principle to render
the slightest help, but that until the spring came
he never washed himself. Yet it speaks well
for Western hospitality that he had seldom a
difficulty in finding quarters. So the ringing
of Charlie's hammer followed us as we moved
away, until turning on the crest of a rise we
saw him looking back wistfully after us. There
was the last wave of a battered hat, a faintly
heard farewell, and we were alone on the
breadth of prairie. Two hours later we dropped
our packs beside a lonely sod-house, where the
young English lad who came out with us
was serving his apprenticeship to the wheat-
He was perhaps the most pleasantly mannered youth I ever came across, refined and
aristocratic, with the evidence of careful train-
84 A Wide Dominion
ing, and we found him cleaning a hen-house
which had not been cleaned for years.
" Enjoying your little self," Tom said, when
he had briefly mentioned our decision, and the
other, glancing down with loathing at his
unsavoury garments answered—
"It isn't the work I hate so much as that
drunken brute, for I feel he takes a special
pleasure in setting me to this kind of thing.
The only bad man I have come across between
here and Moosomin, and my guardians paid him
a hundred pounds to teach me farming. You
wouldn't mind very much, would you, if I went
on with you ? "
Tom smiled a little, and I felt we should
have declined, but my partner could not resist
the longing in the lad's eyes, and so we accepted
another responsibility. Then we found a sheet
of paper in the filthy house, and pinned it on
the table bearing the message : " With Henry
Easton's compliments—he was getting tired of
you." Also Tom chuckled as he added over
his name: " This serves you right, Parkin.
Clean your hen-house out yourself, and be
hanged to you," for we had had a difference
with  that pupil-taking settler.
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In parenthesis it may be stated that this is
generally a bad system. A young man willing
to thoroughly learn his work can readily find
an opening and be paid for it, and such training is often better in the end than that he
pays a premium for.
Late at night we stood on the little platform
watching a distant yellow twinkle grow larger
and brighter across the wide prairie, down
which the straight track narrowed in a long
perspective, until it resolved itself into a fan-
shaped blaze of radiance from the headlight of
a big locomotive. Then the train came panting
in, we climbed on board a car, and soon the
roofs of Moosomin faded into the night. CHAPTER VI
IT was a hot day late in spring when,
weighed down by a miscellaneous load, I
tramped wearily past the little colliery town of
Nanaimo, which stands above Departure Bay
on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island.
With Henry Easton, Tom and I had done
many things in the meantime before we Crossed
the snow-tipped Rockies into British Columbia,
including the re-grading of a portion of the
Canadian Pacific track, when we laboured with
shovel and ballast-scoop, or, uniting together,
defied a domineering foreman who fancied he
could impose upon an unsophisticated Britisher.
When so engaged our chief amusement was
to watch the long daily train roll by loaded
with fresh recruits for the adventurous legion.
These were for the most part under twenty,
and generally carried long knives and rifles,
87 The Overseas Library
under the delusion that they were entering a
savage region instead of going to dwell among
as law-abiding a people as any on the earth.
Again it may be observed that the picturesque
desperado sometimes described in works of
fiction is practically an unknown being in
British territory, and the writer at least
never came across a full-fledged specimen.
There are of course daring men and reckless
adventurers, but these may not be found
hunting citizens through the streets or discharging their pistols at a new arrival's toes,
perhaps from the reason that they have
something better to do. Also, when you take
him the right way, even the much-libelled
cowboy is a companionable creature. But to
return to the narrative, Tom and Harry were
sawing cordwood by the lovely Cheemainus
Bay, and I was bound for Alberni in search
of fresh pastures there.
My feet, I distinctly recollect, had been sorely
tried by the shingle ballast of the Dunsmuir
railroad track, along which, from lack of funds,
I enjoyed the sensation of striding from sleeper
to sleeper on the open trestle bridges which
88 A Wide Dominion
span the many ravines. From these you can
see the dark water, thundering far beneath, and
realise between each step that, should you miss
the narrow timber, there is nothing between
you and the boulders, perhaps a hundred feet
below. It is also interesting to speculate what
would happen should one meet a train, and I
once heard the story of a man who caught on
the centre swarmed down a tie-rod to escape
destruction and could not get up again, but sat
jammed against a trestle twelve hours in terror
until a plucky engineer came to the rescue.
I n any case, I was hardly fit for another fifty-
mile journey, and it was with deep disgust I
found the narrow trail to Alberni had been
repaired by strewing it with small boulders
from the beach. These galled my bleeding
feet cruelly, the straps of the heavy pack ate
raw places into my shoulders, but ,such trifles
do not count in a rough country through much
of which the only means of transport is the
human back. The British Columbian is great
at "packing," and will cheerfully walk off with
a keg of flour over a mountain; indeed, newcomers are told that, if he does not approve
89 The Overseas Library
of the situation of his house, he will make a
vigorous effort and, snail-like, pack it somewhere else. But there was no escape, for
that road ran a narrow tunnel driven through
the coniferous forest, huge redwoods, cedars,
and balsams towering on either hand in an
endless vista of stately trunks with their mighty
branches interlaced above. Beneath grew rank
bracken over seven feet high, a maze of
flowering bushes, and a network of fallen
logs, through which scarcely a timber-wolf
could have forced a passage. Also in places
the path consisted of half-trees flung into what
seemed a bottomless swamp, where giant water-
plants grew up from depths of bubbling mud.
Still it must be remembered the writer describes the state of things some few years
ago. There have been auriferous discoveries
in that region since, and it may be very
different now.
But there was another side of the medal,
which for a time at least raised one far above
the sense of physical discomfort. The scent of
countless flowers mingled with the fragrance of
the firs, and through openings now and then
90 A Wide  Dominion
I caught visions of almost unearthly beauty.
Framed by mighty cedar trunks, with cornice
and curtain of red-barked branches and whis-
. pering needles, lay pictures beyond the power
of brush or pen to feebly portray—breadths of
glittering water studded with pine-clad islands
sleeping upon a sunlit sea, and behind them
rank beyond rank of mountains and a line of
eternal snow. This was the Cascade Range
across the Straits of Georgia a hundred miles
away, lifting itself in lonely majesty against a
blue transparency of crystalline atmosphere, fittingly cut off also from all things terrestrial by
strata of silvery vapour. Once I rested, awed
and held still by excess of grandeur, beside the
roots of an arrowhead, among whose snowy
clusters a cloud of gorgeous humming birds,
green, and gold, and purple, flashed athwart
the filtering rays like living jewels.
But my feet were bleeding, and I was
hungry; so, taking up the heavy pack, I
plodded on again, thanking a kindly Providence there was no more shingle, and I had
now a space of root-barred mould to flounder
upon.    The long miles dragged by while the
9i The Overseas Library
sun sank down, driving radiant arrows here
and there between the columnar trunks to
paint some forest giant gold and vermillion.
Also myriads of insects lifted up their voices,
and when a solemn dimness settled down upon
the conifers I looked for a place to pass the
night. This was found presently, the deserted
hut of a rancher; and, as there are many such
dwellings, it may not be superfluous to explain
their presence.
When a poor man takes up timber-land he
does a daring thing, for in this province it is
covered with huge conifers, often two hundred
feet in height and twenty in circumference.
These he must hew down painfully, saw into
logs and burn, and after twelve months' labour
may clear an acre. Even then the soil will
grow little for years to come, and if it did there
is no one to sell the produce to, so he lives on
salmon and venison and trusts a beneficent
Government to employ him road-cutting or
surveying during the summer. Then trails
often leading to nowhere are hewn through
the bush, to be grown up again three months
later.    Also  expeditions  wander,  occasionally
92 A Wide Dominion
half starved, through the snow-barred ranges,
and whatever the future good may be, in the
meantime the settler gets his two dollars a day,
with which he finds himself in food through
the winter. And so his work continues, and
by slow gradations the virgin forest is turned .
into a fertile province. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens there is a talk of economy and
road-making is stopped, when the unhappy
rancher is driven out in search of sustenance,
and, returning finds the forest has invaded his
clearing again, though he does not always
return. If he is married, the woman is left
behind, often in awful solitude throughout the
dreary winter, when for weeks together only
the hungry timber-wolves pass her dwelling.
But many a faithful woman has done her part
in the building up of the wide Dominion.
The hut was roughly built of logs, the roof
had fallen in, and it stood desolate on the
sloping side of a fern-filled gulley. There was
a tinkle of falling water from a hidden stream
below, the tall pines around loomed out blackly
against the dying light, with here and there
a pale star  appearing dimly on the  blue.    I
93 The Overseas Library
lighted a fire of resinous branches, opened a
can of peaches, and proceeded to boil some
tea in an empty meat-tin which possesses the
property of turning that liquid inky, besides
imparting a curious flavour thereto. As I ate,
a little wood-deer flitted shyly among the
fern, until at an incautious move it vanished
in flying bounds, after which, spreading my
blankets, I lay down, as I hoped, to sleep.
But the mosquitoes came upon me in thirsty
myriads, legions of red ants invaded my
garments, and it was long before I sank into
broken slumber. I was wakened suddenly by
a dismal howl, and, sitting up, heard it repeated
shrilly from among the sombre firs. Next a
long " Yow-yow-yowl" came ringing through
the hush of the forest, and, clutching the
rifle, I staggered to my feet. That was the
voice of the timber-wolves seeking their prey
by night, and I had strong objections to
forming their supper. So, remembering the
grizzly stories I had heard from men who had
dwelt in the wilderness between Mattawa and
Hudson's Bay, I jammed a cartridge into the
Marlin  chamber,   and  then  crouched   in   the
94 A  Wide  Dominion
doorway with another in my teeth, wondering,
while the cold perspiration started, if the place
would stand a siege.
If it had been ghostly in the twilight, it was
very much more so then. The wall of pines
rose weirdly against the silent night, and
I fancied I heard fierce creatures rustling
stealthily among the undergrowth. Once I
caught a pair of eyes glittering like stars from
an opening in the fern, and, pitching up the
Marlin, fired at a venture. A red flash leapt
from the muzzle, smoke blew into my face, and
the sound was flung repeated from trunk to
trunk, while through the silence that followed I
could hear the leaves pattering. Half an hour
later the distressful noise returned, and I fear I
shook my fist in the air and abused the wolves
aloud, for in that crushing loneliness it seemed
a relief to shout. Then minutes that seemed
half-hours dragged endlessly by, and I sat still,
drenched in dew, clenching the rifle, and trying
not to shiver each time the wolves hailed one
another. At last a faint grey light filtered down
among the massy trunks, brightening slowly
until arrowhead and bracken  took shape and
95 The Overseas Library
form again. Thereupon I bundled my pack
together, and ran for my life, until I brought
up from utter exhaustion.
Now the early sunlight was glinting among
the pines, and when I had lighted a fire and
put the meat-tin on, I scrambled down the
hollow of a rock-walled gorge, through which
a sparkling stream foamed over shelves of blue
grit veined with milky quartz. Maidenhair
fern grew out of the crannies even then two
feet high, and festoons of flowering bushes
drooped towards the glancing water. So I
plunged from the golden sunlight down into
the crystal depths of an eddying pool, and
came back refreshed a little to a Spartan meal.
Then, in spite of over-fatigue, there was the
pack to be shouldered, and torturing boots to
don, and for hours together I scrambled among
mud and fir roots through the dimness of a
silent forest. Next the trail changed from
bad to awful, and as I clawed a way up slopes
of sliding shale, climbing painfully into a gateway of the mountains, the rain came down,
wrapping woods and towering peaks in one
grey  curtain.     The   pathway  changed   to  a
96 A Wide Dominion
torrent, my well-worn garments clung about
the worse worn limbs, every joint was aching,
and still leagues of awful road divided me
from shelter in the hamlet of Alberni. That
was also the fifth day of toilsome march,
and now the pitiless deluge seemed to wash
my last strength away; so, half-asleep from
weariness, I struggled on despondently, reeling
across the road.
Then, when, as it were, at the last gasp,
there opened up beneath me in a deep rift of
the mountains a lonely lake. How beautiful
it was I could hardly realise then, for my head
was swimming, and I chiefly wondered whether
a night passed in pools of water under the dripping fern would leave me with sufficient force
to make a start again. But—a glorious sight
—there were white tents below, and a spiral
of blue smoke curling from a cedar shanty.
Walking like one asleep, I managed to reach
them, and stood dripping among a group of
stalwart men who were trying to find dry
places for their saws and axes. They asked
no questions, for the Western rancher's welcome
is as free as the Arab's, but some one gently
g 97 The Overseas Library
shoved me into the shanty, where an ample
meal was smoking on the split-board table.
It probably consisted of big lake trout, blue
grouse, and venison, but I scarcely knew what
I ate, for part seemed to choke me and require
copious draughts of tea, though the man beside
me, whose brawny chest and shoulders had
burst his coarse blue shirt, heaped things
continually upon my bent tin plate. Presently
I told the story of the wolves with graphic
details, and, instead of admiration, saw that
most of the company struggled to suppress
their merriment. Then one said, smiling—
and I noticed the refinement in his speech—
"You will know better next time. Timber-
wolves are bad in Northern Ontario, and
sometimes dangerous along the Peace River,
but perfectly harmless in Vancouver Island,
where they swarm. But that's not the question ; we are chopping a trail here, and have
plenty of meat, so you'll camp and rest yourself
just as long as you like."
What followed I did not hear, for my head
was nodding, and somebody led me into a tent,
where, with dry blankets over me, I sank into
98 A Wide Dominion
delicious rest on a couch of fragrant twigs. It
was probably some hours later when I opened
my eyes again, and, staring through the tent
door, saw the rain had ceased, and the white
mist was rolling backward off the lake. A
stretch of still, black water lay under the '
mountain walls, which rose above it pine-clad
almost vertically until the climbing trees gave
place to smooth-scarped, steely rock that was
presently lost again in eddying vapour. High
above this towered a line of snow, and lake
and camp and forest lay still in the hush of
evening, save that an unseen river was calling
hoarsely. Then I lapsed into sleep again, and
it was high noon when I awakened.
My hosts, I found, were men whose antecedents had been very different-—ex-seamen,
doctors, bankrupt timber-cutters, and cleaned-
out wheat-growers from the prairies. Now
each lived on his holding, laboriously clearing
it, and, by working a space upon that road,
could continue uninterrupted the rest of the
year. This was not because of high pay, but
that their wants were few, while most things
they needed  could  be  made  with their own
99 The Overseas Libr
hands. Sober, athletic, contented, owing no
man anything, and working their own land,
each day's labour was so much towards the
building up of a great country, and also a little
towards the perfecting of a finer type of
humanity. At least so the writer always
found them and their kind, though he regrets
his admiration does not extend equally to all
the inhabitants of the Western city. Thus it
was with grateful thanks and mutual good
will I took leave of them, and trudged on
again along the straight-hewn track they had
made towards Alberni. CHAPTER  VII
MAN," said Andrew Elliot, " ye're a
timid creature, losing your breath
yon way over a wee bit coo;" and for
response I pointed indignantly to a savage,
bellowing object half-seen among the fern.
" I'll sort her," Andrew added. " She's
shamefully wasting the good potatoes," and
grasping a pikel he strode away across the
I stood under the trellis of his little frame
dwelling, which was covered with honeysuckle
originating in a cutting sent six thousand miles
from North Britain, and stood above the blue
Kleescoot Lake which winds among the mountains ten miles from Alberni. Alberni was
then a broken-down, six-house hamlet—it is a
rising city now, and Andrew was known to its
inhabitants as a bit of a character.    His story
IOI The Overseas Library
was perhaps most eloquently told at a certain
memorable dinner given to an emigration deputation by leading citizens of Nanaimo. Then
each in turn, rising, told how he had walked
into the promised land with nothing, and now
owned mines and houses, or had founded a
bank. As a rule, however, the speaker abstained discreetly from explaining just how he
acquired these things, but left the audience
to conclude it was by the practice of honest
industry. Last of all came Andrew, who had
never lost what he called his Doric, and a trick
of straightforward speech.
"And I came in withoot a cent, fifteen years
ago," he said, and a murmur of applause went
round, which died suddenly as he continued,
" I was sairly over-honest for the cities, an' so
I tried the bush instead. For fifteen years I
wrought an' wrought, an'—here he leaned
forward confidentially—I have not a cent the
noo, forby some weary timber-land that will not
grow anything."
As my informant said, that was the speech
of the evening, but Andrew was not popular
henceforward  in  Nanaimo.    Neither  was  he
102 A Wide Dominion
requested to testify before any further deputations.
So I leaned against the trellis in the little
clearing hewn four-square out of virgin forest,
listening to the drowsy roar of a distant fall
while a cluster of painted humming-birds
hovered on invisible wings overhead. Meantime, Andrew marched boldly towards the cow
which, to his fierce indignation, was pawing up
the good potatoes recklessly, until there was
a sudden change in the manner of attack.
Andrew came flying towards me, without the
pikel, scrambling through the fern in fear of
his life, while with lowered head and bronze
bell clattering, behind there charged a bull.
He shouted something frantically which I could
not catch, and there ensued an exciting race
for a big balsam stump. Now, when clearing
land in British Columbia, the settler generally
hews the trees down from a platform some five
feet above the roots, which, if unusually energetic, he afterwards grubs out, or more often
leaves them to rot instead. Thus in most
clearings there are rows of these shoulder-high
stumps, and with the bull three feet behind him
"1 mn
The Overseas Library
the runner, grasping the top of one, dragged
himself aloft. Then the pursuer circled round
and round, bellowing furiously, while I sat
down and laughed.
When he recovered breath a little, Andrew
suggested I should drive the beast away, a wee
bit rap on the muzzle, and the thing would be
done, he said, but I had sufficient sense to
answer that being nearer he should do it himself. So Andrew sat on the tree-stump, and
the bull waited below, until to his disgust our
neighbour Schultz came out of a narrow trail.
.The latter inquired ironically what he was
doing there, and Andrew, making the best of it,
answered with a laugh, " Enjoying the cool o'
the evening an' watching the cattle."
Thereupon, proceeding circumspectly, we
drove the bull away, or rather the other man
did, for I did not pose as an authority on the
habits of half-wild cattle. It may further be
mentioned briefly that in the British Columbia
bush, owing to the scanty clearings, hay is very
scarce, so that it is with difficulty enough can
be gathered to feed a few head through the
winter.     Therefore  the   stock   run   wild   all
104 A  Wide  Dominion
summer, hunting their own food among the
undergrowth, because in many places there
is no natural grass, with the result that to find
the working oxen generally means a day's
journey. So we released Andrew, and afterwards proceeded to fill two little flat lamps
with seal-oil and fix them in our hats, because
we were going pit-lighting or deer-stalking in
the dark, which is a somewhat arduous sport for
the novice. Deer had been scarce that season,
and, although a close time is officially proclaimed, the settlers throughout the year live
much on venison. Then exchanging banter
with Schultz, who sarcastically begged us to be
merciful as he had some horses running in the
bush, we brushed on down the usual tunnel
under huge conifers, scrambling shoulder-deep
through dew-sprinkled bracken, or tearing our
hardly used garments among other undergrowth.
Green dimness filled the walled-up trail, and
in the stillness that seemed accentuated by the
buzz of insect wings I could almost fancy I
heard a great pulse throbbing through the
myriad growing things.    Scarcely even in the
105 If
The Overseas Library
steamy tropics is the force of vegetation made
so clearly manifest as in the damp, warm
climate of British Columbia west of the
Cascade Range, where, except in California,
grow the tallest trees in the world. Besides, it
is almost all forest, from the harsh grass of the
river swamps to the snow-line of the lofty
ranges; for take a kaleidoscopic mixture of
glacier, lake, and pinewood, awful thousand-
feet canons, and thundering rivers, Switzerland
and Norway mingled and magnified, and you
have a rough impression of British Columbia.
It was dusk when we came out into a narrow
clearing by a calling river, where we heard the
thud of a big axe among the conifers, and saw
two sinewy athletes labouring in haste to finish
a cedar-bark shanty. This primitive erection,
somewhat resembling an exaggerated beehive,
leaned as it were wearily against a hemlock,
not far from a pile of feathery embers which
had been a house until an incipient forest fire
chanced to pass that way. One of those who
worked there, resting, while the sweat dripped
from him, on his axe, told as nearly as I can
remember the following story :—
106 A Wide Dominion
Walter Leven had been a schoolmaster in
Montreal, and why he left that fair city was
his own affair, though being a man of hot
temper, rumour had it he told some inspection
committee to go to perdition, which increased
his popularity among the free ranchers. In
any case, he had lived four years as a rancher,
and, my informant stated, had lost two
houses already by fire, which is not an uncommon accident in the Vancouver bush. But
Leven had some small means, so he paid for
help at the land clearing, and, having gathered
a band of stock which sold well in Victoria, and
working six months raised another dwelling,
went East, exultant, to bring back the woman
who had patiently waited. Also just two
days ago, so the narrator concluded, "A
blamed fire must come along and clean that
house right out, so we're trying to fix them until
he builds another. They'll be coming in over
the trail now, and we've had to rustle."
Under Andrew's caustic directions all set to
work again, and half an hour later when the
shanty looked less like a poultry-house, sat
down with streaming faces  to await Leven's
107 The Overseas Library
coming.    Soon the soft tramp of unshod hoofs I
came out of a shadowy aisle, and a man, half- %
dragging a weary horse, limped into the red \
glow of the fire we made.    A woman in dusty, I
dew - draggled   dress   leaned   forward  in  her
saddle from utter weariness, and there clattered
about her a curious load of kitchen utensils.
Three   thousand   miles   by   C.P.R.   she   had j
travelled   in   a   Colonist   car, another  weary j
journey    to    Nanaimo   in   an   unseaworthy 1
steamer among  Chinese  labourers,  and from
there for two days had plodded down the trail I
to find only a circle of ashes where her home I
should have been.
" Hard luck, Walter!" said the tall man with |
the axe. " But you've got to show your grit
and make the best of it, and all the crowd from
Sproat Lake to Alberni will start in and fix
you up. Besides, if Mrs. Leven wants any-
thing, she has only to ask for it."
Then he took his hat off to the lady, and
edged back out of the firelight with a half-
bashful bow. He was a rough timber-cutter
reared in the forests of Northern Ontario, and
yet there was something in voice and gesture
108 A Wide Dominion
which was beyond mere courtesy. What
Leven said does not matter, and it was
scarcely eloquent; but when he lifted her from
the horse the woman turned a troubled face
towards the other, and I saw her eyes were
full as she spoke a few words of fervent gratitude. Then with a half-choked sob she leaned
upon her husband's shoulder, and the pair went
slowly into the shanty. ■
I Hard on the poor woman ! " said Andrew
as we moved away. " Weel reared down East
I heard say—it's a rough home-coming for a
bride from the city."
Presently from under an avenue of mighty
cedars I caught a glimpse of the Kleescoot
Lake, and though I lived beside it afterwards
for many happy weeks, I like best to think
of it as I saw it then. A steely glitter of starlight slept reflected in the dim, black water.
Ghostly trains of mist were creeping about the
pines ashore, and above them dusky masses of
rigid foliage climbed the mountain-side towards
the cold white line silhouetted far away against
the indigo. And catching the glow from the
north-west,   which  would  hang  there  almost
109 The Overseas Library
until the dawn, one snow-peak still shimmered
with orange and purple.    Again it was past I
description,  and there was  something in the I
stillness which spoke invitingly of infinite soli- I
tude.    Then   I   began to  understand the influence of the woods, which grows stronger and
stronger in the heart of many a rancher until
when  at last  the long-expected   railroad  or
mining rush  comes  he  disregards the ready-^
market for all that he can grow, and disposing |
of his holding to the first offerer, pushes on
again into the wilderness.    What the charm is
no one exactly knows, and  yet its power is I
very real.    Perhaps, too, those men are right
who,  turning their  backs  upon  the  offer  of
prosperity, leave the noisy bustle of the mushroom city for the silence of the primeval bush.
Strife,   chicanery,   petty   jealousy,   vice   and
tawdry pride of place, melt away and vanish
before the breath of the mountains, and the
man  who  dwells  among them, often withoutI
knowing it, increases in depth of thought and
dignity as he goes back nearer to nature.    But
there  are  degrees  in  this  also,  and  a  limit
which it is good for but few to pass ; for here,
110 A Wide Dominion
as in Africa, now and then one may see in the
settlements a being upon whom too much
loneliness has set a mark dividing him from
his fellow-men.
Then I remember a loon sent its shrill cry
ringing across the still black lake, a cry that
breaks through the night laden with unearthly
mournfulness, and I shivered a little as I
followed Andrew down another trail.
" It's Marvin's swamp we'll try first," he said.
■ Marvin was foolish, so instead of clearin' forest,
he wrought five years tryin' to drain this swamp.
Twice a spate just sopped up the earth dam he
built, and it took him a twelvemonth to make
another; but he hung on and fought fair for
the useless quagmire that broke his heart at
last, for Marvin fell into evil ways—and set up
as a land agent. I'm no say in' there are not
honest men in that business, but ye might get
tired before ye found them."
Andrew was partly right, for the average
Western land agent's ways are devious, and it
is currently reported that he would sell his
grandmother. In any case, he is generally
able to provide the guileless new-comer with The Overseas Library
exactly what he desires: sawing lumber,
minerals, with specimens thrown in, or the
finest fruit soil in the Dominion—and all on the
same land. It was an hour later when,
drenched through with dew, we reached
Marvin's swamp, a quaggy oblong lying in a
hollow of the mountains, with black pines
climbing above it up the steep hillside. There
was also a half-moon sinking towards them in
the west, and by the dim light we made a
hasty reconnaissance. A creek wandered
through the centre, sunk down in a six-foot
trench which had cost Marvin two years'
labour. Slimy cuttings of unknown depth zigzagged everywhere, and meeting above them
were sickly willows, while the drier portion
was covered with tangled timothy grass and I
sprinkled by rotting trunks. Sol foresaw with
misgivings we should have an experience there, :
blundering when the moon had gone among
many pitfalls. Then we retired to a deserted
dwelling which was being absorbed again by
the forest, for a maple's branches were already
wrenching off the roof, and the lean-to kitchen
was filled with willows. A Wide Dominion
Here we made ready the pit-lights, fixing a
shield of metal cut out of a coal-oil tin over the
brim of our hats. Arranged so, when a man
stands upright the flame is shaded from both
face and person, and there remains only a
flickering light, apparently unsupported some
six feet in the air, while when one chances on
it wandering through the midnight bush it
is highly desirable to call out loudly, lest a
whirring bullet may answer the first rusde.
Now the wood-deer is an inquisitive creature,
and when he sees anything unusual feels impelled to investigate it. Also it is almost
necessary to wear a suit of armour when
stalking him through the bush, so, as he delights
to rob the clearings at night, pit-light shooting
is a common amusement, although it has its
drawbacks, as will appear.
By and by when the moon had gone, and
save for the clear stars shining above the
high forest there was black darkness, we proceeded with much caution to creep across the
swamp. The first thing I did of moment was
to fall through a screen of grasses into a six or
seven-foot drain, and I remember the sickening
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feeling when, instead of meeting firm ground,
my foot sank into empty air, and with a
flounder I dropped into blackness below. The
mire sucked bubbling to my knees, and clawing
at the slimy bank I only drove one arm in past
the elbow, while a snake or some other creature
wriggled near my side. Then, and it was a
welcome sight, the light of Andrew's pit-lamp
appeared overhead, and shouting excitedly I
stretched out the Marlin muzzle. Andrew,
however, had been born in North Britain, and
replied with caution, " First ye'll snap the
cartridge out o' the chamber ; I would not like
ye to shoot me by accident. Man, cannot ye
keep quiet, scarin' the deer o' the countryside
with a useless fuss like that."
Then there was a heave and  a  scramble,
and  mud-plastered,  but   thankful,   I   reached J
the upper air again.    Next,  even  while  my I
companion made observations on the need for I
caution, he tripped upon a rotting stump, and
lurching headfirst over, went down with a heavy
crash upon the other side, doubling up the tin \
shield and extinguishing the lamp.    We spent
another ten minutes in straightening things up, -
114 A Wide Dominion
and then after cruelly scoring one leg from
ankle to knee and falling into another hole
I declined resolutely to go any further. I had
come out for amusement, not to kill myself,
I said, and even Andrew admitted that to fall
into the mire-clogged main creek might result
in drowning. So chalking the rifle muzzles we
sat down on a fallen pine and waited.
An owl flitted half-visible above our heads,
a loon's wild wail came faintly from the distant
river, and a little night breeze set the black
pines whispering. This lasted half an hour at
least, and then there was a crackling among the
undergrowth, a thud of hoofs on soft earth as a
wood deer cleared some obstacle in a ten-foot
bound, and Andrew, touching my shoulder,
rose quietly upright. Something was moving
towards us through the dimness ; we could hear
the wet timothy switching upon its hide, and
my heart beat faster when I made out what
seemed several points of pale green flame
glinting through a grove of willows. These
were the eyes of the deer, but whether luminous
of themselves or sparkling with reflected light I
could not say, and I have heard the question The Overseas Library
argued without result by the ranchers. One
pair drew apart from the rest, halted, and came
on again as it were suspiciously, and now my
companion trod hard upon my toes. We could
see no other trace of the deer, only hear its
hoofs sucking in the oozy mould, but when
Andrew jerked his head it came on faster.
Then I caught the glint of his rifle barrel,
and checking the tremor in my arm, slid the
left hand forward and pitched the Marlin to my
shoulder. There was a blurr of whiteness
where a ray touched the muzzle, but trying to
use the weapon like a gun by instinct of direction I disregarded this, and trusting to the
balance squeezed the trigger. A glare of
brightness dazzled my eyes, and there followed
a second flash. Something hot touched my
cheek and smoke curled into my eyes, but I
heard neither report, only a floundering among
the timothy, with a click of hoofs and patter of
leaves as the remaining deer, unscathed, swept
off through the bush.
Scrambling forward I found Andrew bending "
over a struggling deer, with a red knife in his
hand, until the noise ended in a soft gurgle,
116 A Wide Dominion
and I knew the victim had received the coup de
grace. By the uncertain light of the little lamps
we performed what the French Canadian calls
the "eventrer," because otherwise the flesh
would be watery. After this, carrying the
carcase in case there were wolves about, we.
went back to the house, and I saw that between
mud and gore Andrew presented an unseemly
spectacle, and took his word for it that I was
even worse. For half an hour or so we fought
the mosquitoes and red ants, then, trusting the
scare would be over, tore ourselves grievously
crossing the swamp again. This time, in spite
of protests, Andrew insisted on patrolling the
edge of the forest, rebuking me for outbursts
of language when I walked into the barked
branches of many fallen firs. But at last we
heard a creature, a big one it seemed to me,
moving through the underbrush, and stood still
on catching the green glimmer of further eyes.
Up went the Marlin, and Andrew's Winchester flashed almost simultaneously, while
through the jarring of the report I heard one
ball whirr across the forest, and another sound,
the thud of a heavy bullet crunching through The Overseas Library
bone and muscle. This time, to judge from the
noise, we had brought down an elephant, and
with due caution, because there might be
panthers about, I let Andrew go first. Thus
his repeater flashed again, and the echoes had
died away before, after getting tangled among
the fern, I joined him. He was leaning disconsolately on the smoking rifle, and in reply to
a question answered fiercely, "No, it isn't a
buffalo, nor yet a menagerie. Can ye no stop
your foolish joking—it's Walter Leven's coo!"
So, failing to realise at first the financial
aspect, I sat down and laughed immoderately,
"while Andrew alternately abused me and Walter
Leven for not hanging a bell upon his cow.
He stopped for want of breath at last, concluding ruefully, " This tale will be told against
me all over the country, and there's no a liar
in three settlements that will not add to it."
Then, to make the best of a misfortune, there
was further butcher work to be done, and for
four days afterwards we hawked the remains of
Leven's cow on horseback between two trail-
cutters' camps and the settlement, parting with
the  meat  at  what retailers call an alarming
118 A Wide Dominion
sacrifice. Leven had also a good many things
to say, and Andrew winced under his compliments, but he placed a fair value on the beast,
so that the night's amusement cost us each some
ten dollars. It was dawn when we left Marvin's
swamp with scored limbs and faces swollen by
mosquito bites, while the first rays of the rising
sun swinging up from the dew-bathed forest
smote a golden track across the misty lake as
I paddled, in search of horses, to the nearest
SOME time after slaying Leven's cow, Tom
and I and Harry Easton lay camped, one
still, clear night beside the frothing Kleescoot
River. This stream also rejoices in the less
euphonious name of Sproat, though most of the
settlers preferred its Indian appellative, while
as the history of Alberni, which stands upon it,
resembles that of other settlements on the
Pacific slope, it may be briefly told. In the old
days some forty years ago, when gold-seekers
of many nations were pouring into the new El
Dorado called Caribou, two Scotchmen with
energy and capital went up instead into the
Vancouver woods. There they started a sawmill, sending cargoes of lumber to China overseas, and lake and river took the name they
bore.    So  a town promised to spring up on A Wide Dominion
the site of the Siwash rancheries, and there was
the usual speculation over a new city until the
lumber trade failed. Then its inhabitants went
back disgusted, the saw-mill rotted, and the
future city lapsed into forest again. But a few
settlers held on, and for long years hard-up
adventurers and patient Mongolians washed
out a little gold from the bed of China creek,
and such was the state of Alberni at the time
we camped near it. Next, as an instance of
the uncertain ways of fate, the year after we
left it some one dug a foot or two deeper, and
found payable gold. Other rich strikes followed
almost immediately, so now Alberni flourishes,
promising after all to become a city. Throughout Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
one may find every here and there deserted
towns where the deer feed in the willow-choked
streets, while unhappy investors anathematise
their names.
But all this is irrelevant matter, and we had
foregathered beside the Kleescoot River to earn
a livelihood if we might by preserving salmon.
A faint blue spiral of wood-smoke curled lazily
from our crackling fire, and hung in aromatic
1 The Overseas Library
wreaths about the wall of forest beyond the
shingle,   which  was   matted   by  fruit-bearing
creepers,   while   little   blood-red  wine-berries
made   blotches   of vivid  colour   against   the
boulders.    To  the  north   and  westward   the
usual   fires   of  green   and  crimson  flickered
behind the pines, whose rigid branches were
thrown out black as ebony, for the sunsets in
British   Columbia   are   surpassingly  glorious. I
There  was, of course,  a heavy fragrance of
balsam and cedar, a buzzing of myriad insects, |
and, alas! the song of mosquitoes too, while J
now and then from far off the cat-like cry of a i
" panther came down from the wooded heights. f
A string of splendid sea-trout hung from the 1
ridge-pole,   where   the   fish-loving   minks   or 1
chipmunks  could  not come and  steal  them, J
while  we  lay on  the warm  shingle chatting J
languidly as darkness closed down.
" Better than shovelling coal," said Tom, I
" on that beastly Naimo wharf, or holding |
one's own by force of arms in a construction
shanty. Well, you never know your luck, and 1
I'm wondering what this last move will do. I
Harry, if your friends had seen you, blacker ff
122 A Wide Dominion
than any nigger, clawing lumps of coal I should
say they'd be startled."
Easton laughed a little before he crawled
into the tent, and, leaving Tom,  I  followed
presently.    Then,  instead of discarding gar
ments,   I   put  further ones   on,   because   the
nights were cold, and sank into oblivion on a
couch of scented twigs, which, if properly pre
pared, exceeds in luxurious comfort any pro
duction   of the upholsterer's art.    At 5 a.m.
next morning all went down headforemost into
a sparkling pool, and later attacked with appe
tite a simple breakfast    There was fish, and
venison   whose   fibres   resembled   boot-laces,
flapjacks made from flour and water, cindery
outside and raw dough within, and of course
that   compound   of   glucose,   molasses,   and
flavoured   gum   which   is sold all  over   the
Dominion under the name of "drips."    Next,
scrambling under the dew-beaded pines, we
proceeded to a whirling pool beneath a fall
which was   black with   a   run of Steelhead
It is perhaps no news to many that almost
every stream in British Columbia abounds with
123 The Overseas Library
salmon, which in some even impede the light-
draught steamers by piling up bars of gravel
about the spawning beds. Strange to say,
although when swarming landwards towards
the river mouths the fish may be taken with a
trolling spoon, once in fresh water they refuse
every kind of lure, and are only killed by net,
or spear, or wheel. Also, when they ascend a
crystal stream the greater portion perish after
spawning, so that in autumn their carcasses are
piled up on the banks of every pool, and
Indians gather the rotting mass to sell to the I
settlers. No other fertiliser will grow such
crops as this. On the other hand, in the
muddy waters of the larger rivers, which are
stained a dark green by the glacial clay, few I
dead fish may be found, which seems to show
that too much purity is not good for salmon.
There are also many varieties, but perhaps those
known locally as the Steelheads, Sockeyes, and
Chinook are the most numerous. The first
resembles the British salmon, though I seldom
saw one much over twenty pounds; the second^
grows thicker and deeper; and the great!!
Chinook, or " King " fish, is, roughly speaking,?
124 A  Wide  Dominion
more like a tench in shape, and runs, so the
settlers say, as large as eighty pounds. Any
way, I once carried a couple which were almost
more than I could lift.
With characteristic kindliness Andrew Elliot
was there to help, and soon we stood in the
spray of the spouting fall ready to begin.
Under the whispering cedars, ringed about
with mossy rock, the black eddy swept round
and round thick with dusky shadows which
seemed shouldering one another out of the
water. Now and then a silvery flashing broke
the surface of the pool, and some half-dozen
Steelheads flung themselves in glittering bent
bows at the fall, to leap upwards from every
pool behind a jutting fang, or, overpowered by
the rush of water, to flounder badly hammered
into the pool again. But the salmon is a
plucky fish, so without cessation the struggle
went on, score after score of shapely creatures
vanquishing the stream.
Grasping a Siwash spear, I stood intent and
eager upon a spire of rock. The cedar pole I
balanced was probably twenty feet long, and at
its lower end bore  two  forked  sockets.    On The Overseas Library
these were loosely fixed a couple of deer-bone
barbs skilfully fashioned by the Indians, and a
sinew lanyard connected them to the pole.
Andrew held a similar weapon, while Tom and
Harry had ruder implements in the shape of a
rough iron hook lashed to a branch, which is
what the setder generally uses, though the
Indian fish-spear is much more merciful.
Round and round beneath me swept a shoal
of blue-grey backs. The hurrying, glancing
water dazzled my eyes, and I waited with
nerves tingling from excitement until Andrew
shouted, " Noo!" Then I drove the spear
forward, and missed, also lost my balance, and
would next moment have been rolling among
the boulders, but that laughing Andrew grabbed
my shoulder.
The second thrust was more successful, for a
quiver along the slender rod told that the barbs
had struck a fish, and driven overhead in the
firm flesh they slipped off the sockets, as they
were intended to do. Thus the captive was !
held by the sinew lanyard, and if any one
fancies it is easy to lift out a fighting salmon at
the end of a bending wand when perched upon ]
126 A  Wide  Dominion
a moss-smoothed pinnacle they have only to try
it. But the fish was landed, and Andrew with
a billet tapped it on the head, then set to work
in earnest, leaving me to my own devices.
The fun grew fast and furious, for the salmon
at times seemed jammed together, and I presently acquired some degree of skill, while
Tom and Harry did fearful execution with the
iron hooks. These, however, often tore through
the flesh, and apparently confirmed the theory
that fish cannot feel pain as animals do. Often
we saw a big one, whose shoulder rent wide
open showed white through the water, repeatedly charge the fall or ascend in graceful
bounds when it should have been helpless from
agony. The bank was soon covered with
gleaming fish, and then there came an interlude.
Tom struck at a salmon, and, missing it,
disappeared suddenly into the eddy, which
sucked him down. Then he came up choking
almost beneath the fall, and I held my breath'
as I watched him swinging his left arm like a
flail to avoid being swept under. Next, half-
hidden in foam, he was hurled down the white-
127 The Overseas Library
streaked rush towards the tail of the pool, and
came back sideways with the swing of the
eddy. I reached out the salmon spear, and he
broke the butt off it, while, as I prepared to
follow, Andrew, saying coolly, " Stay where ye
are, ye idiot, there would only be two fools to
worry over instead of one," " klepped " him, so
he called it, with the iron hook through the
back of his jacket, and there followed an exciting
minute before he was landed.
" I've played a sea-trout," said Harry, "on a
gossamer trace, " but I never played a man
before, and if you had been a two-pounder you
couldn't have made a better fight," but Tom
did not answer, being far too busy coughing up
water. Afterwards the fishing went on uneventfully, for the salmon were passing as
thickly as ever, and before it was finished we
had some seventy on the bank, varying from
sixteen to twenty-five pounds I think, which
was due to their numbers and not to our skill.
What followed was by no means dainty work,
but it had to be done, and by sunset our
appearance defied description, for we were
reddened to the ankles, besides being plastered
128 A Wide Dominion
all over with scales and sundries. Meantime,
other fishers had been hard at work, for great
white-headed eagles and circling hawks hovered
above the rapids on harshly beating wings, to
plunge now and then like a gannet into a
shallow, or swoop with a shrill scream upon
some unfortunate salmon which had been
crowded ashore. Then the feathered angler
rose again out of a burst of spray with a
struggling fish in its talons, which if held fore
and aft he bore off in triumph to the top of a
stately cedar, where, so Andrew said, he would
hoard it until the flesh was high. If, on the
other hand, the prey was seized sideways by
claws too close together, leaving part of its
back behind, it would splash into the pool, and
proceed apparently none the worse to launch
itself at the fall. Also lines of meaner fowls
stood perched on the boulders, waiting perhaps
for the eagles' leavings, while little bright-eyed
mink were scurrying everywhere on the chance
of being able to steal.
The split fish were slightly sun-dried, and
next, under Andrew's directions, we arranged
the smoking-house, loose sheets of cedar-bark The Overseas Library
leaning in a circle against a hemlock, and,
with the salmon hung up inside it, we piled
heaps of damp bark and fern about That
took a whole day's labour, and when, in the
evening, it was lighted, Andrew said, "I'll
come round the morn and further advise ye.
It's no a difficult matter when one is used to
it, but ye'll maybe spoil a few hunner before
ye get into it."
Andrew was right, although when towards
midnight I went out for a last look at the fire,
the damped-down pile was smouldering just as
it ought to do. A dense cloud of acrid smoke
rolled slowly across the bush, and there was
probably a dearth of mosquitoes for fully a mile
to lee, so I sank contented into peaceful slumber.
Harry awakened me at sunrise by a boot-heel
in the ribs, saying wrathfully, "Fourteen hours
work yesterday—just come and look at it,"
after which there was a dismal growl from Tom.
I went, and saw that while we slept a little
breeze had sprung up, and fanning the smouldering heap into flame had utterly wiped out
the result of our labours, for there were only
feathery ashes where the cedar-bark had been, A Wide Dominion
while a few charred objects were all that remained of the salmon.
Thereupon we argued the question as to who
was responsible, and after losing our tempers,
arrived at no result, until Tom concluded,
"We're pitiful fools, the whole of us, so instead
of talking for ever we had better start in again.
I can fancy what Andrew will say when he
comes along."
But Andrew, cautious by nature, would not
commit himself, and only sat down on a boulder
with a little laugh, while if memory serves me
right his comment was, "I'm no saying I did
not expect this." CHAPTER  IX
IT'S an evil tempered an' trying beast, but
ye cannot expect a high-class horse for
the sum o' eight dollars," said Andrew Elliot,
as he drew cautiously clear of the hoofs of a
Cayuse pony which he had purchased for us
from an Indian. Harry, so Tom said afterwards, was hiding behind a pine, and he himself remarking that he was not insured declined
to take an active part in the proceedings,
though from a safe place he gave us much
excellent advice. If in these days malignant
spirits do not inhabit men, which seems somewhat doubtful to judge by the newspapers, they
apparently find congenial quarters in many
horses, and when we approached it the one in
question seemed all teeth and hoofs.
Notwithstanding several failures, we had at
last prepared a stock of dried salmon, and in A Wide Dominion
spite of rather than aided by the beast, it was
my part to carry it to Alberni for shipment.
So after various mishaps, and several nasty
kicks, we hung a couple of loaded bags over
the animal's back, which it immediately endeavoured to scrub off against a tree until I held
the halter while Andrew thrashed it vigorously
with a ten-foot pole. As a result it bolted for
the bush, trailing me behind, while Andrew
running thrust the pole into my hand, saying
as he did so, " Better take this with ye, maybe
ye'll want it."
That first eight-mile journey was like a nightmare, for the Cayuse fouled the halter and
himself among the branches of every fallen
tree, fell down on a rock ledge, and once
seemed bent on swimming the Somas River,
while my shoulders ached from using the pole.
Only those who have driven a practically wild
Indian pony along a British Columbia trail can
fully appreciate the difficulty of the task. To
begin with, the average trail is scarcely two
feet wide, and zigzags among tangled undergrowth and giant bracken, which is matted
across it neck-high every here and there.    The
133 The Overseas Library
rest is cumbered by fir-roots in a treacherous
network, or blocked completely by fallen logs,
which are often twenty feet in girth, and lie
piled athwart each other in hopeless ruin, when
one must hew a way round or painfully wriggle
beneath. Still, disgusted and exhausted, I
reached Alberni, unloaded the salmon-bags,
which were burst in places, and then the whole
inhabitants, contrary to my wishes, turned out
to see me start. One leg was nearly broken
by being rubbed against a fir, the beast made
determined efforts to overthrow and trample on
me, and then abandoning the attempt to ride I
started back for camp amid sarcastic acclamations, towing him behind me at the full scope
of the halter.
Even so I had an uncomfortable feeling that
he was approaching furtively to bite my
shoulder, and the one time he manifested a
subdued spirit was when a panther sprang out of
the bush. The lithe beast turned and snarled
at us before he vanished into the fern again,
and the Cayuse resumed the journey a little
more quietly. Panthers are fairly common in
Vancouver Island, and sometimes hang about
134 A Wide Dominion
the outside of the small settlements, where
their conduct is in nowise marked by timidity.
A few weeks earlier a friend was riding down
the trail with a young deerhound trotting by his
side when one bounded from the underbrush,
and ere he could thrust a cartridge into the
rifle, had disappeared with a dog almost as large
as itself.
The narrator was a truthful man, and his
story received full credence, while one incident
may be cited which I witnessed myself.
I was lounging with others outside the
general store of Alberni, waiting for the mail,
and as the outlying settlers generally carried a
rifle on the chance of meeting deer or grouse,
perhaps a dozen weapons leaned against the
rail. A few lean hogs of the razor-backed
kind were rooting about the roadway almost
under our feet, when suddenly a panther shot
out from some matted fern. Several ran for
the rifles, but even as the first man flung his
up the aggressor and one small hog were gone,
while though we searched diligently we could
find neither spoor nor blood among the undergrowth.    Probably this would not happen  in The Overseas Library
the centre of Alberni now. For a week the
transport went on, and I daily fought pitched
battles with "The Terror," as Easton christened
the horse, while both my partners declined resolutely to have any dealings with him. Then
one fine morning we stood on the little rickety
wharf watching the old propeller Maud steam
down the great rock - walled fiord misnamed
the Alberni Canal, bound for Victoria, and
carrying our first consignment.
Meantime, Andrew Elliot had got himself
constituted postmaster for a neighbouring
district' where four or five lonely log houses
stood on the fringe of an almost unknown
wilderness. Doubtless the authorities understood what kind of place it was, but they were
ready to accept the first excuse for granting
small subsidies to encourage settlers. They
might not pay men openly for living on the
land, so instead they made them policemen or
schoolmasters, and this in districts possessing
but two families of children, and where in all
probability there never would be culprits. So
Andrew received a heavy box containing
weights and  measures  besides  many printed
136 A Wide Dominion
forms, which he flung into a corner among his
worn-out boots with the observation that life
was far too short to investigate such truck.
As it happened I went with him the first
night he carried the mail, and he required
assistance because the ranchers had conspired
together to play a joke on him. They had
ordered seeds and sundries to be sent up from
Victoria by parcels post instead of purchasing
them at the local store, so a confused heap of
boxes were flung out from the stage which
weekly made a perilous journey through
from Nanaimo, and twice even when I was
there, upsetting, broke one passenger's ankle
and did something serious to another's
" Confound them!" said Andrew wrathfully.
"Do they idiots fancy I'm a fast freight train?
Weel, I'll make the best of it," and he crammed
a dozen letters into the pockets of his canvas
overalls, where they reposed doubled up against
a blackened pipe and a greasy cake of somebody's unequalled plug. Then we hurled the
other packets into a couple of sacks among his
monthly supply of kerosene and big lump of raw
1 The Overseas Library
venison, and tramped off into the darkness and
the driving rain. The trail was ankle-deep in
mire which in places rose also to the knees.
Cataracts poured down on us from the cedar
branches, and when we reached the first powder-
keg nailed up to a tree in token that some miles,
or leagues, behind it stood a settler's dwelling,
it took ten minutes and many observations to
light a lamp. Then we found that the brown
juice of pulpy tobacco had freely permeated the
crumpled letters, but Andrew calmly straightened
them with a grimy paw, saying as he did it,
" There's nobody worth the reading would
write to old Peter. It's a bill maybe, and that
doesn't matter," then dropped the mangled
epistle into the powder-keg. Subsequently I
fell over a fir root and burst the old flour-bag,
and there followed a grope in deep mud for the
scattered packages, after which we strapped
them together with Andrew's suspenders, and
her Majesty's Mail went on its way again.
Andrew fired his rifle at the end of a fern-
choked trail, and when a man who waited
somewhere in the rain came forth he said, "I've
a letter for ye, but the Lord kens which it is,"
138 A Wide Dc
and by the light of a lantern we debated several
minutes over the blurred inscriptions, until my
companion settled the matter by a stroke of
" One of that lot's for ye, ye can take your
choice," he said. " Here's ten weary packets
for Jacques and the Dutchman, too; they're
neighbours of ye, and it would be a charity
to carry them along."
Thereupon he saddled half the contents of
one sack upon the rancher, and we departed
suddenly, to avoid his thanks, though I fancied
I heard him swearing after us through the
rain. And so we proceeded until when we
reached his dwelling the postmaster was
further puzzled, for there yet remained two
packets where none should have been.
" Orchard grass, an' garden seeds, they can
they kind noo. Weel, we'll just have supper
on the strength of what we've done."
Lest any should wonder, the writer would say
that in his time he has carried the mails of her
Britannic Majesty, and those of the King of The Overseas Library
Spain, on the backs of mules and camels as
well as in oil launches and fast steamers. These
were sometimes handled in a manner which
would have inspired horror in the minds of the
chiefs at home, while in case of the Spanish
correo, which is above all others eccentric, the
peasants of one province refrained from using
stamps, because, so they averred, the officials
would certainly steal them, and charge on
delivery again. Once, too, he remembers a
dispute that was more than verbal with a
drunken official upon the Niger over five bags
just landed from England, which the other insisted on returning home. Still, he came upon
the most original methods in the remoter woods
of British Columbia, all of which is of course
an unwarrantable digression.
At length the eagerly expected answer
arrived from Victoria, and we read it at the
tent door with a sickening sense of fresh
disappointment. There was no demand for
goods of that kind, the salesman said, but with
difficulty he had got a few dollars for it, for the
purpose of feeding Chinamen and hogs. However, if we could send good fish salted in barrels
140 A Wide Dominion
he fancied it might be sold for a little. Tom's
face darkened as he unfolded the paltry bill,
though I forget exactly what it represented,
but having found stump-grubbing a somewhat
arduous pastime, we determined to try the
salted fish for want of something better. Later
we consulted the willing Andrew, who, like
most of the ranchers, very seldom refused
advice or active help in any difficulty, and again
he was able to aid us. Barrels brought in
specially would be far too dear, he said, but
as luck would have it another man had
attempted the same thing a year or two ago,
and finding more profitable employment had
departed without shipping the last consignment.
It still remained on the river-bank, and if we
used the barrels no one would interfere, he said,
though he added, grinning, he fancied the
emptying of them would be "sairly trying."
The three who did it certainly found it so,
and I can vividly recall the morning when we
stood on the remains of a crumbling wharf
evidently built in the palmy days many years
ago. Near at hand the crystal river slid into
tidewater, and a deep, blue inlet wound west-
1 The Overseas Library
wards towards the Pacific through a steep-
walled opening in the forest-wrapped hills.
The rush of warm wind which swept up it
seemed to touch our faces with a saltness from
the sea through all the resinous odours of the
conifers. But there was another savour
decidedly less pleasant, which became accentuated when Tom with a hatchet knocked the
head of the first cask in. Then I recoiled
backwards, almost sick, and refrain from describing what we saw in the cask. Easton
seemed gripped by a spasm, Tom had a lump
in his throat, but summoning our courage we
• emptied it The next was a little easier, and
for three hours we worked on in desperate
haste, because we wanted those barrels badly,
while this was not the kind of task one would
care to linger at.
Then we sank the casks in the stream, and
departed feeling we needed a dose of brandy.
Afterwards they were filled with clean earth to
deodorise, and in due time this was replaced by
brine and salmon, and the whole consigned to
Victoria. The net result was, however, a dead
failure, for the fish being prepared badly, so the
142 A Wide Dominion
dealer said, the remittance he sent us barely
repaid the cost of provisions, and that of the
Terror. When Andrew declined to take back
the latter on any terms at all Tom presented
him gratis with his blessing to a rancher, and
we subsequently heard the recipient went about .
blackening our memory. !
"1 "X TE had hired ourselves out timber-cut-
VV   ting when we  met ex-officer Mellard
again, and he sat before a split-board shanty
in   the   mainland   bush,   contentedly  peeling
potatoes   with   a   broken   knife.      He   was
brighter-eyed and thinner than when we saw
him last making patriotic speeches on board
a colonist car, but in spite of the old blue
overalls he had not lost the indefinite stamp.
Some men instead of sinking under adversity
always seem superior to their environment, and
our acquaintance was one of these. There
were many patches, some of them cut from
flour-bags, upon his canvas garments, but they
only set off the stalwart figure, and in a land
of athletes their wearer stood revealed as equal
to any in physique, and yet different. For
the rest, he was earning two dollars a day by
144 A Wide Dominion
cooking for thirty men, because just then it
would not have been wise for the contractor to
employ too many Chinamen. So a Mongolian
assisted, and Mellard took the pay, while
another man would have received much abuse
as well, but there was something which prevented even the surly Marshall Brothers
taking liberties with him.
Their camp stood perched on a hillslope above
a certain little town not very far from Vancouver
City, which nestled, hemmed in by forests, beside
a broad river, and, contrary to the general rule,
the senior partner was an unmitigated brute
who had already gained an evil name in that
district. He came up as we spoke to Mellard,
and I remember his greeting was, " More condemnation useless Britishers! What foolish
agent was it sent me this kind of truck ? Well,
can't you get a move on before the flies eat
you ? "
Tom stared hard at him and I saw his brows
contract, but Mellard only laughed, and when'
the other moved away he said, " I'm afraid you
won't find this a comfortable camp. That man
is a black-hearted bully, and the rest of the
K 145
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choppers, besides being already mutinous, are
not a high-class set. They are mostly raw
Lancashire miners of the kind which is ready
with the clogs, driven here by the coal trade
slackening in Naimo, and I think there is
trouble not very far away. However, perhaps
you had better commence and earn your two
dollars a day."
"' Thanks," said Tom quietly. " We've
travelled a hundred miles to get this employment, and we don't intend to be scared off by
words from a man like that. Still, I also think
there'll be trouble if he talks any more to me."
So Mellard peeled his potatoes while we set
to work dragging a grinding cross-cut saw
through the felled conifers, then shackling on
the oxen hauled or rolled the giant logs
towards a skidway to the river, for, against
general usage, which is to burn them, these
were to be floated to a saw-mill lower down.
It was severe and dangerous physical toil,
for some of the trunks were five feet in
diameter, and had a trick of rolling back on
the hand-spikes or hurling them in the air,
which threatened to crush the men behind out
146 A Wide Dominion
of existence. Those who worked about us
were mostly, as Mellard had said, young
Lancashire miners, capable, perhaps, under
different treatment of cheerful work, but now
sullen and foul-spoken. Also, much of the
time Steven Marshall sat on a log and pointed
out their shortcomings with a bitter tongue,
while the gang shook their fists at him surreptitiously and muttered curses.
At sunset we went back disgusted to the
shanty, and, as Mellard was not a first-rate
cook, enjoyed an indifferent meal, after which
we sat apart in the clearing as the shadows
deepened, and Mellard told us part of his
adventures. He had been swindled, as usual,
in a land investment, and then found work
tending stock on the lower Fraser, which he
gave up because, as he said, "The rancher was
a gunner who ran from my own ship on this
station many years ago. Now he's rich and
prosperous, while I am—what I am. I knew
him at first glance, though he never recognised
me, but the contrast was too impressive, and
there was always a lurking fear he might
remember.    So I left  him  after  some  small
147 The Overseas Library
difference, and now I'm cooking in the bush
for this rabble. Life is a somewhat weary
thing, but I suppose it's only justice, and the
man who flings the good away must not
grumble at the bad."
None of us answered, for we did not know
what to say, though I noticed there was
sympathy in Tom's open face, and presently
we went back with reluctance to the shanty.
It was foul with stale tobacco smoke and
mingled savours, dirty otherwise also, and
clamorous with wild language, and that was
. the only time in the Dominion my surroundings inspired me with disgust, though once
Mellard ejected an offender forcibly by the neck.
About a fortnight later Tom and I were
sawing a hemlock down beside the steep skid-
way, while some half-dozen others were busy
with the oxen getting out a log. Below us, and
seen through branch-arched tunnels between
the columnar trunks which stretched down the
hillside in stately colonnades, the river glinted
like a silver riband, and across it blue smoke
curled lazily over a wooden town. As usual
a mountain rampart hung  over  that, with a
148 A Wide Dominion
glimmer of whiteness far above the timber line,
while shafts of golden radiance beat down upon
the fern. A blue grouse was drumming some-
. where, and the song of a frothing rapid rose up
from the sunlit valley, but man's voice jarred
harshly upon nature's harmonies, for Marshall
halted a moment to abuse some of the gang,
and growling curses followed as he passed on
up the skidway. The latter consisted of the
rounded edges of smaller trees bedded in the
earth for the great trunks to thunder over on
their way to the river, and beside us, where
the bank sloped sharply in another direction,
Marshall, as asked by those who worked below,
should have erected a stout log guard. But,
for this very reason, he did not do it, and so
rendered himself responsible for what followed.
I had loosed the saw a moment to mop
my dripping face, when there was a grinding
sound higher up in the bush, and a great log
came bouncing along the skids. It was probably fifteen feet in girth, and the stout skids
smoked and screamed again under its passage.
While watching the charging monster it struck
me that something would happen if it left its
149 The Overseas Library
proper path, so instinctively I stepped behind
a tree, and saw it leap apparently several feet
in the air as its swinging butt struck some
obstacle. Then, canting a little further, it
launched itself clear of the skidded track,
and plunged like a thunderbolt into the forest
There was a wild yell of warning, and men
bolted left and right, a mighty smashing of
brushwood, and a sickening crash as it brought
up with splintered butt against a boulder.
Some one shouted hoarsely there was a man
under it, and shivering a little I followed the
others through the torn-up undergrowth.
Mercifully, as it happened, the man was not
beneath the log, but had been struck by some
projection on passing and hurled clear with a
badly shattered leg. So we found him lying
with one hand tearing up the mould, reddened
fern all about him, and—for this is what
happened—choking wild profanity through his
teeth. What could be done we did for him,
and then, silent at last, laid him on a litter of
branches and blankets, which four comrades
lifted just as Marshall came back.
The questions died from his lips as he saw A Wide Dominion
the savage faces turned towards him, and I
remember Mellard, who ran up, shook him
fiercely by the shoulders. "If there's any law
can punish you, you shall suffer for this," he
said. " Now take yourself off quickly before
they murder you."
The victim, and he was a young lad, was
carried with rough gentleness to the settlement, and I believe lay in Vancouver hospital
for long months afterwards, while when his
companions returned at night an informal
meeting was held in the shanty to discuss
the matter. One man kept watch by the
doorway with an axe in his hand, and it
would have gone ill with any of Marshall's
friends who tried eavesdropping. Mellard, who
had gone with the others, also said to Tom,
1 They have a storekeeper down there who
acts as magistrate, but he seems grossly
ignorant, and either cannot or will not do
anything—says it's no use making a fuss over
an accident, and I'm afraid we would hardly
prove deliberate negligence in Vancouver. Still,
the townsfolk don't like Marshall, and I should
say before long there'll be rough justice done."
151 The Overseas Library
There was no uproar at that meeting and
but little profanity, for the men were too
deadly earnest to vapour, and instead discussed matters with a cold, vindictive common
sense which surprised the writer. One of
them pointed out this was not an accident,
Marshall knew the danger, and refused to
remedy it, while he also repeated a story I
afterwards found to be true. A similar mishap
took place a litde while before just across the
U.S. border in the State of Washington,
where a contractor, in spite of warnings, caused
the death of a man. His comrades hung the
offender then and there on the spot, and
promptly dispersed among the mountains.
They were not all Americans, but numbered
Italians and Chinese too, yet though the
Sheriff's posse, who knew every trail and ford,
promptly turned out in chase, not one among
them was apprehended. Nevertheless, he did
not recommend that kind of thing, the speaker
said, though they surely meant to teach Marshall a lesson, but it must be after the setding
day when every man would receive his earnings, while the offender's cup of iniquity was A Wide Dominion
proved full to the brim when the speaker produced a time sheet in which those who went
down to the settlement were debited half a
day. All this was, of course, mean and sordid,
but the narrator is not responsible for that.
So for a week the chopping progressed steadily,
and Marshall, who had been quiet for the first
few days, recovered his temper, and bullied the
men more savagely than before, not knowing
that even then the sword was hanging above
his head.
In the end it was Tom who fired the train
when late on the last afternoon we rolled
together the smaller logs for the purpose of
burning them. These were sawn in lengths of
some fourteen feet, and toiling with handspike
and cantpole, or with our shoulders against the
bark, we rolled them up stout skids over one
another into a pyramid. It. was a somewhat
dangerous task because the logs were heavy,
while if one should overpower us as we lifted
the chances were that falling it would break
some one's arm or leg, and we worked conscientiously for our own preservation. Still
Marshall was  not  satisfied, and  sat perched
'53 The Overseas Library
upon a neighbouring pile coarsely abusing us
until it happened that Tom ripped his arm.
Then with many adjectives he pointed out
that it served him right, and Tom, wheeling
suddenly, flung his spiked cantpole at the
speaker's head. Luckily it did not strike him,
or a hard man's career would have been ended,
but whirring noisily past his ear caused him
to lose his balance, and lurch over backwards
into ten feet of tangled brush. He crawled
forth choking with fury some minutes afterward, and strode towards the assailant revolver
in hand, which was the first time I saw a
pistol drawn in anger in the whole of
Canada. Then matters began to look ugly,
for the gang closed in with handspikes and
axes, but whatever the man's faults were he
was not a coward, and hailing his brother and
foreman he stood fast threatening them. Mellard ended the matter by going forward with
empty hands, and saying quietly—
" Put it away, Marshall, and don't make a
fool of yourself. You can't shoot all of them,
and if you miss any I don't think they'll miss
you.    Besides, we're all of us tired  of your
154 A Wide Dominion
nasty ways, so after to-morrow you can do
the work yourself."
One by one the others flung down their
weapons, and went back to the shed, where
early on the morrow, in ominous silence, each
received his pay and even forgot to dispute
unwarranted deductions. Afterwards I went
down to the settlement, and, leaving my
chattels at the little hotel, spent many hours
casting for sea-trout in the river, glad to forget
the past few weeks in the musical murmur of
hurrying water. So it was evening when I
came back again, and found Harry Easton
seated with a troubled face on the verandah.
I Mellard's broken loose at last — rye
whiskey," he explained. " The rest have
got themselves badly drunk, and have gone
off whooping through the bush with some of
the citizens—they left a message you were to
hurry along. Tom, worse luck, has gone as
well, to keep Mellard from harm he said, and
they'll probably clean out Marshall's camp tonight. I suppose you're not sufficiently mad
to follow them."
I  only shrugged  my shoulders  and deter-
J55 The Overseas Library
mined to stay where I was, so what followed
was gathered from hearsay. It was twilight
when the invaders fell upon the enemies'
camp, also, as it happened, Marshall was
absent, and the first thing they did was to
bring out what their leader called his " dom't
tin crockery." This they conscientiously flattened, every basin and every plate, with an
axe-head upon a hemlock stump, flogged the
pair of horses until they bolted, and made a
roaring bonfire of Marshall's raiment. Next,
some inventive genius suggested they should
shackle the oxen with a log chain round his
house, and amuse themselves by pulling it up
by the roots. This was received with acclamation, and, rent asunder by four sturdy oxen,
Marshall's snug dwelling was scattered all
over the clearing. Afterwards they proceeded
to stuff his cast-iron stove with the purple
blasting-powder used at that time largely for
the destruction of trees, and firing a long train
thereto departed hurriedly for the bush, where
the last just escaped annihilation by flying
Sitting on the hotel verandah I heard the
156 A Wide Dominion
explosion, which rolled repeated along the hill-
slopes through the stillness of the evening, and
saw a distant cloud of yellow smoke curl up
against the sky-line from among the pines.
Then Harry said, "They're getting in their
work, and there won't be much left of Marshall's when they have finished. Confound
them !   I hope Tom will not run into trouble."
The pearly northern twilight had faded into
dusk, the stars were twinkling forth one by
one above the dark conifers, while the boom
of the river rang louder through the deepening
night, when a clamour of voices broke out
in the little town. Next, hatless, half-naked,
and panting, Marshall fled down the street,
while a disorderly rabble following hard
behind hurled execrations and shingle after
him. Among the rest I saw Tom struggling
to hold back Mellard, and exchanging glances
we leapt down the verandah stairway.
" Help me to hold the lunatic," gasped our
comrade when we reached his side. "He has
taken leave of his senses, and things have gone
far enough." Then there followed an exciting
five minutes, and it took the whole three to
) The Overseas Library
subdue Mellard, while during the operation my
one remaining jacket was rent almost in halves.
But it was done somehow, and locking him for
safety in a store behind the bar, we went
back exhausted to the verandah again, where
Tom said breathlessly, "I'm glad we got him,
for I don't want to be mixed up in what will
happen if they lay hands on Marshall. They
met him riding in by the saw-mill trail and tore
the clothes off him, but he broke through fighting so pluckily that, much as I hate the man,
I stood aside to give him law. If they catch
him afterwards it's not my business, and I
almost hope they will."
It was perhaps ten minutes later that a howl
of disappointed wrath announced the escape
of the fugitive, and we heard subsequently he
evaded his pursuers by swimming the river;
when feeling contented the matter had ended
so, the writer sought his couch in a matchboard
cubicle. Next morning, after continuing the
festivities all night, the timber-cutting gang
felt sick and repentant, and were then waited
on by a deputation of the more prosperous
inhabitants.    It might be Marshall had only
158 A Wide Dominion
received his deserts, these said, but such proceedings did not reflect credit on that town,
and it might be well if the rioters honoured
some other place with their presence.
The latter took the hint in good part,
and set out with borrowed ponies over the
trail to the C.P.R., though they halted under
the verandah and howled thrice in farewell to
11' gradely captin," while a burst of laughter
rose up from the spectators when one disreputable object announced that they had
forgiven Marshall. Mellard lifted his hat to
them, and then said quietly to us, " Of course
I made a fool of myself again, and I thank you
for taking care of me. It's an old story, and
you've probably seen it played out to the bitter
end before. Pah ! they know no better, and I
who do, to figure as a drunken leader of
drunken rabble. Well, there's a heavy price
to pay for all wilful foolishness."
Neither Tom or I made answer, for we felt
there are occasions when silence is best, and
Mellard was strangely subdued until, two days
later, we set out in a pack-canoe down river.
IT was in Vancouver City—whose inhabitants
being divided on the question of granting
a subsidy to bring a new railroad in, held
many public meetings and worked themselves
into a state of fierce excitement—that we lost
pur comrade again. Mellard, though one of
the most amiable and courteous of men,
possessed a curious instinct which always led
him into the forefront of a disturbance, and I
believe by some means gained an influence
with one of the parties. Now in many
Western cities a man of parts, if it be only a
gift for public speaking, a fine voice, or skill
with an instrument, is often found employment
for the purpose of keeping him there, but as
we could do neither we went on alone.
I cannot determine  whether it was  before
or after this we hunted seals.    The sequence
160 A Wide Dominion
of events seems to point to the latter, but
the habits of the fur-seal would prove the
contrary. In any case, leaving Harry painting
railings, I think, because he was always ill at
sea, Tom and I took passage with a new
friend from Victoria in a schooner bound for
the Skeena to an inlet on the north-west of
Vancouver. She was both old and rotten, and
her crew mostly Chinamen whose methods of
handling canvas were eccentric, but with a
warm wind gently rippling the blue roll of the
Pacific she wallowed along at a five-knot pace,
shouldering off broad folds of cerulean brine,
past as glorious a panorama* as any on this
It was a sunny morning when we left Victoria, where beyond the high-piled masonry
of business edifices a circle of wooden villas
stretches down the land-locked bay. No building
of brick or stone could be made half so pretty
as these bijou dwellings with their painted
scroll-work and carved verandahs, nestling
half-hidden among fruit trees and flowering
creepers. But the cities have been written of
many times before, and this narrative deals
L 161 The Overseas Library
with life in the open. Beating out with
weathered and ill-set canvas through the
Straits of San Juan, before sunset we had sunk
the purple lower slopes of the great Olympian
range in a sapphire sea, though far up above
us there still remained a majestic white saw-
edge floating isolated in crystalline ether. Also
on passing the basin of Squymault, where the
British warships lie, the skipper related an incident which I understood had lately troubled the
Provincial Government, besides causing fierce
indignation in Victoria, and I give it to the
best of my memory in his own language.
" A Dutch barque came in to load salmon,"
he said, " though why she didn't go to Victoria
I can't exactly say. Now your men-of-war
captains are almighty big men, and the commander of the flagship he orders her out
The Dutchman said he had no right, and he'd
see him roasted first, so the commander cuts
the moorin's and gettin' steam on the pinnace
makes them tow her ten mile out to sea, where
they left them settin' topsails an' runnin' the
staysails up. Then the lieutenant comes home
with the pinnace feelin' satisfied he had fixed
162 A Wide Dominion
that Dutchman up, but next morning the commander goes everlastin' mad, for there was the
blamed old salmon barque comin' in again.
" ' You go away to Victoria, or Vancouver :
this is our place,' he says; and that Dutchman
answers, ' You go to perdition, I'm coming
right in here.'"
"This time the pinnace was busy doin'
somethin' else, so the bluejackets was sent in
the cutters to tow him out again, an' they did
it cussin' tremendous under a blazin' sun, while
the square-heads sits on the foc's'le makin'
faces at them. It's no use talking of discipline
because the mate was there, and he heard
them himself. I forget just how many times
they towed them Dutchmen out, but next
morning they were sure to be back again; then
some of the municipalities they took the matter
up, and there was a high-class row over that
salmon. Some of them ironclad skippers is
too big for their boots, and they're chiefly
handy  knocking ships' bottoms out,  while if
you ever meet the 's men ask them what
they did with her when they went into Nainoose
Bay." The Overseas Library
The skipper's narrative was more or less correct, though whether the obstinate Hollander
eventually got his salmon I do not remember.
All the next day the white peak of Mount
Baker followed  us,  clearly seen across some
two hum
pine forests which
then the wind bre;
out close-hauled in
miles of lesser ranges, and great
)lled down to the sea;
ng northward drove us
the lonely wastes of the
Pacific. It would serve little purpose to
describe how tack and tack we thrashed the
old schooner across the mile-long flaming
swell, because that journey much resembled
the one which followed, but at last her
skipper landed us in a lonely rock-walled
opening away north of Nootka Sound. No
name is attached to it on the largest scale
chart, indeed such inlets may be found in
thousands all the way from San Juan to
Alaska, and its Indian appellation was almost
unpronounceable, being apparently a succession
of "u's" and "chucks," although not to be
confounded with Uchucklet In spite of the
writer's good intentions the narrative becomes
discursive occasionally, but to give even a rude
164 A  Wide Dominion
idea of this chaos of mountain and forest and
the men who dwell there it is of necessity so.
Anthony Leyland, our companion, was a
little mad we had been told, but when we
knew him better I decided I had rarely met.
a saner man. Being a Briton of property some
years before he had bought several thousand
acres of virgin forest lying between the great
Central Lake and the west coast of Vancouver Island. To this he removed his family
and built at much expense a frame house in a
lovely valley, while the nearest settlers wondered what had brought him there. He could
find no possible market for anything he grew,
and, if he liked that kind of thing, it was a
waste- of money to purchase land, they said,
because he could live there undisturbed for
ever. Leyland, however, once explained the
matter to me.
" I had no taste for business," he said, " and
disliked crowds as much as politics, while I
had always a longing for a healthy natural life,
where with time to think one could use his
strength and energy in intelligent and useful
labour.     My boys were wildly fond of sport
165 The Overseas Library
in the open air, and, strange to say, the rest of
my family agreed with me, so in spite of kind
friends' warning we came out and bought this
place, and I do not think they have ever
regretted it. Besides, even so far as money
goes, this will be a rich land some day, and
before I have passed the holding on it will be
worth three times what I gave for it"
Fortunately there are others like him in
British Columbia, and when afterwards I
visited his beautiful house and gardens, and
saw the contented family growing up about
him, it struck me it was a pity more of the
same kind had not followed him. We had
met him in Victoria, and he offered to find us
in provisions with a share of the profits, should
there be any, in return for our company on a
seal-hunting cruise.
It was towards the close of a scorching afternoon when we lay on the smooth-worn shingle
of the inlet, watching an Indian workman put
the finishing touches to a big sea canoe. At
our feet a lane of deep, green water lapped
lazily along the white pebbles, and across it
for perhaps eight hundred feet a bare slope of
166 A Wide Dominion
smooth rock ran up glinting in the light of the
westing sun, until the dark pines climbed
towards the blue again. Another ridge rose
behind us for a thousand feet or so, but this
was draped by cedars, while between the last
trunks and the water stood two long, barnlike buildings, Siwash rancheries. Now the
Siwash, or coastwise Indian of the Pacific
Slope, has little in common with the redskin
of the prairie. The latter is, with a few
marked exceptions, generally speaking, a
sullen scarecrow who lives in his reserve
on Government bounty, or peddles polished
buffalo horns about the stations, stealing'
also on opportunity the wheat-growers' fowls.
I have seen the same group sitting beside
the track many days on end, immovable.
and wooden, each one chiefly clad in a dirty
blanket which he held together about his
throat. The Blackfoot always does so, for it
has apparently never struck him that it would
save labour to sew on a strap or string. Once,
too, I lived in a teppee with a few who were
fishing, and though they could speak some
English rarely elicited more than a grunt from
167 The Overseas Library
any of them. Perhaps it is a feeling that he
is the last of a worn-out race which oppresses
the Prairie Indian, but this is doubtful.
The coastwise Siwash, however, is widely
different, and apparently rather of Oriental
than American origin, though how he got into
that continent scientists have so far not satisfactorily explained, because the Straits of
Behring would be a bad place to cross in a
shouldered instead of tall, with face and colour
of somewhat Mongolian type, ingenious and
good-humoured almost invariably, and proficient in several industries. Salmon-catching
for the canneries, seal-hunting, and the transport of merchandise by pack-ponies and
canoes are his favourite occupations, but he
can turn his hand to many things, and is often
better off than the average white setder,
owning many ponies, or fleets of canoes. For
the rest, he usually dresses in canvas garments
of American fashion, and being, like most useful
native races, a sturdy pagan, worships a mythology of spirits with unpronounceable names.
Pechacalum, our pilot, stood before us sur-
168 A Wide Dominion
veying the sea canoe with an air of pride, and
grinned approval, holding up a tiny adze hardly
larger than his thumb, when Tom, patting his
shoulder, said, " I don't know how you made
her with that wretched thing, but I would back
her to distance many a steamer's gig."
He was probably right, for the craft in
question was beautifully modelled. Chopped
out of a straight-grained cedar with an axe,
hollowed inside by fire and further hewing,
her dimensions were some twenty feet by five,
while it must have taken weeks of patient
labour to smooth her to a finished state with
the diminutive adze. The forefoot was
rounded, and the stem swept up carved into
the likeness of the head of a bird. The
entrance was knife-like underneath, while the
bows flared out above it to lift her in a sea.
The sweep of beaded sheer pleased the eye,
while the swell of bilge, long, flat floor, and
easy lines of the run promised that she would
travel fast under the paddle. And yet the
Siwash carpenter used neither rule nor mould,
and built her with three tools—the axe, the
pine-knot brand, and a microscopic adze.
169 The Overseas Library
Presently some one hailed us in Chinook,
and we entered the rancherie, where they
regaled us with venison, grouse, and berries
sun-dried in paper racks, with white fern roots
and flapjacks, and some very good green tea.
A Siwash dwelling seems run on Socialistic
principles, for so far as we could discover the
several families inhabiting it had everything in
common. Neither are there any partitions,
only a line scored along the floor allotting so
much space to each group of persons. The
big one-storied house was also well built from
the carved totem tree'before it to its shingled
roof, and just then seemed filled with rifles,
blankets, and other portable wealth. This,
Pechacalum explained, was due to the fact that
a big "potlach" had been held somewhere
near recently, and as the latter is an original
method of purchasing a life annuity it merits
a brief description.
When a Siwash Tyhee, or other person of
importance, feels that old age is coming on
he often sends word to all his kinsmen and
scattered followers. These come in over
mountains and through tangled forest,  or in
170 A Wide Dominion
light canoes along leagues of surf-beaten
coast, and foregathering at his dwelling fast
for so many hours. Then a sumptuous banquet is provided and they eat, so Pechacalum
averred, until they cannot see out of their eyes,
after which every guest receives a costly
present—a rifle, several ponies, or a big sea-
canoe—according to his station and the means
of the giver. Thus when the feast is finished
the host remains a pauper, for all his worldly
possessions have been given away. But
henceforward those assembled are bound to
provide for him, and help his descendants in
time of adversity, and it is said they seldom
fail to perform their part of the undertaking.
So, discussing this and other matters in
broken English and indifferent Chinook, which
is a curious jargon with traces of Russian and
French, we wiled the evening away until it
was time to roll ourselves in our blankets.
Sleep would not come, however, though I
earnesdy courted it, and for some hours I
fought a losing battle with voracious insects.
Mosquitoes are bad in British Columbia,
indeed there are river valleys into which after The Overseas Library
but there were even worse things in that
rancherie. So when flesh and blood could
stand it no longer, treading softly lest I might
offend our kindly hosts, I went out into the
cool night breeze that swept up the inlet.
But even here was no respite, until in torment
I took to the water, while never did the touch
of clean, cool brine feel so delicious. When I
came up dripping on to the pebbles again I
found Leyland had also done the same, and
we contemplated our garments long and
dubiously before we put them on. Then I
looked at Leyland, and he shook his head and
said: " A little of that rancherie is quite
enough for me, and I don't think I have the
hardihood to go back there again."
So we curled up in our blankets under the
lee of a boulder, and shivering I listened to
the moan of the soft swell about the pebbles,
and the cedars sighing, until sleep silenced
them, and when next my eyes were opened
fan-shaped streamers of yellow light shooting
up from behind the eastern wall of mountains
told that the day had come.
A COOL air came down from the ranges,
though the morning sun shone hot, when
with the help of half the inhabitants of the
rancherie we launched the sea canoe over the
shingle, and a lip of flashing brine licked about
her as she took the water. Then we slung
our rifles, wrapped in covers of seal-intestines,
under the thwarts, stowed a bag of flour and
other provisions with an axe and rolls of
blankets on the branches in the stern, and at
Pechacalum's bidding dipped the long paddles.
The group of dark-skinned Siwash waved us
farewell, and many good wishes followed us in
the quaint Chinook. Then the paddles splashed
faster, and clear green water frothed white at
the bows, while crag, and pine, and shingle
beach slid by astern. Meantime a dull,
vibratory monotone grew louder, and the canoe The Overseas Library^
lurched more sharply to the lift of the swell.
Presently, passing a giant headland which fell
sheer to the water, we saw the mile-long heave
of the Pacific piling itself with a momentum
gathered perhaps all the way from Japan in
spouting cataracts upon a pine-clad islet, while
beyond its terminal ridge of battered rock
stretched a pale blue shimmering. Here was
an opportunity of testing the new canoe, and
though her builder growled something about
" Contox, hiyu chuck," which we translated
that the surf was bad, he seemed to have full
confidence she was equal to the task.
Leyland was skilled at the paddle like others
of his kind, Tom had been used to landing
goods through the surf of the tropics, and I had
served an arduous apprenticeship as an open
boat racer, so trusting to our pilot we prepared
short-handed to attempt the passage, and with
Pechacalum dipping the steering blade over
the quarter, the canoe slid cautiously past the
end of the island. Then we saw two fangs of
rock rising through the sea smoke out of a
white smother, until a frothing roller obliterated
them, when the Siwash howled orders to paddle.
J74 A Wide Dominion
We bent our backs and lifted her with every
thudding stroke, but were too late to shoot
through in time, for a transparent wall of water
ranged up ahead, the sunlight flashing on its
incandescent crest, and broke in one white
chaos between the end of the island and the
boulder-sprinkled beach. So we checked the
canoe a few moments, then drove her out with
might and main, buried to the gunwale in the
streaky rush, between the spires of rock. We
had left them perhaps forty yards astern when
the light craft sank down in a deep hollow, and
another breaker came rolling in ahead.
We checked the pace to ease the blow, and
then waited breathless—or at least such was the
white men's case—until a ridge of tossing white
curling over diagonally hung apparently overhead. Then the canoe stood up, it seemed
almost on end, and I knew the flaring bows
were doing their work, for the rush of water
lifted her instead of bursting^on board. Next,
poised horizontally, with half her length in
the air, she was swept stern first towards the
islets by the run of the sea, and we whirled
the paddles desperately, knowing what would
175 The Overseas Library
happen if she struck. But lurching giddily she
sank down into the hollow, and glancing over
my shoulder I saw the breaker rolling shoreward majestically until it dissolved into smoke
upon the rock, while almost at that instant a
heavy shock and a deluge down my neck told
that the light craft had plunged into the second
roller. She reeled forth half-full, but having
drawn out from the shore the next was smoother,
and five minutes later, exhausted and dripping,
we paddled clear of the surf on to the high
smooth heave of the open sea.
Then we  bailed her and squeezed out our
garments, taking comfort from knowing  that
a  well-packed   flour  bag  may   be   immersed
altogether   without   suffering   great   damage.
The  water  will  penetrate  perhaps a quarter
of an inch,  and  then it  forms  a cake which I
protects the rest.    Next we set two big sprit-
sails, and white froth lapped the gunwale as, I
swaying down to the west wind, she stretched
away to the north, swinging like a pendulum I
across the backs of the sea.    For a week that
voyage continued, and the wind held steadily
fair.     All   day  we   lounged   on   the   spruce ;
176 A  Wide Dominion
boughs, lulled almost to sleep by the drowsy
gurgle, while away to the westward there ran
a limitless succession of heaving levels, flashing
back the sunlight from their wrinkled shoulders,
and streaked with deep purple and indigo in
the hollows. On the other hand, a panorama
that was almost monotonous from too much
beauty unrolled itself, beetling crags with
white surf hissing at their feet, forest-filled
valleys, and rugged mountains, while seen right
across the island and the straits beyond, the
great Coast Range of the mainland lifted its
glistening summits high up against the east.
Then the northern end of the island sank
lower in the sea, until we left it behind us and
reached in towards the main. At night Pechacalum generally found us some inlet reft through
the mountains or crystal river mouth, where in
dead smooth water we ran the canoe ashore,
and camped among the boulders at the foot of
the conifers.
The whole coast of British Columbia is
fretted with such fiords, whose wild grandeur no
pen can describe, which lie from year's end to
year's end under the silence of unbroken soli- The Overseas Library
tude. Wonderful natural harbours with timber
enough behind them to last for centuries, iron,
gold, and copper, in the sheltering ranges, a
climate almost unequalled for health-giving
properties, and an abundance of fish in the sea,
such are the chief features of the coastwise
region, yet much of it remains a wilderness
waiting development And some day when
older England is turned into one huge mart and
workshop, when cities and mines and railroads
have blotted the last meadow out, and there is
dearth of air and space for the swarming multitudes, future generations will bless the foresight of statesmen, and the resdess energy of
free-prospector and axe-man pioneer which has
provided for them a still richer heritage. Many
men have died for this, wandering in the old days
through the snows to Caribou when there was
neither road nor mule-track through the spray-
filled canons. Even now the bones of others |
lie but half-rotted in the glacier-barred desolation between the Albertan foothills and the
Oominica, and there is scarcely a thundering I
pool in the Fraser gorges, sunk down it may be I
two thousand feet between awful walls of rock, I
178 A Wide Dominion
which has not in time past also claimed its toll of
of adventurous Englishmen. It is the same old
story whose truth is somewhere hidden in the
heart of that race, for without the shedding of
blood there is no dominion, and it is well for
the nation that the Viking spirit has probably
never burned fiercer than it does to-day. Also,
more than any Government, the broken, the
.hopeless, and the outcast, are doing a great
work for us, while if any of their number had
the power to tell it well, having seen them
thrashing the rotten schooners through uncharted reef-sprinkled seas, starving as in the
dogs' traces they haul the heavy sledges through
the ice-bound wilderness, or dying like flies of
pestilence to open a road for the palm-oil trade
in the sweltering tropic swamps, he could write
a story that would fill Englishmen's hearts with
flame. I have seen a very little, heard somewhat more, while cholera, malaria, blizzard,
yellow jack, and whirring snow-slide have each
accounted for some comrade's life, but with
feeble skill one dare but hint at a task which
requires a master's hand.
So far we had fared almost luxuriously, sleep-
179 The  Overseas Library
ing on couches of cedar boughs, or floating
under warm sunlight across an untroubled sea,
and the one thing which disturbed us was that
we had found no seals. This was, however,
shortly remedied, for one day, when not far
from a mainland river, far down under the
shimmering surface I saw a dim grey shadow
shoot swifdy behind what seemed a flash of
light This, Pechacalum said, was a fur-seal
chasing a halibut or something of the kind, and
as he must rise presently Tom held the steering
paddle while the rest took up the rifles. Soon
a mouse-grey back came rippling out of the
swell, and a whiskered head, which reminded
me much of a pug-dog's, was turned inquiringly
towards us. I rested the Marlin barrel upon
the gunwale, wriggling my cheek along the
stock in a vain endeavour to keep the sights in
line, for target and canoe swayed different ways
puzzlingly with each lift of the sea. Then the
flash of the Siwashe's Winchester dazzled my
eyes, there was a ringing crash behind my
ear, and, firing I fear blindly, I pressed the
trigger, and felt the butt jar sharply against
my shoulder,
180 A Wide Dominion
Something splashed heavily in the sea ahead,
though I could not see it for the drifting smoke,
and grew still a second later when Leyland's
rifle spoke. I heard Tom dipping the paddle,
the blue vapour drifted clear, and soon the
bows rubbed against a floating object which,
from appearance, might have been a drowned
calf. We had to pass the sprit-sail sheets under
it by way of a parbuckle, and the writer at
least was tired when we rolled it in. It was
a shapeless creature covered with long, coarse
hair daubed freely by sticky grease, and much
resembled a skin bag filled with jelly. Such
is the bachelor fur-seal, called further north
teh " holluschuck," and anything more unlike
its finished product, a lady's jacket, it would be
hard to imagine. The skins can only be properly dressed in London, where the outer hair
is pulled out, I heard, with pincers, and the
inner one cut several times and also often
We had started the skinning, for under
certain conditions the carcase heats, when the
fur comes out in lumps, and I can still remember
the sickening smell of the blubber layer, when The Overseas Library
Pechacalum bade us paddle again, and three
rifles were emptied at another seal. Floating
seemingly asleep on the surface this one was
clearly struck, though two projectiles, one of
which Tom declared was from my rifle, flung
up sparkling flashes at each ricochet, but it sank
and never appeared again, for unless the seal
be wounded mortally it goes down and apparently drowns itself in the lower depths of
the sea Still, we got two that morning, and
here the writer ventures to branch off into
natural history, condensing the fuller knowledge of others, and what he heard on board
sealing schooners when he once sailed to the
Where the fur-seals of the Pacific go to in
the winter no one seems exactly to know,
though some may be found occasionally all the
way from Cape Horn to the islands of Japan.
Still, regularly every springtime they swarm
towards the misty waters of the Behring Sea,
while thresher and shark and Siwash take toll
of them on the way. There, so the Americans
say, they breed on only two little islands, St
Paul and St. George of the lonely Pribiloffs,
182 A Wide Dominion
and the Rocks of Komandorski in Russian
waters. So on moonlit nights in May thousand
by thousand the veteran bulls haul out on strip
. of shingle and rocky ledge, and for perhaps
three weeks fight savagely for a few square
feet in the " rookery," when a certain number,
perish in the contest. Then the little cow-seals
come out of the sea in turn, and are appropriated by the victors, who for more than a
month touch no morsel of food, but keeping
grim watch roar incessant menace over their
calving mates. The din they make can be
heard through the boom of the groundswell
several miles to sea. Meantime, the hollus-
chuckie, or bachelor seals too young to enter
the fight, also haul out and herd apart, and it is
these which are slain by the lessees, while when
the summer is over all depart again.
Now no unauthorised person may kill the
seals ashore, or within ten miles, I think, of the
beaches, so the free-lance schooner captains
shoot them while floating asleep or rising to
breathe in open water—or they ought to do so.
But these modern Ishmaelites, it is whispered,
know other beaches than those generally talked
183 The Overseas Library
about, where they fill their holds illegally in a
bad season. Besides, in a region of almost
eternal mist and rain, when the seals swarm
past in thousands, it is easy to compute wrongly
the distance from land. Thus three nations'
gunboats have for some years been kept busy
in the North, and curious stories are related
of high-handed actions by either side, while the
troubles occasionally almost resolved themselves
into open warfare, and once American vessels
were armed with quick-firing guns. I was also
told of a Russian cruiser's cutters attempting
unjustified seizure being beaten off in actual
fight, and from collateral evidence believed
the story, while shordy before I visited a
certain sealer's haunt a good many strange
things happened which those interested did not
consider it good for the public to know.
In all we killed eight or nine seals, which,
though several were of the common and less
valuable kind, would seem to indicate that the .
whole of the holluschuckie do not enter the
Behring Sea, or reach there very late, for even
travelling at topmost speed those in question
must have arrived long behind the rest    But
184 A Wide Dominion
fine weather does not last for ever on the British
Columbian coast, and a hard breeze set in
from the westward, driving before it a blinding
deluge. We were caught some twenty miles
from land when it came down on us suddenly
streaking the sea with white, and it needed
sharp work to get the sprit-mainsail in. Then
with only the foresail set we staggered downwind for the coast, the writer devoutly thankful
that Pechacalum, adopting the white man's ways,
had fitted a rudder as well as a steering paddle.
The long swell was soon piled up in slate-green,
froth-tipped walls, which came thundering up
astern of us, and splitting under the after end
swept us along half-buried in foam. But the
long straight floor of the canoe made steering
easy, and in spite of the pressing canvas, which
we dare not reduce, she stormed on with no
dangerous twisting before the following seas.
Released at last from my turn at the tiller,
I sat in the water and bailed, finding it by
no means easy to keep the flying craft free,
with my eyes fixed anxiously towards where
land should be. It was nearly dusk when
a spray-veiled  headland  loomed   up  through
185 nMfT
The Overseas Library
the driving scud, and not daring to attempt
a landing there, we ran the risk of rolling
over by hauling the wind awhile. Wallowing giddily, with the sea on the quarter,
she lurched diagonally shorewards, until, when
half-full, Pechacalum ran her in under an
island, one of the thousands sprinkled everywhere along this fissured coast. Here behind
a surf-lapped shingle spit we found a sheltered
beach, and crawled out dripping and stiffened,
but thankful when the keel took the pebbles.
There was a wall of small spruce behind us,
with one or two cedars, a spout of crystal water
.came splashing down a rock, and by the time
darkness set in we had made a roaring fire
of resinous wood, and lay with half-dried garments under a branch-built shelter. How for
a week we waited while the deluge continued,
and then made fifty miles southing under pitiless
drizzle with the paddle before we picked up an'
old propeller groping down the coast, would-
make a long and somewhat monotonous story.
In due time the steamer loosed the canoe's
tow-line off Barclay Sound, and the writer will
never forget  the weary, raw-handed struggle
186 A Wide Dominion
paddling her forty miles dead to -windward,
because she had no keel that would help her to
beat, under mist-wrapped mountains up the
Alberni Canal, where the rush of a blinding
deluge beat down the white-topped sea. It
was done, however, after three days' arduous
fight, and as many nights spent shivering in
pools of water. Then with little flesh left on
either palms or knees, he came ashore thankfully at the little wharf again, while it required
a week of delicious idleness to recover from
that trip.
187 iiffT"
IT was in the Caribou country that, long
after we had last seen him, we met our
unfortunate friend the municipal clerk again.
Chiefly from lack of funds we had walked up
much of the way from Ashcroft, a journey of
■ more than a hundred and fifty miles, and every
league of the country we traversed was haunted
by historic memories, for if there is one part of
the mountain province more interesting than
another it is Caribou. Here and there may be
seen rotting bridges the old-time prospectors
made, and the trails they hewed and died upon
still wander, choked with willows or grown up
by smaller trees, into the silent bush. Hillside, gravel-bar, and bench bear the scars of
abandoned workings, and over it all hangs the
glamour of romantic story, wild riot, and some-
188 A Wide Dominion
times bloodshed in the wooden hamlets where
the pack-trains halted coming south with
burdens of gold, the delirious joys of triumph
when wealth was won at last, and through it all
an undertone of starvation, despair, and death.
In one dark gorge a party were swept out of
life by a flood, in another a roaring snow-slide
blotted out a riotous camp, and one still hears
how by this gravel-spit or crumbling flume
the man who had sunk his last dollar there
destroyed himself. And, remembering what
these early adventurers did and suffered in
traversing what was then an almost impassable
wilderness, one would almost fancy they were
giants rather than men.
A few found wealth beyond the dreams of
avarice, many lost the little they had, and
others perished, but there was no obstacle
sufficient to turn them aside, and they laid
down their lives for the opening up of a great
province. This has been pointed out before
by many more eloquent, but the truth will
bear repetition, and it is fitting sometimes to
pay due tribute to the memory not only of
the leaders who  return  triumphant, but also
189 canon wall,
passable re
fully, into a
The Overseas Library
the legion of rank and file who never come
back at all.
In any case, when we had neither to swim
rivers, nor crawl like ants on some echoing
' iut only traversed a more or less
1, we limped, worn-out and pain-
ttle mining camp not far from the
Here, being lucky, we were able I
to take a contract to wheel a pile of gravel
across a gully, and commenced operations the
following morning. Caribou, although it has
long lost its former glory, when five millions
sterling worth of gold was won from one creek
alone, is waking up again, for now giant monitors and river dredging, with modern appliances
for washing down the hillsides and diverting
the course of streams, obtain fair results even
from abandoned workings, while the sanguine
say there is still as much treasure in Caribou
as was ever taken out. There was, however,
nothing romantic about our share in gold
mining. By wheeling a heavy barrow along
bending spruce boards or labouring with a
shovel among muddy gravel we hoped, if we
were diligent, to earn about two dollars a day,
190 A Wide Domir
while provisions would cost us more than half
of it, so I agreed with Tom who said, " I
don't think we need be afraid of getting rich
too suddenly."
In the heat of the second afternoon, for
even in late autumn the valleys are hot, I sat
down dripping under a spruce, while Tom
dabbled his bleeding fingers on which old
wounds had reopened in a little cool water.
Close by, and standing waist-deep in a rush of
muddy fluid which was probably melted snow,
a man resembling a skeleton hung with frayed
blue canvas was wearily clearing small
boulders from under pile-shoes, stopping every
now and then to pant distressfully. The
burning sun-rays beat fiercely down on his
head, while we knew what would follow with
his lower limbs chilled to the bone, and Tom
said, " That's a somewhat deadly business for
any one in his state of health, but there's something very familiar about him. Wait until he
turns his face again—yes, by George, it's the
poor woman's husband. You remember the
pair we met in the colonist train ? "
Risking   our  employer's  indignation,   Tom
191 The Overseas Library
recklessly upset his load into the gully, while I
left my barrow to take care of itself, and soon,
with pleasure on the one side and pity on the
other, we grasped the pile-driver's hands. He
seemed worn to a shadow, scarcely fit indeed
to stand, and yet was struggling pluckily at
work which has killed many stronger men
but a good-humoured remonstrance, " Stir up
and get a rustle on, there are plenty flies
about," cut explanations short, and we had
only time to ask him to come to our tent at
We had washed and eaten that evening, and
lay stretched with aching bones outside the
little tent which for various reasons both
preferred to the shanty, when our former friend
came up. He was dressed in ragged garments
still damp with mud and water, and collapsed
rather than sat down on our layer of branches.
For a time I did most of the talking, while"
Tom sat still and smoked, and from the
puzzled look in his honest face I knew he was
turning something over in his mind. Meantime, the gorgeous sunset flung rainbow hues
across   the   mountains,   and   looking   up   at
192 A Wide Dominion
intervals I could see the ranges flaming
with unearthly splendours, orange, green, and
saffron, crimson and purple, chequered by
dusky grey patches where a gorge was rent
through them, while a cloud of many-tinted
vapour rolled slowly downward, and beneath
our feet white mist wreathed like smoke among
the pines of a darkening hollow.
Also the fret of the river broke intermittently through our visitor's words, as he
slowly told his story, stopping now and then to
cough. " I put the last of my savings into the
Alberta ranch," he said, " but it was a parching
season, and with only alkali water to drink, half
the stock we had died off. Besides, I was
hardly fit for the work, and came back badly
shaken from every weary ride, when we slept
drenched with dew in the open ; you know the
tale of how the stockman sleeps back-upwards
to keep the other side dry. Still, I held on,
for it was the only hope, thankful I had sent
poor Flora to Vancouver, for she sickened
instead of improving on that waste of hot
" Then the crisis came, for without finances
I 193 The Overseas Library
we could not continue, and out of the wreck I
just saved enough to maintain Flora a little in
her new quarters. I went down there to see
her and look for employment, but could find
nothing, and leaving my last few dollars, less
than a handful they were, came up here with a
letter to a contractor. I'm afraid the work is
killing me, but what else is there I can do?
The chief, -and he's not a hard man, is good
enough to assure me I'm scarcely worth my
board, and it takes the whole of my earnings
to keep Flora from want."
" That's why you don't wear flannels, and
sleep in damp clothes," said Tom, as though
wrathfully, and unobserved by the other, he
looked hard at me. " As you say, that kind of
thing will kill you some day, and we want a
third man to help at shovelling. Let me see,
his share should run out nearly two and a half
a day, and at least it would be healthier than
floundering in ice-water. Are you open to try
Being slow of apprehension I was about to
demonstrate there must be something quite
amiss in his calculation, but a muddy boot-heel
194 A Wide  Dominion
was driven hard and surreptitiously into my
ribs, and there was a look of delight in the
other's eyes. Then his face clouded, and he
said doubtfully, "It is very good of you, but
my help couldn't be worth that much. You
would only be robbing yourself."
Thereupon Tom, who had always been
hitherto a truthful man, lied deliberately, and
concluded by saying, " I make you a business
offer, you can accept or leave it. Short-
handed work won't pay us, and if you don't
take hold I'll walk right in to the settlement
and look for some one else."
So the invalid gladly departed to bring his
few belongings in, and Tom said quietly, "I'm
by no means a clever man, but I'm truly thankful I'm not such a fool as you. Well, well;
we must do the best we can to work the two
dollars out for that poor woman's sake.
Somehow I can't forget her, and, Good Lord !
what will that fragile creature do when her
husband's buried ? "
In due time we transferred the gravel dump
to its appointed place by the muddy sluices
lower  down  stream,   and   after   settling,   the
195 The Overseas Library
proceeds it left us were deplorably small, while
with much reluctance our third partner went
back to the pile-work again. We did other
things in Caribou, including the shovelling of
gravel out of icy rivers, and carrying rocks
on our heads to repair a tunnel, but I doubt
if any brought us in more than a net
dollar a day, while a recital of them would
prove monotonous. I, however, remember,
on the strength of a short experience in
British steel-works, taking a contract to
sharpen drills.
" I can't get them hard enough," the
contractor said. " The last man was mending
them eternally, and if you're fit to make thei
edges stand it will pan out three dollars a day."
So with arduous labour we prepared charcoal,
and under a miner's directions built a mud
furnace, after which, obeying the instructioim
" I don't care a cuss about temper—make them
as hard as you can," I quenched the glowing j
rock-drills in icy water, duly counted them
over, and went on contented to another camp.
Returning several days later I met one of the
workmen, and   mentioning   I   had   come  for
196 A Wide Dominion
payment, he said, "Take my advice, and
light out quick instead. The boss is goin'
round cussin', an' lookin' for you with a gun.
The head of every blame drill just chipped
right off like glass."
We followed his counsel without asking
payment, and after several misadventures,
including one when Tom nearly blew himself
up probing what he thought was a blown-out
shot, and the writer being knocked down
half-flattened by the spout of a hydraulic
monitor, found that shortly much of the work
would be stopped for the winter. Then we
heard of a private survey expedition being
short of men, and determined to go south
and join them. So we rolled up our well-
worn blankets, and bade our friend farewell.
"If you ever get back to Vancouver you'll
call on Flora," he said, "and you needn't tell
her just how I am. The poor soul seems
to fancy I'm better and getting on, and it
might break her heart to learn the simple
I think he also said,  "God bless you for The Overseas Library
what you have done for me
cheery words from Tom, th<
and presently turning roun<
return to some
waved my hat,
a last look we
saw him sitting despondently by the trail. It
would need several chapters to tell how
marching west from the Fraser we wandered
for some time through a desolate region and
past wide lakes towards the Cascade
Mountains. The two men who organised
that picnic outfit, so a settler called it, had;
probably not quite realised what they had
undertaken when they started. One was a
British sportsman who had already seen some
hard work in wild countries, and the other a
Canadian land speculator. They had, I
understood, a random purpose of marching to
the coast through a country even yet litde
trodden by white men, prospecting for minerals
or shooting on the way, for there were
rumours of gold finds in several remote valleys
between the Fraser and Chilcoh Lake.
The result was the same, however, although
they had the assistance of a skilled prospector,
because they found no minerals^ and besides
shooting one or two wood-deer had little sport
198 A Wide Dominion
either. Then for a week together we
scrambled through choked-up valleys and over
barren slopes of snow-ground rock among a
great semicircular sweep of the Cascade
Mountains, an awful, chaotic wilderness of
precipice and gorge and thundering cataracts,
when the leaders had to face the question of
provisions running short. Now on a march
of that kind everything .needed—food, tents,
blankets, axes, and rifles, besides many other
important sundries—must be carried on the
human back, through a country so difficult that
eight miles a day is fast travelling, while the
march not infrequently sinks to two or three.
We were to be paid $2 25c. for our services as
choppers and packers, which meant that where
it was needed we hewed through willow-
thickets and fallen branches, stumbled along
all day under a heavy load, and pitched the
camp at night, by which time we had certainly
well earned our wages. Still, that was
comparative luxury to what followed. When
we struck the apparently impassable barrier
most sportsmen would have gone back, and
the prospector guide suggested this should be The Overseas Library
done, but, and somehow to our surprise, both
sportsman and speculator showed they were
made of sterner stuff, for the Briton stood up
in the little camp and refused point-blank. CHAPTER XIV
IT was raining hard at the time the crisis
had to be faced, and we were wet to the
skin, because the two tents would not cover
all, and several of the party had slept in
dripping fern. I had a pain in my shoulder,
and my hip-joint ached, which is where a berth
on wet ground generally gets hold of one, while
the sportsman presented a sorry spectacle.
He entered the wilderness beautifully got up
in some special fabric warranted to resist any
jungle or turn the spent shot from a gun. But
leather would hardly withstand a journey like
that, and the British Columbian forest had
made short work of it. It hung about him
in fantastic fragments, the rain had plastered
the long hair down either side of his face, and
while  the  prospector   explained the position The Overseas Library
splashes from the cedar boughs kept drumming
on the tents.
" No way we can get over hereabouts ? " he
said almost airily. "Well, then, find one
somewhere else; that is your particular business, and it might be as well to set about it at
once. I suppose this kind of mountain doesn't
go on for ever ; " while the Canadian broke in :
"We came out to fetch the coast-line, and we're
going to do it."
A consultation followed, to which we listened
shivering, and then the leader looked at us,
and explained that as food was running short
some one must go back, while though he would
not hurt our feelings we were the least useful.
" I thank you for your assistance so far," he
added, " and I'm sorry it can't be helped. I'll
give you a payment order on the Bank of
Montreal, and Davies will hand you the last
pound of food he can spare."
So Tom and I and Johnson, who was stiff in
one knee from a dynamite accident, strapped
our blankets together, and were served out
scanty provisions, while Davies the prospector
gave  us  instructions  as  to  the journey.    It
202 A Wide Dominion
seemed an easy matter by the way he said it,
but it was with misgivings we thanked him and
marched out of the dripping camp, the pack-
straps viciously sawing an old wound on my
shoulder. This, and the eating into the flesh
of heavy boots and leggings, is a constant
trouble to the bush traveller, and though by
no means deadly is often sufficient to keep him
in a state of misery. The rest sent shouts of
| Good luck ! " after us, and I trusted we would
get it, for just what distance lay between us
and the first white man's canvas dwelling we
did not exactly know, while if anything checked
us on the way there seemed a fair chance of
starving. It might be, perhaps, less than two
days' march along a British road, but in the
mountain-barred Northland that meant a very
different matter.
Following Davies's counsel, we left the
gorge and pressed on down a valley filled
with primeval forest. There were Douglas
firs and white pines, spruce, balsam, and hemlock, while the ground beneath was grown up
with underbrush. This, with the ever-present
fern, was sufficiently trying, but in that climate The Overseas Library
trees rot rapidly,  and for some  reason one
rarely falls alone.    So they lay piled over each
other in places like a great gridiron, and trust
ing to the creeper spikes, we generally crawled
along the slippery logs, because, being high in
the air they were clear of the bracken.    It
required  agility   and   judgment   to   drop  or
clamber  from   one   to   another,  and   falling
occasionally one of us would plunge smashing
from the mossy side into a veritable bear-trap
of branches and briars^ with the chance of
impaling himself or breaking a limb, which
would have resulted in certain death.    Several
times,   I  also   remember,  we tried to crawl
through such a pile, and spent perhaps thirty
minutes wriggling as many yards, because to
go round them would probably have been as
bad.    In parts where the soil was different
there were willows and maples, and despairing
of forcing an  upright  passage we entangled
ourselves   crawling   on   all  fours   among  the
stems of the former.
So when night came, by incessant exertion
we had made some five miles, and sat down
to a frugal  supper of flapjacks and venison,
204 A Wide Dominion
which, hungry as we were, I could hardly bite.
One might pick the fibres out of it like tarred
" Five miles, I estimate, and we have, it's
likely, another thirty at least to do. It's going
to be a close race to get through while we have
anything left to eat," Tom said, as, scraping
up every fragment he put them back in his
bag. Sternly curbing my appetite, I followed
suit, and then spread my blanket beneath a
Next morning, with Johnson's assistance, we
slew two willow grouse, which eccentric creature is very timid among the undergrowth, but
when you have flushed him, and this is difficult,
flies straight to the nearest branch and decides
that he is safe. Now if hit by a rifle bullet the
fragments would be hardly worth gathering,
so the usual custom is to cut off its head, which
is not so simple as it might appear. The
willow grouse, however, nowise alarmed,
watches the fusilade, only moving a little
along its perch, until standing close beneath
it the hunter achieves his  mark.    These, to The Overseas Library
save provisions, we ate for breakfast, and they
were also tough ; then the march went on until
Tom yelled exultantly when brightness broke
through the green shadow and we saw a lake
ahead. But there was neither silver sand
nor breadth of white shingle to afford easier
travelling, for the forest rolled down to within
a yard or two of the water, and the space
between was cumbered with whitened drift-
logs jammed among boulders. Thereupon
Tom lost his patience and abused everything,
doing it very well, while Johnson, whose knee
hurt him, sat still a few minutes in abject disappointment The writer chiefly remembers a
sense of righteous indignation which would
have been appeased by smashing something,
only that there was nothing to smash, so he
tried the forest, which was denser than ever
here, and came out again hopeless, with many
cruel thorn-hooks bedded in one leg, after
which we floundered on our way once more.
How many miles that lake shore ran, or
whether it was more than one, I do not know,
for it required grim effort and close attention
to progress at all, while we wounded ourselves
206 A  Wide Dominion
all over among its boulders, and only at noon
found an outlet by following a stream down a
deep ravine. Every one fell in several times,
occasionally to the shoulders, while in the
faster rushes there was danger of being
drowned by one's load. As many a brownr
trout fisher knows, the dingles of North Wales
and some of the ghylls of Cumberland are
bad to traverse, but their passage would be a
luxury compared to wading down a forest
torrent in British Columbia. Then the spruce-
clad banks narrowed to a canon with no apparent foothold on either stream-course or walls,
so for an hour we clawed a way among dwarf
firs up a transverse gully, and came out at last,
breathless, on a rock shoulder, feeling devoutly
thankful for the breadth of slippery stone.
That night we lay down shivering in the open
under a deluge, and the next three days were
passed in incessant murderous toil, when, half-
famished and over-wrought, we held on grimly
while the rain came sluicing down. So probably none of the party had any clear recollection of what we saw, save that there were
always mountains, and sometimes bare plateaux,
207 The
Overseas Li
i o
ar exper
f many
her w
no  w
iy differs
;r in the
It   i
vas.   I   t
:,   the
day whe
n   we
d  ourse
a b
and I
for we
;d  to
fancy we
ten but on
.he marc
b, ai
ohnson m
11   do   it
le   with   i
growth, mossy stone, or fern, that it requires
a trained eye to discern a wood-deer, even
when standing still at a few yards distance, and
the same hold good of most forest creatures.
tract of bush that swarmed with wolves and
bear and deer, and never find a trace of them.
Still, all had acquired some woodcraft, and we
could only surmise there was no living creature
A bruise is also a common feature in British I
by fire originating spontaneously, just how no
man knows. So the flame had licked up each
thicket, burned off the branches, and left
only  the huge trunks charred and tottering |
208 A Wide Dominion
upon their bases, or had piled them athwart
each other in fantastic ruin. Our feet sank to
the ankles in black ash ooze, which spattered
us all over to the faces, and there was an
intermittent " crunch - crunch" of charcoal
under our bleeding feet. This was, of course,
in the open spaces where we could walk,
because where the trees had fallen we generally crawled instead. To make matters worse,
a strong breeze drove the pitiless rain slanting
through the burnt-out wood, and under such
circumstances a brulee is a somewhat deadly
Towards noon, when Tom was reeling with
eyes half-shut, Johnson, shambling towards
him, grabbed his shoulder with a yell, " Stand
still, for your life," and almost without warning
a trunk broke off from its base. Sweeping in a wide arc earthwards, the great mass
struck another in its fall, there was a crash like
thunder, and amid a tumultuous smashing of
charred branches three giant conifers smote
the ground together, where one of them dissolved into a heap of cinders. In spite of the
deluge a cloud of black dust whirled up, while
o 209 The Overseas Library
the solid earth shivered beneath the shock, and
almost simultaneously the bush was filled with
sound, for here and there about us other trees
went down. Perhaps it is the concussion
which has this effect, but the fall of one burnt
tree is almost invariably followed by that of
others. I remember feeling the windage as
the mass rushed by, and it may have been
this which lifted Tom's hat from his head, but
in any case next moment it was buried under
tons of charcoal, and its owner kicked the
shattered trunk savagely, while the rain beat
down on his hair. Then the writer, realising
how near the escape had been, felt coldly sick
for a moment as well as hungry.
the brulee none of us
. couple of hours, though
and then we limped forth
*y, and camped at night-
It burst forth from a
gorge, swept white-streaked through a mass of
boulders, then leapt down a rapid, and Johnson,
who knew a little about that region, said, as he
collapsed beside it, "There's a prospecting
outfit working on the other side  somewhere
ig we were
probably a
could say
it seemed days to us,
into more open count:
fall beside a torrent A Wide Domi
not far away, and climbing one of those ridges,
with luck we might fetch them before we're
quite played out. Say, some time before sunup we ought to get across."
Now a British Columbian stream generally
runs highest towards evening, being chiefly
fed by melting snow from the heights above.
But each night the frost is keen upon the
serried ranges, and binding fast sludgy snow
and glacier drainage reduces the torrent to half
its volume, so that what is a flood at sunset
may be a rivulet at dawn. No one had sufficient energy to build a fire; two small pulpy
flapjacks, the last morsel, were divided between
us, and then crawling under a shelf of rock, I
lay down in a rain-soaked blanket to get what
rest I could. Sleep seemed out of the question, for every bone ached, while several of the
larger joints burned like hot iron. Also, in
spite of occasional flushes of feverish heat, I
shivered until my teeth rattled together, and all
the time a hammering rush of shingle among
the boulders or the intermittent and heavy
shock of a drifting log, told only too plainly
what we might expect at dawn. The Overseas Library
At last, however, I suppose my eyelids
closed, for I was rudely wakened by a wet
hand on my face, and getting somehow upright
saw the rocks looming weirdly out of smoky
mist in the dim grey light The rain had
ceased, and the stream was now visibly
shrunken, but we stared at it almost despairingly, for the hour of dawn is always trying,
and then, cold and sick and starving, it appeared better to give up the struggle and lie
down again. At least the writer felt so, and
on comparing notes afterwards he found the
others' case was similar. But Johnson growled
some encouragement hoarsely in his throat, I
and we shook ourselves together for a last
effort, as, dropping from a rock ledge, he stood
gasping waist-deep in sliding water. Then
he had gained a boulder, and clung to it a
moment with the stream racing past him almost
shoulder-high, while Tom, in dogged silence,
followed suit
I waded in down a shingle slope, and the chill
of melting snow pierced like a knife, while the
current edged me diagonally towards the head
of the rapid, and  treacherous  pebbles rolled A Wide Dominion
away beneath my feet. Next it lapped icily
about my breast, and, choking, I fought my
way for the tail-eddy behind a boulder, and
hung on with arms twined lovingly about the
foam-ringed stone. The stream seemed still
deeper beyond, and though all possessed some
skill in natation one cannot swim down a rapid
under a heavy pack. Indeed, it is a risky
business under the best circumstances, and the
bottom grinds one badly when you strike it
with the stream. So I stayed there perhaps a
minute, seeing nothing but the tossing spray
below, and hearing only the boom of the river,
until a hoarse shout reached me, and I made
out Johnson waving his arms directingly on the
further bank. Tom also seemed to be holding
his own against the eddy of a revolving pool,
and I understood he was waiting to lend me
assistance. So with much trepidation I loosed
the protecting rock, and, trying to grip the
bottom with heels that would slip, went floundering slantwise down-stream, until the rush
of water proved too much for my failing
strength. Next I lost my footing, went under
several times I think, and made some attempt The Overseas Library
to swim, which the down-drag of the current
and the killing weight neutralised, and then
felt a firm grasp upon my shoulder. Tom
shouted something I did not catch; Johnson,
who had staggered down-stream, was also
helping, and at last, half-drowned and choking,
I stood upright, with the water only waist-
high, upon a jutting shelf. Thus presently
three dripping, exhausted objects came out
safe upon the further bank.
Space forbids the telling of what we did
afterwards, and how we struggled forward
until noon, when Johnson, who was foremost,
because he now said he knew the way, flung
up his shapeless hat and howled, " Fetched
them sure at last. What's the matter with
that.    There's the prospector's camp."
He was right, for a few little tents nestled
beside a river, and when we reached them it
was a repetition of an old story.    A brawny
fortunate always meet in that country: "A
pretty rough time, strangers, I can see by the
look of you. Come right in and setde yourselves to home."
214 A Wide  Dominion
We followed his bidding, and presently ate
like wolves, after which we compared notes
before we went to sleep, and found our hosts
were prospecting towards the upper Bridge
River, but hitherto had been signally unsuccessful. They also said we had wandered twice as
far* as we should, and Johnson's pilotage was
proved defective. Still this was not surprising,
for there are stories told of Government survey
parties making the most surprising landfalls,
and it has happened more than once that
members of some picnic straying a little in
the bush within a few miles of a city have
lost their way out from it and perished. There
are parts of the tangled forest practically impassable to any but a hatchet-armed athlete.
Strange to say, after nearly eighteen hours'
sleep I was almost fresh again, and with full
directions from our kindly entertainers Johnson
managed to bring us out by the Fraser, and
so to Lytton and the C.P.R. again. CHAPTER  XV
ONE   prominent  feature of   life   on   the
the western half of the American continent,
is the uncertainty of employment So many
enterprises are hurriedly set on foot and
changed with lightning rapidity into something quite different, while promising rising
towns sometimes share a similar fate, that a
man to succeed there must be adaptable, or, to
express it more plainly, willing to attempt the
most unlikely things. This perhaps accounts
for an almost entire absence of the narrow distinctions of caste, because a saw-mill manager
one month may be a grubber of stumps the
next, or a mining engineer be glad to earn his
two dollars daily by wheeling a barrow. Thus
there are few who follow one craft alone, and a
floating population drawn from every walk of
216 A Wide Dominion
life drifts to and fro doing all manner of
things, the ex-employer and his labourer not
infrequently cleaning streets together. From
this it can be understood why marriages are
scarce, and the majority of the inhabitants even
of the coast-wise cities are single men.
Our experience had been only that of others,
so when chance of destiny brought us into
Vancouver City, which it may be mentioned
is not in the island of that name at all, we
settled down contentedly to make the best of
it, and were thankful to find employment on
the Canadian Pacific wharf. There we unloaded rice, tea, silk and sugar which the big
Empress steamers brought in from China and
Japan, until having by some means found
favour in a manager's eyes we were promoted
to assist him as cargo-sorters. So we worked
beside the clanging winches, often twelve hours
a day when there were steamers in, hauling
out and sorting the products of the Orient for
distribution over the Western world, and some,
such are the developments of modern traffic,
to travel across three-fourths of the globe back
to the East again.    Those who aided us were a
217 The Overseas Library
curious gathering—deserving men on whom
the hand of fate had pressed heavily, and
others sent there by their own vices, though
apparently these were very few. Ex-lawyers,
captains, younger sons of the wealthy British,
too proud perhaps to ask assistance from
unkindly relatives, and beside them seamen
deserters,   and   incapable  clerks,   all   worked
During the whole of our stay there we
hardly heard an uncivil word, and certainly
never saw a blow struck in anger, which
may have been partly due to the fact that
the omnipotent C.P.R. treated  its employees
about overtime—indeed the writer was some-
with cans of cool water waited on us in times
of hurry, and in contrast to the manner of
things at home there was a striking absence
of abuse. And I think the great railroad
company did not lose by it Subsequently, in
a different capacity, I had to deal with labourers,
white and black and coffee-coloured, in various
■ A Wide  Dominion
parts of the world, and never saw work done
better or more cheerfully than by the men of
the broken legion on the wharf at Vancouver.
Also it was clearly shown what a youthful
training in athletics and the keener sports will
do, for when the winches panted their hardest
and there was hurry to clear the big steamer
out, those from the higher ranks of life frequently outstayed the rest.
Still, some of our motley assembly had their
eccentricities, and I venture to quote one
incident. The Dominion Government levies
a poll-tax of three dollars on every adult, which
is, or was, collected in a somewhat original
fashion. Large employers of labour were
asked to deduct it from their men's wages,
and I believe the former received a commission. Now because most of the wanderers
never paid anything to the State they called
that levy a scandal and a robbery, and on
principle evaded it, so when a rumour went
round that the collection would be made a
deputation waited on the paymaster, who I
think admitted such was the case.
I It's a blanked swindle," said the spokesman,
219 The Overseas Library
"on the industrious. Why don't they corral
the hoboes who never work at all ? I've never
paid it so far, and I hope I never shall."
" Lucky man! " said the payclerk, laughing.
"How did you manage to get ahead of the
Government?" and the other answered, "I
just lit out quick when I heard they were
prowling round. No, sir, they don't collect any
low-grade tax from me. So we'll make the
C.P.R. a present of this morning's wages, and
strike for another job."
They did so, prematurely as it happened,
because we who remained were not mulcted,
and the writer to the present day owes the
Dominion   Government   the   sum   of   three
Each night we went home, tired, certainly,
but contented, to a hostelry we had christened
English House, and which a certain detachment chartered completely.    There we donned
white   fl«
innels,   «
ind   so
me   fine   linei
i,   and
for there
lack ol
a high-class c
F good voices,
ments, or
imes, too, it str
uck me
that thos(
; who w<
arked \
vith us were a
fter all
220 A Wide  Don
better off than they would have been at home.
It was true they wheeled cargo, or carried it on
their backs, but they lacked neither comforts
nor pleasures, and their income always exceeded
expenses. They were strong and healthy, free
from anxiety, while many would have dragged
out their lives, careworn and haggard, in the
old country, or wasted their manhood in vicious
idleness. The whole was an object-lesson to
the advocates of social reform, though here
there were neither extravagant theories nor
purposeless denunciations of established order.
Here, too, we found Harry Easton, who had
started in a small way, without any capital, as a
house-painter, and installed him in our abode,
where Tom and he had afterwards almost a
difference over a scaffold the former, proud of
his technical knowledge, built, which collapsing
nearly killed two Chinamen. At times when
waiting for a steamer we organised picnic
parties, or lounged beneath the giant pines of
the lovely natural park, which overlooks the
I Narrows" entrance to Vancouver harbour.
One day I well remember, because, though I
did not know it then, it was the last holiday The Overseas Library
I spent in Vancouver. We lay half-asleep in
the sunshine above the wreck of the little
Beaver, the first steamer to round Cape Horn,
which lay right in under the branches of the
Stanley pines, and does still unless it has been
cut up for walking-sticks and curios. There
was an Englishman with us, a relative of
mine whom I had found that morning somewhat curiously. The steamer's winches had
broken down lifting the last of her cargo, and
I walked up the gangway dripping, with sugar
crystals plastered over my old blue garments
and sweat-soaked hair, when I met a gorgeous
officer sauntering down, for the Empress service
then prided itself on
He stared h
ard at
me, and said,
' I never recognised you i
n that
draggled scarecrow;
in the world a
re you
doing to get y
Durself up lil
ce that ?    The
last I
heard was tha
t you
living in a w
and feeding on fern
among the Indians.
I suppose you
did not know I was here ?
The  voice
jnition   easy
changed appea
had fa
led, and I laug
explained that
I was
y earning a liv
irtg by
carrying sugar-
far from eatini
I fern-
222 A Wide  Dominion
roots, with the exception of a few days, I had
never fared better. Also, when he had fraternised with us and seen our manner of life
his comment was, "There are plenty tramp-
steamer officers would be glad to change
places  with  you."
So we loafed together on the fragrant pine-
needles, the blue inlet shimmering beneath us,
and across it a chaos of ranges and forest
rolling away to the north, while sloping back
from the land-locked basin handsome offices,
banks, and churches of splendid masonry rose
one above another with a wall of great pines
behind. With salt water on two sides of it,
girt by forests and snow-capped ranges, and
possessing a climate milder than that of
Devonshire, there can be few cities healthier
to dwell in or more pleasant of prospect than
Vancouver. Also it keeps the gateway of
what is already a rich land, and will shortly be
richer, because a wealth of timber and minerals
lies waiting the further advent of engineer and
capitalist to drive adits, roads, and bridges to
get it out Thirteen years ago, when euphoniously  christened   " Slabtown,"  with   but   one The Overseas Library
house remaining, it was burnt to the ground,
yet such is Western energy that the cinders were
hardly cold when carloads of stone and iron
were on the way, and a second and finer city
rose from the other's ashes. That Vancouver
is progressive the writer realised, for he bought
a little building lot on the edge of the bush,
and in spite of a land-agent's machinations sold
it later for 30 per cent, profit, which is not,
however, the novice's usual experience.
But this is a digression, and presently as we
chatted a dilapidated schooner, with two men
bending over the gushing pumps, crept in
through the " Narrows," her canvas split and
weathered into a network of rags, and the paint
worn by sun and water from her gaping sides.
" Years and years old!" Tom said, and the
liner's mate concurred. " She might have
been fished up from the bottom of the sea.
Where on earth can they have brought that
crazy wreck from ? I should say there's some
strange story attached to her."
Tom was right, for I believe her story
was afterwards discussed at Ottawa, and we
presently heard fragments of it.    A huge crowd A Wide Dominion
clamouring that the Government should get up
and do something, surrounded a certain saloon
by the water-side at night, and looking through
the window Tom said, "There are several
sealer-men inside apparently belonging to the
schooner, and, to judge from appearances,
most indecently drunk. Still, they're telling
something interesting, and we might try to
get in."
We did so, and found a grizzled man with a
lined face holding forth amid hiccups to an
admiring multitude, and caught portions of
his narrative, which went round in a circle
apparently without either beginning or end.
" Shut up we was for ever so long in a
Russian prison, nothing to eat but bark-bread
an' rotten fish, an' them telling us all the time
we was to go and dig in a Siberian mine,"
he said. "What's the good of a blarsted
Government that lies down to be kicked. But
we euchred the Russians after all."
Here amid much uproar he proceeded to
branch off into politics and a tirade against the
Muscovite Tsar, while his comrades, contracting each other, continued the story.    Parts The Overseas Library
were told in various newspapers, and afterwards
denied, but the gist of the matter, as we gathered
it, seemed to be this : A sealer's crew had been
captured doing something illegal in Russian
waters, and were, as occasionally happened, held
long in prison while their case was either discussed or forgotten. Then, and I fancy this
was never quite settled, the Russian commander
growing uneasy either gave them another .
worn-out schooner confiscated years before, or
relaxed his vigilance so that they broke out
and stole her. In any case, almost without
provisions, and in a vessel scarcely fit to float,
they faced a long and dangerous passage across
the Pacific, and with many sufferings brought
her safely into port.
A fierce dispute then followed between the
original owners or their successors and the
latest crew, and the question was said to be
this: If the Russians had legal grounds for
confiscation they had a right to give the vessel
to, or allow her to be stolen by, whoever they
liked, and she belonged to the men who rescued
her. If on the contrary, and this was the more
probable, she had been seized wrongfully, then
226 A Wide  Dominion
she must revert to the former owners. In any
case, however, she was not worth fighting for,
and I believe the affair was compromised.
This was one of many sealing episodes some
of which led two nations perhaps nearer a
quarrel than the uninformed public knew. I
would also like to add that with the exception
of the crew of a Glasgow sailing ship, this was
the only drunkenness I ever saw in Vancouver. CHAPTER  XVI
MEANTIME events in which I had no I
hand were rapidly rounding up my
career in the Dominion. Harry Easton trusted
he would earn a sustenance for a time, at least,
as a house-painter, which was not quite what
he longed for, though it brought the dollars in.
" Tom, having made many friends, had been
engaged to take charge of a small steamer
towing logs later on, and we had heard with
sorrow earlier that our wheat-growing partner
had been lost in the muskegs of Athabasca.
Therefore I saw prospect of being left friendless unless I cared to join one of the others in
a subordinate capacity. So some little time
before I had without reluctance answered a
letter from England, hinting about a reasonable
berth in the tropics, and waited with some
curiosity for the answer.
228 A Wide Dominion
It was also in Vancouver we heard of
Mellard's end, and a man who had known him
told us a pitiful story. " They found him a
place in the lumber trade," he said, "and just
why he gave it up I don't know. Then he
tried the wharf, but couldn't work steadily,
I fancy there was something wrong with
his head, and the boys tried to lend him
dollars occasionally. But that man came of a
gilt-edged kind, and they couldn't well do it,
though a few of his own sort among them
sometimes worked a traverse. The last was
he went up to the Selkirks as a C.P.R.
section hand, and one night some snow and
boulders rolled down and blocked the track.
A fast freight was coming through, and Mellard
knew it, so he must have gone out with tools
and a lantern to clear a way or warn them.
The loco-engineer didn't see any light, though
he ran through a shovelled snow-bank and saw
some broken rocks mixed up with it. Next
morning the next hand comes along and finds
Mellard lying dead beside the track, his hands
clenched on a shovel haft, and all his chest
crushed in, and no one knows any more about
229 The Overseas Library
There was hard, clean grit in that man,
my story is they didn't see his lantern or
the light went out, and he stuck to it heaving
the rocks off until the loco hit him."
So another broken adventurer, whose sins
for the most part were chiefly against himself, had gone to his account and I felt
that many a better man had made a worse
One night with Tom and Harry, and another
detachment of the gentlemen labourers arrayed
sumptuously, I went to an entertainment given.
by a phrenologist who was then reaping a rich
harvest in Vancouver. Notwithstanding the
shrewd sense of Western citizens, professors
of this kind are very common, and in many
towns sober business men freely consult withal
palmists and clairvoyants. The charge was,
of course, a dollar, and the building was packed,
while in spite of the diagrams and skeletons he
paraded, I had a strong suspicion from the
introductory lecture that the professor's knowledge of physiology was stricdy limited. The
belief received confirmation later when he
invited those present to send up any of their
230 A Wide Dominion
local leaders to have their true characters told.
With unusual modesty the latter objected,
perhaps because they thought it better that
the citizens should not be enlightened, but the
crowd insisted and some were forced forward.
Now party spirit raised by the railroad question
and other matters still ran high, which the
phrenologist probably knew, and it seemed to
me acted accordingly. Neither did he mince
matters at all.
"This man," he said solemnly, after examining the first, "should from his skull conformation have a turn for small trickery, and I do
not think I would trust him in business
It was a bold stroke, but it told. There was
a roar of delight from those present of the
opposite party, and the victim rising purple-
faced to protest, only found his words drowned
in bursts of laughter. The next it was insinuated possessed the gift of lying, and there
was a further clamour of negation and applause,
while an incipient free fight broke out at the
back of the hall. Whether the third was a
liar or thief, or both, we never knew, because The Overseas Lib:
before the professor had finished, a shouting,
laughing, struggling mob, clawing at one
another, made for the platform. Then Harry
said, "Things are looking ugly, and before
long they'll break his skeletons up—they're
smashing chairs in the back row already. I'm
not fond of a mixed-up row, so we'll get out
with a whole skin and finish at the opera-
house."    •
Tom was growing excited, and I could see
by his face that in another few minutes he
would hurl himself into the forefront of the
affray, so, sharing Easton's opinion, I coaxed
him into the street just as pandemonium seemed
unloosed within the building. There followed
what the former would have called a glorious
row, and subsequently the professor received a
hint that Vancouver possessed already too many
phrenologists, but I heard that when he departed he took many dollars with him. It was
perhaps characteristic that we should have been
able to spend three dollars on a night's amusement, but funds were rarely lacking while we
worked in Vancouver, and we next proceeded
to the opera-house, where a concert was being A Wide  Dominion
held for some charity. The building—and this,
too, was remarkable in a town of twenty thousand people—would compare favourably with
any in London, while there being no paltry
divisions between rank and rank, labourer,
mechanic, and merchant sat together.
So we took our places and listened to excellent music. Neither was it strange to find that
kind appreciated by the very mixed audience,
for there are many men of talent digging water-
pipe trenches in Western cities, and, being
wiser than the inhabitants of older countries,
they are not ashamed of it. At the beginning
of the second part a fine, clear voice which it
seemed I ought to know, fixed every one's
attention with a British ballad. Being jammed
behind a column we could not see the singer's
face, though Tom also whispered there was
something familiar, until a burst of wild applause
followed the conclusion. Then he who sang
moved forward into the glare of light, and
faultlessly attired, smiling back to the enthusiastic audience, we saw the man we had parted
with sitting hopeless and ragged by a trail in
233 The Overseas Library
He must have heard Tom's shout ringing
through the rest—for the greater portion of the
assembly had been born in the old country,
and the song spoke eloquently to them—because
he beckoned with his hand. So, in spite of
an official's protest—and on the Pacific Slope
men are too proud to bribe—we made our way
to the dressing-rooms, and found the former
pile-driver waiting us with open hands. He
would perhaps never be a strong man, but a
look of returning health was set upon his face,
which was already losing its hollows, while from
other details it was evident the lines had fallen
to him in pleasant places. He told us his
story presently, and it was not an unusual one.
" I came here again soon after you went,
when the mine shut down," he said, " and continued another sickening hunt for any work
that I could do, until I think we had just five
dollars left, and that poor Flora had earned by
sewing.   Besides, I was badly broken up by too
heavy labour.    Then I heard the scheme
wanted a secretary, and having experience of
just that kind of thing sent in my testimonials
which Flora had kept.    Of course I never dare
234 A Wide  Dominion
hope I would get it, for at home unless you
happen to be a director or councillor's prote"ge,
you have not a ghost of a chance, so it took
my breath away when I was sent for to meet
the Board. They engaged me right off at a
fair salary, half as much again as I got at
home, and, thank God, I think the struggle is
over.    My voice is  coming   back, and   since
they found out I could sing, even if the 	
scheme were given up some one would find
me a berth. You must come round and see
Flora; she's dying to thank you. That ice-
water was certainly killing me, and I can't say
how grateful I am."
"Ah, ah {"answered Tom, somewhat irrelevantly. " They do things differently in this
country, for as the shovel-gang foreman told
the nobleman's son, 'We don't care a little
cuss what you are if you can get your work
Afterwards the other insisted on taking us
home, and we found him dwelling in one of
the pretty wooden villas, whose carved verandahs and pillars were draped with creepers,
while  we   hardly  recognised   in   the   happy, The O
winsome woman who greeted us the dusty,
terrified emigrant girl we had seen in the
colonist train. Tom, to his embarrassment,
she almost embraced outright, and when he
had escaped awkwardly also told us of a weary
struggle when she fought off starvation by
selling needlework, and was glad to make a
curious bargain to repair some mill-workers'
clothes. That was perhaps the most pleasant
evening I spent in Canada, though when the
leave-taking came almost at dawn, and our
hostess, with a dimness in her eyes, commenced
again to thank Tom for what she called saving
her husband's life, he husded me unceremoniously down the steps, and did not quite
recover until we were half-way home.
In less than another month a cable brought
me orders to proceed with all speed to England
to go out to Southern waters. So I assembled
my few belongings, and gave most of them
away, keeping, however, the Marlin rifle, and
the same day was escorted by a group of friends
to  the   C.P.R. depdt     There was   Tom, of
course,  and Harry,   and  his   wife,  and
behind them a contingent of wharf assistants,
236 A Wide Dominion
and never throughout many wanderings did I
receive a more kindly farewell, for there is
something in the free life of the Pacific Slope
which seems to develop the finer traits in a
man. So I looked round and counted those
whom best I knew, and found all about me
whose friendship I had gained on the first
journey. The restless tide which sets the
adventurous British westward had drifted them
to the furthest shore of the Occident—all, that
is, save two. Poor Mellard slept beneath the
pines in a gorge of the great Gold Range, and
Charlie, having fought a losing battle grimly
to the end, lay resting at last in a lonely
muskeg of far Athabasca. These two had
gone under, though through all their hardships
they had quitted themselves like men, but I had
seen enough in that land to know that neither
failure nor success had been wasted, and what
in good faith they had started, sooner or later
others would finish.
Then the loco whistle rang out across the
blue waters of Burrand Inlet, and Tom gripped
my hand with a paw like that of a cinnamon
bear.    Many others were held out, and a shout The Overseas Library
followed when he said, " The best of luck go
with you wherever you are, and on the other
side of the world you won't forget the boys in
Vancouver. Besides, if ever you're cleaned
out come right back here to us, and there'll be
something the matter if we don't fix you up."
Next a conductor thrust me back from the
edge of the platform over which the rest
seemed intent on dragging me, and with the
big bell clanging, the Atlantic express pulled
out So I stood gazing at the smiling faces
and group of uplifted hats, until a line of boxcars hid them from my sight, and we rolled on
-into the forest towards the Fraser valley.
The last I saw of the Pacific province was
when, looking back from near Calgary, a
wonderful mountain-rampart stretched as far
as eye could see from north to south across the
prairie, foothills shrouding its lower slopes, and
above a dim, ethereal line of eternal snow.
Then I realised I had turned down another
page of life. In spite of occasional hardships,
I had spent happy days in it, and had learned
things it is good to know, for there not in
fantastic and unlovely ruggedness, but rather A Wide Dominion
with its natural polish given when all things
were made good, I had seen the freer, rawer
side of human nature. Real men and not lay
figures had moved and toiled round me, and
recalling the things they did some were heroes,
too. Perfect many in body, highly trained
some in mind, stout of heart and strong in
limb, I have only grateful memories of the adventurous legion which is steadfastly clearing
British Columbia, and desire again to testify
lest any should forget, that the ruffian of
fiction is a libel and a fantasy. These men
do not swagger, and bluff the stranger—I
found they were ever ready to help the unfortunate—and instead of uncouth dialect,
heard at least better English than is spoken,
say, in Lancahsire.
But when there is starvation among untrodden
snows to face, a passage to be forced down an
ice-packed river, or roads to be underpinned in
imminent peril to a two-thousand-feet canon's
side, there you will find the men of the legion
grim and reliant, filled, too, with a trace of the
old Norse lust of battle, for they are English
most of them, neither American nor Canadian, The Overseas Library
but English, and—I would say it circumspecdy
—of a finer growth.
So the great white Rockies faded into the
darkening prairie, and the gates of the garden
of the Pacific were closed to me. Still at times
by a trick of fancy I can breathe the scent of its
cedars, see the sunset flushing the white peaks
with splendours of unearthly majesty, or look
down between the red-barked boughs across
great lonely lakes. Then I hope that some
time in this life I may pass those gates again.  I  3BuilOei*sof ©reatev 3
Britain. ^=
the Mastery
JS : the Dis-
i\. EDWARD   GIBBON    WAKEFIELD :" the  j
5. LORD CLIVE :   the Fouhiiati
6. ADMIRAL   PHILLIP:    the
RAJAH BROOKE : the English
- ;as Rulej>


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