Part 2 out of 4
home. So I stood, looking stupidly from one to the other, trying
to find some reason--coward that I was--why another should bear the
news rather than I. And while we stood there, looking at one
another in fear, there broke upon us the sound of a voice mounting
high above the birch tops, singing--
"Will ye no' come back again?
Will ye no' come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be,
Will ye no' come back again?"
'A strange terror seized us. Instinctively the men closed up in
front of the body, and stood in silence. Nearer and nearer came
the clear, sweet voice, ringing like a silver bell up the steep--
"Sweet the lav'rock's note and lang,
Liltin' wildly up the glen,
But aye tae me he sings ae sang,
Will ye no' come back again?"
'Before the verse was finished "Old Ricketts" had dropped on his
knees, sobbing out brokenly, "O God! O God! have pity, have pity,
have pity!"--and every man took off his hat. And still the voice
came nearer, singing so brightly the refrain,
'"Will ye no' come back again?'
'It became unbearable. "Old Ricketts" sprang suddenly to his feet,
and, gripping me by the arm, said piteously, "Oh, go to her! for
Heaven's sake, go to her!" I next remember standing in her path
and seeing her holding out her hands full of red lilies, crying
out, "Are they not lovely? Lewis is so fond of them!" With the
promise of much finer ones I turned her down a path toward the
river, talking I know not what folly, till her great eyes grew
grave, then anxious, and my tongue stammered and became silent.
Then, laying her hand upon my arm, she said with gentle sweetness,
"Tell me your trouble, Mr. Craig," and I knew my agony had come,
and I burst out, "Oh, if it were only mine!" She turned quite
white, and with her deep eyes--you've noticed her eyes--drawing the
truth out of mine, she said, "Is it mine, Mr. Craig, and my
baby's?" I waited, thinking with what words to begin. She put one
hand to her heart, and with the other caught a little poplar-tree
that shivered under her grasp, and said with white lips, but even
more gently, "Tell me." I wondered at my voice being so steady as
I said, "Mrs. Mavor, God will help you and your baby. There has
been an accident--and it is all over."
'She was a miner's wife, and there was no need for more. I could
see the pattern of the sunlight falling through the trees upon the
grass. I could hear the murmur of the river, and the cry of the
cat-bird in the bushes, but we seemed to be in a strange and unreal
world. Suddenly she stretched out her hands to me, and with a
little moan said, "Take me to him."
'"Sit down for a moment or two," I entreated.
'"No, no! I am quite ready. See," she added quietly, "I am quite
'I set off by a short cut leading to her home, hoping the men would
be there before us; but, passing me, she walked swiftly through the
trees, and I followed in fear. As we came near the main path I
heard the sound of feet, and I tried to stop her, but she, too, had
heard and knew. "Oh, let me go!" she said piteously; "you need not
fear." And I had not the heart to stop her. In a little opening
among the pines we met the bearers. When the men saw her, they
laid their burden gently down upon the carpet of yellow pine-
needles, and then, for they had the hearts of true men in them,
they went away into the bushes and left her alone with her dead.
She went swiftly to his side, making no cry, but kneeling beside
him she stroked his face and hands, and touched his curls with her
fingers, murmuring all the time soft words of love. "O my darling,
my bonnie, bonnie darling, speak to me! Will ye not speak to me
just one little word? O my love, my love, my heart's love!
Listen, my darling!" And she put her lips to his ear, whispering,
and then the awful stillness. Suddenly she lifted her head and
scanned his face, and then, glancing round with a wild surprise in
her eyes, she cried, "He will not speak to me! Oh, he will not
speak to me!" I signed to the men, and as they came forward I went
to her and took her hands.
'"Oh," she said with a wail in her voice; "he will not speak to
me." The men were sobbing aloud. She looked at them with wide-
open eyes of wonder. "Why are they weeping? Will he never speak
to me again? Tell me," she insisted gently. The words were
running through my head--
'"There's a land that is fairer than day,"
and I said them over to her, holding her hands firmly in mine. She
gazed at me as if in a dream, and the light slowly faded from her
eyes as she said, tearing her hands from mine and waving them
towards the mountains and the woods--
'"But never more here? Never more here?"
'I believe in heaven and the other life, but I confess that for a
moment it all seemed shadowy beside the reality of this warm,
bright world, full of life and love. She was very ill for two
nights, and when the coffin was closed a new baby lay in the
'She slowly came back to life, but there were no more songs. The
miners still come about her shop, and talk to her baby, and bring
her their sorrows and troubles; but though she is always gentle,
almost tender, with them, no man ever says "Sing." And that is why
I am glad she sang last week; it will be good for her and good for
'Why does she stay?' I asked.
'Mavor's people wanted her to go to them,' he replied.
'They have money--she told me about it, but her heart is in the
grave up there under the pines; and besides, she hopes to do
something for the miners, and she will not leave them.'
I am afraid I snorted a little impatiently as I said, 'Nonsense!
why, with her face, and manner, and voice she could be anything she
liked in Edinburgh or in London.'
'And why Edinburgh or London?' he asked coolly.
'Why?' I repeated a little hotly. 'You think this is better?'
'Nazareth was good enough for the Lord of glory,' he answered, with
a smile none too bright; but it drew my heart to him, and my heat
'How long will she stay?' I asked.
'Till her work is done,' he replied.
'And when will that be?' I asked impatiently.
'When God chooses,' he answered gravely; 'and don't you ever think
but that it is worth while. One value of work is not that crowds
stare at it. Read history, man!'
He rose abruptly and began to walk about. 'And don't miss the
whole meaning of the Life that lies at the foundation of your
religion. Yes,' he added to himself, 'the work is worth doing--
worth even her doing.'
I could not think so then, but the light of the after years proved
him wiser than I. A man, to see far, must climb to some height,
and I was too much upon the plain in those days to catch even a
glimpse of distant sunlit uplands of triumphant achievement that
lie beyond the valley of self-sacrifice.
THE MAKING OF THE LEAGUE
Thursday morning found Craig anxious, even gloomy, but with fight
in every line of his face. I tried to cheer him in my clumsy way
by chaffing him about his League. But he did not blaze up as he
often did. It was a thing too near his heart for that. He only
shrank a little from my stupid chaff and said--
'Don't, old chap; this is a good deal to me. I've tried for two
years to get this, and if it falls through now, I shall find it
hard to bear.'
Then I repented my light words and said, 'Why! the thing will go
sure enough: after that scene in the church they won't go back.'
'Poor fellows!' he said as if to himself; 'whisky is about the only
excitement they have, and they find it pretty tough to give it up;
and a lot of the men are against the total abstinence idea. It
seems rot to them.'
'It is pretty steep,' I said. 'Can't you do without it?'
'No; I fear not. There is nothing else for it. Some of them talk
of compromise. They want to quit the saloon and drink quietly in
their shacks. The moderate drinker may have his place in other
countries, though I can't see it. I haven't thought that out, but
here the only safe man is the man who quits it dead and fights it
straight; anything else is sheerest humbug and nonsense.'
I had not gone in much for total abstinence up to this time,
chiefly because its advocates seemed for the most part to be
somewhat ill-balanced; but as I listened to Craig, I began to feel
that perhaps there was a total abstinence side to the temperance
question; and as to Black Rock, I could see how it must be one
thing or the other.
We found Mrs. Mavor brave and bright. She shared Mr. Craig's
anxiety but not his gloom. Her courage was of that serene kind
that refuses to believe defeat possible, and lifts the spirit into
the triumph of final victory. Through the past week she had been
carefully disposing her forces and winning recruits. And yet she
never seemed to urge or persuade the men; but as evening after
evening the miners dropped into the cosy room downstairs, with her
talk and her songs she charmed them till they were wholly hers.
She took for granted their loyalty, trusted them utterly, and so
made it difficult for them to be other than true men.
That night Mrs. Mavor's large storeroom, which had been fitted up
with seats, was crowded with miners when Mr. Craig and I entered.
After a glance over the crowd, Craig said, 'There's the manager;
that means war.' And I saw a tall man, very fair, whose chin fell
away to the vanishing point, and whose hair was parted in the
middle, talking to Mrs. Mavor. She was dressed in some rich soft
stuff that became her well. She was looking beautiful as ever, but
there was something quite new in her manner. Her air of good-
fellowship was gone, and she was the high-bred lady, whose gentle
dignity and sweet grace, while very winning, made familiarity
The manager was doing his best, and appeared to be well pleased
with himself. 'She'll get him if any one can. I failed,' said
I stood looking at the men, and a fine lot of fellows they were.
Free, easy, bold in their bearing, they gave no sign of rudeness;
and, from their frequent glances toward Mrs. Mavor, I could see
they were always conscious of her presence. No men are so truly
gentle as are the Westerners in the presence of a good woman. They
were evidently of all classes and ranks originally, but now, and in
this country of real measurements, they ranked simply according to
the 'man' in them. 'See that handsome, young chap of dissipated
appearance?' said Craig; 'that's Vernon Winton, an Oxford graduate,
blue blood, awfully plucky, but quite gone. When he gets
repentant, instead of shooting himself, he comes to Mrs. Mavor.
'From Oxford University to Black Rock mining camp is something of a
step,' I replied.
'That queer-looking little chap in the corner is Billy Breen. How
in the world has he got here?' went on Mr. Craig. Queer-looking he
was. A little man, with a small head set on heavy square
shoulders, long arms, and huge hands that sprawled all over his
body; altogether a most ungainly specimen of humanity.
By this time Mrs. Mavor had finished with the manager, and was in
the centre of a group of miners. Her grand air was all gone, and
she was their comrade, their friend, one of themselves. Nor did
she assume the role of entertainer, but rather did she, with half-
shy air, cast herself upon their chivalry, and they were too truly
gentlemen to fail her. It is hard to make Western men, and
especially old-timers, talk. But this gift was hers, and it
stirred my admiration to see her draw on a grizzled veteran to tell
how, twenty years ago, he had crossed the Great Divide, and had
seen and done what no longer fell to men to see or do in these new
days. And so she won the old-timer. But it was beautiful to see
the innocent guile with which she caught Billy Breen, and drew him
to her corner near the organ. What she was saying I knew not, but
poor Billy was protesting, waving his big hands.
The meeting came to order, with Shaw in the chair, and the handsome
young Oxford man secretary. Shaw stated the object of the meeting
in a few halting words; but when he came to speak of the pleasure
he and all felt in being together in that room, his words flowed in
a stream, warm and full. Then there was a pause, and Mr. Craig was
called. But he knew better than to speak at that point. Finally
Nixon rose hesitatingly; but, as he caught a bright smile from Mrs.
Mavor, he straightened himself as if for a fight.
'I ain't no good at makin' speeches,' he began; 'but it ain't
speeches we want. We've got somethin' to do, and what we want to
know is how to do it. And to be right plain, we want to know how
to drive this cursed whisky out of Black Rock. You all know what
it's doing for us--at least for some of us. And it's time to stop
it now, or for some of us it'll mighty soon be too late. And the
only way to stop its work is to quit drinkin' it and help others to
quit. I hear some talk of a League, and what I say is, if it's a
League out and out against whisky, a Total Abstinence right to the
ground, then I'm with it--that's my talk--I move we make that kind
Nixon sat down amid cheers and a chorus of remarks, 'Good man!'
'That's the talk!' 'Stay with it!' but he waited for the smile and
the glance that came to him from the beautiful face in the corner,
and with that he seemed content.
Again there was silence. Then the secretary rose with a slight
flush upon his handsome, delicate face, and seconded the motion.
If they would pardon a personal reference he would give them his
reasons. He had come to this country to make his fortune; now he
was anxious to make enough to enable him to go home with some
degree of honour. His home held everything that was dear to him.
Between him and that home, between him and all that was good and
beautiful and honourable, stood whisky. 'I am ashamed to confess,'
and the flush deepened on his cheek, and his lips grew thinner,
'that I feel the need of some such league.' His handsome face, his
perfect style of address, learned possibly in the 'Union,' but,
more than all, his show of nerve--for these men knew how to value
that--made a strong impression on his audience; but there were no
Mr. Craig appeared hopeful; but on Mrs. Mavor's face there was a
look of wistful, tender pity, for she knew how much the words had
cost the lad.
Then up rose a sturdy, hard-featured man, with a burr in his voice
that proclaimed his birth. His name was George Crawford, I
afterwards learned, but every one called him Geordie. He was a
character in his way, fond of his glass; but though he was never
known to refuse a drink, he was never known to be drunk. He took
his drink, for the most part, with bread and cheese in his own
shack, or with a friend or two in a sober, respectable way, but
never could be induced to join the wild carousals in Slavin's
saloon. He made the highest wages, but was far too true a Scot to
spend his money recklessly. Every one waited eagerly to hear
Geordie's mind. He spoke solemnly, as befitted a Scotsman
expressing a deliberate opinion, and carefully, as if choosing his
best English, for when Geordie became excited no one in Black Rock
could understand him.
'Maister Chairman,' said Geordie, 'I'm aye for temperance in a'
things.' There was a shout of laughter, at which Geordie gazed
round in pained surprise. 'I'll no' deny,' he went on in an
explanatory tone, 'that I tak ma mornin', an' maybe a nip at noon;
an' a wee drap aifter wark in the evenin', an' whiles a sip o'
toddy wi' a freen thae cauld nichts. But I'm no' a guzzler, an' I
dinna gang in wi' thae loons flingin' aboot guid money.'
'And that's thrue for you, me bye,' interrupted a rich Irish
brogue, to the delight of the crowd and the amazement of Geordie,
who went calmly on--
'An' I canna bide yon saloon whaur they sell sic awfu'-like stuff--
it's mair like lye nor guid whisky,--and whaur ye're never sure o'
yer richt change. It's an awfu'-like place; man!'--and Geordie
began to warm up--'ye can juist smell the sulphur when ye gang in.
But I dinna care aboot thae Temperance Soceeities, wi' their
pledges an' havers; an' I canna see what hairm can come till a man
by takin' a bottle o' guid Glenlivet hame wi' him. I canna bide
thae teetotal buddies.'
Geordie's speech was followed by loud applause, partly appreciative
of Geordie himself, but largely sympathetic with his position.
Two or three men followed in the same strain advocating a league
for mutual improvement and social purposes, but without the
teetotal pledge; they were against the saloon, but didn't see why
they should not take a drink now and then.
Finally the manager rose to support his 'friend, Mistah--ah--
Cwafoad,' ridiculing the idea of a total abstinence pledge as
fanatical and indeed 'absuad.' He was opposed to the saloon, and
would like to see a club formed, with a comfortable club-room,
books, magazines, pictures, games, anything, 'dontcheknow, to make
the time pass pleasantly'; but it was 'absuad to ask men to abstain
fwom a pwopah use of--aw--nouwishing dwinks,' because some men made
beasts of themselves. He concluded by offering $50.00 towards the
support of such a club.
The current of feeling was setting strongly against the total
abstinence idea, and Craig's face was hard and his eyes gleamed
like coals. Then he did a bit of generalship. He proposed that
since they had the two plans clearly before them they should take a
few minutes' intermission in which to make up their minds, and he
was sure they would be glad to have Mrs. Mavor sing. In the
interval the men talked in groups, eagerly, even fiercely, hampered
seriously in the forceful expression of their opinion by the
presence of Mrs. Mavor, who glided from group to group, dropping a
word here and a smile there. She reminded me of a general riding
along the ranks, bracing his men for the coming battle. She paused
beside Geordie, spoke earnestly for a few moments, while Geordie
gazed solemnly at her, and then she came back to Billy in the
corner near me. What she was saying I could not hear, but poor
Billy was protesting, spreading his hands out aimlessly before him,
but gazing at her the while in dumb admiration. Then she came to
me. 'Poor Billy, he was good to my husband,' she said softly, 'and
he has a good heart.'
'He's not much to look at,' I could not help saying.
'The oyster hides its pearl,' she answered, a little reproachfully.
'The shell is apparent enough,' I replied, for the mischief was in
'Ah yes,' she replied softly, 'but it is the pearl we love.'
I moved over beside Billy, whose eyes were following Mrs. Mavor as
she went to speak to Mr. Craig. 'Well,' I said; 'you all seem to
have a high opinion of her.'
'An 'igh hopinion,' he replied, in deep scorn. 'An 'igh hopinion,
you calls it.'
'What would you call it?' I asked, wishing to draw him out.
'Oi don't call it nothink,' he replied, spreading out his rough
'She seems very nice,' I said indifferently.
He drew his eyes away from Mrs. Mavor, and gave attention to me for
the first time.
'Nice!' he repeated with fine contempt; and then he added
impressively, 'Them as don't know shouldn't say nothink.'
'You are right,' I answered earnestly, 'and I am quite of your
He gave me a quick glance out of his little, deep-set, dark-blue
eyes, and opened his heart to me. He told me, in his quaint
speech, how again and again she had taken him in and nursed him,
and encouraged him, and sent him out with a new heart for his
battle, until, for very shame's sake at his own miserable weakness,
he had kept out of her way for many months, going steadily down.
'Now, oi hain't got no grip; but when she says to me to-night, says
she, "Oh, Billy"--she calls me Billy to myself' (this with a touch
of pride)--'"oh, Billy," says she, "we must 'ave a total
habstinence league to-night, and oi want you to 'elp!" and she
keeps a-lookin' at me with those heyes o' hern till, if you believe
me, sir,' lowering his voice to an emphatic whisper, 'though oi
knowed oi couldn't 'elp none, afore oi knowed oi promised 'er oi
would. It's 'er heyes. When them heyes says "do," hup you steps
I remembered my first look into her eyes, and I could quite
understand Billy's submission. Just as she began to sing I went
over to Geordie and took my seat beside him. She began with an
English slumber song, 'Sleep, Baby, Sleep'--one of Barry
Cornwall's, I think,--and then sang a love-song with the refrain,
'Love once again'; but no thrills came to me, and I began to wonder
if her spell over me was broken. Geordie, who had been listening
somewhat indifferently, encouraged me, however, by saying, 'She's
just pittin' aff time with thae feckless sangs; man, there's nae
grup till them.' But when, after a few minutes' pause, she began
'My Ain Fireside,' Geordie gave a sigh of satisfaction. 'Ay,
that's somethin' like,' and when she finished the first verse he
gave me a dig in the ribs with his elbow that took my breath away,
saying in a whisper, 'Man, hear till yon, wull ye?' And again I
found the spell upon me. It was not the voice after all, but the
great soul behind that thrilled and compelled. She was seeing,
feeling, living what she sang, and her voice showed us her heart.
The cosy fireside, with its bonnie, blithe blink, where no care
could abide, but only peace and love, was vividly present to her,
and as she sang we saw it too. When she came to the last verse--
'When I draw in my stool
On my cosy hearth-stane,
My heart loups sae licht
I scarce ken't for my ain,'
there was a feeling of tears in the flowing song, and we knew the
words had brought her a picture of the fireside that would always
seem empty. I felt the tears in my eyes, and, wondering at myself,
I cast a stealthy glance at the men about me; and I saw that they,
too, were looking through their hearts' windows upon firesides and
ingle-neuks that gleamed from far.
And then she sang 'The Auld Hoose,' and Geordie, giving me another
poke, said, 'That's ma ain sang,' and when I asked him what he
meant, he whispered fiercely, 'Wheesht, man!' and I did, for his
face looked dangerous.
In a pause between the verses I heard Geordie saying to himself,
'Ay, I maun gie it up, I doot.'
'What?' I ventured.
'Naething ava.' And then he added impatiently, 'Man, but ye're an
inqueesitive buddie,' after which I subsided into silence.
Immediately upon the meeting being called to order, Mr. Craig made
his speech, and it was a fine bit of work. Beginning with a clear
statement of the object in view, he set in contrast the two kinds
of leagues proposed. One, a league of men who would take whisky in
moderation; the other, a league of men who were pledged to drink
none themselves, and to prevent in every honourable way others from
drinking. There was no long argument, but he spoke at white heat;
and as he appealed to the men to think, each not of himself alone,
but of the others as well, the yearning, born of his long months of
desire and of toil, vibrated in his voice and reached to the heart.
Many men looked uncomfortable and uncertain, and even the manager
looked none too cheerful.
At this critical moment the crowd got a shock. Billy Breen
shuffled out to the front, and, in a voice shaking with nervousness
and emotion, began to speak, his large, coarse hands wandering
'Oi hain't no bloomin' temperance horator, and mayhap oi hain't no
right to speak 'ere, but oi got somethin' to saigh (say) and oi'm
agoin' to saigh it.
'Parson, 'ee says is it wisky or no wisky in this 'ere club? If ye
hask me, wich (which) ye don't, then no wisky, says oi; and if ye
hask why?--look at me! Once oi could mine more coal than hany man
in the camp; now oi hain't fit to be a sorter. Once oi 'ad some
pride and hambition; now oi 'angs round awaitin' for some one to
saigh, "Ere, Billy, 'ave summat." Once oi made good paigh (pay),
and sent it 'ome regular to my poor old mother (she's in the wukus
now, she is); oi hain't sent 'er hany for a year and a 'alf. Once
Billy was a good fellow and 'ad plenty o' friends; now Slavin
'isself kicks un hout, 'ee does. Why? why?' His voice rose to a
shriek. 'Because when Billy 'ad money in 'is pocket, hevery man in
this bloomin' camp as meets un at hevery corner says, "'Ello,
Billy, wat'll ye 'ave?" And there's wisky at Slavin's, and there's
wisky in the shacks, and hevery 'oliday and hevery Sunday there's
wisky, and w'en ye feel bad it's wisky, and w'en ye feel good it's
wisky, and heverywhere and halways it's wisky, wisky, wisky! And
now ye're goin' to stop it, and 'ow? T' manager, 'ee says picters
and magazines. 'Ee takes 'is wine and 'is beer like a gentleman,
'ee does, and 'ee don't 'ave no use for Billy Breen. Billy, 'ee's
a beast, and t' manager, 'ee kicks un hout. But supposin' Billy
wants to stop bein' a beast, and starts a-tryin' to be a man again,
and w'en 'ee gets good an' dry, along comes some un and says,
"'Ello, Billy, 'ave a smile," it hain't picters nor magazines 'ud
stop un then. Picters and magazines! Gawd 'elp the man as hain't
nothin' but picters and magazines to 'elp un w'en 'ee's got a devil
hinside and a devil houtside a-shovin' and a-drawin' of un down to
'ell. And that's w'ere oi'm a-goin' straight, and yer bloomin'
League, wisky or no wisky, can't help me. But,' and he lifted his
trembling hands above his head, 'if ye stop the wisky a-flowin'
round this camp, ye'll stop some of these lads that's a-followin'
me 'ard. Yes, you! and you! and you!' and his voice rose to a wild
scream as he shook a trembling finger at one and another.
'Man, it's fair gruesome tae hear him,' said Geordie; 'he's no'
canny'; and reaching out for Billy as he went stumbling past, he
pulled him down to a seat beside him, saying, 'Sit doon, lad, sit
doon. We'll mak a man o' ye yet.' Then he rose and, using many
r's, said, 'Maister Chairman, a' doot we'll juist hae to gie it
'Give it up?' called out Nixon. 'Give up the League?'
'Na! na! lad, but juist the wee drap whusky. It's nae that guid
onyway, and it's a terrible price. Man, gin ye gang tae
Henderson's in Buchanan Street, in Gleska, ye ken, ye'll get mair
for three-an'-saxpence than ye wull at Slavin's for five dollars.
An' it'll no' pit ye mad like yon stuff, but it gangs doon smooth
an' saft-like. But' (regretfully) 'ye'll no' can get it here; an'
a'm thinkin' a'll juist sign yon teetotal thing.' And up he strode
to the table and put his name down in the book Craig had ready.
Then to Billy he said, 'Come' awa, lad! pit yer name doon, an'
we'll stan' by ye.'
Poor Billy looked around helplessly, his nerve all gone, and sat
still. There was a swift rustle of garments, and Mrs. Mavor was
beside him, and, in a voice that only Billy and I could hear, said,
'You'll sign with, me, Billy?'
Billy gazed at her with a hopeless look in his eyes, and shook his
little, head. She leaned slightly toward him, smiling brightly,
and, touching his arm gently, said--
'Come, Billy, there's no fear,' and in a lower voice, 'God will
As Billy went up, following Mrs. Mavor close, a hush fell on the
men until he had put his name to the pledge; then they came up, man
by man, and signed. But Craig sat with his head down till I
touched his shoulder. He took my hand and held it fast, saying
over and over, under his breath, 'Thank God, thank God!'
And so the League was made.
BLACK ROCK RELIGION
When I grow weary with the conventions of religion, and sick in my
soul from feeding upon husks, that the churches too often offer me,
in the shape of elaborate service and eloquent discourses, so that
in my sickness I doubt and doubt, then I go back to the communion
in Black Rock and the days preceding it, and the fever and the
weariness leave me, and I grow humble and strong. The simplicity
and rugged grandeur of the faith, the humble gratitude of the rough
men I see about the table, and the calm radiance of one saintly
face, rest and recall me.
Not its most enthusiastic apologist would call Black Rock a
religious community, but it possessed in a marked degree that
eminent Christian virtue of tolerance. All creeds, all shades of
religious opinion, were allowed, and it was generally conceded that
one was as good as another. It is fair to say, however, that Black
Rock's catholicity was negative rather than positive. The only
religion objectionable was that insisted upon as a necessity. It
never occurred to any one to consider religion other than as a
respectable, if not ornamental, addition to life in older lands.
During the weeks following the making of the League, however, this
negative attitude towards things religious gave place to one of
keen investigation and criticism. The indifference passed away,
and with it, in a large measure, the tolerance. Mr. Craig was
responsible for the former of these changes, but hardly, in
fairness, could he be held responsible for the latter. If any one,
more than another, was to be blamed for the rise of intolerance in
the village, that man was Geordie Crawford. He had his 'lines'
from the Established Kirk of Scotland, and when Mr. Craig announced
his intention of having the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
observed, Geordie produced his 'lines' and promptly handed them in.
As no other man in the village was equipped with like spiritual
credentials, Geordie constituted himself a kind of kirk-session,
charged with the double duty of guarding the entrance to the Lord's
Table, and of keeping an eye upon the theological opinions of the
community, and more particularly upon such members of it as gave
evidence of possessing any opinions definite enough for statement.
It came to be Mr. Craig's habit to drop into the League-room, and
toward the close of the evening to have a short Scripture lesson
from the Gospels. Geordie's opportunity came after the meeting was
over and Mr. Craig had gone away. The men would hang about and
talk the lesson over, expressing opinions favourable or unfavourable
as appeared to them good. Then it was that all sorts of views,
religious and otherwise, were aired and examined. The originality
of the ideas, the absolute disregard of the authority of church or
creed, the frankness with which opinions were stated, and the
forcefulness of the language in which they were expressed, combined
to make the discussions altogether marvellous. The passage between
Abe Baker, the stage-driver, and Geordie was particularly rich. It
followed upon a very telling lesson on the parable of the Pharisee
and the Publican.
The chief actors in that wonderful story were transferred to the
Black Rock stage, and were presented in miner's costume. Abe was
particularly well pleased with the scoring of the 'blanked old
rooster who crowed so blanked high,' and somewhat incensed at the
quiet remark interjected by Geordie, 'that it was nae credit till a
man tae be a sinner'; and when Geordie went on to urge the
importance of right conduct and respectability, Abe was led to pour
forth vials of contemptuous wrath upon the Pharisees and hypocrites
who thought themselves better than other people. But Geordie was
quite unruffled, and lamented the ignorance of men who, brought up
in 'Epeescopawlyun or Methody' churches, could hardly be expected
to detect the Antinomian or Arminian heresies.
'Aunty Nomyun or Uncle Nomyun,' replied Abe, boiling hot, 'my
mother was a Methodist, and I'll back any blanked Methodist
against any blankety blank long-faced, lantern-jawed, skinflint
Presbyterian,' and this he was eager to maintain to any man's
satisfaction if he would step outside.
Geordie was quite unmoved, but hastened to assure Abe that he meant
no disrespect to his mother, who he had 'nae doot was a clever
enough buddie, tae judge by her son.' Abe was speedily appeased,
and offered to set up the drinks all round. But Geordie, with
evident reluctance, had to decline, saying, 'Na, na, lad, I'm a
League man ye ken,' and I was sure that Geordie at that moment felt
that membership in the League had its drawbacks.
Nor was Geordie too sure of Craig's orthodoxy; while as to Mrs.
Mavor, whose slave he was, he was in the habit of lamenting her
'She's a fine wumman, nae doot; but, puir cratur, she's fair
carried awa wi' the errors o' thae Epeescopawlyuns.'
It fell to Geordie, therefore, as a sacred duty, in view of the
laxity of those who seemed to be the pillars of the Church, to be
all the more watchful and unyielding. But he was delightfully
inconsistent when confronted with particulars. In conversation
with him one night after one of the meetings, when he had been
specially hard upon the ignorant and godless, I innocently changed
the subject to Billy Breen, whom Geordie had taken to his shack
since the night of the League. He was very proud of Billy's
success in the fight against whisky, the credit of which he divided
unevenly between Mrs. Mavor and himself.
'He's fair daft aboot her,' he explained to me, 'an' I'll no' deny
but she's a great help, ay, a verra conseederable asseestance; but,
man, she doesna ken the whusky, an' the inside o' a man that's
wantin' it. Ay, puir buddie, she diz her pairt, an' when ye're a
bit restless an thrawn aifter yer day's wark, it's like a walk in a
bonnie glen on a simmer eve, with the birds liltin' aboot, tae sit
in yon roomie and hear her sing; but when the night is on, an' ye
canna sleep, but wauken wi' an' awfu' thurst and wi' dreams o' cosy
firesides, and the bonnie sparklin' glosses, as it is wi' puir
Billy, ay, it's then ye need a man wi' a guid grup beside ye.'
'What do you do then, Geordie?' I asked.
'Oo ay, I juist gang for a bit walk wi' the lad, and then pits the
kettle on an' maks a cup o' tea or coffee, an' aff he gangs tae
sleep like a bairn.'
'Poor Billy,' I said pityingly, 'there's no hope for him in the
future, I fear.'
'Hoot awa, man,' said Geordie quickly. 'Ye wadna keep oot a puir
cratur frae creepin' in, that's daein' his best?'
'But, Geordie,' I remonstrated, 'he doesn't know anything of the
doctrines. I don't believe he could give us "The Chief End of
'An' wha's tae blame for that?' said Geordie, with fine
indignation. 'An' maybe you remember the prood Pharisee and the
puir wumman that cam' creepin' in ahint the Maister.'
The mingled tenderness and indignation in Geordie's face were
beautiful to see, so I meekly answered, 'Well, I hope Mr. Craig
won't be too strict with the boys.'
Geordie shot a suspicious glance at me, but I kept my face like a
summer morn, and he replied cautiously--
'Ay, he's no' that streect: but he maun exerceese discreemination.'
Geordie was none the less determined, however, that Billy should
'come forrit'; but as to the manager, who was a member of the
English Church, and some others who had been confirmed years ago,
and had forgotten much and denied more, he was extremely doubtful,
and expressed himself in very decided words to the minister--
'Ye'll no' be askin' forrit thae Epeescopawlyun buddies. They
juist ken naething ava.'
But Mr. Craig looked at him for a moment and said, "Him that cometh
unto Me I will in no wise cast out,"' and Geordie was silent,
though he continued doubtful.
With all these somewhat fantastic features, however, there was no
mistaking the earnest spirit of the men. The meetings grew larger
every night, and the interest became more intense. The singing
became different. The men no longer simply shouted, but as Mr.
Craig would call attention to the sentiment of the hymn, the voices
would attune themselves to the words. Instead of encouraging
anything like emotional excitement, Mr. Craig seemed to fear it.
'These chaps are easily stirred up,' he would say, 'and I am
anxious that they should know exactly what they are doing. It is
far too serious a business to trifle with.'
Although Graeme did not go downstairs to the meetings, he could not
but feel the throb of the emotion beating in the heart of the
community. I used to detail for his benefit, and sometimes for his
amusement, the incidents of each night. But I never felt quite
easy in dwelling upon the humorous features in Mrs. Mavor's
presence, although Craig did not appear to mind. His manner with
Graeme was perfect. Openly anxious to win him to his side, he did
not improve the occasion and vex him with exhortation. He would
not take him at a disadvantage, though, as I afterwards found, this
was not his sole reason for his method. Mrs. Mavor, too, showed
herself in wise and tender light. She might have been his sister,
so frank was she and so openly affectionate, laughing at his
fretfulness and soothing his weariness.
Never were better comrades than we four, and the bright days
speeding so swiftly on drew us nearer to one another.
But the bright days came to an end; for Graeme, when once he was
able to go about, became anxious to get back to the camp. And so
the last day came, a day I remember well. It was a bright, crisp
The air was shimmering in the frosty light. The mountains, with
their shining heads piercing through light clouds into that
wonderful blue of the western sky, and their feet pushed into the
pine masses, gazed down upon Black Rock with calm, kindly looks on
their old grey faces. How one grows to love them, steadfast old
friends! Far up among the pines we could see the smoke of the
engine at the works, and so still and so clear was the mountain air
that we could hear the puff of the steam, and from far down the
river the murmur of the rapids. The majestic silence, the tender
beauty, the peace, the loneliness, too, came stealing in upon us,
as we three, leaving Mrs. Mavor behind us, marched arm-in-arm down
the street. We had not gone far on our way, when Graeme, turning
round, stood a moment looking back, then waved his hand in
farewell. Mrs. Mavor was at her window, smiling and waving in
return. They had grown to be great friends these two; and seemed
to have arrived at some understanding. Certainly, Graeme's manner
to her was not that he bore to other women. His half-quizzical,
somewhat superior air of mocking devotion gave place to a simple,
earnest, almost tender, respect, very new to him, but very winning.
As he stood there waving his farewell, I glanced at his face and
saw for a moment what I had not seen for years, a faint flush on
Graeme's cheek and a light of simple, earnest faith in his eyes.
It reminded me of my first look of him when he had come up for his
matriculation to the 'Varsity. He stood on the campus looking up at
the noble old pile, and there was the same bright, trustful,
earnest look on his boyish face.
I know not what spirit possessed me; it may have been the pain of
the memory working in me, but I said, coarsely enough, 'It's no
use, Graeme, my boy; I would fall in love with her myself, but
there would be no chance even for me.'
The flush slowly darkened as he turned and said deliberately--
'It's not like you, Connor, to be an ass of that peculiar kind.
Love!--not exactly! She won't fall in love unless--' and he
stopped abruptly with his eyes upon Craig.
But Craig met him with unshrinking gaze, quietly remarking, 'Her
heart is under the pines'; and we moved on, each thinking his own
thoughts, and guessing at the thoughts of the others.
We were on our way to Craig's shack, and as we passed the saloon
Slavin stepped from the door with a salutation. Graeme paused.
'Hello, Slavin! I got rather the worst of it, didn't I?'
Slavin came near, and said earnestly, 'It was a dirty thrick
altogether; you'll not think it was moine, Mr. Graeme.'
'No, no, Slavin! you stood up like a man,' said Graeme cheerfully.
'And you bate me fair; an' bedad it was a nate one that laid me
out; an' there's no grudge in me heart till ye.'
'All right, Slavin; we'll perhaps understand each other better
'An' that's thrue for yez, sor; an' I'll see that your byes don't
get any more than they ask for,' replied Slavin, backing away.
'And I hope that won't be much,' put in Mr. Craig; but Slavin only
When we came to Craig's shack Graeme was glad to rest in the big
Craig made him a cup of tea, while I smoked, admiring much the deft
neatness of the minister's housekeeping, and the gentle, almost
motherly, way he had with Graeme.
In our talk we drifted into the future, and Craig let us see what
were his ambitions. The railway was soon to come; the resources
were, as yet, unexplored, but enough was known to assure a great
future for British Columbia. As he talked his enthusiasm grew, and
carried us away. With the eye of a general he surveyed the
country, fixed the strategic points which the Church must seize
upon. Eight good men would hold the country from Fort Steele to
the coast, and from Kootenay to Cariboo.
'The Church must be in with the railway; she must have a hand in
the shaping of the country. If society crystallises without her
influence, the country is lost, and British Columbia will be
another trap-door to the bottomless pit.'
'What do you propose?' I asked.
'Organising a little congregation here in Black Rock.'
'How many will you get?'
'Pretty hopeless business,' I said.
'Hopeless! hopeless!' he cried; 'there were only twelve of us at
first to follow Him, and rather a poor lot they were. But He
braced them up, and they conquered the world.'
'But surely things are different,' said Graeme.
'Things? Yes! yes! But He is the same.' His face had an exalted
look, and his eyes were gazing into far-away places.
'A dozen men in Black Rock with some real grip of Him would make
things go. We'll get them, too,' he went on in growing excitement.
'I believe in my soul we'll get them.'
'Look here, Craig; if you organise I'd like to join,' said Graeme
impulsively. 'I don't believe much in your creed or your Church,
but I'll be blowed if I don't believe in you.'
Craig looked at him with wistful eyes, and shook his head. 'It
won't do, old chap, you know. I can't hold you. You've got to
have a grip of some one better than I am; and then, besides, I
hardly like asking you now'; he hesitated--'well, to be out-and-
out, this step must be taken not for my sake, nor for any man's
sake, and I fancy that perhaps you feel like pleasing me just now
'That I do, old fellow,' said Graeme, putting out his hand. 'I'll
be hanged if I won't do anything you say.'
'That's why I won't say,' replied Craig. Then reverently he added,
'the organisation is not mine. It is my Master's.'
'When are you going to begin?' asked Graeme.
'We shall have our communion service in two weeks, and that will be
'How many will answer?' I asked doubtfully.
'I know of three,' he said quietly.
'Three! There are two hundred miners and one hundred and fifty
lumbermen! Three!' and Graeme looked at him in amazement. 'You
think it worth while to organise three?'
'Well,' replied Craig, smiling for the first time, 'the
organisation won't be elaborate, but it will be effective, and,
besides, loyalty demands obedience.'
We sat long that afternoon talking, shrinking from the breaking up;
for we knew that we were about to turn down a chapter in our lives
which we should delight to linger over in after days. And in my
life there is but one brighter. At last we said good-bye and drove
away; and though many farewells have come in between that day and
this, none is so vividly present to me as that between us three
men. Craig's manner with me was solemn enough. '"He that loveth
his life"; good-bye, don't fool with this,' was what he said to me.
But when he turned to Graeme his whole face lit up. He took him by
the shoulders and gave him a little shake, looking into his eyes,
and saying over and over in a low, sweet tone--
'You'll come, old chap, you'll come, you'll come. Tell me you'll
And Graeme could say nothing in reply, but only looked at him.
Then they silently shook hands, and we drove off. But long after
we had got over the mountain and into the winding forest road on
the way to the lumber-camp the voice kept vibrating in my heart,
'You'll come, you'll come,' and there was a hot pain in my throat.
We said little during the drive to the camp. Graeme was thinking
hard, and made no answer when I spoke to him two or three times,
till we came to the deep shadows of the pine forest, when with a
little shiver he said--
'It is all a tangle--a hopeless tangle.'
'Meaning what?' I asked.
'This business of religion--what quaint varieties--Nelson's,
Geordie's, Billy Breen's--if he has any--then Mrs. Mavor's--she is
a saint, of course--and that fellow Craig's. What a trump he is!--
and without his religion he'd be pretty much like the rest of us.
It is too much for me.'
His mystery was not mine. The Black Rock varieties of religion
were certainly startling; but there was undoubtedly the streak of
reality though them all, and that discovery I felt to be a distinct
THE FIRST BLACK ROCK COMMUNION
The gleam of the great fire through the windows of the great camp
gave a kindly welcome as we drove into the clearing in which the
shanties stood. Graeme was greatly touched at his enthusiastic
welcome by the men. At the supper-table he made a little speech of
thanks for their faithfulness during his absence, specially
commending the care and efficiency of Mr. Nelson, who had had
charge of the camp. The men cheered wildly, Baptiste's shrill
voice leading all. Nelson being called upon, expressed in a few
words his pleasure at seeing the Boss back, and thanked the men for
their support while he had been in charge.
The men were for making a night of it; but fearing the effect upon
Graeme, I spoke to Nelson, who passed the word, and in a short time
the camp was quiet. As we sauntered from the grub-camp to the
office where was our bed, we paused to take in the beauty of the
night. The moon rode high over the peaks of the mountains,
flooding the narrow valley with mellow light. Under her magic the
rugged peaks softened their harsh lines and seemed to lean lovingly
toward us. The dark pine masses stood silent as in breathless
adoration; the dazzling snow lay like a garment over all the open
spaces in soft, waving folds, and crowned every stump with a
quaintly shaped nightcap. Above the camps the smoke curled up from
the camp-fires, standing like pillars of cloud that kept watch
while men slept. And high over all the deep blue night sky, with
its star jewels, sprang like the roof of a great cathedral from
range to range, covering us in its kindly shelter. How homelike
and safe seemed the valley with its mountain-sides, its sentinel
trees and arching roof of jewelled sky! Even the night seemed
kindly, and friendly the stars; and the lone cry of the wolf from
the deep forest seemed like the voice of a comrade.
'How beautiful! too beautiful!' said Graeme, stretching out his
arms. 'A night like this takes the heart out of me.'
I stood silent, drinking in at every sense the night with its
wealth of loveliness.
'What is it I want?' he went on. 'Why does the night make my heart
ache? There are things to see and things to hear just beyond me; I
cannot get to them.' The gay, careless look was gone from his
face, his dark eyes were wistful with yearning.
'I often wonder if life has nothing better for me,' he continued
with his heartache voice.
I said no word, but put my arm within his. A light appeared in the
stable. Glad of a diversion, I said, 'What is the light? Let us
go and see.'
'Sandy, taking a last look at his team, like enough.'
We walked slowly toward the stable, speaking no word. As we neared
the door we heard the sound of a voice in the monotone of one
reading. I stepped forward and looked through a chink between the
logs. Graeme was about to open the door, but I held up my hand and
beckoned him to me. In a vacant stall, where was a pile of straw,
a number of men were grouped. Sandy, leaning against the tying-
post upon which the stable-lantern hung, was reading; Nelson was
kneeling in front of him and gazing into the gloom beyond; Baptiste
lay upon his stomach, his chin in his hands and his upturned eyes
fastened upon Sandy's face; Lachlan Campbell sat with his hands
clasped about his knees, and two other men sat near him. Sandy was
reading the undying story of the Prodigal, Nelson now and then
stopping him to make a remark. It was a scene I have never been
able to forget. To-day I pause in my tale, and see it as clearly
as when I looked through the chink upon it years ago. The long,
low stable, with log walls and upright hitching-poles; the dim
outlines of the horses in the gloom of the background, and the
little group of rough, almost savage-looking men, with faces
wondering and reverent, lit by the misty light of the stable-
After the reading, Sandy handed the book to Nelson, who put it in
his pocket, saying, 'That's for us, boys, ain't it?'
'Ay,' said Lachlan; 'it is often that has been read in my hearing,
but I am afraid it will not be for me whatever,' and he swayed
himself slightly as he spoke, and his voice was full of pain.
'The minister said I might come,' said old Nelson, earnestly and
'Ay, but you are not Lachlan Campbell, and you hef not had his
privileges. My father was a godly elder in the Free Church of
Scotland, and never a night or morning but we took the Books.'
'Yes, but He said "any man,"' persisted Nelson, putting his hand on
Lachlan's knee. But Lachlan shook his head.
'Dat young feller,' said Baptiste; 'wha's hees nem, heh?'
'He has no name. It is just a parable,' explained Sandy.
'He's got no nem? He's just a parom'ble? Das no young feller?'
asked Baptiste anxiously; 'das mean noting?'
Then Nelson took him in hand and explained to him the meaning,
while Baptiste listened even more eagerly, ejaculating softly, 'ah,
voila! bon! by gar!' When Nelson had finished he broke out, 'Dat
young feller, his name Baptiste, heh? and de old Fadder he's le bon
Dieu? Bon! das good story for me. How you go back? You go to de
'The book doesn't say priest or any one else,' said Nelson. 'You
go back in yourself, you see?'
'Non; das so, sure nuff. Ah!'--as if a light broke in upon him--
'you go in your own self. You make one leetle prayer. You say,
"Le bon Fadder, oh! I want come back, I so tire, so hongree, so
sorree"? He, say, "Come right 'long." Ah! das fuss-rate. Nelson,
you make one leetle prayer for Sandy and me.'
And Nelson lifted up his face and said: 'Father, we're all gone far
away; we have spent all, we are poor, we are tired of it all; we
want to feel different, to be different; we want to come back.
Jesus came to save us from our sins; and he said if we came He
wouldn't cast us out, no matter how bad we were, if we only came to
Him. Oh, Jesus Christ'--and his old, iron face began to work, and
two big tears slowly came from under his eyelids--'we are a poor
lot, and I'm the worst of the lot, and we are trying to find the
way. Show us how to get back. Amen.'
'Bon!' said Baptiste. 'Das fetch Him sure!'
Graeme pulled me away, and without a word we went into the office
and drew up to the little stove. Graeme was greatly moved.
'Did you ever see anything like that?' he asked. 'Old Nelson! the
hardest, savagest, toughest old sinner in the camp, on his knees
before a lot of men!'
'Before God,' I could not help saying, for the thing seemed very
real to me. The old man evidently felt himself talking to some
'Yes, I suppose you're right,' said Graeme doubtfully; 'but there's
a lot of stuff I can't swallow.'
'When you take medicine you don't swallow the bottle,' I replied,
for his trouble was not mine.
'If I were sure of the medicine, I wouldn't mind the bottle, and
yet it acts well enough,' he went on. 'I don't mind Lachlan; he's
a Highland mystic, and has visions, and Sandy's almost as bad, and
Baptiste is an impulsive little chap. Those don't count much. But
old man Nelson is a cool-blooded, level-headed old fellow; has seen
a lot of life, too. And then there's Craig. He has a better head
than I have, and is as hot-blooded, and yet he is living and
slaving away in that hole, and really enjoys it. There must be
something in it.'
'Oh, look here, Graeme,' I burst out impatiently; 'what's the use
of your talking like that? Of course there's something in it. I
here's everything in it. The trouble with me is I can't face the
music. It calls for a life where a fellow must go in for straight,
steady work, self-denial, and that sort of thing; and I'm too
Bohemian for that, and too lazy. But that fellow Craig makes one
feel horribly uncomfortable.'
Graeme put his head on one side, and examined me curiously.
'I believe you're right about yourself. You always were a
luxurious beggar. But that's not where it catches me.'
We sat and smoked and talked of other things for an hour, and then
turned in. As I was dropping off I was roused by Graeme's voice--
'Are you going to the preparatory service on Friday night?'
'Don't know,' I replied rather sleepily.
'I say, do you remember the preparatory service at home?' There
was something in his voice that set me wide awake.
'Yes. Rather terrific, wasn't it? But I always felt better after
it,' I replied.
'To me'--he was sitting up in bed now--'to me it was like a call to
arms, or rather like a call for a forlorn hope. None but
volunteers wanted. Do you remember the thrill in the old
governor's voice as he dared any but the right stuff to come on?'
'We'll go in on Friday night,' I said.
And so we did. Sandy took a load of men with his team, and Graeme
and I drove in the light sleigh.
The meeting was in the church, and over a hundred men were present.
There was some singing of familiar hymns at first, and then Mr.
Craig read the same story as we had heard in the stable, that most
perfect of all parables, the Prodigal Son. Baptiste nudged Sandy
in delight, and whispered something, but Sandy held his face so
absolutely expressionless that Graeme was moved to say--
'Look at Sandy! Did you ever see such a graven image? Something
has hit him hard.'
The men were held fast by the story. The voice of the reader, low,
earnest, and thrilling with the tender pathos of the tale, carried
the words to our hearts, while a glance, a gesture, a movement of
the body gave us the vision of it all as he was seeing it.
Then, in simplest of words, he told us what the story meant,
holding us the while with eyes, and voice, and gesture. He
compelled us scorn the gay, heartless selfishness of the young fool
setting forth so jauntily from the broken home; he moved our pity
and our sympathy for the young profligate, who, broken and
deserted, had still pluck enough to determine to work his way back,
and who, in utter desperation, at last gave it up; and then he
showed us the homecoming--the ragged, heart-sick tramp, with
hesitating steps, stumbling along the dusty road, and then the rush
of the old father, his garments fluttering, and his voice heard in
broken cries. I see and hear it all now, whenever the words are
He announced the hymn, 'Just as I am,' read the first verse, and
then went on: 'There you are, men, every man of you, somewhere on
the road. Some of you are too lazy'--here Graeme nudged me--'and
some of you haven't got enough yet of the far country to come back.
May there be a chance for you when you want to come! Men, you all
want to go back home, and when you go you'll want to put on your
soft clothes, and you won't go till you can go in good style; but
where did the prodigal get his good clothes?' Quick came the
answer in Baptiste's shrill voice--
'From de old fadder!'
No one was surprised, and the minister went on--
'Yes! and that's where we must get the good, clean heart, the good,
clean, brave heart, from our Father. Don't wait, but, just as you
are, come. Sing.'
They sang, not loud, as they would 'Stand Up,' or even 'The Sweet
By and By,' but in voices subdued, holding down the power in them.
After the singing, Craig stood a moment gazing down at the men, and
then said quietly--
'Any man want to come? You all might come. We all must come.'
Then, sweeping his arm over the audience, and turning half round as
if to move off, he cried, in a voice that thrilled to the heart's
'Oh! come on! Let's go back!'
The effect was overpowering. It seemed to me that the whole
company half rose to their feet. Of the prayer that immediately
followed, I only caught the opening sentence, 'Father, we are
coming back,' for my attention was suddenly absorbed by Abe, the
stage-driver, who was sitting next me. I could hear him swearing
approval and admiration, saying to himself--
'Ain't he a clinker! I'll be gee-whizzly-gol-dusted if he ain't a
malleable-iron-double-back-action self-adjusting corn-cracker.'
And the prayer continued to be punctuated with like admiring and
even more sulphurous expletives. It was an incongruous medley.
The earnest, reverent prayer, and the earnest, admiring profanity,
rendered chaotic one's ideas of religious propriety. The feelings
in both were akin; the method of expression somewhat widely
After prayer, Craig's tone changed utterly. In a quiet, matter-of-
fact, businesslike way he stated his plan of organisation, and
called for all who wished to join to remain after the benediction.
Some fifty men were left, among them Nelson, Sandy, Lachlan
Campbell, Baptiste, Shaw, Nixon, Geordie, and Billy Breen, who
tried to get out, but was held fast by Geordie.
Graeme was passing out, but I signed him to remain, saying that I
wished 'to see the thing out.' Abe sat still beside me, swearing
disgustedly at the fellows 'who were going back on the preacher.'
Craig appeared amazed at the number of men remaining, and seemed to
fear that something was wrong. He put before them the terms of
discipleship, as the Master put them to the eager scribe, and he
did not make them easy. He pictured the kind of work to be done,
and the kind of men needed for the doing of it. Abe grew uneasy as
the minister went on to describe the completeness of the surrender,
the intensity of the loyalty demanded.
'That knocks me out, I reckon,' he muttered, in a disappointed
tone; 'I ain't up to that grade.' And as Craig described the
heroism called for, the magnificence of the fight, the worth of it,
and the outcome of it all, Abe ground out: I'll be blanked if I
wouldn't like to take a hand, but I guess I'm not in it.' Craig
finished by saying--
'I want to put this quite fairly. It is not any league of mine;
you're not joining my company; it is no easy business, and it is
for your whole life. What do you say? Do I put it fairly? What
do you say, Nelson?'
Nelson rose slowly, and with difficulty began--
'I may be all wrong, but you made it easier for me, Mr. Craig. You
said He would see me through, or I should never have risked it.
Perhaps I am wrong,' and the old man looked troubled. Craig sprang
'No! no! Thank God, no! He will see every man through who will
trust his life to Him. Every man, no matter how tough he is, no
matter how broken.'
Then Nelson straightened himself up and said--
'Well, sir! I believe a lot of the men would go in for this if they
were dead sure they would get through.'
'Get through!' said Craig; 'never a fear of it. It is a hard
fight, a long fight, a glorious fight,' throwing up his head, but
every man who squarely trusts Him, and takes Him as Lord and
Master, comes out victor!'
'Bon!' said Baptiste 'Das me. You tink He's take me in dat fight,
M'sieu Craig, heh?' His eyes were blazing.
'You mean it?' asked Craig almost sternly.
'Yes! by gar!' said the little Frenchman eagerly.
'Hear what He says, then'; and Craig, turning over the leaves of
his Testament, read solemnly the words, 'Swear not at all.'
'Non! For sure! Den I stop him,' replied Baptiste earnestly; and
Craig wrote his name down.
Poor Abe looked amazed and distressed, rose slowly, and saying,
'That jars my whisky jug,' passed out. There was a slight movement
near the organ, and glancing up I saw Mrs. Mavor put her face
hastily in her hands. The men's faces were anxious and troubled,
and Nelson said in a voice that broke--
'Tell them what you told me, sir.' But Craig was troubled too, and
replied, 'You tell them, Nelson!' and Nelson told the men the story
of how he began just five weeks ago. The old man's voice steadied
as he went on, and he grew eager as he told how he had been helped,
and how the world was all different, and his heart seemed new. He
spoke of his Friend as if He were some one that could be seen out
at camp, that he knew well, and met every day.
But as he tried to say how deeply he regretted that he had not
known all this years before, the old, hard face began to quiver,
and the steady voice wavered. Then he pulled himself together, and
'I begin to feel sure He'll pull me through--me! the hardest man in
the mountains! So don't you fear, boys. He's all right.'
Then the men gave in their names, one by one. When it came to
Geordie's turn, he gave his name--
'George Crawford, frae the pairish o' Kilsyth, Scotland, an' ye'll
juist pit doon the lad's name, Maister Craig; he's a wee bit fashed
wi' the discoorse, but he has the root o' the maitter in him, I
doot.' And so Billy Breen's name went down.
When the meeting was over, thirty-eight names stood upon the
communion roll of the Black Rock Presbyterian Church; and it will
ever be one of the regrets of my life that neither Graeme's name
nor my own appeared on that roll. And two days after, when the cup
went round on that first Communion Sabbath, from Nelson to Sandy,
and from Sandy to Baptiste, and so on down the line to Billy Breen
and Mrs. Mavor, and then to Abe, the driver, whom she had by her
own mystic power lifted into hope and faith, I felt all the shame
and pain of a traitor; and I believe, in my heart that the fire of
that pain and shame burned something of the selfish cowardice out
of me, and that it is burning still.
The last words of the minister, in the short address after the
table had been served, were low, and sweet, and tender, but they
were words of high courage; and before he had spoken them all, the
men were listening with shining eyes, and when they rose to sing
the closing hymn they stood straight and stiff like soldiers on
And I wished more than ever I were one of them.
THE BREAKING OF THE LEAGUE
There is no doubt in my mind that nature designed me for a great
painter. A railway director interfered with that design of nature,
as he has with many another of hers, and by the transmission of an
order for mountain pieces by the dozen, together with a cheque so
large that I feared there was some mistake, he determined me to be
an illustrator and designer for railway and like publications. I
do not like these people ordering 'by the dozen.' Why should they
not consider an artist's finer feelings? Perhaps they cannot
understand them; but they understand my pictures, and I understand
their cheques, and there we are quits. But so it came that I
remained in Black Rock long enough to witness the breaking of the
Looking back upon the events of that night from the midst of gentle
and decent surroundings, they now seem strangely unreal, but to me
then they appeared only natural.
It was the Good Friday ball that wrecked the League. For the fact
that the promoters of the ball determined that it should be a ball
rather than a dance was taken by the League men as a concession to
the new public opinion in favour of respectability created by the
League. And when the manager's patronage had been secured (they
failed to get Mrs. Mavor's), and it was further announced that,
though held in the Black Rock Hotel ballroom--indeed, there was no
other place--refreshments suited to the peculiar tastes of League
men would be provided, it was felt to be almost a necessity that
the League should approve, should indeed welcome, this concession
to the public opinion in favour of respectability created by the
There were extreme men on both sides, of course. 'Idaho' Jack,
professional gambler, for instance, frankly considered that the
whole town was going to unmentionable depths of propriety. The
organisation of the League was regarded by him, and by many others,
as a sad retrograde towards the bondage of the ancient and dying
East; and that he could not get drunk when and where he pleased,
'Idaho,' as he was called, regarded as a personal grievance.
But Idaho was never enamoured of the social ways of Black Rock. He
was shocked and disgusted when he discovered that a 'gun' was
decreed by British law to be an unnecessary adornment of a card-
table. The manner of his discovery must have been interesting to
It is said that Idaho was industriously pursuing his avocation in
Slavin's, with his 'gun' lying upon the card-table convenient to
his hand, when in walked policeman Jackson, her Majesty's sole
representative in the Black Rock district. Jackson, 'Stonewall'
Jackson, or 'Stonewall,' as he was called for obvious reasons,
after watching the game for a few moments, gently tapped the pistol
and asked what he used this for.
'I'll show you in two holy minutes if you don't light out,' said
Idaho, hardly looking up, but very angrily, for the luck was
against him. But Jackson tapped upon the table and said sweetly--
'You're a stranger here. You ought to get a guide-book and post
yourself. Now, the boys know I don't interfere with an innocent
little game, but there is a regulation against playing it with
guns; so,' he added even more sweetly, but fastening Idaho with a
look from his steel-grey eyes, 'I'll just take charge of this,'
picking up the revolver; 'it might go off.'
Idaho's rage, great as it was, was quite swallowed up in his amazed
disgust at the state of society that would permit such an outrage
upon personal liberty. He was quite unable to play any more that
evening, and it took several drinks all round to restore him to
articulate speech. The rest of the night was spent in retailing
for his instruction stories of the ways of Stonewall Jackson.
Idaho bought a new 'gun,' but he wore it 'in his clothes,' and used
it chiefly in the pastime of shooting out the lights or in picking
off the heels from the boys' boots while a stag dance was in
progress in Slavin's. But in Stonewall's presence Idaho was a most
correct citizen. Stonewall he could understand and appreciate. He
was six feet three, and had an eye of unpleasant penetration. But
this new feeling in the community for respectability he could
neither understand nor endure. The League became the object of his
indignant aversion, and the League men of his contempt. He had
many sympathisers, and frequent were the assaults upon the newly-
born sobriety of Billy Breen and others of the League. But
Geordie's watchful care and Mrs. Mavor's steady influence, together
with the loyal co-operation of the League men, kept Billy safe so
far. Nixon, too, was a marked man. It may be that he carried
himself with unnecessary jauntiness toward Slavin and Idaho,
saluting the former with, 'Awful dry weather! eh, Slavin?' and the
latter with, 'Hello, old sport! how's times?' causing them to swear
deeply; and, as it turned out, to do more than swear.
But on the whole the anti-League men were in favour of a respectable
ball, and most of the League men determined to show their
appreciation of the concession of the committee to the principles of
the League in the important matter of refreshments by attending in
Nixon would not go. However jauntily he might talk, he could not
trust himself, as he said, where whisky was flowing, for it got
into his nose 'like a fish-hook into a salmon.' He was from
Nova Scotia. For like reason, Vernon Winton, the young Oxford
fellow, would not go. When they chaffed, his lips grew a little
thinner, and the colour deepened in his handsome face, but he went
on his way. Geordie despised the 'hale hypothick' as a 'daft
ploy,' and the spending of five dollars upon a ticket he considered
a 'sinfu' waste o' guid siller'; and he warned Billy against
'coontenancin' ony sic redeeklus nonsense.'
But no one expected Billy to go; although the last two months he
had done wonders for his personal appearance, and for his position
in the social scale as well. They all knew what a fight he was
making, and esteemed him accordingly. How well I remember the
pleased pride in his face when he told me in the afternoon of the
committee's urgent request that he should join the orchestra with
his 'cello! It was not simply that his 'cello was his joy and
pride, but he felt it to be a recognition of his return to
I have often wondered how things combine at times to a man's
Had Mr. Craig not been away at the Landing that week, had Geordie
not been on the night-shift, had Mrs. Mavor not been so occupied
with the care of her sick child, it may be Billy might have been
saved his fall.
The anticipation of the ball stirred Black Rock and the camps with
a thrill of expectant delight. Nowadays, when I find myself forced
to leave my quiet smoke in my studio after dinner at the call of
some social engagement which I have failed to elude, I groan at my
hard lot, and I wonder as I look back and remember the pleasurable
anticipation with which I viewed the approaching ball. But I do
not wonder now any more than I did then at the eager delight of the
men who for seven days in the week swung their picks up in the dark
breasts of the mines, or who chopped and sawed among the solitary
silences of the great forests. Any break in the long and weary
monotony was welcome; what mattered the cost or consequence! To
the rudest and least cultured of them the sameness of the life must
have been hard to bear; but what it was to men who had seen life in
its most cultured and attractive forms I fail to imagine. From the
mine, black and foul, to the shack, bare, cheerless, and sometimes
hideously repulsive, life swung in heart-grinding monotony till the
longing for a 'big drink' or some other 'big break' became too
great to bear.
It was well on towards evening when Sandy's four horse team, with a
load of men from the woods, came swinging round the curves of the
mountain-road and down the street. A gay crowd they were with
their bright, brown faces and hearty voices; and in ten minutes the
whole street seemed alive with lumbermen--they had a faculty of
spreading themselves so. After night fell the miners came down
'done up slick,' for this was a great occasion, and they must be up
to it. The manager appeared in evening dress; but this was voted
'too giddy' by the majority.
As Graeme and I passed up to the Black Rock Hotel, in the large
store-room of which the ball was to be held, we met old man Nelson
looking very grave.
'Going, Nelson, aren't you?' I said.
'Yes,' he answered slowly; 'I'll drop in, though I don't like the
look of things much.'
'What's the matter, Nelson?' asked Graeme cheerily. 'There's no
'Perhaps not,' replied Nelson, 'but I wish Mr. Craig were home.'
And then he added, 'There's Idaho and Slavin together, and you may
bet the devil isn't far off.'
But Graeme laughed at his suspicion, and we passed on. The
orchestra was tuning up. There were two violins, a concertina, and
the 'cello. Billy Breen was lovingly fingering his instrument, now
and then indulging himself in a little snatch of some air that came
to him out of his happier past. He looked perfectly delighted, and
as I paused to listen he gave me a proud glance out of his deep,
little, blue eyes, and went on playing softly to himself.
Presently Shaw came along.
'That's good, Billy,' he called out. 'You've got the trick yet, I
But Billy only nodded and went on playing.
'Where's Nixon?' I asked.
'Gone to bed,' said Shaw, 'and I am glad of it. He finds that the
safest place on pay-day afternoon. The boys don't bother him
The dancing-room was lined on two sides with beer-barrels and
whisky-kegs; at one end the orchestra sat, at the other was a table
with refreshments, where the 'soft drinks' might be had. Those who
wanted anything else might pass through a short passage into the
bar just behind.
This was evidently a superior kind of ball, for the men kept on
their coats, and went through the various figures with faces of
unnatural solemnity. But the strain upon their feelings was quite
apparent, and it became a question how long it could be maintained.
As the trips through the passage-way became more frequent the
dancing grew in vigour and hilarity, until by the time supper was
announced the stiffness had sufficiently vanished to give no
further anxiety to the committee.
But the committee had other cause for concern, inasmuch as after
supper certain of the miners appeared with their coats off, and
proceeded to 'knock the knots out of the floor' in break-down
dances of extraordinary energy. These, however, were beguiled into
the bar-room and 'filled up' for safety, for the committee were
determined that the respectability of the ball should be preserved
to the end. Their reputation was at stake, not in Black Rock only,
but at the Landing as well, from which most of the ladies had come;
and to be shamed in the presence of the Landing people could not be
borne. Their difficulties seemed to be increasing, for at this
point something seemed to go wrong with the orchestra. The 'cello
appeared to be wandering aimlessly up and down the scale,
occasionally picking up the tune with animation, and then dropping
it. As Billy saw me approaching, he drew himself up with great
solemnity, gravely winked at me, and said--
'Shlipped a cog, Mishter Connor! Mosh hunfortunate! Beauchiful
hinstrument, but shlips a cog. Mosh hunfortunate!'
And he wagged his little head sagely, playing all the while for
dear life, now second and now lead.
Poor Billy! I pitied him, but I thought chiefly of the beautiful,
eager face that leaned towards him the night the League was made,
and of the bright voice that said, 'You'll sign with me, Billy?'
and it seemed to me a cruel deed to make him lose his grip of life
and hope; for this is what the pledge meant to him.
While I was trying to get Billy away to some safe place, I heard a
great shouting in the direction of the bar, followed by trampling
and scuffling of feet in the passage-way. Suddenly a man burst
'Let me go! Stand back! I know what I'm about!'
It was Nixon, dressed in his best; black clothes, blue shirt, red
tie, looking handsome enough, but half-drunk and wildly excited.
The highland Fling competition was on at the moment, and Angus
Campbell, Lachlan's brother, was representing the lumber camps in
the contest. Nixon looked on approvingly for a few moments, then
with a quick movement he seized the little Highlander, swung him in
his powerful arms clean off the floor, and deposited him gently
upon a beer-barrel. Then he stepped into the centre of the room,
bowed to the judges, and began a sailor's hornpipe.
The committee were perplexed, but after deliberation they decided
to humour the new competitor, especially as they knew that Nixon
with whisky in him was unpleasant to cross.
Lightly and gracefully he went through his steps, the men crowding
in from the bar to admire, for Nixon was famed for his hornpipe.
But when, after the hornpipe, he proceeded to execute a clog-dance,
garnished with acrobatic feats, the committee interfered. There
were cries of 'Put him out!' and 'Let him alone! Go on, Nixon!'
And Nixon hurled back into the crowd two of the committee who had
laid remonstrating hands upon him, and, standing in the open
centre, cried out scornfully--
'Put me out! Put me out! Certainly! Help yourselves! Don't mind
me!' Then grinding his teeth, so that I heard them across the
room, he added with savage deliberation, 'If any man lays a finger
on me, I'll--I'll eat his liver cold.'
He stood for a few moments glaring round upon the company, and then
strode toward the bar, followed by the crowd wildly yelling. The
ball was forthwith broken up. I looked around for Billy, but he
was nowhere to be seen. Graeme touched my arm--
'There's going to be something of a time, so just keep your eyes
'What are you going to do?' I asked.
'Do? Keep myself beautifully out of trouble,' he replied.
In a few moments the crowd came surging back headed by Nixon, who
was waving a whisky-bottle over his head and yelling as one
'Hello!' exclaimed Graeme softly, 'I begin to see. Look there!'
'What's up?' I asked.
'You see Idaho and Slavin and their pets,' he replied.
'They've got poor Nixon in tow. Idaho is rather nasty,' he added,
'but I think I'll take a hand in this game; I've seen some of
Idaho's work before.'
The scene was one quite strange to me, and was wild beyond
description. A hundred men filled the room. Bottles were passed
from hand to hand, and men drank their fill. Behind the
refreshment-tables stood the hotelman and his barkeeper with their
coats off and sleeves rolled up to the shoulder, passing out
bottles, and drawing beer and whisky from two kegs hoisted up for
that purpose. Nixon was in his glory. It was his night. Every
man was to get drunk at his expense, he proclaimed, flinging down
bills upon the table. Near him were some League men he was
treating liberally, and never far away were Idaho and Slavin
passing bottles, but evidently drinking little.
I followed Graeme, not feeling too comfortable, for this sort of
thing was new to me, but admiring the cool assurance with which he
made his way through the crowd that swayed and yelled and swore and
laughed in a most disconcerting manner.
'Hello!' shouted Nixon as he caught sight of Graeme. 'Here you
are!' passing him a bottle. 'You're a knocker, a double-handed
front door knocker. You polished off old whisky-soak here, old
demijohn,' pointing to Slavin, 'and I'll lay five to one we can
lick any blankety blank thieves in the crowd,' and he held up a
roll of bills.
But Graeme proposed that he should give the hornpipe again, and the
floor was cleared at once, for Nixon's hornpipe was very popular,
and tonight, of course, was in high favour. In the midst of his
dance Nixon stopped short, his arms dropped to his side, his face
had a look of fear, of horror.
There, before him, in his riding-cloak and boots, with his whip in
his hand as he had come from his ride, stood Mr. Craig. His face
was pallid, and his dark eyes were blazing with fierce light. As
Nixon stopped, Craig stepped forward to him, and sweeping his eyes
round upon the circle he said in tones intense with scorn--
'You cowards! You get a man where he's weak! Cowards! you'd damn
his soul for his money!'
There was dead silence, and Craig, lifting his hat, said solemnly--
'May God forgive you this night's work!'
Then, turning to Nixon, and throwing his arm over his shoulder, he
said in a voice broken and husky--
'Come on, Nixon! we'll go!'
Idaho made a motion as if to stop him, but Graeme stepped quickly
foreword and said sharply, 'Make way there, can't you?' and the
crowd fell back and we four passed through, Nixon walking as in a
dream, with Craig's arm about him. Down the street we went in
silence, and on to Craig's shack, where we found old man Nelson,
with the fire blazing, and strong coffee steaming on the stove. It
was he that had told Craig, on his arrival from the Landing, of
There was nothing of reproach, but only gentlest pity, in tone and
touch as Craig placed the half-drunk, dazed man in his easy-chair,
took off his boots, brought him his own slippers, and gave him
coffee. Then, as his stupor began to overcome him, Craig put him
in his own bed, and came forth with a face written over with grief.
'Don't mind, old chap,' said Graeme kindly.
But Craig looked at him without a word, and, throwing himself into
a chair, put his face in his hands. As we sat there in silence the
door was suddenly pushed open and in walked Abe Baker with the
words, 'Where is Nixon?' and we told him where he was. We were
still talking when again a tap came to the door, and Shaw came in
looking much disturbed.
'Did you hear about Nixon?' he asked. We told him what we knew.
'But did you hear how they got him?' he asked, excitedly.
As he told us the tale, the men stood listening, with faces growing
It appeared that after the making of the League the Black Rock
Hotel man had bet Idaho one hundred to fifty that Nixon could not
be got to drink before Easter. All Idaho's schemes had failed, and
now he had only three days in which to win his money, and the ball
was his last chance. Here again he was balked, for Nixon,
resisting all entreaties, barred his shack door and went to bed
before nightfall, according to his invariable custom on pay-days.
At midnight some of Idaho's men came battering at the door for
admission, which Nixon reluctantly granted. For half an hour they
used every art of persuasion to induce him to go down to the ball,
the glorious success of which was glowingly depicted; but Nixon
remained immovable, and they took their departure, baffled and
cursing. In two hours they returned drunk enough to be dangerous,
kicked at the door in vain, finally gained entrance through the
window, hauled Nixon out of bed, and, holding a glass of whisky to
his lips, bade him drink. But he knocked the glass sway, spilling
the liquor over himself and the bed.
It was drink or fight, and Nixon was ready to fight; but after
parley they had a drink all round, and fell to persuasion again.
The night was cold, and poor Nixon sat shivering on the edge of his
bed. If he would take one drink they would leave him alone. He
need not show himself so stiff. The whisky fumes filled his
nostrils. If one drink would get them off, surely that was better
than fighting and killing some one or getting killed. He
hesitated, yielded, drank his glass. They sat about him amiably
drinking, and lauding him as a fine fellow after all. One more
glass before they left. Then Nixon rose, dressed himself, drank
all that was left of the bottle, put his money in his pocket, and
came down to the dance, wild with his old-time madness, reckless of
faith and pledge, forgetful of home, wife, babies, his whole being
absorbed in one great passion--to drink and drink and drink till he
could drink no more.
Before Shaw had finished his tale, Craig's eyes were streaming with
tears, and groans of rage and pity broke alternately from him. Abe
remained speechless for a time, not trusting himself; but as he
heard Craig groan, 'Oh, the beasts! the fiends!' he seemed
encouraged to let himself loose, and he began swearing with the
coolest and most blood-curdling deliberation. Craig listened with
evident approval, apparently finding complete satisfaction in Abe's
performance, when suddenly he seemed to waken up, caught Abe by the
arm, and said in a horror-stricken voice--
'Stop! stop! God forgive us! we must not swear like this.'
Abe stopped at once, and in a surprised and slightly grieved voice
'Why! what's the matter with that? Ain't that what you wanted?'
'Yes! yes! God forgive me! I am afraid it was,' he answered
hurriedly; 'but I must not.'
'Oh, don't you worry,' went on Abe cheerfully; 'I'll look after
that part; and anyway, ain't they the blankest blankety blank'--
going off again into a roll of curses, till Craig, in an agony of
entreaty, succeeded in arresting the flow of profanity possible to
no one but a mountain stage-driver. Abe paused looking hurt, and
asked if they did not deserve everything he was calling down upon
'Yes, yes,' urged Craig; 'but that is not our business.'
'Well! so I reckoned,' replied Abe, recognising the limitations of
the cloth; 'you ain't used to it, and you can't be expected to do
it; but it just makes me feel good--let out o' school like--to
properly do 'em up, the blank, blank,' and off he went again. It
was only under the pressure of Mr. Craig's prayers and commands
that he finally agreed 'to hold in, though it was tough.'
'What's to be done?' asked Shaw.
'Nothing,' answered Craig bitterly. He was exhausted with his long
ride from the Landing, and broken with bitter disappointment over
the ruin of all that he had laboured so long to accomplish.
'Nonsense,' said Graeme; 'there's a good deal to do.'
It was agreed that Craig should remain with Nixon while the others
of us should gather up what fragments we could find of the broken
League. We had just opened the door, when we met a man striding up
at a great pace. It was Geordie Crawford.
'Hae ye seen the lad?' was his salutation. No one replied. So I
told Geordie of my last sight of Billy in the orchestra.
'An' did ye no' gang aifter him?' he asked in indignant surprise,
adding with some contempt, 'Man! but ye're a feckless buddie.'
'Billy gone too!' said Shaw. 'They might have let Billy alone.'
Poor Craig stood in a dumb agony. Billy's fall seemed more than he
could bear. We went out, leaving him heart-broken amid the ruins
of his League.
THE LEAGUE'S REVENGE
As we stood outside of Craig's shack in the dim starlight, we could
not hide from ourselves that we were beaten. It was not so much
grief as a blind fury that filled my heart, and looking at the
faces of the men about me I read the same feeling there. But what
could we do? The yells of carousing miners down at Slavin's told
us that nothing could be done with them that night. To be so
utterly beaten, and unfairly, and with no chance of revenge, was
'I'd like to get back at 'em,' said Abe, carefully repressing
'I've got it, men,' said Graeme suddenly. 'This town does not
require all the whisky there is in it'; and he unfolded his plan.
It was to gain possession of Slavin's saloon and the bar of the
Black Rock Hotel, and clear out all the liquor to be found in both
these places. I did not much like the idea; and Geordie said, 'I'm
ga'en aifter the lad; I'll hae naethin' tae dae wi' yon. It's' no'
that easy, an' it's a sinfu' waste.'
But Abe was wild to try it, and Shaw was quite willing, while old
Nelson sternly approved.
'Nelson, you and Shaw get a couple of our men and attend to the
saloon. Slavin and the whole gang are up at the Black Rock, so you
won't have much trouble; but come to us as soon as you can.'
And so we went our ways.
Then followed a scene the like of which I can never hope to see
again, and it was worth a man's seeing. But there were times that
night when I wished I had not agreed to follow Graeme in his plot.
As we went up to the hotel, I asked Graeme, 'What about the law of
'Law!' he replied indignantly. 'They haven't troubled much about
law in the whisky business here. They get a keg of high wines and
some drugs and begin operations. No!' he went on; 'if we can get
the crowd out, and ourselves in, we'll make them break the law in
getting us out. The law won't trouble us over smuggled whisky.
It will be a great lark, and they won't crow too loud over the
I did not like the undertaking at first; but as I thought of the
whole wretched illegal business flourishing upon the weakness of
the men in the mines and camps, whom I had learned to regard as
brothers, and especially as I thought of the cowards that did for
Nixon, I let my scruples go, and determined, with Abe, 'to get back
We had no difficulty getting them out. Abe began to yell. Some
men rushed out to learn the cause. He seized the foremost man,
making a hideous uproar all the while, and in three minutes had
every man out of the hotel and a lively row going on.
In two minutes more Graeme and I had the door to the ball-room
locked and barricaded with empty casks. We then closed the door of
the bar-room leading to the outside. The bar-room was a strongly
built log-shack, with a heavy door secured, after the manner of the
early cabins, with two strong oak bars, so that we felt safe from
attack from that quarter.
The ball-room we could not hold long, for the door was slight and
entrance was possible through the windows. But as only a few casks
of liquor were left there, our main work would be in the bar, so
that the fight would be to hold the passage-way. This we
barricaded with casks and tables. But by this time the crowd had
begun to realise what had happened, and were wildly yelling at door
and windows. With an axe which Graeme had brought with him the
casks were soon stove in, and left to empty themselves.
As I was about to empty the last cask, Graeme stopped me, saying,
'Let that stand here. It will help us.' And so it did. 'Now skip
for the barricade,' yelled Graeme, as a man came crashing through
the window. Before he could regain his feet, however, Graeme had
seized him and flung him out upon the heads of the crowd outside.
But through the other windows men were coming in, and Graeme rushed
for the barricade, followed by two of the enemy, the foremost of
whom I received at the top and hurled back upon the others.
'Now, be quick!' said Graeme; 'I'll hold this. Don't break any
bottles on the floor--throw them out there,' pointing to a little
window high up in the wall.
I made all haste. The casks did not take much time, and soon the
whisky and beer were flowing over the floor. It made me think of
Geordie's regret over the 'sinfu' waste.' The bottles took longer,
and glancing up now and then I saw that Graeme was being hard
pressed. Men would leap, two and three at a time, upon the
barricade, and Graeme's arms would shoot out, and over they would
topple upon the heads of those nearest. It was a great sight to
see him standing alone with a smile on his face and the light of
battle in his eye, coolly meeting his assailants with those
terrific, lightning-like blows. In fifteen minutes my work was
'What next?' I asked. 'How do we get out?'
'How is the door?' he replied.
I looked through the port-hole and said, 'A crowd of men waiting.'
'We'll have to make a dash for it, I fancy,' he replied cheerfully,
though his face was covered with blood and his breath was coming in
'Get down the bars and be ready.' But even as he spoke a chair
hurled from below caught him on the arm, and before he could
recover, a man had cleared the barricade and was upon him like a
tiger. It was Idaho Jack.
'Hold the barricade,' Graeme called out, as they both went down.
I sprang to his place, but I had not much hope of holding it long.
I had the heavy oak bar of the door in my hands, and swinging it
round my head I made the crowd give back for a few moments.
Meantime Graeme had shaken off his enemy, who was circling about
him upon his tip-toes, with a long knife in his hand, waiting for a
chance to spring.
'I have been waiting for this for some time, Mr. Graeme,' he said
'Yes,' replied Graeme, 'ever since I spoiled your cut-throat game
in 'Frisco. How is the little one?' he added sarcastically.
Idaho's face lost its smile and became distorted with fury as he
replied, spitting out his words, 'She--is--where you will be before
I am done with you.'
'Ah! you murdered her too! You'll hang some beautiful day, Idaho,'
said Graeme, as Idaho sprang upon him.
Graeme dodged his blow and caught his forearm with his left hand
and held up high the murderous knife. Back and forward they swayed
over the floor, slippery with whisky, the knife held high in the
air. I wondered why Graeme did not strike, and then I saw his
right hand hung limp from the wrist. The men were crowding upon
the barricade. I was in despair. Graeme's strength was going
fast. With a yell of exultant fury Idaho threw himself with all
his weight upon Graeme, who could only cling to him. They swayed
together towards me, but as they fell I brought down my bar upon
the upraised hand and sent the knife flying across the room.
Idaho's howl of rage and pain was mingled with a shout from below,
and there, dashing the crowd right and left, came old Nelson,
followed by Abe, Sandy, Baptiste, Shaw, and others. As they
reached the barricade it crashed down and, carrying me with it,
pinned me fast.
Looking out between the barrels, I saw what froze my heart with
horror. In the fall Graeme had wound his arms about his enemy and
held him in a grip so deadly that he could not strike; but Graeme's
strength was failing, and when I looked I saw that Idaho was slowly
dragging both across the slippery floor to where the knife lay.
Nearer and nearer his outstretched fingers came to the knife. In
vain I yelled and struggled. My voice was lost in the awful din,
and the barricade held me fast. Above me, standing on a barrel-
head, was Baptiste, yelling like a demon. In vain I called to him.
My fingers could just reach his foot, and he heeded not at all my
touch. Slowly Idaho was dragging his almost unconscious victim
toward the knife. His fingers were touching the blade point, when,
under a sudden inspiration, I pulled out my penknife, opened it
with my teeth, and drove the blade into Baptiste's foot. With a
blood-curdling yell he sprang down and began dancing round in his
rage, peering among the barrels.
'Look! look!' I was calling in agony, and pointing; 'for heaven's
sake, look! Baptiste!'
The fingers had closed upon the knife, the knife was already high
in the air, when, with a shriek, Baptiste cleared the room at a
bound, and, before the knife could fall, the little Frenchman's
boot had caught the uplifted wrist, and sent the knife flying to
Then there was a great rushing sound as of wind through the forest,
and the lights went out. When I awoke, I found myself lying with
my head on Graeme's knees, and Baptiste sprinkling snow on my face.
As I looked up Graeme leaned over me, and, smiling down into my
eyes, he said--
'Good boy! It was a great fight, and we put it up well'; and then
he whispered, 'I owe you my life, my boy.'
His words thrilled my heart through and through, for I loved him as
only men can love men; but I only answered--
'I could not keep them back.'