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THE

LAST SPIKE

AND OTHER

RAILROAD STORIES

BY

CY WARMAN

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1906


_Copyright, 1906_,
BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

Published February, 1906

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.




CONTENTS


PAGE

THE LAST SPIKE 1

THE BELLE OF ATHABASCA 31

PATHFINDING IN THE NORTHWEST 49

THE CURÉ'S CHRISTMAS GIFT 61

THE MYSTERIOUS SIGNAL 85

CHASING THE WHITE MAIL 107

OPPRESSING THE OPPRESSOR 119

THE IRON HORSE AND THE TROLLEY 135

IN THE BLACK CAÑON 151

JACK RAMSEY'S REASON 165

THE GREAT WRECK ON THE PÈRE MARQUETTE 181

THE STORY OF AN ENGLISHMAN 193

ON THE LIMITED 211

THE CONQUEST OF ALASKA 219

NUMBER THREE 237

THE STUFF THAT STANDS 253

THE MILWAUKEE RUN 273




THE LAST SPIKE


"Then there is nothing against him but his poverty?"

"And general appearance."

"He's the handsomest man in America."

"Yes, that is against him, and the fact that he is always _in_ America.
He appears to be afraid to get out."

"He's the bravest boy in the world," she replied, her face still to the
window. "He risked his life to drag me from under the ice," she added,
with a girl's loyalty to her hero and a woman's pride in the man she
loves.

"Well, I must own he has nerve," her father added, "or he never would
have accepted my conditions."

"And what where these conditions, pray?" the young woman asked, turning
and facing her father, who sat watching her every move and gesture.

"First of all, he must do something; and do it off his own bat. His old
father spent his last dollar to educate this young rascal, to equip him
for the battle of life, and his sole achievement is a curve that nobody
can find. Now I insist he shall do something, and I have given him five
years for the work."

"Five years!" she gasped, as she lost herself in a big chair.

"He is to have time to forget you, and you are to have ample opportunity
to forget him, which you will doubtless do, for you are not to meet or
communicate with each other during this period of probation."

"Did he promise this?"

"Upon his honor."

"And if he break that promise?"

"Ah, then he would be without honor, and you would not marry him." A
moment's silence followed, broken by a long, deep sigh that ended in
little quivering waves, like the faint ripples that reach the
shore,--the whispered echoes of the sobbing sea.

"O father, it is cruel! _cruel! cruel!_" she cried, raising a tearful
face to him.

"It is justice, stern justice; to you, my dear, to myself, and this fine
young fellow who has stolen your heart. Let him show himself worthy of
you, and you have my blessing and my fortune."

"Is he going soon?"

"He is gone."

The young woman knelt by her father's chair and bowed her head upon his
knee, quivering with grief.

This stern man, who had humped himself and made a million, put a hand on
her head and said:

"Ma-Mary"--and then choked up.


II

The tent boy put a small white card down on General Dodge's desk one
morning, upon which was printed:

J. BRADFORD, C.E.

The General, who was at that time chief engineer in charge of the
construction of the first Pacific Railroad, turned the bit of pasteboard
over. It seemed so short and simple. He ran his eyes over a printed
list, alphabetically arranged, of directors, promoters, statesmen,
capitalists, and others who were in the habit of signing "letters of
recommendation" for young men who wanted to do something and begin well
up the ladder.

There were no Bradfords. Burgess and Blodgett were the only B's, and the
General was glad. His desk was constantly littered with the "letters" of
tenderfeet, and his office-tent filled with their portmanteaus, holding
dress suits and fine linen.

Here was a curiosity--a man with no press notices, no character, only
one initial and two chasers.

"Show him in," said the General, addressing the one luxury his hogan
held. A few moments later the chief engineer was looking into the eye of
a young man, who returned the look and asked frankly, and without
embarrassment, for work with the engineers.

"Impossible, young man--full up," was the brief answer.

"Now," thought the General, "he'll begin to beat his breast and haul out
his 'pull.'" The young man only smiled sadly, and said, "I'm sorry. I
saw an 'ad' for men in the _Bee_ yesterday, and hoped to be in time," he
added, rising.

"Men! Yes, we want men to drive mules and stakes, to grade, lay track,
and fight Indians--but engineers? We've got 'em to use for cross-ties."

"I am able and willing to do any of these things--except the
Indians--and I'll tackle that if nothing else offers."

"There's a man for you," said the General to his assistant as Bradford
went out with a note to Jack Casement, who was handling the graders,
teamsters, and Indian fighters. "No influential friends, no baggage, no
character, just a man, able to stand alone--a real man in corduroys and
flannels."

Coming up to the gang, Bradford singled out the man who was swearing
loudest and delivered the note. "Fall in," said the straw boss, and
Bradford got busy. He could handle one end of a thirty-foot rail with
ease, and before night, without exciting the other workmen or making any
show of superiority, he had quietly, almost unconsciously, become the
leader of the track-laying gang. The foreman called Casement's
attention to the new man, and Casement watched him for five minutes.

Two days later a big teamster, having found a bottle of fire-water,
became separated from his reasoning faculties, crowded under an old
dump-cart, and fell asleep.

"Say, young fellow," said the foreman, panting up the grade to where
Bradford was placing a rail, "can you skin mules?"

"I can drive a team, if that's what you mean," was the reply.

"How many?"

"Well," said Bradford, with his quiet smile, "when I was a boy I used to
drive six on the Montpelier stage."

So he took the eight-mule team and amazed the multitude by hauling
heavier loads than any other team, because he knew how to handle his
whip and lines, and because he was careful and determined to succeed.
Whatever he did he did it with both hands, backed up by all the
enthusiasm of youth and the unconscious strength of an absolutely
faultless physique, and directed by a remarkably clear brain. When the
timekeeper got killed, Bradford took his place, for he could "read
writin'," an accomplishment rare among the laborers. When the bookkeeper
got drunk he kept the books, working overtime at night.

In the rush and roar of the fight General Dodge had forgotten the young
man in corduroys until General Casement called his attention to the
young man's work. The engineers wanted Bradford, and Casement had
kicked, and, fearing defeat, had appealed to the chief. They sent for
Bradford. Yes, he was an engineer, he said, and when he said it they
knew it was true. He was quite willing to remain in the store department
until he could be relieved, but, naturally, he would prefer field work.

He got it, and at once. Also, he got some Indian fighting. In less than
a year he was assigned to the task of locating a section of the line
west of the Platte. Coming in on a construction train to make his first
report, the train was held up, robbed, and burned by a band of Sioux.
Bradford and the train crew were rescued by General Dodge himself, who
happened to be following them with his "arsenal" car, and who heard at
Plumb Creek of the fight and of the last stand that Bradford and his
handful of men were making in the way car, which they had detached and
pushed back from the burning train. Such cool heroism as Bradford
displayed here could not escape the notice of so trained an Indian
fighter as General Dodge. Bradford was not only complimented, but was
invited into the General's private car. The General's admiration for the
young pathfinder grew as he received a detailed and comprehensive report
of the work being done out on the pathless plains. He knew the worth of
this work, because he knew the country, for he had spent whole months
together exploring it while in command of that territory, where he had
been purposely placed by General Sherman, without whose encouragement
the West could not have been known at that time, and without whose help
as commander-in-chief of the United States army the road could not have
been built.

As the pathfinders neared the Rockies the troops had to guard them
constantly. The engineers reconnoitered, surveyed, located, and built
inside the picket lines. The men marched to work to the tap of the drum,
stacked arms on the dump, and were ready at a moment's notice to fall
in and fight. Many of the graders were old soldiers, and a little fight
only rested them. Indeed there was more military air about this work
than had been or has since been about the building of a railroad in this
country. It was one big battle, from the first stake west of Omaha to
the last spike at Promontory--a battle that lasted five long years; and
if the men had marked the graves of those who fell in that fierce fight
their monuments, properly distributed, might have served as mile-posts
on the great overland route to-day. But the mounds were unmarked, most
of them, and many there were who had no mounds, and whose home names
were never known even to their comrades. If this thing had been done on
British soil, and all the heroic deeds had been recorded and rewarded, a
small foundry could have been kept busy beating out V.C.'s. They could
not know, these silent heroes fighting far out in the wilderness, what a
glorious country they were conquering--what an empire they were opening
for all the people of the land.



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