The Great Gold Rush
The Great Gold Rush
.................. THE FORTUNE-SEEKERS
THOSE WHO JOIN THE STAMPEDE to a new goldfield may generally be divided into two classes, the tenderfoot and the old-timer; otherwise, the novice and the experienced prospector.
The novice joins the stampede because he catches the "fever"-dreams dreams. The old-timer goes because the diggings he had last worked in proved of little good.
Were the sea-dogs of old-Drake, Raleigh, or Frobisher-born into the world to-day, their spirit would surely have impelled them to the mining camp, to seek fortune in the mountain fastnesses, and to wager years of effort on the chance of wresting from Nature her treasure stores.
On the steamship Aleutian , as she lay in the dock at Vancouver, British Columbia, one day in the March of 1898, there were many tenderfeet and a few old-timers. Amongst the experienced was John Berwick. About him surged the steamship's host of passengers, waving their arms, and yelling answers to the cheer that went up from the great crowd upon the dock-side.
He and his fellows were bound for the Klondike goldfields. Before them lay adventures, toil, and danger; the adventurous will ever draw the tributes of goodwill from the multitude staying at home.
The air was chill and damp; and the increased speed of the steamer as she passed from the harbour accentuated the effect of the breeze that blew against her, so that Berwick felt cold. He shivered, and half turned towards the door across the promenade; but the wavelets, flying by in their half-blue, half-grey ripples, fascinated him, and he lingered. Suddenly he was aroused-a hand was on his shoulder, and he heard a familiar voice say,
"Hullo, old chum!"
John swung round. He looked into the smiling face of his old-time mining-mate, George Bruce.
"George, by all the gods!" he cried. "Are you bound for the diggings, too?"
"Yes, and mighty glad to find an old mate. I told you, when you left Coolgardie, that you wouldn't stand civilization long, but had no idea of running across you in this rush."
The two turned and entered the saloon together. Neither mentioned it, but each knew that in the adventures before them their efforts and their fortunes would be joined. In the language of the Australian, they were mates, or, in the vernacular of their new surroundings, "partners."
George Bruce was tall and athletic, with golden hair. He was a jovial soul, blessed with a body of activity. He would go for the hardest work in a cheery way, and during the social hours of evening was the best of company. He was as liberal with his money and means as he was of good-nature.
The saloon was crowded with men, drifting about, staring at all they met, or talking in groups. On the lower deck dogs could be heard barking. The ship was tense with an atmosphere of excitement.
Berwick and his "pardner" went by a companion-way to the lower deck, where they found a passage-way to the fore-part of the ship, and so came to the presence of the canine choir. Big dogs and little dogs, of every breed and colour, were there. All grades of canine society were represented, from the big and well-fed St. Bernard to the mongrel snared in the slums. Dogs were a safe investment in the towns on the Pacific Coast of North America, and unscrupulous humanity was actively at work capturing them and getting them there.
The portion of the deck to which the dogs were relegated was also set apart for the baggage, which was piled in heaps in the middle. A dozen men were diving into kit-bags, extracting necessary articles or packing them away. The inspiration of the last few minutes in Vancouver had prompted many to purchase odds and ends which had been forgotten in the general outfitting.
A tall, angular man was attending to three dogs of an uncommon breed. Two of them were practically of the same size, which w