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A claim on Klondyke; a romance of the arctic El Dorado Roper, Edward 1899

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       A  CLAIM ON KLONDYKE    A  CLAIM ON
k 4 A
NDYKE
0 MX S ti t* i
OF
THEIaRCTIC   EL
BY
EDWARD   EOPER, F.RG.S.
AUTHOR OT
'BY TRACK AS© TRAIL THROUGH CANADA,' ETC., SEC.
WITH   ILL
WILLIAM   BLACKWOOD   AND   SC
EDINBURGH   ANll|: LONDON
MDCCCX (MX
All Rights reserved  A CLAIM ON  KLONDYKE
9  Romance
I
OF
THE   ARCTIC   EL   DORADO
BY
EDWARD   ROPER, F.R.G.S.
AUTHOR OF
'BY TRACK AND TRAIL THROUGH CANADA,' ETC., ETC.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
*
WILLIAM   BLACKWOOD   AND   SONS
EDINBURGH   AND   LONDON
MDCCCXCIX
All Rights reserved  :	
ILLUSTRATIONS.
ALONE IN THE VAST SOLITUDE
SHOOTING MYLES  CANON     .
LAKE  LA  BARGE      ......
FIVE FINGERS  RAPIDS . . . .
ON THE YUKON AT THE MOUTH OF THE KLONDYKE RIVER
OUR DUG-OUT,   OUR TUNNEL, AND OUR  SLUICE    .
"WHEN   SHE    APPEARED    AGAIN   I    WAS    GREATLY   EMBARRASSED"    ......
MAY AND I IN THE DUG-OUT . . . .
PAGE
Frontispiece
44
«
IT WAS A MELANCHOLY  UNDERTAKING
"WELCOME, friends"
54
57
61
76
14^
218
224
240  mm
A CLAIM ON KLONDIKE.
PREAMBLE.
Somewhere near midnight in January 1897, a man
— important to this little history — stood on an
expanse of glittering snow, amidst low forest-covered
hills and rugged mountains which were draped in
the same white garb. He was looking eagerly
towards the north-west, and was listening intently.
This man was muffled to the eyes in furs, he wore
a rough bearskin coat, and his head was enveloped
in a huge capote.^ He wore snow-shoes, and a gun
lay across his arm.
A grand long-haired dog was by his side; he was
listening, seemingly as intently as his master.
The moon was shining full, the deep purple sky
was sown thick with brilliant stars,—one could have
read small print easily, it was so light.
ISTot a breath of air was stirring.
The intensity of the cold was indescribable:  if
■**. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE;
! M'
there had been the slightest wind, this man could
not have stood thus, in this open space, and lived.
He was a large man really, but the immensity of
his surroundings, the vast field of dazzling snow on
which he stood, made him appear to be a pigmy,
whilst his loneliness and solitude gave a note of
unutterable melancholy' to the scene.
Several minutes passed, neither dog nor man
moving from this attitude of strained attention.
All nature was absolutely motionless; no branch
stirred in the near forest, nor was one flake of snow
wafted by the softest zephyr — yet there was no
silence. The far-off woods resounded with frequent
sharp reports, as if firearms were being discharged
there, the nearer rocks and trees from time to time
gave forth detonations like fusilades of musketry,
and beneath his feet—he stood on a broad space of
water, turned to ice of unknown depth, cushioned
deep with snow—were groanings, grindings, cracklings, and explosions. It was the terrible arctic
cold that caused this tumult. One could almost
fancy that these two figures, silhouetted black against
the dazzling white, were frozen solid too.
At length the man moved, and, patting his companion's head with his gauntleted hand, spoke, I No,
good dog," he sighed, "it's another hallucination."
And the dog looked up at him, and whimpered, then
turned his gaze again in the direction it had been
before, with eagerness. A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
It was impossible to guess from this man's appearance what he was like: he was so enveloped in
wrappers only his eyes were visible; but his voice
proclaimed him to be gently bred—it had the accent
of a cultivated Englishman.
" JSTo good," he went on muttering. " Let us get
back, old Patch, my sole companion in this awful
wilderness; it was not a shot we heard, only the
frost that made that clamour," and he made as if to
move away.
But the dog evidently was not satisfied. He sat
down, kept his nose pointed in the one direction,
and whimpered again and again. The man stood
still and listened.
" Strange, strange," he spoke aloud, " that Patch is
so persistent; perhaps it will be well to go on a bit
more. There's nothing to prevent it—no one waiting for us. I suppose it is about midnight by the
moon; but night or day, it's pretty much the same
up here. Yes; we'll go on along this frozen creek:
one cannot well miss the way back."
He was silent for a few moments, then resumed,
I I'm talking aloud to myself again! or is it
to the dog ? This isolation, this loneliness, is terrible ; but, come, my lad, come on!" and he
started.
Patch, seeing his master move, began to wag his
bushy tail, and dance with delight; he flew ahead,
barking   and   capering,   but   every   now   and   then A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
i
stopped suddenly, pricked up his sharp ears, and
listened as his master did.
They must have pushed on a mile or more from
where we first encountered them. The expanse of
level snow had widened greatly. There were no
trees near, the sound of the frost in rock and timber
was distant and subdued, and they stood side by side
again attentive.
Suddenly, away off in the ranges to their right,
two reports were audible^—unmistakably they were
shots fired from a gun—and then immediately six
sharp cracks resounded; it was the discharge of a
revolver!
At the first noise, again the man's mittened hand
sought the dog's collar to restrain him, for he was
intensely excited. The moment the sixth revolver
shot had sounded, he removed his hand, and shouted,
" Forward, good dog; go sic 'em!' and the two
rushed off in the direction of the sounds.
Another mile they covered rapidly, the dog
running ahead and barking; then returning, looking
eagerly and joyfully into his master's face, then
hurrying on again.
But soon calling Patch to him, he held him and
waited, hoping to hear more signs of human presence
in that awful region.    He was not disappointed.
Again two rapid gun shots were fired, and six
revolver shots, and they were nearer than they had
been before. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
I Patch," said the man then, " we'll try what this
will do," and lifting up his gun, he pulled one
trigger, and a few seconds after the other. Then
taking a revolver from his belt, he fired six cartridges slowly in the air.
What would come of this ? would there be any
response ? He had not long to wonder. The
signal was repeated, and he knew that there were
fellow-creatures in those mountains. White, black,
or red, he did not care then. The feeling that he
was not alone in that white world, that terriblv
hard, frozen world, was enough-for Mm.
He and the dog hurried on, ascended the low
bare hill upon their right, and when after a vigorous
climb they reached the summit, he fired again, as
he had done before. Patch barked loudly, joyfully,
and there came into his master's mind the certainty
that he was on the point of some discovery, some
adventure to break the monotony of his life.
The response was immediate. Down in the
valley at his feet, but at some distance, what
appeared to be a door was opened suddenly, revealing a light within, and in the illuminated space a
figure stood, who, lifting up a gun, fired again.
Next this figure ran out of the building brandishing
a blazing pine-knot, and across the wide valley he
distinctly heard the cry of a fellow-being, and, still
more wonderful, more amazing, it sounded to be
the voice of a woman in distress. I Go to her, Patch!" he cried. The good dog
obeyed, whilst he followed as rapidly as he could.
It was rough ground, all rocks and fallen trees: he
was exhausted ere he had traversed half the distance. Halting a moment to recover breath, he had
a view against the bright light of the doorway of
Patch crouched at the feet of the person there, who
was stooping to caress him.
A few hundred yards more and he halted again
for breath, and then he heard a long-drawn cry of
agony. " Help, oh! help! whoever you are!
Indian or white man, come, come and help !' And
our friend called loudly across the waste : " I'm an
Englishman! Trust me. I'm making my way to
you with all the haste I can !" and over the snow-
clad expanse resounded the response, f Thank God I
thank God!" CHAPTER   I.
During the winter of 1895-96, I was staying at
Bella Rocca, a boarding-house in Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I had come to
that charming city, on that beautiful island, to
discover, if possible, an opening for the investment
of my modest capital in a manner which would
give me a more congenial way of making a livelihood than I had found in Eastern Canada, where
I had resided for some few years.
When I first arrived in the Dominion, I settled
in the backwoods of Ontario. Later, I had passed
some years on the prairies, and later still, I had
spent some time in the Rocky Mountains, the Sel-
kirks, and on the Fraser river.
I had led a life of toil, I was well up in bush
work and ways, but I did not like the life; so,
having saved a little money, and having heard so
much of the Pacific coast, I came to Victoria, as I
have said.
At Bella Rocca a man was staying with whom I 8
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDKYJ3.
became very friendly: he was an Englishman, about
my age, and had many tastes congenial to me. He
was idle, appeared to have plenty of money, and
seemingly had no wish to do any work or business.
He was my frequent companion in my walks
around Victoria: there being few idle people there,
and I having much time unoccupied, this friendship
was mutually agreeable.
I was puzzled for a while about him. He was
very reticent about himself—I could not even tell if
he had been long in Canada, although occasionally a
few words fell from him which made me believe he
knew it well.
It was towards March; I had found nothing to
suit me; I had often told this friend what I was
looking for, and had been quite open about my
past, my present desires, and my experience in the
country, when one day, as he and I were sitting
on Beacon Hill, enjoying the soft spring weather,
gazing with delight at the glorious Olympic range
across the Straits of San Juan de Euca, | Ah!"
said my companion—his name was Percy Meade
—" ah! it's not long now before I'll be outside
there," and he pointed north to Cape Flattery and
the Pacific Ocean.
"You are going across, then—to China or Australia ?" I asked.
" Neither," replied he, with a smile; " I am going
north by the first ship that sails." A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
9
" North !" I remarked. I was not greatly interested. I Well, I've never had the wish to go up the
coast.    What is to be done up there ?"
He did not reply at once; but after a bit said he,
11 wonder you have never tried gold-mining in this
country ; don't you think it's worth considering ?'
I replied that I had heard so much about it in
the mountains, and had read about the old davs on
the Eraser and the Cariboo, that I believed it to
be a poor business, and supposed that every ounce
of gold found cost two in labour and expense, and
said many things that most men do who have not
taken the gold-fever.
Meade said little more that day, but shortly after
he asked me what I would do if I were told of a
spot, by some one I could trust, where gold existed
in large quantities, where any one who had the
courage to go could pick it up, or at any rate obtain
it, with comparatively little labour.
I replied that, no doubt, if such a chance were
offered me I should accept it,—that I was as keen
to make a pile as any one. " Only," I added, laughing, " I doubt if there are such places left, and still
more that if any person knew of one he would tell
me." |        H i§ -:.    .
Meade was silent for some time, then, " Look here,"
he said, very seriously, | we've been together a few
months; I can see the sort of fellow you are; you
know what rough life is, I'm sure you  can stand 10
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
it better than most; so now, listen — I know of
such a place, and I'll tell you about it on condition,
naturally, that you'll keep it to yourself."
I smiled. " How do you know ?" I asked, " and
why do you tell me ? "
To this he answered slowly and earnestly, " I
was up north all last season—on the Yukon. I
found a place on our side that is full of gold; you
would hardly believe it if you saw it, but it is so.
It is on a creek up a river that joins the Yukon
in British territory, about seventy-five miles from the
boundary, not far from the ruins of Eort Reliance.
II went from Seattle last spring up the coast
round the Alaskan peninsula, into Behring Sea, and
so to Fort St Michael, where I landed. Then I proceeded up the Yukon in a stern-wheel steamer to
a place they call Fort Cudahy, or the Forty Mile,
in British territory. It was a terribly long journey
—four thousand three hundred and fifty miles from
here. It took eight weeks, and cost a big sum.
There was a little mining going on up the river,
but different from any 1 had seen, and I have been
to Australia. I did not like the look of it. The
diggers were scattered about, getting what they called
flour-gold, and not so very much of that.
| The season during which washing can be done
is very short—four months at most; but then it
is broad daylight always, no night at all; men work
ceaselessly—ay, and women too. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
11
11 tried a little here and there, I I prospected I
about, and in time I got up the big river some long
way indeed, until I came to a collection of shacks
and shanties, with a store or two, that they call
Dawson City. I was short of everything then but
money,, of which I still had a moderate supply; so
I obtained some stores and a decent outfit, and after
a few days of misery in the wretched place, I loaded
all into a canoe which I bought, and pushed on,
quite alone, up a river which joined the Yukon
there. It was the Theon-duick — the Klondyke
as it is called now. Paddling slowly up this stream,
I landed frequently, seldom finding gold, and I always
tried the soil as I went along. Occasionally I found
the colour, once or twice enough to pay, I fancied,
with good machinery. There was a fascination about
this life. I believed that any moment some pan of
gravel that I washed might be rich and give me all
I wanted—a golden claim.
11 kept on thus until I must have been at least
forty miles up this river. I passed several branches,
for to me the main stream looked most promising,
until I came to one, much narrower: it joined in
with a rush and roar, and I liked the look of it.
I landed, walked up it, and liked it. so that I determined to ascend it if possible. I could not get
my laden canoe up the steep water—I must therefore S portage.' I set to work; I carried my stuff
past the rapid.     It was  a  tough job getting my 12
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
canoe up, but by good luck I did.    Then I went on
again, trying here and there as usual.
I When I was too tired to keep on, I put up my
little tent ashore and slept. When rested, on I
went again.
II had quite lost reckoning; I had no idea of the
day of the week or month, but the sun indicated
that the summer was going. It would not do to
be caught up there as unprovided as I was. I
thought I had come far enough, so, reluctantly, I
made up my mind that I would after another day
or two retrace my steps.
I That very day I found what I had looked for. I
hit upon a bar on this creek, where gold was so thick
that I was bewildered.
" I suppose you know how gold is washed ? Well,
I had no need to wash—I picked out of that heap
of gravel in three days over seventy-five pounds'
weight of it!"
| Seventy-five pounds of gold! Why, that was
worth £3000!" I cried.
"Yes, quite that," said Meade; " but I got £2500
for it here, and have a decent little bag of nuggets
still unsold. I'll show them to you at the bank
some day if you like."
I smiled. I'm afraid I did not altogether believe
him. I had an idea that he was romancing. | How
did you get down and bring all that gold with you ?"
I asked, half laughing. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
13
i It's too long a yarn to tell now," he replied. " I
got back all right to Dawson in my canoe, sold it,
and managed to keep my find secret. I fortunately
procured a passage in the stern - wheeler, P. B.
Weare, the last boat for St Michael's that season.
From there I easily got here, and no one knew that
I had struck gold—no one does know it yet but the
manager of the bank, and now you."
It was a most interesting story, certainly; I was
glad to have heard it, but there was " no such luck
for me," I observed, at which Meade laughed, but
added, " See here, I've told you this because I want
you to share with me this season! What d'ye
say?"   f |
I What ?" I exclaimed, | and get gold like that ?
Oh! of course I'll go; but are you in earnest ? why
should you favour me thus ? "
He declared solemnly that he meant it; he averred
that he had taken to me, that he knew I was strong,
healthy, a good fellow, and used to working in rough
country, and as he was determined to go, and
certainly would not do so again alone, he had made
me his confidant and this offer in perfect good faith,
and he ended thus, "Think it over, take time, keep
what I've told you to yourself, but I hope you'll
join me."
Later, he explained that we must leave Victoria
soon, that we should come back at the end of
September, and that he would be miserably surprised
—s
fiA 14
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
if we did not return with reasonable piles. § But we
will not go the way I went," said he. " No, I met
some men at Dawson who had come by a much
shorter route—by the Lynn Canal and Skagway.
We save thus nearly 3000 miles, and the trail is
quite feasible. You've done some boating, some
canoeing, I suppose ?"
I said I had, both in England and Canada, which
pleased him, and he assured me that we should do
splendidly, and again he said he hoped I'd join him.
Naturally, I did think this over. I heard about
his antecedents from the bank manager, found he was
a member of a good old English family, and that he
himself was of good repute. I heard from the same
source that it was true about the gold he had brought
down, I saw his bag of nuggets, and I liked him. I
was looking for some employment, I counted the
cost, and knowdng that if, at the worst, I returned
empty-handed, I should not even then be quite without funds, I consented to share with him in the
adventure.    He was to defray all expenses.
It was early in April that he and I started in a
steamer bound for Sitka and other ports in Alaska.
She came from Tacoma, in the State of Washington,
and picked us up at Victoria on her way to the
north.
Meade having all plans cut and dried, it did not
take us long to lay in our stock of necessaries. We
purchased provisions, tinned meats  and vegetables, A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
15
flour and bacon, with plenty of various preserved
foods, enough to keep us going well for at least a
year. We took ample supply of tobacco, with guns,
ammunition, a sheet-iron Yukon stove, picks, shovels,
washpans, and we did not forget our axes. All these
goods were done up in parcels covered with waterproof canvas, each in weight suitable for | packing,"
that is for Indians to carry.
Leaving Victoria, we travelled up between Vancouver Island and the mainland to Naniamo. Here
we took in coal, then headed up the coast.
How am I to describe to you this wonderful
journey ? Words fail me. From the very start it
was delightful True, we were at sea; but being
amongst islands, we were so sheltered that it was like
a placid river. We traversed the grandest scenery
that can be imagined, the water clear and smooth as
glass, with air as soft as velvet. We sighted Queen
Charlotte's Islands, but voyaged through channels
nearer the mainland, between grand timbered islets,
past rocky bluffs and gorges, always in sight of
mountains, many being snow-covered and glaciered.
Then on between Prince of Wales' Island and the
mainland, and so to Fort Wrangel, where we left the
goodly steamer. We had come seven hundred miles
in her, and had been four days on the way.
Wrangel was just a rough group of shanties, with
some stores and many totem-poles, as most of the
few inhabitants were Indians of the Stickeen tribe.
______ 16
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
1
Kf
The whites were traders, or miners and prospectors,
en route to the Yukon country. Here we hired a
canoe to carry us to Juneau. It was an immense
one, beautifully fashioned out of one huge log of
cedar—a dug-out—but in shape and seaworthiness
most excellent. We engaged four Indians to man it.
Most of the trip was made with paddles; but sometimes a square sail was hoisted on a pole forward.
We camped each night upon the rocky shores.
It took three days to reach that town. It is the
metropolis of Alaska, Sitka being the capital But
most of the business is done in Juneau. It is,
naturally, a rough and ramshackle place, yet we
found it possible to obtain fair accommodation at a
queer hotel, and every article of provisions and gear
needed in the upper country. It has a city hall and
court-house, waterworks, banks, and electric light and
wharves! We had to wait two days for one of the
two small steamers which ply between Juneau and
Skagway. The Rustler is the one we took, the fare
then being only 10 dollars each—but we had to feed
ourselves.
After leaving Juneau we steamed along a narrow
strait between Douglas Island and the coast, and
entered the famed Lynn Canal, which is an arm of
the sea running almost due north. It averages ten
miles in width, and is about one hundred in length,
having very regular shores, straight and uniform;
but for its dimensions, it might be taken indeed for A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
17
an artificially made canal. On our left we skirted
the great Davidson Qlacier. The whole journey was
grand, sublime, and in many places awful.
We arrived in Skagway Inlet on the second day.
A few miles from the head of it we came to the
Skagway river or creek, 120 miles from Juneau, and
here, amongst a wilderness of trees, mountains, and
mud flats, a mere foothold in the snow-clad granite
coast-range, were a handful of Indian rancheries and
a few log shanties and some tents. There is a great rise
and fall in the tides at Skagway. We had to wait
some time ere the one boat belonging to the Rustler
could land us and our stuff on the rock-strewn muddy
beach. No one from the shore lent a hand. There
was a rough wharf, it is true, in course of construction. The men building it, we understood, had gone
to their camp, for it was late when we arrived.
A number of Indians were about: their sole
employment seemed to be to sit on stumps and logs,
smoke and chew tobacco, and gaze stolidly at us.
They were dressed just like the white men.
. As for the few white men, they gathered round us,
eyed us and our outfit, but said nothing. A more
miserable, unhappy, low-spirited set of men I had
never before come across.
Well, we were landed at Skagway, and questioned
the inhabitants. It was not easy to obtain information. | Where is the trail to the White Pass ? How
could we get to it ?    What means of transport were
B 18
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYEfE.
there ?" Those were the questions we made it plain
that we desired to have answered.
One would have supposed that these people could
have enlightened us; but no — their advice and
information was so vague that we might have taken
them for new arrivals, like ourselves. But that they
were old hands was plain, for they argued amongst
themselves, entered into long yarns about what this
and that man had experienced, what Slim Jim
thought, and Blear-eyed Scottie said — we could
make nothing of them. Some advised us to go by
canoe, which was chaff; and others declared that was
ridiculous—by the trail was the only way. | What
trail? Which is it?" we begged to be informed. "Oh!
just up the river a piece," was all we could arrive at.
No doubt these men, regarding us as § tenderfeet,"
took pleasure, as usual, in mystifying us; and it was
our policy not to undeceive them. I was the usual
spokesman.
It must be quite clearly understood that the rush
to the Klondyke had not begun then. It was known,
undoubtedly, that there was much gold up country,
and every white man there was after it, so that if it
had been guessed that Meade had been up already,
the fact of his returning with the ample outfit we
possessed would have convinced them that he had
been successful, and we should have been followed
and our secret discovered.
It was ten o'clock at night then, but not really sssss s^immwmtmm
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
19
dark. We were perplexed. These loafers gradually
dispersed, and only one man hung behind, who had
been silent hitherto. When we were alone with him
he became communicative. We knew, directly he
spoke, that he was an Englishman of a better sort,
and he recognised what we were.
Said he, | Let me advise you: get all your stuff
piled up yonder; put up your tent and turn in; in
the morning you'll find all easy. There's a man
here who bosses everything — white folks and
Indians; he's a Yankee, true enough, but a decent
fellow; he keeps a sort of a boarding-house, and has
a store; he's a fur-buyer, a trader, and a packer;
hell straighten things out for you."
Accordingly, in the morning, after we had fed,
Indians and loafers gathered around again, and for a
bit it looked as if the difficulty would continue; but
shortly our English friend,, who was working at the
wharf building, and whose sobriquet, we found, was
I Colney Hatch," usually shortened to " Coney" (he
explained that he foolishly one day let it be known
that that famous institution was near his home in
England), well, this man came to us, and took us
with him to Boss Parkinson's — the man he had
mentioned.
We found the boss was certainly a I live 1 man:
in five minutes he had cleared all up. He shook
hands heartily, asked us if we had any money, where
we proposed to go, with a few other questions.
1 20
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
1m
I
Having satisfied him on these points, 1 Come on,"
said he; | guess we will soon fix things. Thar's but
one way from here to Dawson City. You've got to
have your gear packed to the Windy Arm, that's sure.
It'll cost you 14 dollars for every hundred pounds.
How much you got ?"
We took him to our pile. He was surprised.
I Land sakes !" he exclaimed. | Why, what'n tarnation ! There ain't bin one party through yere yet
fixed like you fellers; 'n say—guess you bin through
before. No; wall some person's told you who has
been—eh ?"
We admitted we had had good advice. " Wall, so
I jedge," he went on. | Why, darn me, if you hain't
got every pack just right!' and he lifted one or two.
"50 lb. each, I reck'n?"
We said that was so, and that each man could
carry two; and as we had exactly 800 lb. of grub,
and about 200 lb. weight of tent, blankets, and cooking
gear and tools, we considered it would take just about
twelve Indians to do what was required comfortably.
| Gee-rusalem !" cried our new acquaintance ; | 'n
you're fixed to pay 140 dollars for this yere job ?"
I Oh yes, we can," I replied; " but it seems these
Indians around are idle—can't it be done for less ?"
I Idle !—Great Scot!" he yelled with laughter.
| Why, stranger, they're a restin'—you bet they need
it. Hold on till you see the kind o' journey they've
got to make—lor! and you too—you stop till you've A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
felt fifty, 'n mebbe a hundred pounds o' pack on your
backs, 'n then I guess you'll think them 140 dollars
ain't so easy aimed. These yere Si-washes ain't like
them red fellers of the plains—nossir. These work,
they do; m—m—I guess so. You pay me that 140
dollars, 'n I guess all will go slick."
A few dollars one way or the other were no particular consequence to us, and we thought it wiser to
keep dark, so we agreed; at which the boss, calling
to an Indian, took him aside.
Ten minutes after there was excitement in the
camp. From listless, silent logs, the whole tribe
woke up, and from that moment showed of what
stuff they were made. We learnt from the boss
what our route would be after reaching Lake Tagish.
He told us about Miles Cation and the White Horse
Rapids, which he assured us were the only real difficulties we had to face. He advised us to hire an
Indian to go with us who knew the way to the foot
of the White Horse, anyway.
The Stick (Stickeen) Indians are an avaricious
people, they are shrewd and tricky, a good match for
whites at bargains, and will do anything for money,
which they know the value of right well. They are
fine strapping fellows, and are proud to tell you they
are " aller same King George man "—i.e., Englishmen ;
but I believe they say to Yankees that they are
" aller same Boston man," which means Americans.
They are evidently pretty deep, have a great love for 22
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
tobacco and all intoxicants, and every beverage that
possesses a " tang." They are supposed to be diminishing in numbers rapidly—there were thought to be
only about one thousand left of them then.
It was sixty - five miles from Skagway to the
Windy Arm of Lake Tagish, we were told, and that
if we averaged ten miles a-day we should do well.
Within an hour our march began—that is, our
Indians loaded four canoes with our packs; then we
paddled six miles up-stream, landed, and camped for
the night.
Our men were cheery; some spoke the Chinook
jargon,—| the trade language of the Pacific coast,"—a
few knew a little English. One who appeared to be
their head man knew most, and he attached himself
closely to us, cooked and helped us. It was our
policy to appear "green," and this man, believing it
was our first night in the bush, showed us how to
manage. He called himself Jim Crow; this name
had been given him by some facetious countryman
of ours.
Starting at six the following morning, we soon
understood what packing over the White Pass meant.
There was a trail, sure enough; it consisted of a path
winding through thick forest, up steep and rocky
hills, some of them almost perpendicular; across
swift running brooks, and beds of spongy moss—up
to one's waist in places. There were clumps of coarse
grass, thickets of brambles and the terrible devil's ^5*"
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
23
club thorn; so, before we had gone a couple of miles,
we were satisfied that every cent we paid these Indian
packers was well " aimed " indeed.
For ourselves, it was all we could do to get
on, carrying only our guns, and a small shoulder-
bag with a little grub; whilst our boys plodded
on, grunting but cheery, with their one hundred
pounds apiece.
As we ascended gradually,  we realised .that  it
was   becoming   colder.     We  had   not   done   three
miles by noon when we came to snow.    Jim Crow
—Jim is what we called him  of  course—ordered
a halt, and  said they were well pleased,—that it
was   probably  snow  in the   pass;   some   of   them
would  go   ahead without   burdens   and investigate
—if  so, they would  return for   sledges, " sleds ";
they were very happy at this prospect.    Accordingly
two men went on.    We rested, boiled some tea, and
ate.    In a couple of hours they returned, and had
a pow-wow, resulting in some of them starting back
to Skagway, whilst our tent was erected, a huge
camp-fire built, and we prepared to pass the night,
as  Jim told us it i would be too   late  when  they
returned with sleds to push on.    We were somewhat annoyed at what we  thought delay, but he
assured us   this   plan  would   shorten   the journey
greatly.
It  was   midnight   when   they   returned.     They
brought   five   sleds.    On   these,  next day — which 24
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
tin
was hot and the snow was melting—all our goods
were lashed, and that evening, when the crust
upon the snow was frozen, we were off.
Our route lay up a shelving mountain-side overlooking a deep canon. Snow-capped ranges and
many small glaciers were constantly in sight across
the valley, and every depression, on our side, held
a trickling rivulet, a roaring stream, or more frequently a morass, knee-deep in moss and sodden
grasses. The snow was not deep, but it was soft
and slushy — the travelling was terrible, yet in
spite of all we made what Jim called | good
time."
It was noon next day ere we reached the timber
line, and all above this was open and rocky. The
snow was heavier here; in the shade it was frozen
solid; the sleds travelled over it easily. Meade and
I had all we could do to keep up with them; indeed
we had let them get some distance ahead at one
time, and when we caught them they were camped
beside a great rock with stunted trees about it, and
Jim said that we were very near the summit.
We camped that night in considerable comfort,—
it was dry and cold, but having good blankets and
plenty of fuel, Meade and I were cosy enough. Our
Indians made shelters of sticks and brushwood and
thin blankets, and built a huge fire. They played
| poker "; their | chips " were beans.
An immense amount of snow falls on these coast ■w
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
25
ranges; luckily we had none during our crossing—
neither did it rain, which was wonderful.
Now, as to this White Pass ever being made
the highway to the Yukon, I must say a few words.
The trail as it then existed was absolutely impracticable for horses—it was all that men could
do to clamber up it, and we realised that with
much traffic, even of human beings, it would quickly
become impassable, and yet Meade and I felt' confident that with comparatively little work and some
engineering skill a road, and some day even a railroad, could be made across it. Most of the runs
of water could be bridged easily, in the rough way
which is the custom in the wilds. Many of the
morasses, we could see, could be drained by a few
gutters cut with a spade. There being such a slope
it was easy to run water off, and where that was
impossible log causeways—corduroys—could be built
with no great trouble, for logs were plentiful for
the cutting. It was possible to wind round most of
the rocks, and a few pounds of dynamite or giant
powder would quickly clear the impassable masses.
Certainly when we crossed it was terrible enough;
but yet we plainly saw that a good road, fairly easy
to traverse by horses, even with loaded waggons,
was certain ere long to exist there.
If it should be proved that gold was plentiful
in the Yukon country,—| Undoubtedly," we said,
"before two   years are   past there  will  be  a fine 26
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKEi
road here," and as to the gold—well, we had reason
to be very sure about that.
From this camp the trail led up a narrow and
precipitous defile until the actual summit was
reached. We were then at least fifteen miles from
Skagway, and near three thousand feet above tidewater.
From here there was a sheer descent of many
feet to a lake—Summit Lake. It was frozen solid.
The Indians assured us it was always frozen—that
the snow never left its margin. At one point the
ice overlapped the edge, forming a small glacier.
A few yards below it was thawing. At some far
distant day a great glacier had been there, for a
canon had been formed, and down it, beside the
rushing stream of white water, our course lay-
Mountains rose high around us, covered with everlasting snow.
Gradually the snow on our course disappeared
and the sleds became useless, and Jim assured us
that for the rest of the journey to Windy Arm
packing must be resorted to. Therefore next morning the sleds were cached, and we started on our
weary tramp.
Everything was frozen solid still, for it was not
yet May. The travelling was exceedingly arduous,
—not that there were any mountains to traverse or
swamps to push through; it was simply a rough
rock-strewn country, sparsely covered with scraggy mmmmm
mm
A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
27
trees, mostly pines and spruces, with bushes which
we thought were willows, and long coarse grass.
We had five days of this, and then we reached
the Windy Arm, and the Indians' contract was
completed. We had come about sixty-five miles
from Skagway.
It was still winter here: there was no open water,
the woods were full of snow, which had been long
since driven by strong winds from the open; it was
a bleak and dreary outlook. Around the lake most
of the timber had been fired, gaunt grey sticks alone
were standing, and the ground was covered with
half-burned logs and branches. Of fuel there was
no lack. We made camp in the only close clump
of living trees about. We put our tent up securely,
made ourselves comfortable, for we knew we must
stay on there and by some means build a boat
or raft, and wait for the ice to break up. Thus
our object was gained in reaching that spot, and
we were ready to avail ourselves instantly of the
open water, and to pursue our journey.
The Indians had behaved so exceedingly well
that I proposed, and Meade agreed, to give them
each a dollar.
Through Jim we signified our intention: he made
them clearly understand that this was | potlach"
—that is, a present. It gave great satisfaction, and
when we added a plug of tobacco to each man,
there was rejoicing in the camp. 28
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
We had taken quite a liking to Jim. He was
seemingly proud to be more noticed by us than
the others. He was an exceedingly handy fellow,
and so far as we could make out from his very
peculiar English and Chinook, he knew all about
the route we had to follow, and was an experienced
boatman. He had "shot" the Grand Canon twice,
and knew the way to get past the White Horse
Rapids. He was apparently about five-and-twenty,
a tall, athletic fellow, and with us very bright
and talkative, although with his fellows he was
taciturn. Like them he was keen after money,
yet did not appear to realise that we were going
up to where we hoped it would be plentiful. It
is difficult to understand an Indian's apathy on
this matter—along the Fraser, at Cariboo, and even
in Alaska, they will work at washing gold, and seem
quite satisfied to make a dollar or two a-day; but
to undertake any plan for making a big lot at once
they have no notion. It is perhaps because the
idea of accumulating anything is not an Indian's
nature.
Meade formed the idea that it would be well
to induce this fellow to go with us to Lake La
Barge. With this intent we plied him with information about gold, assuring him that, if he
went with us, he would get plenty, so that he
could return to the coast a rich man. This prospect   had   no   charms   for him,   yet   he   liked the A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
29
idea of the trip, and said that if we would pay
him " ikt dolla la sun "—that is, in plain English,
one dollar a - day — he would go; but when he
added that he must bring his klootchman, his
wife, with him, I was taken aback. Meade,
however, was in favour of it — he considered it
would be an additional inducement for Jim to stay,
that she would probably be useful, and no trouble
to us.
He questioned the fellow closely as to her age,
her abilities; and he made us understand that she
was young, could cook and paddle well, speak
English, and would | mamook elan wash, pil chicka-
min," which meant that she would help wash for
gold. Her name, he announced, was Fanny; and
Meade confided to me that he had a particular liking
for that name, so we were induced to enter into the
arrangement.
About | muck a muck "—i.e., food—Jim said they
would provide themselves; that he would go back to
Skagway with the party and bring his wife out, and
a load of all they needed, in six " la suns," six days.
All that he stipulated for was that we should have
nothing to do with Tagish Indians and that he
should have "plenty 'bacca."
Of this we had a good supply; but thinking it
would be no harm to have still more, we sent a little
I chit" by him to Boss Parkinson, telling him how
we had got on, and begging him to send out to us  CHAPTER  II.
Meade and I were by this time great friends: our
tastes and aims were exactly alike—it was very nice.
We had mutual acquaintances in England—we were
the best of companions.
In our tent, with our sheet-iron stove going, our
beds of thick layers of sweet-scented spruce twigs on
rubber ground-sheets, with plenty of good blankets,
we were quite cosy, and we had a few books with us.
Our surroundings were gloomy and uninteresting
enough—just a dreary rock-strewn waste. Here
and there were patches of faded grass, flattened by
the snow which had covered it for months. A few
gnarled and twisted cedars and spruces still grew
about there; but gaunt, black-butted, dead pine-
trees, their tops whitened by the frost and wind,
were everywhere—the dry bones of the forest. The
frozen lake and the coast range close behind us, the
mountains to right, left, and ahead, were snow-
covered and dismal, and there was no sign of life, no
trace of a living creature. WKMffiOiRS
32
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
It rained steadily for two days, and as it was
freezing hard at the same time, everything was
encased in ice. On the third day the clouds were
scattered, and each twig and leaf and blade flashed
and sparkled gloriously in the brilliant sun - rays.
This only lasted a few hours, for the heat of the sun
being great, this beautiful scene was soon spoiled.
However, we hoped that a few such days would
make havoc with the ice upon the lake, and we
should have open water. But this was not to be
just yet, for on the fourth day it blew hard from the
east, and that night it snowed again and froze as
hard as ever.
" On time," as Yankees say, Jim and his wife
arrived: they came bounding along the trail, full of
glee,—we thought them like children coming home
from school. Jim was most voluble; a stream of the
best English he knew, and jargon, fell unceasingly
from his mouth. He was proud of his wife, that
was clear—he showed her off, asking our opinion of
her, giving us to understand that she was as good
as she appeared.
I must say that she was well worth his praise, in
looks at any rate; her other good qualities we discovered later.
She was unmistakably an Indian woman: her
colour was warm brown, she had beautiful eyes, and
a very amiable expression. Her hair was her pride :
it  was  not  straight  and   coarse —• it  waved,  even asm
A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
33
curled some little, and glistened in the sun as if it
were black spun glass.
We took to her at once: she appeared to be of a
bright and happy disposition, and not an atom like
our preconceived notions of a squaw. Meade subsequently made a sketch of her in her ordinary dress.
But what charmed us greatly was, she could speak
English, quite understandably, and when she informed us that she was " one Metlakahtla gal," and
had been trained under the eye of good Mr Duncan,
we felt we were fortunate to have her with us, and
we never ceased to impress- on Jim what a lucky
dog he was. He seemed to think so himself—at
least Fan said he did. They put up a little canvas
tepee, or wigwam, near. They had brought it with
them on their sled, with their' entire household gear,
which was not much. It consisted mostly of dried
salmon which was to be their food. We added
some of ours to it occasionally, and later when we
killed game we shared it with them. Fan cooked
for us, and we believed she religiously refrained
from pilfering our food. She had certainly been
well trained.
After tnis we had a few days clear, calm, and
sunny. Pools of water formed on land amongst the
rocks and tangle, and the lake-ice was awash, yet
Jim assured us that we need not expect the lake to
open yet, and #Fan added, " By'me by we get plenty
freeze once more, and, mebbe, plenty snow!"
c
r.'.Jr. 34
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
ill
In this latter she was mistaken: she was right
about the freeze, though. Thick ice formed every
night, if night it could be called. One day it blew
a heavy gale: we kept under cover, wondering that
our little tent was not carried bodily away.
The matter of a boat occupied our consideration.
Jim had heard that two men, camped down on
Tagish Lake, had a whip - saw, and were cutting
lumber to sell to parties like us to build their boats
with, but our only means of getting to them was by
a raft. There was no timber fit for boat-building
in our neighbourhood, therefore when weather permitted we chopped and rolled logs on to the ice,
and lashed and pinned them together into a form
we hoped would bear us safely. We built it on the
ice so that when that broke up it would be afloat.
Jim and his wife helped: she was as active as a
young deer, and as strong as either of us.
Two weeks passed thus. Our raft was finished,
and we were waiting patiently for the ice to disappear. We had spells of very hot weather, plenty
of wind, but very little rain. The sun did not set till
late; by two a.m. it was up again. The growth of
vegetation was amazing—grass was green, and flowers
had sprung into bloom, seemingly in a few hours. A
few birds were seen, robins and jays.
One evening a flock of ducks whistled over the
tent. Meade sprang up, gun in hand, but too
late for a shot; but next day more passed and we A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
35
bagged several brace. It was evident that spring
had arrived.
On May 15th Fan informed us that " Pretty soon
now, my believe, ice go away." Jim had gone up a
creek to try for fish; when he returned, with a
string of suckers he had speared, he agreed with
what Fan had said, adding that he believed next
day we should "no more ice see."
It was so. When we turned out the following
morning, instead of a field of rotting ice, which had
all sunk we supposed, there was before our camp a
lovely blue lake, sparkling and rippling in a gentle
breeze, and Jim gleefully announced, " Now, bossee,
you bet we go ahead aller same steamboat."
At once we loaded our raft, and we four drifted
on it down the Windy Arm, Tagish Lake. It is but
a narrow strip of water, this arm, more like a river.
The hills on both sides are steep, the wind from the
east rushes through, sometimes dangerously, but we
were fortunate to have merely a fresh breeze behind us.
By towing from the shore sometimes, at others
by poling, we contrived on the third day to reach
the lake, and here we were lucky enough to find not
only the men we had heard were cutting lumber
there, but that they had just finished a boat which
they could sell to us.
These men welcomed us very heartily: they told
us we were the first party on the way since the
previous autumn.    They had run out of tobacco. 36
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
The boat they had to sell was not built for either
speed or beauty, but we saw it was the very thing
for us—it would carry us well with our heavy load
to Dawson City. We \agreed to their price, which
was naturally high, and before we turned in that
night we had stowed our goods on board her, and
were ready to begin our. journey in earnest. We
had received a good bit of information about it from
these men, who had been often up and down the
Yukon. We left them a little happier for our visit,
for we had supplied them with a few stores, and
notably with tobacco.
We sailed off cheerfully next morning down Lake
Tagish. At the mouth of Windy Arm are islands
and high mountains,—one superb dome-shaped giant
stands alone.
We trolled that day, and caught one large fish like
a salmon,—it probably was a land-locked one. Its
flesh was white and absolutely tasteless, but Jim and
Fan considered it was prime. We made a lovely
camp that night on an island near shore.
It took us till the following afternoon to get down
this lake. We saw no human beings, but along
the sluggish river which joins it to Lake Marsh we
passed Tagish House, and there was a group of
Indians at which Jim and Fan were terribly alarmed,
declaring that if they were seen they would be killed
by them, for it appears that war between the Tagishes
and the Sticks, which our two were, is perpetual. ^
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
37
Accordingly we gave these Indians a wide berth.
Tagish House is but a rough log affair. Yet it is
famous, for it is not only the place the tribe meets at
annually for its council and festival, but it is the
only permanent building in all that country.
Passing down for half-a-dozen miles, we entered
Lake Marsh, which occupies a broad valley with
high mountains on the east. It is about two miles
wide. Traversing it, we got all the wildfowl and
the fish we could consume. We lived sumptuously.
The journey took us two days.
Fan and Jim were always bright and cheery, and
ready to lend a hand; they were good companions,
and were uncommonly good specimens of Indians.
One particularly good thing about them was that Fan
had been taught the use of soap at Metlakahtla, and
she had taught her husband ; so they were, wonder of
wonders, clean Indians!
The foot of Marsh Lake we found to be low and
swampy; the sleughs appeared to be full of ducks
and musk-rats—also of mosquitos !
We certainly expected these last. We had
suffered from them in Manitoba and in other parts
of Canada; we supposed we knew what we had to
contend with, but we did not.
Fortunately we had brought some mosquito
netting, which we rigged up in our tent, so that,
inside, we had a trifle of peace; but when travelling
or moving outside, it was impossible to protect our-
■-—- I
38
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
selves, and we experienced untold misery. Our
Indians suffered quite as much as we did, and complained as loudly. They lit fires inside their tepee,
filling it with pungent smoke, through which they
slept contented; but we could not stand that.
I may here say that from this time on, with very
rare exceptions, we were simply tortured by mosquitos.
We passed through many hardships, had innumerable
physical difficulties to contend with during that
summer and winter, but they are all forgotten, or
regarded as mere trifles, and one phase of misery
is vividly recorded on my memory: it is the ceaseless torment of those infernal gnats. They are
the cause of the worst suffering that people must
submit to in that country: winter's cold, summer's
heat, even hunger, are not to be compared to this
awful pest.
For instance, you are tramping with a load upon
your back, your hands are full carrying tools or
packages, the sun is blistering hot, the perspiration is
pouring off you in streams, yet all the time the
ubiquitous mosquitos are engaging your closest
attention; your eyes, your ears, your nostrils, all
your most sensitive spots, are their favourite feeding-
grounds. You are helpless, you suffer agony, and
you often feel that life itself is next thing to a
curse. We have seen hardy, rough men shed tears
of impotent anger at these innumerable, invisible,
relentless enemies.    Dogs and men, cattle and wild A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
beasts, deer especially, and even bears, are their
victims.
Frequently we were so swollen about our necks
that we could hardly turn our heads, and our wrists
were so enlarged that our wristbands were useless.
We tried tobacco juice, turpentine, lamp-oil, but
nothing gave us relief. Truly the mosquitos of the
Yukon hold the record as tormentors.
Lake Marsh is twenty miles long. It then narrows,
and for nearly thirty miles we followed the course of
the river, which is the Lewes. The current is about
three miles an hour, and we were blessed with a
gentle breeze astern, so got on famously. We passed
through miles and miles of cut sandbanks, which
were completely honeycombed by a species of martin,
which were then busy nesting. The air was alive
with millions of these little birds, and we gloried in
the knowledge that they were feeding exclusively on
our deadly foes.
Here we met with a few large salmon. They
come all the long way up from Behring Sea to spawn.
In August, Jim said, the river is crowded with them,
and the bears come down from the hills to feed on
them. Dozens, he assured us, might be seen any
day along that river. We saw but one; we shot at
and missed it.
Up to this time, it will be noticed, we had experienced only fine weather,—indeed, so far, our only
real suffering had been from the mosquitos; but one 40
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
evening, the sun being high, though it was ten P.M.,
the sky was suddenly enveloped in dense clouds,
against which steamlike scud drifted with great
rapidity; and by the action of the martins and waterfowl, and by the sudden cessation of the rapacity of
the mosquitos, which had been earlier in the day
more persistent than usual, we knew that some
change was at hand.
Jim said that wind was coming, so we camped,
put our tents up with extra care, and drew our boat
into what we thought was a safe harbour by the
river side.
Not long after—we could see up stream for at
least a mile—we perceived that a huge wave was
bearing down to us. It was like a bore. We stared
aghast!
Our boat and nearly all we had was in imminent
danger. I made a rush, intending to leap on board,
push it out into the river, then turn its head to the
great surge that was rolling down, and so, I hoped,
save it from wreck; but Meade held me back, shouting above the dreadful roar of wind and water that I
should not go—that the risk was far too great.
As we stood thus, he restraining me, I struggling
to go, Jim passed us, stripped: he leapt into the
boat, pushed her off, then with one grand sweep of
the steering oar he turned her head up stream just
as the wave reached her. She lifted with the heave
of it, veered this way and that, the  heavy water mmmmmmgm
mmmmm
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
41
curled up, and we stood there trembling, feeling sure
that she would be swamped. But Jim held on manfully, kept her well up, and although she was carried
down stream at terrible speed, yet we saw that the
brave Indian, standing like a bronze statue at the
stern, had conquered.
It was soon lost to sight in the gloom, for the
spray which the mighty wind raised was driving down
river as if it were drifting snow.
So far, the boat, we trusted, had escaped, but what
would ultimately become of her and Jim, we wondered.
We turned to Fan, asking what she thought about
it. She was crouched under the lee of a log, smiling
peacefully!
I No you bother," she shouted, " Jim all light; outfit all light too. By'me by, pretty soon, no mo'
wind, Jim tie up er boat, come back'n we pack all
tings down to boat—or, mebbee, Jim bring boat back
here. You see me ? — Well, all light!" and she
smiled again quite happily.
How we blessed our stars that we had hired this
Indian and his charming klootchman. We thought
her a perfect heroine that night, whilst I believe she
considered us very childish for being so very much
alarmed.
Almost as quickly as this heavy squall had arisen
it ceased, the sun streamed out, and the silence was
oppressive, yet very welcome. But what should we
do about Jim ? 42
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
We consulted Fan, who calmly replied, " Nosing,
nossir, make muck-a-muck, what  you call supper,
then turn in, my tink Jim come along all lightee,
by'me by, soon."
At which we made up the fire, and did as she
advised.
We were aroused towards morning by Jim calling
to his wife from the other side the river. He told us
that the boat was safely moored a mile below, that he
had tried to bring her to camp but could not, therefore we must pack all to her. He swam across and
joined us, after which we had our first real essay at
| packing," and we concluded that it was not our
forte. We found our boat and her cargo safe and
sound below, which was no small blessing. It took
two days to pack all down to her. Then on we went
again, the stream carrying us along between smooth
grassy hills and sandy knolls. Soon the current
became stronger, and we heard a distinct roar ahead,
and on the bank we saw a board stuck up by some
friendly vpyageur, on which was scrawled in big
letters—"Danger, Stop," which at once we did.
We had arrived at Myles Canon, the grand canon
of the Lewes—the Miners' Grave.
Eager to examine what we had now to encounter,
Meade and I landed and went ahead to prospect.
Where we had stopped the river was two hundred
yards wide at least: it was roaring ahead in the
middle, rushing vehemently on its way. MS
mnmmm
mm*
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
We mounted the basalt cliff above where we were
camped, and came in full view of the canon. We
knew the length of it and the width, we had heard
so much about it, and believed we knew just what
to expect, yet the reality appalled us. How could we
get through ? It looked impossible: still, knowing
that it had been done, and if we were to reach our
destination we must negotiate it, we sat on an
outstanding point and wondered.
The walls of the gorge, which averages one hundred feet in width, are about the same height; they
are worn into fantastic shapes, very little vegetation
clings to them, but along the top there is timber, and
one can march through it with ease.
The river, forced through this narrow canon, is
heaped up in the middle much higher than at the
sides: it is one mass of foam, and it flashes along
at lightning speed, roaring and raging. It is about
three-quarters of a mile from fairly smooth water
up stream to quietness below.
As we sat on the summit of the cliff, critically
examining the scene, we presently perceived two
tents at what looked to be the lower end of the
gorge, and there was the smoke of a camp-fire.
With Jim and Fan, who had joined us, we consulted ; it resulted in Meade and Jim going ahead to
visit these campers and obtaining information. From
them they learned that they had got through safely.
There were half-a-dozen men, old Yukoners, friendly 44
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
and communicative, who had wintered by Lake
Marsh, where they had got a little gold. They
offered to help us. Some of them returned and
packed each a load over the portage, and then as
they saw that neither of us was experienced at
shooting rapids, one of them very kindly volunteered to go through with Fan and Jim in our
boat.
Everything was carefully planned, the strength of
the steering sweep tested; Jim stripped, Fan doffed
all she could decently, and our new friend, whom his
chums called Samson, did the same,—then the start
was made.
Meade stayed to push them off; I went to the
cliff-top to watch the proceedings.
Fan and Samson took the oars, Jim was steersman. They pulled far out into the eddy, straining
every nerve, even after the current caught them, so
as to keep steerage way on the boat. They soon
shot into the dark shadows of the walls. Here, they
told us, they were nearly stopped by the first huge
breaker, but only for a second: the frail boat
trembled, seemed to stagger, then surmounting the
crest, dashed on.
I, on the top, could mark their progress easily. I
saw them flying like a cork through the turmoil; I
saw them now whirled one way, now another; at one
moment it seemed they were to* be hurled against the
adamantine walls, where  they  would   be  stove   to   A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
splinters instantly; at the next they miraculously
sheered away into the boiling turmoil in the midst.
Clouds of spray dashed over them; they were often
lost to my sight. Half a minute passed—I saw
their speed slacken—was anything wrong ? No, I
saw they were in the eddy, and were half-way
through; next moment they were again in the thick
of it, and, so far as I could tell, they were having
more terrible experiences still. There were then a
few indescribable moments. I held my breath, as I
am sure they did theirs, as they vanished from my
sight round an intervening point.
Directly after one of our new acquaintances at the
camp below fired two shots and waved a red blanket,
the signal agreed on that all was well.
From the moment they started until I saw that
signal was exactly two and a half minutes by my
watch.
With thankful hearts we two shouldered our light
packs, crossed the portage, and joined the others.
Jim and Fan were perfectly unconcerned,—he was
contentedly smoking beside the fire, she was putting
our tent? up. We thanked Jim, called him a brave
good fellow, at which he merely grunted " Ugh "; and
Fan said, " Orl right—welly good; guess we make
camp here one day—eh ?"
We were agreeable to this, especially as the other
party was remaining too. They were Canadians,
very  decent  fellows indeed, and on that   and   for 46
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
several days we kept company with them with much
mutual pleasure.
On the river-side were several mounds, marked
with rough stones or wooden crosses. They were
the graves of some of the many who had lost their
lives there—many more had been drowned whose
bodies had never been recovered—and we, I hope,
were very grateful that we had got through so
safely.
Next day a couple of us went ahead in one of
their light canoes to examine the White Horse
Bapids—they were two miles on—and to arrange
how to attack the'm. Then we loaded our boats,
and, by warping and towing, we, by degrees, hauled
them to a place where there is slack water, just
above the dangerous place.
Here we camped again, unloaded everything, and
hauled boats and canoes on shore. Then we carried
our packages on to smooth water below, and lastly
dragged the boats there: there were many willing
hands to help now, and we did it all quickly.
These rapids are full of sunken rocks, impossible to
steer amongst. There is one piece particularly formidable : it is only about one hundred feet, and has
been shot, but not intentionally up to that time.
With light well-made canoes it would be possible, we
thought, though very risky, but with the really unwieldy boat of ours it was impossible.
When we had everything safely over—it took us A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
best part of a day, and we all worked very hard to do
it—we packed up again, and camped for the night.
We had a most jovial evening—there was a banjo in
the crowd, and one good singer, the weather was
grand, the mosquitos were rather less troublesome
than usual, and the last great obstacle had been thus
safely mastered. Yet there were many graves about
us of poor fellows who had failed where we had
come through with such success.
Next morning early we were off again.
We had now reached the place to which Jim and
Fan had agreed to accompany us. We were loath to
part with them, and, so far as we could judge, they
were not anxious to leave us. If good food and
plenty of tobacco is an Indian's idea of earthly bliss,
then I should think these two had all they could
desire. I must say they appeared to appreciate it,
and when we spoke to them about returning to the
coast they were evidently anything but pleased.
Besides, how were they to go back ? We had
really never thought of that: it was very stupid of
us. We had brought their sled, but they could not
go home on that.
We should have brought a canoe with us. We
proposed to buy one from the Canadians, but they
would not part with one.
Jim showed no anxiety at all to solve the problem;
as for Fan, she declared her intention was to go on
to Dawson City in our company! but this she said 48
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
merely to tease Jim. The fact is, they were both
perfectly satisfied with the life, and indifferent about
returning to Skagway, where what they call their
home was thought to be. They talked about Lake
La Barge, the Five Fingers, and the Bink in such a
way that we believed they did really intend to come
with us, whether we would or not, if they could.
It ended in our proposing to continue Jim in our
employ until we reached our journey's end, offering
him the same pay—that is, one dollar a day and
food, now, for himself and Fan.
They had been very quiet and melancholy for
some hours: when we made this proposal they
jumped up, laughed, and shouted with delight.
These Indians are very much like children.
We were very glad too, and, as Meade always
said when any question about expense arose between
us, " Don't bother; when we get to the spot I know
about, we can wash out what will cover all these
outlays in twenty minutes ! " 49
CHAPTEE  III.
Feom the foot of White Horse Kapids to the head
of Lake La Barge the Lewes river is said to be
thirty miles. Midway it is joined by the Tahkeena,
and runs then through a wide valley, having cut
many channels, so that we found difficulty in keeping the right one. The current and the wind were
still with us.
We camped together with the Canadians: they
had two good boats and two canoes. We should
have been a merry party, but for the mosquitos.
We caught plenty of fish; in every creek were
trout and grayling; they rose to a fly, to a black
feather, or even to a scrap of cloth. We trolled
when moving, catching white fish and some salmon,
proving that no one need starve there at that time
of the year.
We were fortunate with our guns, shooting many
ducks and geese, several swans, and a few grouse—
probably ptarmigan. It was the breeding season,
yet we considered we were justified in killing what
D
SSS— 50
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
we needed for our larder. Humming-birds were quite
numerous, flitting about the brilliant flowers which
were everywhere. We saw ravens, some magpies
exactly like English ones, and several bald eagles.
We only shot one deer. At one of our camps
a herd of some dozens trotted past. All guns were
instantly brought to bear, but as only one contained
a ball, but one animal fell. It was a caribou, very
much like a reindeer.
We saw a few bears, black and brown, and there
were small ones called silver-tips, as they have white
throats and chins. Our friends assured us they were
fierce, and attack a man " on sight"; but we fancied
this was only a hunter's yarn, until we had proof
that it is true.    This was what occurred:—
We were settled for the night in an exposed
position, away from stagnant water and bushes, as
we found such spots a trifle freer than others from
mosquitos. All of us but Fan were scattered, fishing or trying in the woods for birds, quite free from
apprehension of anything untoward happening. It
was a beautiful night; the sun had set—that is,
it had just dipped behind some mountains to the
north; the sky was brilliant in purple, gold, and
crimson fire, as it would remain till three or four
next morning, when we were to move on again.
It was late, eleven, I suppose, and we were all
out of sight of camp, when Jim and I—we were
after ptarmigan—heard the crack of a rifle there.
\m A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
51
"M'm," says Jim, "guess dat Fan ketch'm deer
mebbe—welly good shot dat klootchman."
I merely said that I hoped it was so, for he and
I were having bad luck, and were longing for meat;
fish was palling on us. A few seconds after we
heard another shot.
"M'm," says Jim again, "my tink Fan got two
deer; zat is welly good."
He had hardly ceased speaking when we heard
a third report, and several at quick intervals, at
which I said, " Come, we'd better return and help
her," and we hastened back to camp.
When we came in sight of the river and our
boats, we heard Fan calling. It did not sound as
if she were afraid, and yet we realised that she
was in earnest; so we hurried, and perceived her
on a great log that lay stretched across a narrow
chasm in the cliff behind the tents, some distance
from the ground. There she stood, firmly planted,
with a rifle, looking intently at one spot below her.
We called; she looked at us delighted.
I Come on ! quick, quick !" she cried. " My
have got one silver-tip thar; it is no dead, look
out; but my tink he no can move! My cannot
see him no more, frow rocks in dere," and she
pointed.    " My have nosing hyar to frow !"
At which, of course, we began to bombard the
spot, and as nothing stirred, we stepped forward
slowly, cautiously, till amongst some tangle we found 52
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
the beast lying dead. Telling Fan this, we called to
her to come down.
She walked to the butt end of the log and looked
up, then to the other. § My can't!" she cried, half
laughing.
" Well, but how did you get there ?" I asked.
" My jumped down. My no can get up no more,
and my no can come down !"
Jim began haranguing her in Indian, then said
that we must cut a pole to reach to the log, which
we did, and the girl climbed down and joined us.
Meade and the others had returned during this
operation, which we carried out amidst much
laughter. The bear was hauled out, dragged to
camp, Jim set to work, and we soon had steaks
frying for supper—or breakfast was it ? We praised
Fan for what she had done; she said it was " Oh,
nosing—nosing at all, at all!" that the bear was
trying to get a salmon we had hung in a bush,
and she went for it.
I But how did you get up where you were ? " we
asked.
She said that the bear drove her there, at which
we made her tell exactly what had happened, which
she did, with many laughs, much as follows:—
"My was making slapjacks for de supper; my
was at de fire. My see de bar a-grabbin' for de
fish, and my go for him. My got no gun, no nosing
but de fry-pan. You bet my go for him wis zat.
Oh, yes! but de bar he no scart; nossir, he come A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
m
for me; yessir, 'n I go for de tepee, 'n zare I ketch
Jim's lifle and katlidges. Well, de bar he come
zare too, 'n he went for de tepee—see," and she
pointed to where it had been torn. "He make to
drag down de tepee 'n ketch dis Injun gal; yessir,
'n so my shoot at him 'n hit him, 'n den my run
avay! Oh yes, my run up dat rock dare, 'n de bar
kum arter me, 'n he druv me to de aige of de bank
dere. 'N he druv, 'n druv, 'n my shot two times—
tree times, 'n my guess my didn't hit him bad; 'n
he corned up so clost my tink he'd have me. So
zen my look down onct; my see de log, my jump
for it, 'n when my get dere zat bar he make to come
to me too 4 Yessir, but zat time my get steady shot,
my give it him in de tum-tum 'n he go tumblin'
down—way down dere where you find him. Oh,
you bet, dat last time my shot it hurt him—eh ?"
Then she turned to her cookery as calmly as if it
had been the neck of a pigeon she had wrung, and
nothing more.
After this we took care that no one was left alone
at camp again, and if by any chance we came across
a silver-tip we steered clear of him.
Barring mosquitos—and they were a bar and no
mistake—it was a glorious trip down Lewes river:
we did it in two days to Lake La Barge.
This lovely sheet of water is five, and in some
places ten, miles broad, and about thirty-five long.
Our friends parted from us here, and we were left
to pursue our travels alone.    They could sail straight 54
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
down the lake, their boats being good and not laden
like ours. We dared not venture, as it was blowing
stiffly, and there was some sea on.
We followed the coast closely, and were three
days doing the journey.
When we left this—the last of the lakes—we
found the Lewes had quickened its current to six
miles an hour. It was extremely crooked, too, and
filled with boulders, causing us much difficult and
anxious work; but by means of ropes from shore,
and careful poling, we made a safe and fairly rapid
progress.
The hills came down, often, sheer to the water's
edge, and were generally well timbered. We moved
on, mostly at night—that is, when the sun was low:
at other times it was too terribly hot, and we found
it better to turn night into day.
About twenty-eight miles from Lake La Barge the
Hootalinqua river enters from the east: it is as wide
as the Lewes at the junction. Here we came in
sight of several tents, with people about them. We
were for passing unnoticed, for Jim and his wife were
terribly afraid of Indians. However, we were hailed
from the shore, and begged to land. They were
miners, rough customers; but they treated us well,
and were glad of the latest news from the outer
world. They were Americans. They said they
were finding " flour" gold on all the bars, and advised   us   to   stay   and   prospect;   but   we   made
•fr-im   A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
55
excuses and hurried  on, giving our destination as
Fort Cudahy.    I believe these men thought we were
Government officials, and not gold-seekers, for our .
equipment was so perfect, and the careless way in
which we spoke of gold deceived them.
Cut clay banks, full of martins, were common
along this river. We found first-rater camping places,
and were never without fish and game, but rarely
missed mosquitos for more than an hour or two in
the early morning.
Thirty miles below the Hootalinqua the Big
Salmon joins. We saw no one about here, though
we had heard that its bars carry much gold.- Salmon
were crowding up its rather shallow mouth when we
passed; we' could have secured a boatful in an hour
with a net.
Below the Big Salmon the hills are high and
round, mostly wooded to their summits. Thirty-five
miles below, the Little Salmon river enters also from
the east. There was a band of veritable Indians
fishing. We had much ado to pacify our two—they
wished us to keep close to the opposite shore, and
generally to act as if we had something to conceal;
but we made them sit out of sight, and sailed merrily
by, with only the cheery response to our cry, " Kla-
howya!" 1 from them.
1 "Clark, how are you?" is the greeting Sir. James (then Mr)
Douglas used to his second-in-command many years ago, which
the Indians caught up, and it is to this day the form of greeting
between whites and reds on the Pacific coast. 56
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
i.
Still a little farther we passed a camp. A boat
was hauled up, the tents were closed; we concluded
they were all asleep—it was bed-time anyway.
Twenty miles below this we came to a trading-
post kept by one George M'Connel. There was a log-
house and store, two or three rough shanties, and a
boat or two. We hailed some men, " asking if there
were any Indians around ?" As they said " No," we
landed, and spent an hour with them. M'Connel
was impressed with our outfit, and the fact that we
had two Indians as helpers struck him as very
stylish. He, too, evidently supposed we were on
some Government business. We got from these
people information about the Five Fingers Bapids,
which we had now to tackle.
A short distance below the Little Salmon we
passed the Eagle's Nest, which is the most conspicuous landmark along the Lewes. It is about five
hundred feet high, rising abruptly from a gravel flat.
The river is here three hundred yards wide, and we
had come three hundred miles from .tide-water at
Skagway.
We camped here and tried some of the soil for
gold, as we had done at many of our stopping-places.
More often than not we got the colour—that is, a few
fine specks. In several spots we got so many that
we felt sure it would some day pay to work, but
Meade always smiled and said, " Don't bother; we'll
get all we want directly."
■  ;   A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
57
From here the banks are high, of clay and gravel;
the current is about five miles an hour. The
country was well wooded; there were many birch
trees. We had fifty-three miles to go from Little
Salmon river, which took us two days only; then
Five Fingers came in sight. We had little difficulty
in running these rapids—-Meade and I had become
expert with oars and paddles. We rested for a few
hours above them, on the western bank of the river,
where he made a sketch, as he had done when any
particularly interesting bit was noted and the mosquitos would give him a chance. Then, without
discharging any cargo, with Jim at the steering
sweep, we ventured forth, crossed to the right-hand
shore, into the white water, and in a very few
minutes had rushed through the passage, and were in
quiet beyond, and the last serious obstruction had
been overcome.
We ran on cheerily after this, and came to a bar
of rocks they call Eink Eapids, which we passed
without mishap. Below this the river widens considerably, and there are many islands, which became
more numerous as we advanced: it was often difficult to tell which were the real shores. Past there
the high hills came down abruptly to the water, the
current was accelerated, and navigation, though not
dangerous, needed constant care.
Fifty-five miles from Five Fingers the great Pelly
river joins the Lewes, and the two become the Yukon. 58
A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
1
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I'JK
1  nl
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1
T
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If
Vi
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i
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Here is old Fort Selkirk, a trading-post of some
importance, and there they winter the steamer P. B.
Weare, which navigates the Yukon between there
and Fort St Michael. Several dwellings and a store
were on the bank; half-a-dozen men were about and
some women. We supposed they were prospectors,
for they spoke of nothing but gold, which indeed was
the one topic with every one. Indeed, Gold ! Gold !
Gold! was in everybody's mouth we met, though
certainly they were not numerous.
One man here was very friendly, lavish with
advice, telling us again and again about the good
places he knew, and saying he only wished he was
free to go — he would quickly make his pile and
quit the country; at which the bystanders smiled,
and winked at one another. One of them told us
aside that it was well known that this man had
already got better than a gold mine, and was making
his fortune rapidly. All the goods he sold were
exorbitant in price—which was, as they admitted,
fair enough—and everything was paid for in gold
dust, which he had to weigh himself. I 'N you bet,"
as an old Yankee miner said with a grin,—" you bet
he don't lose much every time he uses them scales
o' his'n." H ..       1
The furs he bought from the trappers and Indians
at a very low price, which he paid in goods. Oh,
yes; we readily understood he did not need, or
really wish, to go gold-mining. A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
59
There was a large number of dogs about this
place, principally mongrels, yet there were some pure
Huskies—that is, Esquimaux dogs. One fine young
one had been petted, which made the others jealous:
they set upon him whenever they caught him outside
alone, which made his owner believe thev were bound
to kill him, so he offered him to us and we accepted
him. We named him Patch, after an old dog I
knew in England: we fed him well, and he quickly
became a most beautiful and faithful creature—one
of the most intelligent dogs I ever knew.
Very little remains of Fort Selkirk now beyond
the ruins of the chimneys. It was raided and burned
by coast Indians in 1852.
Mnety-six miles on we passed the mouth of the
White river, which is of great volume, coming into
the Yukon with a roar. It is so called from a white
substance it holds in solution, probably volcanic ash.
Ten miles below this is the Stewart river, helping to
swell the already mighty Yukon. It is deep and
dark.
There were a few miners hereabouts. We did
not land. They hailed us as we passed, calling out
that there was plenty of gold if we would stay and
tackle it. We replied that we were bound down
river some distance, and one fellow shouted, " Bloomin'
Yanks, no doubt!"
Seventy miles below Stewart river we came to
another trading-post, and a sawmill actually—this
— II
1,!
;     ^
Jh!
Ml
I
60
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
(
was at Sixty-Mile Creek. We camped below it, as
there were some Indians working at the mill, much
to Jim's and Fan's horror. Meade and I walked
back and purchased some boards to make sluice-
boxes, and floated them down to our boat. There
were a number of miners about: some spoke favourably of their doings, but most were downhearted,
and all looked unhappy. We thought then, and
believe it fully now, that mosquitos were the cause
of most of it. Here we found to our great content
that we had but fifty more miles to run down to the
Klondyke.    They called it the Thronduk though.
Asking if there was any gold there, we were told
not any—that it had been examined well, and there
was nothing there to pay. It was just a salmon
river and nothing more, at which information Meade
looked at me with eyebrows raised and a smile
hovering about his mouth.
We heard, however, that twenty miles before
reaching that river we should come to Indian Creek,
which the year before had proved to be quite rich,
though already "played out." But as we heard
people were still at work on it, we had doubts about
the truth of this. The fact is, gold - hunters are
amongst the most easily excited and depressed of
beings, and one can rarely depend on individual
opinions.
We made the run to the mouth of the Klondyke
in  two  days.    Here  and there  were, heaps of ice   A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
61
still on the shore and shallows, for it does not
entirely disappear from the Yukon till well on in
June.
Usually an Indian camp was there, as it is really
famous for salmon. They come annually to fish it.
Here, too, is Dawson City—described by Meade as a
rough miners' camp of shacks and shanties only—
chiefly saloons, drinking - bars, dance - houses, and
gambling dens. There were only a few hundred
people in it, storekeeping and trading with the
miners, of whom there were always a number hanging about, spending their hard - earned gold. Our
aim being to avoid all communication with the shore,
we held back till midnight, when there was a certain
gloom spread over the scene, and when most people
would be asleep. We were fortunate enough to slip
into the river without any notice being taken. There
was no very strong current down the Klondyke, yet
as we had to pull against it we moved slower: however, finding a sequestered nook a few miles up, we
camped before it was what we called day. This
stream is not wide. The water is very clear. It
was a very beautiful scene, but truly we took no
time to criticise our surroundings. We had all we
could do to attend to our business, and fight mosquitos !
Naturally we were impatient to reach Meade's
last year's camp unobserved, and to discover if his
find had been unmolested by wandering prospectors.
mm_M
tm_
M
rifa r
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
;
fh
it
I
We had seen so few human beings about that we
hoped for the best; yet, now that we were so near
the end of our long journey, we were in a fever of
excitement.
Meade and I realised what a mistake we had
made in not bringing a light canoe with us, for he
knew it would be impossible to get our heavy boat
past the rough water at the mouth of the creek
where he had found the gold. We could manage
our packs, but we four could not convey that boat
over the portage.
Besides, how were Jim and his wife to get home ?
We did not intend to keep them with us whilst we
were mining. We firmly believed that they were
both true and trustworthy, but they were simple, and
it would be easy for them to be led to disclose
where we were and what we were doing, so we had
determined that they should go back as soon as they
had helped us with our stuff on to the still water
of Meade's creek.
To carry out our plans, then, we must have a
canoe, so it was in the end arranged that I should
march into Dawson and, if possible, buy one. It
was a difficult tramp, but I managed it.
My arrival at the " City " attracted little notice:
a number of men had lately come up by the boat
from Fort St Michael—they supposed I was one
of them. I announced that I was one of a party
camped up stream, and wanted a canoe. A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
63
There was a variety on sale. I don't suppose
those who said they owned them did so really—they
had been brought there by people who had gone
back and abandoned them; but anyway one was
offered with a pair of paddles for one hundred
dollars—a Peterborough canoe, therefore a good one.
I purchased it, got a square meal, and then towards
evening I paddled off, not heading up the Klondyke
but across it, as if I were going to ascend the
Yukon.    I wished to put the people off my scent.
I need not attempt to describe what I saw at
Dawson. It was rough, and the goings on were
rougher. I was assured that there was very little
actual crime—only gambling, drinking, and every
description of dissipation. There were some women,
strange specimens. I came across the wife of a storekeeper, however, who was very pleasant. She was an
Englishwoman from Eastbourne. She spoke bitterly
of everything there — climate, people, and mosquitos. She admitted that she and her husband
were making money, and hoped that a year or two
only of the awful life would have to be endured ere
they could return to England.
Not having seen or spoken to a decent white
woman since I left the steamship at Juneau, I confess it was pleasant to have a talk with this nice
Englishwoman, and I am thankful that I made her
acquaintance then, as subsequent events will demonstrate.
HI 64
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
i»;i
m
r
i e;fe
I did not get back to our camp till the following
day, when we started again. We made no rapid
progress—there were many shallow bars or ledges to
cross; we got stuck more than once, until we put
some of our cargo into the canoe and towed her.
It took us four days, hard work too, to get up to
the rapids at the mouth of what we called " The
Creek." | i W
On the way we passed the mouths of several
creeks where a few miners were camped. They
hailed us, but were so intent upon making use of
every moment of the short summer that they really
took small heed of us. However, for the last two
days we had not seen a soul.
Meade knew the way perfectly. When we reached
the rapids we unloaded everything, and carried all
with the canoe up to calm water above. The boat
we cached in a convenient crevice we found in a
rocky bluff near at hand. Then loading all we possibly could into the.canoe, my friend and I pushed
up stream, paddling, as you may be sure, our very
hardest, scarcely taking time to eat or sleep.
We left Jim and his wife in charge of the rest of
the stores. We would not allow them to erect tent
or tepee. They were to make themselves a wigwam of brush, and to cover all our stuff with
bushes, for we did not wish to attract attention, you
understand.
I  told  Jim he might try for  gold whilst they A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
65
were waiting for our return—that it would be good
if he could take some back to the coast; and Fan,
laughing merrily, said, " Plenty chickamin (gold)
hyar, my will make pile hyar, my feel it in my
tum-tum."
These Indians well understood what a pile meant,
but their notion of its amount, and what to do with
one when they had secured it, Were very funny.
On the second night, after having come, as we
thought, about forty miles, behold Meade and I hauling our canoe to shore and arrived at our journey's
end. For some hours before my companion had been
greatly excited. " See that stump ? | he would cry.
"Yes." "Well, I did that. I camped in there
one day."
A little farther on he pointed to a bank covered
with brush. "See that bare place there?" "Yes."
I Well, I tried a pan of stuff there, and got a good
show. I was half a mind to stay on and give it
a good examination. I'm glad enough I did not."
From a considerable distance he declared he could
see the dug-out which he had made, and where he
had passed some weeks; and as we drew quite near
he exclaimed with delight, "All's right. I don't
believe a living thing has been here since I left last
September.    Hurrah!"
We had been forty-five days on the journey in.
Considering all things, we had done well. It was
now, we believed, the third day of July, but we were
E not certain. We had endeavoured to keep a log of
our voyaging, but from there always being daylight
now, and from the irregularity with which we had
eaten and slept, we were not very sure even of the
day of the week CHAPTEE  IV.
In a bank near the creek, which was about twenty
yards wide and had a fairly swift current, there was
a rough door, which, being half open, disclosed a
dark cave within. One sees similar places in railway cuttings and cliffs in Britain, where workmen
keep their tools.
In this 1 dug-out" Meade had lived.
A few cut stumps, some wood chopped for fuel,
and the ground bared around this door, were the
only indications of any person having ever been
about.
There was a quantity of timber growing around,
but no really large trees; all were of the fir tribe.
The earth was, as usual, covered with moss some
feet in thickness, much of it pink and golden, and
very beautiful. From the lower branches of trees
hung long streamers of gray lichen; rotting logs,
dead branches, and rock were cushioned in brilliant
mosses, green and orange, whilst creepers and bushes
were thickly matted everywhere.    Yet, as we well ill; i
68
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
lei Ir i
knew, beneath this and for many feet below it the
ground was frozen, in spite of the sun's great heat,
which could not penetrate that mass of vegetation.
There we were, then, entirely alone, so far as we
could tell, many miles from any one but Jim and
his klootchman. Yet we thought it better, in spite
of this belief, not to put up our white tent: some
wandering prospector might come our way, and it
was better not to attract attention, therefore we decided to enlarge this dug-out and dwell in it.
Fancy a hole scooped out of the bank about ten
feet square, very little higher than a man, with a
hole in one corner of the roof to allow the smoke
from the fire to escape: that was all, and that was
to be our home—for three months, we said.
How little we knew what was before us!
The front of this luxurious habitation was built
up with logs, the chinks between stuffed with moss;
the door was of rough split slabs; it had no hinges—
to open and close it one had to lift it bodily. There
were a few notches in the top which admitted all
the light we had when it was shut.
The remains of Meade's last year's bedding (fir
twigs), a few old tins, and bits of rubbish, strewed
the floor. It was just a den, and a very dismal
one at that,—far worse than the meanest hopper's
crib in Kent.
First we lit a big fire inside, and when the frost
was driven out we set to with pick and shovel and A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE
69
very quickly enlarged it by about five feet, after
which we strewed a thick layer of fresh pine brush
over the floor, spread our bedding, and were at home !
| It'll do," said Meade; " we can exist here till
we've got all the gold we want — that will not
take long, you'll see. Then for England, home, and
beauty, eh ?"
I said, "All right, it's good enough for me."
We made a pot of tea, boiled part of a salmon we
had taken just before we landed—the creek appeared
to be full of them—then we rolled ourselves in our
blankets, tired out, and I soon slept in spite of dirt
and heat.
The sun was high when I was awakened by my
companion, who called me excitedly. He held a tin
pannikin in his hand. " See," he exclaimed; " it
was a shame to rouse you, but I could not help it.
I went down to the bar and got a pan of dirt, and
this is what I have washed out of it! " and he held
the tin close to my face, and there was a handful
of gold in it, dust and small nuggets—bright, shining, yellow nuggets, looking like pieces of shelled
walnuts which had been gilded!
" Now, Bertie, what d'ye say ?" he went on, as I
stared at the gold, took some up and let it run
through my fingers; " are you sorry you have come ?
Isn't all we have gone through a mere nothing ?
isn't it all forgotten ?—and there's heaps and heaps
of it!" 70
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
i ?
I was on my feet now. I could not say I was
amazed, for I had heard so much about it from my
friend, and had learned to trust his words so implicitly ; but I was pleased, I was delighted, in fact,
to find that he had not been mistaken, and that we
had not come up to this dismal place and passed
through all our hardships in vain. Indeed it was
grand, and I said so.
We hardly had patience to wait for the kettle to
boil. We swallowed some breakfast in a hurry, then
with shovel and tin dish we each went at it, and we
worked away till we judged that it was noon, out on
a gravelly point that jutted into the stream close to
the shanty.
. As we moved this gravel we could see the gold;
no wonder Meade had brought out what he did—it
was easy to do it. I picked out several handfuls
myself that morning, and so did he, and this, with
what we washed out, weighed over fifty ounces!
We had thus proved that all was right. I had
myself seen it, handled it, washed it, picked it out.
Naturally we were both4iighly elated.
It was hard to drag myself away from all this,
but I had to. I took a blanket and a little grub,
got into the canoe, and paddled off down the creek.
I was returning to Jim and his wife to bring up the
rest of our property. Jim was to return with me;
Fan was to remain there until her husband came
down with the canoe which we had given them, then A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
71
they were to get back to the headquarters of their
band.
Meade had said farewell to them already, now I
had to do so. It was not a pleasant business, for
we had both become really attached to these two
Indians, and I am sure that the liking was mutual.
We had found them perfectly trustworthy and reliable, and very different in their habits and, so far
as we could judge, in their ideas, to what we had
always supposed were characteristic of their race.
We had treated them in terms of equality with
ourselves; we had shared ^tlike of late, and had
learnt much that was useful and interesting from
them, and I believe they had learnt some good from
us. At any rate, Fan said to me one day, " S'pose
all white folk same as you and Meade, there no be
so plenty bad Injun "; which was satisfactory.
Paddling energetically, the current with me, I
reached their camp the following evening, so fatigued
that I slept nearly twelve hours on end! It was
noon next day before Jim and I had the canoe
loaded and were able to start up stream again.
My leave-taking with Fan was really quite sad:
I must admit that I never supposed I could have
felt it so. As for the poor girl, she showed no
apathy: she shed many tears, and made me certain
that if I should ever go to that country again
I would find a welcome from Fan, her husband,
and her entire nation.    True, they had been well ^*fj
•72
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
treated, and, I suppose for them, well paid. They
had a handsome canoe given to them, and many
other little things which they valued; but, for all
that, I believe their grief at parting from us was
quite genuine.
Fan shouted to me as I paddled up stream with
her man, " Plenty come again soon; my will be sick
by'me-by, all er time, for love of you!"
I did not take Jim right up to our shanty. About
a mile below it, where a small stream trickled down
a bank, we landed the cargo. I had to make hin^
suppose that it was up there we intended to
remain, as we did not wish him to know exactly
where we were, and what we were doing. With
many a hearty hand-clasp, with many a good wish
on both sides, I parted with that Indian. I have
never seen him since, nor have I heard of him or
his good wife, but the day may come when I shall
do so. I believe their association with us did them
good, and I know that always in the future, when
men speak evil of Indians, I shall adhere to my
opinion that there are some good and true ones.
I found that Meade had increased our lot of gold
during my absence to over one hundred ounces!
After packing in our stores, amongst which were a
few tools and a trifle of ironmongery, with which we
did a little to our domicile, and having fed and slept,
which we considered all but waste of time, we went
at gold getting. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
73
It was most absorbing, and, in a sense, glorious
work. For over a week we worked with pans and
fingers only. A ridge of rock ran across the creek,
against which the gravel had been washed by the
stream; this formed a bar, and here we were getting
the gold, and down on this rock itself, the bed rock,
was where we found it richest. By the week-end
we had hidden away what was worth one thousand
pounds each—some fifty pounds weight of gold!
At the finish of the next we had more than
doubled the quantity, and we were reckoning that if
we could keep going like that till the middle of September, we should be able to take out ten thousand
pounds apiece—five hundred pounds weight of it!
We could think of nothing to prevent it.
We had by working, often to our waists, in ice-
cold water, got out all the gravel we could from the
river; we then began to trace the run of golden dirt
in along the rock, which led into the bank a few
yards only from our den. We found that it continued quite rich, and so far as we could tell this
vein or lead might continue into the hill to an
indefinite distance. We removed the moss and
vegetation, then raised a huge fire over the spot
where we wished to dig; in a few hours the ground
was thawed a foot or two; we dug that out, and lit
another fire, and thawed a little more. We kept at
it thus almost day and night. We were well paid
for it, no doubt, so far as getting gold went.
m
a 74
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
In three weeks we had excavated into the bank
ten feet and more, following the streak on bed
rock, and found it always rich. We made a dump,
or heap of wash dirt, at the entrance. Our piles
were in it, we had good reason to feel sure; besides,
we had, as we considered, equally rich ground ahead
of us.
One thing we knew, that if we should be discovered we could each claim five hundred feet along
the creek; indeed, we thought twice that, as discoverers, so that our claim on the Klondyke might be
two thousand feet in length. Therefore we need not
have been so much afraid of being found. I used to
say so to Meade, who invariably replied that we were
better as we were, and were bound to keep our secret
as long as possible.
It was now the middle of August—we had attempted to continue a sort of diary, but we had
quite lost count by this time of dates and days.
For weeks there had been no darkness, there was
only what the Shetlanders call § the dim," and which
we could then perceive was becoming more pronounced. We ate and slept when we felt we must;
the rest of the time we worked without ceasing—we
took no relaxation whatever.
Our creek was now alive with salmon; we could,
with a long-handled shovel, scoop one out whenever
we liked. They were so closely packed that they
crowded each other out.    In places many had been A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
75
forced on to the land, where they lay rotting by the
hundred: crows | and ravens, jays, magpies, and
hawks were numerous, feeding on dead fish, and
several times we noticed bears dragging the salmon
out and gorging themselves with them—not one bear
only, often we saw several at once catching and
eating them, or lying, surfeited with food, on sunny
banks asleep.
We could easily have killed all we wished of
them, but we did not dream of doing so; we had
stores in plenty, as much salmon as we chose—
why should we bother about bear meat ?
About this time Meade first complained of being
out of sorts. He was a powerful man, and had, till
lately, looked the picture of health, but now clearly a
change had come over him. He was pale, always
tired, and did not eat properly. Was it to be
wondered at ? Such work, such living, such worry
with mosquitos would tell on any one.
I, too, felt that I was not the man I should be.
Yet in spite of all, we told each other we must stick
to it for another six weeks, then we could rest,
which was foolishness. One night we both felt so
bad that we could neither work nor eat; it had
become serious. Then we settled to devote the next
few days to making a sluice with the boards we had#
brought, hoping that change of work, which, it is
said, is as good as play, would prove so in our case:
it did. 76
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
We constructed three-sided boxes, the depth and
width of our boards, and about six feet long, an inch
or two wider at one end than the other; across the
inside, along the bottom, we put bars or riffles a foot
apart. We made six of these boxes, then went up
stream, where a little obstruction, a sort of dam,
raised the water; there we cut a groove, or ditch,
and led a powerful stream into the boxes, which
we had set up by our dump, one behind the other
on a slant, the narrow ends fitting into the wider,
so as to form a trough some thirty feet long.,.. This
was our sluice.
Into the upper boxes we threw the wash dirt,
allowing the water to rush over it. One of us was
continually throwing in the dirt, the other stirred it
about and- flung out the large stones and coarse
gravel with a long-handled shovel.
Thus, by degrees, against the riffles was collected
fine sand and gold, which once a day we cleared
away thoroughly, turning the run of water on one
side whilst we did it. This washed stuff we then
panned off in the usual way, and a very delightful
operation this was, for the amount of gold we got
and stored away daily was immense.
By this process we were able to wash a very
much larger amount of stuff than before, and we
soon had our dump cleared away, and found we had,
in old meat tins and bags, not less than three hundred
pounds weight of gold !■ «  A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
77
Feeling much better after this, we stupidly went
on working as hard as ever, and in a few days were
queer again.; Then we realised that this would not
do at all, and we determined to take things much
easier. We had done splendidly; we could go home
with a large sum each, and we believed that we could
at Dawson City register, or in some way secure, our
claim, and could return to it next season. Or, as
we said, we could surely find capitalists in Canada or
England to pay us well for such a splendid property.
At any rate, we knew we should do well to cease
this extraordinary labour, yet every day add something to our pile.
Having by this time driven in a tunnel quite
twenty feet, and being at least forty from the surface, we were not troubled with frozen ground, and
could work more easily, anyway. It was quite dark
in there: we burnt candles, of which we had brought
with us a quantity.
We left off work in reasonable time now, we
smoked and read and talked and sketched of an
evening, and planned what we should do about
getting home, and what big things we would do when
we had arrived there.
During all this time we had experienced wonderfully good weather. I have no recollection of any
rain; we had strong winds and squalls often,—we
rather liked them, for they lessened the insect pests,
but  by the   end  of  August mosquitos   had much 78
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
diminished in numbers. Although we had nightly
frosts, some pretty severe, when the sun was high
they came in clouds, and sometimes we thought
they were more bloodthirsty than ever. And thus,
as the time went by, we began to realise that the
day was drawing near when we must depart.
We spent a little time now with our guns, killing
several deer close to our den. We often saw bears;
we left them alone, having plenty of venison.
.We had not seen a human being, or the sign of
one, since we had been up there. But one morning
early, for there was real day and night now—the sun
rose about four—I was awakened by low growls
from Patch, who happened to be in with us that
night. I motioned the dog to be silent, and, listening, I heard footsteps outside. Pit-a-pat they went;
then I heard a bucket being moved.
I reached over and shook my companion gently;
when he awoke I whispered, " There's some one about
at last."
Meade roused up, listened, and, jumping from his
blankets, stepped to our spy-hole. Then, turning to
me, he held his finger up for silence, and with a smile
motioned me to come and look. I did so; it was a
huge bear, the largest I had ever seen, snuffing about,
examining things, and it was not ten yards away !
I asked by signs if I should shoot it—for answer
Meade handed, me my rifle, and I let fly at the
beast
II A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
79
I was altogether too careless, too sure that I
should put the ball just where I wanted to. At any
rate, I only grazed its skull, and did not even stun
it—only aroused its fury, for it turned with a roar of
anger, and came at our frail door with a bound.
I jumped back as the door fell inwards, and the
huge creature stood for a moment glaring at us.
Patch flew at him, barking vociferously.
My other barrel was a smooth-bore, and only held
shot; but Meade was ready with his rifle. He fired,
hit the bear square between the eyes, and the beast
fell prone upon the door. He lifted up his head a
time or two, opened his savage mouth, and growled;
but he was practically dead and harmless, whilst
our good dog mounted on his carcase, howled with
excitement, waved his grand tail, proud of victory,
probably thinking that he himself had done it.
| By George!' exclaimed Meade, " a splendid
fellow, eh ?    It must be a St Elias grizzly!"
Its fur was brown, long and thick. We took the
skin off and stretched it around the butt of a tree,
fastening Patch near to keep strange beasts away.
As for the meat, we found it excellent for a change.
We hoisted a lot of it up into adjoining trees. It
was very fat
The scent of it attracted many animals about us,
wolves and wolverines, foxes and lynxes. Patch kept
them from doing harm.
The woods were seldom altogether silent' at night; w
80
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
one often heard the howls and barks of many
creatures. Foxes were very numerous. There were
many silver grey and black ones. We shot them
whenever we had the chance: we skinned and
stretched them properly, as we had learnt to do in
Ontario.
I don't believe that two fellows were ever better
fitted to be companions, under such circumstances,
than Meade and I were. He was a very cheerful
man, always looking at the bright side of things, full
of resources, an excellent bushman.
He told me much about his English home, spoke
often of his mother, for whom he had the greatest
love*and veneration. His father had been dead for
years. Money was not too abundant with his mother
and his two sisters; he was often saying what
a blessing the gold that he had got would be to
them.
I could tell, too, that there was one person in
England around whom all his warmest feelings were
centred. He did not say very much to me about
her, for, as he knew from me that I was perfectly
heart-whole, I believe he thought that I could not
sympathise with him, nor understand his feelings.
Meade was very well read, and his conversation was
always very pleasant. As for me, he was kind
enough to say that he could not have had a better
"mate." * ■ .
It was in the beginning of September, our health A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
81
was not good, and the season was hurrying towards
winter, when we deemed it wise to begin to carry out
some plan for getting away. We had not acted
wisely, I must admit; that is, we should have
arranged as well for getting out as for getting in.
How were we to take our camping gear, our grub,
and our gold down to our boat ?
We should have brought up two canoes with us
—one for Fan and Jim to get away in, another for
ourselves.
Meade saw this now, and was always blaming
himself for the error, saying that as he knew the lie
of the land he should have known better.
These points he and I had discussed again and
again, and had not really settled what to do, when
this time arrived.
Certainly we could not " pack " our stuff. There
was no decent trail, and even if there had been, we
knew we were not robust enough to take a dozen
journeys to our boat and back, heavily laden, as we
should have to be. No! By some means we must
float down to the Klondyke, to the main stream,
where our boat was cached.
And about the boat, too, we had some anxiety.
Supposing it had been found and carried off, where
should we be ?
Certainly we had acted most unwisely.
There was a bear track along the creek which it
was possible to traverse, and as the existence of our 82
A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
boat was of first importance, we arranged to take a
small pack each and go down to ascertain if all were
well.
I shall not easily forget that tramp. We were
three days reaching the mouth of our creek, but we
found our boat safe. We rested there a day, and
then marched home again; and such a march that
was too! The path was quite narrow, and seldom
along level ground—indeed it appeared that the
bears preferred to climb boulders, creep along logs, or
tramp through the softest sleughs. Bad as the trail
was, however, it would have been impossible to get
through those woods at all if we had left it.
We saw at least twenty bears on this journey,
besides hearing many scooting through the bush.
They did not approve of other travellers along their
road. They showed no disposition to dispute with
us though.    They blew and snorted, but fled.
We thus realised how utterly impossible it would
be to even carry what gold we had that way, to say
nothing of other things we must have with us. Hours
were spent discussing these important questions.
When we reached our place we searched the
adjacent forest for a cedar or a pine tree big enough
to make a dug-out canoe. We felt certain we were
axemen enough for that; but, alas ! there were no
large trees there.
So then, at last, we had to come down to the plan
I had  favoured from the  first.      It was that   we
mimlOm A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
83
should build a raft. I knew that we could construct
one which we could navigate. The stream was not
too rapid, although crooked, much encumbered with
boulders, logs, and snags. I had traversed it in the
canoe three times; with good luck I believed I could
take a raft down too.
We did not intend to take many of the stores we
still had with us, for it was our determination to
return in the spring of '98. All tinned things and
many others would keep good in that climate if we
protected them from bears and other beasts.
The first idea was to stow them in our den,
making all secure with rocks and timber, but we
found this would be too difficult and risky. So we
made a cache, as the Indians do to preserve their
salmon—that is, high up between two suitable trees
near. We built a huge box or safe of logs, large
enough to hold all we proposed to leave behind.
The trees we chose were not large. Bears cannot
climb small ones, unless there are plenty of branches
to hold by. We took care to remove all such helps
as we came down from our task, and so felt secure.
Next we turned seriously to building the raft.
Selecting trees for the purpose, we felled and rolled
them to the water, notched and pinned them together,
fitted others across and across again, carefully lashing
all in such a way that we felt would be safe. To do
this we were working up to our waists in water
often, and it was icy cold. 84
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE'.
II f
111!
ii
Is
ll
1    I1 II
■ it ii
i
I think it was on the third day we had been at
this job when Meade took really ill. I know we
reckoned that we only had two or three hours more
work to complete it when he gave in.
There was only one heavy log to get into position.
I said to him that if he could give me a hand with
that, I could do the rest alone. Then we would pack
up and be off, for I hoped and believed that the
change of scene and work, and the actually having
started on the long journey out and home, would soon
set him to rights.
We were talking thus, and the poor fellow was
doing all he could to aid me. He was lifting one
end of the log which was to complete the structure;
then, whilst I was finishing, he was to go inside, turn
in, and try if sleep would help him—when, putting out
all his strength to lift, his foot slipped upon a barked
stick under water, and he came down heavily, the log
he had been lifting falling sharply across his legs!
I shall never forget the look on his face as he sank
back slowly in the water, which rippled over him to
his waist.
He turned deathly pale, then red; his eyes were
dilated, his expression was terrible. | Bertie, Bertie,"
he groaned, " it is all up with me, my leg is
broken!"
As for me, I was appalled; for a few moments I
was dumb with fear. I thought my friend would
drown!
Ll
•^*UtLt,^,iM^y:,^t,jau^ '.-:
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
85
I suppose I simply stared at him with open
mouth; I don't really know what I did, or thought.
There was my poor friend pinned to the bottom of the
creek by a heavy piece of timber, his head and
shoulders only out of water, his hands pressing
against that awful log to keep it from rolling farther
on to him.
Thank God, though dazed, I was not idle long. I
leapt ashore, seized a handspike, got it under the end
of the stick, and prised it up quite clear of him.
Then I called to him that he was free, and begged
him to move away.
But he could not. He repeated that his leg was
broken, and that he was jammed there; that if I
could not help him he must there lie—there die!
He spoke in such a despondent manner, he looked so
dreadful; his teeth were chattering with the cold.
It was awful.
I was all this time exerting my power to keep
the log up, and off him. I realised that I could
not do that for long, and if I let go it would
go down on him and hurt him worse perhaps.
It was a horrible fix to be in. I suppose it lasted
hardly twenty seconds, but it seemed to me an
hour.
What could I do ? How could I, in the first
place, get that log entirely clear of him ? That was
the question. I looked round in despair; would no
clever thought come to me ?    I think in those few 86
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
seconds I lifted up my heart to God Almighty very
earnestly.
Thanks be to Him, He did show me a way. The
handspike, or lever, I had was a pole of considerable
length. I found that by moving to the end farthest
from the log I could with very little pressure keep it
up. There were branches and sticks about; with
one hand I put enough of them upon the end of the
lever to keep it down, when I let go entirely, and
wading into the creek beside my friend, who had
fainted—he was insensible at any rate—I put out
all my strength and pushed the log clear.
As it fell it splashed the water over Meade and
brought him to. He looked at me despairing.
I Come, come, dear friend ! " I cried, " the log is off
you; make an effort, let us get you out of this! |
He tried hard, groaning with pain; he really
swooned more than once as he endeavoured to drag
himself out, and somehow, I cannot remember how,
he did get out, and I got him clear and on to a level
place on the bank, and then I let him rest whilst I
got him some whisky—for we had brought a little
with us, | in case of accident," we said, and here was
an accident indeed.
After a little while my chum revived. He said
the agony in one leg was intense. He was quite
unable to help himself or to discuss the situation.
First thing, I was sure, was to get him inside;
then we must discover what was really wrong.    He
= A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
87
declared he knew that his thigh was fractured. The
slightest movement made him scream with anguish.
Yet moved he must be—but how was I alone to do
it ? I am a big felloV. I endeavoured to lift him
bodily. I could not. His constant cry was, "Let
me lie—and die ! |
Suddenly an idea occurred to me. We had just
been reading about Swiss mountaineering, and that
to get wounded people or ladies unable to walk over
the ice and snow they use hides, or, failing them,
sacking—anything really which is strong enough.
Well, I remembered the bearskin we had—would
that do ?
I tore it from the tree, spread it out by Meade,
the fur side up, then with all the tenderness I
could exert I contrived to get it under him: he
could help himself but little, and half the time he
appeared to be unconscious.
As for my thoughts, I cannot recall them really.
If, as he said, his thigh was broken, what could / do
for him ? I had no knowledge at all of surgery. I
was almost despairing, and began to fear it would
indeed be that he would die!
Good old Patch seemed to realise that some great
disaster had occurred. The expression on his face
was almost human. He sat perfectly still, intently
watching us.
To get Meade in, and lying on his far from comfortable bed, was the first thing to do—of that I was mu
88
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
m
m
quite sure. It was no easy task. I did, however,
manage by attaching a rope to the bearskin to haul
him along by degrees, and at last got him near the
fire. Still on the bearskin, I arranged him with
rugs and blankets, as we had plenty.
Next thing was to examine his hurts. I cut off
his boots and clothing. I found one leg was much
cut and bruised, but he could move it—it was the
other that was seriously damaged. I found that it
was broken just above the knee !
Naturally my first thought was that we must have
a doctor. But how could it be managed ? Could I
leave him for a forty-mile tramp to the boat ? Could
I launch it alone ? Could I navigate it alone to
Dawson ? When I did get there, could I get a
doctor to come out with me ?
It would take at the very least ten days to go and
come, and where would my poor friend be then ? He
would die indeed without me. He would freeze to
death, even if I left food and water handy, for it
froze every night, and the earth itself was frozen
always, summer and winter, you must remember,
and if the fire died out he could not rekindle it.
No—it was impossible.    I could not leave him.
We talked this over, at least I talked, and he
agreed with me — that we must sink or swim
together, that we could not be parted. He was
awfully depressed.
I plied him with hot tea and whisky—that is all
=» A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
89
I could think of then, and he became calmer after a
little. But soon he became uneasy again. " Bertie,
dear friend," said he, with a mournful sigh," I see
clearly nothing can be done. I must die here—that
is plain."
" Not if I can help it," I declared, and I begged
him to tell me what he thought I could do for him;
that as it was evident I could not leave him, I must
do something—if only to alleviate his pain.
He asked what I knew of surgery, if I had ever
seen a leg set, if I thought that I could do it. I
was grieved at heart to have to tell him that I was
absolutely ignorant about all such matters.
He lay silently for a long time—I thought he
slept. I made up the fire, closed the door, lit the
lamp, for it was evening, then I sat on the ground
beside him, very sorrowful — ay, far more than
sorrowful—I was despairing.
A broken leg—no surgeon—no appliances—a
fearful journey before us through an Arctic winter,
for I knew that at the best many weeks, perhaps
months, must elapse before my friend could possibly
start homewards, and what could I do alone ? I
was utterly ignorant about sickness and sick-
nursing, and I knew nothing about cooking food
suitable for a sick man, even if we had the
materials to cook.
There was a long, long silence, only the crackling
of the fire in  the  corner, the  sough of the wind 90
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
I
amongst   the  pines  outside,  or the weird howl  of
a wolf prowling around our miserable home.
Patch sat upright by the fire, almost motionless.
He scarcely shut an eye; he appeared to be full of
sad thoughts. Occasionally he turned his head
slowly and gazed first at Meade a while, and then at
me, and then, as if he too was quite despairing, he
gazed long and sorrowfully at the burning wood.
Certainly that good dog knew that something terrible
had happened to his friends.
If 11
111
i CHAPTEE  V.
It was about midnight before Meade spoke again.
He had been lying motionless, though occasionally
a low groan escaped him. I thought he had been
sleeping, from the effect of the whisky I had given
him; however it was not so.
Suddenly, with a cry of anguish, with eyes
wide open, pupils dilated, he gazed at me fixedly.
I Bertie," he murmured, " the pain has been bearable, but now it is increasing; if I move in the
least the agony is dreadful. Inflammation is beginning I suppose, and if something is not done
speedily I must die! 1
What could I answer? I expect I looked as
dismayed as I felt, for he went on, "But don't
grieve, my boy, don't you give up; it's a miserable
affair, I know, for you as well as for me, but I
am not hopeless; no I if you could follow the
instructions I can give you I may pull through—
I've been thinking it all out."
I was alert instantly.    " Everything you tell me 92
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
■ t
I will do," said I; f your every wish I will carry out.
I'm an awful muff at anything like this, you know,
yet I'll do my best, and God helping us, we may, as
you say, pull through."
At which he told me that some years before he
left England he had attended what was called an
ambulance class, where instructions were given about
I first aid to the injured," and he had been striving
to remember all he had learned about broken bones.
He told me I must get a strip of wood, smooth and
strong, about four feet long, and a number of shorter
and thinner pieces for splints.
These I quickly procured. The next things were
bandages. We had very little stuff that would
answer for them, but our tent, which was of thin
duck, would do; so I ripped some of that into strips.
To put the fracture into place was a most difficult
task. I hardly dared to handle him, for every touch
gave him exquisite pain; yet I had to twist and pull
and push until I believed the bones were in the
right position. He directed me as best he could,
but only at intervals, on account of the torture my
unskilled hands were giving him. When, as I hoped,
all was as it should be, I placed the splints, each
wrapped in the softest stuff I had, close together
round the injury; then I wound long bandages over
all, tightly and smoothly.
Lastly, outside, from his armpit to his foot, I
placed the long strip of wood and bound it to him, A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
93
round his chest, his middle, and his ankle, fastening
it securely and firmly with plenty of bands above
and below the fracture^
Meade thanked me when I had finished. He said,
with a sad smile, that he believed I had done it
as well as if I had been through the course of instructions which he had; then he closed his eyes,
exhausted.
He had borne all this with the greatest fortitude,
but now a kind of stupor appeared to creep over
him. I hoped that it would end in healthy sleep;
therefore I quietly made up the fire, lowered the
light, and slipped out into the night.
It was absolutely still in the open air, and not so
very cold. Not a breath of wind stirred the surrounding foliage; only the ripple of the creek was
audible as it flowed tinkling over the stones a few
yards from me, and the swish of the water swirling
through the sluice.
Patch had come out with me. He was so quiet,
so subdued, so sorrowful; it was just wonderful the
almost human sagacity of that dog. I had said to
him gently as we came out, " We must be very
quiet, Patch; you must not bark; your poor master
is very ill; we must let him sleep," and the way
that dear old fellow looked at me was as if he quite
understood what I had said. I believe he did, too,
by his actions.
From the hot stuffy cavern, little  more than  a 94
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
I: r I
burrow, where I had been attending to my poor friend,
to the clear air outside, the change was great and
most refreshing. I stood beside the creek for some
time breathing in the sweet pine-scented air, and
thinking very deeply, very seriously.
The sky was cloudless, the stars were gleaming
near the southern horizon in great brilliancy, but
over the rest of the heavens they were hardly
discernible—they were overpowered by the blaze
of the Northern Lights. This was no unusual occurrence; rarely when the sky was clear were they
absent at night, though on this particular time they
were remarkably bright.
I was naturally terribly depressed, wretchedly
anxious, all but despairing; yet when I observed
this grand display of Almighty power my thoughts
rose from these mundane troubles, and I felt that
He who marshalled these mysterious forces, whose
hand was so plainly visible there, would, if it pleased
Him, help us out of this terrible strait, and enable
us to bear whatever He chose to send us with
patience and trustfulness. I am not ashamed to
add that I lifted up my heart in prayer to Him,
beseeching Him to be with us.
Certainly I received great relief from this. I
took my seat upon an upturned sluice-box, I drew
my blanket-coat close round me, for it was freezing,
and with dear old Patch beside me, I remained there
ruminating for an hour or more. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
95
I could not hide from myself that the position
was most serious. I hoped, though I feared, that
what I had done for Meade would prove to be
successful. I had heard of people fracturing their
limbs, and in a few weeks being out and about
again as well as ever. But they had skilled attention, whilst we knew nothing about the treatment.
I believed that the principal thing was to keep my
patient's general health good. I wondered what
food I should give him. I ran over the stores
we still possessed, and was thankful to remember
how much we bad, and what a variety. Surely
amongst it all I could concoct wholesome and proper
things for him.
Then my mind travelled to our work there. I
realised that it was all ended for the present, and I
fell to wondering how we should ultimately get all
our gold away and our gear, for of course there
would be no rafting. The creek, the whole country,
would be frozen solid and covered deep in snow, long
before my poor friend could travel.
It recurred to me next that in the winter, with
snow, one could haul heavy loads upon a sleigh,
and I believed that we two and Patch could move
everything. I actually caught myself planning how
I should build one. Indeed it crossed my mind
that even if Meade was not strong enough to help
drag, that Patch and I could pull him, with our
gold too, as far as Dawson City.    There, I thought, 96
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
IM
there might be a doctor, and surely more comfort
than in our dismal hole. Women were at Dawson:
one whom I had met at that store, it seemed to me,
would prove a good friend to us in our need.
As regards our gold, I felt most grateful that we
had secured so much, for there would be no lack of
means to carry out our needs.
I sat outside thus, thinking of these and many
other subjects, until I noticed that the aurora had
faded clean away, that the sky in the north-east was
crimson, and that ere many minutes another day
would have dawned. Then I went inside. Meade
was sleeping naturally, breathing gently and regularly, so I lay down myself and slept too.
It was broad day when I awoke. The brilliant
sun was scintillating on the ripples of the creek
before our doorway. Meade was calling me.
" Bertie, dear boy," said he, " I grieve to have
awakened you, but oh! I am so thirsty; give me
some cold water."
Well, now, I was afraid to do so. I said I must
make some hot, open a tin of Swiss milk, and give
him that, but he said "No;" that he remembered
well when one of his sisters had been ill, she had
suffered much because cold water was refused when
she craved for it. When the doctor came he gave
it her, telling them to remember that at all times it
could be given with safety.
On the strength of this I gave Meade what he A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
longed for, and it did him good. I made him oatmeal porridge; we had a bottle or two of bovril—I
gave him some j and really that day he ate so well and
was so wonderfully cheerful that I began to believe
this would not be such a terribly serious business
after alL
The following day, though, his other leg was
exceedingly painful: it was sadly cut and bruised.
With warm water I washed it. He wished me to
apply cold water bandages, but I had, in Ontario,
seen so much benefit from using pine gum—which is
Venice turpentine, I suppose—for such hurts, that I
persuaded him to let me put some on. The gum
was oozing from every tree and stump about, wherever we had made a cut with an axe. In a few
moments I collected plenty. It was surprising how
quickly this stuff gave him relief, and how healing
it was.
Meade was in better spirits that evening again.
I read to him, we smoked and chatted—he passed
a most satisfactory night. Next day he complained
much. He said that even the pressure of the blankets on his legs was dreadfully painful.
I easily remedied that: I made a frame of willow
twigs to lie over him, to bear off the clothes, which
answered welL
"What a kind chap you are, Bertie," said he,
after I had done all I could think of for his comfort.
" Kind chap !" I answered smiling.    " Suppose it
G ■'"^uQ^.gmo&^ilmmmmnSgQiHtmg
98
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
had been my leg that had been broken, what would
you have done ?—let me lie ? And if you had got
me in here, you would have neglected me, I suppose,
and let things go ? Not you; you would have done
all you could for me, my friend. I know that right
well, and so I'm doing the same for you, and intend
to—so say no more."
As I have said, we were the best of friends, but
the intimate association this accident occasioned
brought us still closer together. I rarely left his
side, only for fuel and other necessaries. As for
going on with gold - getting, somehow I could not
even think of it. I endeavoured to keep a bright
face in my friend's presence, but when alone, or at
night when he was sleeping, I had many terrible
fears and uncertainties to ponder about and to depress me.
If he did not soon mend! if he got worse! if he
could not be moved!—these thoughts were always in
my mind.
The winter would be upon us directly—it was
then the end of September—and I knew that we
should be frozen in and snowed up soon, and remain
so till June of this year 1897. Much of the time
would be passed in darkness; in mid-winter there
would be but a gleam of day at noon. These were
dismal, unnerving forebodings. I tried to lift my
heart to whence alone I could expect real help. I
sought to repress all other thoughts, to just do the A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
99
best I knew for my friend, and to trust our Heavenly
Father for the rest.
To an extent I succeeded, and so many days went
by in comparative peace.
We had a terrible gale during this time, I remember : heavy rain and hail accompanied it. The creek
rose, it washed away a couple of our sluice-boxes, and
seemed as if it would swamp our drive. This
roused me to active measures: I piled up rocks and
logs in such a way that I secured it against that misfortune.
Meade and I frequently congratulated ourselves
about our safety in that dug-out: we knew that
nothing short of an earthquake could upset our
dwelling. No tents could stand against that heavy
wind and downpour.
It was dark and dismal enough, surely, but often
when we had a bright fire roaring in its corner, the
lamp alight, the door tightly closed, and we were
lying reading, with Patch curled up between us, we
said to each other how thankful we ought to be, and
were, I hope, for such comfort in that wild land.
It was during this enforced companionship that
my friend opened his mind very freely to me. I
don't know if he had any presentiment then of what
the end would be—any premonition of still greater
trouble ahead. It is impossible to be certain of this,
but I have since thought that he had.
HelSpiiua very lovable disposition, even when he
^f'SfWwi^gy' " 100
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
i
was well, and had had to fight with me against
wilderness troubles which upset and spoil the temper
of most men. When things went wrong ashore or
afloat, when our Indians were stupid, w}ien the fates
seemed to be dead against us and all appeared to be
going wrong, I never remember him becoming really
angry, using bad language, or showing anything but
the most perfect amiability.
Many will think it is impossible to go through the
rough countries of this world, especially such a
wilderness as we had traversed, and were then in,
or to subdue others' wills to ours, without showing a
masterful, a domineering spirit. I thought so, and
began, when he and I started on this expedition, to
assert myself, believing that only thus would we be
able to hold our own, or make headway.
Meade, on the contrary, from the first was amiable,
friendly, and polite with all—red men and white.
I thought this, for a while, unmanly, and feared I
should thereby have my hands full of trouble, but I
soon found I was much mistaken.
I noticed on board the steamer going up to Juneau,
and at Skagway, that the people looked astonished,
for a little, at the way in which my friend spoke, his
gentleness and consideration to all—never shouting
his desires or orders, but asking politely for what he
required. Yes, they looked surprised at his uncommon style, for a bit, but were invariably impressed by it; and thinking that he must be a prince, A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
101
or at least a duke (that was the usual idea), they
treated him, as far as they knew, with the same consideration with which he treated them.
And I, as his mate, his friend, came in for the
benefit of it.
So, mild and amiable as Meade had been all along,
during this sad time he was, if possible, more so.
He suffered intensely, I know it now, though at
that time I scarcely understood it. Often he could
hardly speak for pain and weakness, yet he never
neglected to thank me for the slightest thing I did
for him, and he never expressed impatience at his
sad condition.
Well, that is hardly true; he did frequently
bemoan his fate in having brought me to such a pass
—that was a great trouble to him.
In vain I begged him not to let that grieve him.
I assured him again and again that I had no one
dependent on me in England, or anywhere; that
my people were well off; that a month or two, or
even a year or two, was of no great moment; that
even if we had to winter there we should resume
work in the spring, and go home with still larger
piles in the summer.
He would listen to these remarks, patiently and
calmly, but with a smile on his face apparently of
unbelief.
Then he would talk gently to me about himself.
How   he   had   looked   forward   with   such   intense
J^ 102
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
II
pleasure to going home that fall with plenty, to
relieve his loved mother and sisters from all future
money worries. He told me a great deal about
them, where they lived, and how.
He had been in Australia for two years, and had
done some gold-digging there. He had been four
years in Canada; like me, he had brought a little
money with him, had taken up land in Assiniboia,
had struggled there for a couple of years, living
wretchedly and prospering not at all, then he had
sold all he had, cattle and gear, and had come West.
He took service in the Rockies with the Canadian
Pacific Railway at section work, which is, I believe,
what is called " plate - laying " in Britain. From
there he had gradually drifted to the coast, to Vancouver City, where he had obtained employment
on a wharf. There his education helped him, he
became a fdrernan, next he got the post of purser on
one of the steamers trading between Puget Sound and
the North.
The spring before I met him he was up at St
Michael's, in Behring Sea, where he fell in with a
man who told him about the gold which was being
got away up the Yukon. He had acted on this
man's advice, with the result he had already related
to me.
He sent his mother a large portion of what he
found the year before, told her of his projected
expedition   with  me, and  promised  that  he  would A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
103
"come out" in September, he believed with what
would be regarded as a fortune, even in England.
I And now," said he, with a sad sigh, " here I am,
laid by the heels—and you too, my friend, on my
account—not able even to let them know that I'm
alive!"
I did my very best to comfort him. I begged him
to have patience, that I hoped before many weeks—
when the snow came—that we should get out, "and
surely," I added, " from Dawson there is some way
of communicating with civilisation."
You understand we really knew very little about
the country. We had heard many yarns about the
awful winter, and generally had the idea that it
would be extremely dismal and melancholy. But
we had also been told that with plenty of grub and
light and fuel—which we had—people could exist
with some little comfort So we struck the middle
opinion, and found it would be bad but bearable.
Well, it was bearable, certainly, or I should not be
here; and yet I can aver that the horror of it has
not been more than half told yet.
Thank God, we had plenty of food and firing, and
as I said to my poor chum, " I'll bet there are many
miserable beggars scattered about this Yukon country
and Alaska who are worse off than we are by a long
shot"
He smiled at my enthusiasm, and added, " But I
hope there are no broken legs amongst them." 104
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYHE.
At which I felt rather subdued. But I had
talked, and continued to do so thus, to cheer him if
I could, and to make him think that I was quite
happy and contented.
Really, at heart, I was neither. He did not seem
to me to be improving. He told me of the pain he
suffered in his leg. I suggested that it was caused
by the bone growing together. I said I had heard
that was usually the most painful time, and he hoped
I was right. He was very pale and thin. I tried to
believe that was only the effect of his lying so long
and being in the dim light. His appetite troubled
me : he ate very little, and did not fancy anything
we had.
One time he talked to me about the girl he
loved at home. He showed me her portrait Her
name is Fanny Hume. I thought she must be
very pretty from her photo. He declared she was
that—lovely. They had been engaged for four years.
She was to have come out to him, if he had done
well in the prairie country. They had experienced
great disappointment at his failure there, but his
good fortune up here the year before had altered
matters. If he had got out this fall theY were to
have been married by Christmas.
He told me of the plans he had laid for his
mother's comfort, and of the dreams he had about
the home he would make for his bride with the
good fortune that had come to him.    " And now," A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
105
said he in grievous tones, "all this is ended, all
my plans frustrated. God knows how hard it is; it
looks almost cruel, doesn't it ?"
What could I say ? I begged him not to lose
hope. I besought him to remember that God did
know — that for some mysterious reason He had
allowed this terrible disaster to take place, that we
must just put our trust in Him. We were assured,
and, I hoped, believed, that He does all things well,
and that we must just leave it so.
Oh! how I longed to have more power of comforting him. How impotent I felt, and was. I could
only keep saying, " Look up, Meade ! look up ! from
there alone can come our help."
One day said he, " I'd give anything for a bit of
fresh mutton. Just fancy a mutton chop at Pimm's,
in the Strand, and a glass of their stout, eh!"
This pleased me. If he had such a longing for
food I thought it a good sign, and said so.
But, alas! there was no mutton chop to be got
there. There are mountain sheep — bighorns,
moufflons — up in the hills. How could I leave
him to stalk one ? But I thought I might shoot him
a grouse for a change. Salmon he was heartily sick
of; the tinned things were very good for men in
health, but not for an invalid. I had broiled him a
bit of bear meat lately, which he enjoyed. I did so
again and again, till he was tired of that.
So I took down  my gun one day, said I would
ll
"
-Jir T
106
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE..
i::
1
Mt !
not be long away. I thought I would go up and
kill a bird.
I went up the creek to a clump of thick spruce I
knew of, feeling sure I should find some there, but
instead out leapt a half-grown deer!
I brought him down luckily. I could just manage
to pack him home. I was back again within an
hour. Meade smiled a welcome. 11 heard you
shoot," said he, " the rifle barrel. What did you
get ? " I
I would not tell him. I said he must wait and
see. The little buck was fat. I cut out a chop—it
looked just like a mutton chop—I broiled, it at a
fire I lit outside, and brought it to him. He was
delighted, he was charmed, and with tears in his eyes
he thanked me again and again. And there were
tears in my eyes too!
For several days he enjoyed what he called mutton.
I had hung it outside to freeze, where everything
was frozen. I varied his food—bear meat, deer
meat, salmon; salmon, bear meat, deer meat—and in
between I gave him some of the canned things that
he fancied.
For weeks matters went on like this. It was five
since the accident, when I noticed a decided change
in him, and it was not for the better!
It was by that time winter. All green things but
the pines and spruces were frozen and dead. Snow
covered all the high lands, and even the flats were A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
107
drifted with it. The still water everywhere was
frozen ; only our creek still ran, and there were still
fish in it. I don't know what possessed me—thank
God, something did—but I took the notion to secure
some of these salmon.
It was easily done. I rolled a few logs and brush
into a narrow place, then went up stream and drove
the fish down, and many became entangled there. I
dragged out half-a-dozen and slung them in the trees
about our den.
Another day I saw a bear foraging about near. I
gave Meade warning that I was about to shoot, and I
killed it easily. I put a ball through him, under his
arm, and he died without a struggle. It was very fat
and lazy—a cinnamon.
I had plenty to do to skin it and cut it up. The
fat I hung up in the trees. We had no great
amount of oil left for our little lamp, and Very few
candles, and I thought, " If we must winter here we
must make shift with this in some way until next
June."
For I began to think that my idea of getting out
on a sleigh would never work. Yet I was busy
constructing one. But I thought I saw that if
my friend was to get away it would only be when
the water was open again, eight or nine months
later!
Our almost finished raft was now frozen fast to
the bank.    I almost hated the sight of it.    I won- 108
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE,
dered if, after all, that would be the means by which
we should get away.
I do not remember that I regarded the prospect of
wintering there as such a terrible calamity. We
really had plenty about us, and we were such excellent companions that I only felt if he got well, all
would be well.
I must admit that it crossed my mind more than
once—" If he should die !"
I put this dreadful thought away, I kept it down
generally, but sometimes it struck me suddenly, and
I felt as if a stream of ice ran down my spine, as
though my heart was frozen. The contemplation of
such a dire disaster was awful.
Time went on; I could see no improvement. If
his leg was joining properly I could not tell, nor could
he. He himself was usually very quiet, yet there
was a look creeping over him to which I could not
shut my eyes; he was thinner, greyer, and shrivelled.
One night he put down his pipe as if with loathing. "111 smoke no more," said he; "I believe it is
not good for me/'
I took no notice—thought it better not.
Later he threw down his book, declaring he could
not read—that his leg was so painful.
I examined it. So far as I could tell all seemed
right—so far as appearance went. His foot was
cold and somewhat swollen, but there was warmth
enough elsewhere. A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
109
Next day he had much more pain. He was all
for cold water bandages. To please him I bathed
his leg and wrapped it in wet cloths—this eased him.
That night he complained that the half-wet bandages were irritating him.    What was I to do ?
Finding that cold water applications soothed him,
I kept the cloths wet always. Neither of us had the
least idea whether we were doing right.
I discovered that he slept very little. I myself
passed many a sleepless night, but my health was
wonderfully good. I was quite robust in spite of my
terrible anxieties.
The weather was now extremely cold—as cold as
I had ever felt it in the east of Canada. Our place
was warm though—so long as we kept the door
closed and excluded draughts we were cosy.
The nights were extremely long, and the days,
though usually sunny, were very cold. We had
several hard gales: the fine, dry snow was forced
through every crevice. I used to bring in abundance
of food and fuel at such times, cram every crevice
round our doorway full of moss, make Patch come
inside, and none of us left the shelter whilst the
blizzard lasted.
I had cut a hole in the door and covered it with
a piece of the thin intestine of a bear. We had no
glass. I used to read to my companion sometimes
from a Bible, at others from Shakespeare, and we had
a copy of that penny book W. T. Stead has published, 110
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
if'
* Hymns that have Helped.' It had got out to
Victoria, and I had picked it up at a book-store and
valued it, for several of those hymns had powerful
associations for me.
My friend was fond of some of them too, and I
often saw him read a verse or two with tears in his
eyes.
He was generally silent. This made me very sad.
Do- as I would, try as I did, I could not help being
very much cast down, very full of forebodings of evil.
One night—it was bitterly cold outside, and the
wind was howling through the trees, we were warm
and comfortable enough as far as that went—I was
looking sorrowfully at the invalid, who I thought
was dozing, when he slowly opened his eyes—which
seemed to me to have grown very large and prominent—and gazing at me, oh! so mournfully, said,
" Bertie, my friend, I suppose you realise that I am
not going to get well ? "
For a few moments I could not reply, my heart
was in my throat, I felt as if it were choking me; at
length I managed to ejaculate, " Oh ! Meade, my dear
friend, have patience—don't break down like this—
or I shall "
His eyes were suffused with tears. " Dear friend,
indeed," he began, slowly and in broken accents,
" I grieve—God knows how very much I grieve—to
tell you this, but I know I am not improving, and I
believe I shall never leave this hut alive.    I have A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
Ill
been thinking about you, wondering what you will do
if I am taken. I am awfully sorry that I brought
you here."
| Say not one word on that head," I interrupted
him; " / do not regret it. Look how well we have
done. What has happened is terrible, I know, but
oh! pray don't give up, don't get to thinking that
you'll not recover. Please God you'll be all right
soon, then fancy with what joy we'll be off home in
the spring."
Thus I tried to cheer him—thus I tried to look at
things.
" Well, well," he replied, with a wan smile, " I'll
try to be more hopeful, I'll try to trust; but listen,
what will you do if I am taken ? Can you make
your way out alone, think you ?"
I refused to answer,—I merely said that I would
not even think about it, much less talk of it, and
begged him not to. I asked him if his leg was so
painful, and what reason he had to say he was no
better, in reply to which he went into a number of
particulars which I need not repeat.
Later he talked again about his mother and sisters,
and, laying his hand on mine, he begged me to bear
with him, not to be angry with him, whilst he
explained what he wished to be done, " supposing,"
and he gazed at me in a most affecting way as he
said it,—" supposing I don't get home myself."
I said  very  little,—I  let him  talk.    I nodded
4l 112
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
m
occasionally to let him see I heard  what j he was
saying, understood, and would do as he wished.
He told me what proportion he desired his mother
and his sisters to have—" if I ever got out safely with
the gold "—and that the remainder was to be given
to Fanny Hume, the lady to whom he was engaged.
He bade me put all these things down in my notebook, saying also that he should write letters to them
all, " in case of accidents." He dwelt for some time
on these most melancholy topics, and I expect would
have gone on still longer had I not diverted his
thoughts into another channel.
I got on to the subject of the value of the gold we
had, and asked his opinion of the way we were to
proceed to secure our claim, so that we might return
next season and work it
He told me again all he knew on the subject, declared that we should have to hire men at Dawson,
or at Forty Mile, or even at Circle- City, to work
for us; and indeed for an hour or two he talked on
very much in his old way, full of information and
cleverness, and quite excited about the fortune we
had made.
He fell asleep at last with a cheerful look on his
face, after having by my persuasion smoked a pipe
with me.
I rolled myself in my blankets then, and with some
hopefulness and a quieter spirit I too went to sleep.
Several times I awoke and put on firing.    Meade A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
113
was always sleeping peacefully, but towards morning,
just as grey light was filtering through our window, I
was aroused by his groans. He told me that he was
suffering acutely, that the pain in his leg was maddening, that he was sure all had gone wrong there. He
begged me to remove the bandages, declaring that he
knew they were no longer needed. | Either the
bones have joined now, or they never will," said he.
1 If they have not, then I shall never get better, and
if I go on any longer in this agony I shall die surely."
Perplexed, bewildered, terribly afraid of doing
wrong, yet quite unable to withstand his entreaties,
I consented in the end to do as he desired.
He had already thrown the blankets from him,
and was tossing his unhurt leg and arms about'most
dangerously. His face was flushed, he was continually crying out for water, and I, even with my small
experience, knew that he was in a high fever, of the
seriousness of which I was conscious.
I loosed the fastenings of the long strip of wood.
This did not appease him. He exclaimed that he
was on fire, that the pain was excruciating. He
became angry with me because I hesitated to take off
the splints. He talked wildly, incoherently, madly,
and then began tearing at the bandages himself, so I
undid the splints and took them off, exposing his bare
leg, and then I no longer wondered that he suffered
as he did.
He fainted, I believe, and when the pressure was
H mm
114
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
taken off he lay back pale and silent. I brought
whisky, and by degrees got him to swallow some. I
opened the door, brought in some snow, which covered
everything outside now. I put some on his forehead.
He was a long time, or so it seemed to me, before
he came to.
I cannot describe the appearance of his leg; it
horrified me. From that moment I gave up all hope
of his recovery. It was indeed some time before
he spoke, and then he was delirious, light-headed.
He talked and raved the whole night through.
Sometimes he begged me to remove the bandages—
which were off; at others he talked of his mother, of
Fanny Hume, often of Jim and Fan, and of me and
of our work. I never went through such a day and
night—I never want to again. Towards morning he
fell asleep, exhausted. I wondered if I had done
wisely in removing these bandages. I thought not.
He slept now so profoundly that I endeavoured to
replace some of them without awaking him, and I did
succeed in getting the long strip down his side and
securing it just as he awoke. He was in his right
mind then, and I believe had no knowledge of the
condition he had been in.
He endeavoured to move his leg—he could not. I
suppose he recognised the importance of this discovery, for he then threw himself back, extended his
arms, and sighed profoundly as he muttered, " It is
so, then—the case is hopeless ! hopeless !" A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
115
He looked at me once, a fixed solemn look,
then closed his eyes and lay there motionless and
silent
I whispered, "Oh! try, dear friend, not to move
that leg, the only hope is to keep it absolutely still."
Then he opened his eyes, gazed at me for a moment,
and through his clenched teeth he whispered, " Hopeless, hopeless."
The rest of that day he was profoundly quiet. I
don't think he slept, for whenever I spoke to him he
replied at once in a monosyllable. He would not eat,
but drank all I gave him.
I myself was so low and exhausted with anxiety
and watching that I have but little recollection of
what followed. Sometimes he slept, sometimes his
mind wandered, generally- he was in a state of stupor.
One morning I left him sleeping whilst I went out
for food and fuel When I returned, to my horror
he was sitting upright.
I called out in amazement. He smiled sadly as
he said, " Ah ! it does not matter much, Bertie. I've
not moved my bad leg though, just dragged it along
—it's all right, as right as it'll ever be: but I must
write to-day; after that we'll just hope for the best,
that's all we can do."
I Ay," I answered, " that's all; yes, but we can
pray, we can do that, and that's our only hope."
He begged me to give him paper and pencil, and
for an hour or more he wrote.    He stopped often to 116
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
I
w
sip the drink I set beside him, then he lay back
exhausted, and I think he slept.
By-and-by he aroused and wrote more letters. He
went on thus until it was quite dark, when he told
me he had finished, adding that he believed he now
could sleep well, for a great weight was off his mind.
Before he closed his eyes I begged him to tell me
if there was anything I could do for him, any wish
that I could gratify. Would he have bovril ?
whisky ? tea ? He thanked me ; he said he had no
desire for anything, that he would sleep; but
suddenly opening his eyes, looking at me excitedly,
he said, 1 Bertie, you will not laugh at me, you will
not think I'm off my head, will you, but if you'd just
read me that beautiful hymn of Cowper's — " There
is a fountain," you know ? I remember it was a
a great favourite of Prince Albert's, and I like it too.
Read it for me, Bertie, and then I think I'll sleep
well." I     1:
I read it—I broke down several times—but as I
finished the last line I saw he was sleeping calmly.
I was fagged out myself—I had hardly eaten a
scrap that day—I don't think I had slept an hour for
days; so when I saw he was sleeping I too lay back
and was soon unconscious, and had forgotten all our
troubles.
Before closing my eyes though, I took a good look
at my friend. I could not help remarking how great
a change there was in him.     His fade was so drawn, A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
117
so withered; there was no trace of colour on it, even
his lips were white.
I had never seen a human being die. I had never
seen a dead person up to that time, and yet there was
that appearance to my companion ; something had
come over him which profoundly affected me, and I
kept saying to myself, | He will die, he will die." I
was whispering this when I fell asleep, and forgot all
my grief and misery.
How long I slept I do not know. It was still
dark when I awoke. I had extinguished the light
before I went to sleep. It was very cold, the fire was
nearly out. This being an all-important affair I
jumped up, stirred the embers together and blew them
into a flame. Then I piled on more wood, and made
quite a noise in doing it.
I feared I had awakened Meade and perhaps
alarmed him. I called gently to him. There was
no reply. I concluded that he still slept, therefore I
crouched by the now blazing fire, warming myself.
Just then Patch came quietly up to me and laid
his head on my arm. I looked down and patted
him.
Beally and truly there was a most pitiful look in
the poor dog's eyes. He saw that I noticed this, and
to my horror and dismay he suddenly lifted up his
head and gave one most vehemently long-drawn,
heartrending howl!
Speaking sharply to the poor beast, I clasped his 118
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
muzzle, and he stopped. Then he sat staring at the
blazing logs with a most sorrowful expression.
I don't know why, I can't tell what made me
begin to tremble. I reached for a lightecUsliver—I
could hardly hold my hand still enough to light the
lamp, I shook so—-and when I had ignited it and
turned it on to the face of my friend, I saw that he
had not moved since he fell asleep. There he lay,
stretched out on his back, sleeping still. Yes, surely,
he was sleeping!
Softly I laid my hand on his forehead—it was cold
as ice. I sought for one of his hands—it was cold
and as stiff as if it were frozen. I put my hand upon
his heart—there was no motion there.
Then like a flash it came to me that my dear
friend was dead—ay, Meade was dead! 119
CHAPTEE VI.
'I
It is impossible to tell you what I felt when I realised that my friend had breathed his last
I cannot myself remember what my thoughts and
sensations were. I only know that I rushed out of
the place—very lightly clothed, too—and in the open
air stood gazing around me dazed.
The first few hours after that is nearly a blank to
me. I can merely call to mind cold, hunger, snow,
and poor Patch's evident distress. I made a fire outside and we sat by it, I repeating to myself, sometimes
crying aloud, " What shall I do ?   What shall I do ?"
Once I remember springing up and grasping a
white shirt and a red one which lay by the door,
and tying them to a long branch which arched
across the creek conspicuously, saying to myself, " It
may attract some one's notice,"—for, eager as we had
been all along to keep our presence secret, now I
would gladly have given half, ay, all the gold we
had obtained, to secure the companionship of a human
being. pes
I
120
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE,
ill
The days were very short then. There was but a
gleam of sunlight at noon, and as this faded to the
south behind an ice-clad mountain, a strong breeze
arose which roared through the tree-tops. There was
a wildness and weirdness about its dirge-like roar
which seemed to me quite in keeping with what had
happened.
I had taken no food all day. I had not been inside the hut. I could not for long muster courage to
enter it To gaze upon my lost friend's features
seemed impossible — the idea of stopping for any
time in the same place with his poor body was
beyond me, yet I knew I must do something. Food
at least I must procure for myself and Patch; if we
had this I believed that we could exist beside the
huge fire I had built until I grew calmer, and could
decide on some course of action. I put off doing
anything though as long as possible, and not until it
was quite dark did I creep into our dismal abode.
I trod gently, with awe, for I could not divest
myself of the idea that poor Meade could hear me,
that my dear friend was at least present in spirit.
But truly I cannot tell what I thought or what I
felt *
The fire was out. I lit the lamp. I gazed fearfully around—avoiding the face, white and drawn,
which I knew was amongst the pile of bedding there.
Why was this ? Why does one naturally dread to
look upon a dead face ?    Surely I had got to love A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
121
my friend, and to know that he loved me. There
was no reason for this unwillingness to look, but so
it was then, and so it usually is.
I threw a blanket over his poor body, snatched a
rug up, a loaf of bread, a piece of cooked venison,
some tea and sugar, and hastened out again, closing
the door securely.
It was blowing harder now; fine snow was being
whirled through the forest and down the creek,
which had long since ceased to flow. It was freezing very hard; everything was ice-bound; my fire
gave but little warmth.    What could I do ?
Kealry I was so utterly cast down, so despairing,
that I was reckless. It seemed to me just then that
nothing mattered, and that I too should soon die,
and lie as Meade did, until perhaps long afterwards
some wandering prospector would find our bones,
our gold, and our belongings; but our real story, or
who we were, would never be known.
Patch ate the food I gave him, and I managed to
swallow something: then we crouched, he and I,
with the rug round us.    He slept, but I was think-
mg-
-thinking.
The cold increased, the bitter wind was piercing.
I roused myself to pile on fuel. A gust of exceeding sharpness seemed to shrivel me, and it flashed
through me that another such blast would end me.
For a second I thought, " So much the better ";
but at the same moment, like a vision, there passed
=
3
-rrrrgfa w*
'fs^sm
If
122
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
If
across my half-benumbed consciousness a picture of
what my dear dead friend had told me about his
mother and his sisters, and the dearest one of all. I
knew what he had said about the benefit the gold
that we had found would be to them, and how I had
promised him to fight hard to get it to them should
he not recover.
My own future did not trouble me. I had no one
dependent on me, but I suddenly felt strong in what
I saw was my bounden duty. I straightened myself
up and exclaimed, " No; I'll not give in ! I'll fight
this matter through, God helping me !"
I must have spoken loudly, and I suppose cheerily,
for Patch jumped from his nook beside the fire, looked
at me brightly, eagerly, waved his grand tail, and
made me think that he had understood my exclamation, approved it, and would gladly aid me.
The bitter wind blew keenly past us, the powdery
snow penetrated every crevice in my clothing, my
beard was a mass of ice, and I knew that a few
minutes more of this terrible cold would be fatal.
Still I could not bring my mind to going into that
dismal den again, or to remain there with the body
of my friend beside me.
How should I proceed then ? I thought hard.
If I could only get shelter from this awful blizzard,
I believed I could manage to exist until I could plan
something. But where was there shelter! I gazed
around; there was no bank, no rock, nothing which
***r
- A  CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
123
offered the slightest protection from the furious
blasts.
Something must be done, however—to stay where
I was meant death. The very fire was being blown
away and smothered in the snow-drifts.
Just then the tunnel we had excavated occurred
to me. I grasped a glowing firebrand, gathered a
bunch of sticks, and rushed to the entrance, Patch
excitedly following me. Pushing my way over the
obstructions I had placed there as protection from
the flooded creek, I entered, passed in a dozen feet,
and found this retreat was dry enough, and such a
good protection from the wind and snow outside that
it felt quite warm. I flung down my fire-stick and
soon had a blaze, gladly perceiving that the smoke
ascended to the roof and passed out, leaving a clear
space below where we could sit or lie without
annoyance.
I was so pleased with this arrangement that I
made excursions for fuel, and actually went into the
shanty for my blankets, more food, a kettle, and a lamp.
And in this retreat Patch and I remained some
days, I only venturing out for firewood, of which,
most happily, I had a good heap cut.
The storm raged furiously and ceaselessly, the
snow fell continuously, it all but closed the entrance
to the tunnel; but having a pick and shovel, I was
able to keep an opening for air and to let out the
smoke.
——
—-——~^~js 124
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKEi
I
■ i
Patch and I lay there warm and snug enough.
It was, however, a most dismal experience—worse
even than that Nansen endured on his famous
expedition towards the Pole, for he had companionship.    I had none.
I tried hard to pull myself together, to make
some sort of programme for future action, but I
could do very little — the power of consecutive
thought seemed to have left me. I passed the time
eating, smoking, sleeping—it was to me like some
dreadful dream, and I often, often caught myself
wondering when I should awake, and the misery
would be over.
I suppose it was then the end of November, and
I knew there would be no real spring, no open water,
till June; seven months of this desolation and loneliness to look forward to! for I had come to the
resolve that, in any event, so long as provisions held
out, even for months, or years, I would not abandon
the gold.
I had calculated, and I knew perfectly well, that
Patch and I together could not haul it out on a sled,
with what we must take of gear and food. No; we
must stay there till spring, and what I could, or
would, do then I did not settle: I only had a vague
idea that I would pack everything on the all but
finished raft, and somehow float it down to Dawson.
I had plenty of time to plan all this, I knew.
At intervals my memory dwelt on what now seemed A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
125
to me to have been the real comfort, the real content,
which Meade and I had experienced in that miserable dug-out before his accident. My mind reverted
to the pleasant evenings he and I had passed with
books and pipes, anticipating the joys that were in
store for us when we had got out, and had once
more set foot upon dear English soil. How we used
to talk, and plan, and prophesy! Alas! all was
ended, his career had been cut short, as we have
seen, and mine—well, I did not think about mine
very much, the present was what troubled me: the
awful loneliness, the misery of it, was what occupied me.
I was forced to go into the den occasionally for
necessaries. I had not removed the covering from
my friend's face, but I had grown a little bit familiar
with that melancholy heap of bedding, and the fact
that he lay there, frozen, did not now so greatly
agitate me.
The storm raged ceaselessly for quite a week, then
suddenly there was perfect silence outside. I went
forth to investigate; whether it was day or night I
could not tell, for there was but little sunrise really
then—the stars were gleaming in a cloudless sky.
It was absolutely calm, so the cold was bearable, yet
I knew it was more intense than I had ever before
felt it.
The moon was rising, and a wonderful scene it
was that her beams shone on; beautiful, I have no 126
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.-
!
fiitl
doubt, but to me then, and always, it was most awful
desolation.
Everything—our workings, the raft, the creek—
was covered deeply with snow; I could barely
make out the door of the dug-out. I looked at it
very sorrowfully, and I wished—I was almost ashamed
of that wish, I thought it desecration—that I dare
go in and live there, even with the companionship
of all that remained of my dear friend.
I brought the shovel, removed the snow, and as
I was doing so it came to my mind that if I were
only able to bury Meade's body I could return to the
den and pass the winter there.
But where could I bury it ? How could I dig a
grave ? Everything, I knew, was frozen hard as
steel; should I clear away the frozen nigger grass
and moss, and light a fire on the earth in some
quiet nook, thaw it thus, and dig a grave, as miners
sink their holes in winter ?
I returned to my fire in the tunnel to think this
out. How terrible it all appeared in there; how I
longed to make the change I I sat pondering on this
for some little time, and then I had an idea.
I grasped a pick and drove it into the wall of the
drive behind the fire, and found that I could excavate
the earth easily. I went to work, for I had determined what to do.
Soon I had cut a niche quite large enough to hold
the body.    I smoothed it nicely, procured some fresh
-— A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
127
pine twigs which I strewed in it; then going to the
shanty, I forced myself to draw the dear fellow's
remains, upon the same bear-skin he had passed away
on, to the sepulchre that I had hewed.
The body was frozen, of course, and was as easily
handled as if it had been a log of wood. I took
everything from his pockets, then I rolled it into its
resting-place—a temporary one I regarded it. I
strewed spruce branches over it, and covered it
reverently with the earth I had removed, and soon
no one but I could have told that a brave young
Englishman, a loved friend, a dear companion, was
sleeping his last sleep in there. I smoothed the
opening over, but I knew right well the spot where
Percy Meade, my lost friend, was lying entombed.
It was done at last, the mournful task was ended;
having the Prayer-book with me, I read with tear-
dimmed eyes some passages aloud from it — good
Patch sitting by as quiet and sedate as if he understood it alL
There was no hurry, no need for haste, and yet
as soon as this sad business was finished I left the
tunnel gladly, and entered the shanty with the
lamp.
It was awfully cold in there—it was an ice-house;
but I soon had a fire blazing in the corner. I piled
on logs, and on them heaped the withered pine brush
and rubbish with which the floor had been strewed.
Then I cut fresh stuff, brought in the bear and deer-
41   fi 128
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE?.
II      I
IllIriH
skins, the rugs and blankets I had been using in the
tunnel, heaped them before the fire to dry, and in a
few hours I was, so far as bodily requirements went,
in comfort.
As I gazed around me then, I was very sad. On
the rough shelves we had constructed were lying the
few books and papers we possessed, and there were
some odds and ends which poor Meade had greatly
valued. There was his pipe and tobacco-box, his
plate and knife and fork, which he had been so fastidious about—two or three photographs of home
scenes and a portrait or two were pinned to the logs
about the dismal shanty.
All these had been the texts of many a long yarn,
many an interesting conversation—it was very sad.
But I did not remove them; there seemed to me a
sacredness about them, a melancholy sort of interest
which was my only comfort in that dismal cave.
They brought back to me many and many an incident, and were to some extent a kind of companionship to me in my loneliness. However, I was very
weary with all this unaccustomed grievous labour. I
made tea, cooked some food, then putting a huge log
on the fire, which I knew would last for hours, I fell
asleep and dreamt. I thought that I was far away
from all these horrors, back in my dear old home,
with loving faces round me, my troubles over, my
long agony past, and all forgotten. Oh, blessed,
thrice blessed sleep!—thank" God for sleep! A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
129
It was a long time since either of us had written a
word in our diary. I was not at all certain of the
day, much less of the hour, when Meade had died. I
spent some time trying to puzzle this out, endeavouring to account for the time that had elapsed since
Meade left me, and, so far as I could guess, for day
and night were very much the same then, and had
been for weeks, it was ten days—but I had nothing
to guide me with certainty. However, I assumed
that it was on the 8th November that he died, and I
determined to start my watch again, and during
every twenty-four hours that passed henceforth to
make some entry in our book, and this I am glad
now that I adhered to.
Our gold was buried in a corner of the den; I
had lost interest in it. Occasionally the thought
came to me that it was there all right; but as
to looking at it, or adding to it, that never crossed
my mind. All my thoughts then were how to
get away from the dreadful place. I had come
to the opinion that if I left that gold behind me
it would be secure enough, for I imagined that I
was alone in an entirely unknown country, and
that if I left it, it would remain unknown for
many a year.
So I thought and thought continually on this
one subject—how to get out. I read a little, ate
more, smoked much, slept half my time, and thus
the hours  went  slowly by until I fancied it was
—- W'
130
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
ii-i
ill I Hi
Christmas Day, and still I had arranged no definite
plan.
I had got into an exceedingly low, stupid, almost
imbecile condition. I had no heart, no energy for
anything; I seemed to have no "go' left in me.
I suppose the continual darkness, the utter loneliness, was telling on me. I look back now and
wonder at my state: I, who had always been
hitherto full of vigour, resourceful, hardly ever
despondent, and hating to be idle for a moment,
was leading a purely animal life, just eating and
sleeping, with very little power, seemingly, of even
thinking of the future.
It was then, as I supposed, Christmas Day;
anyway, it was a very calm and quiet day. The
northern lights were brilliant, and Patch and I
were outside: I was gathering fuel and cutting
some logs for the fire, he was rolling in the dry
dust-like snow, and sniffing at the meat and salmon
which hung frozen in the trees around us. I looked
about at the brilliant scene, I gazed aloft in adoration at the wonderful display. I felt awed and
solemnised at what I saw, and the question came
to me, seemed to hit me almost like a blow—
I Was I doing wisely, manfully ? was I doing my
duty to myself, or carrying out faithfully the
promises I had made to Meade ?" Again in fancy
I saw his mother and his other dear ones in some
quiet, rural, English home, such as he had described A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
131
to me, longing for news of him and his fortunes;
perhaps suffering for the want of the money he
had promised them so surely, that money which
was now lying useless in the corner of the shanty.
Could I not do something even then ? I asked
myself. Must six more melancholy months drag
their slow length along ? \ Must I wait for the
opening of the water in June ? Could I not take
even a few pounds' weight of gold, food, furs, and
blankets on a sled, and somehow get down to
Dawson, where I knew that there were people, and
where I could but fancy there must be some means
of communicating with the outer world ?
Such thoughts as these crowded through my brain.
I seemed suddenly to awaken to my responsibilities.
I knew it was but a hundred miles at most to
Dawson City; so surely Patch and I could manage
to do that—and as anything was better than going
on as I had been of late, I determined to adventure.
I had not been twenty yards from the hut or
tunnel for weeks; but then, I at once waded out !
to the middle of the creek. It was more than
wading. The light snow was up to my waist, and
I plainly saw that I could not make headway through
it, and that it would be utterly impossible to draw a
loaded sleigh over it. The dryness of the atmosphere and the intense cold had not allowed the
snow to pack.
If I had snow-shoes, I wondered if I could manage
—— IP
m
I
lillll
[Kill   »     , J
fill
132
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
to move about. But I had none. However I had
a few flour-barrel hoops of ash. I bent a couple
somewhat into the shape of snow - shoes, roughly
netted some cord across them, and essayed to use
them, and found they answered the purpose sufficiently to encourage me first of all to make as
good a pair as possible.
I set eagerly to work. I bound hoops together
closely and braced them; I cut bearskin into strips,
well twisted them, laced them across and across
as well as I could remember they were laced in
proper ones; I used some wire we had to strengthen
them; and in the course of some days' close labour
I had constructed a pair of very rough but, as I soon
proved, serviceable snow-shoes.
With these I practised walking. Most days Patch
and I took tramps up and down the creek, and I
very soon became dexterous in their use: besides,
I knew it was necessary for me to take plenty
of exercise to knit myself together, to train for my
contemplated expedition.
Now I turned my attention to the construction
of a sled—a sledge. The one I had begun I had
not seen for weeks,—it was buried under many a
foot of snow. I searched, and at last dug it out;
it was, I could see, unsuitable. I realised that I
must make a sort of toboggan—something to lie
flat upon the snow, that would not cut into it as
sled-runners would. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
133
No wood suitable for this purpose grew about
there. I passed many hours in the bright moonlight, searching the immediate neighbourhood; but
they were all rough trees, and would not answer.
I was perplexed, puzzled, till I thought of the
sluice-boxes, and on one of them I set to work,
and with the few tools I had I managed to make
what I felt sure would do. But every day or night
Patch and I took marches up and down the creek;
sometimes these trips extended for miles.
I knew too that I must carry with me some sort
of arrangement for sleeping in, and contrive a portable shelter, as I had torn up the little tent for
bandages for Meade. The former—the sleeping-bag
—I made of what remained of the bear-skins, to
which I joined deer-skins, and I lined it with fox,
silver-grey and black, of which I had quite a number. The tent I made up of what remained, with
some blankets and such materials. I had already
contrived additional warm clothing of fur and
blankets, with a hood or capote.
With all this business the days passed quickly
and, may I say, hopefully.
Just then a great need assailed me. I had run
out of lamp oil, and the candles had long since been
used up. I tried to work by firelight, but that was
very difficult Then I bethought me of the lumps of
bear fat hanging in the trees, and I brought some in,
and with an empty meat tin and a piece of rag I
—=
— 134
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
made a very successful lamp, and that difficulty was
surmounted.
My sled, or toboggan, was ready. My snow-shoes
answered well. I had made alterations and improvements in them as I had gained experience, and I was
now able to get about on them with speed and
comfort.
It was towards the end of January, according to
my calculations, and I began to reckon eagerly of
making a start.
The wretchedness, the inexpressible loneliness of
this time, was really awful. At times I was half
beside myself with horror, and I suppose I acted like
a half-crazed being often. I used to talk to Patch,
to address him as if he were a human being, and the
dear old dog would put his head on one side, prick
up his ears and listen to me, and I do believe he
tried his best to understand what I said to him.
What I should have done without that dear old
fellow I cannot imagine.
One day—or night, was it ?—Patch and I were up
the creek some miles. I had my gun with me, for I
had the day before noticed traces of what I thought
were wolves, and I did not care to be confronted with
them unprepared.
I was standing in an open space, clear of trees, on
the surface of the frozen stream indeed, when I was
more than usually struck with the sublime, the awful
spectacle which the heavens exhibited. A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
135
These magnificent displays of the aurora borealis
always affected me; but this night they were particularly grand, and I stood some time, as there was
not a breath of wind stirring, admiring them, and
wondering.
Streamers, tongues of rose-tinted lurid fire, slowly
crept up from the mysterious north. Sometimes
they stopped, hesitated, then darting on again, covered
the entire heavens. Often they resembled huge
flames of crimson fire; they flickered and seemed
often to be enshrouded in dense, yet transparent,
smoke. Frequently they whirled and twirled as if
they had been spindles.
Now these appearances were here, now there.
They never remained stationary; the whole firmament was in motion always.
The snow and all the earth and trees were blood-
coloured, my breath and the dog's was red too, and
awful. There was a certain feeling of suffocation in
the atmosphere, or so I imagined. The cold was
indescribable; inhaling felt like drawing into one's
throat the fumes of cayenne pepper. My heart beat
violently, I breathed in gasps, and I knew that if a
wind arose I should be shrivelled up as feathers
would be in a fire.
But I also knew that Providence had decreed that
when cold has become so intense, as it was then, wind
shall not blow; therefore, I dismissed this dread.
At times the heavens were suffused with deepest
— 136
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
crimson, then bars of glowing scarlet would undulate
across them; or it would be checkered with different
tints of orange purple and deep green.
And suddenly all these colours vanished, and the
sky was covered with what looked like luminous
clouds, through which moVed shapes of wavy light,
forms which could be likened to angels or spirits.
They arose from the northern horizon, climbed slowly
to the zenith, then with a burst of brilliance they
slipped out of sight. It seemed to me that hundreds,
thousands of them were up there moving, twining,
turning amongst themselves, like sentient beings;
through all the vast space above me.
These forms, wrapped in robes of diaphanous,
tremulous light, sometimes appeared as if they were
about to leave the sky and wrap me about in fleecy
raiment, and I caught myself imagining that they
would carry me away beyond those snow - clad
mountains to the north, to the spot which all men
seek, but which none have yet reached. I was
spellbound, dazzled by this sublime exhibition of
Almighty power. I was not afraid—not really; I
was awestruck, solemnised.
And as this wonderful white light poured over the
-pine-clad hills and flashed on the ice-clad mountains,
and the nearer trees were fringed with silvery glow,
and as I watched all this, entranced, I perceived that
this splendour was by degrees dying from the sky.
The brilliant lights were fading slowly, and in their
««*. A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
137
place the full moon wheeled up, the stars became
visible, and it was an ordinary moonlight scene; but
so bright, so brilliant, that for a while I was unable
to decide which was the more wonderful display, this
calm and peaceful scene, or that which had but now
faded from the heavens leaving no trace behind.
I had not stirred for quite half-an-hour, and Patch
had stood by me, motionless, all the time. Strangely
—or so it was to me^he did not appear to have
noticed any of these lights and sights. He was
perfectly impassive.
I had thought during the height of this spectacle
that I heard cracklings and other noises like electric
discharges; but now that all was motionless about
me and no aurora visible, I still heard these sounds,
and decided that they were caused by the intense
frost splitting trees and splintering their bark and
branches.
I was about to turn towards home—home ! fancy
speaking of that dreadful place I stayed in as home!
—when I heard a sound far to the east, beyond some
hills, which struck me as most strange. It was
exactly like the discharge of a double-barrelled gun.
I noticed that Patch pricked up his ears at it, and
looked suddenly alert.
I listened intently for some minutes, then ijteard
that sound again!
It was the frost at work, I reckoned, and yet
there was something about the report that excited me. I waited, listening for some time, but as I
did not hear the sound again, Patch and I wandered
back to fire and food.
However, these peculiar sounds frequently recurred
to me. There was a strange persistency in my
thoughts about them. I wondered if it was possible
that some people were stopping over the hills, or
could it be merely the snapping of the frost. I concluded that this latter was the solution, and fell asleep
believing so.
o CHAPTER  VII.
The following day—I call it day, because my watch
indicated eight in the morning—I went to work,
determined to lose no time in finishing all I had to
do before starting. There was a collar and traces to
make for Patch, and a few other things to complete.
I stuck to this employment till evening, when it
blew hard, snow fell in flurries, and it was again a
blizzard.    This lasted for two entire days.
Every few minutes during this time my thoughts
reverted to that sound which had attracted me up
the creek. I could not get rid of the notion that
some people might be there. I tried to look the
matter squarely in the face, endeavouring to convince
myself that even if it were so, it was of no consequence to me.
I was going down stream; I was ready to leave;
in a couple more days, if the weather settled, I
should be off, and would, I trusted and believed,
quickly arrive at where people dwelt. I knew the
way.    I could not miss the way.    How much better 140
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
II Hi;
ii
for me this was than setting out on an indefinite
hunt into a region still farther from the haunts of
men.
Thus I reasoned, thus I endeavoured to pacify my
thoughts, but again and again there came over my
spirit the fancy that there might be some one, not so
many miles off, who was as much in need of companionship, who was just as lonely as I was. I cannot explain why I felt thus. I had merely heard,
repeated twice, two cracks that sounded like gunshots, that was all, whilst the woods and the ice on
which I had stood were full of similar noises.
It was, I suppose, the great desire, the mighty
longing that I had for the company of a fellow-being
that thus agitated me.
This seemed to me to be the greatest pain I
suffered; it was indeed my chief longing to meet a
human being—white, black, or red. Just then I
believe I should have hailed enthusiastically the
poorest specimen of an Indian, the meanest white
man in all the country.
Meade had only been gone about eleven weeks, it
is true, although it appeared to me that I had been
eleven years alone.
On the third evening, which was intensely, indescribably cold, but calm and clear, with brilliant
moonlight—stimulated by these thoughts and anxious
for action, I started off with my good dog, determined, if possible, to satisfy my longing.    I meant, A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
141
if necessary, to go farther up the creek than I had
yet been, up a branch of it which appeared to trend
in the direction in which I had been attracted by the
peculiar sounds.
I put half a loaf of bread into my bag, some meat,
a lump of chocolate, and a pot to boil water in. For
a wonder I did this—I rarely took any food with
me, but this time it occurred to me as possible that I
might have to be out some time—and, as you will
learn, it was indeed providential that I did.
Patch and I marched off along the wide avenue
which our stream formed through the scrubby firs
and Jack pines which grew closely along its margins.
We halted first at the place where we had stopped
previously, and listened again.
There were the frost-sounds frequent enough, but
nothing more. We halted there some little time;
Patch was not interested, he sat beside me listless.
Then we trudged on a piece farther up the arm,
which pointed, as nearly as I could guess, south-west,
and this was towards where I thought that I had
heard the shots. Here the stream had spread out
some width, there was a wide expanse of unruffled
snow, and the sounds made by the frost were nearly
inaudible.
We waited there again, and to my surprise and
amusement Patch became quite animated. He stood
beside me, gazing solemnly ahead, with his tail
waving slowly, his ears pricked up.    He seemed to 142
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
be listening, as I was, very intently. We stood some
minutes thus. I was very cold, but I spoke cheerily
to Patch.
He paid no attention to me, just gazed wistfully
before him. Yet no sound like a gunshot broke the
silence.
I had become impatient; with my mittened hand
I patted my companion's head, saying something to
him about the futility of this—that it was all hallucination, imagination—at which he looked at me
for a moment gravely, then pointed his nose upstream once more, and with his ears erect listened
again.
But I could not stand still any longer. I spoke
to Patch about it. He paid no attention, at which
I turned, meaning to retrace my steps.
I saw he was unwilling to go with me; indeed he
sat down in the snow and pointed his nose persistently up the creek, at which it occurred to me we
might just as well go on a little farther, as I knew
we could not lose ourselves, and I knew, alas! that
there was no one " at home | to be troubled about
our absence, so I turned again, crying, " Come, my
lad! come on, then !"
At this the good old dog began to wag his tail, to
jump and caper around me, barking with delight. I
had not seen him so excited for weeks, not even
when he thought he had a fox cornered, or a rabbit
entangled in a snow-drift. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
143
Often he stood still suddenly, as if he had heard
something deeply interesting, and always after these
intermissions he went ahead with greater demonstrations of pleasure and excitement, which caused me to
become more agitated: I wondered what his meaning was.
After a while, when we were standing side by side,
attentive, suddenly the stillness, which was oppressive, was broken by two shots!
No doubt of it this time, they were shots ! and not
so very far away.
Patch looked at me delighted. I am sure he was.
Instinctively I took him by the collar, for I thought he
might in his transports rush off and get into mischief.
However, a very few minutes after the sound of
the shots had ceased to echo amongst the hills, six
cracks rang through the stillness. It was a revolver
that had been fired, that was sure !
I loosed the dog then, who rushed off in the direction of the sound, whilst I floundered after him, calling as I ran, | Forward, good dog!    Forward !'
We must have gone half a mile before we stopped
again to listen. Patch had been running ahead
barking, then returning to me, showing his eagerness,
his delight, urging me with all his powers to hurry on.
But I was out of breath. I stood still, and then
I heard a double shot fired once more, and six
revolver shots immediately after, and they were much
nearer than the last! W
144
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
m
There was no mistake about it then. There were
other human beings in that awful wilderness, there
were more folk suffering—perhaps as I was—for I
could not help regarding these reports as signals,
perhaps signals of distress.
I thought it well now to make a response. I
raised my gun, let fly both barrels, then I drew my
revolver from its case and discharged, at regular
intervals, all six cartridges, saying, as I did so, " We'll
try what that will do, Patch."
Very little time elapsed before I had my answer.
The signal was repeated.
It may be imagined what I felt. The knowledge
that there was really some person there was pleasing;
it was also extremely agitating. I rejoiced that I
should soon greet a fellow-creature; that I was not
alone in that vast region, in that wilderness of snow
and ice. This knowledge was quite overpowering—
for a few seconds I could neither speak nor move.
Quickly, however, recovering some composure, I
hurried on after Patch, who was rushing ahead and
barking vehemently.
Those shots had seemingly been fired on the far
side of a low bare hill, which I hurried up, cheering
on the dog, making my way with all the speed I
could to the summit of the ridge. Fortunately I had
the presence of mind to note the course I must take
to return to our creek.
This hill was steeper than it looked to be; it took
ill A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
145
me some time to mount it, and when at last I stood
upon its top I saw no sign of life, nothing but the
vast snow-fields, sprinkled here and there with black
pines.
Here I fired again, Patch all the time barking
exuberantly, and I, feeling sure that I was on the
point of some wonderful discovery, felt very strange.
As I stood panting with the exertion of my climb
through that chill dry air, I wondered what I could
possibly expect to find in those terrific wilds—rough
miners, possibly Indians, more likely some one as
unfortunate as myself, that was all.
However, the response to my signal was not
delayed; down in the valley below there was what
appeared to be a door thrown open. A flood of light
shone forth, and in the glare of it there stood a figure,
whether man or woman, friend or foe, I did not stay
to consider—I just bowed my head in thankfulness.
This person discharged a double-barrelled gun, then,
running out, brandished a blazing firebrand to attract attention evidently, at which I started forward,,
I soon had to stop, out of breath, and then I heard
the outcry of a human being, and what was most
astonishing, it seemed to be the voice of a woman in
distress.
Patch had already disappeared. I hastened after
him, but had to halt again: the declivity was very
steep, the way was encumbered with fallen timber
and scrub, it was difficult to descend; so what with
K 146
A   CLAIM - ON  KLONDYKE.
I    1
fill
the thin cold air and my hurry, I made slow progress,
and had to rest frequently.
At one of these rests I saw against the light of the
open door my dog crouched at the feet of the person
there, who was stooping to caress him.
I hurried on again, and soon could understand
what the woman cried; it was, § Help! oh, help!
White man or Indian, come and help us!"
I shouted in reply—the distance was very short
between us now—| I'm English ! You may trust
me!    I'll come to you as speedily as possible!"
And, as I began to flounder on again, I heard her
exclaim most eagerly, " Thank God !    Thank God!"
It was not long after this before I reached her
and the dog. As I approached she stood up and
gazed at me.
She was so enveloped in rugs and clothing that it
was impossible to make out from her figure what she
was; only two piercing eyes were visible, intently
fixed on me. We stood thus, looking at each other
for several seconds, then she exclaimed, " Oh! I'm
so grateful that you're an Englishman! I'm sure
you'll help me if you can."
Her voice thrilled me; I knew instinctively that
she was a young woman; moreover, her tone, her
accent, assured me that she was no rough and
common one. Was I in a dream ? I could not realise
what had come to pass; I merely said, 1 Most certainly, I'll help you; what is the matter ?"
Sd&a k  A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
147
Then she begged me to come, inside the dwelling:
I followed her, Patch entering with us. Shutting
the door closely, and drawing a curtain across it, she
pointed to a rough stool, asked me to remove my
snow-shoes and be seated.
I glanced around; I was in a fair-sized log shanty,
one end of which appeared to be the fireplace, which,
being piled up with blazing logs, filled the low room
with light and most welcome warmth.    There were
o
two nooks curtained off with coloured blankets.
Behind one of them my conductress disappeared,
but only for a few moments, when she appeared
again. I was greatly embarrassed, for she had
removed her wraps, and stood before me a tall and
graceful girl, who impressed me instantly with the
feeling that I was in the presence of a saint, for the
glow from the fire, shining on her fair hair, which
was in disorder round her Head, formed a halo, an
aureole.
Her face, indeed, was thin, drawn, and bore a
most distressed expression, but for all that my first
glance showed me that it was a beautiful, a supremely beautiful, girl in whose presence I stood.
When I had removed my capote and outer clothing, she glanced at me, and I noticed she gave a
.sigh of relief-when she saw that I was a young man—
rough, unkempt, and anything but clean, certainly—
but not a ruffianly bushman, as she no doubt had feared
I would prove to be; then sitting down by her fire,
*r 148
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
j|![HI
.
I asked, | Now, what can I do to help you ? What
is wrong ?"
She looked at me very sorrowfully, tears filled her
eyes, she sobbed, she strove to reply to me; it took
same time for her to attain the power of speech,
whilst I regarded her with extreme interest and
sympathy. At length she murmured, * I am not alone
here—my father is lying in there," and she pointed
to the other curtained place. " He is lying there
very ill—dying, I'm afraid; it is for him that I
want help."
I told her that I was greatly grieved for her, but
that, unfortunately, I knew little or nothing about
illness. I asked if there were no others camped
about there—were they entirely alone ?
She assured me that, so far as they knew, there
was no human being within a hundred miles of them,
and that the great trouble was, they had no food,
—that they were actually starving !
" Do you mean," I asked, horrified, | that you really
have nothing here to eat ? How long have you been
like this ?" JM&L
She told me that for weeks they had had nothing
but salmon and a little tea; no bread, no meat—
nothing but what she had mentioned. I And for a
sick man," she went on, " what are they ? I have
tried to cook this fish in various ways, to get him to
eat, but it is useless; he has had nothing but tea for
many days—he's dying of starvation !" A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
149
I And you," I said; " how have you managed ?
Have you had nothing but salmon ?"
She replied reluctantly, " Oh, I've done well enough.
I can eat the fish, and have done so all the time; but
now, alas! that too is consumed! We are just
perishing for want of food—it is dreadful. What am
I to do ?    Can you help us ?"
I was unbuckling my bag now. " Come," said I;
" cheer up, then. If that is all that's wrong, I can
soon make it right;" and when I put the piece of
bread and meat upon the rough iable, and unfolded
the cake of chocolate, her eyes dilated with eagerness. She glared at the provisions as a half-starved
dog would do, which completely upset my equanimity.
" My dear lady!" I exclaimed, " I have plenty.
By God's good providence I put these things into
my bag when I started. Why, I don't know, but
there they are; pray eat, and let me assure you
that I have ample provisions; eat, and then we'll
talk further about what is to be done."
She took the chocolate and scraped some into
a tin can, saying, " Ah! it's not myself I care so
much about, it's my poor father: with this and
with this bread he'll recover, I trust—it will save
his life, please God! And oh ! I bless and thank
Him for this, and you for coming to our aid."
Then she took it behind the other curtain, and
I heard her endeavouring to awaken her father, who mn ""
150
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
appeared to be in a kind of swoon, out of which she
was unable to arouse him.
After a while she called me in, and there on a
rough couch he lay, quite insensible. He was a
handsome, grey-bearded man, having an air of refinement I could see, although he was now so
terribly thin and emaciated, with face and hands
so white and bloodless, that he was a pitiful sight.
His daughter had contrived to raise him on a
heap of clothes used as pillows. I saw he breathed,
but beyond that he looked to be already dead.
She looked up as I entered, perplexed and alarmed.
11 cannot make him understand!' she cried, and
with a gasp she fell prone upon his bed herself, and
I suppose she fainted.
I was bewildered now; it looked as if they were
both in a very serious state, and I neither knew
which to attend to first, or what to do for either.
I first endeavoured to bring him to consciousness,
then I begged his daughter to try to rouse herself;
but for some minutes I called to both in vain, and I
thought they were dead. -f§|
There I was, completely at a loss,—I could do
nothing but stare at them. Was this another horror
added to what had occurred to me already ? I asked
myself. Had I found companions in my solitude
only to see them die before my eyes ? What could
I do ? |:
At length the girl stirred,  gave a heart-rending A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
151
sigh or two, and turning, saw me. I believe she
did not at once understand what I was doing there;
but I spoke gently to her, saying, " I think you are
as nearly famished as your father; let me persuade
you to leave him a while; drink some of this stuff
yourself, eat some bread and meat. I hope it is
only want of sustenance that affects you. Do as
I ask, and I will stay here and try to bring him
to his senses, and to take some food."
She appeared willing, but unable to move. I
offered her my hand; she took it, and I helped
her into the outer room. When I saw that she
was trying to take some food I left her.
I had much difficulty in dealing with her father,
I tried in many ways; but at last I forced some
chocolate into his mouth with a spoon. He swallowed it, and after a little he too revived; intelligence came to him. He opened his eyes, gazed
wonderingly at me, and asked faintly, "Who are
you ?   Where do you come from ?   Where is May ?"
She was by his side instantly. " Father! father,
dear!*' she cried, "we are saved; this good man
has found us. He has plenty of food, and he will
help us."
At which he, looking alive at last to the state
of affairs, muttered, " Food, did you say, May—
food ? Ah! there's plenty to pay for it; give the
man gold, any amount of it, for food—that is worth
more than gold to us, my love I" A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
" Hush—hush !" she whispered to him, i this is a
friend; I know he is a friend. Say nothing about
gold!"   ,,'||    |v || j§"
But he would not be suppressed. He was taking
spoonful after spoonful of the chocolate now, and
munching a piece of bread, and between the niouth-
fuls he said to her, " It is delicious, darling. I am
better already; it is only food I needed, you see ?
Get more, dear girl—get plenty of it; pay this man
what he asks for it, only set us food."
I spoke up then. I Don't trouble, sir," I said,
11 have plenty not so very far from here, plenty
of gold too; don't trouble about that, only eat all
you can, and get up your strength for your
daughter's sake—she needs food as much as you
do. What I have fortunately brought with me
will sustain you for a few hours whilst I go for
more.
" But where do you live ? how did you find
us ?" he asked, looking at me fiercely wkh dark,
brilliant, hungry eyes. " To think what we have
suffered, May, and there was food close to us."
Perceiving that it was useless to discuss this with
him, and seeing that he was taking food and gradually coming to himself, I thought it as well to leave
him.
The girl soon followed, and we drew stools near
the fire, where Patch had been all along stretched out
luxuriously. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDIKE.
153
He came up at once and laid his head upon her
lap, showing very plainly that he approved of her.
As for me, I was in a position hard to describe. I
who had been for many months away from all refined
female society, and for some time past had been
utterly alone, a dog my sole companion, now sat beside a lovely girl in dire distress, a girl who was
without doubt a lady. I was sure of that, and was
shy accordingly.
Her dress was serge, it was worn and soiled and
shabby, a shawl was round her shoulders, a fox's pelt
Was round her neck, and she wore heavy, clumsy
mocassins, the beadwork and decorations torn and
tarnished. Her hands were small and shapely, but
they were cut and bruised, wretchedly discoloured
and black with bad usage and neglect. Her hair
was in spite of all lovely, although it was touselled
and dishevelled, looking as if a comb had not been
used to it for many a day.
This girl was very fair, her hair was golden, her
eyes were beautifully blue, she was tall, and though
then borne down with toil and trouble, I could not
help remarking that when in health and happiness
?she would be a rare specimen of a lovely English
girl, than whom not one on earth is handsomer.
Now here she was, away back in the Yukon territory, surely the most inhospitable, the most unsuitable, for a refined woman, in the wide, wide world,
many miles from all her fellow-creatures, practically 154
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
. i»ii
lib
1 *:
alone and starving, with a dying father, and not
much hope of rescue. It was an awful situation,
hard enough to describe, impossible to realise.
And here was I, a young fellow with precious little
experience of civilised life, for I had left England
when little more than a lad. I was diffident, too,
with ladies, yet here I was, thrown into her company,
and, as it seemed, looked at by her as her saviour
and her hope!
I saw all I have described, thought all I have said,
in a moment, and I considered at the same time what
I was and what this fair lady must think of me ! I
remembered my dress, my dreadfully dirty dress.
My face was black with soot and grease; I knew my
hands were.
You may suppose that in that country, where for
eight months of the twelve every drop of water had
to be obtained with difficulty by melting ice or snow,
that most ideas of cleanliness have to be given up.
Yukon miners, as a rule, do not bother much with
soap in the long dark winter.
We two, seated by the fire, were silent for a
while. I knew well that I had a serious task before
me, and the sooner I started to it the better it would
be, and the weather being then settled, I ought to
make use of it. Supposing another blizzard should
arise, then moving about outside would not be practicable, it would mean death to all of us.
I felt a difficulty in questioning this girl, and yet A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
155
■
I was sure I ought to know more about her, their
position then, what they most needed, and in what
way I had better move.
She sat silently gazing into the fierce fire. There
were several large sticks of firewood ready to pile on,
and a couple of huge knotty logs, which it would
take a strong man some trouble to get there. I
noticed these and asked her about them, saying that
she and her father I supposed had not been very long
alone, or else her father had been but a short time
laid by, as I saw they had a good supply of fuel.
She smiled sadly. " That is the last of it," she
said, " and I'm afraid I'm not strong enough to chop
more just yet—perhaps that'll last till I feel better."
I You chopped that! You dragged all that inside !" I exclaimed, astonished. " Why, what are
you ? You don't look as if you could do such work.
Is it really true ?"
She assured me that it was—that she and her father
had been alone there, entirely alone, since the end of
the previous September; that he was ill then, and
that was the reason that they did not go out with
the others of their party when they left. I believe
she wished to tell me all about it then, but I knew
that time was precious, so contrived to lead her into
speakiug of her father's illness and his most pressing
needs. I told her where I was camped, what I possessed, and made her tell me what I had better bring.
I explained that I had arranged to start for Dawson, :i
CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
had all preparations made, so that all I would have
to do would be to load my sleigh with provisions and
necessaries and come up to them instead of goiug
down stream to the Yukon—that I should be some
hours oh the journey, and that soon after I returned
I trusted to see a very great improvement in her
health and her father's.
"Why," said she, almost gaily, " I'm better already.
Can't you see I am ? and so is poor father. Come
and see him before you leave."
I did so. He was sleeping peacefully, and really
already looked improved.
When I told her all that I possessed, she was
quite overcome with excitement. Would I bring
some of it ? Should I be robbing myself ? Would
not I be neglecting my own affairs by devoting
time to them ? and many such questions she put
to me.
I begged her not to trouble about me-—that when
I returned I would explain all, and she would then
understand; but as it was all-important to get
what was wanted without delay, I must start at
once.
Tears filled her eyes as she thanked me, and
called down blessings on me, at which I laughed,
asking her if she had met with strangers in distress would she pass them by unhelped ? She said
| No, she could not." | Well, then," I proceeded,
" neither can I,  so say  no more,  dear lady.    I'm A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
157
going to help you and your father out of this
dreadful strait."
Before I left I chopped a heap of firewood and
brought it in, for which she was very grateful.
Then whistling Patch, I prepared to start.' " Oh!
leave me Patch," she begged; "the dear dog will
be such company."
I assured her I would willingly do so if I dared,
but that Patch had his work to do; he was a
Huskie, trained to draw a sledge; without his help
I could not bring much, so it was necessary that
he should come with me.
She held out her hand to me, saying with a smile,
I It's a very dirty one, but it's the best one I have
to offer."
I clasped it gladly, shook it warmly, as I replied,
" It's not half as bad and black as mine, but what
can we expect in this awful climate, this terrible
region
3>
" Ah! what indeed," said she.
When I had gone fifty yards from the hut I
looked back. She stood framed in the doorway
against the light. I called to her I Go inside. Stay
lthere till I return. I'll not be long; keep up your
heart and your father's. All will now be well."
Then an idea struck me, and I cried, " But tell me,
what is your father's name and yours! Mine is
Herbert Singleton, of Blumfield, Bedfordshire."
She answered loudly, but in tones I never will  CHAPTEE VIII.
Thkough the keen air I hurried. It was light
enough. The aurora was brilliant. Whether day
or night I did not know, or care.
I was enraptured. I seemed to be walking on air.
The rough hill-sides, the ice-clad rocks, I passed over
with the agility of a fawn. I had companions, my
loneliness was ended!
And what company had I found ? A girl who
had instantly affected me in a manner I had never
before experienced.
Naturally, after long absence from female society,
a man is easily attracted by almost any member of
the fair sex. I quite understood this. But I had
never been enthusiastic in my admiration of women.
JLndeed I had been, whether from diffidence or constitution I cannot say, rather averse to their society,
and regarded those of my friends who devoted
themselves to them as a bit weak.
I knew this, and yet I felt so elated at meeting
this girl so unexpectedly that I forgot all my former
-*— 160
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
ill}  P
Iff I   ■   H
it
ll
lifefcif.P
notions, and was so joyful, in spite of recent occurrences and our terrible surroundings, that I went on
my way gleefully. The awful cold and my loneliness were clean forgotten, the long tramp on snow-
shoes was as nothing, so, almost before I knew it, I
was back at the hut.
Everything that could freeze was frozen, indoors
and out. I built a huge fire, I cooked a meal for
myself and my dog, and I felt so bright and so
exhilarated that I ate as I had not eaten for a long
time. I rejoiced in my appetite, my vigour, and
health, and thanked Almighty God for His goodness,
and not the least for His mercifully causing us—
Meade and me—to economise our food as we had,
for now I could appreciate the value of it, as, of
course, I had not hesitated, nay, I was eager, to
share it with the Bells.
To think of that sweet girl in want of food was
so distressing, that I would fain have given her all
that I possessed and starved myself, rather than that
she should suffer.
Sitting by my fire resting, I smoked and dreamed—
waking dreams—about my new friends. I thought
lightly of Mr Bell's illness. I believed it was merelyi
want of sustenance, as it was with his daughter May.
I thought of her as May, which was a lovely name.
I considered, I wondered who they were, what was
their history, how they came to be up there hi that
awful predicament, in that dreadful country.
I) A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
161
Mr Bell had spoken of gold as if they had plenty;
I knew what I had, and this led me to dreaming of
what might be. I pictured May in England, myself
with such a woman as she appeared to be as my wife.
I thought about all that we could enjoy in England,
the comforts and luxuries that money would obtain
there for us, and I fell asleep dreaming of such
things, and slept until Patch roused me. He had
become impatient at my long nap.
I had slept some hours. I was pleased, knowing
the task I had before me of hauling a heavy load
to the Bells', and then returning without sleep or
rest. I was not complaining—far, very far from that
—I was indeed rejoiced about it. But I was wise
enough to remember that I must go sensibly to
work—that as their very lives depended on me and
what I had, I must run no risk of breaking down or
failing.
There was a quantity of food, principally canned
meats and vegetables, in the cliche which Meade and
I built up the trees. I packed the toboggan with a
selection, and with a sack of flour, some sugar, coffee,
a few bottles of bovril, our only bottle of whisky, and
all I could think of suitable for an invalid. I heaped
on joints of venison, bear meat, and a few frozen birds
I had left. I covered this with the remnant of the
tent, lashed all securely, harnessed Patch, and started
up the creek.
This was really my first experience of hauling a
L
• 162
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
|i||
111
i
laden sledge. Patch was out of practice too, so that
for a while we did not get on pleasantly.
The toboggan answered well. It sank very little,
having a wide base, but the dry snow piled up before
it    It was, as they say, " collar work " always.
I had Patch attached by a long trace at first, and
I kept closer to the sleigh. He would try to go
ahead rapidly. It was surprising the power of that
dog, and the more I called to him to go slower the
more he hurried. When I had at length forced a
halt, I shortened his trace and lengthened mine, so
that I was leader. Now he paid more attention to
me than his work. If I slowed up or endeavoured to
take it easy he jumped on me, barking with delight.
No doubt he thought it good fun.
The cold did not appear to affect him in the
slightest. He was well fed; but even in the real
Arctic the half-starved Huskies pay no heed td it.
They sleep contentedly in the snow, with the thermometer marking 100 degrees of frost, as I have
learned since I came out that it frequently does on
the Yukon.
I next fastened Patch's trace the same length as
my own. By this means we got on better, for I
could put my hand into his collar and guide him
effectually. This answered usually very well, but
when our traces became entangled, it was no easy
matter to extricate them in the frightful cold.
The actual weight of the load did not trouble us
-    $,. -.. H35S
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
163
as long as we kept on the frozen creek, as it was
usually level; and after a few hours Patch was not
nearly so full of life and impetuosity, and things
went easier.
We camped for an hour when we were half way.
I made some tea; we had found rather a snug corner
amongst some thick pine bushes.
When we reached the hill we had to cross, we had
as much as we could do to pull the toboggan up the
steep incline. Patch worked well; he gave me the
idea that he knew we were nearing our destination,
and was delighted.
So, after many heavy tugs, we reached the top,
when I called a halt; but my companion was for
dashing over it, and slithering down the other side
without delay. By hanging on behind I stopped
him, and addressed him seriously, angrily, at which
he looked into my face, then gazed in the direction of
the Bells' shanty, and let out a long-drawn howl.
Here I unlashed the gun and fired a couple of
shots, a signal I had agreed upon with May.
She had been listening surely, for the smoke from
the discharge had barely crept away ere the door
flew open and I saw her wave a burning stick in
token that my signal was observed, at which Mr
Patch began to bark and howl melodiously: he fairly
yelled with excitement, and I had \ difficulty in
restraining him from tearing down the hill.
By care and patience we got safely down, and Y
164
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
ills
Mil
drew our load to the shanty. Indeed we drew it
inside, for a breeze had sprung up, and it would have
been a risk to handle anything in the open air.
It delighted me to see the pleasure with which my
new friend examined what I had brought. " What!
bovril!" she exclaimed, 1 and whisky ! Oh, they
will cure father! and sago, rice; and this lovely
tinned fruit! Why, what a stock of things you
have ; are you storekeeping ? I thought you were a
miner."
I assured her that I was, and nothing more, but
that my partner had been up the season before, had
done well, and gained experience, so that when we
came in during the summer we had brought a large
stock of food—larger than was absolutely necessary
—in case of accidents. I added that I was deeply
thankful we had done so, as things had turned out.
I begged her to use all she could, for her father's
good, to say nothing of her own; and to remember
that there was plenty more where this came from.
Her father was much better than when I first saw
him, but he was still ill and frail. He welcomed
me warmly, clasping my big rough hand in his thin
white ones, saying as he did so, | Welcome back. I
never can thank you enough for all your goodness.
You have saved my daughter's life, and I hope, too, I
may recover and prove to you my gratitude."
I cut this matter short, begging him to use what I
had been so pleased to bring. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
165
His daughter, being present, went over a list of
the dainties, as she called them, and was quite cheerful, which gladdened Mr Bell, and they both spoke
hopefully of the future.
It was not long before we two had a kettle boiling,
food cooked, and were enjoying what she assured me
was the best meal she had eaten in that region.
Bacon and beans, the staples with miners, had never
been satisfactory food to her father and herself.
Naturally it was a delight to me to be thus
familiarly associated with her. During my absence
she had tidied the shanty, and had also donned a
better dress—that is, a cleaner one—less worn and
ragged. She had done something to her hair, and
had tried to make her hands more presentable. Her
beauty was, I suppose, enhanced by this, and to me
it seemed that if she was not so thin, and had a little
more colour on her cheeks, and could lose the sad
look that seldom left her face, she would be perfect.
As for me, I had done nothing to improve my
dress or looks. I did. get some snow melted at my
place, and rubbed and scrubbed my hands; but I
could not say they were improved, though a portion
of the grease and blackness was gone.
We sat with her father for a while. He was a
smoker, but all his tobacco was gone: he tried to
join me, but could not manage it, although he was
decidedly better. We propped him up, and he talked
with me, and then of course they wished to know 166
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
how I came to be in that part, and how I came
across them, and about England; asked if I knew
the part they came from, and said a little about
where my people lived. He appeared to know our
name, having visited in the neighbourhood, so that
we got on well. He was very feeble, spoke with
difficulty, and his daughter May, as he always called
her, helped him out, finished sentences for him, and
described to me what she knew he wished to tell me.
As for how I came to be in that neighbourhood,
that was easily explained. I told of Meade's discovery the first time he came into the Yukon; how
he had returned this last summer, and had brought
me with him. I told how fortunate we had been in
getting gold, and so forth, and generalised a good
deal. I said nothing about Meade's death—I merely
stated that he had left me, that I had been alone for
months, had become heartily tired of it, and had
determined to get to Dawson | somehow " with what
I could haul out. I was making preparation for this
when I heard the shots, which May afterwards told
me she fired every few hours for a week, hoping to
attract some one ; but of late she had quite despaired.
They were certain they should both die. Indeed,
as I knew, when the joyful sound of my gunshots,
and soon after the barking of the dog, roused hope
in her, her father had swooned away, and but for mj
wonderful advent, and what I had in my bag, she
believed he would not have rallied. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
167
I told her my intention had been to remain at
Dawson till spring, then return to Our claim, finish up
there with men to help, and go home in the autumn.
" So I suppose you'll be carrying this out directly?"
May asked. I shall henceforth call her May, though
really at that time I addressed her as Miss Bell.
" Oh, not now. No; there is no need. I've given
up the idea since I've been so fortunate as to find
you and your father. You see, I was only going
to Dawson for the sake of some sort of company. I
have been so terribly solitary; I have nothing to
do there now. I shall not be so lonely if you'll
allow me to come here sometimes."
" Why, surely," she laughed; $ surely, we shall be
happy enough to see J0, as often as you can come.
See what good you ha$e\ done us; look at my dear
father.    I wish you could stay here altogether."
I thanked her, and wished I could; but added
that as everything I possessed was in our dug-out,
which I described, it would hardly be right to leave
it entirely unprotected.
They assured me that I $mii have no anxiety on
that score, that robberies were never committed in
that country, and that even if any one came across
my place it would be left untouched.
I could hardly credit this, but as they understood
how Meade and I had come in, and had met so few
people, they explained, and declared that I should
be   surprised   at  the   good   behaviour   and   honour 168
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
Ill
4 1
I
amongst the miners, who, whatever other evils they
did, had a strict regard for each other's property.
I Why," said Mr Bell, | I've known thousands of
pounds' worth of gold to lie unguarded, in view of
all passers-by, and it was never interfered with;
that was in Alaska, on the American side, where we
know the laws are not respected as they are in
Canada; and here, under the British flag, we're as
safe, oh, much safer, than in England, so far as
thieving goes!"
When May and I left him to sleep, we sat by
the fire conversing. It was then I told her that
I had something like 260 lb. weight of gold, worth,
I supposed, £10,000, buried in my dug-out; it
would be a serious matter if it were stolen—to
others besides myself.
She whispered to me that they had also in this
shanty an immense quantity, more than I could
imagine . possible, adding, | When the others went
away they left our share with us, and father and
I have got a lot since. He was not so ill then, he
could help me. After they went away he and I
worked, as I tell you, and our ground is very rich.
We'picked out as much as I can lift, and there is a
dump of pay-dirt,.which is full of finer gold, to be
washed in the spring. But, oh dear! if father is
not better soon I shall despair."
I tried to encourage her. I said I felt sure that
it was only want of proper food that had made him A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
169
ill; now that there was plenty, he would soon be all
right.
She shook her head, saying, | Ah! you don't
know. It is not all famine; he was very bad
whilst yet we had food enough. But I must not
despair." She tried to speak cheerfully. " Three
days ago we were hopeless, dying really; yet see
how wonderfully, how mercifully we have been
rescued and provided for. I will hope yet. Please
God, father will recover, then all will be well!':
I said that was right. I begged her to look at
the bright side of things, and I continued, "You
spoke just now of helping your father to mine—do
you mean that you have actually worked ? Yes ?
Not underground, surely ?"
Smiling, she told me she had not actually worked
down a shaft at tunnelling or driving, but that she
had done about everything else. They had been
working in a mound beside the creek, had traced
the gold into it along bed-rock, much as Meade
and I had. This mound had gold in it from the
surface, under the nigger grass and moss; it was
six to ten feet thick, and of course always frozen
as hard as marble. They lit fires before it, then
removed the dirt thus thawed. It was slow work,
consisting principally in cutting firewood and keeping the fires going. She had become quite expert
with an axe, she assured me. They allowed these
fires to burn half a day, then raked them away, and
* 170
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
generally found the ground was thawed a couple of
feet in.
Often, she went on to explain to me, they found
within a few inches of the rock the gold as thick
as plums in a Christmas pudding, and she declared
she knew there was an immense fortune in their
claim.
I quite believed all this, for it was like our own
experience.
When I looked at her I was not surprised at her
ability to do labouring work. She was one of those
well-built girls that one sometimes sees, more often
in Britain than' anywhere, who, having from their
childhood been used to outdoor life, are physically
able and as strong as men.
I could realise that when May was in good health
her powers would be fully up to gold-mining or any
other work. Withal there did not appear to be the
slightest sign of that masculine style which is so
horrible to see in women: she was soft spoken,
eminently feminine, and one could not doubt she
was in all respects a lady.
She knew all about panning off and cradling, and
even sluicing, and could do them all. I was of
course curious to know how they came to be where I
found them, and how long they had been in Canada,
and so forth; but I was diffident, and I did not like
to ask her. I fancied they had not been very long
from home.
____
'Vis;1 ^'" :bl
mm A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
171
I had been several hours there. I did not wish
to leave, but thinking I ought to, I went in to bid
her father farewell, when they both begged me to
stay a while, and I did linger longer, for I really
was in no hurry.
We had much conversation, which was delightful
to me after my long silence. I found they had no
books; so when I told them of my possessions they
were envious, and charmed when I promised, next
time I came, to bring some with me. I believe it
was this prospect which made them willing for me
to go, as I pledged myself to return in a very few
days.
I left them with a heavy heart, with very great
regret.
May asked me again to leave Patch with them;
but when I told her that she had her father to talk
with, whilst I had only a dog for company, she
declared she was ashamed of having made so cruel
a request.
My journey home was not a pleasant one. It
was very dark, the sky was clouded, there was
some wind and drifting snow. It was not so cold,
however — it rarely is when the sky is overcast.
But for Patch's sagacity, we might easily have
gone astray.
So long as I kept my mind fixed on Mary Bell,
remembered that I was not now solitary, I did well;
but when, tired, cold, and miserable, I arrived at the 172
A  CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
Hill ft
ill I
lr
hut so drear, so gloomy, I felt dreadful, and for
a while I could barely look about me undismayed.
However, being fatigued enough and hungry, and
the big fire making me drowsy, Patch and I were
soon fed and fast asleep, and forgetting our troubles
and joys.
The following days I passed far from pleasantly.
I sat moping by the fire, only rousing for food or
fuel.    I did not even think of working.
I could not go in to where I had left my poor
friend's body to dig for gold—it was desecration, I
thought; so I just sat eating, smoking, sleeping, and
grumbling to myself, and longing for the time when
I considered it would be right to go to the Bells'
again.
Certainly this was very simple of me. I might
have been sure they would have been pleased enough
to see me; but, as I have said before, I was very
diffident with ladies, and, I suppose, much more so
since I had lived that isolated life.
However, I could not dismiss May's personality
from my mind. I really did not try to—it was a
delight to think about her. No matter what I did,
or on what train of thought I was, everything led
me to that young lady. Her face was always before
me, it had such a hold on my imagination. Of
course I had heard or read about love, the attraction
between the sexes, and so forth, yet I never applied
this knowledge  to  myself.    I felt, even  after the
a  * A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
173
little I had seen of my sweet young friend, that I
could do anything for her, that I would fain secure
her continued companionship; yet, somehow, it never
occurred to me to say to myself, " Bertie, you're falling in love with her; have a care, my lad."
This is the manner in which T sat mooning by
my fire.
I had long since hunted out all our literature and
packed it. I went through the remainder of our
eatables, finding a few things that my new friends
had not received. What more could I do to pass
the weary time ?
I could not start for four days at any rate, as the
weather became terrible—wind, snow, and continual
darkness. Not a star or ray of light was visible
when I went outside, as I very rarely did, for necessaries only. I can conceive nothing more dismal,
nothing more frightful, than this four days' gale.
It seemed to me the very forest would be uprooted;
the hill shook, inside which I lived. Alone in that
awful turmoil was torment. I feared that the whole
aspect of the country would be changed, that I
should never find my friends again; indeed I fancied
it was more than probable that they and their frail
habitation must have been swept away.
To live outdoors in such weather, to travel through
it, I knew was impossible, and I wondered if any
poor folk were journeying, and I pictured their
sufferings.      I   little   knew   then   that   there   were 174
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDIKE.
II!    I   J
Mill
III I
crowds of people hurrying into this very part—for
I was ignorant that the news of these great discoveries of gold had already startled the world, and
that all the passes and trails were crowded with
folk trying to get in—and most of them what we
call | tenderfeet," men, ay, and women too, who had
never known privations before, to whom the idea
of sleeping out of their comfortable beds had been
till recently an event undreamed of. What they
must be suffering I could imagine, and what many
are suffering now, even during the winter of '98-99,
who can tell? although already much improvement
has been made.
On the fifth day behold an entirely different state
of matters. The wind had dropped; the absolute
quietness was painful. I peeped out: the cold was
intense, and all nature was deep imbedded in fresh
snow. The full moon was shining brilliantly in the
south, and the northern heavens were sown thick with
stars, and the sky was cloudless.
Believing that some days of quiet weather were
assured, I made ready for a start.
Our load this time was quite light, and we went
off gleefully. Patch quite knew where we were
going, and made no scruple about his happiness.
Decidedly I was glad to be off, but I had some'
very grave anxieties. I was impatient to know if
my friends had weathered the gale. Having cut a
large supply of fuel and carried it in before I left A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
175
the last time, I knew that May had no need to go
outside, and so I thought if the shanty had held
together I might find all welL
We soon skimmed up the creek—my dog and I—
and camped again in the pine thicket for refreshment. Here I shot two black foxes. They had,
I suppose, scented the meat we had with us, for
happening to look behind me just before we stopped,
I saw them in our track. At first I thought of
slipping Patch after them; then I wondered if I left
them unnoticed whether they would draw nearer,
and come within gunshot; but I soon perceived that
they were afraid, although they kept after us, so I
gave up hope of getting them.
When we camped we left the laden sleigh out in
the open, thirty yards away—I had forgotten the
foxes. Patch was in the shelter with me eating;
suddenly he stood up alert. Fortunately I took
him by the collar instantly, and looking under the
branches saw one of the black beauties on the load,
tearing at the cover to get at the meat, whilst the
other was rooting in the snow close by.
Commanding Patch by gesture to lie still, I raised
my gun, and from the rifle-barrel drove a ball through
the head of one, and as the other dashed away I
bowled it over with buckshot, with which the second
barrel was charged.
I felt proud of this performance, for I had been
talking  to   May   about black fox - skins,  and  had 176
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
ll i ill f
promised to get her some.    It was good to be able
to do it so quickly.
They were both very thin, mere skeletons, starving, which was why they had acted as they did;
but their fur was very beautiful, and I tied them
on the load with great content.
Arrived in due time at the hill-top, I fired the
gun again, then very shortly after we drew up at
the door, entering with the sleigh as before.
May met me with a radiant face—shaking my
hands most heartily, hardly giving me time to
remove my mitts before she had me by the hand;
and long before I had unlashed my snow-shoes she
was praying me to come forward and see her father,
who, she announced, was improving rapidly.
He really seemed to be. She had rigged up a
couch beside the fire, on which he sat wrapped in
a blanket, but looking, as I thought on first seeing
him, quite bright and cheerful.
The books and papers pleased them mightily; it
delighted me to see them so interested.
May looked ever so much better; she had a little
colour in her face now, and in spite of the very terrible storm, which had raged around their unsheltered
hut with still more force than it had around me, so
far as I could judge, and alarmed them greatly, they
had certainly both improved.   We talked incessantly.
I found Mr Bell an interesting man, full of information on many subjects; his daughter was just like
Mrl A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
177
him in that respect. He was about sixty, and must
have been, when in health, an able, stalwart man.
They begged me to smoke, and I having no
objection, started my pipe, which caused Mr Bell
to try again, and this time he succeeded fairly for a
little.
I could, however, see pretty well that he was still
very frail, requiring great care, and I felt half afraid
that the excitement of my visit would harm him.
But what was I to do ? The shanty was but one
room: I must either go altogether, or stay; there
was nothing else for it. I put this to Miss Bell,
who said decidedly that I must stay, that she knew
my presence would do her father good, and he backed
her up with much vigour, for him. The tears came
to his eyes when he besought me to stay as long as
I possibly could.
What could I do, then,, but accede to his wishes ?
for indeed I did not wish to go away—far, very far
from it.
This shanty was perhaps twenty feet by twelve;
the floor was clay. The only furniture besides the
two beds behind the blanket curtains was a very
rough table of split wood, fastened on to four un-
barked stakes driven into the ground. The seats
were a couple of three-legged stools, a block or two
of wood, and an empty keg. Of table furniture
there was nothing but some granite-ware cups and
plates, some iron spoons, and a few knives and steel-
M m
178
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
11
V
pronged forks. Their cooking gear was a frying-pan,
a tin billy, black and battered, and an iron camp
oven.
I perceived they had no bread, only " flap-jacks,"
a species of griddle cake cooked in the frying-pan.
I said something about this, which caused May to
say that she could not make bread.
| I'm a first-rate hand at it," said I; " let me
make you some."
| It's hardly fair to set a visitor to cooking," she
answered, with a smile.
I Nonsense," I went on; " I'm a good all-round
cook, really—I've had plenty of experience during the
last few years; let me show you what I can do—I'd
like to." __^__
Blushing, she agreed, explaining that with a
proper stove and the right appliances she had managed when they were in a civilised country, but here,
she had to confess, she was a perfect failure.
I set to work, much to their amusement, and as I
busied myself they talked to me, and by degrees I
got to understand how they came to be in this terrible
predicament.
I learned that their party originally consisted of
four besides themselves: they had come up the
Yukon from St Michael's, had rested a few days at
Dawson, and had then continued up the Yukon, and
by degrees had crept up a branch river, always
prospecting, and without much success until   they
. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
179
hit on this spot. Here they had found gold plentiful They all worked hard until winter was near,
and it was time to go out.
The four men were rough fellows, Americans, who
had been mining in Alaska on and off for years—
they believed them to be perfectly honest.
They had got gold to about the value of £1000
each during the short time they had been working,
and were anxious to get out and go home to the
States that season, and return the following year.
May and her father were willing enough to depart
with them, but when the time arrived to start Mr
Bell was attacked by an old complaint, a species of
fainting fit, which always laid him by for weeks; so
for him to undertake the terrible journey down their
river to the Yukon, and then down that river to Fort
Cudahy, which they supposed was the only way out,
and where they hoped to catch the last steamer going
down that year, was impossible.
The men were in a measure sympathetic; they
waited a few days, trying to persuade my friends to
risk the journey, but May would not agree.
Yet, if they did not go out then, they knew they
would have to winter there. Provisions were low;
there certainly was not enough to last them all till
spring. Many and long were the discussions as to
what should be done.
These men being, as I have said, anxious to get
out and home, arranged  this  plan at last.    They 180
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE:
would go, leaving with Mr Bell and his daughter all
the food they had; they would make their way to
Dawson, and then hire Indians or others to come up
for them, bringing a good boat, laden with ample
food. By that time it was hoped Mr Bell would be
able to take the journey.
This seemed to all such a sensible and practical
plan that it was agreed to, and the four Americans
left.
It would take four weeks at least before this help
could arrive.    It would have to come before the rivers ji
were frozen, or else a very different mode of egress
must be devised.    Sleighs  and  dogs are  the only
means of winter travel there.
The men left early in October; the rescue party
might be expected in November.
That month arrived. Mr Bell had recovered ; he
and May worked at their claim, being very successful, but as the month went by, and no one came,
they were very despondent. At the end of that
month the river was solid; no hope was left to them
of getting out by boat. When December had half
gone they felt they were abandoned, and their food
was short! They ate sparingly; week after week
passed; the snow came and buried them; Mr Bell
became feeble—ill; May had everything to do, wood
to cut, cooking to attend to, and her father to nurse.
Their provisions were by that time very short,
even the frozen salmon was nearly exhausted, and A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
181
they had no means of obtaining another ounce of
anything to eat! and now it was February.
Three days before I reached them they had consumed everything but a little tea, and were actually
starving.
As this sad narrative was ended, I placed on the
table what I had cooked. | Come, then," I exclaimed,
jgj eat now; let us be thankful I arrived in time. No
need for any more anxieties, but to get strong and
well, and away from this terrible region." Whilst May and I ate, Mr Bell had some oxtail
soup, which I had brought.
"How was it that those men did not keep their
promise, and send you provisions and help ? " I asked
him.
I Well," said he, 11 believe I can understand.
They are not bad fellows, really, but were most
anxious to get home to the States. Two were
married. No doubt they called at Dawson, and made
what they thought a good arrangement; but they
could not stop to see it carried out. Very likely the
boat was just starting, and it would be their last
chance to get off; they could not delay. No, I
don't think they neglected us willingly."
Had you known them long ?"
I We fell in with them at St Michael's last June,
when we came up the Yukon. We did not come
here to dig for gold ?"
I Why ! what on earth brought you then ? Store-
keeping ?    You puzzle me." A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
183
" Oh! no. I'm a writer and an artist. I came
up for a Tacoma newspaper—»to send articles and
sketches out."
I had noticed a few drawings fastened to the logs.
They had interested me. May had informed me they
were her father's work, and this was the explanation.
"But you haven't been able to keep up correspondence with headquarters," I remarked. "Have
you sent anything to them ? Has anything been
published ?"
I Ah ! that I don't know," he replied. " We sent
some from Circle City and a few sketches, but since
that, nothing. You see we soon discovered there was
the chance of making more money here at gold-
digging than by newspaper work, and ultimately we
got up this Stewart river."
" Stewart river!' I exclaimed, | what makes you
call this river so ? This is the Klondyke, or a branch
of it."
" No! no !" declared Mr Bell, " I assure you it is
a tributary of the Stewart, here."
We had no map, no knowledge at all of the
geography of the country. We only understood that
the Yukon ran through it, having its sources in the
Rocky Mountains to the east, and ending in Behring
Sea, in the Arctic Ocean, to the north-west. Into
this river we believed all other streams ran. I
assured him that Meade and I came down it from
the east, passing the mouth of the Stewart on the i"*!r
184
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
:il
way to Dawson, where we entered the Thronda or
Klondyke, which we ascended for fifty miles or so;
then we came up a branch perhaps forty miles, and
there we camped and had stopped since.
Now, I had come farther up this same stream for
ten or twelve miles, and found them. | Certainly," I
said, I we must be on a branch of the Klondyke."
Mr Bell was as sure that we were on the Stewart.
We could not settle it. I believed that it was, at
most, one hundred miles from my dug-out to Dawson,
whilst he declared that from the shanty in which we
were then talking it was more than two hundred and
fifty! It was a puzzle which we could not and did
not clear up then.
After this digression the story of their adventures
was continued. They told me about the gold they
obtained before and after their companions left them,
and of the arrangement which was made that they
should register the claim in Dawson on their way
down, as they expected to find there some proper
authority, whether Canadian or American they did
not then know. But I had been able to assure my
friends that we were in Canada, that all the
Klondyke was in Canada; it was known to be
seventy miles at least from the international
boundary. This had pleased them greatly, for they
knew the name of William Ogilvy, the Canadian
Government Surveyor, who had been deputed to run
the 141st parallel of north longitude to settle this. A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
185
Their party being the discoverers of this rich spot,
they expected to receive large claims along the creek,
and Mr Bell declared that he believed they were all
really rich. " And yet," he went on, | with all this
gold, we should have starved to death but for God's
mercy and you."
Then I recounted what Meade and I had done,
adding that I supposed we also were wealthy.
After this we talked about our doings in Canada
before we came to this far northern part. I told
them of my going first to a district back of Peterborough, in Ontario, with the idea of settling. It was
near Buckhorn Lake, very pretty and picturesque,
with fine fishing and game, plenty of deer, and so
forth, but no place for farming; therefore I came
farther west, through Manitoba—which I did not
exactly like—on to Broadview, in Assiniboia.
This caused them to exclaim, | Why, that is where
we went! how strange. Who did you know
there?"
I mentioned the Birds and Fields, the Scotts and
Wallises, and I found they were acquainted with
them all. We spoke of the peculiarities of the
settlers and the district, how promising all seemed to
be at first.
By degrees I made out that Mr Bell had been at
one time in very comfortable circumstances in
England. If he had but been content all might have
been well, but his hobby was gardening and farming, m
186
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE/
i,
! I
and when he married he went into it. He had no
experience, and did not possess the gift of money-
making, so, naturally, in a very few years he came to
grief.    May was their only child.
Having some artistic skill and literary abilities, he
attempted to make an income by their means. It was
all but a failure. They dragged on a precarious
existence till May was fifteen years of age, when they
had a windfall, a legacy of £3000.
Next to farming in England, Mr Bell's favourite
theme was emigration. For years he had declared if
they had only done that when they first married they
would have been wise and in due time wealthy, and
now. that this bit of good fortune had come to them,
nothing would do but they must carry out his
scheme. Friends remonstrated, experienced relatives
tried to dissuade him.    It was useless.
May had received a good education, and had led
an outdoor active life, and her father's plan was that
she should go with him to Canada, leaving her mother
at home in the little Kentish village where they had
lived for years. There she was to remain until they
two had made a new home for her in the Great
North-West.
Mrs Bell was not so extremely sanguine, yet
having still, in spite of all, unbounded belief in her
husband's cleverness, she was by degrees led to
consider that this would be a wise step, and in the
end agreed to it. A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
187
From all I could make out then, and have learned
since, Mr Bell had not been either an extravagant
or unsteady man. He was indeed a great favourite
with every one, and regarded, as indeed he was, as an
exceedingly clever person. He simply had not the
faculty of money-making, as I have already said.
May and her father emigrated then to Canada in
1892—he declaring, as he parted sorrowfully from his
loving wife, that in less than a year he would return
and take her out to a bright new home in that land
of promise, Manitoba.
May and her father went direct to a village on the
Canadian Pacific Bailway, west of Winnipeg, called
Carberry. It was stated by the railway and steamship advertisements to be situated on " The Beautiful
Plains," and that land was to be had for a mere song
close to the railroad.
On their arrival they found this was an exaggeration : no land could be obtained except at great price,
and although undoubtedly it was a " plain" there,
yet they failed to consider the dead level, most uninteresting prairie as " beautiful," and only by going
I away back " many miles could they obtain a place
within their means.
Then they moved on to Broadview, and liked the
look of things there. Eeally, it is not so good a part
as that round Carberry, but there are many clumps of
wood, called bluffs, and many blue lakelets, sleughs
they call them; there is a more picturesque appear-
V 188
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
m
* ?*■
ance to its surroundings which no doubt caused them
to prefer it. At any rate, Mr Bell at once bought a
place, an improved farm, with a decent frame-house
upon it—decent, then, for those parts—and they were
charmed with everything. It was in the fall when
they took possession, and the fall is certainly the
most delightful time of year in that part of the
world.
At once they wrote home, quite elated, to May's
mother, telling her that in the early spring she was
to join them, for that the long-looked-for prosperity
had come to them.
Yet before the snow had been swept from the
prairie the following spring all their enthusiasm had
vanished! What with the extreme loneliness, the
intense cold, and the dreadfully arduous work,
labouring work, which they had to do themselves or
starve, they concluded that it would never do to
have Mrs Bell there. The climate, the labour, the
isolation would never suit them or her, that was
plain.
In the midst of this sad disillusionment Mr Bell
had an offer for the place and the stock. He jumped
at the chance, and the next time they went still
farther west, to a place called Banff, in the Bocky
Mountains.
They reached there early in the season, and with
the enthusiasm with which Mr Bell went at everv
new scheme, when they had been there only three A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
189
days he wrote to his wife a letter full of the beauty
and the glory of their surroundings; declaring that,
at last—no mistake about it this time—they had
found what they were in search of.
He at once bought a piece of land with a little
cottage thereon, and proceeded to start a garden,
feeling convinced, he said, that with his knowledge
of horticulture he could raise no end of vegetables
and fruit, which would sell for an amazing price at
the great hotel and amongst the crowd of wealthy
visitors who came to that famous health-resort.
There is no saying but this might have turned
out well, although from what I know myself of the
climate-up there I think it very doubtful; but, anyway, this is what occurred.
During that summer they were only preparing
their ground; there were very few returns from it,
scarcely any profits, but, as they said, when the
crops and fruit-trees they had sown and planted
had come to bearing the following year, all would
wonder at their success.
In the meantime Mr Bell had made some sketches
of the grand scenes around Banff,—they were exhibited for sale at the hotel. He also wrote some
graphic descriptions of the place; these were published in newspapers in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and
even in Toronto.
At the hotel Mr Bell and May met many of the
visitors: there were many Americans amongst them, A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
who talked, as usual, very " big " of the chances of
making fame and money in their country; amongst
them was the proprietor of one of the leading Tacoma
papers. He was attracted by Mr Bell's drawings
and printed articles, and this resulted in his making
him what May and he considered a most excellent
offer of employment.
They were to go still farther west, to this same
Tacoma, on Puget Sound, on the Pacific coast of the
United States.
There they were to live; but he was to go about,
up and down the country, making drawings and
writing, at what was considered very good pay.
They were now quite sure they would be- settled
permanently there; Mrs Bell was to come out the
following spring, and all looked, and was, bright and
promising.
They sold out at Banff, and started afresh under
the Star-spangled Banner.
It will be gleaned from the foregoing that Mr Bell
was a I rolling stone." The colonies are full of such.
They are common enough in America espeeialty.
Only a few months after they were settled in
Tacoma news came of the doings in Alaska: I allude
to reports of the gold being got there, and the impetus
that the trade of the country was likely to receive.
There was nothing yet sensational, but it caused Mr
Bell to be commissioned to take what they called
"The Alaskan trip." A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
191
He did this successfully, returning in the autumn,
enthusiastic about the scenery and the future of that
country. He brought back many drawings, notably
one of Sitka, the capital, and others of the famous
Lynn Canal.
This so gratified his employers that they arranged
he should take a still more extended tour the following season. He was to cross the Gulf of Alaska to
Dutch Harbour, on Unalaska Island, some 2000 miles
from Tacoma, thence 750 miles north to St Michael's
in Behring Sea.
This place lies 80 miles north of the mouth of the
Yukon river. Here he was to take a river steamer
and proceed up the Yukon some 1600 miles to the
Canadian frontier. He was to describe and picture
all he saw.
The proprietors of the newspaper, in the open-
handed manner of successful Americans, proposed
that he should take his daughter with him, on what
was considered to be a most delightful pleasure
excursion—which is exactly what it was, up to a
certain point.
At St Michael's a number of miners joined their
steamer with whom they became acquainted.
Their talk was gold, gold—-always gold. Our
travellers were deeply interested in all they heard
about it. By-and-by the idea occurred to them that
it would be a grand thing for their paper if they
accompanied one of these parties, lived with them,
IJwj
__p_t ■■
192
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
helped them in their work, and thus become able to
write, from personal experience, about a Yukon
miner's life.
By the time they reached Circle City all was
arranged; from there Mr Bell sent back to Tacoma
all he had done, and told them his intention in his
usual enthusiastic style.
They had joined with four of the least objectionable
of their fellow-voyagers.
At Fort Cudahy, which they did not then seem to
know was in Canada, they bought a boat and some
food, and ascended the Yukon to Dawson, at which,
although merely a few shanties and a store or two,
they were able to purchase a full outfit of provisions
and necessaries, especially § Alaskan strawberries,"
that is, pork and beans.
They passed by the Klondyke with scorn, being
informed by all that it bore no gold—that it was just
a famous salmon stream, no more. Indeed, the
meaning of its name, Thron duick—Thronda—Thron-
dike—or, as it has since been changed into, and
seems likely to be for ever called, Klondyke, is
"Plenty of fish." -^.M f|l
They travelled up the Yukon, sometimes rowing, at
others poling or towing against its swift current. At
every likely spot their companions, experienced
miners, prospected: they found gold everywhere, but
not in paying quantities.
May did not dislike the life, except the mosquito
____. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
193
torture. She had her own tent, and the Americans
were kind and attentive to her, as is always their
habit with ladies. She had a banjo, she sang
nicely, she was an acquisition: they were proud of
having so beautiful a damsel with them.
This went on until early in July, when, near
where the Stewart river joins the Yukon, they
met a party just come down that stream who
were all English, knew something of the Bells'
people at home, which made the meeting agreeable, and they camped together for a couple of
days.
The English party owned they had found gold
enough to satisfy them, and showed samples. It
was coarse and nuggety. This fired the ambition
of the four Yankees, who knew well that, until
then, very little such gold had been got: they also
knew that this indicated plenty more where that
came from. Naturally, they were keen to learn
where the Englishmen had found it.
But the Englishmen would not tell: they vaguely
declared it was " up the Stewart."
In vain our party endeavoured to get some more
definite information; they would only assure them
that they believed every tributary of the Stewart
was rich.
May had attracted the attention of one of these
men, a young fellow of the better sort. For the
short   time   they   were   together  they  were   very
N 194
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
li'l
lli
friendly: he talked much of England, and what
he was going to do when he returned there.
May told him what she would do if she had
made her pile as he J^ad. At which he told her
that she easily could make it, if she would follow
his instructions, and that if she would engage not to
tell others he would give her the route, and ended
by making her promise that when she had made
all she wanted, and returned to Kent, she would
let him know.
She laughingly gave her word. So when they
parted next day, he whispered: | Up-stream, about
fifty miles/ the river forks. Go up the branch that
trends north-west, follow that for less than twenty
miles, and you'll get gold enough."
All this time Mr Bell had been taking notes and
making sketches for his journal; but when these
young Englishmen described their good fortune, it
excited him and caused him and May to desire
to do as they had done, so they arranged to join in
with the four Americans, in work and profit, sharing
equally. May was, you understand, an acquisition,
and could in many ways do as much as a man. So
now there were six in company, all gold-diggers.
I did not hear many particulars of their journey
up the Stewart, only that they landed and tried for
gold frequently, They usually got | a show," principally of flour-gold, but nothing that looked like a
pile big enough for six. A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
195
When they had gone up fifty miles, as they reckoned, a very likely looking branch went off to the
south-east. The practical men of the party wanted
to ascend it; but Mr Bell, knowing what May had
heard, strenuously opposed this. Having some little
knowledge of geology, besides the gift of talking
well, he made a plausible theory, and soon got
them to agree to try their luck up the north-west
stream.
As they proceeded they found gold everywhere,
and occasionally a coarse speck which encouraged
them.
One day they were camped beside a creek which
joined the Stewart, perhaps seventy miles from the
Yukon. The miners had gone off prospecting. May
and her father scrambled up this creek: it was very
picturesque, and he wished to make a drawing.
Whilst he worked with his pencil, May, as usual,
poked about the rocks and bars. She carried a tin
dish alwa^, with which she had learned dexterously
to wash and prospect.
All was quiet, except the murmur of water running over the stones, the buzz of mosquitos, and the
twitter of the humming - birds, who were darting
amongst the flowers which were plentiful along the
margin of the stream.
May having been silent for some minutes,
suddenly came to her father, pale, and looking
strangely at him, A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
He was alarmed, thinking perhaps a snake had
bitten her.    She pointed eagerly, and did not speak.
• Going in the direction she indicated, he came to
her dish.    Then he, too, was excited, for the bottom
of it was covered with gold—and coarse gold, too !
For some minutes they could neither of them do
much more than stare with amazement.
" Where, where did you get it ?" he asked.
She showed him. He emptied the gold into the
crown of his hat, and, bareheaded, scooped up another
pan of gravel, which he washed, and found to be as
full of gold as hers was.
They were calmer now; but they looked at each
other with immense satisfaction, for they realised
what they had discovered.
"May, my dear, we've got gold at last!" he
exclaimed. | Our fortune is made; but, oh! if we
could but let your dear mother know—eh ?"
They were both in tears, quite overcome with
emotion;   but they were very thankful.
Every one carried a little gold scales, so they
soon weighed what they had obtained. There were
over twenty ounces, worth £70 at least.
That there was plenty more ground like it they
made sure by trying several places around, and all
gave splendid prospects. In an hour or two they
had £200 worth!       - ,
Then they hurried back to camp, joyful and
grateful. EsSSeHEapH^sSg^
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
197
May said she had much difficulty to calm her
father, he was so exalted: she greatly feared he
would have a fainting fit again.
The others were still absent when they reached
camp, but soon returned disheartened: they had
found nothing.
May began joking them, and asking if they had
found stuff that would go five dollars to the
dish.
They dolefully replied, " No; nor any that would
go one dollar, which would pay — but five cent
stuff was all that they could nitron."
" Two dollars !" she cried. " Oh, that's nothing;
that will not satisfy me." She laughed as she
cried, "Fifty dollars to the pan is about my
figure!"
I Fifty dollars!" one of them replied with a
sneer. " I guess you'll not get that round this
yere region."
Then her father offered to wager that he could
lead them to a spot where they could get stuff as
rich as she had said, within an hour. He said
this in such a jovial way that they saw there
was some deep meaning to it. And when Mr
Bell nodded to May, and she produced the tin and
upset it into a dish, and they saw the shine of
the gold, thece was a lively time.
It was late, but light enough; no one could sleep.
All hands rushed up to the place, each washed a pan
!
m IT
ll
198
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
IS ill
mm
» ■
of dirt, and every one showed gold—coarse gold,
galore!
No need to describe how they cached their boat,
and moved their camp to the hillside near their find.
How they built the shanty for May and her father,
which we were then in, and hewed a couple of
dug-outs for themselves.
Then for two months they worked away with
pick and shovel, dish and sluice, almost day and
night, till they had secured some eighteen hundred
ounces, which gave them about £1000 each!
Then they planned that all should go home
together for the winter. They purposed to secure
their claim at the headquarters of the Government
in that region, which they supposed was Circle City,
for they believed then that all that country belonged
to the United States. They intended, however, to
stop off at Dawson City to ascertain the truth.
It was then that Mr Bell took sick, and the rest
of the story transpired which I have already recounted.
Nearly all of what I have so far related was told
by May, only here and there her father added a word
of correction or explanation.
For the last half-hour he had not spoken. May
was sitting turned from him, but I could see his
face, and I noticed that he had closed his e.yes: I
merely supposed that he was sleeping.
When May ended her story we were silent for a
—-=—-
JfeMM A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
199
minute. She turned to address him; the moment
her eyes fell on him, she exclaimed in alarm, " He
has fainted again!    He is dead !"
I was bewildered. " No, no ! not that!" was all
I could say; " he is only sleeping."
Kneeling beside him, she endeavoured to arouse
him, but he did not stir.
Again she cried out that he was dead, and looked
at me appealingly.
But I had hold of his wrist, I could feel his pulse ;
it was weak, but I knew he was alive, and told her it
was a recurrence of his old complaint—bad enough,
but not so bad as she supposed.
I brought whisky, forced some into his mouth,
and before long we had the satisfaction of seeing him
revive.
May was now blaming herself for having allowed
him to be agitated by our conversation, at which I
also felt guilty, for had not my visit been the cause
of it?
We carried her father to his bed; I sat beside him
with his sorrowing daughter for an hour. He slowly
came to himself and knew us, but she declared that
it would be many days before he would be anything
like right again.
It was terribly sad, I felt very deeply for her,
yet I could do little to help; and fancying I would
be better out of the way, I began to make preparations to depart.
&* 3gs3ȣ v
fii
200
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
II Eli I
T-J
When May saw my intention she was strongly
opposed to it, and begged me to remain, prayed me
not to leave her there alone, and declared that if I
had any kind feeling I would not think of going.
I cannot remember all she said in her excitement;
all I know is, that it being against my wish to go, I
promised to stay a while, and when her father had
rallied more I laid myself down beside the fire and
soon fell asleep, for I was very weary.
When I awoke I persuaded May to take some rest,
whilst I sat by him, and as she was fagged out and
quite exhausted she agreed to do so.
Then when he and I were alone he began to talk
to me in a low weak voice. In vain I begged him
to lie quietly, to try and sleep, and get well for his
daughter's sake. But it was useless, he would not
keep silent; he knew she was sleeping, and declared
in an eager whisper that this being perhaps the only
chance that he would ever have to speak privately
to me, he must talk.    What could I do but listen ?
I You know that I'm a dying man," were the first
words he said. I was so overwhelmed with consternation at this, that I did not know what to reply
to him.
I Oh, no !" I said at last; | surely, surely not;
think how much better you are than you were a while
ago. Cheer up, sir; don't allow these sad ideas to
take hold of you. You'll soon be well and up again,
and ready to start for home."
as A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
201
1 Nay, nay, my friend," he murmured; " that will
never be.    I shall not live many days."
As he thus talked to me I was looking at him
searchingly, and I believed that what he said was
true. There was that grey drawn look on his
countenance which I remembered so well on my
lost friend Meade's, and I realised in a flash that I
was again to stand by whilst another died.
There were complications here, too, that bewildered
me. True, I should not be left alone as I had been
before, but what terrible difficulties I should have to
face! I should have this afflicted, broken-hearted girl
to guard and care for, and what could I do for her ?
Of course I am not wishing to convey the idea
that I objected to doing all I possibly could for her.
I felt so heartbroken on her account that I would
willingly have given my heart's blood to help her,
but I felt my ignorance and my incompetency.
All this flashed through my consciousness whilst
Mr Bell paused to take breath. I endeavoured to
make him silent, but he would go on whispering
continually. He repeated that as May was sleeping,
he must tell me all he could, and he did tell me
much, far more than I ever can repeat. He assured
me he knew he never should recover, that he was
equally sure that I should stand by his daughter
after he was gone. He begged me to help her out
and home to England, and to do my best to get the
gold out too.
h II A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
I promised, of course. Even if I had not learned
to admire May, I should have done that — but
here in this savage wilderness, although it was a
supremely difficult task I knew, of course I would
do my best for her.
To say I loved her then would hardly explain my
feelings; I had not thought of it in that light. I
only knew that every thought and wish and aim was
centred in her, and I was positively desperate when
) I realised what was in store for her, and what my
incapability of efficacious help was.
Certainly I loved her—loved her with my whole
heart and soul, but I did not recognise it then.
I did not analyse, and here her father was giving her
into my care and guidance!
He proceeded slowly, but very clearly, with his
observations. "All my life," said he, impressively,
" I have been unfortunate. I never made money.
I have always been in trouble about that. I'm a
failure—that's what I am. My dear wife in England
is broken-hearted about us. She has suffered for
years the greatest of all earthly trials—the want of
sufficient money. She is suffering now, and waiting,
hoping against hope, that we will send for her
to join us, or come home with plenty. And here,
now, at last, we have got money, and are rich; the
hope, the aim of my life is granted, and I must
go and leave it! Is it not sad ? Is it not wonderfully sad ?"
— A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
203
I said it was. I tried to talk to him as though I
believed he might still hope—but ah! I knew, I
knew.
Continuing, he said, "Doesn't it almost seem
unjust! We know that| He doeth all things well/
We know there is One above in whom we have,
or ought to have, perfect trust; and yet, my friend,
desiring as I do to speak with all reverence of
Almighty God, doesn't it appear impossible that He
should let me perish just when I have really attained
my object, after all the struggles and trials of life ?"
I said it certainly did seem to us poor mortals
very strange, but we just had to trust Him, and
I quoted what I had often heard my father repeat—
I God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform."
Mr Bell sighed deeply as he agreed with me.
I tried to cheer him. I urged him to endeavour
to get better, to look at the brighter side of affairs,
for his daughter's sake, at least. I said, of course, I
would stand by and aid her all I possibly could, with
my life if need be. I would do all a man could to
conduct her safely home to her mother, if he were
taken; but I urged him again and again to try
to pull himself together, and for all our sakes not
to give up hope.
He took all I said kindly; he clasped my hand in
his, and promised to do his best, but whispered as we
m_ 204
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
1
.1
I '■
heard May stirring, "It's hopeless, Bertie Singleton
—Lquite hopeless; but I'll try to hide the truth from
May as long as possible."
When May rejoined us he rallied wonderfully, and
in a few hours had improved so greatly that I said
something more about leaving, and again May begged
and prayed me to remain with them, in which her
father joined with her eagerly.
Most certainly I did not wish to leave them, but
I was troubled about the way to stay. I suggested
that I should erect a tent, bank it round with snow,
use the Yukon sheet-iron stove they had, and sleep
in it. With plenty of pine brush, furs, and blankets,
I should be all right. For in a tent, in the way I
have described, one can keep warm with the thermometer many degrees below zero.
We were planning this when she said, " But why
not use one of the places the men made ?    Come and
see
»
Wrapping up carefully and taking a firebrand, we
two, and Patch, who was true to May, and would
hardly allow her to move without his knowing all
about it, tramped through the snow to a • den excavated in the same fashion as Meade's and mine.
It was absolutely dry inside—dismal enough certainly, but to me, used to such a dwelling, it offered
a convenient lair.
May returned to her father. I built a huge fire
in the proper corner, and soon had a warm burrow A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
205
for a sleeping-place. It was close to the shanty.
If May hammered on her door I should hear it, and
be with her in a moment.
For a week Mr Bell continued to improve; May
became quite cheerful. I did all I was able to aid
them, kept up the fires, thawed snow for water,
cooked, and made matters as pleasant as I could.
We read and talked, and in many respects we had
a happy time.
Plenty of food and firing and sweet companionship
satisfied my ideas of rest then, and I was glad to
notice that in spite of all the terrible surroundings
May was looking well and strong. Mr Bell was
able to sit up and talk cheerfully at times; but,
notwithstanding, I noted no improvement in his
appearance, and I feared greatly his daughter had
much to suffer yet.
I did not anticipate immediate danger though,
and as I was obliged to visit my dug-out down
the creek for another load, I arranged to go, and
to be absent for two days only.
Since the night when May had slept whilst I
sat by her father, he and I had no private conversation ; it was impossible, as she never left the
hut. But often he looked at me so sadly, perhaps
in the middle of lively talk with her, that I was
very much troubled, dreading what was coming.
The day before I had arranged to start he was
busy, just  as   poor   Meade   was,   writing — letters 206
A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
in
Hi ji
.1
apparently. They seemed to be deeply affecting
him. He was paler than usual, and struck me as
being still more withered and shrunken. He looked
as if there was but a feeble spark of life in him,
which a breath would extinguish. How dare I
hope that he would ever gain strength enough to
take the terrible journey out ?
I knew May noticed this change in him: she
begged him to rest, she hung round his couch, sadly
troubled; and for the life of me I could not say
anything to cheer her. She urged him to give up
his writing, but all that he would answer was, | Soon,
my love—directly."
He wrote only a little more after this, then folded
the sheet, and with trembling hands placed it in
an envelope and fastened it. Then he looked up
at her and me.
His eyes were suffused with tears: I never saw
so mournful a look upon a human face. It affected
me deeply. What did May feel then ? She glanced
at.me once only.    I'll never forget that glance.
Clasping her father in her arms, she drew him
frantically to her breast, crying, | Father, dear father,
tell me what is troubling you ?"
In a loud hoarse voice, speaking more powerfully
than I had ever heard him, he said, " I was writing
to your mother, May—bidding her farewell!"
S Farewell!—father. What do you mean ? " she
cried.
— A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
207
I My dear, I have written ' Good-bye'" to her. I
have finished; and—now—I must say—Good-bye
to you—my darling. Yes—I'm going to leave you.
It's all right. I have—known this—for a—long
time. I'm going—to die here—May. I'll never—
see dear England—again—nor your sweet mother.
But I know—where my trust is, May. I know
that—my Eedeemer—liveth. Tell her—this, dear
—we shall meet—in the beyond. And, May—my
dearest—I leave you—in full faith—that you'll—
get home. God will bless—your journey. Don't
fear. I leave you—in His hands—and in those—
of this good friend—Bertie Singleton's. He'll do
his best—for you. Trust him. Don't grieve—too
much—for me."
During this long, sad, and very solemn discourse,
May had fixed a stony gaze upon him: her face
was white as chalk, her eyes were staring wildly.
She uttered no sound until he ceased to speak;
then she gave a most piteous, woful cry, and sank
insensible across the bed, his hand clasped in hers.
I stepped forward^ anxious to render some aid—
I knew not what. He looked down Upon his
daughter, then wistfully at me. "It is well, my
friend," he whispered; "my time has come. My
sands of life have run out.    I must go!"
I put my hand out mechanically. He clasped
it very tightly, with a nervous grip, and placed
it on May's head, saying most gravely and yet so
' 4! j
i trustfully, " I leave her in God's hands—and yours.
I know you will deal kindly with her, as I know
my heavenly Father will. I can trust you. I do.
Farewell, dear friend, farewell!"
As the last words fluttered from his lips he lay
back, closed his eyes, and after he had heaved a
few feeble sighs, at longer and longer intervals, I
knew that he, too, was dead! At which I threw
myself upon my knees beside his couch, utterly
unnerved—despondent—desperate. How long I thus remained silent and despairing I do
not know.    I was aroused by May addressing me.
" See," she whispered softly, —" see what has
happened," and she pointed.
" I know, I know," was all that I could utter.
It was a profoundly miserable scene in that faraway shanty. The rough walls, the crevices between
the logs stuffed with moss and mud ; the earthen
floor, worn into holes and inequalities; the huge fireplace, with its pile of smouldering logs; the dim light
from the flickering slush-lamp; the blanket screen,
drawn aside for the sake of air; the rough couch of
leaves and rugs, on which her father was lying; and
she, standing near, with her hands clasped, her face
white as that upon which she gazed, with such a look
of woe and despair on it, that it made me feel what
no mere words can describe.
Thus we stood, Patch sitting by the fire, turning
his head occasionally, with the same look he bore
when poor Meade died.
o 210
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
We remained in this position until the pent-up
feelings of iny distressed companion vented themselves in a moan, so pitiful, so heart-breaking, that I
could not control myself. I felt I must do something. I grasped her by the arm, and exclaiming
" Come, come away," I drew her to the fire, and
made her lie down upon a heap of blankets that
happened to be there. Then, taking a stool beside
her, I endeavoured to say something to calm her, and
to show how deeply I sympathised with and felt
for her.
She remained quite silent. She neither shed tears
nor spoke, but lay there motionless, with staring
eyes, with such an utterly lost look upon her face,
that I began to fear she too would die.
This thought so startled me that I suddenly spoke
sharply to her. I forget what I said, but it roused
her from her lethargy. Startled by my exclamation, she regarded me with piercing earnestness, exclaiming, " What is to be done ? What can be
done?"
"Dear lady," I answered, speaking with deep
feeling, " I cannot tell yet. We must decide on
something. Can you live on here alone ? I see by
your face that you cannot. Can you undertake a
journey through this terrible wilderness alone ? Of
course you cannot; so we must throw all false
delicacy aside: you and I are here, miles on miles
from any other human beings.    I will do all I can
H_ A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
211
for you, we must work together, so try to calm yourself and think what will be best."
She looked hard at me, and, I was thankful to see,
trustfully; then she pointed towards the curtain
which I had lowered. " What must be done with
what is there ? I she whispered, and she hid her face
in her hands and wept.
I was grateful to see the tears fall, for I knew that
to any one in deep grief tears are a great relief.
When she was calmer I talked gently with her.
"We cannot bury him, the earth is frozen hard as
steel. His poor body will be quite safe here ; but
could you live here with it ?" I asked.
May remained silent for some time, sobbing convulsively. At length she mastered her emotion, and
exclaimed, " No! no! let us go away; cannot we
start now and make our way to Dawson ? I am very
strong, I am inured to cold and hardship—let us go;
let us start away from this most terrible place; let
us make our way to England, and my mother. Oh,
my friend, my dear friend, help me to get home !"
Considering how little experience I had had until
quite recently with mourning and distress, even
amongst men, and that I had never had any with
women, I think I acted wisely in encouraging May
to discuss and become interested about this idea of
getting away. I led her to talk, believing it was the
best thing for her.
For an hour or two we discussed the subject in 212
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
Hi |
111
mi i
every aspect, until, indeed, I perceived it was very
necessary for both of us to have food and sleep.
I was delighted to see my dear companion eat a
little, but when I suggested that she should turn into
her usual sleeping-place, she broke down again,
declaring that to be impossible. The position was
terribly distressing, she could not even lie by the fire
and sleep, although I promised to stay by. She
showed perfect trust in me, much as a young child
would, but begged me not to press her to lie down at
all there.
I knew that a good long sleep would greatly help
her if she could obtain it, but I could think of nothing
to suggest, until she asked me if I would mind
sleeping there alone.    I said " ISTo," but wondered.
| Then," said she, " I think I should rest and
sleep if I could be where you have been—in the
dug-out—if Patch could stay with me."
I was surprised, but thankful, therefore we went
there together. I made a big fire and left her with
Patch, to my great contentment.
I slept for long. When I awoke I thought over
the plans we had discussed; I weighed all the pros
and cons, and tried to see the worst and best of the
position of affairs. I prayed fervently to Almighty
God for help, that wisdom and strength might be
vouchsafed both of us; I prayed that this dear girl,
who had in His providence been put into my care,
might be given power and fortitude to bear up against
—
— A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
213
the afflictions she was now experiencing, and the
terrible trials and adventures she, I knew, had yet
to face.
A great measure of peace, clearness of perception,
and courage was bestowed on me; and when May
came in by-and-by, I saw that she too had received
refreshment and help, and was more like herself
than she had been for many days. I lifted up
my heart with thankfulness to Him who had so
blessed us.
Her first words were brave and encouraging. I
could understand that she had weighed and realised,
and was not going to give way to useless repinings,
but would be my courageous friend, my trusty companion and my help, so long as we were together
fighting our way through the innumerable difficulties
that we knew beset us.
We cooked breakfast, talked seriously for half an
hour, then began to carry out our plans.
Our first duty was most distressing. We carried
the body of Mr Bell to the little dug-out I had occupied, and she had slept in. Here we deposited it,
covering it with a blanket.
May bore up bravely. I left her alone for a few
moments; when she rejoined me outside she was
silent. We secured the entrance against bears and
foxes with rocks and logs.
I fashioned a cross and fastened it above the door;
on it I wrote that it was the burial-place of William I if
fi I
214
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
Bell,   of Hawkenhurst,   Kent,   England,   who   died
February 20, 1897, and a few other particulars.
We next secured the shanty. Having removed all
we wished to carry away, we nailed a paper to the door
stating to whom it belonged, giving the names of the
party and their residences, outside; adding that the
adjacent claim—describing the position of the boundary stakes—was their property, who were the discoverers of the gold, and that it was duly registered
according to law.
As for the gold, we hid it safely: May had no fear
of robbery, even if any one should wander that way,
which was most unlikely, till spring at any rate.
We packed my sled with the remaining food,
apparel, and a few things she required—some blankets
and her tent; then as we found we could haul the
load easily, Patch and I, we opened May's c&ehe and
added to our cargo fifty pounds' weight of gold,
which was so much less to remove later, and so
much saved in case bad characters should come
across the place.
May and her father had kept a diary, so by means
of the memoranda I had preserved we were enabled
to discover with some certainty not only the day her
father died, but when poor Meade | left."
Mr Bell passed away February 20, 1897, and
Meade, November 10, 1896.
There was at this season some daylight; the sky
was for some hours beautiful with sunrise colours—•
^^— A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
215
and the twilight lasted, though the sun was not up
for very long.
We welcomed this promise of better times; indeed
it was a great change from the monotony we had so
long experienced.
Wrapped to the eyes in furs and blankets, May
and I stood for a while impressed with the scene,
whilst Patch, to whom cold made no difference,
gambolled to his heart's content in the dry and
powdery snow.
To us two poor human beings this cold appeared
never to vary; it was intense always. We had no
thermometer really to test it. We were rarely
annoyed by wind; only once or twice whilst I was
at the Bells' place was there anything approaching a
breeze, and then we did not leave the house.
It was the 21st of February when we started, at
noon, Patch and I harnessed to the sled. On the
summit of the hill we halted to take a parting look
at the scene of so much sad interest to May, and of
so much mingled pain and pleasure to me. She shed
many tears; but I hurried on, for I knew that her
grief, though natural enough, would do no good, and
I did my best to interest her in our surroundings,
and thus allured her to brighter thoughts.
After this we got on famously. May had a pair
of real Indian snow-shoes, and though out of practice,
soon got into the peculiar stride again.
We arrived all well at my midway resting-place,
w 216
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKEL
where I shot the foxes: here we halted for tea and
food.     Out   of   some   pines   I   shot  two brace  of
grouse.
It had become night long before we reached my
cabin, but the heavens were ablaze with northern
lights, and we could see well to travel.
Very frequently I blazed trees along our course—
that is, I slashed pieces of the bark off with my
tomahawk, for I knew when the snow was gone the
aspect of the country would be so changed that it
would be no easy task, especially for strangers, to
find their way without such indications.
We had no adventures, and arrived in due time
at my gloomy habitation. A grand fire was soon
blazing, and May was installed mistress thereof. I
showed her all I possessed, and my way of housekeeping. Then as near as possible to the entrance
we put up her tent substantially, lining it with
blankets; we banked snow high up around it, brought
in the usual layer of pine twigs, lit the stove, and
thus made an exceedingly cosy sleeping-place for me,
May rendering most efficient aid.
And now commenced a most singular life, in many
ways to me a very happy one. Certainly my
thoughts reverted often to the past, and I could not
help thanking the good Providence which had blessed
me with the company of this dear girl to fill the gap
caused by the loss of my friend Meade, whose memory was, notwithstanding, very green with me, and
= atijgiaigiggpwpgB!
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
217
whose absence from this changed aspect of our dugout home was to me inexpressibly sad.
May was grieving sorely at the loss she had
sustained, I saw. I admired the way, however, in
which she bore up. She seldom allowed me to see
how she suffered from the discomfort and the misery
of the life she led. Instead of complaining, she
often expressed herself as most grateful to the
Almighty, and to me, for the many comforts and
blessings we had.
I was always grieving, though, that I could do so
little to relieve her during what I knew must be a
most miserable time; yet I had one great satisfaction, which, I admit, completely outweighed all my
discomforts,—it was that I was so intimately associated with her, and it gratified me to know that I
had been enabled to rescue and befriend her.
For a time I feared that she could be experiencing
no atom of pleasure or comfort, but she frequently
assured me that she was perfectly content, and,
knowing that it would be impossible to mend matters
for the present, she looked on the least dismal aspect
of the situation and made the best of it, like the
good, wise, girl she was, which made her lot easier to
bear and my burden of anxiety lighter.
With a woman's tact she made the dismal burrow
to appear brighter for her stay in it. There were
few articles for her to manage with—brilliantly
coloured blankets and a few skins of beasts we had
mm «"
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
killed was all. I think it was her sweet presence
that, to my eyes, brightened matters more than
anything, though often when I entered in a morning
I saw some fresh evidence of her thoughtfulness and
We passed our days in company, cooking and
eating, reading and talking. Oh, how we talked!
If some person could have peeped in at us when the
slush-lamp was burning brightly, the fire was roaring
up the chimney, and on the rough table an appetising
meal was spread, they would have wondered. We
were far better off, I fancy, than any others were
that winter in the Yukon region. Certainly I was
reconciled to my lot. Still I felt deeply for and
pitied May.
Sitting dreamily by the fire one day, talking of
our past adventures and planning our future course,
we got on to the subject of Meade. I had been
narrating how I met him, and how I came to be
where I was and what he had done. "Where is he
now ?" asked May. | Will he come up here again
in spring ?"
I said I No—he has gone for good and all; he'll
never return to me !"
I What! and left all his gold behind ? You told
me he had taken none away with him."
I was nonplussed, confounded. I did not know
what to answer.    I hesitated.
| Is there some mystery ? " she asked.    " By your
Bi
H MAY  RND  I  IN  THE  DUG-OUT
»■ 181
• A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
219
look I feel sure there is some other sorrowful story
—you are trying to hide it from me. Don't you
wish me to know ?—Ah! I see there is. Believe
me, if it is something sad, I'll try to sympathise
with you, as you have with me in my great sorrow,
if that be possible."
I thanked her, assured her that it was a very
melancholy story,—then I told her all there was
to tell, even to where I had deposited the body
of my friend; and I explained what his wishes were
about his share of the gold, and that I intended, the
first thing after reaching England,-^© see his mother
and Fanny Hume, and carry them out.
It was a great satisfaction to me that May now knew
alL    There was henceforth nothing hidden from her.
Daring this close companionship we had talked
on every possible subject,—our past lives, our desires
for our future, our friends and relatives, our hopes
and aims,—until we knew each other perfectly.
Amongst other subjects we had some melancholy
conversation about her father's death, which led to
her speaking about his poor remains. She felt distressed when she thought of them lying in that place
alone, so terribly alone, and frozen. | If they were
buried in the earth it would seem more natural," she
said once. " I believe I should feel much more at
ease if that was done."
I promised her if it could be, it should be,—
certainly before we left that region it must be.
i M A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
| Why can they not be treated in the same way
as you have interred your friend's remains ?' she
asked.
I There is no such tunnel up on your place—it
cannot be done there." I shook my head in doubt.
I was thinking, and the matter dropped.
Is it to be wondered that, day by day, as this
sweet girl's character unfolded itself to me, I
became more and more devoted to her ? I cannot
tell the moment when I realised that I loved her,
when I felt that life held no greater prize for me
than the affection of this, my dear companion in
those vast solitudes.
That she liked me, I believed; that she felt
towards me in the least as I felt towards her, I
dared not hope-
Often I gazed longingly at her, yearning for the
time when I could honourably ask her the question
which was uppermost in my mind—| Could she ever
love me ?"
In all our intimate conversations the subject of
love had never been discussed. I was not brave
enough to broach it, and she never did. But often,
oh! how very often, we two compared notes about
our future plans, how we would live our future lives.
We pledged ourselves to lifelong friendship; we
vowed that, whatever betided us in the years bo
come, if, please God, we ever reached home again,
we two would ever be in touch with one another, A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
221
and would aid each other to carry out the plans we
concocted in that gloomy home we had up near the
Arctic Circle.
We each had plenty of money, or should have, if
we succeeded in getting our gold away, and would
then have the means to carry out the schemes we
laid. What good we projected to our fellows! to
all poor stragglers at home! What philanthropic
associations we would help !
May's ideas of a happy, useful life were exactly
the same as mine, which impressed me more and
more with the desire, the hope, that we two might
live that life together.
That the dear girl approved of me as a friend, I
could not doubt, but that she had learned to love me
I was not vain enough to believe. How could she
love a rough, uncouth fellow like me, unkempt and
dirty ? I was all that then. It did not occur to me
that she also was very far from presentable in civilised society. Her dress, like mine, was one mass
of grease and blackness: the life we led amongst
the smoke of the miserable slush-lamps, the cooking
and grubbing, with no free use of water, and no
soap, for neither of us had any left, had caused us
to become very disreputable-looking beings. However, it was her sweet face which attracted me.
It never occurred to me to think that for the
rest she was not a whit better dressed or cared
for than I was. A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE:
Certainly I felt in honour bound to treat this
girl with the utmost deference, yet I often dreaded
that my strong feeling for her would show itself,
and then good-bye to much of our content. For
if even, impossible as I then thought it, she felt
the same regard for me as I did for her, the
difficulty of our position would be greatly increased.
Therefore I prayed God to enable me to control
myself, and I am thankful to say He did, until the
time arrived when it became possible for me to
speak out plainly.
For a week or two after the death of Mr Bell
I always addressed her as Miss Bell, and she
spoke to me as Mr Singleton. It was stiff and
formal, but I had not the power to suggest any
change. One day, however, we being both outside,
busy at some necessary work, she called to me to
help her lift, or do something for her, and as usual
called me Mr Singleton. | Oh !" I replied, " pray
call me Bertie—it is time that Mister should be
dropped, surely."
She smiled, as she answered, | Surely, surely it is,
but you must call me May."
I being quite agreeable to this arrangement, it
was May and Bertie between us from that- time
forward. 223
CHAPTEE XL
Gold-getting at this time was entirely given up:
we scarcely mentioned. the subject.
Were we satisfied with what we had obtained ? I
believe that we were to a great extent, for we knew
that our claims were valuable, and we knew we could
look to the future proceeds with assurance.
As for May's party's claim, she could do nothing.
She believed it was safe, legally registered; and the
American partners would return in the spring, and
she had all the documents which her father had
drawn up to prove her interest in it. With my
claim it was much the same; I knew I could prove
my title to it.
I believed then that it was only in the tunnel
that the golden streak of gravel existed, and I really
had not the courage to go in there to work alone, and
of course I could not ask May to go in with me.
She would have gone if I had, for she had a great
objection to being alone, which I suppose was natural.
She knew where Meade's body was lying; she knew
Ml A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
where we had got gold, and I showed her my store
of iwm the cache.
Three weeks passed, during which we did a mere
nothing: we were waiting till the season was more
advanced, when we should have longer days, and so
we made ourselves as contented as we could. We
had planned, however, that when May had recovered
some peace of mind, and had regained her health
and strength, I should go back to their shanty with
my toboggan, and bring the rest of her gold down.
I did this; I made the journey there and back in
one day. She bravely wished to accompany me; it
really was unnecessary, and after persuasion she
consented to remain with Patch for company. I did
not bring all her gold that trip, for I had formed
another plan. I loaded some of it on the sled, but I
also brought her father's body with me!
I had not told May of my intention, but I knew
my scheme would please her. It was a melancholy
undertaking, but I managed it all right, and crept
silently back, and was able to take my burden into
the tunnel without discovery. I left it there, came
to May's door, and was welcomed home—it really
seemed like home now.
I made some excuse about not bringing all her
gold, and later, by manoeuvring, I managed to hew
out a niche for the body of Mr Bell close to Meade's ;
indeed I got it all done without her guessing anything.    She knew I went out with pick and shovel, 5 <£?■ ■■^s^___^*^uS^*>'
2
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EC  A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
225
and supposed that it was something to do with
mining. Several days after, I told her what I had
done." She was very grateful, and went with me to
the place, and saw, with tear-dimmed eyes, where I
had laid her father.
Shortly after I made another trip to her place and
brought away the rest of her treasure; and then, in
our burrow on the hillside, there were many thousand pounds' worth of bullion stowed away.
All this time we were seriously talking about how
and when we should get away; but as yet there
were no signs of spring, further than increasing
length of daylight.
During this time a very curious thing happened
as we sat one evening by our fire, May and I,
talking and planning: she, with a wooden stick we
used as a poker, was stirring the earth of the floor
about, when she exclaimed, | Why, there's a bit of
gold!" ll  .-jgp-: .
It was so, a piece the size of a bean. I supposed,
at first, that I had in some way dropped it there, but
when she stirred the earth again and found another
piece or two, we realised that it was pay dirt that our
floor was composed of ! This set us examining, and
we soon discovered that not only was the earth
beneath us, but the very walls and roof of our abode,
full of gold!
We scooped out with pick and shovel a large
portion of one  side of   the  dug-out,  we   carefully CLAIM on klondyke.
picked over the stuff we moved, and it was surprising how many coarse pieces we found. We had
several meat tins full of small nuggets before a week
went by, and we piled up before our door a heap—a
dump—of what we knew was rich stuff, ready to be
washed in spring.
However, we two had become so used to finding
gold before, that this experience did not excite us as
you might suppose. We knew we had a rich claim
here anyway, and that May's party had a rich one
farther in; we realised we were well off, had each
made a very decent pile, and were perfectly well
aware that what was of most immediate importance
was to get away to arrange for the safety of the gold
we had actually got, and legally to secure our claims.
Our gold-digging, therefore, was more a pastime than
a serious employment—we were eagerly looking forward to start for Dawson.
To wait till our creek opened in June, then float
with all we possessed down it on the raft to its
junction with the Klondyke, where our boat was
cached, seemed at first the only way for us; but
could we wait so long ? No. We discussed, we
projected, we planned, and at last we determined to
pack the toboggan with all that we three could xdrag,
and depart at once.
I had all my gear ready—May only needed a
sleeping-bag, which we constructed—we cooked a
good supply of food, packed all with fifty pounds of A   CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
227
gold, and one bright noon-day we started, as we
fondly hoped, to civilisation and home.
To those who do not know what moving about in
winter in that arctic region means, it may appear
strange that we should have made so much ado
about this journey of one hundred miles or so. If
I had been alone I might have thought less of this
undertaking. If I had had a man for a companion,
or even if we two had had no experience, we might
have gone at it more light-heartedly. But we not
only had the terror of the journey to face, and well
knew that it was likely to be a terribly arduous one
indeed, but we were full of anxiety, when it came
to the point, about the valuable stores and gear we
must leave behind us, above all our great hoard of
gold. As I have explained, the difficulty had been
to decide whether to wait till the creek opened and
go down with all that we possessed, or to leave the
bulk behind, trusting to its safety. We had chosen
the latter plan, for we were impatient, at any rate
May was, to get away from this awful place—to get
home, in fact. So, putting our trust in God's protection, we started.
Our course was plain, the creek formed an avenue
through the trees. It was fairly level, though we
encountered many ridges and drifts of snow, which
was deep ; but the weather having been calm for some
time, it had settled dewn and packed a little. Our
load   was very heavy, and the   toboggan   sunk   in
Ml 228
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
Ill
a good deal. Patch and I hauled in front usually,
and May pushed, but sometimes, to make a change,
she hauled in front; but breaking the track was
generally too hard for her. What made our load,
probably 300 lb. in weight, still harder to drag
was that we could not pull with our snow-shoes on
successfully, so gave them up, then sank in, often to
our knees, sometimes to our waists; and many a
time neither Patch nor I seemed able to get any
secure foothold. As for my dear girl, she bravely
struggled on and did her best to aid us, but really
many times had all that she could do to keep herself from sinking out of sight in the dry powdery
snow.
I don't believe we made three miles the first day.
Our camp that night wTas in a clump of stunted
pines. We put up our two tents close beside each
other, lighting a big fire in front which warmed
them both, and really in our sleeping-bags we felt
little cold. May's tent being by far the larger, in it
I ate with her, then turned into my own shelter for
the night.
The following day I believe we made five miles.
We were awfully fatigued; and having to put up
tents, cut bedding, build the fire, and cook, was
no light work after our day's march. That day I
saw many tracks of wolves and foxes. I supposed
my companion did not notice them, so I said
nothing, for I did not wish to add to her discomfort
■an
— A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
229
the alarm of attacks from wild beasts. But I have
learned since that she did see them and inwardly
dreaded what they meant, yet kept her knowledge
from me lest I should suffer more anxiety. She
just " put her trust in God," she said, " and hoped
He would protect us."
For several days and nights we had perfect
weather, cold of course, I suppose it was never
less than 15° or 20° below zero. Then on the
seventh day—having made, we thought, fifty miles
—as we were nearing the mouth of our creek, it
began to blow! We well knew what that meant.
The sky at noon was dark as night, the weird
mountains were enshrouded in mists of driving
snow. Down in the sheltered avenue, where we
were struggling along, it was yet a breeze only, but
even that seemed to cut us to our very marrow
in spite of our furs and wraps: we realised that we
must halt at once, make shelter somehow, somewhere, and lie up whilst this storm should last.
There was a high and rocky bank near the margin
of the creek. I donned my snow-shoes and tramped
across the snow to examine it, and fortunately found
a sort of bay or gap between two huge boulders,
which would protect us from most winds, and a big
fire across the entrance would warm the air somewhat. Here we pitched our tents, and here we lay
for three days and nights whilst the tempest howled
past us. m
Iff
III
1 lift
RSf |?af
■
B
230
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
Providentially there was no snowfall, only banks
of it were lifted up and carried past our retreat in
clouds, which caused us to dread every moment
that a blast would curl it in on us and smother
us. However, mercifully we were spared this horror, and on the fourth day the sun came out as
the wind dropped, and we were able to move on.
But it was awful work: my heart bled for May,—I
could not help but show how much I felt for her. I
could not refrain from exclamations which, I know
now, showed her where my thoughts were, and what
I felt. She, dear girl, quite understood: for she
assures me that during all this dreadful time her
one thought and hope was that in the time to come,
if it should please God to bring us out of these
horrors, she would be able to devote her life to my
happiness and consolation in part payment for what
she is pleased to speak of as my devotion to her,—
just as if any man would not willingly risk life and
limb for any woman in such a case-—just as if I,
with such a girl as May, was not altogether glad to
do anything and everything to help her.
The following day we got to and camped in the
cave where our boat was hidden. It was with difficulty I found the place, everything was so deeply
bedded in snow,—very different to when I parted
those months before with Indian Fan and Jim.
We had stowed the boat so safely that it was dry
and free from snow, as the cave was.    We camped
— ssasffiS
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
231
that night in it, May taking up her quarters in the
boat.
For some time we had not noticed tracks of any
kind; but the following morning, which was bright
and calm, I left the cave to May a while, and tramped
down to the edge of the larger Klondyke river to
make a survey of the route, and to discover, if
possible, what the prospects were for our day's
work.
There I was struck with astonishment to notice
numerous footmarks along the margin. To be sure
they were covered with fresh, drifted snow, but my
woodcraft taught me that they had been made
recently. There was a regular path, which looked
to have been much travelled. Certainly, I thought,
it was a bear-track; and yet, knowing that those
creatures hibernate, I was nonplussed. Did the
Yukon bears behave as others, I wondered. Perhaps the St Elias grizzlies do not sleep the winter
through. Was it wolves ? I looked anxiously; the
traces were too large, and spaced differently to their
tracks. However, there was a well-used way, and
I was greatly troubled.
We had by this time become so used to the
toil and hardship of this mode of travel, that I
was not surprised to find May in excellent spirits
when I returned to camp. The brightness of the
morning; the sunlight on the snow; the brilliant
iridescence  of the ice-bespangled  branches  of the CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
trees, and the broader outlook across the white,
wide expanse of the Klondyke; the knowledge of
our having attained the first stage of our momentous
journey safely; indeed, the very finding of the boat,
which was the first link, as one may term it, with
civilisation,—did so cheer the dear girl that she
greeted me almost joyously as she bustled about
with our cooking arrangements. We had promised
ourselves a sumptuous repast on reaching the Klondyke, and I had fortunately knocked over a brace
of grouse the day before, so we were reckoning on
our breakfast.
But I was certainly bothered by the tracks I
had seen, and May, noticing my preoccupied aspect,
rallied me thereon. This made me put on a brighter
look, and in my mind I determined to say nothing,
to take all due precautions, and to put my trust
for the rest in the good God who had protected us
hitherto.
When we started on—gaily on May's part, trustfully on mine—we soon came to this track. Patch
instantly noticed it, and would not move on. He
whined, whimpered, and nosed it; then looking up
and down the path, he whined again.
May was attracted by this proceeding. I- endeavoured to pull ahead, saying nothing, merely
calling to the dog to come on ; but she, perceiving a
trail of some kind, hesitated too. "Is it a bear
path ?" she inquired.
gjgj^
r   ' A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
233
I Bears hibernate, you know," was my reply;
"they don't make paths like that in winter."
" It must be caribou, or moose—perhaps there are
cattle here, or, maybe, it's the track of people! |
j People here!—not likely." I shook my head
as I spoke. " Who would be here, do you think ?
—Indians ? Well, that might be, but I fancy they
don't come about here at this season."
" Let us travel along it," said she; " it looks to be
an easy way. Whatever made it, appears to have
chosen the smoothest route," for we could perceive
the trail for some distance   winding
amongst
the
scattered timber along the margin of the stream.
Now, my idea was to get as far away from those
suspicious footmarks as possible. I wished to take
to the middle of the creek, and we did so by-and-by,
after I had assured my companion that I considered
the level ice out there promised a better road. But
she was not very easily persuaded. I believe she had
the idea in her head that this path was made by
human beings, and she had, naturally, a strong desire
for the fellowship of her kind. As for me, I had no
belief in anything but bears, and as for getting
amongst people again—I wanted to, simply because
it was necessary if we were ever to get home ; yet I
rather disliked the idea, for I knew well it would
be the ending of her sweet companionship.
I cannot quite truly describe how I felt just then.
Certainly there was an immense amount of suffering 11 1     tf
11 /
1
[ill II
11111 lit
234
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
in our life, but I thought little of my share in it, for
was I not suffering with May ? and I did not look
forward with entire pleasure to its ending. Only, for
her dear sake, only to put an end to her discomfort,
her misery, I knew what my duty was, and did it.
We hauled our load out into the wide white lane
and travelled down towards Dawson. And as we
moved slowly, laboriously onwards, I rarely took my
eyes from where I knew that mysterious trail was
winding through the timber.
It was laborious work, truly. The snow was deep,
and it was not packed. There averaged three feet
of it, then there seemed to be a heavy crust, and if
one broke through that, which we often did, we found
a layer of slush—half-melted snow—sometimes but
a few inches deep, at others a yard or more, and
only under this was the solid ice of the river. I
used to go ahead with my pole and sound where I
thought it looked suspicious. Often I thus steered
clear of difficulty, and often I did not, for many a
time the load, and May, and I, sunk in to such a
depth that it was actually alarming. She bravely
suppressed outcries and expressions of fear. She
tried to laugh over these deplorable episodes, and
sometimes I saw her gaze longingly on what she
thought was a much better road in there amongst the
trees, but, dear girl, she never tried to argue with me,
or even to discuss the reason for my dislike to it.
Before noon our mocassins and leggings were wet
—   i
s *tf .**!.
SB A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
235
and miserable. We ourselves were in a bath of
perspiration. It was difficult to believe that it was
freezing as hard as ever, and only when, after a few
hundred yards of easy going, we halted to take
breath, were we aware how cold it was, by our frozen
leg-coverjngs.
We camped for our mid-day food on a brush-clad
point on the south side. It was absolutely still and
clear. On taking off our snow-glasses the light was
so painfully dazzling that we understood what snow-
blindness meant, and gladly put them on again. I
caused May here to change her foot-wear, as we were
staying long enough to dry our wet mocassins by the
fire. It was a snug corner we had chosen. We had
a side view both up and down the Klondyke and
across it.
As we sat, as usual talking of our future, Patch
suddenly stood up with bristling mane and gazed
across the river. j There's something over there,"
said I; " that's just as he did when we first heard
your shots up the creek there," and we gazed and
listened intently, the dog as deeply interested as May
and I were.
I, supposing it was bear or wolf that had thus
excited Patch, felt thankful that we were on the side
we were, and got my gun in order.
Patch's excitement increased. He began to bark.
With difficulty I restrained him, and made him lie
down.    I stopped his barking, but I could not make CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
him cease growling. This excited us, and we watched
the opposite shore closely.
May was the first to discover the cause. Two
men were tramping along the track across the river!
—whether whites or Indians they were too far off
to see.
The expression of my dear companion's face at
this discovery was peculiar. She was flushed with
excitement as she said to me, " Come, let us call to
them. Oh, how splendid to see other people,—to
realise that we are not alone in this dreadful
country
Laying my mittened hand on her shoulder, I
remarked, " Stop—let us think: they may be friends
or foes; we must be cautious. Besides, what do we
really want ? We know our way, and we have all
we need. It is satisfactory to know we are in an
inhabited land, that is all."
" Oh, how terribly cautious and careful you are,
Bertie !" she exclaimed. " I should like to run over
to those two men and greet them. But you know
best; oh, yes, I'm sure you do, forgive my impetuosity
—only it is so fine to know that we are really going
home."
The two men did not notice us—they kept steadily
on: we could just see one was carrying a pack, the
other pulling a little laden sledge behind him. They
were heading up the river, and in due course would
cross our trail, then, perhaps, would follow it, which A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
237
was a serious aspect of the case indeed! They
would not only find our boat, but could trace us to
our dug-out, where all was at their mercy. What
could be done ? Nothing. We could only put our
trust in God that all would be well.
I kept silence to May on these points, and hoped
that she would not be troubled by the same fears.
One thing satisfied us both now, and that was
that the trail across the river was really made by
people, and from what we saw of the way the
strangers got along it, it was very much better than
where we had been travelling, so with one accord we
packed up, and with a will hauled our sled across
the river and hit that trail.
The fresh traces of the men were minutely examined. The leader had worn snow-shoes, the other
boots—we could see the heel marks. This hardly
pointed to Indians, nor old hands—for all but the
greenest tender-feet wear mocassins, in the winter
there.
This trail was a great improvement; we moved
along it quickly—two miles an hour at least!
We had gone perhaps &ve miles; it was, we
thought, getting on for four that afternoon; we
were resting, when against a rather dense growth of
firs we thought we saw smoke rising.
Now you must understand that we were both in
a flutter of excitement all that afternoon. We had
said little to each other about it, but I know we felt
m 238
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
that we were likely at any moment to meet with
some adventure, pleasant or the reverse. We were
all eyes and ears. I could see May glance hurriedly
and look intently, now in one direction, now in
another. Even the dog appeared to be expecting
something: as for me, I knew, of course, that very
soon a great change would come in our lives, my
thoughts were occupied with this subject, and I was
trying to think how I should deal with every episode
that I could imagine might arise. Once or twice
before, we had stopped to gaze around as May or I
had cried, " What is that over there ?" But up to
the present it had turned out to be merely a curious
stump, or uproot, or some such bush object. We
were on the qui vive.
So we considered for a little that we might be
mistaken about this appearance also. It might be
a wisp of snow lifted by the wind, or some shaken
from the trees by a passing breeze: however, I soon
saw that it was very blue, that it was rising steadily,
that it was no hallucination, and that it was smoke,
certainly.
A very momentous time had arrived. " My dear
May," I murmured, 1 that is smoke—that means a
camp, most likely of white people. Our lonely life
ends the moment we arrive there."
| Oh, what a good thing !' she cried; " but why
look so serious ?"
| God knows what will happen  to us," said  I. sswpjaiKyBjtt
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
239
I We may find ourselves able at once to go on with
comparative ease to Dawson and home. We may
find obstacles in our way — bad characters, who
knows what ? But any way we have up to now,
through God's good mercy, been kept from any great
harm, and we will trust Him still."
" Why, of course we will," she interjected; " but
why are you so sad ?"
" I cannot help feeling sad," I answered, I to
know that you and I must now cease to be what we
have been to each other; but remember that I shall
not leave you, nor cease to help you all I can, until
I know you are safe at home in England with your
mother. Whatever comes to pass during the next
few hours, or until that happy time arrives, believe
in me and trust me."
"My dear Bertie, my great friend, what is come
to you ? Do you think I'm going to doubt you, or
leave you now ? "
11 hope not, indeed, indeed," I interjected.
" Why, amongst these rough fellows," she went on,
" as, of course, they will be, I shall want you beside
me more and more. I shall, I expect, want your
protection and advice more perhaps—though that
can hardly be—than I have as yet needed it."
I And you shall have it, May—be sure of that,"
said I.
I One thing is certain, though, that whoever they
are, whatever kind of people they may prove to be,"
m A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
she continued, "I shall, as you say, till we reach
home and mother, look to you for companionship and
guidance. So don't look any more like that at me;
don't be downhearted now, but come, let us hurry on
and find out what our fate is."
Then on we went. Within a few minutes we were
in sight of a camp. There were two log-shanties and
a shelter or two; a huge chimney smoking, and other
signs of humanity; a couple of figures were moving
about; we had arrived at the haunts of men again!
We had paid little attention to the trail of late,
but now noticed that there were sleigh tracks branching from it here and there — dog's tracks, men's
tracks : here were stumps lately cut, there the traces
of where logs had been hauled out of the bush. Now
we were continually exclaiming to each other about
these wonders.
Patch was excited—on the alert. When, a little
farther on, he heard dogs barking, it was hard to
control him. It was their noise, I suppose, that
gave notice of our arrival, for we soon descried two
or three persons looking towards us, whilst a couple
of fine huskies came bounding through the snow,
looking anything but friendly. However, they withdrew as we marched on, and were called off as we
got close. When we at last halted near the first
shanty, one man sung out to us, 1 Welcome, friends!
ye'll be frae Quigly Creek, I'll warrant. How goes
it there?"  * A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
241
Oh, the blessed sound ! a friendly human voice—
a Scotsman's voice!
"Nay," I answered; "I don't know where we're
from exactly — up river somewhere: we've had a
pretty hard time of it.    What place is this ?"
"This place," the kindly voice made answer;
"indeed, we canna give it a name—it's just the
banks o' the Klondyke river. But ye'll be prospecting, eh ? Have ye had luck ? We've had a wee
bittie. But come—come | in bye ; ye'll be gled o*
something hot, nae doot, and the mistress '11 soon get
the kettle on the boil."
I Mistress! is there a woman here, then ? Oh,
that is grand! This lady here will be so glad of
that," is about what I said.
I Ay, indeed, is there a woman ! But who'd have
thocht that one o' ye was ane," he laughed; and then
shouted, " Hi, Maggie, lass, see here—here's a lady
till ye;': but addressing us he went on, " But she
isna fit tae come out into this cold. Come ben the
hoose; we'll soon mak' a' richt." With that he led
us to the shanty, saying as he did so to the other
men, "Let loose the dog, and see the others keep frae
it. We'll hae to take these freends in, and see to
them a while, nae doot."
We were delighted with all this friendliness.
We entered the shanty; it seemed a palace to us.
The door was thickly curtained inside; there was a
rough wooden floor, an immense fire roaring in the
Q
X
v
— 242
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
Mv]
^(■IL
ll
chimney, a table, chairs, and standing expectant
amongst them was a youngish, nice-looking woman,
beaming with good-nature.
" Did I hear ye cry there was a lady here ? f she
asked the man. " But which ane is it ?" she went
on, looking from May to me. "Ye're baith sae
rolled and smoothered up wi' claes and skins I canna
tell.
Indeed it was no wonder the good soul was
perplexed, for we were dressed pretty much alike, if
dressing could be called the furs and blankets in
which we were enveloped.
May's skirt of serge, reaching to her knees, was
so torn and ragged, very much as my frieze wrapper
was, which I think reached nearer to my ankles than
hers did to hers. I wore a cap with ears, and round
my neck some fox-skins were muffled. She had a
hood, a capote, a part of her outer garment: it was
then drawn so closely round her face that nothing
but her sweet eyes were visible. We had taken off
our snow goggles as we entered.
As our hostess spoke, we drew off our fur
gauntlets; this gave her the clue. I suppose she
knew at once by the hands which was the woman
of us, for she immediately took May by the shoulder,
crying, " Ay! come you in here, I'll tend ye; and
Tarn," to her husband, " you see till him. I'll no be
lang awa'."
Then I threw off my wrappings and overalls, drew A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
243
up to the fire, and gazed around me. I noted that I
was in a good-sized shanty, rough, certainly, but it
was light, for it had a large window by the side of
the door, and there were pots and pans and crockery
about, clean and brilliant, and to my unaccustomed
eyes all looked luxuriant.
Our host was busily making up the fire, adjusting
the tea-kettle, fetching in buckets of snow which he
emptied into a huge iron pot hanging in the chimney,
muttering as he did so, | She'll be wantin' water to
wash her, my certie—for.neither o' them looks to hae
seen soap for a wee while."
I heard him and smiled. " You're right," said I;
I it is some months since we saw soap, and weeks
since we could wash even our hands properly—this
is an awfully dirty country."
I Eh! but it is, man," he forcibly replied; " but
I wonder at ye, takin 'a wife wi' ye prospectin'.
Ye're tenderfeet, I daur wager—so are we for that
maitter—but I wouldna tak' my wife into such
wark, nay, nay. It's bad eneuch for her to stop
here in this wee hoose, but to tak' a woman ram-
pagin7 through these woods and mountains is no'
richt."   |||     §•     jjt .      .
He spoke so vehemently, almost angrily, that I
could not stop him, but when he halted for breath,
" Hold on ! Hold on !" I cried; " that is not my
wife, nor have I taken her out prospecting. Hers is
a sad strange story, so is mine.    I found her away mm
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE
back. I'll tell you all about it by-and-by. I can
only tell you this now, that Miss Bell—that's her
name—Mary Bell—I must take to Dawson and to
England as soon as possible. Can you help us ?—
will you ?"
As I spoke my host gazed at me, amazed. " To
Dawson ! and hame to England ! Noo ?—the noo ? "
he cried. " Is the man daft ? Gude sakes! d'ye
no' ken that it's just impossible to win awa' frae here
the noo ?    It's too late, or too airly, at this time."
| If money can induce you to aid us—we have
some with us, and we'll pay you almost anything you
like to get us to Dawson at least," said I; but before
I was half through the sentence I knew I had made
a mistake.
"It's gold, I suppose you mean," the man exclaimed,—rather angrily, I thought. " Gold ! well,
we've got a wee bit oorsels here, and a tidy claim up
this burn. We'll hae a decent pickle washed out
before long; sae, ye ken, we're no' in need o' yer
gold. If ye'd said grub, now, that would been o' far
mair value, but gold or grub it's a' one, ye'll no get
awa' frae here, my man, till the water opens in
June."
I Grub!" I cried; " we've got a bit in our sled
outside there, and up stream there's quite a heap of
it yet: if that's all that's needed, you'll find that
right."
I Man, I'm glad to hear it, for grub's mair valu- A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
245
able than gold in these parts the noo; but I say
again, grub or gold, you'll no' get off to Dawson for
a wee!"
" But why can't we get on ?" I demanded.
I We've got here; why can't we get farther ? My
companion is just as good as a man; what I can
stand, she can, I believe."
| Man, man, I wonner at ye!" he exclaimed, with
lifted hands and eyes. " D'ye no ken that the river
is breaking up fast at this present moment ?—half a
mile below here it's a' under water; in a wee while
it'll be just a grindin' mass o* ice and slush, no
breathin* thing can live in it, the strongest boat
that's built 'd be groon to powther in a meenute—
and there's nae trail beside the stream. In the
deep o' winter it's a' richt—ye can pull yer sleds
along the ice well eneuch; and in summer, when the
water's open, ye can get along fine; but just the noo !
nay, it's no' possible."
" This is bad hearing," I said ; " I don't know what
Miss Bell will think. We did so reckon of being
able to reach Dawson, to be in time for the first
boat going down the Yukon: when will that be ?
D'ye know, sir ?"
" Dawson! Dawson! what for d'ye want to take
your lady freend to Dawson ? D'ye no understan'
that it's no' place for decent folk at a'—let alane a
woman. But be easy, man, ye're weel aff here, and
ye'll get awa' doon to Dawson lang before the first
m W
•immmS
m
mm
m
246
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
mm
boat gangs doon, for ye ken the ice breaks up in
these small streams lang before it does in the big
river. I doot if there'll be a boat leave Dawson till
the end o' June, and some say the middle o' the
month o' July! Be easy then, and bide a wee;
ye're well aff here, and if ye'll let us hae the grub
ye spoke o' the noo, ye'll be far better aff, ay, very
far better than in Dawson waitin'. But let's see
what the mistress and the young leddy says."
Just then the mistress came in to us for hot
water. As she lifted a tin of it from the pot she
said to me, " Maister Singleton, yer freend in bye
has tell't me o' some o' yer doings and what ye
want to do. Just bide a wee while; we'll tak'
time to settle a'. Ye're a' richt here ; and as for me,
I'm pleased eneuch and thankful tae to hae sae braw
a lassie's company, I warrant ye."
| Ay, ay," said Tarn, her husband; " that's what
I'm say in'.     Bide a wee."
Patch was at the door, howling for admission.
Said my host, " We'll hae him in, the mistress '11
no' mind," for I had told him a little about the dog,
and the good fellow bounded to me and was happy.
When May returned how changed she was!
Soap and water, comb and brush, a few sjmple
feminine touches, a fresh handkerchief round her
neck, and behold a figure that fairly dazzled me.
As for me, I gazed at my hands and dress with
shame and horror.    Mr Bain, as I found his name A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
247
was, saw my discomfiture. " Come awa' ben,
then !' he laughingly exclaimed; " we'll tak' some
hot watter inby, and see what we can mak' o' you,
my freend!"
Part of the shanty was divided off by a screen of
blankets, behind it was their sleeping-place, and
here I obtained what I needed very sadly—a wash.
The sorting of my locks, though, as Bain called it,
was a business: they hung down to my shoulders,
and a comb had not been through them for many
days. Bain lent me a change of clothes, and I
returned to the living-room shortly, to be struck
still more at my love's sweet looks, my darling's
loving presence. Quite a spread of good things was
on the table. We had of late lived well, thanks to
my stores, but we were hungry now, and our hostess
heaped our plates—earthenware plates, how nice
they felt—with all the good things she had. There
did not seem to be much lack either.
We were joined now by two other men, decent
fellows. One was a Scotchman, Bain's brother; the
other a Canadian from Peterborough, Ontario.
After this, as we sat around the fire smoking, I
told our story. I did not say much about the gold;
I admitted that we had got some, but made light of
the quantity. May here and there put in a word or
two of explanation when I came to her entry on the
scene, and was not silent, though I tried to make
her so, in praise of me. I      /
248
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE*
It was late, quite late, when I had finished. May
was to have a bed by the fire; I was to accompany
the two young fellows to their shanty and turn in
with them. " And, d'ye mind," said Mr Bain, as
we parted, " ye'll no be turnin' oot sae verra early
the morn's morning. Yon lassie 11 tak a lang rest,
ye ken, sae sleep sae lang's ye're able, Mr Singleton,
and sae gude nicht."
Patch accompanied me to my quarters, and thereafter made them his.
4-
^j___g___Sm
■=	 f     CHAPTER  XII.
Hae ye ony gold on yer sledge ootby, Mr Singleton ?" asked Bain, next morning; " because, if ye
hae," he continued, " I'm thinkin' ye'd better bring it
ben the hoose. My brither, here, and the other
fellow's a' richt; but ye ken there's a wheen queer
characters here aboot, and there's nae tellin'."
"What! are there more people near?" I asked,
surprised, for I had not noticed other habitations;
but I went on, replying to his question about the
gold, and told him that we had some, about fifty
pounds' weight of it, but that May had it with her
in her pack.
" Ech !" he exclaimed; " I thocht it was a heavy
kin' o' bundle when I carried it in till her yestreen.
But, man, fifty pounds' wecht! why, that's worth
more than twa thoosan' punds. Ye have been on
to't rich; we've no got to that here yet. (I wondered
what he would say if he knew all) Ye're askin' are
there mony people hereaboot; indeed, then, there's a
good number on the  creek—there's twenty camps 250
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE;.
lili
111
and more—maybe fifty men o' a' kinds workin' on
their claims; mostly decent folk eneuch—mony like
oorsels, frae the auld country; but there's a wheen
suspicious bodies. But come awa' in; the lassie's a'
richt, and we'll hae oor parritch."
May was lovely; she and Mrs Bain were evidently
the best of friends already, but she was so greatly
changed in appearance that I hardly dared to address
her familiarly. I don't know that I thought her
any prettier; my admiration of her beauty had been
so intense whilst she was alone with me in rags and
squalor, that it could not be very much increased;
but I certainly now regarded her with some awe, and
it was with difficulty I called her May.
I, too, no doubt, was presenting an improved appearance. Soap is indeed a great civiliser, and
Sandy Bain had shorn off some of my rough thatch
that morning, and May looked at me, smiled, and
called out, | Why, what have you been doing, Bertie ?
you are looking different!"
I Not so much changed as you are, May," I replied
with a laugh.    " You look just splendid."
\    She blushed as she said, "Well, come, come to
breakfast."
We sat long over our food, talking and planning.
We made out that Bain, his wife, and the other
two came up to Dawson by way of St Michael's.
They had lived a while previously in Ontario, farming.     They reached Dawson early in   the season; A   CLADM   ON   KLONDYKE.
251
their idea being for Mr and Mrs Bain to start store-
keeping there, whilst the other two were to work at
mining, for they had heard that gold was being found
in Alaska, and although the rush had not set in, they
had somehow learned that large finds were very probable, and they had planned to be amongst the first
to profit by the expected excitement. But a few
weeks in that queer town satisfied them that they
were not suited for that business or life, and when
Bain's brother, Sandy, and the Canadian, Frank Fuller,
who had been up the river looking into the mining,
returned in August, reporting that they had found
and secured a claim which they believed would pay,
and described the life up there as much quieter and
easier than in Dawson, they all determined to 2^0
and live together on this claim, and so came up in
boats, bringing a good outfit with them, and some
furniture.
They built a couple of shanties apart from the
other miners, rigged themselves up in some degree of
comfort, and here they were, doing pretty well, they
believed, but anxious for the waters to open, so that
they could wash their heap of pay-dirt and know
exactly what it was worth.
These were very good people, May and I were sure,
—quitetrustworthy, and of the friendliest description;
their welcome had been so extremely warm, and wre
were indeed thankful that our first encounter with
our fellows had been so fortunate. 252
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
Mrs Bain was evidently delighted to have a companion of her own sex: she told us that, hard as the
life was, her greatest trouble had been that she had
no woman near her, and she said things which showed
us that she was quite sure we had come to stay.
Perceiving this to be the case, I knew I had
better explain. " But we must be moving on, my
friend and I," I began. " We are indeed grateful for
your kind welcome, but we must get on to Dawson,
then to England—we must, indeed. I know all that
you have said, Bain—I believe that you are correct;
still we cannot stay on here. We must get on to
Dawson; surely there's a hotel, or boarding-house, or
something of the kind there, where we can stay till
the river opens."
They held up their hands in amazement. " Why,
what kin' o' daft folk are ye ? Hoot, toot V cried
Bain; " gae doon to Dawson ! gae name to England !
it's just no' possible, as I've already tell't ye, Mr
Singleton. It's no' possible for a man to do it; and
for a bairn like you," turning to May, who certainly
just then did not look much like battling through
that wilderness, " it'd be clear shuicide—that's what
it would be. Nay, nay; ye'll just bide here wi' us
till the waters open."
" But, Mr Bain," quoth May, " I must get home to
my mother. I am strong and able; surely, surely we
can move on."
" It's   impossible;   no   possible,   my   lassie,"   he A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
253
answered her. " No; you'll just hae to bide here, as
I say, whether ye're willin' or no', until ye can gae
doon stream in boats."
" And when will that be ?" she asked, and I
replied, for I had heard all about it before from Bain,
and was pretty sure that he was right. " It will not
be till the end of May, perhaps not till June," I
told her. " Indeed, I hear that often the Yukon is
not open to traffic till the middle of July."
" What a country! what an awful country!"
exclaimed May, distressfully. She looked to me
for corroboration of what had been stated, or to
contradict it, but I could only say I feared that
our friends were right. I added, "However, our
intention was to go down to Dawson and wait for
a boat to leave. From all we hear we are far
better off with these good friends than we should
be there, and as they assure us we can easily get
down long before a boat can possibly navigate the
Yukon, I really think we must rest content—nay,"
I went on, " more than content; thankful for the
good quarters we have come to. The only thing
is, how can we thus inconvenience these friends ?
We must come to some arrangement about paying
them at least, or else you and I, May, really will
start on and camp beside the river for the few weeks
that we must pass up here.    What d'ye think ?'
The dear girl looked at me, sadly dismayed; but
our host and hostess declared that I was right, and
1! 254
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKF.
s
I in*
i
IPllfli
«<
■-I
wise in all that I had said—as to " pay," however,
that was a business question which we would now
discuss. Mrs Bain would not hear of any discomfort or trouble being caused by May—she should stay
with her as her guest and friend, she declared; and
Bain said he was more than agreeable. | But, my
woman," said he to his wife; "it's no' want o' wull,
it's just want o' means, ye ken. We can buy nae-
thing here—there's just food enough to last you
and me and Sandy and Frank till we expect the
river will open. How can we promise to feed these
freends ?    It's just that, and only that, which fashes
me
>i
Here I could simplify matters. | See here," said
I; "on our sled is food enough for we two for
several weeks, and up at our dug-out, that I've told
you of, we have quite a food-supply, enough for a
dozen people for several months. I will make an
effort and go up there and fetch a load of it. Will
that do ? I
" Do ? why, of course it will," they replied; " fine
that. In a couple of weeks or so the upper waters
will be free from ice, then twa o' ye can gang up
quite easy and bring your boat down, laden. So,
it's a' settled. You, Miss Bell, will stay in this
hoose wi' me and my wifie here; and you,v Mr
Singleton, will chum up wi' Frank and Sandy; but,
of coorse
here."
oor   meals   will   a'   be   thegither   eaten A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
255
Thus it was arranged; and after the day's discussion—for we took all day coming to this decision
—May and I, having a moment's privacy, satisfied
each other that it was wisely settled.
Of course I was not idle. I went to work next
day with the men. The diggings were about a
quarter of a mile from Bain's shanties, on a little
creek running into the Klondyke. From a couple
of hundred yards above the junction, claims were
pegged out for half a mile or more, and tents and
rough cabins were set up along its margin. It was
not thickly timbered there, and what trees there
were they were cutting down for mining purposes
and fuel. It was very quiet, as most of the miners
were working underground, and had shelters over
their shafts and windlasses—so little was visible.
Heaps of gravel were being piled upon each
claim, but it would not be till summer, when they
were washing, that any real excitement would be
seen. Most of these heaps were reported to be
very rich.
The Bains' claim was some distance up the creek.
•They had traced the pay-streak in from a bar on
it. They had not sunk a shaft, but were removing
the entire alluvium down to bed rock. They had
four feet of pay-dirt, and only about the same
quantity of moss, muck, and gravel from the surface
down to it.
They worked in the usual way through the solidly 256
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
!'
frozen ground, with fires. I, being well used to axe-
work, went in for cutting the fuel for the purpose.
The claim-owners were paying as much as ten
dollars a-day, gladly, to any one who would work
for them. There were very few who would do so
for wages, though; so, as I did not reckon to take
any pay from our friends, I felt that May and I
were not under so great obligation to them. Moreover, the stores we had brought, and the supply
we possessed up-stream, was of the utmost value.
It was a comfortable life we passed now—at least
it seemed so to me after my experience; and May
assured me that she was not dissatisfied—except,
naturally, at the delay in getting homewards. But
as that certainly could not be helped, we were both
making ourselves contented.
I met May at every meal, and passed the evenings
in her company, but never alone. Mrs Bain never
went outside the shanty. But occasionally, rarely,
when it was what we called fine, May muffled up
and came out, when she and I were able to compare
notes, and plan.
One very great perplexity we had, was about our
gold cached up the creek. As yet we had only
admitted to our friends that we had the fifty pounds'
weight of it. We had spoken of our claims, certainly, and had said how sure we were that they
would pay; but they had no idea of their richness.
May and I  talked whenever we had a  chance
4 A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
257
together about this matter: she was all for telling
these new friends and getting their advice. She
was certain that they were perfectly true and trusty.
So was I, and yet I advised caution. We could not
easily decide.
Mrs Bain was about. eight-and-twenty,—a well-
read, clever Scotswoman, and very religious. She
had in Scotland considerable lung trouble. Ontario
had helped her, and now, strange as it may appear,
in the intense cold and dreariness of this Yukon
country she had lost all signs of weakness, and
considered herself a strong woman. Still, her husband objected to her putting her head outside the
place. "My woman," he was often saying, "you
see to a' things ben the hoose; we'll see that ye
get all ye want—wood, and snow for watter and
a' things; and noo that ye hae this bonnie lassie
for company, ye'll do fine."
The weather was quite calm for two weeks after
we arrived—cold, of course, except at midday for
an hour or so. But we could see signs of spring
coming. The snow was packing; there were bare
patches on the hills and on the creek; the slush
beneath the upper layer of snow was deeper and
softer. I had the curiosity to go out on to the
Klondyke, and I found it very much worse than
when May and I were on it. In places the ice
was burst up, and I realised that it would have
been impossible for us to move along it if we had
E 258
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE,
fll   I
m.¥,
ill!
ill
been unwise enough to start. We would surely
have had to camp somewhere on the way, and live
in misery, perhaps many miles from any help. We
were very far better off than that.
A couple of miles up the Klondyke the ice
was at this time broken up, and by the strong
current was being piled up on the bars and banks.
Every day made a change, and we saw that we
could soon bring our boat down as was planned.
Therefore the time had arrived when, we must make
our journey up to my place, and so it became absolutely necessary that we two should settle what
should be done about the gold.
I fortunately got May outside, and had a talk
with her about it. " Shall I leave it where it is ?'
I asked, " and trust all will be well; or shall I try
to bring some down secretly ?"
She was all for telling the truth to the Bains
and Frank, and bespeaking their help. I was as
certain as she was of their honesty and integrity,
but I knew what a fascination gold has, and I
thought it just possible that the knowledge of otir
riches might affect them, and cause them to do
something unpleasant, and complicate affairs in
some way. But May would not hear of this.
" No, no!': she exclaimed; " they are good, true
people.    I say tell them all, and get their help."
We talked" this over for some time, and the result
was that when  we  were  gathered round  the  fire A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
259
that evening, I made a clean breast of it. I told
them what Meade and I had found, and what May
and her father had, and that, besides the stock of
food which I had told about, there was this immense
quantity of gold, and that the fifty pounds we had
with us then was merely a sample of it.
Our story staggered them, especially our coming
away and leaving it unprotected. We had, May
and I, to go over again and again the history of
our find, and the statement of the actual quantity
we had obtained. We were obliged to explain about
the lay of the gravel in which we had found it,
and to give all the information we could about the
likelihood of there being more about both places.
As to this latter point we assured them that we
believed the whole district was very rich. We told
them what we had discovered even inside my dugout, and before we separated that night they all
became so excited that I foolishly began to dread
they would do something troublesome.
Such is the effect of gold. I suppose nothing else
could have made me suspicious of such worthy people.
The following morning there was more discussion
and more enthusiasm. In the end it was settled
that Sandy, Frank, and I should go up, taking two
sleds, with Patch and their two dogs, who were
trained, to help in hauling them. As they knew the
Canadian mining laws quite thoroughly, which we
did not, they would help me to mark out our claim mm*
260
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
If
properly, then they would stake out one for themselves—for, as Bain said, " The moment it is known
in Dawson what you have found up there, there'll
be such a crowd o' folk rush up that it'll be better
to hae freends alongside ye than strangers."
I    This being quite true, we were well pleased.
We also arranged to go on up to May's claim,
and mark that out properly too. We laid some
other plans, which will be explained later on.
The trail up the Klondyke,—which May and I
had not used when we came down, because I fancied
it was a bear-path,—it appeared, was the way by
which all the miners went up the river in winter.
It led up to the head, where for years a little mining
had been going on. During the time we had been
at Bain's several parties had come down it. Their
reports had not been very favourable. I had questioned some of them closely, being anxious to discover if any of them had gone up what I called
Meade's Creek; but so far as I could make out,
no one had. They described some tracks they saw
going up at one place though, which seemed to me
to be ours, and they rather jeered at the idea of
any one having been foolish enough to go there
prospecting, as they declared, as all did then, that
no gold, to pay grub even, was to be had, except
clear up at the head of the main Thronda stream.
How little they knew; and how differently they
talk about it now! A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
261
We were off at once. The trail we found fairly
good up to where our boat was cached. Hereabouts
the ice was disappearing from the stream. We saw
we could easily get her out and afloat, which was
satisfactory.    We camped there that night.
Turning up Meade's Creek in the morning, it
was all but free of ice; we found the way very
bad beside it. The snow was gone in some places,
but having light loads, we pushed on slowly but
surely.
We were, however, very much disgusted to notice
the tracks of others having gone up rather recently.
Had they followed May's and mine, we wondered ?
Had they come to our claim, and found our stores
and gold ? I was quite anxious, as you may
guess.
Two persons had gone up: one wore moccasins,
and drew a sled; the other wore boots—we saw the
heel marks.
This brought to my mind instantly the two May
and I had seen when we were coming down. I was
sure they were the same men's tracks.
Sandy knew them, too. He said they were all
right, and decent fellows—the moccasins were worn
by an old miner he called White-eyed Williams, and
the boots by an Englishman who had come up during
winter, who foolishly, he thought, stuck to knee-high
boots.    His name, he said, was Coney.
Coney ! why, that was* the name, I remembered, of mmstmm
?!v
It
li
w
262
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
the young fellow who had showed us some attention,
Meade and me, when we arrived at Skagway. I
wondered if it could be the same.
We hurried on excitedly, full of anxiety, for if
they had discovered we had found gold there rich,
there was no telling what they might be doing.
With our light loads we got on very much faster
than May and I did, in spite of the horrid state of
the trail—half slushy snow, half morass; frozen every
night, thawing every day,
On the fourth evening out, when we were camped
a few miles only below our old den, as darkness fell
we perceived a fire burning in the distance. On
investigation we found it to be two men halted on
their way down. Sandy hailed them. It was
White-eyed Williams and Coney.
I at once recognised the latter; he did not remember me, or our former meeting.
We sat by their huge fire beside their one little
tent, smoking and comparing notes. They informed
us that they had tried here and there for many miles
up the main river, as they called the Klondyke, and
had had no luck. They had seen a trail (my trail
and May's) coming down this creek as they passed the
mouth of it on their outward journey. They supposed it was just a couple like themselves who had
been prospecting, and were returning disgusted.
But on their own way back, unsuccessful, when they
noticed the traces again, they followed them up, just
-
■ — A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
263
for curiosity, to ascertain what their makers had been
doing up there.
This was intensely interesting to me, you may be
sure.
Said Coney, "Not far up from here—we left this
afternoon—we came to a dug-out; near it was the
mouth of a big drive, a regular tunnel. A lot of
work had been done there. The owners had only
lately left—we made that out; and there was a
notice stuck on the door of the shack, who it belonged
to. We did not force our way into the crib, nor did
we try their pile of pay-dirt, nor enter their tunnel,
of course; but you bet we tried some stuff from the
bankside along the creek, and, my word for it, friends,
these fellows have hit on it good! White-eye and I
washed out a few pans only—see, here's some of it,"
and he showed a handful of shining bits. "Then
we marked out a claim, and are hurrying down to
register it, and if you men are wise you'll do the
same to-morrow, for, depend upon it, it is very rich
along the creek up there."
I could hardly keep silent, I was in such an
excited state on hearing this story. Sandy was
staring at me, and Frank asked, "What were the
names of the owners of this claim, then, which were
stuck on the door ?"
" It was Herbert Singleton and Percy Meade," said
Coney.
" Well, I'm Herbert Singleton," I exclaimed; " it's 264
A  CLAIM  ON  KL0NDYK7L
my claim where you have been. We're on our way
there now to bring away some grub, and to see that
all is right"
| Well met!" Coney cried. " Well met! Now we
shall hear all about it. We know it's all right up
there, but tell us all about it. Honour bright, we'll
keep it all as dark as possible."
So what could I do but admit that I had a good
claim there. I was as reticent as I could be, though.
I thanked them for not having disturbed anything,
and begged them for their own sake and ours to say
as little about the place as might be, either on the
creek where the Bains were, or at Dawson, when
they reached it. This they promised willingly
enough.
We stopped with these fellows quite a time, talking things over, and arranging plans. We sent a
message back to the Bains by them. I pencilled a
few lines to May, and we left them full of jubilation.
When we were alone we did nothing but congratulate one another upon the good fortune of our secret
being discovered by two men whom my companions
were quite sure were honest fellows, though up to
that time they had been unlucky in finding gold.
Coney, I perceived, was a well-bred Englishman;
in conversation he had mentioned names and places
at home which assured me he was that. But that
country, like every out-of-the-way corner of the
globe, holds many such, many reliable enough and A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
265
honourable, but also many just " ne'er-do-weels," and
failures of all sorts, who have become blacklegs and
gamblers. It is never wise to trust any man, certainly not a fellow-countryman, until you know.
However, this one had said a few things which
made me think well of him, so I did not regret that
above our claim, where they had marked theirs out,
we might hope to have decent neighbours; whilst
below it, where, no doubt, Frank and Sandy Bain
would stake out theirs, we should have friends.
We three were off by daybreak the following
morning, soon reached our destination, and found all
right and untouched by man or beast. The balance
of the day we were occupied in examining the surroundings, pegging the claim out properly, testing
the gravel about, and deciding just where my friends
should take their claim. We passed the night in
the dreary den where Meade and I had spent those
terrible days, and where May and I had sojourned
so long.
Little had I dreamed of ever returning to it again.
Surely I had not imagined it possible to be there
again so soon.
Having told my friends about Meade's death, and
May's father's, and where I had deposited their
bodies, we proceeded, first thing next morning, to
carry out our plan. It was to dig a grave on. a
knoll near by and bury them decently therein.
To dig this grave  it was necessary   to proceed A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKK
exactly as we did in mining. We lit a huge fire,
when we had chosen the place, and left Frank to
attend to it, whilst Sandy and I went up to May's
claim, as we had all got to call it.
We arrived there late that evening. We only
took our sleeping-bags and a bit of food with us;
Patch hauled them on a sled. The good old dog
knew the road well. I have not mentioned him
lately—he was still May's pet and mine, as he was
every one's.
Early next morning we marked out this claim,
properly too, the size we knew six people were
entitled to. We rectified the notices on the shanty
door also, and, making no delay, hurried back to
Frank.
We found that he had managed to get a grave
sunk deep enough during our absence, and the following morning we reverently disinterred the bodies
of my friends, took them up the hill, and laid them
side by side in it. By May's desire I read the
proper service from her own prayer - book, with
which she had entrusted me for the purpose.
We covered them in, raised a cairn of heavy rocks
and boulders over them, and on the summit erected,
very securely, a big wooden cross that we had
fashioned for the purpose down at Bain's, and had
brought up with us. On it we had carved the
names and so forth of those who were interred
there. A  CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
267
There, surely, it will remain and be respected for
many a day. Although, no doubt, all the ground
about there will be turned up by miners, they will
not disturb the spot made sacred by that grave.
That night we opened our cache, and took our
gold from its hiding - place. My companions only
then appeared able to comprehend that all was
true that May and I had told them. How they
gloated over it! How they marvelled at it! As
for me, I was more and more thankful at our good
fortune. For now I felt confident that if God
spared our lives, we should get all safely out, and I
had it impressed upon me more and more that
May would learn to love .me, and I was looking
forward with hope, with confidence, to the time
when she and I, in England, would enjoy it all
together.
I have said little about the state of my mind on
this subject. All I need say now is, that the more
I saw of her, the more I loved her. My thoughts
were ceaselessly of her, waking or sleeping. I longed
eagerly for the time when I could tell her of my
heart's desire, and beg from her one word of hope.
There had been no opportunity of late for private
conferences, for love - making. Many a time I
vearned to tell her all, for now that she had others
about her, I felt I could with honour speak to her.
It was quite different when we were living and
journeying alone:   then   I   felt   constrained   to  be 268
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
!i
silent. Yet now that I felt free to tell all, there
was no opportunity.
In that bitter climate, when we happened to be
out together, it was as much as we could manage to
discuss pure business affairs; to talk to her of love
would have been impossible, and sadly out of place.
Yet in spite of all these difficulties, now and again,
I know, a word or look escaped me, against my will
perhaps, which showed the dear girl what I was
thinking of; whilst the words of warmest friendship
and looks of love she gave me frequently, led me to
believe that when the right time came I should win
her. I was impatient, but very happy at the bright
prospect before me.
With our two sleds heavily laden with gold and
stores we hurried down. Well, we could not hurry
much, for the trail was terrible; the snow was nearly
all gone. In places it was all that we three and the
dogs could do to move one sled. Once we had to
unpack and portage. It took us three days' hard
work to get down to our boat, but then we gladly
saw that we could do the rest of the journey in her.
And so we did, getting down stream in capital time,
bringing her and her lading safely to the beach in
front of Bain's shanty early one morning before they
were out of bed.
I need not say we had a glorious welcome. I
need not stay to tell all we did and said. My
darling was the first to grasp my hand and joyfully A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
269
greet me.    Fain  would I have clasped her to my
heart and told her then and there how much I loved
her, and how I yearned for the time to come when
we should be in deed and in truth all the world to ■
one another.
It was an exciting time. We spent all that day
stowing away the gold safely, explaining about our
journey, about the claims Sandy and Frank had
marked. White-eyed Williams and Coney came in
to supper; we turned out some of our eatables and
had a glorious time.
And before we separated, Bain said he thought
it would be very nice and proper if we were to
render thanks to where we all knew thanks were
due for all the mercies and good fortune that had
been vouchsafed to us. So, having read an appropriate chapter or two from the good old Book, he
prayed a prayer of praise and gratitude, and we all
felt the better for this simple service.
/gagv fir
mm
270
Ills
CHAPTER XIII.
«.!■
f I
II1!
Now, quickly, the weather changed and the spring
advanced. We had some days almost mild, sometimes it rained instead of snowed, often a warm wind
blew. At any rate it felt warm to us. Anywhere
else, I suppose, we should have called it winter, but,
after our experience, we thought this prime, for we
knew that spring was at hand.
The creek, the Klondyke even, were becoming
quite free of ice, water lay about in pools: certainly
every night all was frozen again, but whenever the
sun burst through the mists and murk they thawed,
and it was a teaser to get about. To travel down
them, either by water or by trail, was simply
impossible.
White-eye and Coney, who had been very boastful
of the way in which they intended to go | right off |
to Dawson to register their claim, had to give it up.
We had many interesting discussions during this
time about the future means of travel in that region.
Supposing these gold discoveries were as great and
—
■Hall
ggH A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
271
as extensive as we had reason to expect they would
be, we wondered what would be arranged for easier
entrance and exit. Should large crowds of people
rush in, which we quite expected, how were they to
be fed ?    How were stores to be brought ?
Bain, a long-headed Scotsman, pronounced dead
against the St Michael's route. The idea of journeying 1800 miles up the Yukon, after the long and
dangerous voyage of 2750 miles by ocean steamers
across the Ghilf of Alaska into Behring Sea. was
absurd, he thought, especially as he averred that the
river is only open for about three months, from July
to October, and was then so full of bars, sandbanks,
and shallows, snags and currents, that it is a most
hazardous stream to navigate.
When they came up, they were several times nearly
being wrecked, and they passed half-a-dozen boats
and scows fast on sandbanks, where they most probably still remained.
I had fully described the way Meade and I, with
our two Indians, had reached the Klondyke. A road
over the White Pass I knew could be made with comparative ease, and from what we had heard of the
Chilcoot Pass, that, too, might be made available for
traffic.
Skagway, the landing-place for the White Pass,
was on tidal water, open always; it was easy to land
people and goods there. Then the distance across the
pass being only about forty-three miles to the head
■ UK	 272
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
if I If
I III
til i
waters of the Yukon, say Lake Bennet, it did appear
that must be the best road in. As for the Miles
Canon and the White Horse Kapids — the only
serious obstacles on the way thence to Dawson—we
considered that with very little engineering skill, and
but small outlay, they would be overcome, either by
tramways or short canals. Seeing that the distance
from Victoria, on Vancouver Island, to Dawson vid
St Michael's is altogether about 4500 miles, and vid
Skagway and the White Pass is but 1600, this did
seem common-sense.
We had amongst our acquaintances on this diggings
one or two Canadians who had been about this region
for years. They were always talking about a route
| all Canadian." All these landing - places I have
mentioned are. in American territory. We dispute
that certainly. However, the Yankees are in possession, and it is quite possible that they will continue
to be so.
But it seemed to Bain—and I certainly agreed
with him—that the Canadian route they talked of
had very little advantage, if any, over the White or
even the Chilcoot Pass. Their idea was to make
Telegraph Creek, which is in Canada, 150 miles up
the Stickeen river from Port Wrangel, the part for
this country. They said that it had been already
long used for traffic with the Cassiar gold mines, and
asserted that there is a trail from it Jbo Teslin Lake,
down which there is good navigation to the Hoota-
811
"ill
Mtfl A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
273
linqua river, and so to the Yukon and Dawson. The
distance from Victoria they supposed to be about
1500 miles.
But here, it seemed to us, were exactly the same
difficulties, if not greater ones, than on the other
routes.
Bain, who appeared to have studied the geography
of this region before they entered it, having had the
opportunity of examining the best maps available in
Victoria, was strong in the opinion that the Canadian
Government should, and would ultimately, build, or
cause to be built, a railway from a really undoubted
Canadian port, all through Canadian territory, to
Dawson.
If this goldfield proved to be what we expected, it
would have to be done some day. His idea was that
there should be a railway from Fort Simpson, in
Canada, where there is open water all the year round
for ocean ships, to Teslin Lake, about 400 miles in.
Indeed, he went so far as to maintain that this
railway should be continued right down to Dawson,
for only by this means could the country be properly
developed.
No roads for teams could ever be satisfactory.
The forage for cattle having all to be imported would
alone cause this to be so. On the long journey
animals could do little more than haul their own
food.
Certainly, if  easy  roads  were   made   across  the
i 274
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE,
passes, if steamers were put upon the lakes, if ways
were made for getting past the canons and rapids,
large quantities of stores could be taken in during
three or four months of open water. But he stuck to
it, that only a railway will do all that must be done,
if this Canadian Yukon country is to be exploited as
it deserved to be. Quartz reefs rich in gold were
already known to exist. Copper had been found too
—there appeared to be immense deposits of it. Coal
existed also, and it is recognised that the supply of
wood fuel for mining and domestic purposes will soon
run short—a most important consideration, perhaps
the most important of all. These reefs and copper
and coal mines cannot be worked without heavy
machinery, which cannot be handled or conveyed in
by waggon or sleigh, neither can the products of
these mines. A railway, and only a railway, could
solve the problem.
Whether one will "pay" or not is quite another
matter.
In California, Australia, and those parts of Canada
in which gold has hitherto been found abundantly,
causing a large influx of people, the result has been
ithat many who have made much or little have
remained there, settling on the land or going
into business, and so permanently developing the
country.
In the Yukon this can never be. Gold especially,
and  copper, and probably some  other metajsj  are A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
275
alone the product of the country. Land being
absolutely unproductive, and the climate terrible,
no one will make a permanent home there.
With such discussions, and much beside of purely
local interest—such as how Bill the Butcher's claim
was looking, and if Tom the Tinker had found any
coarse gold in the hole he had last sunk, or what
the chances were of Mississippi Sam and his partner
the Baltimore Oriole finding good gold up at the
creek-head where they had gone prospecting, when
they may be expected back, and so forth,—with such
topics of interest, I say, as these the time passed
quickly.
The increased heat of the sun was perceptibly
lessening the snow on the ranges, the creeks were
rising, the ice had disappeared, or was piled on
the banks, where it was thawing rapidly. There
was a great change perceptible—a change which
was a source • of constant interest to all of us;
and to May and me it was a very great relief to
see the road gradually opening for us to get away.
During this time we had become pretty intimate
with " Coney." I learnt his proper name, found
him a very genial companion—one very like my
poor lost Meade — and I liked him; so did we
all. . W      .M
He had been unfortunate, and had not found a
payable claim until now; and even now, the one
he and White-eyed Williams had marked above us,
wm w
I r
■umbr
276
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE,
H!   l;
I ill
■.   im i    I
though it promised well, had yet to be proved.
However, his hopes were high, and I could not
help giving liim every encouragement. Knowing I
was going home to England, he was most anxious
that I should take letters from him to his people—
nay, that I should visit them; and I, arguing that
if not all right, he would hardly have done this^
concluded that he was a reliable man. Bain
thought as I did, and it resulted that I, with
May's entire accord, put all the affairs connected
with our claims into their joint-hands—i.e., Bain's
and Coney's—to manage for us.
Late in May there were many more evidences
of spring. The nigger-grass had sprouted: I well
remember May's delight with the first green blades
I took her. A few days after, on bare patches
amongst the snow, I found a few lovely flowers;
we had no idea of their names, but spring had
come, and we were charmed.
There was plenty of water now to wash with;
there was plenty to wash the heaps of wash-dirt,
and the results were good. I, being handy with
tools, made them a cradle, or rocker, and some
sluice-boxes. _
There was much movement at the diggings : j every
one was busy on top, and the change from the drear
monotony of the terrible winter was giving place to
cheery looks and hopeful faces. One could tell that
the arrival of running water had been made much
mm
—
Hi ■   I
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
277
use of in another way; for we hardly recognised
some of our acquaintances, since they had been
able to wash their faces successfully and put on
clean clothing.
That May had the knowledge of what was in my
mind respecting her, I believed; but she carefully
avoided giving me the opportunity of telling her
about it. Why, she cannot even now explain,
but so it was.
Towards the end of May the sun had much
power: no snow was lying in the open, but the
land was in a terrible condition; the^ deep grass
and moss, saturated with water, was a perfect
morass, all but impossible to get through on foot.
The trails between the shanties and to the diggings
were mere ditches. Those who had not good
rubber or waterproof boots, or, better still, muelues
—which is the native name for mud moccasins,
the soles of which are made waterproof with seal
oil—were in a bad plight; for the water was icy
cold, and we believed that there would soon be much
sickness amongst these unfortunates. We noticed,
however, that the miners were very good to each
other. If one was known to be badly off for
foot-gear, food, or clothing, those who were better
supplied shared with and helped them.
So far as we could judge, they were all a very
decent, friendly crowd of men. We heard of no
quarrels or rows  amongst them, and  saw none  of
•ill mm
278
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
lilt  ft
••! '!,', -i fj I
'ill!
that   roughness   and   dissipation   with   which   such
gatherings are generally credited.
It is true there was no whisky there at all;
all hands were by force teetotallers. Tea, strong
and often, was drunk in gallons by every one.
We were impatient. The days passed very slowly
with me and May, for we were longing to be off;
but every one assured us that, even if we were
then at Dawson, we should not be at all advanced,
as we must wait there till the middle of June at
least. No boat would yet start to descend the
Yukon. Many who were said to know all about
it declared it was often July before one could
get away with safety.
But on the 1st of June we determined to wait
no longer; and, after much discussion, we stowed
our gold and what furs and gear we wished to
bring home in our boat, which we had recaulked
and repaired, and, accompanied by Frank and
Coney, we embarked.
It was with mingled feelings we did so. Undoubtedly we were glad enough to be really on
our way to England. But to leave the Bains was
not pleasant: we regarded them, and they still are,
amongst our truest and best of friends. Besides
them, there were several other good fellows to whom
we had become attached. Naturally, all were down
to the water's edge to see the last of us, and to
give us good wishes for our journey; nearly every
— A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
279
man of them from the old country gave us letters
and messages for their friends at home. We had
a big bundle of the former, which we were pledged
to deliver personally.
We brought Patch with us. May would not hear
of parting with the dear dog until it was absolutely
necessary.
We started at daybreak. The current was swift,
and the river was clear of ice; but along its margin
much was still piled up, besides logs and rubbish.
By noon the water had risen considerably, and was
floating this stuff off, making it unsafe to travel; so
on a sort of knoll or island in the stream we camped.
At night, in the mountains, and at the heads of
streams, frost holds sway, then the flow of water
is arrested. But when the sun's heat melts the
snow and ice up there, the body of water is increased and the current accelerated.
We met several parties coming up the river—
very hard work they had. The rush had begun
already there. On the fourth day we reached the
Yukon and Dawson City.
As we neared the main river we had still more
evidence of the rush. A very different state of
things existed to that when we came up, and we
met large numbers pushing up the Klondyke.
We passed numerous camps, and heard from some
of them wonderful accounts of what was being
done up the tributaries of that river. 280
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
II
ll III
III
if II
1 :
'• '
1.•
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ItKilii
The topic was gold, naturally; but we also heard
much about "grub," which appeared to be with
many quite as important a subject. There was a
scarcity of it, all declared, and there would be
until the St Michael's boats arrived.
Small heed was paid to us: a few remarks were
made about May, wonder was expressed at her being
up there; but all were so absorbed in their own
affairs that they took little interest in us, which
was precisely what we preferred.
Dawson was all alive too. The river front was
still encumbered with ice, but we were assured that
it was dissolving rapidly. In places men were
building boats or repairing them, in others thejr-
were stowing outfits into them: there were no
idlers.
We landed just below the last shanty, and camped.
Then Coney and I marched into the town. I was
anxious to discover the store where I had found
that nice Englishwoman when I went there before
to buy the canoe. I had planned to speak to her
about obtaining decent quarters for May.
I soon found the place, and had little difficulty;
for after I had told this lady a portion of my
darling's history and a few of her adventures, she
begged me to bring her in and let her see her,
any way. This I did at once; and they had
hardly met before I was informed that May was
to stop there until the boat sailed, which, we had VHOHR&
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
281
ascertained, would be a week from the day we
arrived.
Beports from down river, from Cudahy, had been
received in some way, and were favourable.
There was only one steamboat at Dawson preparing to go down; very few were going in her. The
captain was anxious to make a rapid passage, as he
knew there were crowds of people at St Michael's,
ready to pay big prices to get up. This just suited
us, and I quickly secured our berths.
The Government official at Dawson—some called
him governor, some colonel, others inspector, or commissioner—we found to be an exceedingly affable
and kindly gentleman. Although he appeared to
be overwhelmed with work, he gave me and Frank
and Coney an hour of his time, during which he put
all the business connected with our claims in order,
and advised us what to do about the gold we had
with us. Thus in two days after we got to Dawson
City everything was settled, and we only had to pass
the time as best we could until our noble ship should
begin her journey out.
We had brought a canoe down with us for my
companions to return in, as it would have been
impossible for them to get our heavy boat up
against that powerful current. We sold her to a
party who had just come in from Lake Teslin:
they had been camped there all winter. We obtained
150 dollars for her !
s. e A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKU.
May being comfortably placed at the store with
a very kind and hospitable hostess, we three men
did Dawson—that is, we visited various stores, and
examined their stocks and prices. There were plenty
of fancy things—queer ornaments, toys, and suchlike—which one wondered should have been brought
up, whilst of real necessities there did not appear
to be a very great supply. The prices were enormous : we made very few purchases. We looked
in at some of the saloons, saw what was called
"life," and, being disgusted with it, concluded that
up on the mines was far better for comfort and
for pocket.
On the third day Frank and Coney, having had
quite enough of it, started up the Klondyke for
home. They took Patch with them: we could not
take him down with us, and to have brought him
home to England would really have been cruel—he
would soon have died here. It was grievous saying
farewell to that true and trusty friend.
Our parting with all of them was quite affecting.
With these three, dog and'men, was severed all connection with the horrors we had both experienced on
the Klondyke and the Stewart.
With tear-dimmed eyes dear May turned her face
from the Yukon, rushed down to the sea, and murmured—
I Now a new life begins for you and me, Bertie,
my friend; but oh! how impatient I am to be off A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
283
to England and my mother!    How slow everything
moves—everything but that great river !"
"A new life indeed," I responded, "and, please
God, a happy one." And I wondered if part of
hers would be passed with me. I wondered, and
I hoped, and longed to ask her what she thought
about it.
Dawson City was at that time merely a couple
of strings of rough shacks and shanties, interspersed
with all manner of tents and temporary shelters.
One row of buildings ran parallel with the Yukon,
and was called Pront Street; the other, some distance behind, had no name then. All this part
was on a low alluvial flat, said to hold gold enough
to pay for working. The so-called streets were
mere lines of rubbish-heaps and bog-holes. It was
bad enough then; later, in the great heat of summer,
pestilence would be sure to come, all said, for there
was no attempt at sanitary arrangements. There
were several large stores. Some had substantial
warehouses attached to them: here everything was
supposed to be supplied. All were of wood, naturally ; some had iron roofs, some canvas, and some
were covered with turf.
Every other building was a saloon, a restaurant,
or a hotel. These latter had the grandest, gaudiest
names. There was the Me'tropole and Grand, the
Queen's, the Victoria, the Kossin House, and the
Windsor.
I
i
m 284
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
ei §
i   v f   mm 7 s
The others, especially the saloons, were very
fancifully christened. There was the Nugget,
Woodbine, Mascotte, the Holborn Kestaurant, the
Elephant and Castle, and Delmonico's !
All were of logs, or sods, or slabs; many were
built of old meat-tins, covered with sacking or
even tarred paper!
There were a few women about. Many of these
places were " run " by women. The less said about
many of them who were famous then the better.
Naturally everything for sale was fearfully expensive, and gold-dust was the only currency.
Every one carried gold about in a little buckskin
bag called a sack: you see it sounded big to speak
of a "sack of gold." On making a purchase, one
handed one's sack to the storekeeper; he weighed
out the amount, on the basis, then, of $17 per ounce.
It was considered "bad form"—rather mean—to
watch him too closely. What were a few grains of
gold in those flush, glorious times ?
Fortunately, we did not need to make many purchases. Our clothing was rough enough, truly, and
terribly dilapidated, but every one was in the same
condition: to have dressed better would have made
us remarkable, and we desired to avoid notice. x We
could replenish our wardrobes in Yictoria.
The headquarters of the mounted police in Dawson
were very complete and substantial log buildings.
They were kept in such perfect order that they were 5 S-I
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
285
an amazing contrast to the rest of the town. The
good old British flag flew over them constantly,
too.
Having arranged with the captain of the steamer
that I could occupy my cabin on board after my
friends had left, I found myself in clover. I took
my meals ashore, as I had discovered a decent place
where a fairly good meal could be had—fair, that is,
for the Klondyke—for one dollar. It was usually a
plate of pork and beans, with a piece of pie made of
dried apples or peaches, washed down with a basin of
what was called coffee. SometimeSi_salmon was to be
had, and once I struck bear meat, and once stewed
cariboo venison.
I saw May every day. We rarely went out
together. There was really nothing she cared to see,
and as all the roads and trails about this frontier
town were simply impassable with mud, and slush,
and knee-deep water-holes, there was no pleasure in
a walk. Another reason was that women—ladies—
being so rare there, her appearance on the street was
the cause of some excitement: people would waylay
us simply, I knew, to gaze with admiration on her
sweet face. May disliked this so much, and of
course I did, therefore she hardly went outside her
quarters during the week we were in the town.
With the help of Frank and Coney I had carried
our gold on board the boat, and had stowed it
amongst our furs and blankets.    By the advice of
li
h i
in
k i
*mm 286
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
the commissioner I had informed the captain about
it—he knew him to be a trusty fellow. We had
kept the actual amount of it secret, which he and
many others were anxious enough to know. The
result of this was, of course, that we were credited
with possessing as many millions as we had thousands : that mattered little, for if we had had nothing,
every one would have reported us to be a mass of
coarse gold and nuggets.
Bobberies of anything but food, and those very
seldom, were never heard of. All seemed to have
perfect confidence in the honesty of the crowd. We
Britishers and Canadians believed that it was in
consequence of the presence of the splendid body of
mounted police. No doubt they had much to do
with it, but the Canadians are a law-abiding people,
and the bulk of the foreigners had evidently great
respect and confidence in the British flag and British
law. The diggers, however, would have risen to a
man to repel and punish any one found pilfering or
gold-stealing. A species of lynch law had prevailed
in that region for years, and the* effect on the whole
had made for good.
It was on the twelfth day of June that the steam
whistle howled at daybreak, and our boat's bell
clanged ceaselessly for an hour—how they do love
noise over there! — and I brought May and her
bundleSy on board.
The entire population of Dawson City came to the  m
288
CHAPTER  XIV.
Our vessel was a curious affair. The hull was a long,
square-ended barge. In this was the engine which
worked the huge wheel astern. On the deck a large
cargo could be carried; over that were cabins, ranged
along both sides, with the dining-room between. A
railed passage—a balcony—surrounded the vessel on
this deck outside the sleeping-rooms, and above all
was the hurricane deck, where the passengers mostly
passed their time.
The cabins were remarkably clean and comfortable : a Chinaman looked after them. Our food was
excellent—considering.
The boat being " light," we were expected to make
a record passage down —twelve days, the captain
said; but it all depended on the state of the ice in
the lower river.
There were only a dozen passengers besides ourselves—some of them were returning " sick," others
because they were I sorry " they had come. Four or
five were reputed to have made their piles.    These Ifil
A  CLAIM  ON   KLONDYKE.
289
were very silent men: they spent their time smoking,
expectorating, and playing poker.
There was an American and his wife—Californians
—who were very genial and superior: they were
excellent company. There were also a young
Englishman and an elderly Scotsman. The.Americans were bound to San Francisco to buy goods:
they had wintered in Dawson, and were returning
later with their stock, and were going into store-
keeping in Dawson in an extensive way. The
Englishman and the Scot had done very well on
Bonanza Creek: they owned they had made enough
to live in Britain as they pleased.
We did not stop at Fort Reliance; it is all but
abandoned, and has been so for years. That is
where the first whites settled in that region, and it is
from this point that most of the places have been
named,—Forty, Sixty, Twelve Mile Posts were supposed to be these distances from Reliance. The
Yukon is here five hundred yards in width; there
are but few islands, and the current is regular.
At Forty Mile Post our boat was tied up for a few
hours. This place is a small repetition of Dawson,
although, I believe, a much older settlement: it is
on the south side of Forty Mile river, which here
joins the Yukon. It has several restaurants, billiard-
halls, and bakeries, a blacksmith, and an opera-house !
On the north side of the river lies Cudahy, a
smaller collection of stores and shanties.    It has no
T Iff
290
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
U 11-
llilll
opera-house, and would, in consequence, be unhappy
but for Fort Constantine, which was established in
1895. It is a station of the mounted police, who
have several fine log buildings, so well cared for that
they lend an air of civilisation to the place.
From here to the boundary line between Canada
and the United States—the 141st parallel of west
longitude — there is nothing worth noticing. The
Yukon there is about the same width as at Reliance,
but soon after entering American territory — i.e.,
Alaska—it widens considerably. It continues thus
for about one hundred miles, the banks on either
hand being high and steep, with fine mountains
inland. This portion is known as the Upper Ramparts.
Circle City we touched at. It had been a village
of importance before Dawson existed. The Klondyke
rush had taken away most of the inhabitants. We
found it all but deserted. Here we took in wood for
fuel, and heard with pleasure that the ice had left the
river for a long distance down.
After this there are 150 miles of very much wider
river, but it is a network of channels amongst smali
islands. Huge piles of ice were still to be seen on
many shallows.
At Fort Yukon, which lies north of the Arctic
Circle, we found hard winter reigned; but the river
was free of ice. It is 380 miles below Dawson.
The stream is said to be seven miles wide here.    The A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
291
navigation is most perplexing, as the channel shifts
continually.
On the fifth day we came to floating ice, which
extended from shore to shore. We moved slowly
after it. It was drifting down at the rate of five
miles an hour. During the short nights we tied up
to the bank. At daylight, no ice being visible, we
went on full speed until we overtook it. This continued till we were ten days out; then we came to a
solid mass of ice, which was not moving.
Our captain, a bit of a philosopher, reckoned he
had foreseen this delay and made light of it, but it
was annoying to us.
There were no dwellings, no signs of human or any
other life here, nothing but the dismal pine-clad river
banks, where, being so far north, it was still deep
winter.
We were stuck here four days. We were not a
very lively party. Cards kept a few employed, and
there were a few books on board. There were also a
number of newspapers of the previous September.
These were full of interest to some of us.
On the fourth day, suddenly, with an awful roar
and turmoil, the ice broke up and started. We soon
had clear water and went ahead again. No further
stoppages occurred, we pushed on, and eighteen days
from Dawson we reached the delta of the Yukon.
Here, the land being low and flat, and indeed then
completely overflowed, we appeared   to  be  on  the
.   !.!
h) IS 292
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.'
if
|
11
I
open sea. We had to go eighty miles north through
this to reach Fort St Michael, where our voyage in
the stern-wheeler ended.
The few miserable settlements, trading-posts, and
Indian rancheries which we had passed, or stopped at
for firing, were all so perfectly uninteresting and
monotonous that it is useless to even name them.
The few inhabitants were generally busy in some way
about the salmon. That fish was the all-absorbing
topic here, as gold had been farther up.
We met but one vessel going in. She had been
fast, in the ice all winter, since the previous
September! She was slowly pounding up against
the strong current with so much of her cargo that
was unconsumed during their long detention. What
she had left was principally household furniture and
whisky!—which would not feed the hungry.
Near St Michael's the mosquitoes discovered us, for
it had now become intensely hot. Those pests stuck
to us persistently until we were well out to sea.
May and I during this tedious time had become
Very friendly with our American fellow-passengers,
Mr and Mrs Parker. May was so constantly with
that lady that I had few opportunities of even a word
with her, which made me quite unhappy. I fancied,
foolishly, that May's past affectionately friendly way
with me had ended, that she had changed, and that
now that we were with others, and my help not so
necessary, she was gradually forsaking me. A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
293
We were always in company, that is true, but she
was never alone. It was rare now for her to call me
Bertie, and I observed a look on her sweet face when
I called her May which caused me to think she did
not like it.
Yes, I was very miserable. I was jealous of her
close association with Mrs Parker, I was jealous of
the kindly way in which she spoke to that lady's
husband. I was very absurd, I know. I was poor
company then for myself, or for any one.
May had really changed very little in appearance,
although she seemed to me to grow in beauty daily.
With more civilised appliances, a few improvements
in her dress, she became, in my eyes, the picture of
all a girl should be. I longed to tell her this. I
was annoyed, impatient, irritated at the obstacles
which prevented me.
May always had a sad expression. Could one
wonder at it ? She was, I knew, still grieving over
her lost father, and was anxious, filled with apprehension about her mother when she had heard the
sad story she must tell her. I longed to help, to
sympathise with her, indeed to be all in all to her,
as I fancied I had been during that awful time up
country.
It was very foolish, very preposterous of me, I am
aware. I should have realised that such companionship could never be again, unless she became my wife.
Really I knew it, and that is why I was so unhappy,
11 SB
SH
mmm
•mm
294
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
1
t I
and, as I see now, so stupid, for I then feared that
she never could be that.
This state of matters continued until towards the
end of this portion of our journey. It had grown so
unbearable that I had become somewhat reckless. I
really felt that I must put an end to it in some way.
It actually came into my mind that I had better, on
arriving at St Michael's, put her safely on board a
ship bound for Victoria and return to Dawson and
our claims up the Klondyke.
I said so to May one afternoon in the presence of
Mr and Mrs Parker. I spoke as if I had all but
determined to do so. She turned pale, then red.
She did not speak, but she looked at me so eagerly,
so imploringly, so frightened, that I was puzzled.
I was so abominably stupid that I attributed her
expression of alarm to her fear of losing my help and
guardianship. That she should be grieved at the
mere prospect of parting with me, never entered my
thick head that afternoon.
I said that I believed I should be better employed
in looking after our interests up the Yukon than in
going home in ease and luxury. 1 I'm sure you'll do
very well and comfortably without me now, Miss
Bell," I declared.
At this nasty speech the dear girl looked at me so
surprised, so very sorrowfully, that I half regretted
what I had said. She kept silence for a little.
"Have you forgotten your promise to your friend
** A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
295
Meade ? and to my poor father ?" she asked
me.
I replied, with difficulty, I admit, I was so dreadfully down-hearted and distressed, " Oh ! you will do
all there is to be done for Meade, I'm sure, as well,
nay, better than I can, and so that I know all will be
carried out as he wished, that promise will be kept;
and your father's desire will be carried out too if I
see you off safely from this country—and that I will
do, most certainly."
" Are you in earnest, Bertie ? " She seemed to be
amazed.
I assured her that was how I felt then,—that I
thought it would be much better so.
May was silent again. Shortly she arose and
walked slowly to her cabin. I fancied I observed a
tear trickling down her cheek as she left us. " She
is thinking about the past," I said to myself.
That same evening, later,—indeed it was getting
towards midnight — the sun had long set, but its
brilliance was still in the sky—it did not leave it the
whole night through at that season,—I was on deck,
as I supposed alone, the steamer was pressing onward
to the ocean down the rapidly flowing river, here
quite broad. The distant mountains in the west and
north towered up, violet, from a bank of rose-tinted
mist, soft as carded wool. Here and there ice-clad
peaks were still gilded by the sun, which Was far
down behind them, whilst the moon was riding full 296
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKl).
I'lliU
fri
ll I
Illlli
behind me. I was in deep distress, broken-hearted,
yet I have a clear remembrance of the scene on which
I gazed that night.
As I leant upon the rail and pondered upon what I
and May had said earlier in the day, what our adventures together had been in the past, and what I had
been foolish enough, as I at that moment considered, to
imagine might be possible in the future, I was downhearted and exceeding sad. My heart weut out to
May, I dwelt long and fondly on thoughts of her, but
I could see no ray of hope, and could think of no
reason why she should ever regard me as more than
a friend; whilst I was longing, yearning, beside myself with love of her. | Yes, oh ! yes," I muttered to
myself, " it is far better that I part with her,—far
better, indeed, that I return to my work away back
in the north."
There was much vibration in the vessel. These
craft are at best very fragile, very shaky. The beating paddle-wheel astern made so much noise that perfect quiet could not be attained anywhere on board.
I was somewhere amidships, the stillest spot that
I could find, yet I heard no footsteps, and had no idea
that any one was near me. Lifting up my eyes to
heaven, I ejaculated something—I don't know what
—some exclamation of despondency at the prospect
of the life that I was contemplating in the Upper
Yukon; but I do remember that I ended with the
words, I And no May there !" A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
297
As I uttered them a hand was laid softly on my
arm. I turned round hastily, and there my darling
stood, gazing at me steadily, with tear-filled eyes.
| Bertie! | she exclaimed, " Bertie, what do you
mean ? What ails you ? Are you unwell ? Are
you in some new grief ? What do you mean by
crying out I and no May there ' ? Tell me, my
friend, my very dear friend, what is amiss, what
you mean ?"
I was speechless for a little while. What could I
say ? I only stared at her distraught, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and I could not prevent my
looks showing what I felt. | Oh ! May, May!" I
murmured at last," do you not understand ? Do you
not comprehend the misery that I am suffering ?"
She was silent. She leant on the rail beside
me, fixing her gaze upon the crimson glow beyond
the mountain range. She was perfectly still and
speechless.
My agitation was very great—she and I were at
last alone. I knew that the time had come when I
must speak out. It was, I felt, now or never, yet
my tongue refused to form a sentence; the thoughts
that were whirling through my brain refused to be
turned to words. For several minutes we two
looked straight before us, seeing nothing, and were
dumb.
But in course of time I was able to speak; it was
slowly and in broken sentences.    "May," I began, 298
A  CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
Ijiji J
!!! ill
till
litlili
IB f ll I
I my dear friend May—my dearest friend—you are
going home—shortly we must part. I am brokenhearted about it. You were such sweet company to
me up in that fearful north; we have been through
such awful scenes together. To me, though, they
were the happiest times that I have ever known, or
ever expect to know. I would willingly go back
there, and end my days there, if you could be with
me; but that being impossible, I have really, and
truly, and seriously thought of late that it would be
better for me to go back there alone, for I believe I
should be happier in the scenes where you and I have
dwelt together, where the memory of your dear
presence will for ever cling, than at home in England
separated from you."    Then I was silent again.
Shortly after this outburst May asked me why we
must be separated; why, if her companionship was so
necessary to my happiness, I could not have it easier
and better in England than in Alaska ?
What was I to reply to this ? I muttered something, and she went on—" Have we not laid our
plans and schemes for our future lives ? Are we not
going to carry them out ? We are well off now as
regards money. We believe we can do all we wish,
thank Grod. What, then, is troubling you ? vWhy
this sadness, this unhappiness ? Why do you speak
of parting company and ending it all, and adding a
greater—yes, I will admit it, a greater grief to me
than any I have to bear, by talking thus of putting an A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
299
end to the life together which we have contemplated
with so much delight ?"
" Why— why do I do this, May ?" I cried excitedly. " Why ? because I love you—love you.
Do you understand why, now ? Don't you know
that you are all the world to me, and more ? Don't
you comprehend that the entire future is dark and
dreadful to me, because I love you, yearn for you,
and have no hope of winning your dear love in
return ? That is the reason, May. Now you know
this secret of my heart."
Again my dearest was speechless* for some time:
I saw the tears dropping, dropping from her sweet
eyes; fain would I have clasped her to my heart and
dried them, but I dared not.
" Bertie," she said then, softly. I Yes; now I
know your secret. But why ? oh, why are you so
sure that you cannot win my love ?"
I glanced at her bewildered. She turned to me,
and I saw in her dear eyes a look I cannot describe,
but I understood it. I was overcome with the joy
of it, enchanted at the knowledge that suddenly
flashed through my intelligence. I did not, could
not, stop to analyse, but I knew she loved me. I
knew that all my fears were follies, and that all my
greatest desires, my fondest hopes, were granted, and
that May was mine !
What I said or did then I have no clear recollection ; only this, that I seized my beloved's hands and
u 300
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
i
it
drew her to me as she laid her head confidingly on
my shoulder and whispered softly in my ear,
" Dearest, don't you know I love you ?"
We remained on deck together for a long while.
For my part I was in the seventh heaven of delight
and thankfulness. I could not find words to make
my darling understand how great my joy was. I
could but kiss her and draw her to my heart, whilst
she murmured again and again to me the joyful words,
" Bertie, my dearest, best of friends, I love you."
We parted only when the sun was about to rise
above the north-eastern ranges. I went below, a
gloriously happy man. I went to my berth rejoicing
that never-to-be-forgotten morning on the Lower
Yukon in Alaska.
To our fellow-passengers we believed that there
could be no apparent change in us when we all met;
but to me and to May how different all things seemed
to be. When I glanced at her across the breakfast
table, and saw the love-light in her eyes, I knew that
she was, as I was, filled with gladness unspeakable.
We hardly had three words together that morning,
she was with Mrs Parker all the time; the whole
forenoon she kept away from me. I hung around,
smoked my pipe persistently, hoping every moxment
that she would join me—my face, I'm sure, showing
my discontent.
She came at last, saying, | Don't you understand,
my love, that we cannot be exhibiting to all these A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYKE.
301
people what we are to each other? We must not
expose ourselves to their remarks. Be patient; my
thoughts are always with you."
| But why need you be with Mrs Parker always ?"
I enquired. " Surely no one will be scandalised if
you and I walk the deck together, or sit beside each
other. We used to do so three days ago; why cannot
we do so now ?"
" True," answered my sweetheart with a loving
smile; "but we were not so self-conscious then.
We know now what we are to one another; let us
be patient."
Of course I was so full of rapture, so intensely
pleased, that every syllable my dear one said to me
had my immediate acquiescence.    " Oh, yes," said I,
II will be patient; but why should not people know ?
Why don't you tell Mrs Parker of our happiness ?
She is a good woman, I feel sure, and if she knew the
state of matters-she would advise and help us. Don't
you wish that you could tell the Bains and Sandy, eh ?
How delighted they all would be."
May did not tell me then, but afterwards she did,
that Mrs Bain—woman-like—had discovered my
darling's secret and mine also, and had prophesied to
her what would happen " some day."
Not long after this I perceived May and Mrs
Parker side by side, talking together intently, with so
absorbed an aspect that I guessed what was their
subject easily.
!. II \w
mm
302
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
I
if   |
After supper that evening Mrs Parker, catching
me alone, congratulated me, declaring that she had
made up her mind about us before the boat left
Dawson; and felt honoured that May had, at last,
confided in her. She assured me that in all her
travels, and amongst all her acquaintances, she had
never come across a sweeter girl than May Bell.
So, thereafter, May and I had many a sweet hour
together, contrived by this kind Yankee friend, who,
having plenty of wit and common-sense, arranged
for us.
I fancy every person on board knew that we were
lovers by the time we landed at St Michael's.
This place is an irregularly built village on an
island of the same name. It consists of a few large
warehouses—Bussian buildings—a few log and frame
houses and stores, and, when we were there, many
shacks and temporary huts and camps.
It is perfectly treeless, but the grass-covered
rolling downs were so like the * prairies of Manitoba
that May and I were impatient to go ashore and feel
soft green sward beneath our feet again.
Several large sea-going ships and steamers were
alongside the wharf or anchored in the roadstead, and
there were numerous river-boats loading and preparing for their passage up to Dawson.
It was very evident, even before our boat touched
land, that there was considerable excitement here.
We  were the first people down that season; this A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
303
caused a crowd—all the inhabitants it seemed—to
meet us, eager for our report. They swarmed on
board before we were made fast, vehemently demanding information. " Was it true ?" I Was gold being
got as they had heard ?" | Was there any left ?"
This was the burden of their interrogations.
There were wild-eyed fellows amongst them, who
tackled every man of us almost savagely. There
were women, too, just as anxious to hear what we
could tell. Some of these latter got hold of May,
and the captain was surrounded by a clamouring
mob. They hardly gave him the chance to make his
ship fast
He referred them to the miners on board for
information. He particularly indicated me — then
I was attacked with a vengeance. Questions poured
upon me.
The intelligence I gave sent most of the crowd
half-cranky with delight. At once they were for
dragging me ashore and treating me with all the
grog and good things the place contained. They
declared that nothing was too good for me, for what
I had told them satisfied them that they were not
too late, that all the gold was not yet extracted from
the Klondyke!
As for May, I saw her being haled ashore by her
female admirers, and she was looking quite alarmed.
So soon as I could get my besiegers to listen I
begged them to let me go to her.    They did so, but
1 '.-'i'l
ff 11
1 ♦**■'
304
A  CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKfc.
they all accompanied me, and were then for both of
us accepting unbounded hospitality.
It seemed that our captain had let out that we
had a lot of gold on board. We could not, and did
not, deny this, but when it came to questions about
the amount we answered mysteriously. That was
enough; they were certain that the captain had been
right when he put our treasure down as worth
several millions!
It was some time before we could break away
from these enthusiasts. Go where we would they
followed us, each wanting a private word or two. It
was an exciting time truly.
There was one fine steamship leaving for Victoria
that very evening. With difficulty I got on board,
interviewed her commander, a first-rate English sailor,
and secured our passages.   The Parkers did the same.
This ship, a well - known Victoria trader, had
brought up a full to overflowing complement of
passengers. She was returning empty for another
lot.
We heard that Victoria, Vancouver, and all the
inland towns of Canada, all the American cities on
Puget Sound, with San Francisco and all California,
were half-mad about these wonderful finds reported
on the Klondyke. The latest news from Eastern
Canada and the States, from Britain, and indeed
from all the world, was that vast crowds were coming.
We   heard such   stories,   such   wild,   astounding
— N5
A   CLAIM   ON   KLONDYKE.
305
stories about the doings up where we had come
from. Such exorbitant fortunes that had been made,
such heaps of gold-dust, such nuggets, buckets full
of them! flour-barrels full! kegs heaped up with
them! We were told that in some of the creeks
the precious metal was so plentiful that men had
picked up piles in a few hours—that there was plenty
for every one who could but reach the Klondyke!
It was in vain that we assured them that we knew
nothing of such occurrences,—that we were sure it
was mostly gross exaggeration. No one would listen
to this; they said we were trying to deceive them,
to hide the truth from them, for that it was well
known we ourselves had so much gold with us
that we were multi-millionaires already, and were
hoping and scheming to make ourselves richer still.
It was no use our arguing, our disclaiming—they
knew far better than we did.
We hardly heard a word about how the swarms,
bound in, were to be fed. They knew that every
ship had reached the port with heavy cargoes of
food, they knew that the stores and warehouses here
were full, but scarcely any one appeared to have an
idea of getting it up to where the gold existed. They
had very much to learn.
With some scheming we managed to get our gold
transferred to this other ship; then we sailed at
midnight.
This  was  a  real  steamship,   flying   the   British
V i\
306
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
IP W
BUMS
m m
iflil
ensign, manned and served in proper British style.
We had excellent quarters, a capital table—my
darling girl and I were in the lap of luxury.
I need not particularise much about this voyage.
We had good weather, bright, clear, and not so cold,
for our 750 miles passage across Behring Sea to
Dutch Harbour on the island of Unalaska, the most
important of the Aleutian chain. Its mountains
were capped with eternal snow, but the greenness of
the lower land was very charming. Many vessels
were lying here, as it is a supply station for the
sealing and whaling fleets.
Here we remained but a few hours. We then
entered the Gulf of Alaska, where a strong gale and
a heavy sea was our fortune, as we-steered almost
due east, for 2000 miles, to Victoria.
Arrived there, we found an excited crowd to meet
us. Newspaper men interviewed us, and the accounts
they printed of what we had said and done, and of
the amount of bullion we had with us, astonished,
thrilled the world—and • us !
We only remained two days in Victoria, at my
old quarters at Bella Bocca. During that time we
had to give full particulars to the authorities about
Meade's and Mr Bell's deaths. We delivered our
gold to the Bank of British Columbia, feeling great
relief when it was safe at last. We replenished our
wardrobes, and became again decent - looking and
civilised members of society. A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
307
May cabled to her mother &om Victoria—she
merely announced that she was safe and well and on
her way home. She also wrote to a relative, begging
her to break the awful news she had to tell to her
mother, as we both thought this would be better than
May arriving and suddenly telling her dreadful story.
During our voyage from St Michael's to Dutch
Harbour, May and I had a quiet time, and we
endeavoured to plan our future movements. My
desire was that we should be married in Victoria.
I believed it would save much trouble and misunderstanding. But she would not agree to this.
She declared that only at her mother's home would
she become my wife.
We went on board the Yosemite late one
evening, and were in Vancouver early the following
morning, and about noon the same day left by the
C.P.B. for Montreal.
At Vancouver we parted with Mr and Mrs
Parker, who were to take the boat bound south for
San Francisco.
There were many tourists on our train, old-
country folk and Americans. The conductors were
genial and polite; the porters attentive and kindly;
the meals were excellent in the dining-car; the beds
were wonderfully comfortable. It was a truly enjoyable trip we had through the Selkirks and the
Kockies. We gazed with sad interest at the scenery
about Banff, then we bowled across the prairies past
! 308
A   CLAIM  ON  KLONDYHE.
II
mi
I;
litill!
Broadview, where the train, stopping for an hour or so,
gave us the opportunity of greeting a few old friends.
After five days' travel we arrived at Montreal,
stayed at St Lawrence Hall for two days, then went
on board the Allan steamer Parmesian, and sailed
for home.
It appeared that the good folk of Victoria must
have told the people on the Yosemite about us, and
they must have passed the story on to the officials of
the C.P.R at Vancouver, for every one seemed to
know where May and I had been, and what our
experiences were, also the amount of gold we had
brought out with us. Every one was attracted to us:
we were famous, and had to answer no end of questions, and repeat again and again the story of our
adventures.
We heard, and read subsequently, much about
ourselves that was true enough, much that we
certainly did not recognise.
There was the same experience on board the
Parmesian, old and young seemed to be proud to
hold a few minutes' conversation with either of us;
but my dear girl was undoubtedly the heroine.
May had become splendidly well. She was very
cheerful, too. I did my best to keep her from
dwelling upon sorrowful memories.
When we reached England she was, as I was,
thankful indeed; but now that she would be so
quickly with  her  mother, she  became very low- A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
309
spirited and anxious. She dreaded, yet longed for,
the sad meeting. She feared the effect upon her
of what she had to say.
I accompanied her south as far as Maidstone,
where a cousin met her, and she left me to hasten
to her mother's arms.
• • • • • • •'•
Since that day three months have elapsed. A
week ago there was a wedding at Chart Sutton,
where Mrs Bell has been residing since her husband
and her daughter went to Canada.
On our wedding-day Mrs Bell had sufficiently
recovered her health and peace of mind to be present
at the ceremony. My two brothers were with me,
and many of May's friends. Meade's mother and
sister came, so did Fanny Hume.
We have bought a little place near the sea, at
Bexhill, in Sussex; that is where our home is to be.
There is some talk of my going out to the
Klondyke in 1898. I think it is my duty. My
wife is dead against it. She has made me promise,
at all events, to wait until reports can be received
from Bain and Coney.    They are due in June.
m
Hi
At the end of June 1898 a letter came to hand
from Bain. It was written in March, and was
brought out by the "Yukon Kid," a famous half-
breed, on his dog-train, over the White Pass to
Skagway.
wc 310
A   CLAIM   ON  KLONDYKE.
Bain reported that soon after we left they sold
their claim at a good price; then they all moved
up to Meade's Creek and built a comfortable cabin.
Sandy Bain went down as far as St Michael's,
bought a good outfit of stores, and was luckily
able to get them up to Dawson by an early boat.
May's partners returned. They came in over
the Chilkoot Pass, also bringing a good supply of
food. They were grieved to hear of what Mr Bell
and his daughter had suffered, and of the sad
events that had ensued. They declared that they
had made what they felt satisfied were reliable
arrangements for their relief and rescue as they
passed through Dawson the previous autumn. They
approved of the way in which May had left the
claim, and recognised Bain's and Coney's right to
receive her share of the gold they obtained, which
they promised to hand over at the proper time. The
claim was looking still most prosperous.
Meade's Creek was staked out for miles above
| discovery "—that is, our claim, Meade's and mine
—and for some distance below. So was the creek
upon which May's party's claim was situated. Trails
had been cut, and on each creek a store or two had
been started. A log church had been erected on
Meade's Creek. Service was held by volunteers
almost every Sabbath.
About the gold, Bain had very good news to
tell.     The   dump   which   we  had  left  had   been A  CLALM   ON  KLONDYKE.
311
washed. It was very rich. They had hired men
to work for us, who had already got out another
heap that looked to be as full of gold as ever.
They had knocked away most of the hill in which
we had our dug-out and our tunnel.
Bain's own claim looked well. They had already
secured such an amount of gold, that he and his
wife had serious thoughts of coming home the following autumn, leaving Frank and Sandy to go on
mining, or to sell out when they got an offer good
enough. He finished the business part of his letter
by suggesting that I should await further reports
before starting for the North-West again—that is,
if I had any thought of coming. There was also
some information about the route in by Skagway,
on which he said great work was being done. A
road for vehicles was completed, bad places had
been bridged, &c. A railroad was commenced over
the White Pass, and by the spring of 1899 it was
confidently expected that it would be completed to
Lake Bennet, the head of the navigation Steamboats had been constructed to traverse the lakes
and rivers. Stores, bunk-houses, and shelters had
been erected along the trails. A tramway had been
constructed round Miles Canon and White Horse
Bapids, and vast quantities of stores had fortunately
been brought up from St Michael's, so that no great
fear of starvation existed.
An aerial wire-way, which he thought little of,
111 312
A  CLAIM   ON  KLONDYK®.
IPS
ill
had been erected over the Chilkoot pass. It carried
no passengers, only merchandise and stores.
Thus it appeared that as in this short time such
immense improvements had been made in the way
in to the Klondyke, we might expect in a year or
two to be able to go in and out with speed and
comfort in summer and autumn. But during the
long and terrible winter there would be no easy way
until a railroad was established.
There was an enclosure from Mrs Bain to May.
She sent her loving messages, and hoped before her
missive reached her she would be May Singleton.
Which is exactly what she is.
Patch was flourishing—every one's favourite.
So I end our story. We are waiting for the latest
news from Meade's Creek. But if no more gold is
obtained from our claim on the Klondyke, we have
reason to be well content, and to be thankful to the
Giver of all good for His bounty to us.
iiii I
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