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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER VI DREAM MINE
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 The next morning the party broke camp, and after toiling1 hard with pole and paddle reached, toward evening, a forest-shrouded gorge2 through which the flood swept furiously. A quarter of a mile ahead steep rocks pent in the raging water, which was veiled in spray; but nearer at hand the stream widened into a pool at which Andrew gazed with misgivings3. Evidently Carnally meant to cross it. A wall of crag formed one bank; the opposite beach was strewn with massy boulders4, over which the pine branches stretched; and in between there ran a great wedge-shaped track of foam6. No canoe, Andrew thought, could live through that tumult7 of broken water; but it ran more slackly near the boulder5 bank, and a short distance higher up an angry eddy9 swung back, close inshore, to the head of the pool, where it joined the main downward rush. At the junction10 a spur of rock ran out into the wild side-swirl of the flood. Shut in as it was by dripping pines, the place had a forbidding look.  
"It strikes me that the Company will find carrying up its stores and plant very costly11 work," Andrew remarked, as they rested in an eddy behind a stone. "I'm beginning to understand why Leonard asked for so much capital. My idea is that we'll have to do some preliminary reducing on the spot to save mineral transport."
[Pg 56]Carnally nodded. For a novice12 in such matters, Allinson was showing an unusual grasp of details.
"It's a question of the quality of the ore. In the North you must have a high-grade product that can be handled at a profit in small quantities. It doesn't pay to work rock that carries a low percentage of metal."
"What grade of stuff are we turning out? I've been unable to learn anything about it since I saw the results of the first assays13."
"So far, the Company has not got up much ore: the boys have been kept busy at development work. But you'll be able to judge for yourself shortly, and we had better get on. There's a slack along the edge of the spur at the head of the pool which we ought to make, and it will save us some trouble in portaging. I'll land you if you'd rather, but I want a hand, and Lucien must give us a lift by tracking."
"If you can take the canoe up, I'll go with you," said Andrew quietly.
They headed for the boulder beach, where they landed the half-breed. He made a line fast to the craft and went up-stream with the end of it, while Carnally thrust the canoe out and, with Andrew's help, forced her up against the current, aided by the line. It was arduous14 work. The foam stood high about the bows; eddies15 swirling16 up from the rough bottom swung them to and fro and, although they strained every muscle, now and then brought them to a standstill. Angry waves broke on board freely, and Andrew realized that if Lucien lost his footing or slackened his efforts the line would be torn from him and they would be swept back to the tail of the pool. This, however, would be better than being sucked into[Pg 57] the cataract17 close outshore, which would no doubt result in the canoe's capsizing. At last they reached a spot where they must stem the main rush, which swung in nearer the bank.
"Can we get through there?" Andrew asked breathlessly.
"I'll try," said Carnally. "If we fail, I guess you'll have to swim."
Andrew said nothing, but the swollen18 veins19 rose on his forehead as he strained upon his pole. Frothing water broke into the canoe; Lucien was knee-deep in the foam, braced21 tensely against the drag of the line. Spray lashed22 their hot faces, and the air was filled with the roar of the torrent23. For nearly a minute they hung stationary24, their strength taxed to the utmost, the pole-shoes gripping the bottom. Then they moved a foot or two, and the work was a little easier when they next dipped the poles. They made a few yards. With a cry to the half-breed, Carnally loosed the line, and they shot forward up-stream with a back-eddy. It swirled25 about them in curious green upheavals26, streaked27 with lines of foam, and they sped with it past boulder and shingle28 at a furious pace. This was exhilarating; but when steep rocks dropped to the water Andrew glanced anxiously toward the white confusion where the eddy reunited with the downward stream. Its descent was not to be thought of, but he could see no alternative except being dashed against the crag.
Carnally, however, did not seem disturbed. He knelt in the stern, his eyes fixed30 ahead, quietly dipping the steering31 paddle, for they had laid down the poles.
"Use all your strength when I give the word," he said.
They slid on, a tall, projecting spur of rock drawing[Pg 58] nearer, with furious waves leaping down-stream a yard or two outshore of it. It seemed to Andrew that destruction surely awaited them. The turmoil32 grew closer, the rock was only a yard or two away; in another few moments the bow of the canoe would plunge33 into the tumbling foam. Then came a cry from Carnally:
"Now, with your right! Shoot her in!"
Andrew felt the stout34 paddle bend and afterward35 thought he had never made a stronger effort. The bow swung inshore, the rock unexpectedly fell back, and as they drove past its end a narrow basin opened up. The next moment they had entered it and, gliding36 forward, grounded on a gravelly bank. A man scrambled37 down a ledge38 and helped them to drag out the canoe.
"I've been watching you; didn't think you would make it," he said. "The stream's stronger than usual. Come along to my camp; I'll put you up to-night."
"Thanks," responded Carnally. "This is Mr. Allinson, of the Rain Bluff39 Mine." He turned to Andrew. "Mr. Graham, from the Landing."
Andrew saw that the man was studying him with quiet interest. Graham was elderly; his hair was gray, and his face and general appearance indicated that he led a comfortable, domestic life. Andrew supposed he was in business, but when they reached his camp he recognized that it had been laid out by a man with some knowledge of the wilds.
Graham gave them a supper of gray trout40 and bannocks and they afterward sat talking while the half-breed went fishing. The rain had ceased, though the mist still drifted heavily down the gorge, and the aromatic41 smell of wood-smoke mingled42 with the scent29 of the pines. Somewhere in the shadows a loon43 was calling, its wild cry piercing through the roar of water.
[Pg 59]"A rugged44 and beautiful country," Graham remarked. "Is this your first visit to it, Mr. Allinson?"
"No," Andrew replied. "I was once some distance north, looking for caribou45. I'm glad of an opportunity for seeing it again. It gets hold of one."
"So you know that; you have felt the pull of the lonely North! Curious how it draws some of us, isn't it?"
"Have you been up there?"
"Oh, yes; as a young man I served the Hudson Bay. I've been through most of the barrens between Churchill and the Mackenzie. Perhaps that's the grimmest, hardest country white men ever entered; but it's one you can't forget."
"It's undoubtedly46 hard," said Andrew. "We scarcely reached the fringe of it, but I was dressed in rags and worn very thin when we struck Lake Manitoba. I suppose you live at the Landing now?"
"I've been there twenty years; built my house myself when there was only a shack47 or two and a Hudson Bay store. The railroad has changed all that."
"Mr. Graham is treasurer48 for the sawmill," Carnally explained.
"Didn't you find it tamer than serving the fur company?" Andrew asked.
A curious smile crept into Graham's eyes.
"One can't have everything, Mr. Allinson. I've been content, a willing slave of the desk, only seeing the wilds for a week or two in summer. But I've thought I might make another trip before I get too old."
"I think I understand," Andrew replied; "if I've a chance, I'm going before I return home. There's so[Pg 60] much up yonder that impresses me—the caribou, the timber wolves, the lake storms, and the break up of the rivers in the spring. What a tremendous spectacle the last must be!—six-foot ice, piled up in wild confusion, thundering down the valleys. I've only followed the track of it in summer, but I've seen the wreckage49 of rubbed-out buttes and islands, and boulders smashed to rubble50."
"It is grand," said Graham quietly.
"I wonder if you'd mind telling Mr. Allinson about the silver lode51 you found?" Carnally suggested. "I guess he'd be interested."
Graham needed some persuasion52 before he began his tale.
"It happened a long time ago and I seldom mention it now; in fact, I'll confess that the lode is looked upon as a harmless illusion of mine. My friends call it my Dream Mine. When I was a young man I was stationed at a Hudson Bay factory about four hundred miles north of here and was despatched with two half-breeds and a canoe to carry stores to a band of Indians. No doubt you know that the great Company held sovereign authority over the North for a very long time and the Indians depended on it for their maintenance. Well, we set off with the canoe, paddling and portaging up rivers and across the height of land, toward the south."
"Then you were working across country toward the headwaters of this river," Andrew remarked.
"We didn't get so far, but I did my errand, and one day when crossing a divide we nooned beside a little creek53. As I filled the kettle I noticed something peculiar54 about the pebbles55 and picked up a few. They were unusually heavy and dully lustrous56, which made me curious. Following the creek back, I found a[Pg 61] vein20 of the same material among the rocks. I filled a small bag with specimens57 and took the bearings of the spot, though we had to get on without loss of time because the rivers would soon be freezing up. On reaching the fort I showed the agent the specimens. I can remember his look of disgust. He was a grim old Scot.
"Just pebbles; I'm no saying but they might be pretty,' he remarked, and opening the door threw them out. 'Ye'll think nae mair o' them. The Company's no collecting precious stones, and ye should ken8 a souter's expected to stick till his last.'"
"I wonder," said Andrew, "which of you hailed from the Border."
"Both," laughed Graham. "He was a Hawick terry; I was born between Selkirk and Ettrick shaws. The official language of the Company was Caledonian; but that's beside the point. I was young enough to feel hurt; though I knew my man and how staunch he was to the Company's traditional policy."
"What was that policy?"
"The North for the Hudson Bay. As you know, in Canada all minerals belong to the Crown. The first discoverer can claim the right to work them, so long as he complies with the regulations."
"I see," said Andrew. "Prospectors59 might scare away animals with skins worth a good deal of silver. But I didn't mean to interrupt you."
"A day or two later I thought I would look for the stones, but there had been a heavy fall of snow and I found only a few of them. I never got the rest, because I was away when the thaw60 came. About a year later I was sent back with the same companions to the band of Indians. It was winter, they were starving, and the[Pg 62] agent recognized their claim. There was no oppression of native races in the Hudson Bay domains61; not a yard of the Indians' land was taken from them, and drink could not be bought at the factories. The Company offered them a higher standard of comfort if they would work for it, but there was no compulsion. If they found English guns and stores and blankets better than the articles they had used, the agents were there to trade."
Graham paused with a smile.
"I'm discursive62, Mr. Allinson, but I've a grievance63 against the Hudson Bay, and I want to be fair."
"I'm interested," Andrew declared. "It's a clean record for a commercial monopoly, considering how cocoa, rubber, and one or two other things, are often procured64."
"We reached the Indian camp, handed over the supplies, and started back, with rations65 carefully weighed out to see us through. In winter starvation stalks one closely across the northern wilds. Now I had meant to visit the creek where I'd found the stones, but there was the difficulty that, as the Indians had changed their location, it would mean a longer trip. I couldn't rob the starving trappers of anything that had been sent them, and I must make our provisions cover an extra three or four days. There was a danger in this, because an unexpected delay might be fatal, and the dogs were already in poor condition. I faced the risk. We set off, the sledge66 running heavily over soft snow, and we reached the neighborhood of the creek in a raging blizzard67, and camped for twenty-four hours. I could not find the creek, it was impossible to wait, and we went on through the bitterest weather I have known. Gales68 and snowstorms dogged our steps all[Pg 63] the way to the fort and we reached it, starving, four days late. One of the half-breeds had a badly frozen foot and I'll carry a memento69 of that march for the rest of my life."
Graham held up his left hand, which was short of two fingers.
"The result of a small ax cut and putting on a damp mitten70, when we were near the creek."
"That put an end to your prospecting71?"
"It did. I think the agent suspected me, for he took care that I was not sent south again, and during the next year I left the Company's service. I kept the stones and after some time took them to an American assayer72. He found them rich in lead and silver, which are often combined, and his estimate of the value of the matrix rock startled me. It was beyond anything I had imagined."
"Then there's a fortune awaiting exploitation beside that creek," exclaimed Andrew. "Did you do nothing about it?"
Graham smiled at him.
"I was married then, Mr. Allinson; a clerk in a small sawmill. What could I do? Stories of such strikes in the wilderness73 are common, and I had nothing but two or three bits of stone to show a capitalist. The country's difficult to traverse; it would have needed a well-equipped party to carry up stores and haul a canoe over the divides. In winter, provisions and sledge dogs could be obtained only from the Hudson Bay agents. The Company had to be reckoned with, and it was too strong for me."
"They couldn't have forbidden you to prospect58 in their territory."
"Oh, no; after all, it belongs to Canada. But[Pg 64] their agents could refuse me the assistance and supplies I couldn't do without. It was impossible to hire an Indian guide or packer without their consent. If I'd been able to raise a thousand dollars, I might have beaten them; but that was out of the question."
"You tried, I've no doubt?"
"I spent a year's savings74 on a visit to Montreal and made the round of the banks and financiers' offices. Here and there a man listened with some interest, but nobody would venture five dollars on the project."
"And then?" said Andrew.
"I gave up all idea of developing the mine. I had two children to bring up; my salary was small. From the beginning, my wife made light of my discovery—I dare say she feared I might go back to the North—the children as they grew up took her view, and my silver mine became a joke among us. For twenty years I've led a happy, domestic life; but I've never forgotten the lode and I've thought of it often the last year or two. My girl is teaching, the boy has got a post, and I have a few dollars accumulating in the bank."
Graham, breaking off, filled his pipe and laughed softly before he went on.
"That's my story, Mr. Allinson; but perhaps it isn't finished yet. I may take the trail again some day, but it will have to be soon. The North is a hard country, and I'm getting old."
Andrew was moved. Loving adventure as he did, he could imagine what Graham's self-denial had cost him while he had cheerfully carried out his duty to his family.
"Prospecting would no doubt be easier now?" he suggested.
"Much easier," said Graham. "The railroad has[Pg 65] opened up the country, and the Company finds miners very good customers. Only, when you get back a short distance from the track, the North is still unsubdued. To grapple with its snow and ice, its rapids and muskegs, is mighty75 tough work."
They talked about other matters, until the chilly76 mist, gathering77 thicker round the camp, drove them into the tent.

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