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- The Iron Trail - 1/68 -


THE IRON TRAIL

By REX BEACH

Author of "THE AUCTION BLOCK" "RAINBOW'S END" "THE SPOILERS" Etc.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. IN WHICH THE TIDE TAKES A HAND

II. HOW A GIRL APPEARED OUT OF THE NIGHT

III. THE IRISH PRINCE

IV. HOW A JOURNEY ENDED AT HOPE

V. WHEREIN WE SEE CURTIS GORDON AND OTHERS

VI. THE DREAMER

VII. THE DREAM

VIII. IN WHICH WE COME TO OMAR

IX. WHEREIN GORDON SHOWS HIS TEETH

X. IN WHICH THE DOCTOR SHOWS HIS WIT

XI. THE TWO SIDES OF ELIZA VIOLET APPLETON

XII. HOW GORDON FAILED IN HIS CUNNING

XIII. WE JOURNEY TO A PLACE OF MANY WONDERS

XIV. HOW THE TRUTH CAME TO ELIZA

XV. THE BATTLE OF GORDON'S CROSSING

XVI. THE FRUIT OF THE TEMPEST

XVII. HOW THE PRINCE BECAME A MAN

XVIII. HOW THE MAN BECAME A PRINCE AGAIN

XIX. MISS APPLETON MAKES A SACRIFICE

XX. HOW GORDON CHANGED HIS ATTACK

XXI. DAN APPLETON SLIPS THE LEASH

XXII. HOW THE HAZARD WAS PLAYED

XXIII. A NEW CRISIS

XXIV. GORDON'S FALL

XXV. PREPARATIONS

XXVI. THE RACE XXVII. HOW A DREAM CAME TRUE

I

IN WHICH THE TIDE TAKES A HAND

The ship stole through the darkness with extremest caution, feeling her way past bay and promontory. Around her was none of that phosphorescent glow which lies above the open ocean, even on the darkest night, for the mountains ran down to the channel on either side. In places they overhung, and where they lay upturned against the dim sky it could be seen that they were mantled with heavy timber. All day long the NEBRASKA had made her way through an endless succession of straits and sounds, now squeezing through an inlet so narrow that the somber spruce trees seemed to be within a short stone's-throw, again plowing across some open reach where the pulse of the north Pacific could be felt. Out through the openings to seaward stretched the restless ocean, on across uncounted leagues, to Saghalien and the rim of Russia's prison-yard.

Always near at hand was the deep green of the Canadian forests, denser, darker than a tropic jungle, for this was the land of "plenty waters." The hillsides were carpeted knee-deep with moss, wet to saturation. Out of every gulch came a brawling stream whipped to milk-white frenzy; snow lay heavy upon the higher levels, while now and then from farther inland peered a glacier, like some dead monster crushed between the granite peaks. There were villages, too, and fishing-stations, and mines and quarries. These burst suddenly upon the view, then slipped past with dreamlike swiftness. Other ships swung into sight, rushed by, and were swallowed up in the labyrinthine maze astern.

Those passengers of the Nebraska who had never before traversed the "Inside Passage" were loud in the praises of its picturesqueness, while those to whom the route was familiar seemed to find an ever-fresh fascination in its shifting scenes.

Among the latter was Murray O'Neil. The whole north coast from Flattery to St. Elias was as well mapped in his mind as the face of an old friend, yet he was forever discovering new vistas, surprising panoramas, amazing variations of color and topography. The mysterious rifts and passageways that opened and closed as if to lure the ship astray, the trackless confusion of islets, the siren song of the waterfalls, the silent hills and glaciers and snow-soaked forests--all appealed to him strongly, for he was at heart a dreamer.

Yet he did not forget that scenery such as this, lovely as it is by day, may be dangerous at night, for he knew the weakness of steel hulls. On some sides his experience and business training had made him sternly practical and prosaic. Ships aroused no manner of enthusiasm in him except as means to an end. Railroads had no glamour of romance in his eyes, for, having built a number of them, he had outlived all poetic notions regarding the "iron horse," and once the rails were laid he was apt to lose interest in them. Nevertheless, he was almost poetic in his own quiet way, interweaving practical thoughts with fanciful visions, and he loved his dreams. He was dreaming now as he leaned upon the bridge rail of the Nebraska, peering into the gloom with watchful eyes. From somewhere to port came the occasional commands of the officer on watch, echoed instantly from the inky interior of the wheelhouse. Up overside rose the whisper of rushing waters; from underfoot came the rhythmic beat of the engines far below. O'Neil shook off his mood and began to wonder idly how long it would be before Captain Johnny would be ready for his "nightcap."

He always traveled with Johnny Brennan when he could manage it, for the two men were boon companions. O'Neil was wont to live in Johnny's cabin, or on the bridge, and their nightly libation to friendship had come to be a matter of some ceremony.

The ship's master soon appeared from the shadows--a short, trim man with gray hair.

"Come," he cried, "it's waiting for us."

O'Neil followed into Brennan's luxurious, well-lit quarters, where on a mahogany sideboard was a tray holding decanter, siphon, and glasses, together with a bottle of ginger ale. The captain, after he had mixed a beverage for his passenger, opened the bottle for himself. They raised their glasses silently.

"Now that you're past the worst of it," remarked O'Neil, "I suppose you'll turn in. You're getting old for a hard run like this, Johnny."

Captain Brennan snorted. "Old? I'm a better man than you, yet. I'm a teetotaler, that's why. I discovered long ago that salt water and whiskey don't mix."

O'Neil stretched himself out in one of Brennan's easy-chairs. "Really," he said, "I don't understand why a ship carries a captain. Now of what earthly use to the line are you, for instance, except for your beauty, which, no doubt, has its value with the women? I'll admit you preside with some grace at the best table in the dining-salon, but your officers know these channels as well as you do. They could make the run from Seattle to Juneau with their eyes shut."

"Indeed they could not; and neither could I."

"Oh, well, of course I have no respect for you as a man, having seen you without your uniform."

The captain grinned in thorough enjoyment of this raillery. "I'll say nothing at all of my seamanship," he said, relapsing into the faintest of brogues, "but there's no denying that the master of a ship has many unpleasant and disgusting duties to perform. He has to amuse the prominent passengers who can't amuse themselves, for one thing, and that takes tact and patience. Why, some people make themselves at home on the bridge, in the chart-room, and even in my living-quarters, to say nothing of consuming my expensive wines, liquors, and cigars."

"Meaning me?"

"I'm a brutal seafaring man, and you'll have to make allowances for my well-known brusqueness. Maybe I did mean you. But I'll say that next to you Curtis Gordon is the worst grafter I ever saw."

"You don't like Gordon, do you?" O'Neil queried with a change of tone.

"I do not! He went up with me again this spring, and he had his widow with him, too."

"His widow?"

"You know who I mean--Mrs. Gerard. They say it's her money he's using in his schemes. Perhaps it's because of her that I don't


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