Слике страница
PDF
ePub

66 'There you are," said I, glad to exult over my antagonist in debate; "and, what's more, there is gold on the Peace River, and on the Saskatchewan. Big placers will be heard of in Canada yet, and don't you forget it."

66

'Right you are, Canuck!" said the big man, laying a brawny, hairy paw in affectionate accommodation on my shoulder. "There never was anything richer known than the Cariboo, while the rush lasted. But the Cariboo was only the beginning of what Canada is to do, and Californiahumph! California's a fool to it."

"I s'pose you'll tell us," said another, joining in with a good-natured laugh, "that Canaday'll give us suthin better'n Chicken Creek"-the big strike that was then the reigning excitement.

"For chickens on this side they have full-grown Shanghai roosters in Canada," said the stranger.

"An' whereabouts are you goin' to make these big strikes? Down among the Habitaws, I s'pose."

"Not three hundred miles from where you stand.”

"Shucks! They ain't no Canada so near as that. All this" (with a comprehensive motion of the hand) "is Alaska, an' belongs to Uncle Sam."

"No it ain't; it's Canada, and belongs to Queen Victoria."

Something in his tone, a sort of love and reverence affected me so as almost to bring the tears to my eyes. An impulse within me rather than myself seemed to speak my next words.

66

Why, you must be Canada Pete!" "That's me."

Our "shake" was with both hands. I could have hugged him, but with an effort I maintained my dignity and expressed my joy only in the formal manner, by ordering drinks for the crowd. Nearly all except myself knew Canada Pete, and out of good-natured consideration for him, and in honour of our meeting, they drank not only the conventional "Here's lookin' at you," but also "Canada; Good Luck!"

I made myself a chum of Canada

Pete after that. Though I had been told that he was a man of few words, I found that he talked freely enough to me-almost too freely, for what he said almost seemed to justify the significant looks of our fellow-miners and even their pantomimic intimations that hard luck and hard work had at last turned the poor old man's brain.

He told me (not in a complaining way, he blamed nobody but himself, not even his luck) that he had come near making his pile over and over again in the United States, but always something had happened to dash the cup of fortune from his very lips.

"The only time I ever really had money," he said, "was when I came down from the Cariboo in '66. But I wasn't satisfied-wanted an even million to go home with. So I went into quartz mining in California. Pooh! One of us fellows might as well try to run a flour mill. Of course I lost every dollar. I made a little in the Cassiar after that, but dropped it in Spokane real estate. Strange how long it's taken me to learn my lesson. But I've got it off pat now. I always thought I was to make my pile in the States and spend it in Canada. I'm headed for Canada next week. That's where I'm to make my money.'

"But there are no diggings in Canada yet."

"The gold is there, though."
"Yes, quartz."
"And placers."

[ocr errors]

"How do you know?"

"The Yukon flows, in part, through Canada, and gold is found in the Yukon. There's gold in Cariboo and in Cassiar and in Omenica, and about here. Don't you see? The next big placer finds will be south or east of here, and I'm after them."

66

"But you've got a good claim here." Wages-just wages. This is the United States, and I'm a Canadian. My luck is in Canada. I've got the worst claim on the creek. On the other side of Ogilvie's line I'll have the best."

"See here," I said, serious now. "Honest Injun! Do you know any

thing. If you've got any pointers that you can depend on, and want a partner that'll rassle through anything with you, give me your pointers and I'm your man.”

"I have pointers that are pointers to me, but they would be nothing to you. If I told you that I saw an Indian with a nugget that I know never could have come from any creek about here; if I told you that old Sam Dake, once when he was full o' booze, said something that nobody but me understood, about finding gold on the Upper Yukon; if I told you that a Hudson's Bay man told me years ago that old Fort Reliance was in a gold country— you would say there was nothing in any of these things. But put them all together, and then look at the map. Look at the map, man! See how the gold country runs north and gets richer as you near the pole. Even the very location of their Chicken Creek proves it. Chicken Creek! Paugh! A couple of dollars a pan at the best. I want gold by the shovelful! And I'll get it when I follow my luck into Canada."

I tried hard to dissuade him, telling him that he was going out on a wildgoose chase, that it was well enough for prospectors who had nothing, tenderfeet and busted parties to go nosing around for impossible big strikes, but for a man of property like himself, a man with a sure thing-for his claim was worth more than wages-it was straight foolishness. He listened to all I had to say, smoking thoughtfully the while, but when I had finished he knocked the ashes out of his pipe as though that conversation were over.

But he resumed it himself a day or two after. He said he would like to have me for a partner. He had no proof that he was on the right trail, he said, and no money to guarantee me against loss, but he knew he had a good thing ahead, and, if I could see it that way, he would share with me. I felt not only that it would be foolish of me to accept his offer, but also that I ought to dissuade him from carrying out his plan. I had "bought in " on

Flat Creek, and did not feel like abandoning my investment and its prospective returns for a chance which looked like no chance at all. Strange how a man will turn away when luck stands ready with bag and scoop to fill his pockets with gold! I I gave Pete a kindly but decided "No" for an an

swer.

"That's right," he said; "you do exactly what I would do if our places were changed. But I've done my share in making the offer. You're the only man I'd make a partner of. All my old chums are dead or rich. If you won't go in, then I'm the only man on this prospect, and nobody makes or loses but me."

He was ready within a day or two after that. The steamer Bedon came "sloshing along"-that is the only way to express it-bound up the river, and Pete and his outfit were taken aboard.

This was in August, 1895.

We people went on pottering along with our little prospects. Within a year opinions concerning Canada Pete had considerably changed. Miners coming down the river spoke of the district about old Fort Reliance as the best gold region to be found, but said it was almost impossible to prospect properly on account of the expense of getting in supplies.

During the summer of '96 the rumours that reached us reminded one of the children's game of "hot butter and blue beans." A good many prospectors were searching for the rich gravel, and the finds improved considerably-the searchers were 66 getting hotter." The news obtained indirectly from the Indians grew a good deal more definite. Men about Circle City began to talk about leaving for "up the river," and a good many wondered what information Canada Pete could have had that he had started off so confident of suc

cess.

One day-shall I ever forget it?word reached us that the rich ground had been struck. Not the rich ground we had talked about, but something that no old miner would have dared to

hope for. It was Canada Pete's "gold by the shovelful," and it was all in Canada.

There may have been some people left behind, but I doubt it. All the creeks, including those at the head of Forty Mile River; yes, even the great Chicken Creek itself, which had been a marvel up to that time, were promptly abandoned.

I got there in time to take up a claim on Bonanza Creek, and, as the fellows who write "recommends" for patent medicine say, I have never had reason to regret it. I had a good many offers to sell out, but I thought I knew a good thing when I had it in my grip, and, besides, I knew that when word reached the outside world in the spring, there would be many more possible purchasers to deal with if I should then want to sell. So I went on sluicing that fall and "burning" in the winter.

I must pass over the events of the spring of '97 on the Klondike. Some day, it may be, one of the old-timers more eloquent than I will tell that stirring story.

The summer was well advanced when Canada Pete reappeared. I did not know that he was anywhere near Dawson until he stood in the doorway of my shack. So far as his features and figure were concerned, he looked about as he had when I last had seen him, but that appearance not exactly of age but of almost an eternity of experience was increased tenfold.

"Well," he said.

There was a whole dictionary full of "I told you so's" in his tone.

I was so astonished at his sudden appearance, so overwhelmed with the recollection of the almost supernatural fore-knowledge he had shown of the future of the country, so confounded by that inscrutable look and the tone of the one word of greeting he had spoken, that I could hardly utter a word. I think I said "Good day," or something like that. I may have said

what Chimmie Fadden was wont to say when he "couldn't t'ink uv nuttin else."

1

But I brought Pete in and gave him

a drink, which, as it were, brought us back to the line of a fair start. I began to tell him about the richness of my claim and others. Forty dollars to the pan, fifty, sixty, a hundred, two hundred dollars and more to the panriches that would have driven the old timers of California or Australia stark, raving crazy, were events of everyday occurrence around us. Canada Pete looked as though he did not regard my news as so very wonderful, and even when I somewhat exaggerated the common reports, or gave as gospel some that, to say the least, were not verified, he gave a grave assent as though I were talking of mere matters of course. "What luck have you had?" I asked.

"I got what I came for," he replied. "Did you ever hear of the Band of Hope in Ballarat, Australia?" What miner does not know the story of those iron-willed heroes who removed a mountain that rested upon the rock-encrusted gold they sought? As your finds are to the Ballarat placers, so is mine to the vein uncovered by the Band of Hope."

66

There was no boastfulness in the tone. I realized that those eyes that looked so calmly into mine had seen back there in the wilderness somewhere, such riches as man had never beheld before. Among a certain class, whom we oldtimers were rather disposed to regard as tenderfeet, there was a good deal of talk about finding the "mother lode." If there was such a thing Pete must have found it, or the grandmother or the great foremother of all lodes.

But I dared not ask questions-1 knew that it would be no use to do so anyway. I had had my chance when Pete had offered me partnership, and

I had refused it. I remembered perfectly his words, "I'm the only man on this prospect; nobody makes or loses but me.' It was evident he had not forgotten them either.

99

I waited to see how he would describe his claim when he entered it. There was nothing unfair in that, for if there was only one good claim he would have it, and if there were more

than one he could not take all and could not be injured by others coming in beside him; in fact, it would benefit him by opening up a route to the new ground, wherever it was, and so reduce the cost of getting in supplies.

But Pete did not enter a claim. He had about half a million in gold with him, of which he spent freely as occasion called for, but with none of the crazy extravagance of the ordinary miner who has struck it rich. A good many of the boys thought these things proof that he had worked his claim for all it was worth and found it necessary to economize-for we all knew that an even million was his mark. But I figured that he simply did not think enough of his money to bother about using it. There is such a thing as having more money than you can spend. My opinion was strengthened when I expressed in a mild way and indirectly my surprise at his not entering his claim and so protecting his rights. He smiled.

"There's enough to last my time and yours," he answered with a gesture that indicated a belief that gold was as plentiful as snow in winter, and precautions for keeping it were wholly superfluous.

"Good bye," he said then, and extended his hand.

"Going away?" "Yes; going home at last. This

66

is home in a way," and he gave the ground a pat with his foot. This is Canada and home. But I want to go back to the old place in Upper Canada and give the folks that are left what I've brought out. I'll be back next year. So long."

That was the last I ever saw of him. He went down the river to St. Michael's, and there took the ill-fated Benson down the coast. George Clarke, one of the survivors of the wreck, came back to Dawson to look for another fortune, having lost over eighty thousand dollars' worth of nuggets and dust. He looked me up and gave me a paper which Canada Pete had entrusted to him for me. It was a sort of map, but o water-soaked and travel-worn that I have been unable so far to understand it. Pete had drawn it after the vessel struck and before she went down. I live in hope that some occurrence may give me the key to it, for I do not doubt when I can read it I shall be able to find the rich ground from which the old man took his half million.

"He was Canada Pete to the last," said Clarke. "While we were waiting for the vessel to get off the rock or go to pieces, he told me he couldn't get through, but it served him right for trusting himself and his money on an American boat, instead of keeping to Canadian soil."

THE DAISY.

SWEET child of earth, thy face is purer far

Than ours, to whom all things the God has given ; White as an angel's robe, fair as the fairest star, It turns serenely upward, unto Heaven.

I feel a likeness, drawing me to thee,

I, stained with sin, with worldly passion rife; What throbs through thee, fills also even me, The great mysterious mother-spirit- Life.

Bert Marie Cleveland.

[ocr errors]

A FORECAST OF THE GENERAL ELECTIONS.

By M. E. Nichols.

ASSAILING a Government in the just as near presenting the Opposition

its career is a disheartening undertaking, and without an issue which commands the earnest interest of the electorate is rarely rewarded with success. There was such an issue in the elections of 1896 when the Manitoba School Question divided the Conservative strength, alienated the Independent element and made the triumph of the Liberal party sure.

with a fatal issue as is healthy for a Government, but he recovered his judgment in time. As it is, the Opposition must attack an entrenched enemy with small arms, and the conflict promises small success to the attacking party.

A government is the entrenched party, and in the fulness of its strength heroic action is necessary to dislodge it. An overshadowing issue, an issue capable of appealing with crushing force to the electors, is an Opposition's only hope of victory. The political history of Canada substantiates this. Sir John Macdonald went out of power in 1874 on the Pacific scandal; he reinstated himself in 1878 on the strength of the National Policy. Two great questions brought about two great changes in the fortunes of the political parties of Canada. To-day with the general elections at hand there is no issue which can be said to claim precedence in the sight of the electorate. True, the Opposition has numerous important quarrels with the governing party. It disputes the wisdom of its tariff policy; denounces its preference to Britain; assails its administration of the Yukon, and finds serious fault with its attempted redistribution of seats. But of all the issues which Sir Charles Tupper delights to relate, there is not one which the Canadian elector can declare to be of surpassing importance. An Opposition is not nearly as dangerous hacking at the enemy's wall, producing a spark here and a splinter there, as when it concentrates its whole strength at the weakest point. When Sir Wilfrid Laurier hesitated to send Canadian troops to Britain's aid in South Africa he came

Since there is no great issue to engage the attention of the country, the fate of the Laurier Government will be determined by different influences in nearly every Province. From Ontario and the West the Opposition may expect to make its greatest, if not its only gains. The influences which menace the Government in Ontario are both selfish and patriotic. There can be no doubt that the patronage which every Government controls is conceded a strength which it does not possess. Personal interest is at the root of the activity of thousands of electors in behalf of a party and it is not easy to persuade one why his claims are inferior to those of another. The office or the contract which gladdens the heart of one faithful follower makes hostile or indifferent a dozen or more who aspired for the prize. Patronage cuts both ways, and the most skilful distribution is certain to leave numerous disgruntled followers who nursed their ambitions throughout the long years of Conservative ascendency at Ottawa. There are Liberals too who are not enthusiastic in the Government's behalf, and who are honest in their hostility or indifference. A party in opposition is irresponsible. It appeals to the people with theories workable and unworkable. The Liberal party had eighteen years to form good intentions, and the Government which could have carried out the promises it made in Opposition would be an ideal one. Belief, however, that the Liberal leaders pledged the party to practical reforms which they have signally failed to give

« ПретходнаНастави »