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- Embers, Volume 3. - 6/7 -


When the sun with a million levers lifts Abodes of snow from the rocky rifts; When the line-man's eyes, like the lynx's, scans The lofty Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

Round a curve, down a sharp incline, If the red-eyed lantern made no sign, Swept the train, and upon the bridge That binds a canon from ridge to ridge. Never a watchman like old Carew; Knew his duty, and did it, too; Good at scouting when scouting paid, Saved a post from an Indian raid-- Trapper, miner, and mountain guide, Less one arm in a lumber slide; Walked the line like a panther's guard, Like a maverick penned in a branding-yard. "Right as rain," said the engineers, "With the old man working his eyes and ears."

"Safe with Carew on the mountain wall," Was how they put it, in Montreal. Right and safe was it East and West Till a demon rose on the mountain crest, And drove at its shoulders angry spears, That it rose from its sleep of a thousand years, That its heaving breast broke free the cords Of imprisoned snow as with flaming swords; And, like a star from its frozen height, An avalanche leaped one spring-tide night; Leaped with a power not God's or man's To smite the Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

It smote a score of the spans; it slew With its icy squadrons old Carew. Asleep he lay in his snow-bound grave, While the train drew on that he could not save; It would drop, doom-deep, through the trap of death, From the light above, to the dark beneath; And town and village both far and near Would mourn the tragedy ended here.

One more hap in a hapless world, One more wreck where the tide is swirled, One more heap in a waste of sand, One more clasp of a palsied hand, One more cry to a soundless Word, One more flight of a wingless bird; The ceaseless falling, the countless groan, The waft of a leaf and the fall of a stone; Ever the cry that a Hand will save, Ever the end in a fast-closed grave; Ever and ever the useless prayer, Beating the walls of a mute despair. Doom, all doom--nay then, not all doom! Rises a hope from the fast-closed tomb. Write not "Lost," with its grinding bans, On life, or the Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

See, on the canon's western ridge, There stands a girl! She beholds the bridge Smitten and broken; she sees the need For a warning swift, and a daring deed. See then the act of a simple girl; Learn from it, thinker, and priest, and churl. See her, the lantern between her teeth, Crossing the quivering trap of death. Hand over hand on a swaying rail, Sharp in her ears and her heart the wail Of a hundred lives; and she has no fear Save that her prayer be not granted her. Cold is the snow on the rail, and chill The wind that comes from the frozen hill. Her hair blows free and her eyes are full Of the look that makes Heaven merciful-- Merciful, ah! quick, shut your eyes, Lest you wish to see how a brave girl dies! Dies--not yet; for her firm hands clasped The solid bridge, as the breach out-gasped, And the rail that had held her downward swept, Where old Carew in his snow-grave slept.

Now up and over the steep incline, She speeds with the red light for a sign; She hears the cry of the coming train, it trembles like lanceheads through her brain; And round the curve, with a foot as fleet As a sinner's that flees from the Judgment-seat, She flies; and the signal swings, and then She knows no more; but the enginemen Lifted her, bore her, where women brought The flush to her cheek, and with kisses caught The warm breath back to her pallid lips, The life from lives that were near eclipse; Blessed her, and praised her, and begged her name That all of their kindred should know her fame; Should tell how a girl from a cattle-ranche That night defeated an avalanche. Where is the wonder the engineer Of the train she saved, in half a year Had wooed her and won her? And here they are For their homeward trip in a parlour car! Which goes to show that Old Nature's plans Were wrecked with the Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

NELL LATORE

Rebel? . . . I grant you,--my comrades then Were called Old Pascal Dubois' Men Half-breeds all of us . . . I, a scamp, The best long-shot in the Touchwood Camp; Muscle and nerve like strings of steel, Sound in the game of bit and heel-- There's your guide-book. . . . But, Jeanne Amray, Telegraph-clerk at Sturgeon Bay, French and thoroughbred, proud and sweet, Sunshine down to her glancing feet, Sang one song 'neath the northern moon That changed God's world to a tropic noon; And Love burned up on its golden floor Years of passion for Nell Latore-- Nell Latore with her tawny hair, Glowing eyes and her reckless air; Lithe as an alder, straight and tall-- Pride and sorrow of Rise-and-Fall! Indian blood in her veins ran wild, And a Saxon father called her child; Women feared her, and men soon found When they trod on forbidden ground. Ride! there's never a cayuse knew Saddle slip of her; pistols, too, Seemed to learn in her hands a knack How to travel a dead-sure track. Something in both alike maybe, Something kindred in ancestry, Some warm touch of an ancient pride Drew my feet to her willing side. My comrade, she, in the Touchwood Camp, To ride, hunt, trail by the fire-fly lamp; To track the moose to his moose-yard; pass The bustard's doom through the prairie grass; To hark at night to the crying loon Beat idle wings on the still lagoon; To hide from death in the drifting snow, To slay the last of the buffalo. . . . Ah, well, I speak of the days that were; And I swear to you, I was kind to her. I lost her. How are the best friends lost? The lightning lines of our souls got crossed-- Crossed, and could never again be free Till Death should call from his midnight sea.

One spring brought me my wedding day, Brought me my bright-eyed Jeanne Amray; Brought that night to our cabin door My old, lost comrade, Nell Latore. Her eyes swam fire, and her cheek was red, Her full breast heaved as she darkly said: "The coyote hides from the wind and rain, The wild horse flies from the hurricane, But who can flee from the half-breed's hate, That rises soon and that watches late?" Then went; and I laughed Jeanne's fears afar, But I thought that wench was our evil star. Be sure, when a woman's heart gets hard, It works up war like a navy yard.

Half-breed and Indian troubles came-- The same old story--land and game; And Dubois' Men were the first to feel The bullet-sting and the clip of steel; And last in battle 'gainst thousands sent, With Gatling guns for our punishment. Every cause has its traitor; then How should it fare with Dubois' Men! Beaten their cause was, and hunted down, Like to a moose in the chase full blown, Panting they stood; and a Judas sold Their hiding-place for a piece of gold. And while scouts searched for us night and day Jeanne telegraphed on at Sturgeon Bay. Picture her there as she stands alone, Cold, in the glow of the afternoon; Picture, I ask you, that patient wife, Numb with fear for her husband's life, When a sharp click-click awakes her brain To life, with the needle-points of pain. A message it was to Camp Pousette-- One that the half-breeds think on yet: "Dubois' gang are in Rocky Glen, Take a hundred and fifty men; Go by the next express," it said, "Bring them up here, alive or dead!" . . .

"Go by the next express!" and she,


Embers, Volume 3. - 6/7

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