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Title: The Boy With the U. S. Survey
Author: Rolt-Wheeler, Francis, 1876-1960
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy With the U. S. Survey" ***

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[Illustration: cover of The Boy with the U. S. Survey]



[Illustration: THE CHIEF GEOGRAPHER OF THE UNITED STATES, SURVEYING THE
SIERRAS, WITH ASSISTANT TOPOGRAPHER.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]



U. S. SERVICE SERIES.

THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY

BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER


With Thirty-seven Illustrations from Photographs
taken by the U. S. Geological Survey

[Illustration]

BOSTON
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

Published, August, 1909

COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

All rights reserved

THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY

Norwood Press
BERWICK & SMITH CO.
Norwood, Mass.
U. S. A.



To
My Son
ROGER ROLT-WHEELER



PREFACE


Just as manly, courageous, and daring work as has ever been done in the
past still is being done, and adventures as great as the world has
contained before are happening to-day in these United States. The
difference is that while the explorer and adventurer of the past too
often sought but personal glory in his exploits, these now are done in
the name of and for the benefit of the American people.

The adventures in this volume, startling as they may seem, were
recounted to the author by the very men who underwent them; slight
details only being changed to fit them into the rapid sequence with
which they have to be compressed in the pages of a book. This little
company of "men who dare" are real beings, living a real life, and
ennobling as well as enriching their country by their efforts. In the
administration of this department, manliness, alertness, untiring
industry, and unfailing courage are the prime essentials, favoritism is
unknown, and every American boy and man has an equal chance.

The world is not yet all sordid and commonplace and the glamour of an
undiscovered peril is not yet all worn away. To show the inner and the
outer worth of the United States Geological Survey, as well as to depict
the adventurous possibilities open to a lad of perseverance and spirit,
is the intent and purpose of

THE AUTHOR.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I                                   PAGE
A START AT THE CAPITAL                         1

CHAPTER II
A TENDERFOOT SNIPE-SHOOT                      23

CHAPTER III
FOOLING A RESCUE PARTY                        44

CHAPTER IV
IN THE GIANT TULE SWAMPS                      67

CHAPTER V
PERIL IN THE GRAND CANYON                     88

CHAPTER VI
A LONE HAND AGAINST HUNGER                   109

CHAPTER VII
SAVED BY HIS NERVE                           130

CHAPTER VIII
THE LAND WHERE IT NEVER RAINS                149

CHAPTER IX
A FIRST-CLASS BUCKING MULE                   172

CHAPTER X
AMERICANS THAT ARE FORGOTTEN                 190

CHAPTER XI
WHERE PRIMITIVE JUSTICE REIGNS               210

CHAPTER XII
THE ALASKAN TRIP BEGUN                       234

CHAPTER XIII
WRESTLING WITH A MOUNTAIN GOAT               252

CHAPTER XIV
BREAKING THE ICE JAM                         268

CHAPTER XV
FACING DEATH IN A CANOE                      290

CHAPTER XVI
DECLARING WAR ON UNCLE SAM                   311

CHAPTER XVII
CLAWED BY AN ANGRY BEAR                      328

CHAPTER XVIII
FIGHTING FIRE IN THE TUNDRA                  344

CHAPTER XIX
RACING A POLAR WINTER                        362



ILLUSTRATIONS


The Chief Geographer of the United States, surveying the
Sierras, with Assistant Topographer                     _Frontispiece_

                                                           FACING PAGE
In the Home of the Kodiak Bear                                       8
A Lofty Spouter       }
Water Enough for All  }                                             30
In the Tamarack Swamp                                               44
A Tangle of Swamp                                                   54
Measuring Stream Flow                                               72
Difficulties of Work                                                76
Dense Southern Palm Grove                                           82
Grand Canyon of the Colorado                                        94
An Awkward Country to Work In                                       98
"How in the World am I going to get up there?"                     108
A Hard Point to Measure                                            118
Twenty-seven Miles from Water                                      152
In the Death Valley                                                170
Crossing a Swollen Stream                                          176
Bridged by "Double Tree"                                           180
If He Should Slip!                                                 186
A Grim and Icy Barrier                                             252
A General View of Tyonok                                           256
Farewell to Civilization                                           260
Where an Eternal Gale Rages                                        270
Morning after the Blizzard                                         278
Resting after a Long Pull                                          288
A Short but Dangerous Rapid                                        300
Skinning a Caribou                                                 306
The End of a Hard Climb                                            310
The Only Bit of Rock for Miles                                     314
In Icy Water under a Burning Sun                                   348
Thus Far with the Boats, and no Farther!                           354
Winter's Threat Almost Fulfilled                                   370
Eskimo Saviors             }
Pointing away from Winter  }                                       376



THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY



CHAPTER I

A START AT THE CAPITAL


"Mr. Rivers?"

The Alaskan explorer and geologist looked up from his desk and took in
with a quick glance the boy, standing hat in hand beside the door,
noting with quiet approval the steady gray eye and firm chin of his
visitor.

"Yes?" he replied.

"I'm Roger Doughty," explained the lad sturdily, "and Mr. Herold told me
that I should find you here."

"And what can I do for you?"

The boy seemed somewhat taken aback by the direct question, as though he
had expected the purpose of his visit to be known, but he answered
without hesitation.

"I understood from Mr. Herold that he had spoken to you about me. I want
to go to Alaska."

"You mean on the Survey?"

"Yes, sir."

"Your father wrote to me some time ago that you would be coming. He
said, if I remember, that you had been nominated one of the new field
men under that college scholarship plan."

"I think I am the first, Mr. Rivers," answered Roger with a smile.

"Sit down," said the elder man; then, as the boy hesitated, "just put
those books on the table."

The table in question was covered with an immense map showing the vast
unexplored and unsurveyed regions of Alaska, that far northern portion
of the United States which is equal in size to all the States west of
the Mississippi and north of Mason and Dixon's line.

"Mr. Herold spoke of the plan to me," continued the explorer, "but he
gave me few of the details. Tell me, if you can, just how the project is
to be worked."

"I don't know for certain, Mr. Rivers," replied the boy, "but so far as
I can make out, it is this way. You see, Mr. Carneller gave a large fund
to get some special boys into the government bureaus to give a chance
for the upbuilding of the personnel while still young, and this plan
was indorsed in Washington. The scholarship paid everything for two
years and gave the usual two months' vacation beside, giving also a
liberal allowance for personal expenses."

"And you say this plan is now proceeding?"

"I heard that it was to be tried this first year only in two or three
schools. I guess I was lucky, because they started out with us."

"But how does your father like the idea of your roughing it? In the days
when I knew him, he believed in keeping his boys near home."

"He wants me to stay, but, you see, Mr. Rivers, I always wanted to get
out and do something, and city life isn't what it's cracked up to be. I
want to be doing things worth while, things that will tell in the long
run, and this poking over columns of figures in a stuffy office doesn't
suit me worth a cent when I'm just aching to get out of doors."

The explorer's grave expression relaxed into a half-smile at the boyish
but earnest way of describing the feeling he himself knew so well; but
he felt it his duty to put bounds to that enthusiasm. Before he could
speak in protest, however, Roger continued:

"I know what you're going to say, all right, Mr. Rivers. I know there's
just as good work done nearer home as there is far away in Alaska or
the Bad Lands or any of those places, but why can't that work be done by
the fellows who like to hang around towns? I don't, that's all, and the
whole reason I went in for that scholarship and won it"--these last
words with an air of conscious pride--"was just so that I could get into
real and exciting work."

"If it's work you're after, you've come to the right place, Doughty,"
was the prompt reply, "but it's more laborious than exciting."

"Why, I thought it was full of excitement!" exclaimed Roger.

"Not especially. The work follows a regular routine on the trail, just
as it does anywhere else. It isn't so much the ability to face danger
that counts in the Survey, as it is the willingness to do
conscientiously the drudgery and hard work which bring in the real
results."

"No getting lost and wandering over frozen tundra until nearly at the
point of death, and then being rescued just in time?" asked the boy
breathlessly, his mind running on an exciting book which had occupied
his thoughts a few hours before.

"No!" The negative was emphatic. "The Alaskan parties are composed of
picked men, all of whom have had considerable experience and who don't
get lost. And if, by any chance, they are late in getting into camp,
they know how to shift for themselves. Besides, the chief of the party
is ever on the alert for the welfare of his men."

"But aren't there really any snowslides, or rapids, or forest fires, or
bears, or anything of that sort?" cried the boy in a disappointed tone.
"Surely it isn't as tame as all that?"

"I wouldn't go so far as to call it tame," responded the head of the
Alaskan work; "no, it's not tame, but you can't expect a different
adventure three times a day, like meals. We don't go out to find
adventures, but to do surveying, and are only too thankful when the work
goes ahead without any interruption. But of course little incidents do
occur. I was considerably delayed in scaling a glacier once, and you're
bound to strike a forest fire occasionally, but things like that don't
worry us. Rapids are a daily story, too, and of course there are lots of
bears."

"Lots of bears!" exclaimed Roger, his eyes lighting up in the discovery
that the days of adventure had not yet all passed by, "have you ever
been chased by a grizzly bear?"

"Worse than that!" The old-timer was smiling broadly at his would-be
follower's interest, being roused from his customary semi-taciturnity by
the boy's impetuous enthusiasm. "I thought a Kodiak bear had me one
time."

"Worse?" The boy leaned forward almost out of his chair in excitement.
"Is a Kodiak bear fiercer than a grizzly? Do tell me about it, Mr.
Rivers!"

"Oh, there wasn't much to it, I got away all right." Then, with intent
to change the subject, he continued, "but about this desire of yours to
go to the field----"

"Please, Mr. Rivers," interrupted Roger, his curiosity overcoming his
sense of politeness, "won't you tell me about the bear?"

The bushy brown eyebrows of the explorer lowered at the interruption,
but the boy went on hastily:

"I've never met any one before who had even seen a real bear loose, much
less had a fight with one. I don't want to seem rude, but I do want to
hear it so much."

"You are persistent, at least, Doughty," answered the other, with a
suspicion of annoyance in his manner, "but sometimes that's not such a
bad thing. Well, if you want to hear the story so much I'll tell it to
you, and perhaps it may show the sort of thing that sometimes does come
about on the trail. It was this way:

"Some four years ago, the Survey sent me on a trip which included the
mapping of a portion of the foothills of the Mt. St. Elias Range. It is
a rugged and barren part of the country, but although rough in the
extreme, no obstacles had been encountered that hard labor and long
hours could not overcome. It was a packing trip and everything had
progressed favorably, there was plenty of forage, the streams had been
fairly passable, and we feasted twice a day on moose or mountain sheep.
For days and weeks together we had hardly been out of sight of caribou.
They had a curious way of approaching, either one at a time or else in
quite large bands, coming close to the pack-train, then breaking away
suddenly at full gallop and returning in large circles. Even the crack
of a rifle could not scare them out of their curiosity, and we never
shot any except when we needed meat.

"One day I got back to camp with the boys a good deal earlier than
usual, somewhere about four o'clock. We had started very early that
morning, I remember, trying to gain a peak somewhat hard of access. It
was difficult enough, so difficult in fact, that the trial had to be
abandoned that day, as we found it could only be approached from the
other side. Of course our arrival sent George, the camp cook, into the
most violent kind of a hurry. He mentioned to me, as I remembered later,
that he had shot at a Kodiak bear somewhere about noon, and though he
had found tracks with blood in them, he did not believe that he had
wounded the bear sufficiently to make it worth while to track him. But
George was hustling at top speed to get dinner, and no one paid much
attention to him, I least of all, for I was trying to figure out the
best way to climb that peak next day.

"After dinner, it was still early, and as I was anxious to get a line on
the geology of the section, in order to determine how far the volcanic
formation of the Wrangell mountains intrudes upon the St. Elias Range, I
thought an hour would be well spent in investigating. I was not going
far from camp, so, as it chanced, I took nothing with me but my
geological hammer. About a mile from camp I found a sharp ravine, and I
wanted to see whether the granodiorite, which I could see in the walls
of the ravine, extended its whole depth. I scrambled down into the
ravine, making observations as I went, until the cleft ended in a sort
of dry lake bed, shaped like a deep oval saucer. Steep declivities ran
upward from the rim of this depression in every way but two, the ravine
down which I had come and a creek bed running to the south. Being
desirous of tracing the origin of this unusual configuration, I
scrambled to the edge, breaking through a clump of bushes on my way.


[Illustration: IN THE HOME OF THE KODIAK BEAR.

The pack-train on its way to the camp, where chief of party narrowly
escaped death.

_Photographs by U.S.G.S._]


"As I did so, I was startled by a deep and vicious growl which seemed to
come from my feet, and before I realized what the cracking of the
brushwood meant, the cook's story came back to me, and I broke for the
ravine. I was too late! There, in the path down which I had come, his
muzzle and paws red with the blood from the deep flesh wounds he had
received, and which he had been licking in order to try to assuage the
pain, stood an immense Kodiak bear. The Kodiak is not as ferocious as
the grizzly, but this beast was maddened by the pain of his wound, and
by the suspicion that I had followed to work him further ill. My slight
geologic pick was of no avail against the huge brute, my road of escape
was cut off, and the bear was advancing, growling angrily. I broke and
ran for the rim of the lake, hoping to be able to encircle it and
return to the opening of the ravine by which I had entered, and as I ran
I heard the bear charge after me.

"At the edge I paused, but there was no path along the former beach, and
having no alternative I slid down the debris into the lake bed. Blind
with rage the bear followed, and for a moment he seemed to have me at
his mercy. A hundred yards further on, however, some slender bushes grew
out of the shelving bank and with the bear but a few yards behind I
leaped for these. Had I missed my grasp, or had they been torn from
their slender rooting the story would have ended right there. But they
held, and I reached the level of the old beach, leaving my pursuer
momentarily baffled below. I lost no time in reaching the ravine, and I
think I pretty nearly hold the speed record in Alaska for that half-mile
back to camp."

"And the bear?" queried the boy.

"I'm on the Geological Survey, not in the wild animal business," was the
ready answer, "and I left that bear alone. I never hunt for trouble."

"And shall I see those bears if I go up with you this summer?" asked
Roger.

"Likely enough you will see them if you go up to Alaska, but that will
not be this summer."

"Why not, Mr. Rivers?"

"That work needs trained men, as I told you, and you know nothing of the
Survey yet. Besides, you will be sent where Mr. Herold thinks best, not
where you prefer to go."

"And I had hoped to see Alaska this summer!" cried the boy dejectedly.

"That could not be in any case; all the parties have started already,"
replied the older man. "You see, in order to make use of every day of
the short Alaskan summer, the men start early in the spring when a long
trip is planned, so that they will be at the point of start when the
break-up comes."

"Then I am too late after all!" said Roger, with the most acute
disappointment.

The experienced Alaskan explorer smiled.

"Doughty," he said, "you should realize that you could not possibly have
gone up with us this year. Minutes are too precious on the northern
trails to spend any of them teaching the routine of camp life or the
duties of the Survey. We take absolutely no men who are not experienced.
But, besides that, this year would not be the one in which you would
wish to go, since the parties now up there are surveying small sections
of territory to fill up gaps in the more populated areas."

"Then there is no chance for me?"

"Not this summer. But Mr. Herold did tell me that he had seen you, and
perhaps there may be an opportunity later for you to get into the
Alaskan work."

Roger bent forward eagerly to find out what was coming.

"If, therefore, you make good in the Survey during the coming year, I
might take you with me next summer, in what is going to be one of the
most interesting Alaskan trips ever undertaken, wherein I am going to
make a reconnoissance of Alaska from south to north, beginning at Cook
Inlet and working through to the Arctic Ocean. It will be my personal
party, and because the distance is so great it will have to be a forced
march every day without a break. That needs toughness, and of course I
know nothing of your powers of endurance. One weak man in the party, you
see, might delay us so that we would not reach the Arctic until after
the freeze-up and then there would be no getting out."

"I may not be very big, Mr. Rivers," said the boy with a conscious
gesture, "but I strip well."

The echo from the athletic field sounded strange in that office so full
of the actualities of life, and even Roger himself laughed at the way
his words sounded.

"I mean," he added, "that I was always able to do good track work and
had lots of wind."

"You need more than that. You need muscle and grit. I think you'll do,
Doughty," the explorer continued, "but if you want the chance of going
with me next spring, you've got to make a reputation for yourself in the
Survey. Learn your business as a rodman and so forth, become able to
pack a vicious mule, know how to swim an ice-cold river with a six-mile
current, get so that you can swing an ax and build a bridge, be an
expert canoeist in a boiling rapid, sit anything with four legs that
ever was foaled, accustom yourself to sixteen hours on the trail and to
picking out the soft side of a rock to sleep on, grow to like
mosquitoes, and by that time you'll be about ready for the Alaskan
trail. But it's no job for a weakling."

"Those are just the very things I want to be able to do," answered
Roger.

"I suppose you think because those seem to imply adventure that it will
be all very pleasant in the learning, but there is another factor
involved. We can find a hundred boys and men who are ready to face
danger and hardship to one who will face the drudgery of every-day
existence at the desk or in the field. It is not the shooting the rapids
which is difficult, but it is the days of heart-breaking toil in packing
around the rapids that test the man. Physical courage has ever been one
of the cheapest of commodities, and if we needed only this in our work,
it would not be so difficult to fill the ranks with the kind of men the
work demands. My own experience would lead me to believe that what we
need in the Geological Survey is the 'staying' rather than the 'dashing'
qualities. And you must remember that even if you do come with me next
year, there's no pull in it to bring you a sinecure, the chief of a
party has entirely a free hand in the selection of his assistants, and
their value for the work is almost the only consideration. If you come,
it will be practically as a camp hand, just to do what you're told,
whether it is what you want to do or not. Work on the Survey needs
backbone."

Roger's jaw set hard.

"You can enroll me on that party of yours, Mr. Rivers," he said with
determination, "and I'll be with you to the last ditch. I'm not
altogether a city boy, I've roughed it a good deal, and by the time
you're ready to start I'll be as hard as nails. I don't care what
trouble it takes, I'm bound to go!"

The older man rose from his seat and put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

"You've the right spirit, Doughty," he said, "and I expect I'll be able
to take you. You'd better go down and see the Director and he will get
you started, so that you can begin to get ready to come with me next
spring. No, on second thoughts," he added, "I'll go down with you
myself."

Chatting pleasantly, the two took the elevator to the second floor of
the Survey building, where was located the Director's office, and as
John, the old colored hallman, told them that the chief was engaged,
Rivers led the way into the big room, where Mitchon, the Director's
secretary, had his desk.

"Well, Roger," said the latter, for he had met the boy before he had
gone up to the Alaskan geologist's office, "did you find out a lot of
things about Alaska?"

"Quite a number, Mr. Mitchon," answered the boy.

"And are you still as anxious to go as ever?"

"More!"

The chief of the northern work put his hand on the boy's shoulder. Then,
greatly to the secretary's surprise, for he knew how rarely Rivers could
be got to talk, the geologist recounted with gusto his endeavors to
dissuade the boy by representing the hardships of the trail and how each
successive obstacle had but deepened the lad's purpose; and when he told
of Roger's determination to acquire in a few months all the
accomplishments and virtues of an old-time woodsman, Rivers's short and
infrequent laugh found vent.

"And I tell you what, Mr. Mitchon," he concluded, just as two visitors
entered the room, "that's the kind of boy these United States want!"

On seeing the Director and his guest, the secretary, who had been
leaning back in his swinging chair listening with great amusement and
zest, sprang to his feet, but before he could say anything the visitor
broke in with warm, enthusiastic tones.

"And that's the kind of lad I like to know. Shake hands, my boy, and
tell me your name."

"Roger Doughty, sir," answered the boy, wincing a little under the grip.

"The first of the Carneller nominees," put in the Director.

But the guest had turned, and after greeting the secretary, spoke to
Rivers, who still had one hand on the boy's shoulder.

"I think I met you with reference to Alaska," he said readily, "but I do
not recall your name."

"Rivers, Mr. President," answered the geologist.

"Mr. President!" Roger felt almost suffocated with joy at hearing that
this praise of him had come direct to the ears of the President of the
United States.

"I am delighted, Mr. Rivers, delighted," said the President, "to have
this opportunity of seeing you again, and to hear you approve this new
plan so heartily."

"I didn't approve of it at all, Mr. President," answered Rivers with
characteristic abruptness, "but this boy has converted me."

"Tell the President the story, Mr. Rivers," suggested Mitchon.

"I had been pointing out to the lad," accordingly said the geologist,
"how exceedingly strenuous is the work on the Alaskan trail, how that
none but picked, experienced men of iron constitution and frontier
powers of endurance could carry out the work, and how one weak man in
the party might cripple the entire season's trip."

The President nodded.

"That is absolutely true," he said; "that is why so many hunting trips
are failures when there is a large party along. But I interrupt."

"So I urged that he must get a reputation before coming with me. As far
as I can remember, I said to him, 'You must first learn your business as
a rodman and so forth, be able to throw a diamond hitch over a vicious
mule, climb a peak with no firmer hand-hold than your finger-nails will
give you, learn to swim a glacier-fed river with a six-mile current,
ride any brute that ever was foaled, run every kind of rapid in any sort
of a canoe, find out how to swing an ax and build a bridge, be able to
find your way over the most rugged country in the vilest weather or on a
pitch-black night, get used to sixteen hours on the trail, and to
picking out a soft rock to sleep on, chum up with grizzlies and grow to
like mosquitoes, and by that time you will be ready for the Alaskan
trail.'"

The President burst into a hearty laugh, and said,

"That ought to have settled him!"

"Hm! Settled him! He just said, 'You can enroll me on that party of
yours,' and by all the powers, I will."

"You're right," said the President emphatically, "and I say to the
workers of the Survey, as I said to another band of workers once, that
it is a good thing that there should be a large body of our fellow
citizens--that there should be a profession--whose members must, year in
and year out, display those old, old qualities of courage, daring,
resolution, and unflinching willingness to meet danger at need. I hope
to see all our people develop the softer, gentler virtues to an
ever-increasing degree, but I hope never to see them lose the sterner
virtues that make men, men."

Roger listened with all his ears, hoping that the President would turn
directly to him. Nor was he disappointed. After some congratulatory
words to Rivers on the value of the Alaskan work and the ability
displayed in its direction, he turned to Roger.

"My boy," he said, "you are starting out the right way. You are the
first of a little army of workers who shall help to win the victories
of peace. You have a nobler mission than that of preserving a fine
tradition unspotted, you have the rare honor of making the tradition. Be
manly and straight, give a square deal and never be afraid of hard work,
and make for yourself and for those who shall come after you a record
worthy of inclusion in the annals of the Geological Survey of which we
are so justly proud."

He shook hands with Roger again, and bowing to Rivers and Mitchon, went
on his way with the Director. For a moment no one spoke, both men
watching the boy keenly. Suddenly the look of solemnity and attention
slipped from his face, and stepping forward unconsciously as though to
follow, he burst out:

"He's fine! Oh, isn't he just bully!" Then he caught the secretary's
smile, and he checked himself. "And wasn't he just kind to me! Oh, Mr.
Mitchon, how can I thank you, and you, Mr. Rivers. I have wanted to see
the President for years and years, but I never dreamed of seeing him
close, like that, and talking to him, except at some public reception,
which would seem altogether different."

Tears of pride and joy stood in the lad's eyes, and he choked, unable to
go on. The men were touched by the boy's intense patriotism and
emotion, and then the secretary said softly:

"That, Roger, will be something to inspire you and make you stronger in
all the hard moments of your life. The greatness of the President," he
continued, "lies in his power to make greater all those with whom he
comes in contact."

"I could never forget it," replied Roger in a low voice.

"And now," resumed Mitchon, "I may tell you that we were sure Mr. Rivers
would not advise you to go to Alaska this year, and Mr. Herold told me
to take you to Mr. Field, who has charge of the swamp work in Minnesota.
You will go out with him as soon as he opens field work, which, I
presume, will be next week."

Rivers then turned to the boy.

"Doughty," he said, "probably I shall not see you again until next
autumn, when I come back from an inspection of the Alaskan camps, but I
don't want to lose track of you. Write to me here, at the Survey, at
least once a month, and they will forward my letters. I will not add
anything to what the President has said, because I think no more is
needed, but I will say that if you make good as well as you promise, I
shall be glad to have you in my party. Not," he added, as an
afterthought, "because of your scholarship or any friendships you may
possess, but because I think you will be willing to work hard and do
your best."

"My word," said the secretary with a whistle, "that's a lot--from you."

"It is," answered the geologist, shaking Roger's hand heartily, and
leaving the boy alone with Mitchon.

"And now, Roger," said the latter, "I will take you where you can begin
to acquire that large stock of experience."



CHAPTER II

A TENDERFOOT SNIPE-SHOOT


"What do you think of a man," said Mitchon to Roger, as they started for
Field's office, "who can transform a festering tamarack swamp into a
busy and prosperous farming country?"

"He must be a daisy," answered the boy emphatically.

"That's what Mr. Field has done in the last couple of years, and that's
what you're to spend the next few weeks in doing. The Survey works for
results, and if turning square mile after square mile of rankly timbered
bog into a fertile region dotted with busy homesteads isn't getting
results, I don't know what is."

"But how is it done?"

"By drainage, my boy, as you will learn. Hundreds of thousands of acres
are being reclaimed. That's what makes a country rich; it isn't the gold
stored in vaults, but the gold waving on the fields at harvest time."

"But it must take an awful lot of work."

"Of course it takes work. Don't you remember Mr. Rivers told you that
there would be no chance to loaf? You'll start on that toughening
process soon enough, all right, all right."

Turning a corner of a hallway, Mitchon and the boy passed into a small
office, which was undergoing the throes of the annual tidying-up before
being left alone all through the summer.

"Mr. Field," said the secretary, as he entered, "this is Roger Doughty,
of whom I was speaking to you, who is to go out with you for a couple of
weeks until Roberts comes back from the tule swamps and rejoins your
party. You will have just about the same men as last year, will you
not?"

The swamp surveyor extended a large loose-jointed hand to Roger.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Doughty," he said, and then, in answer to the
secretary's question, continued, "I hope we do have the same men, Mr.
Mitchon, it makes the work a lot lighter."

"That's what you all say; but it doesn't make so much difference to you
as it does to the parties away off from civilization, does it?"

"Well," drawled the other, "Minnesota's civilization in that swamp
country doesn't hurt her much yet, I reckon. When you're eleven miles
away from the nearest road, and that only a 'corduroy,' in a swamp over
which you can't take a horse, and through which you can't take a boat,
you begin to think that other human beings live a thundering way off.
Why," he said, "I've seen parts of that swamp so soft that we'd have to
make a sort of platform of brush and three or four of us pull out one
chap who had sunk below his waist, and that with only half a pack
instead of the full load. No," he added, turning to Roger, "Minnesota's
not so powerful civilized if it comes to that!"

"Why, I hadn't any idea that it was so wild! Is there much of that
swamp?" asked the boy.

"Well, the little piece of land we're working on now contains about
2,500,000 acres."

"That's the Chippewa land, isn't it?" asked the secretary.

"Yes, all of it."

"What's Chippewa land?" queried Roger.

"It's land the Chippewa Indians ceded to the government to be held in
trust and disposed of for their own benefit. It's worth just about
nothing now, but when the land is all drained it'll be a mighty valuable
section of the State."

"I saw a report on the crops from some of that reclaimed land," said
Mitchon, "and it certainly was calculated to make the worked-out Eastern
farms sit up. Well, I suppose I must get back, so I'll wish you good
luck, Roger, if I don't see you again. You start soon, do you not, Mr.
Field?"

"To-morrow morning."

"So soon? That means hustling."

"No, Mr. Mitchon, everything's ready, I reckon."

"Well," replied the other, "I hope you'll have a pleasant summer, and,
Roger, you write and let me know how you like it. Good-by." But he had
hardly gone three or four steps from the door when he turned back
suddenly and said, "By the way, Roger, there's something I wish you
would do for me."

"I'll be only too glad, Mr. Mitchon, if I can," answered the boy
readily, eager to show his appreciation of his friend's kindness.

"That's a great snipe country you're going to, and I'm very fond of
snipe. I wish you would send me a couple of brace. You organize a
snipe-shoot while Roger's with you, won't you, Mr. Field?"

"Well, I'll try, anyway," answered the surveyor, "and we'll do the best
we can to give you a feast."

Mitchon nodded and disappeared down the hall, and Field turned to the
boy.

"Roger, your name is, isn't it?" he said.

"Yes, sir."

"Mr. Mitchon seems to think you're quite a shot."

"I've done a little shooting, Mr. Field, but I wouldn't like to call
myself a crack shot."

"That's all right. Much better not to brag. If Mr. Mitchon wants snipe
we'll go out some night and get him so many that he won't know what to
do with them."

Roger's eyes glistened at the thought of a night shoot in a country
where birds were so plentiful, and he began to congratulate himself that
the Survey was just as good as he had expected, and even better.

"Now, son," said his new chief, "what kind of an outfit for the field
have you got?"

The boy ran rapidly over the somewhat elaborate stock he had laid in for
rough work, and when he came to describe the various shotguns and rifles
with which he was provided he dwelt on them in detail, as it had been
that part of his outfit in which he had taken the most interest, and in
the completeness and excellence of which he felt great pride. But to his
annoyance, instead of seeming impressed, the older man chuckled.

"You've got shooting irons enough for a regular stage brigand," he said;
"you won't need all that truck, at least as long as you're with me. Take
a shotgun, yes, and you can take a revolver along if you want to very
much. You've been thinking more about your guns than you have about your
boots, though, and you'd better go down and get a pair of river-drivers'
boots this afternoon. Ones something like these." He pulled out of a
drawer a special catalogue, and opening it, passed it to Roger.

"I've got a regular pair of fisherman's boots," volunteered the boy,
"the kind that come 'way up to the hips. I should think they'd be just
the thing for swamp work."

The surveyor shook his head,

"No," he said, "that sort of thing won't do. Water and mud will get in
those. These others lace up tightly. Of course you'll be wet higher up
most of the time, but as long as your feet are tolerably dry, that
doesn't matter. Now you get those and do anything else you want,"--then
handing him a map--"you'd better look over this too; and meet me at the
Union Station to-morrow morning at 8 o'clock, and we'll take the 8.20
for Red Lake."

The trip out to Minnesota was the most enjoyable railroad journey Roger
had ever spent. His leader proved as entertaining a companion as a boy
need ever meet, and his stories of the wonders of the water power of the
United States were more fascinating than any story of adventure.

"I was out in the dry part of South Dakota, one time," he said, "when
some people, knowing that I was on the Survey, asked me to locate an
artesian well site for them. That was a dry country, I reckon. Why, the
little water that was there was so ashamed of itself that it tasted bad.
Well, after I had studied the lay of the land for some time, I told them
where to sink the well. It was an unlikely looking spot, I'll admit, but
I knew there was water there if they would go down deep enough."

"But how did you know," asked Roger. "Did you use a divining rod?"

"I'm not a seventh son of a seventh son," said the older man with a
laugh. "No, indeed, that sort of thing is done to-day by science, not by
magic. You see, Roger, water will always be found in large quantities
in porous rocks like sandstones, and none at all will be discovered in
what are called impermeable rocks like shale and limestone."

"Why not?" asked the boy, interrupting.

"Because a porous rock is like a sponge, and will hold the water, and an
impermeable rock isn't. So, you see, if a thick bed of shale is
underlaid by a thick bed of sandstone, you are pretty sure of getting
water if you drive a well through the shale."

"But I don't see how that helps," interjected Roger; "it seems to me it
would be as hard to tell that there was sandstone so far below ground as
to tell that there was water there. You can't see through rock!"

"No, my boy, but if you know the general make-up of the country, and how
the rocks lie in the nearest mountains and in the ravines and so forth,
you can tell. For example, if a river bed has been cut through the upper
shale to the sandstone and through the sandstone to some other rock
beneath, you are sure to find that sandstone under that shale
everywhere, until you strike a place where geology will show that there
has been some other change. In this particular case, the sandstone and
the limestone appear in successive layers in the foothills of the
Rockies, so that the water and snow from the mountains drains into the
sandstone layer, which, being between two strata of harder rocks, can't
sink any further down, but must force its way through the pores of that
sandstone as far as the stratum runs. Of course things come up to
complicate that, but such is the general plan.


[Illustration: A LOFTY SPOUTER.

Artesian Well at Woonsocket, South Dakota. Well throws a 3-in. stream to
a height of 97 ft.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


[Illustration: WATER ENOUGH FOR ALL.

Artesian Well at Lynch, Nebraska. Flows more than 3,000 gallons a
minute.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Well, as I was saying, the spot that I picked out looked so little like
water, that the Burlington railroad people--it was the Burlington that
had asked me about it--called in Spearon, who really was the expert on
the work. He's an expert all right. He promptly approved the site I had
chosen, and told them to go down and they would strike good water at
3,000 feet. At first they laughed at the idea of any man being able to
guess at the existence of water, 3,000 feet distant through solid rock,
but they knew that Survey statements usually are to be depended on and
they began. Some water was struck in an upper layer, but Spearon told
them to go on. A dozen times the railroad was about to give up the
project as useless, but, being urged, at last they agreed to go down the
3,000 feet, but not an inch further. At 2,920 feet they struck the
sandstone, and boring on to 2,980 feet they struck water, and so,
within twenty feet of the exact depth advised, they got a well flowing
half a million gallons daily under a pressure of 75 pounds."

"A couple of hundred years ago, they would have burned you at the stake
for a wizard," commented the boy.

"They would, son, sure enough. But people never stop to think how
important this very water is. Why, it is by far the most valuable
mineral in the United States!"

"More so than gold?"

"A thousand times! More than coal, too, which is vastly more valuable
than gold. The coal's going to give out some day--by the way, remind me
to tell you what the Survey's done on the coal question some time. I'd
tell you now, but there's a man who got on at the last stop that I want
to see," and with a nod, Field rambled to the other end of the car.

With stories and anecdotes of the Survey the time passed quickly, and
Roger felt quite sorry the next day to find that they had arrived at
their journey's end. At the depot, a small frame station, the rest of
the members of the party awaited them, with a big lumbering farm wagon,
but a pair of the finest horses Roger had ever seen. He won the heart
of the teamster immediately by noticing them, and had the satisfaction
of knowing that he had made a favorable impression on his future
companions for the next few weeks by evincing a ready knowledge of the
good points of a horse.

The drive that afternoon through the upper Minnesota country was Roger's
first experience of a corduroy road, that abomination of highways, which
consists merely of logs laid down horizontally across a trail and some
dirt and sand sifted on top of them. In course of time, the dirt all
seeps through between the interstices of the logs, and the latter
arrange themselves in positions more picturesque than comfortable;
which, being ridden over in a springless wagon at a good fast clip, is a
more energetic "bump the bumps" than any amusement park has thought of
inflicting on a suffering public.

Roger was thoroughly tired that night, though not for the world would he
have shown it before his new-made friends; still he found much ado at
supper to keep his eyes open and his head from nodding, when suddenly
all his senses were galvanized into activity by the word "snipe."

"Boys, I promised Mr. Mitchon," Field was saying, "that we would have a
snipe-shoot just as soon as we were able. Now, if we wait until we get
right into the thick of the work, no one will want to knock off. Suppose
we try a shoot to-night."

"Right you are," "Sure," "Just the thing;" a chorus of approval came
from the members of the party and Roger was compelled to chime in with
his assent, and, what was harder, to force an enthusiasm which, owing to
his fatigue, he did not feel. Only one dissenting voice was heard, that
of the farmer at whose house they were to put up for the night.

"There ain't no snipe round here," he said, "leastwise not this time of
year."

"Yes there are, lots," answered Field, "I saw a big flight of them as we
drove by that large slough a few miles out."

Roger thought it strange that the farmer should be mistaken about the
bird season on his own farm, but surely people who could discover a
flowing well 3,000 feet below the ground with nothing to show where it
was, wouldn't be stopped for a few snipe. In fact, if any one had told
the boy that the Survey had discovered the Fountain of Perpetual Youth
or was making a detailed topographical map of Mars he would have
accepted the statement without question or surprise.

The farmer's muttered objections being silenced by the united voices of
the party, the plan of operations was outlined by Field.

"You see, Roger," he said, "as the youngest of the party you are always
the guest of honor at the first few things the camp gets up, and so, as
I promised, we'll let you have the best of the fun to-night. Remember,
though, we expect you to get a big bag. It's a good dark night and you
ought to be able to pick out a whole lot."

"But I don't see how you can work it at night," objected Roger. "Do you
go out with torches, or how?"

"We'll show you how, when we get to that slough that I told you of.
Bring that best gun of yours along, and we'll post you right where the
birds will come."

There was a sense of strangeness about the whole affair which was
puzzling to Roger, but he attributed it as much to his fatigue as to any
other cause, and obediently fetched his gun out, saw that it was clean
and in good order, and prepared to accompany the party. They borrowed a
light rig from the farmer and started out. It was a little after nine
o'clock when they left the house and fairly cold, while, as one of the
men remarked, "It was as dark as the inside of an empty tar-barrel with
the bung driven in."

They drove and drove for what seemed to Roger an interminable time,
though he could not help wondering at the sudden twists and turns in the
road, and several times, by the scraping of the underbrush against the
body of the rig, he knew they were on no road at all. The undergrowth
grew thicker and thicker and the ground more and more boggy, when, after
they had been driving for at least two hours and Roger had fallen into a
light doze, the horses were pulled up with a jerk.

"Here we are," said Field loudly. "Tumble out, boys."

The horses had been stopped at the very edge of an immense marsh, that
looked almost like a lake in the dim light, but that its margin was
fringed with reeds and bulrushes, and although it was so early in the
year a scum was beginning to form. The place was not at all inviting,
and Roger felt well satisfied that he was not there alone.

"Now, son," said Field, lighting a large lantern which was part of the
camp outfit, "you stay right here and we will drive the horses away a
little distance so that the possible noise of their moving about
restlessly won't disturb the birds, and then we will circle the slough
in both ways and drive the birds to you. You see, they won't rise at
night, but keep to the ground, and if we start in opposite directions
from the other side of the slough all the birds will come together right
where you are. Then, when they find their escape cut off, they'll have
to hit the water or else take wing."

"But it will be pretty hard to shoot them," protested Roger; "it's
almost pitch-dark."

"They won't rise until they come into the circle of light shed by the
lantern," said Field, "and then, if you're quick, you can get them as
they rise. Now, remember, you've got to keep silent, or else, caught
between two fires, they will scatter back from the water; we will be
silent, too, so as not to scare them too much. Keep still, and don't
shoot until the snipe begin to come into the light."

With this Field jumped into the rig, and a minute or two later Roger
heard him stop the horses and speak loudly about tying them to a tree. A
few moments later, he returned with one of the men.

"Harry and Jake have gone round to the south of the slough," he said,
"and we will take the other side. Now remember, not a move until the
birds begin to come. Good sport to you," and they were gone.

Roger sat patiently with his gun across his knees, waiting for the birds
to come. He had been sitting perhaps for a quarter of an hour, when a
very faint "Coo-ee" was heard and he stiffened to attention. The men, he
thought, must be beginning to drive the birds from cover. The night wind
was chill on the edge of the marsh, and Roger, expecting every minute
that the birds would begin to come into the circle of light, dared not
move. His left foot became numb, but he did not rise to his feet until
the numbness became unendurable, and then, as softly and silently as he
could, he stood up. The scene was even more lonely, viewed standing up.
There was not a light to be seen, not a sound to be heard, save the
hoarse croaking of the frogs and the booming of a bittern in the far
distance.

The minutes passed into hours, until it became agony to refrain from
sleep, but Roger felt that he would be forever disgraced in the eyes of
his comrades if he were found asleep at his post on the very first
occasion they had given him a trial of endurance, and he promised
himself that he would stay awake, no matter what it cost him.

Then a faint mist began to wreathe upwards from the lake and took all
sorts of fantastic shapes before the boy's tired eyes, and while, for a
little time, it afforded him occupation to watch their curling
gyrations, at the last this but added to the dreariness of the place.
Once his eyes had closed and he dozed for a few seconds, when he was
aroused, and not only aroused but startled, by the far-off howl of a
wolf. Roger was no coward, and had all the boy's contempt for the coyote
of the prairies, but he was woodsman enough to know that the coyote
troubles timbered lands but little, and that the call was from the
throat of the dreaded timber wolf.

What would not the boy have given for one of his rifles? But there he
was at the edge of a slough, not even knowing in what direction he could
retreat should flight prove necessary, with no weapon but a shotgun
loaded with small bird-shot, and a timber wolf prowling near. Once,
indeed he thought of shooting in order to attract attention, but the
morbid fear of being thought timid and old-womanish restrained his hand
from the trigger.

Again came the call, clear and unmistakable this time, and drawing
nearer. All the wolf stories that he had read beside the fire at home
rushed across his memory now--the Siberian wolves who chased across the
steppes that traveler who saved his unworthy life by sacrificing to the
beasts successively the three children intrusted to his care; the wolves
who picked clean the bones of all the inhabitants in the Siberian
village who refused to help escaping prisoners; the were-wolf, who,
half-maiden and half-brute, lives on the blood of men; until, in spite
of his courage, Roger found himself feeling far from at ease and deeply
wishing that some of the others in the party were there to keep him
company.

Again the wolf howled, a long-drawn-out howl with a little "yap" before
it. Had Roger but known, he need have had no fear, for such is not the
call of an angry or a hungry wolf, but merely the cry of the solitary
hunter not running with the pack. A wolf after his prey does not howl,
but gives a succession of short, sharp barks. Presently the boy received
a sensation as of movement among the bushes to his right. He looked
intently, but could see nothing. At one time, indeed, he thought he
could discern two specks of light that might have been the eyes of the
intruder, but knowing how easily the eyesight is deceived when it is
being strained, and also having the good sense of not making matters
worse by wounding a beast he feared he could not kill, Roger contented
himself by keeping a lookout with every nerve strung. There was no
longer any thought of the snipe, they had paled into insignificance
before what appeared to be--although it was not--a real danger.

So Roger stood, watching the brush, the long night through, the little
lamp shedding its pale gleam upon the ground at his feet and glimmering
upon the waters of the lake, until in the east the first gray light of
the false dawn began to appear. Gradually the light increased, and Roger
with a sigh of relief took his eyes from the bush he had watched
anxiously so long. As the day began to break and to disperse the slight
mist, objects in the distance seemed to take shape, and Roger could
hardly believe his eyes when he saw, but a few hundred yards away, the
very house where he had supped the night before, and from which he had
been taken a long two-hours' ride.

In a moment it all flashed on him, the old farmer's incredulity at the
presence of snipe at that time of year, the readiness to put the
newcomer in the place of honor, the unanimity of all the members of the
party in falling in with the chief's suggestion, the folly of shooting
anything on a pitch-black night, and he saw that he had been hoaxed. He
was wet, incredibly weary and stiff from the strain, and Roger's first
impulse was that of intense anger. As he would have phrased it himself,
he was "good and mad." The boy soon reflected, however, that if this was
a regular performance on the tenderfoot--which appeared probable from
Mitchon in Washington having been in the game--a good deal depended on
the way he took it. They would expect him to be angry or sulky. Well, he
would disappoint them.

Just as he was about to walk into the barn, however, where he proposed
to have a nap in the straw, who should meet him but Field and another of
the men! They greeted him with a shout of laughter and satirical queries
as to the number of snipe he had shot. Roger schooled himself to laugh
in reply.

"That was one on me, all right," he said, "but this is only my second
day. It's your turn now, but mine will come some other time."

The chief laughed appreciatively.

"That's the right way to take it, Roger," he said, "and now you'll know
enough not to go shooting snipe any more at night, I reckon. But, lad,
it's early yet, and we won't start for a couple of hours, so you just
turn in and we'll call you when we are ready to go."

"I won't deny that I'll be glad of a nap," said Roger, yawning, "and I'm
mighty glad that this part of my initiation is over with."



CHAPTER III

FOOLING A RESCUE PARTY


Roger speedily found that Field's remark to the effect that the
"snipe-shoot" had better take place before the actual work started was
really a merciful suggestion, for three or four days later, when the
swamp survey was in progress, the boy found himself at night so tired
that he would not have budged from the camp for anything smaller than a
tiger. He was no mean athlete and had been accustomed to consider
himself in good training, but after a day in the marsh the muscles of
his back felt as though he had been lying on a corduroy road and
allowing a full-sized steam roller to run over him.

The work itself was not so hard to understand or to follow, but the
difficulties of the nature of the ground made it appear to him almost
insurmountable. Arising early in the morning, about half-past five
o'clock, he found himself fully ready for breakfast, which was duly over
by half-past six, when the work of making up the packs began. Each man
in the party was supposed to carry a pack, all the properties of the
camp being divided up into equal weights. The making up of these was a
source of no small anxiety, as the division of weight made a lot of
difference in the day's march. The load was so divided that it would
rest upon the back, just below the neck, and to keep it in place a broad
strap, called a "tump-strap" was passed across the forehead. If the
strap was a little long, or the load adjusted so that it hung too far
down, the effect was to jerk the neck back until it seemed that it would
snap off, while if the load was too high up on the neck, in order to
distribute the weight evenly the bearer would have to bend so far
forward that he would be walking almost double.


[Illustration: IN THE TAMARACK SWAMP.

Morning start from small dry spot where camp was made. Chief of party in
center, holding axe.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


Sometimes, though not often, the party was able to proceed straightaway
without any ax-work, but more often all hands had to set to work,
clearing away underbrush and second growth so that a clear distance
might be secured for making a sight. At first it would seem that a swamp
perforce must be level, and in such a case drainage would be extremely
complex and difficult, but in the Chippewa swamps there is a heavy fall
toward the Red Lake River, this fall, however, being interrupted by
numerous small hog-backs and elevated stretches of ground which might
almost be called islands.

"But, Mr. Field," said Roger to his chief, when this was explained to
him, "if a drainage ditch were cut direct from the highest point of the
marsh to the Red Lake River, would not all the water naturally flow into
it, and so drain the swamp without all this elaborate surveying?"

"And how would you find the highest point or points of the marsh," said
the other, smiling, "without a survey? You see, son, this swamp is like
a continent on a small scale. It has its mountains and its valleys, its
plateaus and its ravines, though these be measured in inches instead of
hundreds of feet. Now, if this ground were rocky, all this drainage
would make for itself a network of small streams and flow down to the
river, but as the ground is naturally spongy the water has lain instead
of running, and therefore has not cut any channels. Add to this the
hundreds of thousands of years' deposit of rotting vegetation, and you
see how impossible it is for the water to do what would naturally be
expected, that is, find its own level."

"But it must flow down some time, surely," said the boy.

"The overplus does. In spring, that is to say in early spring, right
after the snow melts, this whole swamp is a sheet of water, even worse
than it is now, and the houses on the higher grounds are on islands, the
farmers going to and from them with boats, but that soon runs off until
it reaches the level of complete saturation, in other words, a bog as
wet as it can hold. Now, what we have to do, is to trace this highest
point or points, such as you spoke of, or, to speak more correctly, the
succession of the lines of highest points, a very crooked series of
lines, and find out their relation each to the other. This you see, will
divide up the swamp into several drainage areas. Then each of these
areas is to be surveyed to determine the line of drainage, the whole to
be conformed to the main ditches that will flow to the river, and this
intricate network of ditches must be kept at just the exact level of
fall, so that it will flow unencumbered to the streams on either side of
the swamp."

Roger whistled softly.

"That's why you've got to go over every foot of the country so
carefully," he said.

"Of course. If it wasn't for the trees and brush, which prevent us
seeing just where every little rise is, it would be comparatively easy,
but unless we know the lie of the ground, we might plan a ditch just on
the wrong side of a ridge of comparatively solid earth, which would
divert the entire stream. Of course, there's a pretty good fall to the
river, both the Mud River and the Red Lake River, but even so, an
unobserved ridge of earth a few feet high, running along for a couple of
miles would throw out the value of that particular ditch and create the
cause for a new drainage area."

"I see," said the boy, "and I'm very glad you told me, Mr. Field,
because it did look to me as though a lot of this exactness was
unnecessary."

"We do nothing unnecessary on the Survey," came the prompt response. "No
man knows better than we how much work there is yet to be done."

As the days went on Roger found himself becoming quite apt at the pack
work, and, to his great delight, found his muscles hardening under the
exercise so that the strain was not so great. Several times too, and
this gave him great joy, the chief would send him out off the line of
march, not more than fifty yards, with instructions to report on the
nature of the ground. When about that distance, well within earshot, he
was supposed to "Coo-ee" in order to find his way back to the party.

It chanced one afternoon, right after the short stop in the middle of
the day, that Field sent Roger off, to the right of the party, in quite
dense timber, and told him not to go further than twenty-five yards
away. For twenty or thirty feet the boy hacked manfully through the
underbrush, and then, to his delight, came across a smooth piece of
marsh overlaid with water. Testing carefully every step he took, the lad
found the bottom of it less like a morass than was the general character
of the swamp, and he knew enough to realize that there must be firm
ground on the other side. Knowing, moreover, that a piece of information
such as this would be of great assistance he ventured to cross the
stretch, and as he surmised, found a small hog-back on the further shore
of the shallow lake. This ran parallel, so far as he could judge, with
the route being taken by the members of the party, and Roger conceived
the idea of following along this line, until it would be time for him to
rejoin his friends. The wood was thick on the ridge, however, and Roger
found that he was not making good time, so after going half a mile or
so, he decided to strike across and meet the rest of the party.

When Roger turned, however, he found that he had ceased to be opposite
the slough, and he plunged into a dense and palpitating quagmire, the
kind against which he had been specifically warned, fairly firm on the
surface, but which quivered like a jelly as far as he could see when he
stepped upon it. None the less, it was the only way the boy knew to
rejoin his comrades, so with considerable trepidation he stepped upon
the edge. It held him, though with a sort of "give" that was most
unpleasant. Another step he took, and this time the quag seemed to
resent his intrusion; large black bubbles formed slowly and broke a few
inches before his foot and the ground seemed to heave in front of him.
The boy realized that he could go no further, but for daring and
curiosity he took another step gingerly to see what would happen.

He learned! As the foot touched the ground it sank even with the little
weight that he threw on it, almost to the depth of an inch, and with
that slight pressure suddenly the suction of the marsh gripped him as
though some foul fiend had him by the heel, and he threw all his weight
back on his left foot in an endeavor to pull out the right. But this
disturbed the balance of his poise, and the sudden weight on the one
foot caused it to break through and the marsh had him by both feet. The
pressure was so fearful that Roger knew shouting was useless, he would
be deep under the quagmire before his comrades could even begin to find
him.

But Field had not instructed Roger for nothing, and the lad was quick of
thought. Instantly he threw his surveyor's rod down so that one end was
on the comparatively dry ground whence he had stepped, the other by his
feet, and with one supreme effort he threw himself flat upon the rod,
though wrenching his ankle cruelly as he did so. This distribution of
his weight over so much larger a plane surface prevented his further
sinking, but the suction was still so great that he could not draw out
his feet. Finally, by exerting all his strength he freed the one that
was furthest out, and which had sunk but little, but he was held a
prisoner by the other foot. Then an idea occurred to him. Taking his ax,
he chopped the ground around his leg, and had the satisfaction of
seeing water bubble up in its place. Little by little he loosened the
suction of the bog until at last he was able to pull out his foot and
crawl along the rod to the bank, where, trembling and exhausted, and
suffering considerable pain from his wrenched ankle, he sat upon a
projecting root to recover his breath and his somewhat shaken nerve.

This was Roger's first experience of the folly of attempting more than
he had been told to do, before he was an old enough hand at the game to
know the greatness of the risk. As soon as he had in part recovered
himself, he shouted, according to agreement, expecting to hear
immediately the return hail, which would tell him exactly where the
party might be. But there was no answering cry! A little startled at the
thought that he might have wandered out of hearing of the party, Roger
waited a moment, then, making a megaphone of his hands, let out a
stentorian howl, for all that he was worth. But the cry fell stifled in
the dense branches and a muffled echo was the only response. Thinking
that perhaps a whistle would sound further, he put his fingers in his
mouth and whistled long and shrill, a note loud enough, it seemed to
him, to be heard for miles; but for all the token of human answer, it
might have been the crying of the curlew above the marsh.

By this time Roger was fully alive to the difficulties that confronted
him. If he were out of reach of the party, and could not make himself
heard, it would be very difficult to trace them, even if he crossed
their trail; unless it were where they had been making a sight or where
undergrowth had been cut, there would be no mark of their passage, as
the soft ground speedily sucked in all trace of footsteps. A shot, he
thought, would travel farther than the voice, and so, taking out his
revolver, the boy fired three times in the air. He strained his ears
eagerly, though fearing that no shot would answer, but when the minutes
passed by he knew that he was lost and that he would have to find his
way back to the party unaided.

But one thing remained to be done. He must retrace his steps, trusting
to his new-born knowledge of woodsmanship to lead him aright, back to
the place where he had gained the ridge of ground from the shallow lake,
then cross that, if he could remember the direction, and he would be but
twenty yards or so from the path the party must have traveled. He would
be a couple of hours behind them, of course, but if he could strike
their trail he was bound to overtake them some time that night. There
was no other alternative, he must endeavor to find them, even at the
risk of becoming still more enmeshed in the mazes of the swamp.

Limping back over the ridge of ground, his ankle growing sorer each
step, Roger painfully wended his way to the little lake. He found the
ridge, but in returning it appeared to divide into twain paths, and for
a moment his heart sank within him; as luck would have it, however, he
remembered seeing a tree that had been struck by lightning somewhere
about where he then was, and he determined to go along each of the paths
until he struck the tree. Taking the left hand, at random, he hobbled
along for half an hour, but seeing no blighted tree, retraced his way
and took the other path. Just as he was about to give up that route
also, in despair, the sentinel tree on which he had been building loomed
up before him. It was the first sure sign that he was on the right
trail, and Roger let out a boyish whoop of delight. Suddenly he thought
he heard an answering yell, and he called again, but there being no
answer he felt that his ears had deceived him. Soon he came to the
banks of the little shallow lake, and struck in to wade across.


[Illustration: A TANGLE OF SWAMP.

Conditions which must be overcome by topographic parties, though "too
wet for walking, too dense for boats."

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


It then became evident to the boy that he had entered the lake at a
different point, for while it had been a little over his knees at the
deepest part before, now it came to his thighs and was steadily
deepening. In the middle the water was almost to his waist and the boy
began to be alarmed concerning the contents of his pack, which he had
stuck to throughout despite the pain in his foot. But while the water
came to within six inches of the pack at one place, the bottom remained
fairly hard, and presently it shallowed rapidly and Roger stood upon the
farther shore.

This time, however, the luck which seemed to have deserted him so long,
returned, for he found himself, in the course of a few steps, just at
the place where the brushwood had been cut recently for the making of a
sight, and the boy knew that he could not now be very far from the rest
of the party. He followed the blazed trail as rapidly as his somewhat
crippled condition would permit, shouting occasionally as he did so,
when suddenly he heard voices. Stopping to make sure, and hearing speech
quite distinctly, he hurried on, coming at last to a dense dark piece of
the wood through which a path had been hewn with some difficulty.
Another two minutes, he was assured, would bring him among his comrades,
when he heard the voices again, and what they said made him pause.

"It's a good one on the boy," said one of the voices.

Roger knew that he was always spoken of in camp as "the boy," and he
thought if they were planning some practical joke on him, like the
"snipe shoot," over which they had never ceased to tease him, there
could be nothing wrong in listening so that he could checkmate it.

"He must be quite near us, now," replied the other.

"Almost as near," said the first speaker, "as he was when he first
thought that he was lost. That was an awful howl he gave, the second one
we heard. It would make a fair sample for an Atlantic liner's foghorn."

Both men laughed, and the rich, easy voice of the chief of the party
broke in.

"I'm not sorry the boy got a scare," he said; "he's all right, is the
boy, but he thinks he knows it all. They all do, at first. I told him
not to go thirty yards away, and one way and another he must have gone
a mile. It's a good thing he paralleled us, or somebody would have had
to go after him."

"I thought sure he'd find us right away when David called back," said
the first speaker.

"Yes," replied Field, "I thought so, too. But he didn't, you see. Now
let him learn how hard it is to find a party in these swamps and he'll
know better next time. You've got the location of his last call, haven't
you?"

"Sure!" said one of the men.

"Oh-ho!" thought Roger to himself. "So that's the reason I got no answer
to my shouting and my shots. They're just waiting until I get in to guy
me some more." He sat down on a root and thought for a few minutes. Then
he grinned, and decided to bear the pain in his ankle a few moments
longer. Striking off sharply from the trail that had been cut, he wormed
his way up and on until he was almost opposite the party, and directly
to the left; then, holding a bunch of grass over his mouth to give the
muffled sound as of great distance, he gave a howl, putting into it as
much anguish as he could manage.

As he expected he heard the sounds of work cease.

"The young idiot's wandered off the trail again," he heard David say to
the chief.

"Well, get the direction," was the answer, with a tinge of annoyance
this time, "and you two had better go after him. I made sure from his
last hail that he was right by the camp."

Roger waggishly nodded his head in the direction of the speaker.

"I don't envy those two men their job," he said in an undertone, and,
doubling on his tracks, he came back to the trail that had been blazed.
Then circling round to the right, so as to be in the opposite direction
from that which his searchers had taken, he quietly made his way past
the working force and came to the spot where the cook was just making
preparations for dinner. Unobserved, he crept quite close to the camp,
and finding a convenient spruce with widely spreading branches, he
climbed up some fifteen feet, where was a natural hammock in the boughs,
and lay down, taking off the boot from his swollen foot and awaited what
should come.

He had not long to wait. In less than half an hour the two men returned
stating that they had found some signs of ax-work in the vicinity of the
last hail, but that they had called and called and received no reply.
The men spoke gravely and one of them said:

"I hope the youngster has not struck a quag!"

The leader gave an impatient exclamation.

"Well," he said, "it's our own fault if we have any trouble finding him,
but he has been within a hundred yards of the camp all this time that he
has been making such a fuss, and how he could be such an ass as to cross
our trail and get on the other side of it without noticing, gets me."

Roger chuckled.

"You'll find it harder hunting for me than I did for you," he said to
himself, "and perhaps the laugh won't be all on the one side."

He settled himself more comfortably in the tree and listened to Field
giving instructions to the members of the party how they should separate
and circle at an appointed distance, calling every few minutes as they
did so.

In less than a quarter of an hour the camp was vacant except for the
cook, who was still busy preparing the evening meal. That was the only
part that was hard to Roger, for he had been through a good deal of
excitement since lunch and not only was tired, but also very hungry. His
foot was not hurting so much now that he was not stepping on it and
with his boot off, although it had puffed up rapidly after the removal
of the boot. But to be up in the branches of a tree, as hungry as a
wolf, and to see the grub below, was almost more than boy nature could
stand.

Presently the cook, having laid out a loaf of bread and a knuckle of
ham, picked up his ax and went into the brush to get a little more dry
wood, which was somewhat scarce about the camp. Roger slipped down from
the tree and seized the bread and ham. Then in order that it might not
be suspected who had done it, he scrabbled on the tin plate with some
mud, and in the stiffer soil about--for that was the reason it had been
chosen for a camp,--he made some tracks with the first, second, and
third knuckles of his hand and the mark of his thumb knuckle behind. At
a little distance the track looked almost like fox tracks. By stepping
carefully on tufts of grass he kept the marks of his own feet from being
seen, and then, with his booty, he returned to the tree.

He was hardly more than safely ensconced among the branches when the
cook returned. He busied himself about the fire with the wood that he
had brought, then chancing to look at the dish, he saw that the hambone
and the bread had gone. The cook, whose language was that of a
woodsman, consigned all four-footed thieves to perdition, and then bent
down to examine the tracks. He looked at them carefully several times
over, then:

"I sure would like to see that beast critter," he said, "fer that's the
most plumb foolish tracks I ever set eyes on. It must be fox--but there
ain't no foxes in this kind o' country, and, anyhow, the tracks don't
mate."

This was true, for Roger had made the tracks, both on the nigh and the
off sides with the fingers of his right hand. The cook, after muttering
and grumbling to himself, got out from his store of provisions enough
for the meal, and proceeded to cook the same, not without many returns
to the mysterious tracks and comments more or less audible on creatures
with feet like that who were so apt at thieving.

Presently two of the party came in, shaking their heads negatively to
the cook's questioning gesture.

"Nary a sign," said one of the men, "he's lost a good and plenty."

"I ain't got much time to help," said the cook, "though I'll go out with
you after supper. But this spot has got me locoed."

"How's that?" asked one.

The cook pointed to the tracks.

"I used to think I knew quite some about the swamps," he said, "I was
born with an ax in my hand, pretty near, but I never yet saw any critter
with tracks like them. An' what's more, I ain't never been informed that
ham sandwiches form a reg'lar part of a fox's menoo!"

One of the men bent to examine the tracks, but the other said airily:

"I'm no Seton-Thompson on the tracks question. Wait till David comes,
he's a regular nature-faker for you. Leave him alone and he'll tell a
tale of seeing a fox do the honors at a ten-course dinner with squirrels
popping the champagne corks."

The cook laughed, but awaited the verdict of his comrade, who, after a
prolonged examination, straightened himself, and remarked soberly:

"That's got me! You say the hambone and the bread were clean gone?"

"Clean as a whistle! There was a lot of mud on the dish, and that was
all."

"Put it up to David, or Field. Field will tell us all he knows, and
what's more, will explain why he doesn't know the rest; but David will
put up the best yarn."

A few minutes later the rest of the party dropped in and in turn
expressed surprise and conjecture about the confusing marks upon the
ground until all were back except David and the chief, and shortly David
appeared.

"Where's Field?" one of the men asked.

"He stayed behind a minute or two for something. He said he'd be right
along. No," he continued, in answer to a question, "we didn't see
anything of the boy."

"Well, it's a good thing you're here, anyway," said the cook, "for we've
been waiting for you to explain a mystery that's puzzled the whole camp.
You're a woodsman, you know, and it's up to you to tell us."

"All right," said David with a confident swagger. "Trot out your
mystery."

The cook led him to where the tracks were visible in the soil and
related to him the theft of the hambone and the bread, concluding with:

"And what we want to know is--what kind of a critter made them tracks?"

David stooped down for a few seconds and looked at the marks on the
ground, then turned around to the fellows grouped about him, and said
in a tone of scorn:

"You don't know what that is?"

"No, what is it?" responded one of the men.

"Well, you're a pretty lot of lumberjacks not to know a swamp angel's
work when you see one."

"Swamp angel?" queried the cook in amazement.

"Swamp angel, of course. Yes, why not? I suppose"--this in a tone of
much condescension--"you have heard of a swamp angel?"

The cook grinned at him.

"You're a good one, David, all right," he said. "Go on, tell us about a
swamp angel."

"Why, a swamp angel," said David, thinking rapidly, "is a cross between
a flying squirrel and a flying fox----"

"With a strain of flying-fish thrown in. Go on, David," interrupted one
of the men with a laugh.

"It lives only in the densest kind of swamps," went on David, ignoring
the interruption, "and it is called an angel because it can fly so
readily. Its chief characteristic is that it crosses its legs while
walking, so that the off fore and hind leg track on the nigh side and
the near ones on the off. That's what gives the tracks that peculiar
look you noticed. Its usual food----"

"Is ham sandwiches," broke in the cook. "No, David, I guess the swamp
angel yarn's a little strong. Here comes the chief; we'll see what he
says about it."

As soon as Field arrived near the group of men, the cook started in to
tell him about the theft of the food, but the chief stopped him.

"To Texas with the hambone," he said; "we've got no time to waste
talking about trifles. It's up to us to find that boy without delay. I
hold myself to blame in not getting after him sooner, but his last hail,
it seemed to me, just before the one I sent you to find him on, was only
a few yards from the camp. How, in so short a time, he could have got
out of earshot, is a thing I don't understand. I only hope he hasn't put
a bullet into himself somewhere with that pesky little gun of his while
he was firing all those shots. Get busy at the grub, boys, because if we
don't get him by the time it's dark, he may be out all night, and I
don't want that."

"He can't be very far away, Mr. Field," said David.

"As long as he's out of reach, it doesn't much matter whether he's near
or far. But he must be found, if it takes all night."

All through the supper the men discussed plans for the finding of the
boy, but when Roger heard Field tell two of the men to start out and not
return until midnight if they hadn't found the lad before then, he
thought it was time to bring the jest to an end. He parted the branches
over the chief's head and looked down.

Then, suddenly, the men gathered around the fire heard Roger's voice,
saying in a smooth and sarcastic manner:

"I was never called an angel before, not even a swamp angel, though I'm
pretty well up toward heaven in this tree. But this hambone is very dry
eating, and I guess I'll come down for the butter and the mustard."

"You blithering idiot!" said Field, looking up angrily, though there was
evidently a great relief in his voice, "get down out of that."

"Oh, very well!" said Roger with a grin, as he descended the branches of
the tree. Then, coming into the circle, he added, "I thought I'd come
down and help you eat that snipe that Mr. Field has just brought in!"



CHAPTER IV

IN THE GIANT TULE SWAMPS


From the time that Roger fooled the members of the party just as they
were organizing a rescue search for him, his path became much easier.
Though still he occasionally made mistakes, as was unavoidable, he found
they were condoned rather than exaggerated. Indeed, the boy realized
that he was no longer treated as a tenderfoot, as he had been but a few
weeks before, but, none the less, he was not sorry when Field told him
one evening that he thought Roberts would be along shortly.

Roger was growing weary of the Minnesota work because it was evident
that it consisted of the same routine day after day, that it was
unremittingly hard work, and that the sense of progress was slow in
proportion to the labor involved. Then the mosquitoes were beginning to
get troublesome, and worst of all, the "bulldog flies" began to make
their presence felt. These large horse-flies, which madden cattle and
drive horses to distraction, in certain parts of the marsh were
ferocious and hungry enough to attack men. Roger found that he was
popular with them and got many sharp nips, which, though in no sense
dangerous, were irritating and painful.

"I don't want to seem ungrateful, Mr. Field," he said, when his chief
broached the return of his former co-laborer to him, "and I'm not, but
Mr. Mitchon seemed to think that I would only stay a few weeks here, for
the sake of the experience and to get the hang of this kind of work. I
think I have gained some knowledge of it, and," he laughed, "I can shoot
snipe and teach swamp angels to steal ham sandwiches."

The chief smiled in response.

"You turned the tables on us very neatly that time, Roger," he said,
"and you really had me badly worried, because, as you know yourself,
these swamps are not a good place to get lost in. I reckon, from what
you've told me, that if you had walked heedlessly on into that quag
without trying to test it step by step, you would still be there, only
at the bottom instead of the top."

"I really believe I would," answered the boy seriously.

"If you stick to the Survey," went on Field, "and come to be the head
of a party, particularly in wild country, you will see how necessary it
is to do just what you're told instead of trying to run the thing your
own way. If you follow instructions and anything goes wrong, then the
fault belongs to the head of the party, who is supposed to have enough
judgment and experience to know what to do in an emergency. What could
have been more simple than to go twenty or thirty yards farther away
than you had been told, just as you did, for instance, and yet, if you
had not been lucky, you would have disappeared forever in that quagmire
and by your death spoiled our record."

"Have many lives been lost in Survey work?" asked Roger.

"In the nearly thirty years of the existence of the Geological Survey,
as a separate branch of the Department of the Interior," replied Field,
"during which time explorations of the most extreme peril have been
undertaken, only one life has been lost. Really, when you come to
consider how much of the work has been done in lands absolutely unknown,
and that thousands of miles of territory have been covered wherein a
white man had never before set his foot, this is nothing short of
astounding."

"But if sickness should strike a camp?" queried the boy.

"Hard work, clean living, good judgment, and the open air, are worth all
the drugs we know about and a whole lot more that we don't. Of course a
small chest of certain radical remedies accompanies each party, with
quinine and things like that, but it is seldom that it is opened."

"But how about accidents, Mr. Field?"

"Such as?"

"Breaking a leg by a fall, or something like that," the boy responded.

"I don't see what business any man on the Survey has to fall. That isn't
what he's there for. He's there not to fall. Personally, I have never
had any accidents which would need other than ordinary attention, nor
have I had any with any members of my party. Then an injury would have
to be pretty bad, any way, that couldn't wait until some kind of a
doctor was reached, that is unless it was in the north of Alaska, or
some place like that, and in such trips a little surgical case is sent
along, and the chief would do as well as he could do with it."

"Then," said Roger with a short laugh, "I'm just as glad that I'm not at
the bottom of the quag, for your sake as well as my own, for I should
hate to be the one to spoil the Survey's record."

But while Roberts was expected in camp shortly, a couple more weeks
rolled away before the party, completing its line through a very
difficult piece of marsh, headed for one of the famous corduroy roads
and made its way back to headquarters. There, with one of the farmer's
children on his knee and the others grouped around him sat Roberts,
occupied apparently in telling some interesting story or fairy tale. He
put down the youngster and shouted as the party hove in sight.

The chief was delighted without question to see the newcomer, for while
he had been greatly pleased with Roger, the boy could not be expected to
be as valuable as an experienced man, and was not to be depended on to
proceed in his work without instruction and supervision.

"I was looking for you a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Roberts," he said.

"I expected to be here earlier, Mr. Field," answered the other, "but Mr.
Herold asked me to put in a few days in that Susquehanna
flow-measurement business, and that put me back."

Roger looked inquiringly at his chief, who catching his look of
question, said,

"Well, son?"

"I would like to ask," said the boy hesitatingly, "what that stream
flow-measurement is for?"

Roberts looked up a little surprisedly, but a few words from Fields
explained the situation, and the newcomer turned to Roger quite affably.

"Certainly, my boy, it's very simple," he said. "You see, all work on
rivers, whether for the purpose of irrigation, flood control, or
navigation, is dependent on the amount of water that flows through that
river channel every year. A week of wet weather makes a vast difference
to the amount of water the river is carrying, and a dry spell cuts it
off."

"But don't springs and things keep the water about even?" queried the
boy.

"No, indeed," answered his informant emphatically. "Why, the Tennessee
River, which I worked on once, for three months never flowed more than
20,000 cubic feet per second, yet that same year, for fifteen days in
the spring, it tore down with over 360,000 feet a second. In other
words, in the spring it was as big as eighteen rivers its usual size."


[Illustration: MEASURING STREAM FLOW.

Trolley line one mile long, over an Eastern river. Instruments pulled
up, ready for return to the bank.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Are all rivers like that?"

"Most of them. You see, suppose in the middle of summer a river is ten
feet deep with a three-mile current, in the autumn is only four feet
deep with a two-mile current, but in the spring floods goes rushing
through its bed forty feet deep with a ten-mile current, it makes a
mighty difference to the towns and villages all the way along. The
destructiveness of a flood lies in the top few feet of water. In the
second place, the navigation of a stream can only be estimated by its
lowest depth recorded, and its horse power in the same way. But this
same river, which in the autumn was only four feet deep and developed a
corresponding horse power, would have an average depth of eight feet
with four times the horse power. If then, the water that wastefully and
ruinously flows down in the spring is conserved all through the summer,
the river has been made more than four times as valuable."

"And how is this done?"

"That's too big a subject to take up now. Still, you can understand that
if you dam the stream high up, and divert all the water over a certain
height into immense reservoirs, the water could be let down gradually
later. But that all depends on the measurement, which is taken daily for
years, often--as in the case I was in--from a cable stretched from bank
to bank, from which a little 'bos'un's chair' is hanging on a pulley, so
that sitting in this little framework you can reach up to the cable and
pull yourself to and fro. The one over the Susquehanna, where I was, is
over a mile long, and of course it's pretty high up to allow for the
sag, which is not small on a wire of that immense span."

Roger had a host of questions to ask but kept silent, not wanting to
monopolize the talk when older men were there.

"By the way, Roberts," asked Field, seeking to change the subject from a
topic which was stale to all the members of the party except Roger, "how
did you like the work in the lower Sacramento Valley?"

"Parts of it weren't so bad, Mr. Field," was the reply. "Indeed, I think
I've struck worse going right up here and in the Mud Lake district, but
the project down there is on so large a scale that one is bound to
become enthusiastic in the work. The bush is very dense, of course,
semi-tropical in character, but where the growth is heavy the swamp is
not so bad, so that it becomes a mere question of bushwhacking. Then,
too, that southern stuff is all soft to cut and much easier to get
through. The tule grass, however, is different."

"I've never been down in that tule grass," said one of the party, "is it
as bad as has been described?"

"It's never been adequately described on paper," was the ready answer.
"Uncle Sam wouldn't let the report go through the mails."

Roger grinned.

"But what is it like, Mr. Roberts?" he said.

The newcomer thought for a moment.

"It's like what a field of wheat would seem to a very small dog," he
answered. "It's too thick to walk through, too high to see over, and as
stuffy as a tenement house with all the windows nailed down."

"How do you manage it then," asked the boy. "Do you go on stilts?"

"Stilts!" ejaculated the surveyor. "You'd have to be an opera dancer
with legs about twelve feet long to manage stilts down there. And even
after you cut it down, walking on the stubble is like tramping over
bayonet blades stuck in the ground point up. No, what we do is to cut a
sort of trail for a horse, who is hitched to a light buckboard. The
horse goes through because he's got to, and the buckboard follows unless
the harness breaks."

"But how do you get your tripods above the rushes," said the chief, "for
you surely can't cut lines everywhere."

"We don't. The legs of the tripod are spliced to sticks long enough to
raise them above the grass: and the topographer, standing sometimes on
the body of the buckboard, sometimes on the seat, works with his nose
just peering above the giant rushes, from a rod of extra length,
deducting from his calculations the height of the tripod and the
buckboard from the ground."

"And is it dry?"

"Mostly, except when the tide comes in at the lower part. At least, it's
not soggy wet, like it is here. It's dead easy to get lost though, and
you can't see any landmarks. You could chase your own back hair for a
week and never know that you were going in a circle."

"Apropos of getting lost, Roberts," said the older man, "we had a little
experience with the lad here that is worth repeating," and beginning
from the snipe-hunt, he related the entire affair, showing first how
well they had got the laugh on the tenderfoot, and how he had got back
in return. Roberts laughed long and heartily at the picture conjured up
of Roger sitting in the boughs above the party, hearing them discuss
plans for his rescue and heroically resolving to leave nothing undone
till they should find him.


[Illustration: DIFFICULTIES OF WORK.

In the Giant Tule Swamps in the Southern Sacramento Valley. The umbrella
is not for comfort, but to keep the sun off the instrument.

_Photographs by U.S.G.S._]


"I didn't fare as well when I got trapped down there," he commented,
"and while I suppose it was funny, I couldn't see the joke of it
myself."

"Was that in the tule grass?" asked Field. "Tell us the yarn."

"I think I told you," began the new assistant, "how hard that stuff is
to make a way through, and though it is really almost as tangled as this
marsh work up here, the ground is so flat that far fewer bench marks are
required. We had taken a long sight, because there was a sort of
depression at that point which we wanted to delimit, and I was quite a
distance from the plane table. Suddenly I felt a swish of water at my
feet, my first realization that the tide was coming in. This had often
happened before, and the water usually rose to a little above the knee,
when, as soon as the tide ebbed, it would flow out and leave all dry
again.

"Of course I was aware that I was working in a slight depression, but as
a matter of fact it never occurred to me that this would make any
especial difference. I was surprised, certainly, at the strength of the
tide as it flowed in, and I remember a little later wondering whether it
was spring tide and not being able to find any reason for the heavy
flow, but it was only casually that the matter occurred to me at all.
Few minutes elapsed, however, before I realized that any greater
increase of depth would be a really serious matter. The water was
already above my knees and increasing at an alarming rate. I think I
have shown you how hard it is to get through that stuff, and to cross a
hundred yards of tule grass is a matter of half an hour's work. Still,
at any moment, I thought the water would reach its maximum and I felt
ashamed to start back after all the labor of reaching the point where I
then was.

"Of course I am not usually the tallest man in the party [the speaker
was not more than five feet six or seven] and the boys used to joke me
about my height. I knew they would roast me to a turn if I had to let on
that I was afraid of being drowned in a few feet of water. So I held
on. But the water had crept up rapidly until it was well above my waist,
and I determined, jesting or no jesting, that I was going to strike for
higher ground, or, if possible, get as far as the buckboard. The other
fellows couldn't see the trouble I was in because they were on a little
crest of ground, and because the waving tule grass shut off all sight of
the water.

"What's wrong?" I heard one of them shout, as I started back, but I
didn't want them to get the laugh on me too soon, and I was coming back
through that sodden grass just as rapidly as I could make arms and legs
go. Well, sir, I suppose that tide came in slowly, but it seemed to me
as though I could see it creep up my shirt inch by inch, and I had
hardly got half the distance before it was up to my shoulders. I thought
it was time then to let the boys know what was up, so I shouted:

"'Bring the buckboard here, fellows, or I'll be drowned in this infernal
grass!'

"'Drowned?' I heard one of the men say questioningly, then immediately
after, 'By Jove, he's caught with the tide down in that low spot.'

"But of course they couldn't bring the buckboard because the horse
couldn't go through unless a path had been cut, and they couldn't very
well cut a path, for the reason that in doing so they would have to
stoop, bringing their heads under water, to say nothing of the
difficulty of swinging an ax in the water. It looked pretty bad for me,
but I thought it likely that Shriveter, one of the party, who was over
six feet, would come to my aid, and six inches more of height made a
considerable difference of time in the up-creeping of the water. Then I
saw the chief pull out his watch and speak to the rest of the boys, and
they began to laugh. I was about thirty yards away by this time and
could hear them laugh quite distinctly. It made me as mad as a hatter,
for the water was up to my chin.

"'It may be deucedly funny to you,' I called out, 'but you might come
and help a fellow!' But they only laughed the harder and it made me
sore. Can you imagine what it's like plowing through that infernal grass
with water up to your chin? You can't stoop your shoulder to push
yourself through, because, if you do, a mouthful of salt water comes to
your share; all your clothes are sopping wet and heavy; the ground under
your feet has become slimy and hard to walk on and the blades of grass
are sodden and almost beyond a man's power to move. I found it harder
work to make a five-yard line through that mixture of tule grass and
tidewater than Harvard ever did on the gridiron against Yale."

"Easy, old man," said Field, "I'm Yale!"

"I know you are," grinned the other, "that's just why I said it. But, as
I was telling you, it sure was a man's job to fight through that stuff
yard by yard, and the salt water was just about level with my lips, so
that when I wanted a breath I had to give a little jump and breathe
before I came down. And those beasts on the buckboard were simply
howling with laughter.

"'Look at the human jumping-jack!' I heard one of them say, imitating
the voice and manner of a sideshow barker, 'The only original half-man,
half-frog, in the world. See him hop! One hop is worth the money!' I
tell you what," added Roberts, laughing in unison with the rest, at the
picture he had conjured up, "I was just about hot enough under the
collar to have ducked every one of those grinning oafs."

"But did you really think you were going to be drowned, Mr. Roberts?"
asked Roger.

"I suppose if I had stopped to think, my boy," was the immediate
response, "I would have known that the other chaps would have got hold
of me long before that, but I felt more than half-way drowned as it was,
hardly able to advance a step nearer safety, and only succeeding in
getting breath by jumping up and down as if I was on a skipping rope.
But when I thought I would have to give out, paying no attention to the
jocose suggestions of the fellows, such as 'Get a balloon!' 'Talk about
a grasshopper!' 'Look who's here, there's spring-heeled Jack on the
trail!' and so forth, and when my strength was nearly at an end, it
seemed to me either that I had reached a little hillock or that the
water was receding. I stood still, and found that by throwing my head
back I could just breathe without making any wild gymnastics, and I
thought it a good time to take a breathing space. In a few moments I saw
that the water really was receding and half an hour later I made my way
to the buckboard, where all the boys had gathered and were sitting
smoking, watching my frantic efforts.

"'You're a precious lot,' I said to them, as I clambered up out of the
wet, 'to let a fellow half drown without coming to help him. I might
have gone under out there for all you cared.' Oh, I was mighty sore
about it, and I didn't care if they knew it.


[Illustration: DENSE SOUTHERN PALM GROVE.

Through this lines must be cut to establish Survey points, showing wide
range of territory with which a topographer must be familiar.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"But the chief, who had been laughing as heartily as any, said:
'Roberts, you know perfectly well that we would have come after you if
there had been any danger. But I looked at my watch and saw that it was
full time for the tide to turn, so that you really stood in no such
awful peril as you seemed to think.'

"'That's all very well,' I answered, 'but how was I to know it?'

"'That was just the sport of it,' he said; 'you didn't know it, and we
did. And you would have died laughing if you could have heard yourself,
'Schriveter (gurgle, gurgle), you lanky galoot (gurgle, gurgle), come
and give me a hand (gurgle, gurgle), instead of sitting there (gurgle,
gurgle), like an Indian cigar sign (gurgle).' I don't know just how
Schriveter felt, but so far as I am concerned, I was so tired from
laughing that I nearly fell out of the rig.' I suppose really the chief
was right, knowing that the water would not come any higher, but then I
didn't know, and it wasn't any too pleasant a feeling."

"By the way," continued Roberts, when he had finished his story, and
other members of the party had added their mite of comment, approval,
or equivalent yarn, "Mr. Field tells me that you are new on the Survey.
I suppose your name is Doughty, then?"

"Yes, Mr. Roberts," answered Roger, surprised that this man, who was
almost a complete stranger to him, should know his name.

"Mr. Herold told me that I should find you here," he said, "and he asked
me to give you this letter. He told me what was in it," added the new
arrival with a smile, "and I think it should please you."

Roger took with eagerness the long official envelope handed him by
Roberts, his first letter of instructions since he became a member of
the Survey, and found therein a brief order, requiring him to report at
the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon, Ariz., on the first day of the month
following. The same envelope contained, moreover, a personal letter from
Mitchon, in which, though of course no official recognition could be
made, was a phrase worded in such wise as to show that the boy had been
well spoken of by Field, and that this new appointment was due to
satisfaction with his first few weeks on the Survey. The lad colored
with pleasure as he read it.

"I suppose, Roger," said Field, when the boy folded the two letters and
put them back into the envelope, "that letter means that you are going
to leave us?"

"Yes, Mr. Field," answered the boy, "I don't know just when I am
supposed to leave, but I am ordered to report in Arizona on the first of
June."

"Going on the desert work?" queried the chief. "My word, Mr. Herold
wants to give you pretty sharp contrasts!"

"I think it must be somewhere about the Grand Canyon," answered the boy,
his eyes sparkling with the thought of seeing that wonder of America,
which he had so ardently desired to visit. "At least, I am told to
report at a place called Grand Canyon."

Roberts nodded.

"That's right son," he said. "Grand Canyon is the tourist station for
seeing the Colorado River gorge at its best."

"To whom do you report?" asked Field, "to Masseth?"

"Yes, Mr. Field, that was the name," answered the boy.

"Isn't that the man who did such clinking good work in the Little
Colorado country?" asked Roberts.

"That's the man," replied Field. "You couldn't be under a better
leader," he added, turning to the boy, "but you've got to keep both eyes
and both ears wide open with him, for he has a knack of expecting every
one with him to know everything. He'll teach you to think quickly, all
right."

"Well, my present chief----" began the boy gratefully, but Field waved
his hand petulantly.

"Cut that sort of thing out," he interrupted. "Any man will get along if
he tries to do his work. But," he warned smilingly, "I don't know that
it's such good discipline to play practical jokes on the head of the
party. They might not all take it kindly."

"I had a letter from Mr. Mitchon," retorted the boy, "in which he bids
me thank you for the snipe. He said they were much appreciated in the
office. He writes awfully nicely."

"That snipe's an old joke on the Survey," answered Field, "indeed, it's
pretty well known all over the West, but seeing that it was new to you,
Mr. Mitchon wanted to enjoy the fun."

"I never met Mitchon until this last time I went to Washington," put in
Roberts thoughtfully, "but I liked him very much."

"I had a little experience with Mitchon once," put in David, who had
been listening, "and I found him white clear through."

"Mitchon's all right!" said Field.

"You bet!" affirmed the boy.

"Well," commented Roberts with a laugh, "that's a good enough epitaph
for any man. Mitchon's a long way from being dead, and I guess no one's
particularly anxious to start carving a tombstone, but at that, I guess
he'd be satisfied with such a general opinion."



CHAPTER V.

PERIL IN THE GRAND CANYON


Excited and expectant travelers were many on the Santa Fé railroad, but
Roger felt that he had never met a more enthusiastic group than those
who dined at the long low mission-like hotel Fray Marcos at Williams,
Ariz., waiting for the train to Grand Canyon. And of all these none had
been more a-tingle with anticipation than the boy, as the train, passing
by the station of Hopi--the very name recording that strange tribe of
Arizona Indians--ran through Apex and began to slow up for the last
stop.

Throughout the past two or three hours of the trip, all the passengers
had been speaking of the great sights that awaited them, and guidebooks
and photograph collections without number had been scanned, bringing
interest to fever heat. But in spite of all this preparatory ardor,
those who had visited the Grand Canyon before and those whose friends
had done so, bore testimony to the universal belief that nothing, no
estimate of the wonders of that land, however extravagant, could
discount the reality.

It was a little after four o'clock on the afternoon of the last day in
May as the train drew into the station, and guides met the passengers
ready to conduct them direct to the brink of the Canyon that they might
gain their first sight of it. Roger's very toes were aching with the
desire to follow them, particularly as he was not on duty until the
following day, but still he felt that he was on government service and
that he ought to report for duty at the appointed place immediately on
his arrival. Then, the boy argued, should there be no one to meet him,
his time would be his own until the following morning, and he could
enjoy the pleasures of sight-seeing without feeling that he had in any
way been neglectful of the strictest interpretation of his orders. His
trunk had been checked through, so Roger, refusing the solicitations of
the guides, picked up the small hand-grip he had carried for the
necessities of the journey and set his face resolutely to the hotel.

Turning to view the country about him, Roger was as much disappointed as
amazed to find how flat and uninteresting it seemed. Indeed, there was
nothing in the region to suggest that a canyon was anywhere in the
vicinity. So far as he could see, on either side of the railroad track
up which he had come was a level treeless prairie, and in the direction
whither the tourists had gone, there was naught to be seen but this same
slowly rising plateau, which, a little further on, seemed to be bounded
by a slight rise. The boy knew that the Canyon must be on the other side
of this eminence, but there was nothing to bespeak its presence, not a
sign to awake the consciousness that a few hundred yards away lay a view
of the greatest scenic wonder that any man had beheld, primitive and
untouched as since the days that antediluvian monsters roamed the plains
whereon he now was walking.

When he arrived at the hotel, Roger walked straight to the desk.

"Is Mr. Masseth here?" he asked the clerk.

The latter, a being largely characterized by shirt front, gestured the
boy to a slightly built man, sitting in the rotunda of the hotel reading
a newspaper with an intensity of concentration which Roger immediately
conceived to be typical of the man. He turned instantly at the boy's
approach, however.

"Mr. Masseth?" queried the lad.

The reader rose with a quick though courteous motion of assent.

"I was told to give this letter to you," the boy continued. "I
understand it contains my instructions to report to you. My name is
Roger Doughty."

"I am extremely pleased," said the older man with a slight foreign
timbre in his voice, "to be able to welcome you. I felt assured, from
what Mr. Herold said when he wrote to me, that you would be here to-day,
as he suggested that I should find you punctual. It is of the greatest
service never to lose a minute, unless indeed, it be taken for a rest."

"I don't want to lose minutes, I want to make the most of them, and Mr.
Field told me that I should never be losing any time as long as I was
with you."

"In that case," replied the boy's new leader, with a quick smile, "what
would you like to do now? You have never seen the Grand Canyon before?"

"Never!"

"And you are anxious to do so, of course?"

"You bet!" answered Roger. Then, with a laugh, "I pretty nearly mutinied
on my first day; I came near going over with the tourists instead of
coming here to report."

"I am quite glad that you did not," said the topographer, "for I should
like to be with you the first time you see the Canyon in order to be
able to tell you what it all means and how it came about. You would
probably try to guess at the reason of things and you would guess wrong,
and a false first impression is a bad thing, because it is so hard to
take out afterward."

"I'd very much rather find out right at first," answered the boy.

"Very well, then, suppose we walk to a near-by point, where an unusually
good view of the Canyon can be observed."

Taking up his hat, as he spoke, he waited while the boy arranged for his
grip to be taken to his room, and then without further parley started
toward the brink of the chasm with quick, nervous strides which taxed
Roger's walking powers to the utmost. They walked on to the rounded
hill, Roger so full of excitement that he could hardly answer his
companion's questions about his former work on the Survey, and just as
they were about to cross the summit of the slope, Masseth touched him on
the arm, holding him back.

"Wait just a moment," he said. "Look back over the country and tell me
what you see."

Roger turned. "I don't see very much," he said. "I think it's pretty
flat except for a range of hills to the east, away off, and that to the
south the ground seems to be falling away."

"Is the fall long?"

"I hadn't thought of that," said the boy, "but I suppose we must be
quite high up, for the road has been on a gradual incline for miles and
miles."

Masseth took a few steps onward.

"You noticed," he said, "how gradual that slope was. Now," pausing as
they crossed the ridge, "this is not so gradual." He smiled at the boy's
speechless wonderment.

Roger found himself standing not three yards away from a drop of 6,800
feet, the first couple of thousand sheer almost immediately below him.
So near that he could have leaped to it, rose a fantastic pinnacle,
elaborately carved, springing from a base 1,200 feet below. Beyond this,
seamed and jagged, thrown across this cloven chasm as though in defiance
of any natural supposing, flung a blood-red escarpment, taking the
breath away by the very audacity of its reckless scenic emphasis.
Further, again, in unsoftened splashes and belts of naked color, mesa
and plateau, peak and crag, shouldering butte and towering barrier,
through a vista of miles seeming to stretch to the very world's end,
impelled a breathless awe.

And, in Titanic mockery of pygmy human work, the glowing rocks appeared
grotesquely, yet powerfully scornful of the greatest buildings of
mankind. Minaret and spire, minster and dome, façade and campanile,
stood guard over the riven precipices, and not to be outdone by man,
nature had there erected temple and coliseum, pyramid and vast
cathedral, castle and thrice-walled fastness, until it seemed to the boy
that there was thrown before his eyes a hysterical riot of every dream
and nightmare of architecture that the world had ever conceived.

"But--but, I never thought it was anything like this!" exclaimed Roger.

The older man repressed a smile at the triteness of the speech, which is
that usually educed from every new beholder of the scene.

"What do you think of it?" he said.

"It doesn't seem real," answered the boy. "It's like the places you see
in your dreams that you know can't be so, and what's more, it's like
one of those places all set on fire with flames of different colors."


[Illustration: GRAND CANYON OF THE COLORADO.

Showing the nature of the apparently impossible obstacles found in
traversing it.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


The topographer nodded.

"But what you will find still more strange," he said, "is that it is
never twice the same. If you move a few yards away"--he suited the
action to the word--"it looks quite different, and even if you stay
still, under the changing light new shapes appear."

"That's right," affirmed the boy. "From where we stood before, I could
see a huge fortress, only it was a vivid purple, and now it's gone. And
I suppose those really aren't richly carved churches over there,"
pointing with his finger, "but a fellow would bet that they were."

"Churches without any congregations, and whose only preacher is the
thunder, but they do look like temples and are so named. But truly they
have been carved, though not by human hands."

"By what, then?" asked the boy.

"By wind and water," was the reply, "which have made and unmade many a
thousand square mile of the earth's surface. If you will notice," he
went on, "jagged and pointed as those peaks are, from this side clear
across to the other, not one of them rises above the level on which you
are standing or rather, above the level of the opposite side of the
Canyon, which is a little higher, the slope being continued across. So,
you see, you must not think of these like mountains as being built up,
but of gorges as being cut down."

"And has the river cut it all down?"

"The river started it, and then of course every little stream helps, and
indeed, every rain adds another fissure to the carving."

"But what makes such curious shapes?" asked the boy, still considerably
puzzled.

"The relative hardness of the different kinds of rock," was the reply.
"Not to seem too technical, the top stratum, that is to say the rock
immediately under the soil of this plateau, while quite hard, is very
thin, and underneath it are various other layers of rock, some fairly
hard and others very soft. The Colorado River has a very swift current,
and once it had cut through the hard rock on the top it quickly ate its
way downward through the soft limestones and sandstones below. But some
strata were quite hard and these, resisting the water, formed the
terraces which you see on every hand."

"But I still don't understand," said the boy, "what it is that gives
them such curious shapes. I can see how a hard rock would make a
terrace, but why aren't the lines all regular?"

"Just because it has been done by water. Sandstone, you know, is made of
sand, pressed, and sand is all sorts of rocks ground down fine. So every
handful of sand may contain particles of a dozen different kinds of
rock, and if there was any difference in the hardness of the rock of
which the sandstone was made, or any difference in the pressure while it
was being made, each difference would show up by its greater or less
resistance to the action of wind and water. So, you see this bit is hard
and cuts slowly, that bit soft, and cuts rapidly, giving a carved
effect."

"But if it all follows a regular rule, why does it look so unnatural?"

"That is easy," replied his informant. "The strata are regular--that is
what makes the masses look like buildings done by hand, there is a sense
of proportion, but they look unnatural because the ground plan is
capricious, the water having found its way to the bottom of its thousand
canyons by the irregular and complicated way of least resistance."

"And the colors seem so glaring and so strange!"

"I will explain those to you after dinner," said the topographer, "and,
by the way, it is nearly time we returned to the hotel or we shall be
late. I can show you how the various reds are due to iron in the
rock--you remember how a rusty nail stains everything red?--and other
iron compounds give the green, while the blues of the slates and the
dark belts of hornblende all play their part."

Masseth was as good as his word and all through the time spent in the
dining-room he interested the boy in the country by his vivid
descriptions of how all these rocks had first been made, then reduced to
sand and built up again, and how the Colorado River was fast tearing
them down and carrying them away to be built up somewhere else in some
other way.

"Then geology isn't all over!" exclaimed Roger in surprise. "I always
thought of it just as a sort of history of things that happened a great
while ago."

"Geology is happening right along," said Masseth, "and that's why it is
so necessary to do this work and find out both what has been and what
is going to be, even though it is both difficult and arduous."


[Illustration: AN AWKWARD COUNTRY TO WORK IN.

The Terraces cut in the Western territory. Note buggy on trail at base
of cliff.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"But of all the work in the Survey," suggested Roger, thinking of the
apparent inaccessibility of the Canyon as he had seen it, "I should
think this Grand Canyon work the most difficult and dangerous of all."

The older man shook his head.

"It is not dangerous," he said, "unless carelessness is shown, because
the most lofty buttes, simply being cut down from the level plateau,
have their crests just that height, so that they can be fairly well
mapped by a determination of their bases. But, though you can't see it
from the top here, those bases are fearfully irregular and a cliff forty
feet high may take miles to go round. You have noticed that there are
plenty of terraces, so that in many places you can walk up or down the
Canyon as on a made road, but that would help you not a whit in getting
across."

"Well, it is difficult, anyway," said the boy.

"Extremely so. The intense color, the glowing rays of the sun seldom
shielded by any clouds, the lack of vegetation and the absence of
landmarks all help to confuse the idea of distance, so that you cannot
trust to your eyes to map a point until you have been there."

"And how do you get there?" queried the boy in wonderment.

"Climbing. There is an Indian trail on this side that helps a little,
and there are three roads down to the river on this side and one on the
north. This one through trail, called the Cameron or Tourist trail, has
been partly rendered passable, so that by herculean effort and with
trusted and well-trained animals it is possible to cross. Usually,
however, the trail is left in loneliness, for there is absolutely no
traffic between Utah and Arizona. Except for a little corner in each,
these States are more widely separated than if an ocean rolled between
them."

"And how about these corners?"

"Well, Utah can get to hers by taking a little trouble, but the
northwest corner of Arizona is No Man's Land, so far as any jurisdiction
goes."

"But you say animals can be made to tackle those trails. I should have
thought that kind of work would kill any animal that tried it."

"It's pretty hard to kill a burro," answered Masseth, "and I've never
lost one. Indeed, in all the Survey work I've done in the Grand Canyon,
I've only had one accident, and that was a case absolutely unavoidable.
I lost one of my favorite horses that time."

"How did it happen, Mr. Masseth?" asked Roger.

"It was on the north side of the Canyon," began the topographer, "and I
was working on an outlying butte with my assistant. We had made quite a
number of bench marks and I was working out the contours--those are the
lines on a map which show the height or elevation of any point--while my
assistant was sitting beside me, making out some of the necessary
calculations. We were working out from a little side camp, the two of
us, the rest of the party being at headquarters, several miles away. I
was drawing in at full speed, because I wanted to change from that side
station that evening, and for a couple of hours I suppose we had not
exchanged a word, except with relation to figures.

"Before coming out on that sun-baked exposed butte, I had tied the
animals--a pack-mule, my riding mare, and the assistant's horse--to the
branch of a tree. Suddenly, as it afterwards appeared, the other fellow
heard a sound as of a fall and went to see what it was. He was gone so
long that I noticed his absence. When he returned I waited for him to
volunteer an explanation but apparently he did not want to disturb me,
so I said, questioningly:

"'Well?'"

"'Only two of them there now,'" he replied. 'Bella's gone over the edge.
Neck's broken, so there's no use doing anything.'

"Now Uncle Sam, you know, is always willing to stand for accidents that
can't be helped, but he's got to know all about it, and while I realized
that it would really matter little in the long run, I was sure that the
department would feel better satisfied if the manner of the accident
were set forth. So I put away my pencil, folded up the plane table, and
went to investigate. It was as puzzling a thing to decide as I ever saw.
The tree was at least twenty yards from the brink of the precipice,
although the ground sloped fairly steeply to the edge.

"When I arrived there I found the other two animals tied to the branch,
as I had left them, and apparently undisturbed. The ground, however,
between the tree and the edge of the chasm, was torn up with hoof marks
and the struggles of an animal that evidently had fallen to the ground,
and the spoor from the tree to the Canyon's edge was easily traced. Of
the animal, I could at first find no evidence, but my assistant touched
me on the arm.

"'Here, Mr. Masseth,' he said, 'you can see Bella from here.'

"Sure enough, on rounding the corner of a pinnacle which stood out a
little distance from the edge, the body of the mare could be seen about
one hundred and seventy-five feet down, lying on a sharply pitching bank
of talus--that is, debris of rock and dust, fallen from the overhanging
cliff above. It was still a wonder to me how the mare fell, and as she
had been wearing a brand-new halter, this in a country where it is
easier to get beast than harness, I told my assistant that I was going
down to secure the halter and also to find out, if I could, what had
been the cause of the accident.

"I think that was about as nasty a piece of climbing as I ever had. It
would never come about in the regular course of business, you see,
because we don't work that way, but I was going down to get that brute,
no matter what labor it cost. At last I managed to make my way down to
the point where she was lying. There, after studying the position in
which she must have fallen, I gained some idea of the manner in which it
had come about. Bella was from the ranches, where, you know, an animal
is not muscle-bound like your eastern horses, and in trying to scratch
her head--where possibly a fly had settled--with her off fore-leg, the
calk of her shoe must have caught in the neck-strap of the halter, and
of course, she could not get it out.

"The poor beast probably stood as long as she could on three legs, but
the posture must have been cramped and painful after a few moments and
she fell heavily, breaking the rope of the halter as she did so. Then,
while lying on the ground, floundering about in an effort to free her
foot from the thraldom of the halter-strap, she must have slipped nearer
and nearer to the edge and then suddenly gone over, with her hind-foot
still fast in the strap.

"Since I had got so far, though I did not much relish doing it, I
determined to take off the halter, and at least save that out of the
wreck. But you can readily see that the halter had been drawn fearfully
tight, and I could not get slack enough to unfasten the buckle. At last
I gave a hearty wrench, and was just about to be able to slip the prong
of the buckle through the hole, when the insecure talus on which I was
standing, and on which the animal had been resting, began to slide.
Fortunately I am fairly quick on my feet, and in two or three springs I
reached a little outjutting terrace. But I had scarcely reached that
point of safety when poor Bella went over the edge another seventy-five
feet into the chasm.

"That made me mad. I had come down a very nasty piece of climbing to get
that halter, and I was bound to secure that bit of leather if I had to
scramble down the gorge to the very bed of the river itself. So, as soon
as I could find a way to start down, I went on and reached the mare,
this time resting on a wide ledge where I could disentangle the halter
with but very little trouble.

"I had gained the object of my quest, I had found out the cause of the
accident to the horse, and I had recovered the halter, but in the
achievement of these purposes I found myself two hundred feet down the
gorge and I knew that it would be a great deal harder to get up that
distance than it had been to get down, and even the latter had been no
easy matter. Of course, my assistant was up above, and had been watching
the proceedings, all the while, so that I knew he would get at me from
the top in the course of time.

"I was anxious, however, to get back the way that I had come without
taking a long trip to one of the side canyons, and after losing some
time, and also some skin from knees and elbows and other parts of my
body, I got back to the place where the horse had first lain. My
assistant dropped me a rope--there is always a long rope carried by each
party--and I climbed up that rope."

"Swarmed up a rope a hundred and seventy-five feet high!" ejaculated
Roger, then, with a whistle, he added, "that's an awful climb."

"It was not a straight hand over hand climb, my boy," answered Masseth
quietly. "You must remember that all those walls are in terraces and
every other line of strata would give a ledge. Of course, in some parts
they were overhanging and that made it all the harder, but there were
plenty of places to rest on the way up and in due course I reached the
top. That was the first misadventure, and I hope it will be the last in
any of my camps in Grand Canyon work."

"And what part of the work are you doing now, Mr. Masseth?" queried the
boy.

"I was just waiting for you to complete the party," was the reply. "We
are going to tackle the Tourist's trail, that is the one I was telling
you about, and will go up the other side. Then, from the north side, I
will pick out a number of points which I want you--with other members of
the party--to occupy. You will then do some work under my assistant,
while I cross back to this side, and on an appointed day we will strike
a level across the nine-miles gap."

"Then we will be working together though miles apart?" asked the boy in
surprise.

"Yes, and months apart, too."

"But how in the world can you do that?" was the amazed response. "Do you
carry a wireless telegraph outfit in your vest pocket, Mr. Masseth? Is
there anything the Survey can't do?"

"You seem to think," responded the chief with a smile, "that the race of
wizards has been reborn and christened the Geological Survey, as a
visiting diplomat once said of us."

"Well, pretty nearly," answered the boy.

"We're not quite that," admitted the other, "but," with a smile of
mystification, "I do carry a little device by which I can make use of a
system of wireless telegraphy which was in existence thousands of years
ago."

"And can I see it?"

"Certainly," replied the topographer, and drawing his hand from his
pocket, he showed it open to the boy.

"That's just a looking-glass," cried Roger in disappointment, having
expected to see some delicate and ingenious piece of intricate
machinery.

"Just a piece of looking-glass," assented his chief. "What then?"

"But how do you work it? What can you do with that?"

"That, my boy," answered the older man, "is one of the very many things
you will learn while you are in and about the Grand Canyon."


[Illustration: "HOW IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO GET UP THERE?"

A query for the topographer, which must be answered; a sample of rough
country work.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]



CHAPTER VI

A LONE HAND AGAINST HUNGER


Early the next morning quite a large group of tourists gathered to see
the Survey party set out, it having become known that it was to make use
of the old Cameron trail and endeavor to climb the other side of the
Canyon. Some, who had been part of the way down the trail, were politely
incredulous as to the possibility of the feat, others took an especial
pleasure in prophesying disaster, and a few expressed a wish that they
might accompany the party "to see how it was done."

To these various people Masseth paid no heed. Indeed he scarcely
responded to questions, returning but the briefest replies, except once,
when an old lady, quiet and gentle in manner, came up and laid her hand
on his arm.

"You will pardon an old lady," she said, "but I should not like to think
of your going down there, unless you can assure me that it is really
safe."

The topographer turned to her immediately, raising his cap and smiling:

"I have been over the trail before," he said, "and indeed I have been in
many worse places than this part of the Canyon, so you really need feel
no alarm. It is very kind of you to be solicitous of our well-being, and
I shall take your expressed interest as a happy omen for the journey."

This little speech, overheard by Roger as he came up with the head
packer to say that everything was ready, gave him a quick insight into
the intense graceful courtesy, which was so strong a characteristic of
the man who was to be his chief for a couple of months to come. A few
sentences between Masseth and the chief packer were followed by the
words, spoken in a sharp tone of command, markedly different from the
suavity of a moment before:

"You may start, then!"

Roger waited for instructions.

"Doughty," said the leader, "you will ride in the rear with Black, and
you will do well to let him teach you how to handle the animals in rough
spots. I shall go ahead, of course."

"Very well, sir," answered Roger, and cantered off to the pack train,
where the assistant topographer was helping the second packer to get the
mules started. The head packer had gone as far as the brink of the
Canyon with the chief and there waited to deploy the animals on the
trail in good order and to scrutinize every pack as it passed him, to
make sure that none should become loose and slip.

The boy chatted freely with Black as they paced along behind the last of
the mules, and he found his companion well-informed, as Masseth had
said, but except on matters of the trail, somewhat non-communicative. In
brief remarks, however, he explained to the boy many of the troubles he
must expect to encounter and the best manner of meeting them, and his
curt references to the lie of the land struck Roger as being of immense
value. He pointed out certain striking landmarks as features of the
landscape which were to be ignored, because, from any point of view,
they would appear entirely different; and certain other eminences,
perhaps not even as noticeable as the former, which he must remember,
since, by reason of their conformation they would always appear the same
and thus could be taken as absolute and certain guides.

But as soon as the trail fell over the edge there was no more speaking.
Fell over the edge, Roger thought, was almost the only way to describe
the road, which was precipitous and winding beyond belief. There was a
supposition that the way had been made smooth for mules, but it did not
seem to the lad that any four-footed animal short of a goat could keep
his footing. The long line of mules treading easily in front, however,
was evidence that he need not fear, so warily keeping an eye on his mule
lest his mount should stumble, he preceded the assistant, following
immediately after the last pack mule.

For several hundred feet the trail went down in this rough fashion, then
suddenly turned sharply to the left along one of the broad terraces of
rock, whereof Masseth had spoken to the boy before. After a quarter of a
mile of easy going, the party came to a slope of loose shale, almost
filling up the terrace. The pack mules picked their way over this
without any apparent demur, but Black called out:

"Guess you'd better get off!"

Roger slipped from his saddle, and going to the mule's head started to
walk beside it.

"Go in front, you chump," called the other. "If the trail's none too
wide for one, how do you suppose two can go abreast?"

"But I can't help him then!" protested Roger.

This speech was greeted with a hoarse chuckle.

"Any old time a mule needs a tenderfoot to teach him where to put his
feet," he said, "I want to have a front seat to watch it. Don't you ever
worry about that, I guess he can walk anywhere that you can, but on a
shelving bank a rider makes a beast topheavy."

Down they went into the chasm, climbing over heaps of fallen rock,
pitching down slopes which seemed almost perpendicular to the boy, and
as they descended the sun rose higher and the air seemed to become less
tenuous and almost visible. Roger had been expecting the wonderful
radiance of the valley to become tenfold richer under the noonday sun,
and was surprised to note all the color fade out of the rocks and the
air become as it were so solid as to refract the light of the sun. The
whole atmosphere seemed to be glowing with a metallic luster which was
most confusing, because of the way in which it changed the whole
environment. Lines of strata became distorted and even disappeared, the
buttes appeared to flatten, the minor shadows to diminish and the
darker shades to turn an inky black, till, when the halt was made at
noon, the boy realized that he could not have made his way back one mile
by reason of the chaotic look of the abyss under the direct light of the
noonday sun.

After the march had been resumed and the afternoon was drawing to a
close, however, the true witchery of the scene struck deep into Roger's
mind. As the evening clouds began to gather and the twilight shadows
deepened, the Titanic temples and cloisters seemed to awake and stretch
themselves to meet the expected vesper. Little by little the atmosphere
lost its density and the rocks behind began to glow, the colossal buttes
assumed their due proportions; while a thousand bizarre forms, that had
not been observable in the intense light of day, thrust themselves
forward into an uncouth prominence. Then the sun disappeared from the
view of the travelers, though still shining on the rocks above. Black
cantered up beside the boy.

"Now watch," he said: "here's where you see the greatest display of
color in the whole world."

"But how can it be brighter than it is now?" queried Roger, on whom the
bold and striking scene was creating a profound impression.

"The best is yet to come," answered his companion, "and look, it begins
now!"

For the first time since morning Roger was able to look upwards without
being blinded by the sunlight. The sloping rays now fell full upon the
upper part of the Canyon, at the crest of which a vivid yellow cut
athwart the transparent blue of the sky and underneath its pallid
brilliancy ran a soft belt of pale rose. The deep vibrating red of the
body of the Canyon seemed to pulse with life as a faint blue haze began
to gather in the dusk, changing second by second into the countless
differing hues of crimson lakes and ruby violets, deepening as the
hastening twilight passed. Strange and metallic gleams of burnished
bronze and green gloomed from the intervening lines, all yielding place
little by little to the veil of azure mist. And beneath all, the glowing
red, now changed to imperial purple, as though the world were bathed in
a regal radiance at the crowning of a universe's king.

It was not until the dark had really come and the stars were shining
brightly that the boy awakened to the consciousness of a trail and felt
that he could speak. He turned to the assistant.

"And that's been going on every day for years!" he said, struck by the
wastefulness of such a sight to so few eyes.

"For thousands upon thousands of years that went on before any man saw
it," replied Black, smiling slightly, "and it will go on when the
present civilizations are deemed but musty antiquities."

The night was well advanced when the party reached the crest of the
Canyon on the north side. The journey, as Masseth had said, was one
devoid of special risk because of the numbers of the party and the known
trail, though, in truth, it needed a keen eye at times to discern that
such apparently impassable ground was intended for a trail. The top
reached, however, a hasty camp pitched, the packs and saddles taken off,
the mules and the animals hobbled to graze on the rich herbage of the
Kaibab plateau, Roger sank to sleep without loss of time, and it seemed
to him hardly ten minutes before the cook aroused him for the camp
breakfast.

"You know something about the work of a rodman, and of the handling of
the tape?" asked Masseth, after breakfast, referring to the 300-foot
steel tape used in measuring distances in wooded areas.

"Yes, indeed, Mr. Masseth."

"Of course you realize that the tape is generally impracticable in such
a country as this, and that all the work must be done by the computing
of angles with continual astronomical verification. As topographic aid
you can learn as much as you are able of the use of instruments, at such
times as you are not carrying out levels." And Masseth, questioning
closely, elicited the mathematical ability of the lad. The boy had
always hated arithmetic and its kindred studies, not realizing the value
of the higher branches, but with the incentive before him, he found his
chief's teaching markedly interesting.

The next day a semi-permanent camp was pitched, and there the supplies
were kept. The head packer, who became a teamster as soon as things were
settled, immediately left for the village of Kanab in Utah, over a
hundred miles away, where a heavy wagon was in waiting, and whence the
provisions were to be drawn for the party during the two months it
should be on the north side of the Canyon. As it was a three days'
journey there and the same returning, the teamster was a busy man,
having but one day comparatively free and camping on the trail five
nights out of seven.

Roger, of course, went out with the other men every day, scaling points
picked out for him by the chief as places he desired occupied, measuring
from the rod elevated by the boy, who then, at a signal, was ordered to
go to the next point scheduled. To a boy as fond of climbing as was
Roger, for a day or two this was good fun, but the novelty soon passed
by and he did his day's work with a persistent regularity, which, though
it brought forth the results required, was lacking in the adventurous.
In short, the continuity of risky work became monotonous.

It was due to this cause, perhaps, that one afternoon, when this sort of
thing had been proceeding for several weeks, Roger, passing from one
outjutting piece of rock to another, but a few feet away, jumped
carelessly, twisted his ankle beneath him and fell, spraining his wrist.
Despite the sprain, however, he reached the point to which he had been
sent, and then, instead of going on, returned to the topographer.

"What's the matter?" called Masseth, who had seen him fall, as soon as
he came in hearing. "Did you hurt yourself?"

"Sprained my wrist, I think, Mr. Masseth," answered the boy. "Beastly
sorry, but I'm afraid I'll have to lay off for the rest of the
afternoon."


[Illustration: A HARD POINT TO MEASURE.

Note the comparative size of horse and men at the foot.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Let's see, son." The topographer felt the wrist, then feeling that no
bones were broken, and that a day or two would set it all right again,
bade Roger go to the main camp and let the cook change places with him
for a few days.

"I'll write to Mr. Mitchon, and tell him of your promotion to camp
cook," called Masseth, laughing as Roger rode away.

On arriving at the camp and giving his message to the cook, the latter
readily agreed to help for a few days.

"I'll go at once," he said, "the teamster should be back to-morrow, and
while things are running pretty short, I guess you'll have enough to
hold out."

The following morning early, after having told Roger everything he was
to look after, the cook started for the side camp to take Roger's place,
while the latter looked after the camp. Long and weary seemed the
morning to the boy, so inactive it was after the strenuous life he had
been leading for some weeks, and, though the teamster usually got in
before noon, when evening came he had not arrived. Roger, who had
counted on the cook's knowledge of the teamster's time, found himself
almost without food for supper, and made a very light repast. He was
just about to turn in for a sleep, when he heard the sound of horses'
hoofs and went out to greet the teamster.

"Is that you, Jim?" he called out.

"Guess not, pardner," answered a strange voice, and a cowman loped into
the circle of light. "This here a United States camp?" he queried.

"Yes," answered the boy.

"An' who's running the shebang?"

"I am just at present," Roger answered. "But I expected the teamster
here to-day."

"You are? No offense, but you don't look more'n a yearling. Well, it's
not so worse to brand 'em young."

The lad explained the circumstances of his being alone, pointing out
that the rest of the party were only three or four hours' ride away, and
the stranger nodded.

"Which I was a plumb forgettin' to explain is that the gent what you was
a-greetin' with the airy name of Jim, won't come none this week to camp,
but he allowed as you-all had a-plenty."

"What's the matter with him?"

"Which I ain't a sharp as a doc. Took a spell or somethin'. I opine
he's a goin' to continue cavortin' around this Vale of Tears some more,
though he has been figurin' on procurin' a brace of wings."

"He's getting better, though?" asked the boy.

"Which he holds a good hand for a long life."

"But I haven't got any extra supply of grub," continued Roger in some
dismay.

"Shore!" The stranger, who was just gathering up his reins, half turned
in the saddle. "I wouldn't bet a small white chip for any gent's success
in a dooel with hunger. Which it is some uncomfortable to ignore the
chuck-wagon. But this here Jim he relates that he toted a big jag last
time, and it must be cached."

"It must be here somewhere, then," said Roger dubiously, "and I'll look.
But it doesn't sound good to me."

"Which if you don't locate, saunter over to the Bar X Double N and we
will supply the existin' demand a whole lot," and with a wave of his
hand the rider cantered away into the darkness, without giving Roger a
chance even to ask where the ranch might be.

But youth is little accustomed to troubled dreams, and Roger slept
soundly enough, awakening the next morning, not to a hot and
well-cooked breakfast, but to having to prepare his own. Laying hands on
everything that he could find, the boy made out a breakfast and then
started on a search for other provision. He doubted its existence for
the cook had told him that it was nearly all gone. At last, in his
rummaging he found a little notebook, marked on the outside, "Record of
Supplies," and thinking that this might give a clew, he opened it.

There, under a date of a few days before, was an entry to the effect
that the cook had sold to a passing party a large supply of surplus
provision, thinking that the teamster would make his regular trip. It
was small wonder, Roger thought, that the teamster was not at all
anxious, because he made sure that the provision was still in the camp,
and of course the cook was not disturbed because he supposed that the
teamster would come the next day.

The situation was gloomy enough so far as Roger was concerned, for he
was practically without food, but what rendered the matter doubly
serious was that the rest of the party would come in from the side camp
two days hence with their supply of provision exhausted, only to find
the camp barren, and leaving five men a long way from getting food
instead of one. The more Roger thought over the matter, the more
determined he was that he must procure supplies. The question was,
where?

If the lad had known the country at all, there were undoubtedly ranches
somewhat near at hand to which he could appeal at a pinch, but he had
wisdom enough to know that it would be the height of folly to ride out
upon the north Arizona plateau without the faintest idea of a
destination. There was the ranch to which he had been told to come, and
he had heard of it often enough to know that it was one of the largest
ranches in the country, but who would direct him there? He feared that a
blind try in the plain might put him out of touch of water as well as
food, a condition insupportable.

There was only one bright spot in the position, and that was the
presence of Jack. Jack was a burro, apparently of extreme age, who had
been found one morning near the camp, and who had attached himself to
the party. Of course all the rest of the animals were away, the cook
having ridden back to the side camp the horse on which Roger had come
from there. True, there was this burro, but what could he do with it,
where could he go?

As he asked himself this question, an answer shot into the boy's mind
which turned him hot and cold. He looked over the plateau to the plains
and shook his head, then quietly went into the tent to think over the
best course for him to pursue. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed, then
with jaw hard-set and lips compressed Roger walked to where the burro
was grazing, and slipped a halter over his head. Obediently the patient
animal followed him to the edge of the rift of the Canyon, and there
Roger looked down and across. Nine miles away, across those fearful
chasms and lurid cliffs lay food and necessaries not only for himself,
but for the party.

Roger was conscious that prudent judgment would counsel his return to
the side camp for the purpose of informing the party of the situation,
so that they could cross by the old trail to renew supplies, but the boy
knew that Masseth was working against time. Beside this, it would be a
great achievement and the lad was burning with a desire to shine before
the Survey. The old trail was the better way, but it had been night when
they debouched on the plateau and Roger could not have told where the
trail entered. He feared he might lose time by hunting for that faint
trail, and decided to direct his whole strength into an attempt to force
his way straight across the cleft in defiance of the decree that it had
never been done and could never be done.

About a mile away along the bank there was a deep fault which could be
entered a few hundred yards back on the plateau. The lad knew about
this, for the spring whence the camp got its water was close by. Into
this Roger turned with his burro, casting one long glance at the camp
just visible in the distance, before he took his courage in both hands
and plunged into the almost inaccessible ravine.

"They call this Bright Angel Canyon, Jack," he said aloud. "I'd like to
have a pair of their wings right now."

The little gray burro looked at him for a moment, then went on picking
his steps carefully. It was rough but not perilous for a few hundred
yards and the boy's spirits rose until in an hour or so he came to an
obstruction about ten feet high, but this puny ten feet, which had
looked simply like a little ridge of dirt, baffled him for hours. He
traveled up and down, but found the terrace continuous, and it seemed as
though his quest would fail almost before it had well begun.

Suddenly there flashed into the boy's mind one of the old fables, and,
as before, he took his rough-haired friend into his confidence.

"We can't jump it or knock it down, Jack, old boy," he said. "It's up to
us to climb it some way."

With immense toil and labor he carried stone and rock and bits of
boulders, and though hours were spent on the task he built up a kind of
shaky and insecure pile up which the burro, following him patiently,
reached the top. There luck was with him, for, by picking his steps
carefully for twenty yards or so, he was enabled to reach a newly fallen
piece of cliff, by which he got to firm ground on the other side.
Stopping to rest, this obstacle over, the boy's ears were greeted by the
musical and grateful sound of falling water, and hurrying to the place,
he found a little stream fed by springs and gurgling merrily in tiny
cascades to the river.

Although he knew but little of geology, Roger's sense speedily showed
him that, by following this little tributary, he probably would have a
fair path down to the river, or at least, while he would probably find
many drops downward, there would be no walls across his path unless it
were one through which the little creek had tunneled. So, ankle deep in
the grooved bed, they started down the streamlet on its way to the
bottom of the valley.

It was perhaps fortunate for the lad that he was not too well-informed
in the customary ways of the burro, and was entirely unaware of the
animal's intense objection to running water. Had he known this, in all
probability he would have left the burro behind, which would have
resulted grievously. But this old burro, as it fortunately chanced, must
have belonged to some prospector working in a mountain country, for he
evinced no fear of or dislike to the stream. One hundred and seven times
did Roger and the burro cross Bright Angel Creek, each crossing growing
swifter and deeper than the last. Dusk was falling as they reached the
bank of the Colorado River at the base of the Canyon.

Before it became entirely dark, the boy climbed up a peak of rock to
make sure of the direction of his objective point, a matter hard to be
determined because of the windings of the river, and on descending laid
several stones in a row pointing to the direction sought. Then,
supperless and almost spent, he resolutely refrained from eating the
few last morsels he had brought with him, and flinging himself down
beneath an overhanging ledge he fell asleep.

In spite of the strangeness of his position it was bright daylight when
he awoke and the burro was standing patiently near by. Taking from his
wallet the solitary crust of bread and the few biscuits that remained,
and noting that Jack had found some grass just at the water's edge,
Roger put on his shoes and walked gravely to the edge of the river.
There is only one Colorado River in the world, and it is perhaps the
most violent stream in the two hemispheres. It was not at its height at
this time, but it ran like a mill race with a vicious swirl and spume,
and was ugly to look at. Roger was no mean swimmer, but his heart sank
at the thought of plunging into it.

"Jack," he said, "I'd as soon try to swim the Niagara gorge," and the
burro looked wonderingly at his master.

So up and down the bank for several hundred yards he went, striving to
find some rapids that might be forded, but only at one place did it even
appear possible and that, the boy thought, had large odds against it.
Still, it was all he saw, and he put the burro at it. But Jack refused,
point-blank, and as the obstinacy of a burro needs some considerable
persuasion to overcome, things looked black for the boy.

There was just the river between him and safety, for Roger had heard the
men speak of an Indian trail which paralleled the river on the southern
side and whence he could reach one of the three trails that ascended the
plateau, and not only safety, but the welfare of the party, which he
felt was intrusted to his care. The burro would not try the ford. Very
well, then, he would cross himself. On this side of that torrent,
hunger, defeat, and death, on the other food, success, and reputation.
Come what might, he would cross!



CHAPTER VII

SAVED BY HIS NERVE


It was with a lurking fear that the burro had the better intuition of
danger that Roger decided to attempt the ford that the animal had
refused to try, but, so far as he could see, there was no other way out.

"He may follow me," said Roger aloud, looking at the little animal, "but
I hate to leave him behind."

The longer he looked at it, however, the worse it got, and so, in order
to test the feasibility of it, the boy sprang lightly upon the nearest
boulder about four feet from the bank. Water to the depth of six inches
was pouring over the stone, but he had paid no heed to this, feeling
that it was easy to brace against a current of that shallowness. But if
his feet ever touched that stone he did not know it, for the rush of
water took his footing from him, throwing him headlong as though his
feet had been jerked from under him by a rope.

As he fell, the boy threw out a hand to save himself and grasped a
projecting corner of the boulder on which he had expected to land, and
found himself hanging on for dear life with the current pouring over the
rock into his face and almost strangling him. Very few seconds were
enough to show that he had not strength enough to draw himself up on the
rock against the force of the stream, but the bank was scarcely more
than an arm's length away, and making a desperate lunge the boy reached
it and clambered on shore, his breath gone and his nerve somewhat shaken
by the suddenness of the peril.

The hope of a ford must be given up therefore; no boat or raft was
procurable, and indeed could hardly live in such a torrent, bridging was
out of the question, so nothing remained but to swim for it. Roger
figured that, while of course he could not swim directly across, if he
could manage to make any resistance to the current at all and would
point up stream at a slight angle, the onrush of the stream would carry
him across. A little distance below the ford he had attempted, the river
flowed deeper with less apparent turmoil, and there, perhaps, was a
chance to get through alive.

But the question of the wearing or the not wearing of boots was quite a
quandary. If he kept them on, they would impede his swimming greatly,
while if he took them off and did manage to get across, his feet would
be cut to pieces in ascending the Canyon on the other side. But he
decided to do one thing first, and if he crossed the river safely, then
it would be time to consider ways of going up the chasm. Taking off his
shoes he tied them to the burro's neck, feeling sure that even if the
little animal failed to cross alive, he might be washed ashore on the
further bank and the boots could be recovered.

Then, unexpectedly to the burro, while the latter was standing at the
edge of the bank, he gave him a shove and toppled him in and sprang into
the water after him.

But, despite his previous little experience of the force of the current,
Roger had altogether underestimated its power. He could not even face
it, the impetus stunned, blinded, and deafened him. The river took him
like a chip, and though in an aimless sort of way, he tried to swim so
as to keep his head above water, he knew that he was being swept down
the reach with incredible speed. As for the burro, he had not time to
think about the faithful little beast, who was being swept down the
river even more rapidly than the boy.

But, about two hundred yards down the river, there stuck out above the
water a large projecting snag, which had been carried down the stream
from the forests hundreds of miles above, and which had been partly
buried in silt and thereby held firm. The snag being on the further side
of the river, just as it took a sharp curve, had made a tiny shoal and
the burro was slung by the current against the snag and held there by
the force of the water. The donkey had hardly struck the snag before
Roger, gasping and exhausted, came whirling down upon him, but his
smooth wet sides afforded no handhold and Roger was slipping away from
him when his hands unconsciously touched and grasped the animal's tail.

A violent jerk followed, and for a moment it seemed doubtful whether the
wrench would not tear the burro from the crotch of the limb in which he
was imprisoned, but the anchored tree held fast, and Roger, though his
arms were nearly pulled from their sockets, fought inch by inch his way
to the lee of the burro, grasped the snag, and finally got footing on a
part of it below the water, where the current was not so swift. But
there was no time to lose, so Roger, rapidly unfastening his shoes from
around the burro's neck, threw them to the shore, which was about
sixteen feet distant; then to get a start for a jump he balanced himself
on the topmost branch of the snag and gave a wild leap for safety.

He could jump six feet, and with arms outstretched reach five, leaving
scarcely two yards to cover. This the impetus of his leap should give
him, Roger figured, but even those few feet were almost too much, and
had not the shore curved a trifle at that point he might have been
carried out toward the center of the stream again. But the initial
velocity of his spring was just enough, and a moment later, with his
heart beating like a trip-hammer and trembling with the exertion, Roger
flung himself upon the other shore. The Colorado was crossed!

Roger's first thought, after a sense of gratitude and relief, was for
the burro, but for whose providential capture in the snag and whose most
convenient tail, he would probably have been dashed upon the rapids
below. He got nimbly to his feet, though considerably bruised and sore,
and hurried up stream the thirty or forty feet to where he had left the
animal. As he reached there, he saw that the burro had found shoal water
under his feet and was pawing away for a foothold, thus loosening the
hold of the snag upon the bottom, and the boy saw the tree begin to
shift.

"Don't, Jack," he called, as though he believed the burro could
understand, "keep still till I help you out!"

But the companion of the boy's perilous trip took the shouting for
encouragement and kicked all the harder, till a few seconds later, amid
a swirl of mud and sand, the huge wreck of a tree rolled over and
whirled down in the river in a confusion of branches amid which the poor
burro seemed to have no chance. The very size of the tree evinced to
Roger how furious must be the torrent of the Colorado in the spring
floods, for the snag showed that it must have come from a pine not less
than thirty inches at the base. The forking, broken and splintered
limbs, however, projecting on all sides, caught in the bed of the river
now that the stream was low, and this prevented the burro from being
swept into the middle of the current, and suddenly, to the surprise and
delight of the boy, a swift back eddy caught the animal and threw him
up upon the shore.

Roger ran to him, but there was no sign of motion, the poor burro lay
quiet as though dead. Heaving a sigh, for their twin peril had made
Roger quite fond of the little animal, he turned to go, half-thinking
that, if there were any future state for the four-footed part of the
world, he would have a candidate to present. Then, sitting on a fallen
rock, he put on his boots, his feeling of pride at the great achievement
of having crossed the Colorado River only dimmed by his sorrow for his
faithful comrade. Before leaving, however, he went back to where the
burro lay.

"It's a shame to leave you lying there, Jack," he said, "but there's
nothing I can do for you. Of course, I know you're only just a burro,
but I do hate to say 'Good-by.'"

There was a great big lump in the boy's throat.

"I'd like to dig a grave, or--or--something," he added, "but I can't. It
seems playing it low down on you, Jack, when I couldn't have got across
but for you, but there's no help for it. It's got to be good-by!"

He turned away sadly, when, just as he did so, he thought he saw the
little burro's side heave. With a shout of delight, he stooped down,
though he had not the faintest idea whereabouts to locate the animal's
heart, and was feeling for a throb, when, with two or three deep
breaths, the burro opened his eyes and staggered to his feet; looking
with a mild surprise on Roger, who was dancing the wildest kind of a
war-dance round him and whooping enough to make it sound as though the
Apaches were on the scalping trail once again.

But while the difficulties of the trip were by no means over, the
dangers were now few. Roger knew that he was bound to strike the Indian
trail which paralleled the river on the southern side, and that, if he
desired still easier going, though probably longer, he had only to
follow any of the terraces and he would strike one of the trails. He
decided on the latter course, and with Jack following him with absolute
docility, he commenced his long trip up the other side of the Canyon. On
and on he went, hour after hour passed, when, just as the boy had given
up all hope of ever reaching the trail, the burro turned sharply and
stood still. The afternoon was drawing on, and between hunger and
exhaustion Roger was very nearly played out. Looking up, however, he
found he could just discern the edge of the Canyon near the hotel, and
he knew that the little black specks upon the brink were people,
probably looking down at him, and all unaware of the desperateness of
his condition.

His handkerchief had been lost somewhere, so Roger tore off the sleeve
of his shirt to wave at the people, and a following glint of white told
him that they were waving back. But it was help that he wanted, not
greeting, and the boy puzzled his brains to think how he could signal at
that distance. Then an idea struck him, and looking up to see that the
people were there, he stumbled and fell as though to make them think
that he had been hurt or wounded in some way. A rapid increase in the
numbers on the edge of the chasm told him that his ruse had succeeded,
and in a few minutes he saw several people debouch on the trail, which
was only visible for a few yards from the summit.

He pulled himself together and started up the trail, but it was not
until it was almost dark that the rescue party found him, the leader
being a long, gaunt frontiersman.

"What's your name?" demanded the latter.

"Got anything to eat?" promptly countered Roger, to whom this was the
chief need.

The frontiersman signed to one of the party who had brought some
provisions along, and after the boy had been somewhat refreshed, the old
man said:

"Now tell us whar you've been."

"I've come from the other side, down Bright Angel Canyon," replied Roger
tersely, "and I came to get grub for the Survey camp."

Numerous inquiries brought from the boy enough of the story to give the
members of the search party a fair idea of what had happened. He was too
tired to talk, however, and contented himself with an appeal that Jack
should be well looked after, and thereafter satisfied himself with
sticking to the saddle of the mule which had been brought down for him
to ride. When they reached the hotel the frontiersman walked into the
rotunda with the boy, and as they stood before the desk, he turned to
the crowd assembled and said:

"Ladies and gents, I'm no speechmaker, but I reckon we hadn't ought to
let this young feller hit the bunk before we tell him what we think of a
chap who is plucky enough to blaze a new trail across the Grand Canyon,
and the first time in its history to cross it alone with one burro. This
is Roger Doughty, ladies and gents, the first white man to cross the
Grand Canyon alone."

Immediately all the curiosity-hunters that hang about those sight-seeing
hotels crowded around the boy, but he would have nothing to say, and was
far too wearied to undertake to tell his story. Bidding the clerk have
all the supplies ordered for him early in the morning he turned to go,
when his new friend, the frontiersman, said:

"Did you reckon to go back yourself with the grub?"

"Sure. To-morrow," said the boy. "That is, if I can get a little sleep
to-night," he added pettishly.

"Then I'll go with you, boy. You've done a thing that will be talked
about in Arizona, I guess, as long as the Colorado River flows. It isn't
right for you to tackle the trip back alone, and anyway, I know the
trail better than you do. An' what's more, you sleep till I call you
myself to-morrow, and I'll see that all the supplies are ready and
packed for the start. I'm an old hand at the game, bub, and you can
leave it all to me."

Roger thanked him and once more turned to go to bed when he was
intercepted by another group. The frontiersman stepped forward.

"The kid's going to hit the pillow," he announced, "an' I reckon that
he's earned it. Any one that tries to stop him can talk a while to me.
Go on up, bub," which Roger, portentously yawning, proceeded to do.

So, laughing at the mixture of friendliness and bravado exhibited by the
boy's lanky champion, the people stood aside while Roger stumbled
upstairs and fell on a bed asleep. A few minutes later the big
frontiersman followed him, and seeing him dead to the world with all his
clothes on, even his hat being still crushed over his eyebrows; picked
him up on his knee, took off his clothes and tucked him in as tenderly
as his mother might have done, the boy never even growing restless in
his sleep the while. That done, the burly Westerner, whose touch had
been throughout as light as that of a woman, looked down on the sleeping
boy.

"If that's the kind the government breeds," he said, "no wonder we can
whip the earth!" and he went down to arrange about the next day's trip.

In the meanwhile the Survey party had progressed rapidly with its work,
and on the afternoon following Roger's arrival at the hotel, they
returned to the main camp. They thought it strange, as they rode in,
that Roger should not have heard the horses' hoofs and come out to greet
them, and Masseth felt a slight alarm lest the hurt to Roger's wrist
should have proved more serious than was at first thought. On reaching
the main tent, however, he saw a large piece of paper, held down by a
stone. He picked it up. It was written, boy-like, as an official report,
and read as follows:

     "MR. MASSETH: Sir, I regret to report that James, the
     teamster, has got sick, and will not bring any supplies
     this week. He sent word that there was a lot of
     supplies in camp, but I could not find them. A cowboy
     from Bar X Ranch brought word. I have taken burro and
     will try to cross Canyon to get supplies. I hope to be
     back Friday afternoon or evening.

     "R. DOUGHTY."

"By the eternal jumping crickets!" was Masseth's first astonished
exclamation. Then, calling to the cook, "George," he said, "come here a
moment!"

The cook came over and the chief handed him the letter. George read it
through carefully twice, then handed it back.

"I got a chance to get a long price for some pretty stale grub, and it
looked to me like a good stunt. How was I goin' to know that bally chump
of a teamster was plannin' to get sick?"

"But the boy!"

"It's sure tough on the boy. It's a beast of a trip, even if he's sure
of the trail."

"But he's only been over it once, and he could never remember that
confusion of canyons." He turned sharply on the cook. "It's your fault,"
he said; "you ought to know better than to let yourself run out. It's
never safe to go without some on hand for contingencies."

The cook thought it wiser not to increase his superior's anger by
replying, so went to the cooking tent to try to devise some sort of a
meal from the remnants that had been brought from the side camp. As for
Masseth, the more he thought of the situation the less likely did it
seem that the boy could have found his way, but he could have struck
water somewhere, so that perhaps search parties organized on the other
side might have a chance of finding him, but every hour counted. He
talked it over with the assistant.

"Well," answered Black, "of course the dark's confusing, but with both
of us watching the trail and knowing the landmarks, we can't get far
astray. And we might drop across the lad. I'm ready to start any minute
you say."

Masseth thought for a moment, then pointed with his finger to the chasm.

"I don't believe any of us would be comfortable to-night," he said,
"knowing that the lad was down there, when for all we know he may be
dying of starvation and the loneliness of desolation, just within our
reach. A bite to eat, whatever there is, and then an immediate start."

Gathered to the hasty and scanty supper, the cook found himself in a
position of extreme discomfort, though no blame was attached to him. He
had acted for the best and this result could not have been foreseen.
Perhaps it was because his nerves were unusually upon the strain that he
was the first to hear a sound along the chasm. He held up his hand to
enjoin silence, and in a moment or two horses' hoofs and voices were
heard. Then, looming unnaturally large in the last flush of twilight
before the darkness fell, came two figures, one on a tall iron-gray
horse, one on a mule, with a burro plodding along patiently behind.

A stentorian voice hailed them from the distance.

"Hey, there!" it said.

"Well?" called back Masseth.

The second of the oncomers answered, this time in a boy's voice.

"Oh, Mr. Masseth, have you been back long?"

"It's the boy," said the topographer solemnly, but with a note of joy in
his voice, "and his life won't be laid at my door;" the soberness of
words and tone revealing how keenly the fear of Roger's peril had been
pressing on him.

When the two rode up the boy introduced his frontiersman friend to the
chief of the party, the while he was being untied from the saddle, to
which, in his still exhausted and stiffened state, he had been fastened.
But introductions, however informal, did not stop the big Westerner from
speaking his mind.

"I'm thinkin' there's some thunderin' big fools in this here party," he
announced in his abrupt way, "that can get matters into such a hole
that a youngster has to start off on a crazy trip like that, but I want
to state that the boy is pay dirt all through. He's not only crossed the
Canyon alone, but he's found a new trail!"

"Where?" asked Masseth eagerly, thinking it wiser to ignore the
stranger's criticism rather than debate the point.

"Down Bright Angel Canyon, Mr. Masseth," answered the boy. "It wasn't so
awfully bad, except in a few places."

"But how did you get through?"

"I went down by the spring," answered Roger, "keeping to the right,
until I got wedged in between two cliffs, pink in color with a broad
band of slate blue about two-thirds of the way up."

"That's usually a bad wall!" interjected Masseth. "How did you cross
it?"

Roger described the device he had used, and received the encomiums of
all his comrades for the work, and then, as briefly as he could, gave an
outline of the various points of interest on the way.

He was especially gratified, when, after telling how he had got out of
the pocket of rock, Masseth turned to his assistant.

"We'll chart that as Doughty Point," he said, "for the boy's sake."

The boy flushed with delight at having his name given to a part of the
country, just like a real explorer, and cast a grateful look at his
chief.

"It was just beyond that that I struck water. The ravine sloped abruptly
for about one hundred feet, then struck an upcurving rock and gave a
little jump like a fellow does on skis and fell like a long silver
ribbon for about two hundred feet. I suppose that is Bright Angel
Creek?"

"And rightly named," put in the assistant topographer, nodding his head
affirmatively, "any stream that doesn't run dry in this sort of country
is angelic, all right."

Roger continued his story of the trip, describing points which he had
noted, Masseth naming them, "Deva Temple," "Brahma Temple," "Zoroaster
Temple," etc., and at last he fixed the route by its relation to "Cheops
Pyramid," one of the well-known configurations of the Canyon.

"But on which side of the creek were you, when you saw the pyramid?"
asked the chief.

"On the other side from it," answered Roger.

"If you had only crossed once more, or once less, it would have brought
you to the main trail where the boat is," said Masseth regretfully.
"But how in the world did you cross?"

So Roger told the story of the burro, and the manner in which he had
been caught in the crotch of a snag; and the party, though old hands at
the business, hung on his tale as though they had been so many
greenhorns. He told, moreover, as well as he could, his route up the
other side, until the frontiersman took up the story from the point
where the lad had been seen by the spectators on the edge of the Canyon,
near the hotel.

The last few sentences of the boy's story had been somewhat incoherent,
for the long trip of that day, following his arduous experiences alone
had been too much for him, and he could not keep his eyes open. He was
promptly taken to his tent and bidden to sleep, the while the
frontiersman described enthusiastically the boy's pluck and nerve.

"And I thought, by thunder," he concluded, "that the overschooled kids
of this generation were a pack of milksops, but I see there's grit in an
American boy yet!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE LAND WHERE IT NEVER RAINS


It was well on in the afternoon of the next day when Roger woke, to find
his friend the frontiersman bustling about the camp. He came sharply
when the boy hailed him.

"See here, lad," he said, "I figured that a rest wouldn't hurt you any,
so I told the thin fellow that if you stayed on here a while, I didn't
have much on hand, and I'd keep you company. Jest to watch that you
didn't get up in the middle of the night and try and find some other new
trail. So it's you and me for a few days, and I guess that teamster of
yours ought to show up soon, because, of course, he doesn't know
anythin' about what's been goin' on."

A couple of lazy weeks passed by rapidly, lazy because the Westerner
insisted on doing all the work that needed to be done, and before they
were over Roger found that he had nearly regained his full strength, his
wiry frame recuperating without loss of vitality. Masseth, on his
return, was much gratified to find how well the boy had got along, and
the following week he took him alone to one of the most prominent
stations on the northern side.

"Now, Roger," Masseth said to him, "I've just about finished what I want
to do on this side, so I'm going across to run a level on the other
side. But I'm very anxious to get a clear sight of this peak, where
we're standing, for an extensive triangulation, in order to correct or
rather verify some results. The only way in which this can be done is to
flash a heliograph message to me, at a certain time on a certain day, in
the way I showed you last week."

"Across seven miles?" asked the boy in amazement.

"More than that," said his chief, smiling. "Now here is the way you had
better get at it. In this box, which you see has been securely fastened
to the rock, are two pieces of tin, one with a quarter of an inch hole
in it, the other with a hole an inch square. They point, with
mathematical correctness, to a peak on the other side, which is an old
station, and easily seen. If you look through, you can see the place."

Roger bent down, and looking through the aperture was able to determine
a slight projection on the far distant bank, which he described and
which was in verity the point sought.

"Now," continued Masseth, "two months hence, or to be more exact, sixty
days from now, at eight o'clock in the morning, I will be waiting at
that point on the other side, and I shall expect you to be here. Over
the further piece of tin, as you see, I have hung a cloth, which you can
drop while you are testing the glass. In this movable frame, so devised
that it can be screwed up or down, or shifted slightly sideways, arrange
the glass so that the reflection of it, shining through the larger hole,
appears at an equal distance on all sides of the smaller opening. You
understand me?"

"Quite, Mr. Masseth," answered the boy, who had been listening with all
his ears.

"Very well," the older man continued. "At eight o'clock sharp, then, you
will raise quickly the curtain in front of the smaller hole, and drop it
again, doing this three times, allowing the hole to remain open for ten
seconds each time. Do that every five minutes for half an hour, or six
times in all, to allow for any possible variation of time in your watch.
By the way, you had better have two watches in the event of one of them
stopping or the hands catching, or something of that sort, because a
month's work will depend on getting that signal. But I think I can trust
you."

"You can, indeed, Mr. Masseth," said Roger. "But what shall I be doing
during those two months? Am I to remain alone in camp?"

"Hardly," said his chief, smiling. "The Survey does not waste men that
way. Mr. Mitchon has written me that Mr. Herold desires you should have
an insight into the varied work of the department, and I have arranged
for another topographic aid to meet me on the other side, so that,
except for this heliograph signal, which I must remind you is
excessively important, you will have finished with the work here."

"Then what?"

"Death Valley and the Mohave Desert," replied his chief. "It is perhaps
a little hard to send you into a hot section of the country at this time
of year, but, you see, you cannot go too far away because of your
engagement with the sun on a morning two months hence--by the way, if it
is cloudy, which is so rare a contingency as scarcely to be reckoned on,
signal the next morning at the same hour--so you must stay near by,
and the most interesting work at hand is that being done in the
waterless country."


[Illustration: TWENTY-SEVEN MILES FROM WATER.

Shelter camp in Great Dry Desert, life being sustained by constant
relays from distant wells.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Death Valley," the boy repeated, his eyes sparkling with excitement, "I
have always wondered what Death Valley was really like."

"That will give you a chance to see it, and to find out for yourself."

"But how?" asked the boy surprisedly. "Isn't the air poisonous, or
something? I had an idea that nothing could live in Death Valley."

Masseth smiled.

"You're mixing up some fairy story of the Upas Tree, or something of
that sort," he said. "There's nothing very dangerous in Death Valley,
except the lack of water. And even that is nothing like it used to be,
because, while they have not found any more water, the places where
pools do exist are carefully mapped out and made easy of access. But it
is a grim and fearful place unless every step of the journey is
carefully planned with relation to those few scanty wells."

"Then," said the boy, "if it is just lack of water, why was it called
Death Valley?"

"A party of emigrants gave it that name," said the chief quietly, "and
to them its sinister title bore a grim meaning. They had passed through
the desert, suffering incredible hardships and were greatly weakened
when they arrived at the valley. Still they pluckily journeyed on till
they reached those salt and borax flats, where the surface is rougher to
travel on than can be imagined, the salt having formed in sharp spikes
and jagged scales with their edges at every angle, and shallow pans
filled with dreadfully salt water. But it was water, and many of the
party sought thus to quench their thirst."

"Although it was salt!" cried Roger. "I should think it would have made
them crazy."

"It did," responded the older man. "The torture of an unquenchable
thirst with no means to allay it, led first to madness, then to death,
and the valley claimed a fearful toll. Some died outright, others became
maniacal, several indeed having to be shot by their comrades in an
effort to save the lives of those that remained. Few animals and fewer
men found their way to the scanty water of the Panamint, and the tale as
told by the survivors made the words Death Valley a name of fear to the
'Forty-Niners' and other early travelers in what was then known as the
'Great American Desert.' Death Valley it was called, and Death Valley it
will remain until all memory of America's pioneers is past."

"And is the Survey working in there, too?"

"I happen to know that there is a short reconnoissance trip to be made
to look into the question of the borax deposits of the Valley and the
Mohave Desert, and if you start right away, you ought to be able to get
to Daggett a week before the party reaches there, or at the slowest, in
plenty of time. The borax industry is large, and as it depends in a
great measure on the information furnished by the Survey, it might be a
good thing for you to know something about."

"And how shall I get there?"

"I will lend you Duke."

"Your own horse? And what will you do, Mr. Masseth?"

"Oh, I'll take Black's mare, and let him ride one of the mules over. I
am none too anxious to take Duke through the Canyon any more than I have
to."

"And the route?" queried the boy.

"You will not find any difficulty there, I think, because all you have
to do is to follow the edge of the Canyon. You go west and then south,
over the famous Hurricane Fault, and beside that mighty gate a mile
high through which the Colorado runs, passing from the grandeur of the
Canyon to the dismal torrid lower Sierra country. You will reach the
Santa Fé at Needles, where you can take the train for Ludlow, and
changing there go to Daggett, to await the arrival of the party. It is
not such a great distance, and there are trails all the way to Needles.
But remember, you are still under my direction, and all this is merely
incidental to the main piece of work I require of you, and that is, the
heliograph signal on October 21st."

"I'll be there, Mr. Masseth," said Roger quietly. "You can bank on me
for that."

The boy was so silent on his way back to camp that Masseth rallied him a
little on his unusual reserve.

"Don't you want to go into the Mohave country?" he said. "Because if you
feel that way, I will try to arrange some other plan. Only I thought you
might wish to see that sort of country and get an idea of what the work
is like out there."

"Indeed I do," said Roger hastily. "What made you think I didn't?"

"You were so quiet about it. And quietness is not your strong point."

"It isn't that," said Roger, hastily, "but I was just wondering whether
I would be able to remember all the scenes and incidents of the year."

"Not all of them, of course," said the older man, "but you will find
that their variety in experience is invaluable. You told me you were
going to Alaska with Rivers later on. Now, if you have seen the Death
Valley work as well as triangulation in the Grand Canyon and surveying
in the Minnesota swamps, you will have a fair idea of the immense range
of the work of the Survey."

"It is a contrast, all right," said Roger. "From the flat, boggy country
of Minnesota to the high dry peaks of the Canyon, and from the intense
heat of the desert to the ice-bound ranges of Alaska is certainly quite
a jump. But I'm very glad to have the chance, Mr. Masseth, though I
shall be sorry to leave you and the rest of the party."

That evening in camp, the chief announced his intention of returning to
the far side of the Canyon, and stated that Roger would be left to send
a heliograph message a couple of months later, and that in the meantime
he would visit the Mohave country for a few weeks.

"Why," commented the frontiersman, when this plan was unfolded, "I was
figurin' myself how it mightn't be so worse an idea to prospect some in
that Silverbow country, now that I'm 'way over here. My two boys are
working a small claim of mine near Oak Springs Butte, an' I've a notion
that there's a heap of gold in that Kawich country. Guess I'll go with
you part of the way to Daggett, pard; that is, if you're agreeable."

Nothing could have suited the boy better, and his exuberant delight in
the prospect of his friend's presence throughout the long ride was
obviously pleasing to the old man.

"That's a go then, bub," he said; "if you want to stick to the old trail
I'll help you keep it, and if you want to find a new one, why, I'll just
follow right along."

"But when are you going to break camp, Mr. Masseth?" asked the boy, who
was growing a little tired of the continual reference to his crossing of
the Canyon.

"The day after to-morrow, I think," the chief of the party replied, "as
the work should be done by that time; so you can start the same day,
only in the opposite direction."

In spite of Roger's interest in going to a new field, however, and
though he had beside him his grizzled friend, one of the keenest twinges
of loneliness the boy had felt while on the Survey came over him a
couple of days later, as he saw the party which he had so long
considered as his own, ride away from the site of the camp, leaving the
frontiersman and himself looking after them. He would much have
preferred being the first to start, but as the main party had to cross
the Canyon, movement at the earliest dawn was necessary. One consolation
he had in the possession of Duke, the chief's horse and a great favorite
with the boy.

As Roger and his friend started on their journey westward, the boy said:

"You were speaking of some mines out this way. Do you own gold mines?"

"No, bub, not gold. Wouldn't have 'em as a gift."

"Why not?" asked the lad, surprised.

"Cost too much to work, and there's no money in it. You know the old
saying about gold mines, don't you?"

"No, what is it?"

"That 'A copper mine will bring you gold; silver, silver; but a gold
mine will only bring you a few coppers!'"

"I never heard that before," replied the lad, "and it sounds queer,
too."

"Well, it's true. I wouldn't mind betting," said the old pioneer, "that
there's more gold been put into gold mines than ever was taken out of
them."

"How's that?"

"Well, you take it all through. There's the time and money spent by the
thousands of prospectors that spend all their lives wandering up and
down the mountains trying to locate the gold. Then, when a vein is
found, some fellow's got to put in a lot of capital to start to work it,
and thousands have to be spent for machinery to crush it, before it is
at all certain that the mine will pay. Then, in order to raise this
money, brokers all over the United States are selling shares of these
mines, and they make a good living out of it. And when you think how
many tens of thousands of dollars are spent on each mine, and how many
thousands of mines there are which have proved dead failures, and over
and beyond this, how narrow the margin of profit is even on a successful
strike, it doesn't look like much of a paying business, eh?"

The trail becoming too rough at this point for riding side by side, the
boy dropped behind, thinking over the difference between the finding of
gold as it really is, and as his adventurous ideas had supposed it to
be. When the trail widened again the boy cantered up, and continued the
former subject with the remark:

"Are your mines copper, then?"

"No, azurite."

"What's that?" asked the boy, who had never heard of it before.

"It's a sort of stone that they make up into all sorts of jewels that
women wear. Of course it's not precious like sapphire and emerald and
all that sort of thing, but that's perhaps because it is not as well
known, nor as rare. It's just as pretty, I think. I'd rather have it
than a gold mine or a copper mine, either, for that matter."

"Why?" asked Roger.

"Because it can be worked so easily. You see a small box of that stuff
can be packed on a mule any distance and then shipped, and if a
different point is used each time no one knows where it comes from and
there is no competition. Now copper, you see, is only valuable in large
quantities, and it needs a big industry to run it. And of this rarer
sort of stuff, there's lots of it around for any one that wants to look
for it."

"What sort of stuff?"

"All these rare mineral earths. The clay that's used in making gas
mantles, for instance; or there's tungsten, which is worth a lot now for
making the wires of incandescent light. I've a friend who's rich because
he got hold of a deposit of tungsten from reading the Geological Survey
bulletins. There's a lot more of it in the Snake Range of Nevada, just
waiting for somebody who's got energy enough to go ahead and develop
it."

Thus, throughout the entire trip, Roger found his interest in the work
greatly whetted by this new view-point, looking at the Survey from the
side of the shrewd Western man, seeking practical results, rather than
the more professional and scientific aspect of the field worker himself.
Indeed, it opened the boy's eyes immensely to the vastness of the
importance of the department when he realized that there was scarcely a
branch of manufacture that did not depend on some rare element, in some
of its processes, and that these rare elements were brought to light in
the very work that he had been doing. So it chanced that when Roger and
his friend reached Daggett, he was as enthusiastic concerning the
economic side of the work as he had been regarding its opportunities for
adventure.

Masseth had estimated the time of the party which Roger was to join with
close accuracy, for the boy had not been in the little settlement more
than three days when the party rode up, all on mules. Roger introduced
himself and presented Masseth's letter.

"Oh!" said his new leader in surprise. "So you're the boy who crossed
the Grand Canyon alone! I heard of that in San Bernardino, some tourists
were telling the story."

"Yes, Mr. Pedlar," said Roger with a flush. "But there wasn't so much to
it, I just had to get across."

"Well, I'm glad to have you. Now what is your idea in joining us,
because I see Mr. Masseth says that you are still on duty with him."

Roger explained the two months' signal that had been agreed upon, and
Pedlar, tall and light of hue, as though the desert had bleached him,
whistled softly.

"He's always taking long chances," he said, "but to do him justice they
generally come out all right. As I understand it, then, you want to come
along for a few weeks and then get back to Bright Angel Point in plenty
of time."

"Yes, sir," the boy answered.

"Well, that will be about right, only it's not going to take as long as
you think. It will be just a hurried reconnoissance. I suppose you know
why we're going in?"

"Mr. Masseth said something about borax," the lad replied, "but he
didn't say just what you were going to do."

"It's this way, Doughty," was the reply. "Borax, you know, was first
obtained by evaporating the water of some lakes in California. Later, in
the beds of some old dry lakes, the borax was found already evaporated
by the sun, and for years these marsh crusts formed the whole supply of
the country. Then the Geological Survey pointed out that before these
lakes were dried up the borax must have flowed into them by means of
some small streams or just the regular drainage of the rainfall."

"You mean," said Roger, interrupting, "that there must have been a lot
of it near by somewhere, and that each rain just soaked away a little
and brought it along."

"Exactly. Therefore it was up to the Survey to locate these large
deposits, and this was done. A large bed was found at Borate, about
twelve miles northeast of here, and this proved so valuable that more
surveying was done, especially in the region about Death Valley, where
one of the old salt marshes was located."

"Then it was the Survey that gave to the country all the borax it is now
using."

"It was," replied Pedlar. "Now, you see, I am making a hasty trip to the
known deposits, so that other related beds can be pointed out, as each
new find adds to the resources of the country, or, in other words, makes
the United States just that much richer."

"How is that?" asked the boy. "The government doesn't run the mines."

"No. But don't you see, the United States means the people of the United
States, and if the money spent on borax goes to American producers in
American fields instead of to Italy, where so much of it went before,
the country is richer to that amount."

Then, putting the matter as simply as he could, Pedlar explained to the
boy how greatly the commercial prosperity of the country is due to some
of the lesser known government bureaus, and pointed out the wisdom of
the fostering of American industries. Even so, it was not until the
tangible discovery of a hitherto unknown bed of rock salt, fifty feet in
thickness, that Roger realized how, every day in the year, the
prosperity of the country was being advanced by this patient scientific
investigation. The new salt deposit was found at the extreme south end
of Death Valley, a few miles before the trail went through a gap in the
Funeral Mountains. Skirting the Amargosa Desert, a furnace of cactus and
alkali, the party reached Grapevine Peak, from which may be seen perhaps
the most desolate and forbidding view in the Western Hemisphere.

"Behind you," broke in the voice of the chief, "beginning at that peak
you see fifty miles away in the distance, and which is known as Oak
Springs Butte, is a section of the country containing over 3,000 square
miles, equal in size to the states of Delaware and Rhode Island
together, which is absolutely waterless. In that appalling land of
thirst there is not a river, stream, or brook; a spring is a thing
unknown; no well has ever been sunk, and even the Indian waterhole
exists only in imagination. At rare, very rare intervals, a cloudburst
may come upon the parched land, but five minutes later there is no sign
of moisture save for a cup in a ravine or a crevice in a rock, where
water may lie for twenty-four hours. It is dryer and hotter than the
Great Sahara Desert of Africa, and wild and rough beyond belief."

"And has that awful place been covered by the Survey, too?" asked the
boy.

"I did one quadrangle," answered Pedlar, "and there's a party in there
this season."

"But how do they manage for water?"

"They tote every drop. And," with a grim meaning, "they are not taking
baths twice a day at that!"

"On this other side," continued the chief of the party after a pause,
turning round, "is a place you know well by reputation."

"That is the famous Death Valley?" queried Roger.

"That," said the chief, putting his heels to the mule's side and
starting down the slope, "is the infamous Death Valley."

Half-way down the slope Pedlar halted and pointed to a sign on a box
lid, stuck into a pile of stone.

"Gruesome advertising, that!" he commented.

Roger read it. It was the signboard of a local undertaking company, and
the implication of such a need for every one descending into the valley
was to the boy more sinister than any of the stories he had heard about
it. As they reached the valley, dunes twenty to thirty feet high
surrounded them on every side, with a salt sand between, sometimes soft,
sometimes with a treacherous crust through which the hoofs of the mules
sank, often cutting their legs, into the wounds of which the alkaline
dust penetrated, causing great pain. The boy tore his coat into strips
to bind around the pasterns of Duke, but even so some slight scratches
were unavoidable.

They journeyed on over this fearful traveling for many weary miles,
till, suddenly, Roger's quick eyes, eagerly looking for new things,
discerned at the entrance to a small rock-bound canyon a sliver of wood
broken off and sticking upright in the sand. As wood in that country is
as unusual as it would be to see a shaft of burnished silver protruding
from the arid ground, Roger rode up to it. There, penciled apparently
recently on the wood, were the following words:

     "Have gone down canyon looking for the spring; have
     been waiting for you.--Titus."

The boy called to the chief. Pedlar came over and read the message, then
quietly and with reverence removed his hat.

"Poor chap!" he said very softly. "There is no spring in that canyon."

He summoned the other members of the party and silently they rode up the
narrow cleft. Roger and the chief were riding in advance, and after a
few minutes' ride the latter pulled his mule in sharply, and pointed to
the figure of a man lying near a rock in the full glare of the sun.

"Perhaps he isn't dead?" said the boy, his heart in his mouth.

"No use to hope that, my boy," was the grave reply. "See, he must have
lain down in the afternoon, when that spot was shaded, and died before
the next sun rose. No living man would lie exposed to such a sun as
this."

They rode up. It was as the chief had said, and Titus's friend, whoever
he might have been, would never see him more.

"Shall we make a grave?" asked Roger in an awed tone.

"Better in the little cemetery at Rhyolite," answered the other. "I will
send word."

"But ought we not to make a pile of stones over him, or something?"
suggested Roger, his mind full of thoughts running on the possibility of
interference by wild beasts.

"Nothing can hurt him here," was the reply. "Not even a buzzard will
haunt so desolate a spot as this. But still----" he paused. Then
thinking that it might ease the boy's mind, as well as show respect for
the dead, he gave orders to raise a cairn of stones over the body of
"Titus."

The discovery cast a gloom over the party, and the penciled piece of
wood, which was to be sent back to Rhyolite to be used instead of a
headstone, seemed an uncanny thing to bear. The tragedy had given the
boy a violent distaste for the bleak country, for he seemed to see a
body lying under the lee of every cliff. He was glad when they reached
civilization again, and he could turn his face away from the land of
sage brush and alkali.


[Illustration: IN THE DEATH VALLEY.

Opposite the opening to Titus Canyon where the fatal guide-post was
found.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


When he came to bid farewell to Mr. Pedlar, however, the latter looked
at him a little keenly.

"I could see," the older man said, "that the Titus Canyon matter worked
a little on your nerves. Now, I don't want you to feel that you must get
hard, for you will find that the finest and most daring men in the world
are often as tender as a woman, but it contains a most important lesson
for you."

"And that is?" queried Roger.

"That it is only the fool who over-estimates his own strength."



CHAPTER IX

A FIRST-CLASS BUCKING MULE


As there was yet a month to elapse before Roger's "engagement with the
sun," as Masseth had called it, and the journey to the Grand Canyon
would not take more than eight or nine days, the boy felt little
desirous either of waiting about the desert country or of going back to
the Canyon ahead of time. It was practically a vacation for him, he had
plenty of money in his pocket, a good horse between his knees, the
prestige of a government appointment at his back, and the recollection
of the gloomy Mohave country to wipe out.

The reconnoissance party had left him at Olancha, at the southern
extremity of Owens Lake, a land of black volcanic lava and great beds of
tuff. After the dazzling white of salt and borate deposits; the great
sheets of black lava, and the heights of the Sierra Nevada behind,
formed so strong a contrast that Roger could hardly believe that the two
were but a couple of days' ride from each other. Towering over all,
moreover, could be seen Mt. Whitney, the sentinel peak of the southern
end of the Sierra, snow-capped and majestic, and Roger conceived the
idea of riding thitherward to gain some idea of the life and scenery of
the mountain-side.

A few hours' ride brought him to Lone Pine, where he put up for the
night. In the course of casual conversation with some of the men in the
little frame hotel, Roger mentioned that he was with the Geological
Survey. This announcement he had found it necessary to make in a number
of instances, for in that Western country a man's business is not
regarded as a matter especially to be kept secret.

"Sho!" said one of the men, just in from a big cattle ranch. "I presoom,
then, that you propose to hitch up with that peak-climbin' outfit?"

"Is there a geological reconnoissance party near here, then?" queried
Roger interestedly.

"A what?"

"A geological reconnoissance party," repeated the boy, "a government
survey."

"Geological reconnoissance is good!" exclaimed the Westerner. "If that
salubrious phrase is a maverick, I reckon I'll brand it and inclood it
in my string. But there was a bunch here the other day, with
three-legged telescopes and barbers' poles, just like what you
describe."

"How long ago?" asked the boy.

"'Bout a week, I surmise. An' they can't have got any thousand miles
away, either, because, as I understood 'em, they was a-contemplatin'
drawin' little picture-maps of the country as they went along."

Roger nodded understandingly.

"I know," he said, "that's just the delineation of the topographical
contour."

The Westerner's jaw dropped for a moment, but he was game, and came
right up to the scratch.

"Topographical contour I like!" he said. "This is our busy day on
language. It may be a new sort of drink for all I know, but it sounds
well. I presoom, partner, that you had better lend your valooable
assistance to the delineation of the topographical contour on a
geological reconnoissance!"

He looked round for the applause of the little gathering, which was
readily and gleefully accorded him.

The boy laughed. "All right," he said, "I'll take my medicine. I hadn't
noticed that it would seem like tall talk, but that's the way the men
speak on the Survey."

"Which I've no objection, son," answered the other. "I'm allers willin'
to rope and hog-tie a new bunch o' words, an' I has gratitood therefor."

"You all remember," broke in another speaker, "the time when Ginger
Harry's gun-play was choked off by the vocab'lary Little Doc unloaded?"

And Roger, seeing the conversation pass into other hands, was glad to
retire from the center of the stage in which he had unexpectedly found
himself, and listened for all he was worth to the reminiscences of the
days when cowboy life had not been spoiled by railroad tracks and
barbed-wire fences.

Early the next morning, however, taking with him a few days' provisions,
Roger started up the trail which had been pointed out to him as the one
the survey party had taken a few days previously, and his now trained
eye could easily detect where halts had been made and bench marks
established for the mapping out of the contour of the country. At the
same time he noticed that the party was pushing on rapidly, and by this
he judged that the climbing of the peak was one of the objects of the
expedition.

He had reached quite a sharp slope in the mountain, and was letting Duke
take the trail slowly and quietly, when suddenly he heard above him a
sharp blow, and then, far up the mountain-side a faint,
"ting-ling-ling-ling" and a moment's pause, then louder,
"crackety-crack-crack-crack" and then, with a tumult of crashes and
whangs, a large tin pail went clattering down the mountain.

Roger looked up, and from the heights above him there floated down a
vociferous and fluent torrent of language, which, even at that distance,
sounded strange and barbarous to the boy's ears. Using his
field-glasses, moreover, he could distinguish a figure leaning over a
ledge some distance above, and by the long cue he could see it was a
Chinaman. The sight gave him great encouragement, for he knew that the
party he was following had with it a Chinese cook, named Ti Sing, well
known in that region, and one of the most valued cooks in the Survey.

Realizing that he was near his goal the boy hurried on, and soon
overtook the party beside a small river with a swollen stream, a
recent cloudburst having filled to overflowing a creek usually
fordable. The water would, of course, go down in a day or two, but the
men did not want to wait. The building of a bridge seemed almost beyond
feasibility, as the banks were flat and there was no way to get across
with a rope even, for the first span.


[Illustration: CROSSING A SWOLLEN STREAM.

Bridge is a log hewed flat on one side, about three feet wide. Rail is
flimsy and but a "bluff of confidence."

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


As it chanced, the head of the party, with the assistant topographer,
had taken a little side trip off the trail, and the packers were annoyed
by being stopped in this way.

"I reckon Saracen could find a way, all right," said one of the men,
"but I shore do feel like a fool to wait for him to come up and show us
old-timers what to do."

Numberless suggestions had been made, and Roger's presence as a stranger
had kept him silent, but thinking perhaps that he could be of some use,
he spoke in an aside to the first speaker and suggested to him a
possible means, which he had heard as having been done in a similar case
by Herold. He gave the packer the idea, and told him to go ahead with it
as though it were a plan of his own devising.

"You see," said Roger, "it would seem like an intrusion if it came from
me."

"Nothing o' the kind," said the other roughly. "I'm not going to steal
another man's ideas and put them out as my own. What do you think I am?
Here, boys," he continued, "this youngster has an idea that he says has
been proved before. Let's try it. Tell us about it, son."

Roger flushed hot at being brought before a group of men he had never
seen till that day, but he spoke up bravely.

"It doesn't seem right, I know," he said, "for me to do any talking, but
I know of a scheme that might work here, if you thought it would go.
Work it just like you do a canoe in tracking. You know with a rope from
bow to stern, going against the current, if you pull on the bow, it will
swerve in and on the stern it will sweep out?"

"That's right!" agreed several of the men.

"Well," went on the boy, "it would be pretty easy to get a tree half-way
across, wouldn't it? Drop a tree in the river, fasten the butt end to
shore, and then let the top sweep out into the stream, fastening the
rope when it was out at a sharp angle up stream."

"Any fool can do that," said one of the party scornfully, "but you might
just as well be on this side as only half-way across."

"Dry up, Hank, and don't get grouchy," said the first speaker, "the boy
isn't through."

"I thought then," continued Roger, with a grateful glance at his ally,
"that another tree could be cut down, away up the river, butt end first.
Two ropes on, same as the other. Then, keeping the top down stream and
checking off the ropes gradually, the current would sweep the tree to
the other side of the stream. Let it float until the branches of the
second tree interlocked with those of the first, held tight in the
middle of the stream. Then slack up the butt end of the second tree, and
as it swung round it would hit the bank on the further shore, and there
is your bridge made."

"That would read all right in a book," grumbled the discontented one,
"but a river like that isn't any child's kite business."

"But I didn't get it out of a book," replied the boy, a little hotly.
"Mr. Herold, the geographer, told me that, and said that it had been
done on some of the swollen streams of the Glacier National Park in
Montana, where the streams are hard to cross."

His former friend also came to the boy's support.

"There is a lot of chance work in it," he said quietly, "but the plan
sounds all right to me. Of course, if the second tree behaves like you
say it should it would be all right, but there isn't any guaranty that
it will. But it's worth the trying, and anything's better than standing
here like a lot of dummies waiting for somebody to come along and tell
us what to do."

One of the members of the party having been detailed to look up two
suitable trees, and another to find out the narrowest and most
convenient place in the river, it was not long before the two trees were
down and dragged to their respective places on the bank. Roger's friend
desired him to assume direction of the work, which Roger refused to do.

"It isn't my plan, anyway," he said. "As I told you it is only something
I heard, and I wouldn't dream of thinking that I know as much about the
way of going at it as any of you," a modest speech which won him favor,
even with the disgruntled packer.

The launching of the first tree, however, proved so easy, the current
carried it to its place with so much readiness that all were encouraged.
It was securedly anchored at the shore and pointed up stream, with
little difficulty. But the second tree, owing to having been too short,
proved a failure at the first attempt, and it was not until a tree of
just the right height had been secured that success was attained. The
second time, the tree drifted quietly down, entangled in the branches of
the other tree, according to programme, and the butt being slackened
away it landed fair and true upon the other shore. Without delay one of
the most active of the men crawled out and lashed the two trees
together, then crawled over the second tree and stood on the further
shore triumphant.


[Illustration: BRIDGED BY "DOUBLE TREE."

Foaming mountain torrent, too powerful to cross for miles, and its
source hidden in inaccessible ravines.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


But it must be admitted that while the passage had been achieved, it was
a perilous one at best. The current foamed over the trunks of the trees
and fairly boiled through the intertwined branches. Bit by bit, all that
the mules had carried in their packs was taken over, even the saddles
being borne over this arboreal bridge. Great as had been the difficulty
of making the bridge, scarcely less hard was it to make Ti Sing cross.
He called on all his gods, in eighteen several and distinct dialects of
Chinese, but the men were obdurate, and with one pulling him in front
and another pushing him behind, he was at last brought over.

Then a rope was stretched from shore to shore, passing through a loose
ring. This was fastened to the girth of a mule, one rope was tied to his
head to keep him from drowning and another to his tail to make him keep
his temper, for a mule can't get irritated with his tail tied, and thus,
half-drowned and altogether weary, the mules were got across, just as
the chief of the party came up. He said nothing until with his assistant
he had crossed and seen the animals over safely, then turning to the
packer:

"Whose idea?" he asked briefly.

The man pointed to Roger in reply, and the chief walked over to where he
stood, watching the men chaff Ti Sing about the missing tin pail.

"That's an old trick of Herold's," he said, "but I never heard of any
one else using it. Where did you get hold of the idea, boy?"

"From Mr. Herold, sir," answered Roger. "He told me about it before I
started into the field."

"Oh, you're on the Survey, then. What party?"

"Mr. Masseth's."

"Then what in thunder are you doing up here?"

So Roger recounted to him his story, showing that he had to return to
the Canyon in a few weeks, but that he couldn't see any fun in lying
around waiting for the time to pass. He pointed out that he was
especially anxious to fit himself for work in Alaska, and quoted Rivers'
dictum as to the experience he would need.

"Well," replied Saracen, "I guess that's right enough. You've just come
to see the Sierra country. We're not going to stay long on this side,
and after I get through with this little bit of peak--which was the
reason of the crossing that stream--we shall go to the other side of the
mountain, where I can put you on the main trail. By that means you will
have a couple of weeks up here, and still be able to get back to the
Canyon to finish that bit of work you are pledged to do there."

Roger thanked him heartily, and began his ten days of mountain climbing,
an experience utterly new, for even the scrambling up and down the
terraced cliffs of the Colorado was a different matter from the scaling
of apparently inaccessible crags, where the climber faced no little
peril in making the ascent. Further, in order to do the drawing after he
got up, he would have to be tied on and have the plane table tied,
while working on a knife-blade ledge all day.

Some few days after his arrival, Roger had the unexpected opportunity of
seeing a mule train possessed by fear, and watching a mule buck. Mules
rarely buck, so the lad was conscious of the value of the experience. It
happened on a fairly wide trail, but which sloped considerably to the
side of the mountain, and Roger was riding beside the chief of the
party. Suddenly a loud commotion was heard in the rear of the pack
train, and Saracen and Roger reined up. Duke, always restive and
nervous, began to prance about, showing evidence of real fear, and while
Roger was a good horseman and kept his seat easily, he could not keep
the beast on the trail, and the bay danced off to the side, where on the
turf, three or four yards from the beaten track, he brought him,
snorting and trembling, to a standstill.

Then he had time to look about him. On the trail immediately above him,
the lead mule, bestridden by Saracen, was performing evolutions that
would not have disgraced a trick circus beast, cavorting and pirouetting
and bucking, evidently longing to bolt, but held down by the iron hand
of his rider. Just as the beast was a little quieted and Roger thought
of resuming the trail, there came a clattering of hoofs, and whish! a
runaway mule flashed by, arousing Duke and the lead mule to a new
exhibition of bucking. Roger soon had his mount pacified, but Saracen
was getting angry, and was applying whip and spurs without stint, to no
purpose, for a couple of minutes later another of the pack train's mules
came down tearing up the dust, then two together in a panic of stampede.

All the while the lead mule, held to one place by a grip that never
relaxed for an instant, plunged and reared and strained every nerve to
unseat his rider. Next came a salvo of shouts and objurgations, and two
of the packers hurtled along the trail, sawing at the mouths of their
animals, but utterly unable to hold them in, and indeed, narrowly
escaping being ridden over by the rest of the pack mules following.
Saracen always declared that his mule counted each animal as it went by,
but certain it is that no sooner had the last of the pack train vanished
in the distance than the lead mule steadied down. No damage had been
done save that the rider's hat, though strongly fastened on, had been
bucked off. A few minutes later, back came the other men, who curiously
enough were in similar case. The three hats were found close together on
the trail.

When an investigation was made, no known cause could be found to account
for the sudden bolt, except that a white mule, one of the last in the
train, had become suddenly frightened, possibly because there was a bear
in the neighborhood, and had started to run, bunting into the mule next
in the lead, and thus communicating the fright all the way along the
line. Fortunately no mishaps had occurred, and though some of the packs
had shaken loose, none had been thrown and nothing was lost.

The very next day after this, the mule in question, which, by the way,
was the only white mule in the party, quietly slipped off the side of a
cliff with a drop of one hundred and forty feet, landed upside down on
the pack-saddle, bounced twenty feet farther, and then quietly got up,
shook himself, and began to graze. Being white, the mule was easily
visible, and as it was seen that he was not hurt and in the pack were
certain things almost indispensable, it was decided to go down and
recover him.

When this was pointed out, Roger, thinking that it might take some time
to recover the mule, felt that he would be wiser to start on his
journey for the Canyon, and finding out the nearest trail from the chief
of the party, he started back to fulfil his "engagement with the sun."
Having plenty of time, he took the trip quietly, reaching Lone Pine a
few days later, and making his way south to the railroad at Mohave.


[Illustration: IF HE SHOULD SLIP!

The Chief Geographer making a plane-table station, 10,996 feet above sea
level. Note how table is tied on.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


There he encountered a young fellow on his way to Washington with some
special news of the discovery of important fossils by one of the
branches of the Geological Survey, and Roger, to his surprise, found
another avenue of science covered by that department of the government
to which he had become so proud of belonging. This young fellow had been
working in the bone-bearing strata for several months, and some
extremely valuable finds had been made which were to be placed in the
Smithsonian Museum.

With this comrade to while away the journey it seemed but little time to
Roger until they reached Needles, where the lad took to the saddle
again. It was all familiar ground to him now and no trouble was
sustained in reaching the little camp on the north side of the Canyon
where he had been bidden signal. He arrived three days before the
appointed time, desiring rather to be sure than to run the risk of some
accident delaying him. He found the provisions cached safely and knew
where to go for water. After making sure that the little instrument and
the glass had not been touched, the boy having carried the key about his
neck the entire two months, he settled down for his three days' wait.

The night before the date appointed, having a vague fear lest he might
oversleep himself, though it was a thing he had not done in all the time
he had been on the Survey, the boy lay down in front of the little
glass, wedging himself in so that he could not move, and having the
glass pointed so that the rays of the rising sun would be directed
immediately into his eyes. It was not a comfortable night's rest, but
the plan operated like a charm, for the sun's rim had hardly more than
appeared above the horizon when the reflected rays shone directly into
his face and wakened him instantly.

He got up without delay, and though considerable time was to elapse,
prepared all before his breakfast. That meal done, he sat beside his
heliograph to await the time. There was a variation of a minute and a
half between the two watches, and Roger thought it better to take the
later time, for, he reasoned, if Masseth was there he would be sure to
wait, while if he flashed too early, his chief might not be ready.

Promptly at the hour, therefore, the light shining equally about the
edges of the quarter-inch hole, he raised the cloth shutter that had
been in front of the aperture and three times let the strong light shine
through. He almost fancied that he could see the reflection on the
distant peak.

Five minutes elapsed, then he repeated the signal, three flashes of ten
seconds' duration, as had been agreed upon. Then, suddenly and
unexpectedly, he saw on the distant peak to which he was signaling, an
answering triple flash. He waited the required time, five minutes, then
gave the old signal, but followed it by three quick flashes of a second
apiece. This was answered in the same manner, telling the boy that not
only had his signal been seen, but also that his answer to the response
had been observed and that everything was right.

Thus, across seven miles of the roughest country in the world, did Roger
receive his official release and message of farewell from the Grand
Canyon party he had served so faithfully.



CHAPTER X

AMERICANS THAT ARE FORGOTTEN


The elation that Roger felt over the successful issue of the heliograph
message with which he had been intrusted soon dwindled away under the
realization that he did not know what was coming next. The only
instructions he had received were that he was to take Duke to Prescott,
Ariz., there to leave him with certain friends of Masseth's who would
take care of him. Masseth had also told him to call for his mail, and of
course the presumption was that he would there receive notice as to the
next step in his Survey work. But for the moment he was masterless, and
the boy felt a little lost.

So when Roger had packed the little heliograph instrument in as small
compass as possible, in order that it might not be ungainly in the
saddle, and gone to the edge of the Canyon to look over, the scene
struck him with loneliness. In precisely the same place, two months
before, he had stood and made up his mind to risk the peril of that
single-handed journey, and his courage began to revive as he remembered
how well it had resulted. Down below him he could see Bright Angel
Creek, and far away, the peak to which he had signaled, all redolent of
the interest of the summer now fast waning. Even the trail upon which he
set out to return was full of the memories of his frontiersman friend,
who had lightened the way with anecdote and information on his first
journey there.

But while Roger was inly conscious of a feeling of isolation in being
thus cut off from all the Survey parties, and looked forward to his ride
to Needles with little anticipation, that sense was not shared by Duke,
who, having twice before with Roger traversed the high Kaibab plateau,
remembered well the succulent long bunch-grass, the fragrant lupine and
the toothsome wild oats. For the Kaibab plateau, lying high and
therefore being moister than the surrounding territory, is a veritable
garden. The gently declining ravines, instead of being filled with
boulders at the bottom, are decked with flowers and their bases are
avenues of smooth, rich lawn; on the banks rise spruces and pines, with
the white trunks and pale foliage of the quivering aspen; and on the
table-land above in wild profusion grow every sort of herb and plant
and flower.

The desert lies to the north, the inaccessible Canyon to the south, an
alkali waste to the westward, and the desolate cactus land to the east,
but the Kaibab plateau, 8,000 feet above the sea, is a sylvan paradise.
Yet there is no running water, and travel over it must be well within
reach of trails. Here alone, in this vast arid tract, it rains
frequently, but the rains form no streams, for the whole plateau is
pitted with cups or depressions ten to twenty feet across, into which
the water runs, and through which by some underground passages it
disappears only to swell in some invisible manner the swollen torrent of
the Colorado, 6,000 feet below.

Through this plateau Roger rode slowly, enjoying its peacefulness the
while. No great hurry consumed him, his present work was done, and until
he reached Prescott, he was his own master. Duke, moreover, had fared
ill in the hard riding of the past few weeks, and so it was by very easy
stages that the boy crossed the Kaibab, and indeed, loafed one whole
week in the wonderful De La Motte Park, in the midst of the plateau, to
give his horse a rest and to let him fill out his bones a little on the
succulent grasses. A most beautiful country to enter--and a hard one to
leave. No artificial maze is more confusing, for enticing as the ravines
are, they are all exactly alike, no landmarks exist by which a direction
may be followed, and the valleys themselves wind and double like a
frightened hare.

Roger, however, had crossed this forest the first time with the
frontiersman, who knew the trails like a book, and he had learned the
general lie of the country from him. Besides, the lad had imbibed enough
woodcraft since his appointment on the Survey to enable him to follow a
trail, no matter how faint or tortuous, a thing which even the Mormon
herders who follow the mazes of the wood with a keenness equal to that
of the Indians, and with more intelligence, admit is a difficult thing
to do.

But idleness was in no sense a characteristic of Roger's make-up, and he
was glad when he reached Stewart's Canyon, where the main trail took a
direct road northwards to round the Dragon and the Little Dragon and to
skirt the Virgin Range still further to the northward. But as the trail
descended into the valley and the altitude became less, it was seen that
Paradise was left behind. Instead of pines and aspens, the ferocious
and forbidding cactus took its place. The yuccas or Spanish bayonets,
the prickly pear, the gaunt Sahaura and the spiny devil, together with
other truculent barbarians of the vegetable kingdom convinced the boy
that he had left behind all the attractive part of his trip.

To the west, Roger quickened his pace and passed over the Shewitz
plateau, crossing stretches of lava, black and recent-looking, as though
they had been erupted but a few years before. Then, coming to the famous
geological break in the rocks known as the Hurricane Fault, he turned
sharply to the south through the plain uninteresting territory of
Eastern Nevada and California and reached the Needles again with little
trouble to himself or Duke. By this time Roger felt quite at home in and
about the Canyon, and he was conscious of boyish pride when the
proprietor of El Garces, the big hotel at the Needles, welcomed him as
an old traveler.

Changing at Prescott Junction, it was not long before Roger found
himself in Prescott, a thriving and flourishing town of the Southwestern
type. There Roger found a large packet of mail, letters from home,
notes from former school friends to whom he had written at divers times
throughout his trip, and which had been sent to Washington, his field
address not being known. But the letter that was first opened bore no
stamp, being franked with the seal of the United States Geological
Survey.

As before, there was inclosed with the letter of instructions a personal
letter from Mitchon, to the effect that favorable reports had been
received and implying that his next party probably would be the last
before his start on the Alaskan trip. The last few words made Roger
almost leap with delight, for it was evidence to him that if he
continued as well as he had begun, he would be accepted by Rivers, which
throughout had been the goal of his ambition.

The letter of direction, moreover, was fairly pleasing, though couched
in the usual dry official terms. It was to the effect that he should
join the topographical party under the leadership of Mr. Gates, present
post-office address being Aragon, County Presidio, Texas, and that the
party was engaged in mapping the Shafter quadrangle. Borrowing a large
atlas, the boy promptly proceeded to look up Aragon and Shafter, and
found, to his delight, that it was near the boundary line of Mexico.

After scampering through the rest of his mail, Roger promptly went to
the little depot and asked for a ticket to Aragon. Leisurely the agent
went about filling his request, then, looking at him with half-shut
eyes, said, with the easy familiarity of the West:

"Folks down there?"

"No," said Roger shortly, "going down on government business."

The agent's eyes opened slightly with a gleam of amusement in them.

"Ain't you pretty young for the Pecos country, son?" he said.

"Why?" asked the boy, quickly.

"Wa'al, it's pretty wild down there yet. It's nothing like what it used
to be in the days when the Apaches used it as a sort o' Tom Tiddler's
ground for picking up scalps, but I wouldn't go so fur as to call it an
abode of peace, right now."

"But the Indians are all in reservations now!" said Roger, surprised at
the suggestion of danger.

"That's right, son, so they are. But the Greasers ain't all dead yet,
more's the pity."

"What's a Greaser?"

"Guess you don't know much about that saloobrious portion of the world
if you ain't had the pleasure of a Greaser's company. Why, son, he's a
varmint that's about one-fourth Mexican, one-fourth Spaniard, one-fourth
Indian, and the other quarter just plain meanness. He's as venomous as a
rattler, as sneaking as a coyote, as bad-tempered as a bob-cat, and just
about as pretty to look at as a Gila monster."

Roger laughed.

"You don't seem to love them much," he said, "but I guess that
description's coming it a little strong."

"Not a blamed bit!" answered the agent, handing the boy his ticket, "an'
you'll find out that the rest of the people down there are just about as
fond of 'em as me. I lived down in Tombstone for some years, and I
wouldn't take the whole county of Cochise for a gift unless I could
teetotally banish all those cusses. Prescott ain't any lily-fingered
Eastern town, by a long shot, but it's a Sunday school compared to the
Pecos country, you can bet on that!"

"Well," replied the boy, nodding, "I'll try to come out of there alive,
just the same."

"Hope you do, son," was the reply, "an' I'll give you jest one piece of
advice which may help that hope along a lot. It's this--don't let any
Greaser who has a grudge agin you get within' knifin' distance, or your
camp mates will be picking out a nice chaste headstone and sending your
last lovin' messages to your friends."

"All right," replied the boy cheerfully, "I'll keep it in mind."

The day following, Roger, having regretfully bidden good-by to Duke,
boarded the train for the Pecos country, but the trip was so replete
with wonder that there was no time for lamenting even the absence of a
favorite horse. Passing through Phoenix, which a few years ago was
nothing but the desolate haunt of the dying consumptive, and which,
through irrigation, has become one of the garden spots of the Southwest,
they came to Casa Grande. Roger had never even heard of the place, but
in the observation car an elderly man, who was traveling with his son,
began speaking of the wonderful ruins that lay north of the road, and
casually showed that he was going to stop off and visit them. After a
moment's hesitation, Roger, who had been sitting close by, turned to
him.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but I felt sure you would not mind
my hearing what you said about the Casa Grande ruins."

"Not at all, my boy," was the ready reply, "I am only glad if I was able
to interest you."

"Immensely," said Roger. He paused diffidently, then went on, "I am on
the Geological Survey, sir," he said, "and on my way to join a new
party, but have a day or two to spare, as the Director has been so kind
as to give me opportunities to visit different fields of work to gain
experience for a trip to Alaska next year. You said you were going to
visit Casa Grande, and--I hope you won't mind my saying this--I should
like to go with you if I might, and learn something about a place of
which I know so little."

The elder man held out his hand.

"Glad to have you," he said, heartily, shaking hands. Then, turning, he
introduced him to his son, Phil, a young fellow about Roger's age, and
but very few minutes elapsed before the train stopped.

"Of course you know," said Roger's new friend, when they were in the
stage and bowling through the plain, "that this part of the country is
just full of evidences of a civilization far earlier than the Indians
and earlier even than the Aztecs or Toltecs."

"But, father," said Phil, "I supposed the Aztecs were the first people
in the country!"

"So do many people, Phil," was the reply, "but they were not. They were
a wandering tribe, as Indians might be, who conquered a people older
than themselves called the Nahoas, about whom we know very little. But
the Aztecs achieved a good deal of skill in working in stone, and the
fact that their monuments are not perishable, makes their civilization
enduring in fame."

"Then the Nahoas were the first?" queried Roger.

But his informant shook his head, smiling slightly.

"They may have been," he answered, "but it seems very doubtful. I think
we have to go back a great deal further when we start to look for early
Americans."

"Why?"

"Because of the evident age of the remains. For example," he continued,
"I don't suppose either of you has been noticing this road?"

"I've been wondering at it this last half hour," said Roger. "It isn't
like any canyon that I ever saw, and by the way it cuts through
different levels of strata it can't have been made by water. And if it's
made by hand, why should they cut a road, when it could have been made
on the level above with half the trouble?"

"You are observant, my boy, and your eye has been well trained," was the
approving reply. "But you don't seem to realize that this may be
artificial and yet not have been intended for a road, although it is so
used now."

"Oh, I know," broke in Phil, "it must be a canal."

"Hardly big enough for a canal," said his father, "though you are on the
right track. This was an irrigating ditch, and if you will notice, at
almost regular intervals, smaller dry ditches fork from it. This desert
through here is just honeycombed with works of irrigation, great
aqueducts, canals and lateral ditches, which at one time must have made
this barren waste a field of blossoms."

"It seems a shame, somehow," said Roger, "to think of all that work
being abandoned."

"Abandoned indeed! This place once possibly was the New York or London
of its time, but ruins represent all that is left of the cities, and a
thousand different kinds of cactus have taken the place of the
cornfield and the vineyard. And," he added, pointing ahead, "of all the
palaces of those unknown emperors, ruins like these are all that
remain."

The boys thought it rather a strain on the imagination to picture
palaces in the dry square adobe walls, but as they walked up close to
them, some lurking hint of former greatness became felt. The Casa Grande
must have stood some four or five stories in height and the rooms were
rarely less than twenty feet square, so that the idea was given not only
of size but also of extreme age, this being due in part, of course, to
the softness of the material of which they were built.

Only a hint of greatness, but when, standing beside the ruins, the boys
looked over the country below them, the real magnitude of the work
became apparent. Following the pointing forefinger of the elder man,
Roger could see what ninety-nine out of every hundred would have
overlooked, the regular relations of green defiles, which, though veiled
by the hand of time, were evidently artificial work. One great canal
could be traced tapping the Salt River on the south side, near the mouth
of the Verde; this, for three miles and a half, formerly flowed through
a bed cut by hand out of the naked rock in the Superstition Mountains
to a depth of a hundred feet. This canal alone, with its four branches
and the distributing ditches, irrigated 1,600 square miles of country,
and the engineering would be no disgrace to modern times.

"And how long ago were these canals dug?" asked Roger.

"No one knows," was the truthful and unhesitating reply. "It is a puzzle
that so far archæologists have tried in vain to solve. They must be
older than the Aztlan civilizations----"

"What are those?" asked Phil.

"Aztecs, Toltecs, and that bunch, aren't they?" queried Roger, wanting
to show his knowledge.

"Mayas, too," said the other, smiling assent, "and they must be older
than the Nahoa empire, of which little is left except in the south of
Peru. Just how old is impossible to say, and the only clew we have is
that these canals and ditches are in part filled up with volcanic lava
and debris from the Bradshaw mountains, and geologists are able to show
that these eruptions cannot have taken place less than two thousand
years ago."

"That's as old as Rome!" said Roger in surprise.

"That means that the end of it, at latest guess, was older than the
beginning of Rome, practically. And, though this volcanic action has
been later than these immense works of early man in America, there is
left neither a tradition of the millions of people who lived then, nor
even of the forces which led to the decay of the empire and the
overwhelming volcanic disaster in which it may have closed."

On their way back to the train, the old traveler gave Roger a long
account of the early settlement of that part of the country by the
Spaniards, and pointed out, as they passed through Tucson a few hours
later, the quaint mediæval architecture of a town which claims its
beginning as far back as 1560, and in which many houses three centuries
old are still standing; the oldest town in the Southwest, with the
exception of Santa Fé.

A mirage, or rather a succession of them, formed the basis for some
thrilling African desert tales, with which Phil's father was
well-primed, and when, passing round the mile-long horseshoe curve, the
train pulled into El Paso, Roger was extremely sorry to leave the
friends who had made his trip such a pleasant one.

A few hours sufficed for the boy to purchase some trifles needed to
make up his equipment, and bright and early the following morning he
started for Aragon, where he would find out the location of the party he
was to join. It was quite dull after the jollity and interest of the
trip to El Paso, and Roger began to wish that he had arrived, and was
pining to get into action again. But the incident for which he was
anxious did not fail him. As the train pulled up at Chispa, a station
about fifty miles west of Aragon, it was seen that almost the whole
population of the village was at the depot, a crowd numbering perhaps
twenty people, and foremost among them a man carrying a little girl,
about eight years old, in his arms.

In answer to questions put to him in Spanish, for he could speak no
English, the father explained his trouble by pointing to six little
marks on the girl's leg, three groups of two, all near each other. No
sooner was it seen what the trouble was than a big six-footer shouldered
his way through the car.

"When?" he asked.

In a torrent of Spanish and gesticulation, the man explained that the
child had been struck by a rattlesnake three times, fortunately, a small
one, just half an hour before the train came in, and that he was going
to take her to the nearest doctor, who was in Marfa, a town some few
stations down the line.

"Well," said the big man, "I can fix her, I guess. That is, I've got the
regular serum here, but I haven't a syringe. Any gentleman got a
hypodermic needle?"

But none of the passengers would confess to the use of a needle, because
of its implication that its owner would be a "dope fiend," and the
querist shrugged his shoulders.

"Are you a doctor?" asked one of the men in the car.

"I'm not a little girl doctor, I'm a cattle doctor," answered the big
man with a laugh, "or at least I'm a government inspector, and I haven't
anything smaller than this!" He pulled out of his case a hypodermic
syringe used for injecting fluid into cattle.

But the father sent up a cry of protest at the sight of the instrument,
and would not allow it to be used. The matter was explained to him in
Spanish, in English, and in half a dozen different dialects of each, but
he only shook his head.

"Has anybody got a sharp knife? I mean really sharp," next asked the
inspector, who had assumed control of the situation and was in no wise
disconcerted by the opposition of the girl's father. There was a
moment's pause and then Roger stepped forward.

"I was taught on the Survey," he emphasized the words to give them
weight with the government official, "to keep a blade sharp, and I guess
this is about as good steel as you can get."

The inspector took it, opened it, and ran his thumb along the blade.

"It's a good knife, son," he said, "but it's no surgical instrument.
Some one lend me a razor, I use a safety myself."

Of the stock of razors that were handed to him, the big man took one,
sterilized it in some boiling water from the dining car, and prepared to
make an incision in the girl's leg just above the fang marks.

But no sooner had the blade touched the skin and drawn a little blood,
than with a yell the father leaped straight at the inspector, flashing a
knife as he did so. Not expecting an attack, the government man would
have been taken unawares, but that is a land of quick action, and before
the Mexican could bring his arm down, he found his wrist seized, and a
revolver barrel an inch from his nose stopped his onward rush.

"That's a Greaser's gratitood, every time," said the holder of the gun.
"Go ahead with your job, pard, and if this ornery cayuse so much as
squirms, I'll give you an elegant opportoonity to perform a little
operation for bullet extraction."

The inspector, who, seeing that the danger was averted, had gone back to
his task, merely nodded. He made several wide and deep incisions,
thinking that scars were better than death, and then, despite the crying
of the girl and the fluent curses of the father, rubbed soda in the
wounds with a vigorous hand.

"There!" he said, as he completed the task. "I think she'll do all right
now!"

"But is that a sure preventive?" asked the boy.

"No, son," was the reply. "To be honest with you, nothing's sure against
a rattler, because, you see, some folks' constitutions are worked on
more easily than others, but in a certain number of cases the soda fixes
it. That is, if you're not afraid to cut deep enough."

"Then," Roger said, "it just means that you've probably saved the girl's
life?"

"Well," replied the other, "that's putting it a little strongly. And,
anyhow, if you're on the Survey, you know mighty well that when
government men do that sort of thing they don't talk about it."



CHAPTER XI

WHERE PRIMITIVE JUSTICE REIGNS


Roger had thought he had seen a few varieties of cacti in the Amargosa
Desert, but as he stepped off the train at Aragon, he realized that all
his previous ideas had fallen far short. To the eye unfamiliar with
cacti, their cumbrous ungainliness looked unnatural and forced, and
standing by the little shanty which was dignified with the name of
station, the boy looked over a dusty plain wherein fantastic and thorny
shapes ran riot. If the Grand Canyon was a bizarre dream of rocks, then
the cacti of the Arizona plains looked to Roger the nightmare of the
vegetable world.

But the boy, arrived at the point where he must strike off for the
party, realized that the time for delay was over, and turning to the
station agent, who had been eyeing him curiously, he asked for
information about the government surveyors. There was no difficulty in
finding out roughly the direction in which the party had traveled, but
the description of the route over the apparently interminable cactus
plains somewhat perturbed Roger, accustomed though he now felt himself
to be to find his way over the faintest trails. But he was a boy, just
the same, and the cacti looked forbidding and menacing, and the lad
wished profoundly that the old frontiersman, who had been his companion
on the first ride to Death Valley, were with him now. But there was no
help for it, he had to join his party no matter what the trail was like
or whither it led.

His next question, implying the desire to buy a good mule and the
ability to pay for it, aroused considerably more interest, and the
station agent so bestirred himself in the matter that Roger felt sure he
had a commission in view. It was but a short time before three mules
were brought for his inspection, all sound beasts so far as the boy
could judge, and he counted himself fortunate to strike an agreement
with the owner of the mule, whereby, for a little extra payment, one of
the herders should accompany him on the trail to the Survey camp.

The ride was long and dry, and the boy was amazed to learn from his
companion that a few years before these arid plains had been a grazing
country.

"Where has all the grass gone?" he queried.

"Señor," replied the Mexican, "it was thisa way. Alla the grass has been
eaten. There wasa too moocha the cattle on the land, they eata the grass
moocha too short, and the grass cannot maka the seed."

"But," objected Roger, "aren't the roots still there?"

The herder shook his head.

"No, Señor," he answered, with a sweeping gesture; "if the grass get
moocha short, the rain not soaka in but runa right away, the ground all
same as dust, and wind blowa the earth away from the roots and alla dry
up."

"I see," said Roger thoughtfully. "Then putting too much cattle on land
is like cutting the forests on the mountains too heavily. Deforest the
mountains and the water floods the streams and is wasted, crop the
plains and they become a desert. I see."

The distance to the Survey camp was not great, being but little over
twenty miles, but the country was not conducive to rapid traveling, and
as the boy allowed his companion to set the pace it was almost evening
when they arrived. The party had just come in from the day's work, and
Roger immediately presented his letter to Mr. Barrs, by whom he was
warmly welcomed.

Roger's new chief was a quiet man, as indeed most of his leaders had
been, but Mr. Barrs bubbled over continually with a certain sedate
humor. He promptly put the lad through a catechism with reference to his
work and experience since he joined the Survey, and little by little,
drew out from Roger almost the entire story of his adventures up to and
including the incident of the rattlesnake-bitten girl on the train the
previous day.

"That, my son," said Barrs, "is a fitting prelude to your stay here.
This is the first and only original headquarters of the snake, spider,
and insect tribe, and anything with the usual number of legs is out of
place."

"And are they all poisonous, Mr. Barrs?" asked the boy.

"Not especially," was the cheerful reply. "At least I've managed to keep
alive a whole lot. No, half these stories you hear about venomous
reptiles are imaginary and superstitious."

"But if you geta the trantler bite," put in the Mexican herder, who had
been listening, "you willa the dance until you drop down dead."

"Nonsense, José," answered the chief of the party, "that's just an old
story. The tarantula's bite may be bad, as far as that goes, but I've
never heard of any one having been bitten. Have you?"

"No, Señor, not myself have I seen it. But I have hearda of moocha the
plenty, and they all die in the dance. There was Juarez Alvinero on the
festa Sant' Antonio two years ago, Señor; he dance and dance in the
Plaza until he droppa down dead, and when they runa to picka him up, a
trantler let go his hand and run away, and there was two moocha large
bites. Si, Señor."

"Probably frightened himself to death. Lots of these low vitality races
do that."

"Yet you have seen plenty of tarantulas, Mr. Barrs?" queried Roger,
"although you know of no one suffering from their bites."

"Yes, lots of them. Why, the boys often use them for entertainment, sort
of a prize-fight business. It is a good betting proposition, for they
are inveterate fighters."

"You mean, fight each other?"

"Yes, of course. If you get hold of two tarantulas and put them down on
a large sheet of paper, they will try to run away until they catch sight
of each other, and then you couldn't make them run. Neither will attempt
to escape, but they will crawl close till just about six inches from
each other, and will then circle slowly, looking for an opening."

"Sort of sparring for wind," commented the boy.

"That's it. Then, suddenly, one or the other will spring, and either
will sink his mandibles in the body of the other, or will meet with a
like fate himself. Whichever gets the hold, it is fatal, but I couldn't
tell you whether it is due to poison, or just to the strength of the
bite."

"It's just like a regular duel," exclaimed Roger in surprise. "I never
heard of anything like that."

"And what's more," continued the chief, "I have heard of a man who had a
pet tarantula, with which he used to visit places and organize fights,
just as people do at a cocking main, but I can't say that I ever saw it
done. It may be true, just as the dancing story may be true, but if it
were I should have heard of some cases of it."

"But how did the creatures get the reputation?" asked Roger. "Surely
there must have been some cause for it."

"There is, I believe," answered the chief. "So far as I can learn a
convulsive twitching follows a tarantula bite, and as the best thing to
do in all poison cases is to walk the sufferer up and down until he is
ready to drop, the twitching at such a time might resemble St. Vitus's
dance. This was exaggerated, as most travelers' tales were in the early
days, but I don't think at worst, that it is much more dangerous than
the sting of a black hornet."

"Then you have scorpions down here too, haven't you? Are they as bad as
they are supposed to be?"

"The main trouble with a scorpion is his vicious make-up," was the
reply. "He's about the wickedest-looking proposition that ever came down
the pike, but his bite is not fatal. One of the fellows with me one year
had a little experience with a scorpion that made me think they are not
as bad as they look.

"You know the way they love to creep into the folds of cloth? Well, my
assistant had just taken up his flannel shirt from the ground where he
had been drying it in the sun, and after shaking it well and examining
it thoroughly to see that nothing had crept into it, he laid it on the
table a minute before putting it on. Then he slipped it over his
shoulders and suddenly gave a yell, ripping the shirt off as he did so,
and there across his chest ran a full-grown scorpion, which, as it
passed above the region of the heart brought his devilish sting over his
head and struck three times.

"Of course, I felt sure that the poor fellow was gone, because I knew
nothing of scorpions then, except by reputation, and the place of the
stings was so near the heart that I didn't care to try to cut them out
or cauterize or anything of that sort. Well, the three places puffed up
the size of pigeon eggs, and for a few hours the pain was very
considerable, but they went down by night, and there were no
after-effects."

"Why, Mr. Barrs," said Roger, "you are making out all these dangerous
and venomous creatures to be comparatively harmless. I thought you said
there were such a lot of them down here."

"Well," replied the older man, "there are enough. Leaving the snakes out
of the question, there are several varieties of ants that it is wise to
give a wide berth, and the centipede is a creature to leave strictly
alone."

"Is their bite fatal?" asked the boy.

"They don't bite."

"Their sting, then."

"They haven't any sting," responded Barrs, smiling at the boy's
bewilderment.

"Then what have they got?"

"They've got feet!"

"I know that," said the boy, a little scornfully. "That's what the name
centipede means, isn't it, a hundred feet?"

"Yes, and some of them can beat out their name."

"But they can't sting with their feet."

"They do, just the same," replied the older man. "You see the feet of a
centipede are like the paws of a cat, all furnished with claws, which
are drawn in while the creature is walking about, but which can be
extended and fixed firmly if disturbed. For example, if a centipede is
walking over your hand and you go to brush him off, no matter how fast
you strike, the moment your other hand has touched the little hairs all
over his body that very instant all those little claws in each of his
hundred feet sink deep into your skin, and Mr. Centipede can't be pried
off with anything short of a crowbar.

"As a matter of fact, if you try to tear him off, the chances are that
you will pull until you break the claws off, leaving them in the
skin--for he will never let go--and then you will have an awful time. I
don't know for sure if there are little poison sacs at the base of the
claws or whether it is just blood poisoning that sets in, due to the
fact that the centipede lives on decaying flesh, and his claws are
covered with germs, but I do know that if the claws are broken in, it
means trouble. If you leave the thing alone, however, and can keep from
trying to annoy him, if there is no need for him to stick his claws into
you, it is no worse than having a caterpillar crawl over your hand."

"But is it fatal if he gets his claws in?" asked the boy.

"I wouldn't say that it was. It often means the amputation of a limb
though, and I suppose if it was on the body it might end in a case of
blood poisoning that might prove fatal. But at best it makes a deep
sloughing sore, which gets bigger and bigger all the time, the skin
seeming to die about the edges. Of course, injury from a centipede is
comparatively rare, as he is generally found about carrion, and in this
kind of climate no one keeps carrion any nearer to the camp than he has
to."

"Then there's the Gila monster," suggested the boy, "they were telling
stories about them on the train coming down."

"He looks ugly, and I have been told some very bad things about him,"
said the chief gravely, "but so far as I am concerned, I have seen no
warrant for them. I can hardly see how so lazy and sluggish a creature
as a Gila monster can be called dangerous. I have tried to provoke them
by shoving sticks down their throats in order to find out how they
behaved when angry, but I have never been able to make them show fight."

"Only just the some times," put in the Mexican, who had followed the
conversation with intense interest, "there is justa the five, six days
in eacha year, the Gila is moocha bad, other times, nothing at all."

"That's possible," said Barrs, "but I guess I never struck those days.
But I mustn't keep blatherskiting here all night, come along to the rest
of the fellows. You want to get acquainted, I reckon, and you'll find
them a mighty lively set of boys."

Most of the men had put in their time in the Southwest, and Roger heard
more stories of the old days before wire fences were instituted and when
the whole prairie was open to their herds than he had ever dreamed could
be found out of books. It seemed good to the boy to be back in the
harness again, after the lapse of a couple of months since he saw
Masseth and the party ride away along the edge of the Canyon, and he was
glad to find that he could take his place as a man and do a man's work,
even in a new environment.

The agent's warning about the dangers of the Pecos country and the
stories told in the evening of times past, however, never seemed real to
Roger, any more real than the tales of history, until suddenly they were
made grimly lifelike. One evening, sitting in Barrs' tent, talking with
him, Roger suddenly heard a sharp report and a bullet came tearing
through the cloth of the tent not eighteen inches above his head. Almost
simultaneously, it seemed to the boy, Barrs had thrown down the lamp and
put it out, grasped his revolver and leaped from the tent. The other man
who had been sitting near by was lying prone, working his way along the
ground to the other tent.

Roger had not seen him drop to cover, the whole had happened so quickly,
but as soon as he realized, he lost no time in following suit. As he did
so, and his ear came close to the ground, the boy could hear the sound
of hoofs galloping at topmost speed and receding into the distance.
Suddenly, from far off, came the sound of voices, like to a challenge
and response, and then a fusillade of shots broken by a shriek.

"Jones!" called Barrs.

The man called stepped forward promptly.

"Follow the trail in the direction that man went, and see if you can
find out who fired those shots we heard. I'll overtake you in a moment.
Wilkins, take Doughty with you and follow the trail to the north, to see
if you can find out from any one who passed there a few minutes before.
The rest can look after the camp."

Within three minutes all were scattered, and Roger found himself riding
beside Wilkins with his gun ready in the event of further trouble. They
had not far to ride. The very first house they came to was lighted up
for a festivity, and there were sounds of merry-making within.

"Doughty," said Wilkins, "I'm going in here. You take the horses and
turn them so that my beast is close to the door, with his nigh side
handy. I may need to mount in a hurry. If I do, you wheel sharp as I
touch stirrup and I'll cover the retreat."

He leaped from his horse, and seeing that his gun was handy, Wilkins
gave a cheery shout and walked in. Roger waited excitedly, his heart
beating like a trip-hammer. But there was no trouble, and a few moments
later Wilkins came out, chatting with the host.

"It was Crooked Antonio who left here," he said to Doughty, as they
cantered back on the homeward trail, "it appears he had been nearing
trouble there and got a hint that his room was a whole lot more
desirable than his company. We had trouble with him before. I'm sorry
for Antonio, for he's gone so far now that Barrs will see he gets all
that's coming to him."

Taking the road quietly, Wilkins and the boy reached camp just at the
same time as Barrs and his assistant, save that the assistant was
walking beside his horse, holding on the saddle a stranger who evidently
had been wounded.

"They seem to think at Volaccio's that it must have been Crooked
Antonio," said Wilkins as soon as he caught sight of the chief.

"Yes," answered Barrs, "that's who it was. Well, he's put this fellow
into pretty bad shape, and it's lucky he didn't pot some of us."

"But what was it all about?" asked Roger of his companion.

"I don't know, son," was the ready reply. "Guess he was feeling a little
good, any way, and then he thinks he has a grudge against the Survey
over some cattle mix-up with a party that was here a couple of years
ago."

"And what did this fellow have to do with it, Mr. Barrs," the boy
continued, seeing that the chief was listening to Wilkins.

"Nothing at all, Doughty, so far as I can find out, except that he would
make an awkward witness. You see, when Antonio shot at us, he probably
thought that he had potted some one sure. Then, as he galloped away,
this chap happened to be beside the trail and hearing the shot reined
up, and seeing who was coming, said to him, 'What's up, Antonio?' Then
the hunchback, seeing that he was recognized, gave his broncho a cut
with the whip and fired. This fellow replied, but in the end Antonio
got him in the knee, making a mighty painful wound."

"But will they catch him?"

"They will, unless he takes to the mountains and becomes outlawed. There
are lots of those fellows around the border."

"But don't they get after them?"

"Not often. They don't do much, you know, and then if they get in
trouble on the American side they skip across the line and _vice versa_,
so that, as it would be pretty difficult to get both countries to take
action at the same time, they are kept down by the simple method of
shooting any of them at sight. You see, every one is known about here,
and one of those chaps has no chance of getting away unobserved."

The wounded man having been sent to the nearest town, and the incident
being closed, Roger settled down quietly to the routine work of the
camp. He found Barrs very willing to help him, and as the country they
were surveying presented no great difficulties for the rodman, the boy
was not too tired to take up with interest the theoretical and
mathematical side of the work, and in a few weeks his help was a factor.

The daily round of the camp life was comparatively simple, but it made
a long day. The men were called at half-past five and usually work was
begun by seven o'clock. Sometimes the party took lunch along, sometimes
the men returned to the camp, but little time was wasted until the
evening, when a number of miles had been traversed and a host of
calculations made and recorded on the plane-table by the topographer.

It was near the close of the boy's stay with the party when the camp was
startled during the noon spell by a stranger, who rode in excitedly,
crying:

"Is there a justice of the peace here?"

All the men looked at Barrs, who replied quietly:

"I am in charge of this government party, not a justice of the peace.
What is the trouble?"

"There was a gang came down from the mountains and shot up a ranch about
three miles north. But the boys fought 'em off, and though one of the
ranch hands is dead and another dying, they caught one of the gang.
They'll probably shoot him anyhow, but the old boss of the ranch wants
it done legally. It don't matter much if you ain't a justice of the
peace, it's just as good."

Barrs thought for a moment.

"You haven't any right to shoot that man without a trial," he said. "Of
course if he was downed during the fight, that's all right and couldn't
be helped. But now that it's all over, why you can't just go to work and
shoot him. I'm no justice of the peace. You'll have to send him to El
Paso, or somewhere."

"And who's goin' to tote him eighty miles to a railroad? I'd like to
know. Not on your life. Either you come and give him a fair trial, or
he'll take a short cut to the next world."

The chief of the party shrugged his shoulders.

"Well," he said, "if you put it that way, I suppose I'll have to go,
that is, if it's to prevent murder being done."

So picking out three members of the party to accompany him, of whom
Roger was one, Barrs rode over to the ranch. They found the man who had
been caught tied to a fence-post in the blazing sun, while every one
else was in the house. Barrs had the man brought in, and after the story
had been told over three or four times, each in a different way, it was
seen that a possible defense could have been put up. The man admitted
that he was aware that the gang came to shoot up the ranch, but no one
could swear that he had seen the captured man fire until shots had been
exchanged, by which time, any gun-play could have been called in
self-defense. The captive admitted, however, that he had shot the man
who was fatally wounded, but denied the slaying of the rancher who lay
dead.

A long and somewhat heated discussion followed, Barrs standing out
against the application of lynch law, mainly because he felt as a
representative of the government he could take no other attitude, but he
refused positively to take up the question of moving the prisoner to the
railroad or of getting entangled in the matter in any official way. The
matter was debated pro and con for a long time, and then the brother of
the man who had been fatally wounded, finding that it would be difficult
for him to get legal vengeance, suggested that they go back to the old
rule of the plainsmen, and cut off the first and second fingers of each
of the man's hands, so that he would not be able to handle trigger
again. This, after considerable wrangling, was done, and the man, with
blood dripping from both his mutilated hands, was set on a horse and
started along the trail to pursue his fate, wherever that might lead
him.

In the meantime, though events of that fairly rough and ready character
were happening about them constantly down in that wild Pecos country,
the party itself was singularly free from mishaps. Roger, however, had a
narrow escape from what might have been a serious accident, the peril
occurring in a very simple manner. He was galloping along at a fair
speed when he saw immediately in front of him a couple of bad patches of
low bisnaga cactus. The boy turned his mule sharply, when the animal put
his foot in a hole and Roger went flying over his head, shooting not
more than a couple of feet above those barbed spines, and striking the
ground just beyond them. Barrs was seriously alarmed, and showed great
relief on finding that the boy was unhurt.

"One of my men," he said, "once fell from his horse in just some such
way as you did, and put out one hand--on which he chanced to have no
glove--as though to save himself, and he went down with his whole weight
on one hand into a bisnaga cactus. I took one hundred and thirty spines
out of his hand."

"And was he permanently injured?" said Roger, realizing that he himself
might have been very seriously hurt.

"Not a bit of it," was the reply. "He was back at work in about four
days, and within two weeks after his hand had bothered him very little.
But he certainly had scars enough afterward."

About a week after this narrow escape, Barrs told Roger that in a day or
two the work on the quadrangle they were engaged on would be completed
and that they would upstake two days later and strike for the next
section to the westward, where the first mapping of the contour had yet
to be made. Then Barrs turned to Roger.

"I don't quite know," he said, "whether that letter you brought me means
that you are to stay as long as you like, or as long as I want you, or
what. You have not received a recall, of course, but as for the next few
weeks, we will simply be getting a general view of the country, I shall
not need an extra man, and I think you ought to report in Washington. If
you are really going to Alaska next year, I don't know what time they
intend to start, and you ought to have a rest first. Don't think I'm
driving you away, but it is better so, that is, if Rivers is really
going to take you as you seem to think."

"As I hope," the boy corrected.

"Well, as you hope, then. You ought to be in pretty good trim for it,
Doughty; you've had a fairly wide experience, and you don't seem to
have grown thin under it. What's more, I've taught you a few of the
things you will need to know in the theoretical side of the work, so
that you can be some help to a topographic assistant, and Masseth has
given you a start in geology. So, I think the best thing I can do is to
give you a letter to Mr. Herold, and wish you good luck on your
journey."

This farewell message, the boy thought, would be his last word in the
Pecos country, but riding in to Marfa, the town on the railroad nearest
to the point where the camp had broken up, he found great excitement. So
far as he could gather, it was the winding up of a feud which had begun
some two or three months before.

The prisoner, it seemed, some months ago had been shot in the knee by a
man who was almost a stranger to him, and as a result of the shot had
become paralyzed from the waist down. The man who had shot him had got
away. Whereupon the wounded man, certain that the would-be murderer must
return to his home some time, had rigged up a little tent in a cactus
grove near the man's house, and although semi-paralyzed, had lain there
for seven weeks, waiting for the time when his foe should pass along
the trail. At last, late one evening, he heard horse's hoofs, and
looking out, saw his enemy approaching. As he passed, the half-paralyzed
man emptied his revolver almost at point-blank distance, and the other
dropped from his horse, dead.

The story was so like scores of others that Roger had heard that he paid
no special attention until the words "Crooked Antonio" struck his ears,
and on inquiry, learned that this was the man who had been killed.
Immediately the boy forced himself into the little adobe building, and
found that the case was going hard against the prisoner because he could
not give any reason why "Crooked Antonio" had become his enemy and shot
at him in the first place. It made a sensation when Roger spoke from the
spectators.

"Please your honor," he said, "I know something about this case," and
the crowd gave way for him. Then, showing his credentials, he told the
story of the manner in which Crooked Antonio had fired into the Survey
tent, and later had shot at the prisoner to remove a possible witness.
It was the only point needed, and as it was obvious that Crooked Antonio
had been killed, the prisoner could not be acquitted. He was found
guilty and fined one cent, that justice might be done, and five minutes
later Roger was receiving the effusive thanks of the erstwhile prisoner.

"Well," said Roger to himself, as they parted, "helping a chap to his
liberty isn't such a bad record to leave as your last act in the Pecos
country."



CHAPTER XII

THE ALASKAN TRIP BEGUN


It seemed to Roger that he was years older when he entered the gray
portals of the Geological Survey building in Washington and walked past
the big relief models on the wall, to face what he felt to be the
crucial question in his career--whether his season's work in the Survey
would merit his acceptance by Rivers for the Alaskan trip. He found his
official superior, Mr. Herold, engaged, and so went in to thank his
friend Mitchon for the interest that he had shown and the kindly letters
he had written.

It seemed quite home-like to him, entering once more the offices of the
Geological Survey, and he spent a pleasant half-hour chatting over his
experiences, his later excitements in the Pecos country arousing special
interest. He was about to go when his friend stopped him with a gesture.

"Wait till I come back," he said.

A few minutes later he returned, saying:

"The Director would like to see you for a moment." The boy looked up
with surprise, and the secretary continued reassuringly, "There's
nothing to be scared about, I don't think you'll consider it bad news."

Roger rose promptly and went to the Director's office, and the latter
shook hands heartily and motioned him to a seat.

"I think I ought to tell you, Mr. Doughty," he said, and Roger
straightened up at least one inch at the manly form of address, "that I
have received some reports from Mr. Herold, relating to the various
parties on which you have served, which touch on your progress in the
work. You will remember, of course, your meeting with the President?"

"Yes indeed, sir," answered the boy.

"This plan to secure trained workers by picking desirable material from
the colleges and schools, on which a well-known philanthropist was so
keen, has aroused no little interest in the Survey. As you were the
first to go out, I have been anxious to see how the scheme would
develop, and I was glad, a couple of months ago, to be able to tell the
President that Mr. Carneller's project was proving most successful." He
paused a moment. "It is but right to you to say," he continued, "that
you have fulfilled the hopes I had, and that your first year's work on
the Survey is a beginning of which I think you may be proud."

Roger flushed hotly at this praise, and seeing that the Director awaited
a reply, said simply:

"It is very good of you to say so, sir. I just tried to do my best."

"Of course," went on the Director, "you have a great deal to learn and
are very new in the work, so I don't want you to think for a moment that
you know it all--or for that matter, that you ever will. But those with
whom you have been speak approvingly of your obedience to the call of
duty and of your ability to continue hard work uncomplainingly. I am not
sure," there was a twinkle in the speaker's eye, "that making believe to
be lost when you are ensconced in the branches of a tree is particularly
conducive to discipline?" He waited for a reply.

Roger looked at him, and taking courage from the lurking smile,
answered:

"No, sir. But," he added, "perhaps as much so as a snipe-shoot."

"A fair answer," was the kind reply. "Well," continued the Director, a
little more authoritatively, "I am not at all sure that you will
achieve your desire to go to Alaska next season, though I should not
wish to go so far as to decide against it. In any case, Mr. Rivers, as
head of the Alaskan work, chooses his own men. It is not that I am
afraid of your not doing your best," he added, seeing the look of
disappointment on the boy's face, "but that I feel it might be a little
too much for you. The Alaskan work is a great strain for young bones."

"Not more so, sir, than crossing the Grand Canyon, is it?" Roger felt
emboldened to ask.

"Don't boast!" came the sharp rebuke, "I don't like it. But," he
continued, seeing the boy wilt under the criticism, "I merely desired to
see you to say that I am well pleased with your work, and that I hope
the college assistants, hereafter to follow, will prove equally
successful."

Roger left the office of the Director as though he were treading on air,
a feeling enhanced by the cordial reception accorded him by Herold, the
chief geographer. There he learned, to his intense delight, that he had
been appointed by Rivers on the Alaskan party, which was to spend the
entire spring and summer in a south to north reconnoissance of that
great Arctic territory.

"I was afraid," Roger said to the geographer, "from what the Director
said, that I would not get the appointment."

"Well," Herold replied, "Mr. Rivers seemed to feel that you were keen
for it, and figured that if it were given you, you would strain every
nerve to make good. But, you see, you will have to do your utmost to
justify the stand that Mr. Rivers and myself have taken."

"It won't be for want of trying, Mr. Herold," answered Roger, his eyes
shining.

"I am sure of that, my boy," said the older man kindly, "and that's what
we are depending on. Now, let me see, this is the second of December,
isn't it? Rivers sails from Seattle on February 15th, so that you had
better reckon on being there about the 12th. Suppose then, you go home
now for the holidays, take just a month, and report in Washington here
on January 2nd, a month from to-day. Then we'll give you a few weeks'
work here to learn something about headquarters, and then you can go
right on to the Pacific Coast, perhaps spending a day or two at home
before starting on the expedition."

Roger thanked him heartily, as much for his thoughtfulness about the
vacation as for the appointment he had desired so long. Indeed his
month at home, amid an air in which he was a sort of hero, passed
rapidly, and as the idol of all the boys in the neighborhood, he had to
spin yarns by the score, these tales being given reality by the dozens
of photographs he had taken on the various parties of which he had been
a member. Some of the photos were his own, but others were prints of
negatives taken by the assistant topographers usually, for nearly every
party in the field has some member whose skill makes him almost an
official photographer. Indeed, nearly every one on the Survey is a
master of photography, and few outfits do not contain at least one
excellent camera.

On his return to Washington in January, however, Roger found it somewhat
tedious to settle to indoor office work, but his interest grew in
finding that the department had in operation scores of other lines of
work that had not occurred to him. His surprise in the field at
constantly encountering new avenues of work became amazement in
Washington, when he first really gained an idea of the extent of the
department's scope.

On the question of maps alone, he learned how important the Survey is
to the country. Maps which should show a mining company in which
direction ore-bearing veins should run, maps which should inform a
railroad as to the comparative elevations along a proposed right of way,
maps which should teach a farmer where to sink an artesian well for
watering his stock, maps which form the basis of vast irrigation
projects, maps which point the builder where to go to quarry stone, maps
to form the basis of the special timber charts of the Forestry Service,
maps dealing with coal-producing areas, and for a score of other
purposes, for all these the Survey is called on.

And there, in Washington, the year through, Roger found expert and
skilled men making these maps, compiling them from the sketches made in
the field, correcting minor errors, comparing them with former data, and
producing works of exactitude and immense value. Some idea of the
exactness of the work was gained by the boy when it was pointed out to
him that in the Bureau of Engraving the printing of all this exact
drawing must be done in a room where the temperature and humidity are
the same the year round, since paper will shrink in a dry spell and
expand when moist, and the printing of such a map extending over a
period of months, might thus be made fractionally incorrect.

Then it dawned upon the lad that the libraries of scientific records of
which Survey workers are the authors must needs require time and labor,
and the compilation of statistics needed in other parts of the
government service also takes up time. So that Roger began to see that
the proofreading of all geologic and topographic maps, all illustrations
and all text of Survey papers have to be done and revised by competent
men, in order that the scientific accuracy of these can never be
impeached. He saw the scope of the annual reports, the monographs, the
professional papers and the bulletins, and was not surprised to learn
that these were in great demand, not only in the United States, but by
foreign governments as well.

"But all this," said Roger to his friend the secretary, as they were
talking together one day, "must cost the country a heap of money."

The other smiled.

"It has saved the country a great deal of money," he said. "In the first
place the Survey is very economically run, and then besides, millions
of dollars have been put into the hands of manufacturing interests by
pointing out to them the value of by-products which formerly were
wasted."

"For example, Mr. Mitchon?"

"Well, for example, the waste of the by-products of coke-ovens, such as
coal-tar, ammonia, etc.," replied the secretary. "Here, come with me to
the laboratories, and I'll show you."

In the large chemical and physical laboratories at Washington the boy
found samples of metals and minerals of all sorts being tested and
analyzed. He found that all the great works of the government are
undertaken only with the advice of the Geological Survey, and he
learned, moreover, that in certain branches the Chemical Laboratories
stand higher than those of any government in the world.

As each day passed the lad heard of some new activity of the Survey. He
learned that every ton of coal consumed and every ounce of gold mined,
was duly recorded by the Survey, and to his amazement discovered that
the due safeguarding of life in mines and quarries was not outside its
province. The refining of oil was regarded as appertaining to minerals,
and many difficulties of fuel in steam engineering the boy found to
have been minimized by the Survey in the power and lighting plants of
the government. And, if this were not enough, it was borne in upon him
that even such structural materials as brick, terra cotta and the
concrete bodies, had in some cases found their beginnings and in others
their best development under a further division of the Survey.

Then, to cap all, it was shown to Roger, that this multifarious work
required careful and prudent administration, supervising all the details
of personnel, expense, purchase, and distribution of supplies and so
forth, to say nothing of adjunct matters, like library and fossil work.
Thus it was, that when the boy left Washington a month later, he had
decided that an entire lifetime on the Survey would be all too little to
grasp the vast and dominating usefulness that it bore to the country at
large.

Thus the fated day arrived for Roger's start. He had made himself
well-liked all through the building, and there were many to wish him
luck on the expedition. A most hearty and cordial good-fellowship Roger
found to run through all departments, and the good wishes of his
superiors and companions were happy auguries for the start. The
Director, too, called him into his office and gave him a most
encouraging send-off, sounding no note of doubtfulness or regret, and
Roger felt, as he left Washington, that no boy could ask pleasanter
friends or more helpful comrades than those he had met on the Survey.

The chief geographer had accorded him an extra two days' leave in which
to go home before he need start for Seattle, and Roger was full of
pride, as his former schoolmates gathered around him to be able to speak
loftily of traversing "territory on which no white man had ever set his
foot." It was a little boastfully put, but as after events proved, it
was true none the less.

The journey across the continent gave time for reflection, and now that
there was no chance of drawing back, the warnings and advice that had
been given to Roger rushed over him like a flood, and he had for a while
a haunting fear lest anything should happen on the trail to shake the
confidence his superiors had in him. But these fears vanished like a
morning mist, when, arrived at Seattle, he went on board the gunboat,
lying a short distance from the shore, and realized that he, Roger, had
a right to board a vessel of the United States Navy.

Rivers was on deck, and he came forward promptly to meet the boy,
saying, as he shook hands:

"So you made good, didn't you, eh? Well, I thought you would."

Roger laughed quietly.

"You said I had to!" he replied.

The boy's new chief gave a half-smile.

"Well," he said, "if you always do everything I say you have to do, I'll
be quite satisfied. But it's not a summer picnic, by any means, and you
may be sorry before you're through."

"That may be, Mr. Rivers," answered the boy cheerily, "but I'm not sorry
yet. I'm mighty glad to be here."

"I've been sorry often enough that I took up field work, but----" he
paused.

"But what?" asked Roger.

"But I couldn't get back to it quick enough the next year," answered the
geologist.

"If the past summer is any test," went on Roger, "I guess I'll be the
same way, for I never enjoyed anything so much in all my life. Why, I
felt quite stifled back in Washington."

"If you've been caught with the exploring fever," rejoined the older
man, "there's nothing more to be said, for that's a disease for which
there is no cure, except----" He paused abruptly again.

"Yes?" queried Roger.

"Except old age, and that the explorer never reaches," was the steady
reply. "And now you must meet the rest of the boys."

He turned to the topographer, who was standing near.

"Mr. Gersup," he said, "this is the boy."

"I see it's a boy," answered the other, smiling, "but I didn't know it
was 'the' boy. I guess, Doughty, from the way Mr. Rivers talks, that
you're only just a trifle less important in the Survey than the
Director." He laughed out loud.

Roger broke in protestingly, but Rivers interrupted.

"Don't mind him, Doughty, he's always that way."

"Don't mind him either, Doughty," replied the topographer, "he's always
that way." And Roger thought it promised well for the cheerfulness of
the party to find the chief and the topographer on joking terms.

Later the boy found Gersup's cheerfulness and optimism to be invaluable
on the trip. He had a short, thick-set, stocky frame and possessed to an
extreme degree the power of seeing the best possible side of every
situation. His persuasive powers were so great that, as one of the party
said afterward, "he could talk a mule's heels down in the middle of a
kick!" He had an unerring eye for the topography of a country, as was
afterwards shown, and before they had been many days in Alaska, Roger
would have unhesitatingly declared both the geologist and topographer of
the party to be absolutely infallible in their own lines, though they
would both promptly have disclaimed any such statement.

The assistant topographer of the party, to whom the boy was next
introduced, was a great surprise. He looked like anything except what he
was. Not particularly prepossessing, he had a large head, already nearly
bald, he was slightly bow-legged and short and scant of speech. It was
not until weeks later that the boy found out why he had been selected
for the trip. His strength was herculean, and in spite of the fact that
he was not slightly built he could put a mountain goat to shame at
scaling an apparently inaccessible crag. As Magee, the Irishman of the
party, described him, "Tie his hands behind his back, and he'll climb up
the side of a house with his toenails and his eyebrows."

Of the two camp hands, one was an Indian called Harry, a fine specimen
of one of the famous tribes which successfully resisted Russian rule in
the early years, and who was regarded as one of the most expert
canoeists who had ever been in the Survey.

The other was Magee. And Magee was sufficiently described by his full
name, which was Patrick Aloysius Magee. He was a devil-may-care Irishman
from Galway, who had spent fifteen years in the gold camps, and had
tossed over the poker table and the faro layout the little bags of gold
dust that had represented years of weary work. It was not that hope had
died out in him, which made him leave prospecting and take to the
Survey, but in his own way of putting it, "There were too many men of
the female sex around the gold camps now." He had been a sailor for some
years, too, in the old sailing-ship days, and had left the sea because
of his contempt for steam.

As for the cook, his chief recommendation was that "he could cook an
eight-course dinner out of a pair of old boots, and make a man believe
he had had something to eat when he was still as hungry as when he sat
down." Altogether, Roger thought, as the little gunboat got under way
and steamed for Seldovia, near the southern bend of the Kenai peninsula,
a more aggressive body of men he had never met, and he determined to
hold up his end, no matter what should come.

The gunboat arrived at Seldovia on February 21st, and as the cable
rattled through the hawse-hole Rivers took command of the party. His
easy manner dropped like a mask, and orders sharp and incisive fell like
hail. All the supplies and equipment for the first part of the journey
had been sent there the summer before, and were being kept by the
storekeeper. No sooner were they ashore than Roger was told off with
Harry to "get the dogs," and the boy accordingly found himself before a
yard where twenty-two "huskies" were "yapping" and howling to their
hearts' content. Of these, six were "outside" dogs, imported from the
United States, usually mongrel mastiffs, and the other sixteen "huskies"
or native dogs, in this case nearly all Malemut, with a strain of
Siwash. The reason for the two kinds of dogs, Harry explained to Roger
in answer to a question, was that the outside dog is better as a leader,
as he is more intelligent and less mutinous, but that the bulk of the
work is to be done by native dogs as they require less food and care,
and having a dense pelt, like the wolf, endure hardship far better,
while on a rough trail they are less liable to fall lame.

The dogs being duly gathered together, the harness and sleds inspected,
Roger assisted his chief in checking over the supplies and seeing that
they were carried to the gunboat for transport to the other side of Cook
Inlet. Everything was found intact and as had been ordered, so that
little delay was sustained. The overseeing of these things, however,
took the entire day, but by evening the dogs were on board and
everything disposed for easy transhipment in the morning.

Bright and early the next day the gunboat got her anchor up and started
across the Inlet, seeking a landing-place as high up as possible. In
less than two hours from Seldovia the ice was reached, and arrangements
were made for a landing on the western side of the Inlet. A small bay,
which appeared on the charts as Snug Harbor, was chosen as the place
for debarkation, which by noon was under way.

The landing was not easy, owing to the ice along the banks, and Roger
got a foretaste of what was coming by having to jump overboard and wade
through the water, breaking the ice, to carry the supplies ashore. In a
short while everything was landed, to the satisfaction of Rivers, who
had not hoped to be able to run as far up the Inlet. There, standing on
the snow, with the dogs howling behind him, Roger stood beside the
chief, unheeding that he was cased in ice above the knees, and watched
the gunboat dip the Stars and Stripes once in token of farewell. The
Alaskan trip was begun.



CHAPTER XIII

WRESTLING WITH A MOUNTAIN GOAT


While the rest of the party was engaged in landing supplies, Rivers
ordered Gersup and his assistant, Bulson, to strike inland a short way
in the direction of the volcano, Redoubt Peak, distant about twenty-five
miles, in the expectation of finding a trail near by. It seemed obvious
that there must be a route along the coast, and that it must lie between
the waterside and the foothills of the Chigmit Mountains. Less than an
hour elapsed before the men returned with the news that the trail had
been located, but that it was entirely snowed under. The dogs
accordingly were hitched to the three sleds, one of the outside dogs
leading, and the topographer going ahead on snowshoes to point out the
trail.

Roger had always had the idea that "mushing" or driving a dog team,
consisted of sitting in state on the sled and cracking a conspicuously
long whip at the dogs, but he speedily found out his mistake. Instead of
sitting on the sled he had to walk behind it, and in a great many
instances to help the dogs by shoving it along. Instead of being able to
take things easy and let the teams do the work, the boy learned that the
"musher" had to labor far harder and more continuously than the dogs
themselves.


[Illustration: A GRIM AND ICY BARRIER.

Alaskan glacier, causing an obstacle to travel, almost inaccessible, yet
crossed at last.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


They had not traveled far when Gersup called from in front:

"There's the trail!" and pointed ahead to the right.

Roger looked eagerly in the direction pointed out, expecting to see a
fairly well-beaten road, over which the succeeding day they could travel
with comfort, but look as he might he could see no signs of a trail. The
chief's grunt of satisfaction, however, was evidence enough to the boy
that the trail really was there, and as he did not want to expose his
ignorance by asking any unnecessary question, he kept his wonderings to
himself.

Having got fairly started on the trail, however, the boy found travel
easier, yet he was glad when the word was given for a halt, near some
heavy timber, affording the materials for a fire. The tents were quickly
pitched, wood gathered for a roaring blaze, the animals fed and the
sleeping bags laid out, and in a surprisingly short time the party was
gathered around a savory supper prepared by the cook while the rest of
the men were pitching camp.

The party carried a light-weight, sheet-iron stove, which was a great
convenience inside the tent, but, of course, the food for the dogs was
cooked on an outside fire. With slight occasional changes, the food
given was rice with a little bacon, and usually dried salmon besides.
Roger noted that they were fed but once a day, and could not help
thinking how hardly used the petted dogs of civilization would consider
themselves if they were to be subjected to such treatment.

Roger slept soundly, despite his new surroundings, and the night seemed
all too brief for him when he was roused by the cook. Being February,
the days were short, and though it was nearly seven o'clock when the
camp was wakened it was almost full dark. But few minutes were allowed
before George shouted, "Breakfast," and Roger fell to with the rest of
the men, feeling as though he could eat the entire provision of the
party at one meal. After breakfast, Rivers told the boy that he would be
expected, at the breaking up of camp in the mornings, to help Harry,
the Indian, in the harnessing and getting ready of the dogs, as most of
the other men were more expert at loading a sled.

It sounded easy enough, but Roger soon discovered that it was far from
being a snap. To harness a dog, or even a dozen, was not such a
difficult matter, but to hitch them to the sled and to make them stay
where they were after they were hitched, that was another question. The
"huskies" seemed to take malicious joy in trying to get their harness
tangled, and there was always the possibility of a scrap to be warded
off. So it came about that the boy usually had his hands full in the
morning, and was not sorry when the day's pulling was begun and the dogs
settled down to their work.

The country over which they were traveling, moreover, was ideal for dog
work. The land was flat from the waterside up to the sudden rise of the
hills, which were lofty and rugged, 10,000 to 15,000 feet in height,
snow-capped and glacier-bearing. Little though Roger knew as a
geologist, yet he was keen enough to see that this wide channel must be
the delta of a large river, and he was glad to get an affirmative
response to his suggestion that in the summer time this might be a good
agricultural country.

"The climate in summer here," said Gersup, whom Roger had asked the
question, "is nothing short of heavenly, but you could hardly call it
thickly settled as yet."

"But it will be some day? Do you suppose?"

"Most assuredly," answered the topographer. "There are thousands upon
thousands of acres of land here, which would return immense crops, and
all along up the river. All that is needed is a market for the produce."

"But how about moving it?" asked the boy.

"The Sushitna River is navigable for a hundred miles to steamers of
light draught, and to barges. You'll see this all in farm like the Red
River Valley some of these days."

The thermometer staying about ten degrees below zero made the thought of
waving crops a strange one, but this very low temperature was the best
of all possible advantages to the party, as it was good for dog
traveling. Cold enough to keep the trails in excellent shape, it was not
too cold for traveling in comfort. Two days sufficed to bring the party
to the point of land jutting out in the sea that makes Cook Inlet a
double bay, but at this point, which is known as North Foreland, a
sudden drop in temperature, coupled with a gale of wind, delayed
progress, so that in all six days had elapsed from the time of landing
until they pulled into Tyonok. This is one of the oldest mainland
settlements of southwestern Alaska, having been used as the mainland
port of the former Russian capital, Kodiak, on Kodiak Island.


[Illustration: A GENERAL VIEW OF TYONOK.

The most northerly harbor in Cook Inlet, usually reached by seagoing
vessels. Prospectors' tents along the beach.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


One day was spent at Tyonok purchasing and packing larger supplies of
dog feed, of which only enough for a couple of weeks' journey had been
taken from Seldovia. Dog-feed is the one article that can always be
procured from the natives, but as there was no assurance that the Survey
party would meet any natives up the river at that time of year, Rivers
decided to complete his supply before he started. Despite the importance
of Tyonok as a trading post, almost ranking as a prominent seaport,
Roger found it to consist of about forty-five rude log shanties, only
one, the general store, being more than one story in height. In summer,
so the lad was informed, hundreds of tents are erected along the shore,
but the winter population, for such an important point, is ridiculously
small.

On March 1st, leaving Tyonok behind, the party proceeded along the
western bank of the Sushitna River. The trail, which had been
comparatively visible as far as Tyonok, now was problematic, sometimes
the sleds were on it, sometimes not, but little difference could be
observed. Rivers did not follow the winding of the stream, but as far as
possible kept a straight course, though frequently diverted by
impassable bits of brush. Over the Beluga marshes, which a month hence
could not be crossed, the party skimmed readily, a firm crust having
formed on the snow and the dogs being in good condition. Successive
camps were made at the mouth of the Sushitna, at Alexander, and at
Sushitna Station, the latter a post of the Alaskan Commercial Company
for trading with the natives, and the next day at Kroto. This was the
last settlement seen during the first part of the trip; and for many
weeks, March 6th was the last date that Roger saw any human being except
the members of his party.

Faint as the trail had been, it had been sufficient to point out to the
men where conditions were favorable, or at least possible, but after
leaving Kroto the signs disappeared entirely. For a couple of hundred
yards, perhaps, there might be smooth going, then the party would be
brought to an abrupt halt by a belt of forest, through which perhaps a
way would have to be made, or around which a detour would be necessary,
consuming a great deal of time.

Generally it was possible to make some distance on the river ice, though
that was extremely rough and bad traveling, and days would be spent in
passing from one form of progress to another, much labor being expended,
but the party going forward all the time. What made it seem the harder
to Roger was that it was still cold enough to require heavy clothing
while going ahead on the trail, yet being so warmly clad rendered the
labor at difficult places very fatiguing, and if he perspired, the cold
wind afterward chilled him to the bone.

It was speedily evident that the rapid march of the first few days was
no true index of the time to be consumed on the trip, for while the
distance from Kroto to the mouth of the Chulitna, the great tributary of
the river up which they were proceeding, was the same as from Kroto to
Tyonok, it took the party exactly three times as long. It was not until
March 25th that the Chulitna was crossed and the journey up the higher
portion of the river begun.

But each day's travel now brought the mountains closer upon them, and
the banks of the river narrowed. The flat plain of the lower valley was
disappearing and the mountains sloped nearer the water's edge. On the
farther shore the Talkeetna range, isolated from all other mountains,
rose almost sheer from the water, while on the shore the party traveled,
though beyond the Chulitna, the great Alaskan range towered up into the
clouds, Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in the United States, rearing his
20,300 feet, snow-capped and glacier-bearing, statuesque above all lower
eminences.

Rivers, however, silent and determined, wasted no time or energy, but
pushed on relentlessly every minute of the daylight, and often in dawn
and dusk, while the light was yet dim. With this persistence it was but
April 10th when a halt was called at a little cabin, built at the mouth
of Indian Creek, and which had been used by a former Survey party, who
had ascended the Sushitna and Indian Creek in the summer by canoes. It
had taken that party over three months, while Rivers had been less than
half that time.


[Illustration: FAREWELL TO CIVILIZATION.

One of the dog teams leaving Kroto for the Sushitna River Trail.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


From there the route taken branched off along Indian Creek, which could
only be called a mode of passage by courtesy. They could not travel
along the banks for timber, and rock came to the water's edge, and as
the creek bed was a succession of boulders and rapids, half the time the
sleds had to be lifted and practically carried over obstructions, in
order that perhaps for twenty or thirty feet there might be a spot of
good going. Three days it took them to cover the twelve miles, and April
13th found the party at the entrance of the Chulitna Pass, 3,000 feet
above sea level.

Here, of course, it was practically blind going, but despite the hard
trip the dogs were in fairly good condition and with Bulson's muscle and
Harry's knowledge of the multifold peculiarities of the "husky," they
managed to worry through the pass in four days, reaching the little
cache and log hut at the mouth of the Jack River, which was their
objective point. So far they had been able to go with dogs, and no
further, whereupon the work of unpacking the sleds was begun, the two
canoes duly inspected and found uninjured, the supplies redistributed,
and the two Indians who had been picked up at Sushitna Station to take
back the dogs, were promptly sent back upon the downward trail before
the river should break up and make dog-travel impossible. Of course, as
it was pointed out, rapid time could be made with an empty sled, and the
drivers need rarely walk.

During all this time the whole energies of the party had been given
entirely to making headway, and no time had been spent either in
topographical or geological work, but the urgency had borne fruit.
Rivers told Roger that he had allowed two months and a half for the
journey to their present place, and they were ten days ahead of the
schedule.

"And what is to be done now, Mr. Rivers?" asked the boy.

"Wait till the ice breaks, Doughty," replied the geologist, "and in the
meantime some little investigation of the range may not be amiss."

The third day after they had made their semi-permanent camp Rivers took
the boy with him on a geological trip back to Caribou Pass, the most
practicable opening in the entire Alaskan Range. He spent some time in
explaining to the boy the general configuration of the range, and taught
him a good deal about the glacial conditions of the region. Happening to
observe a curious immense boulder in the pass, in the form of a rock
almost flat on the top, about twenty feet square and nearly as many
high, it occurred to Rivers that he might discern distinct striated
lines of glaciation if he could get up there on the rock to see. The
boulder was somewhat difficult to climb, but by getting on Roger's
shoulders, the geologist was able to reach a point where he could get a
grip of the rock.

But, just as he worked himself over the edge of the boulder, what was
his amazement to see a mountain goat, evidently descending from the
cliff above, land with a clatter of hoofs on the rock not ten feet away
from him. Rivers promptly scrambled to his feet, and the goat,
apparently thinking himself cornered and facing boldly an unknown
danger, rushed at him with lowered horns. A quick sideways jump was all
that saved the geologist, and the goat nearly went headlong over the
edge with his rush.

For a minute or two Roger was in utter ignorance of what had happened,
for being immediately under the rock while the chief was standing on his
shoulders, he had not seen the goat leap down to dispute the supremacy
of position with the unexpected intruder. Not till he heard Rivers call
to him did he know that anything was wrong.

"Doughty," he heard him say, "put a bullet in this infernal brute, will
you?"

The boy ran back to get a perspective view of the top of the boulder,
and by climbing up the cliff a little way saw what had developed. In the
meantime the position of the geologist was precarious in the extreme. A
succession of short rushes he had narrowly escaped by dodging, but he
knew that in a chase of this kind, he could not but lose, and if the
goat should catch him with his horns not only would the injury be
serious enough in itself, but probably he would be thrown from the rock
to fall a distance of twenty feet to the icy and frost-bound ground
below.

Suddenly Rivers saw his opportunity, and as the goat paused to turn at
the end of a futile rush, he seized his horns sideways with a firm
grasp, in such wise that the creature could not get a purchase with
which to butt, and determined to hang on for dear life. He purposed, if
it could be managed, to drive the goat to the edge of the boulder, and
then, by twisting its neck, force it over the edge. It was a doubtful
chance, but the only one he could see.

In the meantime Roger was cudgeling his brain for some means of climbing
the rock, but to no purpose, and he could have bitten his nails in
sheer vexation of spirit at his inability to give any aid, with his
friend in so great peril a few steps away.

The boy watched and waited in the chance of getting a shot at the goat,
but found it difficult to find an opportunity. Once, indeed, he fired,
feeling sure that he could hit the animal's flank, but he was not
certain enough of his prowess with a revolver to risk a shot when he was
just as likely to hit his chief as he was the goat. Once, indeed, the
boy thought Rivers had his foe, for he forced him to the edge of the
boulder and put all his strength into a violent wrench. But a mountain
goat, though not large, is possessed of considerable strength, and in
his effort to free himself almost sent Rivers over the edge.

Then suddenly an idea occurred to the boy, and watching a chance, with a
gentle toss he pitched his revolver up on the rock, hoping that the
chief might be able to find some way of picking it up. A wild and
vigorous scrambling could be heard, and a moment later the boy saw the
couple again perilously near the edge of the rock.

"Thanks for the gun," he heard Rivers sing out, "I'll get hold of it in
a minute."

But evidently the chief did not dare to let go the goat's horns, lest he
should be caught before he had the revolver, and two or three minutes
elapsed before the welcome sound of a shot came to the boy's ears.

Then Roger, looking up, was relieved beyond measure to see Rivers appear
at the edge of the boulder mopping his forehead.

"Guess I'll throw him down," he said. "Of course we can't load ourselves
down with the head, but the cook may want a steak or two," and suiting
the action to the word, he dragged the animal to the side and flung him
over. The boy noted immediately that the bullet had entered behind the
ear and under the roots of the horns, so that the combat had been
settled then and there.

The goat having been disposed of, Rivers made arrangements to come down,
in the same way as he had gone up, by standing on the boy's shoulders,
and both were glad when the chief reached the ground.

"That was nearly as good as a bull-fight," remarked the elder man when
he had descended, "and it's about all the wrestle I want. I wish it had
been Bulson, though; he would have given that pesky animal all the
scrapping he looked for. But that gun of yours came in very handily,
Doughty. I guess we'd have been up there until night if it hadn't been
for that."

"I was wondering," said the boy, "how you were going to pick it up,
after I did throw it to you."

"So was I," replied the chief, "but I knew I had to risk it, so when the
right time came I let go with one hand and reached for the gun with the
other. That old goat was almost too quick for me, though, for he turned
in my grasp and was just gathering his muscles for a butt when I let him
have it right behind the ear."

"It was a nasty encounter, all right," said Roger, shaking his head,
"but you're not hurt in any way, are you, Mr. Rivers?"

"Only in my feelings," was the reply.



CHAPTER XIV

BREAKING THE ICE JAM


Roger speedily realized the wisdom shown by Rivers in forcing the march
through the entire first part of the trip, for whereas the weather had
been favorable, two days after the argument with the mountain goat, the
sky, which had been dark and gray for days, suddenly seemed to drop to
within a few hundred feet of the heads of the travelers, and a tinge of
slaty blue came into the over-hanging masses. A hollow booming sound
filled the air, and the Alaskan old-timers hastened to make everything
fast, laying provision close to hand and insuring all the outfit against
the coming storm.

All through the day the clouds hung so low that it seemed to Roger that
he could touch them, and the stillness and silence became painful; it
was so quiet that the weight grew oppressive, yet speech or sound of any
kind grated on the nerves. Throughout the entire day Rivers scanned the
sky closely, and the afternoon was well advanced when he called out
suddenly:

"It'll be a little east of northeast!" and pointed to the direction.

Roger's gaze followed and turning, he saw a little swirl of the clouds.
Then, as though some gigantic hand had suddenly unclenched and pointed
an accusing finger at the little group that had defiantly dared the
dangers of its domain, a spume of snow was whipped from the gray above,
and with a shriek whose vindictiveness seemed almost personal the
tempest struck.

"Get under, Doughty," called Rivers, who, standing in the lee of one of
the small trees, was closely watching the nature of the storm, "get into
the tent!"

But Roger did not want to miss the sight of his first big gale in the
northern mountains, so risking a reproval for not obeying, he crawled
along the ground against the wind to where Rivers stood.

"I never saw a real blizzard before," he shouted in his chief's ear, as
an excuse for his presence.

The older man smiled grimly, but seeing that there was as yet no danger,
permitted the boy to remain. He pointed, however, to the peak above
them, which sheltered the camp from the full fury of the storm.

"How would you like to stand up there and watch it?" he shouted back.

Roger's reckless spirit prompted him to reply that he wouldn't mind, but
before he could formulate the words a sudden gust tore up a large tree
whose roots had been too near the edge of a precipice and sent it
thundering down into the chasm below.

"I'd like to," he yelled, "but I guess I'd have to be chained down."

Then one blast, stronger than any that had come before, eddied back from
the cliff and struck Roger full in the face just as he had stepped
forward to reply to Rivers. Some instinct led him to throw both hands
over his face, which, leaving him at the mercy of the wind, caused him
to be knocked flat like a ninepin, with the same feeling as though he
had been struck by a solid object. But it was the last impulse of the
squall, and before Roger had arisen to his feet, the white glint at the
point where the gale had been born had disappeared, the clouds fell
together, and quietly and without hurry the snow began to fall.


[Illustration: WHERE AN ETERNAL GALE RAGES.

On the topmost crests of the Alaskan Mountains. Working out fine
calculations in an icy storm.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Not hurt, I suppose?" queried Rivers as Roger scrambled to his feet.

"Not a bit," said Roger breathlessly, "but it seems like a week and a
half since I got my wind."

"But why did you let go?"

"I don't know, Mr. Rivers; it felt as though some one was going to hit
me in the face, and I just threw up my hands to defend myself."

"A man's got to be a pretty good prize-fighter who will go in the ring
with an Alaskan blizzard," said the geologist, amusedly, "and the worst
of it for you is that all your wounds are in the back. I should think
you would have a few bruises in the morning, for you went down like a
Jack-in-the-Box goes up."

The snow was falling steadily and heavily as the two walked back to the
tent, and Roger remarked:

"This will make the trails heavy going, won't it?"

"It looks to me," replied the other, "as though it would make all travel
impossible. If this storm had struck a few days earlier, or had we been
a few days later in getting here, the chances are that the delay would
have been considerable."

"How much, do you suppose?" asked the boy.

The leader of the party shrugged his shoulders.

"If it should prove a heavy snowfall," he said, "and had it struck us on
the Sushitna, it might have gone far to spoil the entire season's work.
You see a snowfall of four or five inches on the level can be whipped up
into drifts fifteen and twenty feet in height, not only hiding the
trail, but making conditions through which the dogs cannot flounder
until a crust is formed.

"Then you see, Doughty, it's getting late for a good snow-crust, and we
might have had to wait down there until the break-up. Then, instead of
going on down the Jack River as we shall be able to do now, we would
have had to track our way up Indian Creek against all the force of the
spring floods, portage across the pass with the ground in bad condition,
and then find little water in the Jack River instead of reaching here
comfortably by 'mushing.'"

"It's lucky then," said Roger, "that we're not later in getting here."

"It's not," objected Rivers. "It may be lucky that the storm didn't
strike earlier, but it isn't luck that brought us to this place in so
much shorter time than had been allotted. That wasn't luck, that was
work. I've noticed, too, that luck and labor go together oftener than
luck and loafing."

On reaching the tent they found everything snuggled down for winter
quarters, and Roger was subjected to some mild chaffing over what Magee
called his "one round bout with a gale," but the lad took it
good-naturedly enough, knowing from previous experience that his turn
might come. He promised himself, however, that before the trip was over
he would notice some slight misadventure on the part of others which
would enable him to return the compliment of banter.

But while Roger had been out when the snow started and had seen the
dense clouds and felt the weight behind them, he was not prepared to
see, the following morning, a sheet of snow several inches deep over the
entire landscape. Other members of the party had been up during the
night, but the boy had not wakened, and when, stepping outside the tent,
his foot sank in soft snow halfway to his knee, his amaze was great.
Twelve and a half inches of snow had fallen in the single night, and the
bright May sun shining over the glittering expanse made necessary the
snow glasses with which each member of the party was hastily equipped.

"I should not like to be without glasses to-day," said the boy to
Gersup, as they stood by the door of the tent.

"There would be fewer skeletons on the Alaskan hillsides," replied the
other, "had it not been for the madness caused by the intense pain of
snow-glare on the eyes."

"Is it so acute?"

"It is torture unendurable, because any light, no matter how faint,
aggravates it, and it is not possible to live without light. Don't make
any mistake, snow-blindness is an awful thing."

This gave Roger pause, for he saw at once how many fatal errors he had
been saved by being connected with a party wherein all the details of
travel had been so carefully arranged, and all sorts of contingencies,
which would have been unforeseen to him, provided against. He had been
inly contemptuous of the smoked glasses, when a pair had been given him
at the beginning of the trip, but now he realized their immense
importance, for by this time the May sun had begun to make itself felt
with intense heat and the days grew long.

It seemed as though the snowstorm had been the last effort of winter, a
sample to show what it could do if necessary, a comparison against the
heat of the summer days to come. The rays of the sun soon honeycombed
the snow and Roger realized how rotten it had become and saw that
Rivers's thankfulness that they did not have to travel over it was well
founded. Keenly alive to the interests of the expedition, and not having
learned the patience of later life, he chafed a good deal under the
delay and was continually asking the chief when they should start.

"Doughty," said the chief to him on one of these occasions, when the
boy's restlessness was intense, "you can't expend energy until you have
accumulated it. Now in worrying and fretting over not being able to
start you are expending energy at a time when, as far as possible, you
should be gathering your strength for the time when you will need it.
And, what's more, every one reckons on losing a couple of weeks during
the break-up; that is a part of the consumption of time on the trip."

But the rapid advance of spring added a new source of surprise to the
lad. From the stillness and silence of the days when they first made
camp at the head of the pass, the air became filled with the myriad
voices of life, and the primal solitude became vibrant with tiny
songsters. The golden sparrow was there with his piercing plaint, made
musical by distance, and the trilling warble of Townsend's fox sparrow,
and the varied strain of the hermit thrush, seemed quite homelike.
Before the snow was gone the rosy finch was to be seen, his quick flight
giving a gay spot of color to the landscape, and that the more
utilitarian side might not be omitted, the snowy ptarmigan formed a
welcome addition to the larder of the camp.

Quite a torrent was beginning to flow over the ice in the Jack River,
and on the morning of May 16th, when Roger had gone out with Gersup the
topographer, to map out with greater detail a little piece of country
which had been passed by on a previous expedition, he saw that the
center of the ice in the river was bulging up like a hog-backed bridge.

"What makes it bulge that way?" asked the boy.

"You should have been able to figure that out," was the response. "When
the ice thaws it increases the volume of water under the ice. The edges
are frozen solid to the land, the middle is more or less elastic, and so
of course the sides stay solid and the middle heaves up. In warmer
climates, it is the edge that thaws out first, but up here the rivers,
strictly speaking, do not thaw free, the ice is forced from them by the
spring floods. It is strictly a break-up rather than a thaw, although it
gets warm thereafter very rapidly."

"It certainly does," replied Roger, mopping his forehead. "It's hot
enough now, and this is only the middle of May; while two weeks ago it
was snowing like Billy O."

On May 18th the ice broke, moved down about a mile and jammed, and a few
hours later broke again, finally clearing from the upper reaches of the
Jack River on the 19th. Rivers was delighted at the opportunity to get
out so soon, as he had feared it might be as late as the first week in
June before he could get away.

"I think, Doughty," he said to Roger, "that we can count easily now on
accomplishing what we set out to do, and probably get into the Arctic
Ocean in good time for an early return."

"That is, barring accidents," put in the topographer.

"We will make up our minds not to have any," replied the chief of the
party.

The following morning, therefore, the canoes being all packed, the
party bade good-by to the little camp on Broad Pass, where they had
spent so many quiet, uneventful days, and plunged into the grinding
forced march that was to occupy every waking moment for so many months
to come. The stern reality of Alaskan work became potent to Roger before
they had been half an hour on the trail. The Jack River, though swollen
by the spring currents, had worn an erratic bed, and was filled with
bars on which the canoes stranded. Then there was nought to do but wade
into the snow-fed stream, with large chunks of ice roaring down at him,
and the chill of the water such as to make the boy gasp and turn
everything black before his eyes, while his legs became numb and hurt
cruelly. But he gritted his teeth and buckled to it, well aware that the
other members of the party were watching him, awaiting a sign of
weakening.

The entire morning was spent wading, helping the canoes over a series of
small bars with a fairly steep gradient, but the work was slow, and
Rivers seized eagerly any chance to increase the pace. Shortly after the
midday halt, a reach fairly free from obstacles presented itself, and
the party climbed into the boats and shot down the stream. Although
Roger had not done any canoe work since he had been on the Survey, he
was brought up beside a stream and had handled a paddle nearly all his
life, and his delight was great when he found that he had not lost the
knack. Not only was he quite at home in a few moments, but he found that
his toughness and maturer strength told in every stroke. Harry, the
Indian, who was in the stern, nodded approvingly, after ten minutes'
work.


[Illustration: MORNING AFTER THE BLIZZARD.

The camp on Broad Pass where the party awaited the break-up.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Heap nice," he said, as he found how keenly the boy judged the weight
of the stern paddle and followed his intentions; "light weight and good
paddle, go through rapids all right, sure."

And Rivers, who had kept a close eye on the boy, gave a snort of
satisfaction.

"I guess you did learn what I bade you," he said, referring to their
conversation in Washington a year before; "I think I told you that you
should know how to handle a canoe."

"Yes, Mr. Rivers," said Roger, smiling at the remembrance, "but you
implied that the Alaskan streams were a whole lot worse than Niagara."

"You won't complain of their not being bad enough, before long," said
the chief grimly, "and from the general look of the place right now, I
think we are going to run into rough water."

The warning served to sharpen the boy's wits, and it was time. The river
was rushing about ten miles an hour over a winding bed, where the bow
could not see ahead for more than twenty or thirty yards, a space
covered in a few seconds' time. Suddenly Harry gave a mighty back
stroke, and Roger following suit almost instantaneously, the canoe was
brought up with a jerk as though some mechanical brakes had been set.
There was not much room to spare, for across the river a big tree had
fallen, and behind it the ice had jammed, not enough to dam the water
absolutely, but affording no possible passage for a canoe.

A landing was made, though it was extremely difficult, and the canoes
portaged past the obstruction, Rivers having found that the tree had
jammed on a harsh and shallow rapid, over which they could not have
taken the boats. Then the chief ordered two of the men to cut through
the jammed tree so as to break the dam.

"Why?" queried Roger of Bulson, as he was cutting and shaping a gigantic
wooden crowbar for himself, while a couple of the other men were
hacking through the tree; "why is it necessary to take all that trouble
after we have got by?"

"Supposing we got some distance down the river," was the reply, "where
it wasn't easy to make a landing, and this jam broke above us and came
pounding down the river, where would we be?"

"But it wouldn't be going any faster than the stream, and we could keep
ahead of it with paddles."

"And if you came to a portage?"

"That's true," said Roger, "I hadn't thought of that. We might get
nipped between the ice behind and rocks in front."

"You see," said Bulson, as he stepped on to the jam, "it's never wise to
leave dangers at your heels."

The tree having been cut through, all save a few inches, one of the
choppers returned to the shore, while the other stood ready, watching
Bulson. The latter, who was standing on the blocks of ice behind the
tree, was studying their positions, how they were jammed, and what was
the best way to free them without getting caught himself in the
resultant turmoil.

Presently he seemed satisfied for, inserting his huge crowbar between
two pieces of ice, he yelled:

"Cut!"

The axman brought down his blade with his full strength three times, and
the fibers of the tree cracked and began to give way. Back over the
slowly moving tree came Magee, leaving Bulson alone on the jam. Suddenly
the tree parted with a sharp crack and as it did so there arose a
grinding roar, and the blocks of ice which had been jammed behind the
tree seemed to leap up and fling themselves over the rapid. It did not
seem possible that any man could ride that furious clashing of the jam,
but Roger noticed that Bulson, making his way to shore over the grinding
ice, yet had coolness to stop and give a shove here and a heave there,
unlocking the jam, as it were, until, standing on the ice nearest the
shore, he gave one last mighty shove and sprang to the bank just as with
a seeming disappointed roar the whole jam broke and sped down the
foaming river.

"That, Mr. Rivers," said the boy, as Bulson quietly threw his impromptu
crowbar into the river, "is one of the things I did not learn to do."

"Bulson's very good at that sort of thing," was the chief's quiet
comment.

But the river below the jam was far less kind to the travelers than it
had been above. Progress was only possible by careful paddling and short
portages. Half the time was spent in the icy water and half on the
frozen bank, and though the water was cold beyond belief, and hands and
feet were heavy and numb, the sun burned fiercely upon head and
shoulders as though it were the height of midsummer, a condition the
harder to be borne because it was so early in the season that no one was
as yet acclimatized to the heat.

It was the most fatiguing day Roger had yet spent on the Survey, not
even excepting the famous trip across the Grand Canyon, for in the
latter the pace had been his own, while in this he had to play an equal
part with exceptionally vigorous and seasoned men, coping with a
mountain torrent. The dusk was falling as, once more in boats, and
passing through a small gorge, the party reached the confluence of the
Jack and Cantwell Rivers. Although the distance traversed had been but
twenty-eight miles, and the party had been traveling with the current,
so arduous and rough had been the way that eleven hours had been spent
in making the journey.

After supper Rivers came to Roger and said to him, not with criticism,
but in a kindly manner:

"Are you tired, Doughty?"

The boy would have longed to be able to reply "No," but he knew he could
not do so with any pretense at honesty, and so he replied fairly:

"Yes, Mr. Rivers, I am a little tired, but I'll soon get toughened up."

"Well," said the chief of the party, "I just wanted to let you know that
this really has been a hard day, and that no one need be ashamed of
feeling tired. We are all conscious of having done a day's work. I
thought perhaps you might worry a little at the thought that, if it was
to be all like this, you would not be able to keep up. But it won't, and
you did well."

So Roger lay down to sleep and tucked himself in his sleeping bag with
absolute happiness. The next day proved to the boy how right the chief
had been. For the first forty miles of its passage the boy found the
Cantwell River, into which they had run, to have a fair channel and good
banks; and of course, at this season of the year it was full to
overflowing, so that the only difficulty of its upper reaches, shoals,
was set aside by the volume of water in the stream. That day's trip was
rapid and easy. Camp was made that night beside the river, just where
another tributary called the Yanert joins, leaping a twenty-foot fall
just before reaching the main stream.

The turbulent manner of the Yanert's union, however, was an augury of
trouble. It seemed as though the larger river had been led into bad
habits by the new arrival, for it became a wild scramble of water,
rushing through the canyons and gorges of the Alaskan Range with
terrifying speed. Two or three nasty rapids had been shot, in each of
which Roger acquitted himself very creditably, but the water had grown
rougher and harder to deal with at each successive step, so that when a
short beach a few miles long closed in a harsh and ragged-edged canyon,
Rivers called a halt and went forward to reconnoiter from the summit of
the gorge whether it were safe for passage. Taking Roger and Magee with
him, he followed the west bank of the river, sending Gersup, Bulson, and
Harry, along the other bank to determine the possibility of the rapid
below, and also to find out which was the better side for a portage,
should that be deemed necessary.

To Roger's uninitiated eye, the water below seemed a seething witches'
caldron of confusion, but he could see that the chief did not regard it
as being impossible. Suddenly the geologist turned to him:

"Doughty," he said, "do you think you could run that rapid?"

"If you told me to," answered the boy sturdily.

"You mean that you would try to do it, whether you thought it possible
or no, if I told you?"

"No," said Roger, "that would be unreasonable. What I mean is that if
you told me to go it would be possible, and if it is possible I am quite
ready to try it at any time."

The older man said no more, but tried to force his way along the dense
growth by the gorge's edge. The underbrush was very thick, and if a
portage was to be made on that side the road would have to be cut almost
the entire distance. So the three turned back to the canoes and waited
the return of the topographer.

"Well?" inquired the chief as the party hove in view.

"I shouldn't care to tackle it," said Gersup, "but Harry says he can
take the boats through, but not loaded. They would have to go down light
and the loads portaged. There is a fair carry on that side, but it's
through small trees pretty close together, and the canoes would be
awkward to take through. It's about a twelve-mile portage, too, as I
should judge, before we can strike a place where the boats could land."

"That's just about what I expected you to say," commented the geologist.
"I thought so, too, but there's a bad carry on this side. Well, I
suppose Harry and Bulson had better take the boats through."

But when the canoeists were approached Bulson shook his head.

"Of course, if you say so, Mr. Rivers," he replied, "there's no more to
be said, but as I understand it, the boats have got to go through light.
Now I tip the scale at a trifle over two hundred and twenty pounds, and
you couldn't very well call that light. Besides, if it comes to a
portage, I can carry a whole lot more than any one else could do. If I
might suggest----"

"Go ahead, man," said Rivers impatiently.

"Send the boy, then. He knows just as much about a canoe as I do and
he's seventy-five pounds lighter. That's an awful difference in the bow
of a canoe. Then, too, he isn't as hefty for the carry. I think you'd
better let Harry and the boy try it."

"But it's a man's job. What do you think, Harry--because, after all, you
will lead the way?"

"Bulson heap good in canoe. Boy all right. Boy light, man heavy, take
boy."

"You think you can take the boat through all right?" The Indian nodded.
"I'd like to go with you myself, but I'm nearly as heavy as Bulson. All
right, then, let it go that way; it's only a chance, but we'd better try
it with one boat, rather than spend a week or two cutting a twelve-mile
road through the timber for the boats."

Orders having been given for the unpacking of the canoes, an early stop
was made, and Harry went off with Bulson to con the rapid from the other
bank. He did not come back till after dark, and then, simply saying to
Rivers:

"Sure, can do it all right," he tumbled off to the tent and rolled up
for the night.

The chief of the party then turned to Roger, and said kindly:

"I don't want you to do this, Doughty, unless you feel quite up to it,
because confidence is one of the most important things needed.
However, I have great faith in Harry's knowledge of rapids, and if he
says they are passable I don't think there is any cause to fear. But if
you are in the least afraid of it, don't hesitate to say so."


[Illustration: RESTING AFTER A LONG PULL.

A good place to stop for dinner, though hundreds of miles from any white
settlement.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"I'd be afraid to tackle it alone, Mr. Rivers," the boy said truthfully,
"but I feel that with Harry in the stern I could take the rapids of
Niagara, and the whirlpool into the bargain."



CHAPTER XV

FACING DEATH IN A CANOE


Early next morning, the first boat, having been stripped of everything
movable, was made ready, and Harry got in the stern. He had taken off
the more cumbersome of his clothing and had bidden Roger do the same, so
they started off with only enough on for comfort, but wearing their
shoes, for the return journey would have to be overland through the
forest.

"This heap bad," said Harry as they started out, "but I in plenty worse.
Keep eyes open much."

"Right you are, Harry," sung out Roger cheerily, and a moment later the
canoe shot into the mouth of the canyon, the other members of the party
watching them with some anxiety, as, aside from the question of danger,
the loss of one of the boats would mean a great deal of extra work on
the trip. As the canoe entered the canyon Roger could feel the whole
frame of his companion quiver with the intensity of attention, and he
heeded every move of the canoe so closely that he felt as though he knew
before every movement of the stern paddle just in what direction it
would be, and of what weight.

The boy had learned well the lesson of following orders, and his
confidence in his companion was so absolute that he was untroubled in
mind, which went far to make him alert and able. Suddenly, the boat gave
a little jump and the current leaped to double its speed, and for two
hundred feet they rushed down a smooth plane of dark water with a seethe
of foam awaiting them at the bottom. Just as they reached it, Harry
shouted:

"Now!" and bore outward with all his strength.

"Sure!" came Roger's ready answer, as he followed the action almost
simultaneously, but his confidence received a sudden check when they
plunged into blinding foam which drove across the boat so that the
Indian could hardly discern the lad kneeling in the bow. Angry little
cross-waves leaped at them, naked scarps of rocks thrust bared fangs at
them, but threading, this way and that, a channel of almost unbelievable
intricacy and appalling narrowness, the little boat went through.

At the base of the second of these, in a moment of comparatively still
water, the Indian called:

"Plenty heap good paddle," he said, "but too much beefsteak. More easy
stroke." He broke off suddenly, "Ah!"

The warning was needed, for the vicious spite of this rapid began at its
very mouth, and once the boy heard Harry grunt as he put his whole
strength into a double stroke which, Roger could have sworn, made the
frame of the canoe bend and wriggle like a snake. There followed then a
greater rapidity of current again, and the walls of the gorge closed in
until it seemed to the boy that if they got any nearer the boat would be
shooting through a tunnel, and the prospect of a subterranean tunnel was
not pleasant.

Just at the narrowest part, when it was difficult sometimes to avoid the
paddles striking the rock on the side, the torrent boiling through and
both men backing water, the canyon took a sharp turn to the right. Harry
threw her head round, but not far enough, for there, not fifteen feet
away from the angle of the bend, a black rock rose sheer from the water,
with a spur sticking out, exactly like the spur of a fighting cock. The
boat could not clear, and though Roger got the bow by, the current
crushed the side of the canoe against the rock, and with a cry the
Indian leaped for the spur.

"Jump!" he yelled to Roger.

But Harry's leap from the stern of the boat, just as she crashed, threw
the canoe off sufficiently to prevent its entire demolition, so, though
the frail craft grazed the sharp edge of the rock with the speed of an
express train, crushing in its upper part, it was still seaworthy. Roger
noted that the Indian had not reached a footing on the spur, but was
hanging by a hand-hold to a ledge which it would be almost impossible to
climb.

The thought passed through Roger's mind that Rivers would blame himself
for having let him go, in the event of anything happening, but there was
little time for speculation. From the bow he could see the dangers that
were before him, but not being in the stern, the canoe was hard to
paddle, and almost as in a desperate nightmare, he paddled and swerved
and dodged rocks that sprang at him out of the water as though they were
alive. Though his heart was in his mouth, and he expected every moment
to be his last, the training of the past year stood him in good stead,
and his eye never wavered nor did his hand become unsteady until, five
minutes later, he reached in safety the gravel flat below the last
rapid.

There he held the boat to regain his breath, and found time to wonder
whether Harry had managed to climb on the spur, and if he had, how the
party would be able to release him. But scarcely had this question
formulated itself in his mind than, close by the canoe, two hands thrust
themselves out of the water, followed by a shock of coarse black hair,
and with one side of his head bleeding profusely from a scalp wound he
had received on his way down the rapid, the Indian made his way to the
boat. Roger helped him in over the stern and they paddled to the shore.

"Heap fine," he commented, "thought you gone sure, that time."

"You were politer than I was," replied the boy, laughing with a catch in
his voice, "I was too busy even to think of you till I got down here."
He went on laughing, but harshly and with a curious clang in the tones.

The Indian looked up sharply.

"Stop," he said, "you no laugh."

Roger, brought to a pause by the abrupt command, found he was choking
over his laugh, and that his nerves were badly shaken. He felt a wild
desire to laugh and cry alternately, but he gulped down a few times,
straightened up and looked Harry squarely in the eye.

"I'm all right now," he said.

The Indian looked back over the rapid down which they had just come, and
shook his head.

"Well, we got through any way," commented Roger.

"Yes," answered Harry slowly, "but we heap near not get through."

"Oh, well," replied the boy with all the recklessness of youth
concerning a danger which is past and over, "a miss is as good as a
mile, any way."

"So," replied the Indian, "but when it is my scalp," pointing to his
head, "I like mile, every time."

This drawing attention to the cut on Harry's head, Roger looked at it,
and found that although it had bled freely, it was but a superficial
cut, and would afford no trouble, at least until they got back to the
camp, where the chief would see that it was attended to. But they were a
long way from the camp, as the two speedily found when they started on
their homeward journey.

The trip down the rapids, Roger found, had taken a little less than
fifty minutes, and he thought that perhaps it might take a couple of
hours for them to make their way home. But even Harry underestimated the
distance that they had come, and the way back, climbing over fallen
trees, scrambling through thickets, stopped by underbrush, scratched by
thorns, and caught in brambles, was a fearful task, and it was eleven
o'clock at night before they got into camp, having taken fourteen hours
to come back the twelve miles they had done in the canoe in fifty
minutes.

They found the camp waiting for them, and Rivers growing very anxious at
their non-return. He realized, of course, that the rapid might have
proved far longer than had been expected, and that the two would have
some difficulty getting back, but there was a fear of possibly worse
consequences. The cut on Harry's head revealed that everything had not
gone well, and the Indian, nothing loath, told in his short and jerky
way the story of the perilous passage, giving the boy due credit for
bringing the boat through the last few hundred yards of the rapids, and
averring that he was all that could be desired as a comrade.

Roger's exhaustion from the long tramp back to camp was such that the
chief of the party gave orders that he was not to be awakened early,
and it was eight o'clock before the boy rolled over and sleepily opened
his eyes to find the camp work well advanced and breakfast over. He
jumped up hurriedly, looking for the various members of the party, but
found only Harry and the cook there.

"Why, where's the crowd?" he asked.

"Waal, son," said the cook, "Mr. Rivers he reckoned that a good sleep
wouldn't do any harm, seeing the job you tackled yesterday, and you
won't have much to do to-day. The rest of them have started packing the
grub over the carry to where you left the first boat. They're loaded
down good and proper, for I don't believe one of 'em has less than
eighty pounds, and Bulson's got one hundred and ten, all right."

"There's a lot of stuff here yet," commented Roger, looking around, "and
that's no small walk. How many trips do you suppose it will take to get
it all down there?"

"Just one trip more, to-morrow. You see on to-morrow's trip Harry and
you and I will have a load, and three extra men can tote a lot."

"But why were we let out of it to-day?" queried the boy.

"We take other boat down," put in the Indian, who had been listening,
"this time we do it heap easy. No get knocked on the head."

"I hope not, for your sake," said Roger, who, though no coward, had been
secretly hoping that some one else would look after the other boat. "But
it's quite a trick to have to tackle again."

"No," replied Harry, with a quick negative shake of the head. "Heap easy
now. I draw map every rock, know when stop canoe."

"Yes," said the cook thoughtfully, "it isn't much of a job to run a
rapid when you know what's ahead of you; the trouble is generally that
some fool rock shows up when you least expect it."

"That's true," said the boy thoughtfully, "even the rock we nearly went
to smash on,--the one you jumped, you know,--we could have dodged that
if we had known that it was there and had hugged the right-hand shore."

"No strike rock this time. You no want try jump?"

"Not on your life, Harry," laughed Roger. "I'm not aching for excitement
as much as that. Going through that rapid again will give me enough to
think of for one day, at least."

In the meanwhile, the boat having been got ready, the two shoved out
into the stream and headed for the rapid. As the other men had
suggested, the passage lost some of its terrors when it was known what
lay beyond, but Roger found that his companion possessed a memory for
every little turn of the river which was to him incredible. He felt that
he would have to go through it a dozen times before he could begin to
act as a pilot through, but Harry had the whole stretch of boiling water
as clearly in his mind as though an immense chart were stretched out
before him.

The second rapid with its smother of foam, moreover, looked almost as
bad to the boy on the second trial as it had on the first, and his heart
beat more rapidly as the boat shot into the narrow gorge, in the midst
of which, a little lower down, the sharp and jagged spur lay awaiting
the unready traveler. But the Indian was on the alert, and just at the
right moment he drove the canoe over beside the bank, so close that
Roger feared a slight eddy might crush in the eggshell sides of the
canoe. But even with every inch gained at the turn, the old black spur
suddenly appeared around the bend, grim and perilous athwart their path.
Then Harry put his muscle into the paddle, Roger following suit, and
they flew across the river with such speed that the current driving
them on the rock had little chance to catch the boat, and they shaved
the danger with about two feet to spare. The rapid beyond, which Roger
had run himself, was none too easy, and as the boy noted its difficulty,
he felt a thrill of pride that he had managed to take the first boat
through that alone.

"Heap bad rapid," said Harry, when the second boat had been drawn up
beside the first, and he had examined both the canoes carefully to see
how much damage they had sustained on the trip.

"Have you ever run any that were worse than this?" queried Roger.

"No. Plenty longer, rougher, but rock in middle much bad."

Questioning his companion Roger heard many stories of difficult and
dangerous canoe trips, told with the unimpassioned utterance of the
Indian, and in his broken English, and he was able to see that the
canyon through which they had passed was almost as bad as any of them.
They did not have to wait long for the arrival of the party from the
upper camp, for the latter had cut the trail the preceding day, while
Harry and Roger were taking the first boat down and returning, so that
when they started the next morning before breakfast, it was fairly good
going. Shortly before noon, the canoeists, waiting beside the boats,
heard shouts to which they responded, and a few minutes later the
packing party came crashing through the trees to the riverside.


[Illustration: A SHORT BUT DANGEROUS RAPID.

In tracking canoes to save time of portage, great skill is needed in
these swirling currents.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


Harry, without waiting for any conversation with the other members of
the party, busied himself in getting together dinner, knowing that the
fellows, who had toted heavy packs over the carry, would be sufficiently
hungry and tired. The meal being over, the whole party, including Harry
and Roger, started back for the camp, and the boy was surprised to find
how short and easy it seemed after the difficulty he had experienced the
day before in forcing his way through the bush, where a trail had not
been cut. They reached the camp at the upper end of the canyon, where
the cook had been left, late in the afternoon and made all ready for the
start the following morning.

The next day the entire remainder of the supplies and equipment of the
camp were made up into packs and the party started over the portage to
where the boats had been left lower down on the river. Roger, being
accommodated with a pack weighing about ninety pounds, felt as though he
were back in the Minnesota swamps, with the tump strap over his
forehead. His familiarity with packing, and his ability to take the trip
without feeling any physical inconvenience, was a source of
gratification, as Roger's pride was keen not to be thought in any sense
a less able member of the party than the oldest and most seasoned hand.
The journey down to the lower end of the canyon did not seem so long,
and, as on the previous day, the party reached the lower camp about
noon. In the afternoon Gersup and Bulson, taking Roger with them, took
advantage of the half day to make a survey before descending into the
beaches of the lower Cantwell River.

As it was expected that the going would be easy for a while lower in the
stream, Rivers readily acceded to Roger's petition that he should take
his rifle along. There had been such a lot of caribou about, that the
boy felt he ought at least to get one.

"We haven't space for the head as a trophy, of course, you know," he
said, "and I don't approve of shooting for sport, but caribou is good
eating, and it is always wise to conserve supplies."

"I've never had a chance at any big game, before, Mr. Rivers," joyfully
said the boy.

"All right, then," said the chief, smiling, "I guess you won't reduce
the visible supply of caribou in Alaska enough to hurt."

Immediately after dinner the three started, and Roger's luck was with
him, for as they rounded the corner of a mountain slope, Gersup halted,
and pointed with his finger to four specks about three miles away.
Raising his field glasses, he said:

"There you are, Doughty; there are your caribou. You've worked pretty
hard and ought to have some fun out of it. We can get along all right,
and you go after them. You can't very well get lost, but don't try to
track them after dark."

Roger nodded, and skirting the slope until he was hidden from the
animals' view, he started on a run for a couple of miles, until he
thought it would be necessary to exert more prudence. A long and weary
progress through the rough country, with the endeavor not so much as to
crack a twig or rustle a leaf, brought the lad at last to the little
valley where he had seen the caribou, and there the shelter stopped,
except for sundry large boulders, which did not afford a complete
cover. Roger had worked round, of course, so that he was coming up wind.
He had come within about half a mile of them, when he found cover
absolutely gone, so lying prone on his face, and just wriggling forward
by movements of his knees a foot or so at a time, he spent at least an
hour advancing a quarter of a mile on the objects of his quest.

Suddenly, when he was about four hundred yards away, though he was not
conscious of having made a sound, and though he had not been able to
discern any change in the direction of the wind, the nearest of the four
stopped feeding and threw up his head. The boy had been careful,
throughout his crawl, to change the sight on his rifle to the distance
he estimated he was from the game, and so, when the caribou stopped, he
was ready. He waited a moment, hoping that the animal, seeing and
hearing nothing, would resume feeding, but instead, the alarm seemed to
communicate itself to the others, and they appeared to prepare for
flight.

Like a flash the thought shot through Roger's mind that if they once
started to run he would not be able to stalk them again that night, and
determining to risk a long shot, rather than none at all, he laid his
rifle across a boulder which he had been using as a cover, and taking a
careful aim, fired. The distance seemed to him tremendous, and as the
rifle cracked the four leaped into full career, but the one at which the
boy had fired gave a jump, which, to his excited idea, seemed to show
that he had been hit. Away started Roger at full tilt after them, but
they were speedily out of sight. Tearing along at topmost speed over the
uneven ground, Roger's breath began to give out and little black spots
danced before his eyes, but when he reached the trail of the fleeing
caribou and found a spot of blood in the tracks of one of them, he would
not have changed places with the Director of the Survey. On he went,
following this track, and noting that the leaps were growing shorter and
shorter, but his endurance was beginning to give out, when he saw before
him, not more than half a mile away, a solitary caribou. Knowing that
those which had not been hit were probably four or five miles distant at
this time, and that they would not stop under fifteen miles or so, the
boy knew that this was his victim and he redoubled his energies.

The sight of the pursuer seemed to revive the flagging energies of the
deer, and for half an hour he increased the distance. Then Roger saw
that he was gaining, although the dusk was coming on fast. Fearing to
lose his game, he decided for another long shot, and was again
successful, for at the crack of the rifle the caribou fell, staggered to
his feet, gave a few convulsive leaps, and fell again, and when, ten
minutes later, the boy stood beside the object of his quest, a
magnificent Barren Ground Caribou, the animal was dead. Roger knew that
it was no use trying to skin the caribou, and greatly though he desired
its head, he had been told that the party could not bother with it, so
cutting off as much of the meat as he could carry, he started for the
camp, which he reached four or five hours later, and displayed his
evidence, and told his hunting story with infinite zest and relish.

A couple of days later, while the men were enjoying an after-dinner
smoke, Roger noticed Rivers stooping by the edge of one of the river
bars, flicking water out of a gold pan in regular cadenced jerks. Seeing
the boy, he beckoned to him, and carefully pointing to two or three tiny
particles of metal that lay on the rock beside him, he held out his hand
to the boy.


[Illustration: SKINNING A CARIBOU.

Within the Arctic Circle, animals are slain for food, rarely for
sport.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Gold!" he said.

"You have found a gold mine?" Roger inquired excitedly.

The geologist smiled at the boy's sudden conclusion that unimagined
wealth lay exposed before them.

"Gold does not come in quarries like building stone," he said with a
laugh. "Did you think it came in great masses of rock?"

"No," answered Roger, "but I thought it came in veins through the
rocks."

"So it does, but you can find it in sand. What is sand?"

The boy thought a moment. "Why," he said, at length, "sand is rocks
ground small by the action of wind and water."

"Very well," said his chief. "Now if some of the rocks ground small
contained a vein of gold, what would happen to it?"

"The gold would be turned into sand, too," answered the boy.

"Only in part," said the older man. "The gold is hard and heavy, and
when it is eroded from the rocks it comes in flakes rather than small
particles. Then, you see, when sand is washed this way," illustrating by
a cradling motion, "the gold sinks to the bottom as the sand is washed
away from it, and you can take out the pieces of gold with comparative
ease."

"Then it ought to be very easy to get gold!" exclaimed the boy with
visions of Arabian Nights wealth floating before his eyes.

"Don't you believe it. There is gold on this river bar, as I have shown
you, and, indeed, gold has been reported by the Survey on nearly all the
bars of the Tanana River and its tributaries; but the geological history
of the region is far from perfectly known yet, and the tracing to their
original sources the débris of the Cantwell and Tanana Rivers is an
excessively complicated subject. Of course, if you found the original
vein of gold from which these flakes came, it would pay big, but near
its source it may be in sufficient quantity to pay well, even in placer
form."

"But if you can wash it right out of the sand," objected Roger, his
imagination fired by the sight of the particles of metal, "why not get
it that way?"

"Nothing easier," replied the geologist. "Thousands of people might come
up here and wash the sands of this and other rivers, the White River in
particular, but it doesn't follow that they would get enough to pay
them for their trouble. Just think what it would cost to get up here! I
suppose from the 'colors' in this sand, each one of us could wash from
six to ten dollars' worth of gold a day through the summer, but what use
would that be? It wouldn't pay the expenses of the trip; still hundreds
have made small fortunes by such methods."

"Then prospecting for gold's not so easy after all?"

"It's one of the hardest lives I know," was the reply, "and the most
dissatisfying. If you happen to strike a 'pay-streak,' as it is called,
it may be very profitable."

"But if you strike the original vein?" asked Roger. "Isn't it pretty
good then?"

"Only under certain conditions," answered the older man. "You can't
crush the quartz rock except with heavy machinery, and you can easily
see that it's no light job getting huge crushers up here. And that's not
all: after you have spent thousands of dollars in buying the machinery
and more thousands in moving it to this forsaken spot, you then have to
spend tens of thousands building up a water power development, or else
face the still more difficult problem of transporting coal to run your
engines. Then high wages are a big factor, too!"

"Then, if it's so hard to get at, what drew the crowds at the time of
the Yukon and Nome 'strikes?'" asked Roger.

"The desire to get rich quick," was the reply. "It is safe to say that
not more than ten per cent. of the thousands of people who came to
Alaska in the gold rush succeeded. Alaska is no Eldorado to pick up
wealth idly, though the gold industry, properly capitalized, is
important and worth $20,000,000 annually to the country."

"But surely some one made money in the Klondike and Nome fields?"

"There was a lot of gold near the surface, and the first-comers got that
without much trouble, as well as getting the richest claims. There is
plenty more there, but it is in frozen gravels and hard to get out.
Prospecting for gold is the best thing I know to keep away from, unless
you are willing to live in solitude and disappointment all your life,
living on the bare hope that some time you may be lucky enough to strike
a rich 'pocket.'"


[Illustration: THE END OF A HARD CLIMB.

A station made in the Land of Snow, the seated figure on a bank which
never melts.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]



CHAPTER XVI

DECLARING WAR ON UNCLE SAM


The broad lower reaches of the Cantwell River, the perfect weather, the
smoothly flowing current had made the couple of days prior to the
finding of the gold almost a pleasure trip and compensated to Roger for
the hardship through which he had gone in the rapids above. But one
evening, while at supper, one of the men suddenly smacked the top of one
hand with the palm of the other, then held it out silently for
inspection. On it was a small mosquito such as are seen in thousands
during the summer all over America.

"They've come, then," was the only remark, "but it's early for them
yet."

"What is it, just a mosquito?" asked Roger.

"Just a mosquito," repeated Gersup, with a curious inflection in his
voice, "just a poor innocent mosquito."

"Do you have many of them up here?" asked the boy, struck by the note of
satire in the topographer's voice.

"Yes, we do," he replied curtly.

"Many of them?" put in Magee. "Why, a week from now you can wave a pint
pot over your head and catch a quart of mosquitoes in it, and a month
from now we'll have to cut our way through them with an ax."

"Oh, come off, now," said Roger, laughing.

"Laugh all you want to," continued the Irishman, "but it's a fact. Why,
when they were building the Yukon railroad, during the months of July
and August as the men went to work, they had to send the snow plow ahead
of the gang in the morning in order to break a way through the banks of
mosquitoes, and sometimes they had to put two engines behind the
plow--make a double-header of it."

"Pretty good yarn, Magee," said the boy, "but if they're no worse than
that I guess I can stand it."

Here Rivers broke in. "You will do well if you do stand it," he said,
"because Magee is not so very far out. You will hardly believe it, but I
would rather face a country of hostile Indians than hostile mosquitoes.
That little mosquito you saw to-night means hundreds to-morrow,
thousands the next day, and from that until cold weather hundreds of
thousands all the time. Magee isn't exaggerating much, because Baron
Munchausen would find it hard to do the Alaskan mosquitoes justice, when
they get busy."

"Are they especially venomous, then?" the boy asked, growing serious.

"No, but they are especially numerous. Many a man has gone mad on the
trail because he had no protection from them. That, practically, wiped
out of existence one of the largest gold-hunting parties that ever came
to Alaska."

"Tell us about it, Mr. Rivers," urged Roger.

"Well, I will," the chief replied, "if it is only to give you a due
respect for your enemies. This party of which I am speaking had landed
on Kotzebue Sound, and having heard of an alleged Indian trail to the
Koyukuk, somewhere near the Selawik River, and having found out beside
that it was tundra and flat, they thought it would be easy traveling."

Here Magee chuckled audibly at the idea of tundra being easy going.

"It wasn't long," went on the chief, not noticing the interruption,
"before they reached the tundra and discovered that it was scarcely as
pleasant as they thought. Walking on tundra is like, is like,--tell him
what it's like, Magee."

"It's like walking over slippery footballs half-sunk in slime," said the
Irishman promptly.

"Well, that will do," said Rivers. "Any way, they were tramping over
this and losing heart fast when the mosquitoes began. They had nothing
with them which would serve to keep off the insects, and some of the
party were stung so fearfully that a superficial form of blood poisoning
set in. Others, unable to endure the torture night and day, killed
themselves; others again went insane and became violent; of that large
party but two returned to the coast, one who by some freak of nature was
immune, and his chum, who had become half-witted by the experience."

"You bet," commented the topographer, "the Alaskan mosquito is a matter
to be taken very seriously."

In spite of the general opinion so strongly expressed, Roger felt a
little scornful about being bothered with a few pesky mosquitoes, and he
was inclined to think it an utterly foolish precaution when he was given
an arrangement of netting to put over his head and let it hang down well
over his shoulders, but his scorn vanished rapidly. Within an hour his
hands, unprotected by gloves, became puffed and swollen from bites, and
he found it necessary to put on thick buckskin to preserve him from the
bites and to keep his sleeves rolled down. Even then he was not entirely
free, for in some mysterious way the insects would work themselves into
his clothes, and at night, although the tent was placed on a canvas
which fastened to its sides like a floor, so that the mosquitoes could
not come up from underneath, a few of them always were to be heard--and
felt. So that, before many days had passed, Rogers was convinced that
the Alaskan mosquito was a very important factor in life on the trail.


[Illustration: THE ONLY BIT OF ROCK FOR MILES.

A landmark in the vast treeless tundra. The chief of the division
drawing in contour.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


Five days after leaving the portage, having covered over one hundred
miles of very easy going, the party made camp at Harper's Bend on the
Tanana River. So far as buildings went, it was quite an imposing place,
no less than nine huts being in evidence, but they were all vacant and
deserted and a sense of loneliness and desolation hung over the place.
The sight of human habitation, after so many weeks in the wild, ought to
have given a sense of homelikeness, but instead the boy was conscious of
an eerie sense of estrangement.

At supper that evening Roger mentioned this feeling, and added:

"Somehow I feel as if this place were haunted. It doesn't so much seem
abandoned to nothingness as it does given to some uncanny ghost."

Magee crossed himself.

"Saints preserve us!" he said. "Don't talk like that, or ye'll bring the
night-riders here."

"Nonsense, Magee," reproved Rivers, "a man of your experience so
superstitious! But the boy might be right, for all that."

"By the power of good luck, why?" asked the Irishman.

"You tell the story, Gersup," replied the chief, "you know more about it
than I do."

"Alaska's a pretty new country to be starting a ghost crop," the
topographer began, "and, so far as I know, there aren't any here yet;
but, if any place ought to have one, it should be Harper's Bend, right
where we are now, and in this very house in which we are sitting."

Magee shivered and looked about him apprehensively.

"There was once," Gersup continued, "a trader at this place by the name
of Bean, William Bean. He came in the year 1879, and established a post
for the purpose of trafficking in the furs of the Tanana Indians. He
found the tribes peaceful enough, their furs were of high quality and,
as he had no competition, he was able to get them cheaply and to make a
big profit out of it. The natives seemed to be so friendly and the
opportunity for making money was so good that he determined to make it a
permanent little settlement; he brought his wife to the place, and made
arrangements for other families to follow.

"But it chanced, one day, that some natives from neighboring tribes, who
had visited trading posts, came by the Tanana Indian camps, and when
they saw how little their allies were getting from Bean for their skins,
they suggested either visiting other posts or demanding more from their
own trader. But Bean, so far as can be learned, was harsh and arrogant,
and instead of offering a little more, which would still yield a
handsome profit, he refused to consider the matter at all, and
sneeringly pointing out that they were so far from any other post that
they would have to come to him, he drove them away with gibes.

"Now the Indian usually has a sense of justice which is peculiar to
himself. To us it may at times appear distorted, but it is a sense of
justice none the less, and this sense Bean had offended. He made the
further mistake of supposing that their quiescence under his sharp
rebuff was an evidence either of cowardice or of ignorance of the true
values of their furs. So, lulled into a false security by his own
conceit, he remained there. One morning, while the whites were at
breakfast, a war-party came and attacked the blockhouse, an Indian
shooting Mrs. Bean from the doorway. The trader leaped up, seized his
small child, and dashed through a rear door to a near-by boat, followed
by an Indian servant. Some days later a party came up from the Yukon and
buried Mrs. Bean, but the trader never returned.

"The country was not settled enough at that time for any question to be
taken up of punishing the Indians for the crime, and there is no doubt
of the provocation that the trader had given them. But this single
incident in the history of the tribe is all too little to brand them
with the reputation of treachery which they have borne ever since."

The following morning the canoes passed through a section of the country
which, as Rivers pointed out to Roger, could be made the garden spot of
Alaska. Well timbered, well watered, with a favorable climate and easy
of access by steamer up the Yukon, the lower Tanana could be made a
fruitful agricultural country.

"Some day," the chief of the party said, "an enterprising man will start
a big farm here, to supply the posts all along the Yukon with
provisions, for which they now have to pay big prices on being brought
by steamer all the way from Seattle. That man will make ten times as
much money as any of the gold mine operators, and besides, will be
living in security and comfort."

They halted for the midday stop, a few miles above the junction of the
Tanana with the Yukon, and about four o'clock the canoes shot into that
great river of the north. Surprised as the boy had been at the size of
the Alaskan rivers, he was by no means prepared for the body of water
where the Tanana joins the Yukon.

"Why," he said in amaze, "I had no idea it was as big as this."

"Heap big river," commented Harry, who was in the stern.

The chief was in the boat, and hearing the lad's exclamation he turned
to him.

"This is the fifth largest river in North America," he said.

"What are the others, Mr. Rivers?" the boy asked. "The Mississippi comes
first of course."

"Yes, and then the Mackenzie, the Winnipeg, and the St. Lawrence, in
that order. But the Yukon and the St. Lawrence are just about the same
size."

"Well," Roger said, "it certainly is big enough."

Harry grunted. "Plenty big to paddle up," he said.

Then the boy noticed for the first time that there was quite a current
in the river and that it was necessary to paddle up against the stream
instead of rushing down as they had been able to do on the Tanana, and
he buckled to his work. But they had not been breasting the current for
more than an hour when one of the men in the rear boat gave a shout and
pointed down the stream. Every one looked, and there, far down, could be
seen a faint smoke like that of a steamer.

"That looks like a steamer's smoke," said the boy. "I wonder what it can
be."

"Why not a steamer?" queried Rivers.

The boy looked bewildered.

"I don't know why not," he said, laughing; "it just didn't occur to me
that any people lived about here. Are there any steamers on the Yukon?"

"Lots of them. There's quite a little traffic on the river and it is
good for navigation for hundreds of miles, indeed, all the way to the
Canadian boundary and above. Now you see, we will get this fellow,
whoever he is, to take us up to Fort Hamlin. It's just as well to save
one's strength when there is no need to exert it."

So the canoes took it easily, just paddling along quietly, not trying to
make much headway, but on the other hand, not drifting down the stream,
and commenting on the approaching steamer, as soon as she came in sight.
She was a small vessel, but quite trim and ship-shape, and to Roger's
eyes had a curious look of being civilized and out of place in the
environment.

As soon as the steamer came close, Rivers gave orders for the leading
canoe, in which he was, to drop behind, so that he might speak to the
captain, and as the steamer forged up beside them the canoes got full
way on, to give a chance for the steamer to pick them up.

"Ahoy, there!" shouted Rivers as soon as the little vessel was within
hailing distance.

The captain of the vessel picked up his speaking trumpet.

"Well, what's the trouble, what do you want?" he roared back.

"Going up to Fort Hamlin. Take us on board."

"Can't stop," the captain shouted, "this is a government boat."

"So is this," replied Rivers, a little nettled, "slow up and take us on
board."

Now, as it chanced, the skipper was a choleric little man with a very
quick temper, which had not been improved on the trip by the presence of
a party of tourists, who had been grumbling at everything American all
the way up the river. So he was anxious to magnify the importance of his
post and not be at the beck and call of every tramp on the river.
Irritated, therefore, he shouted back:

"Get to Fort Hamlin the best way you can, I can't spare any time."

By this time Rivers was warming up, and he did not want to be
discomfited before his party, so he yelled back in an authoritative
voice:

"Do as you're told and stop that vessel! I want to go on board."

"Oh, you do, do you," sneered the skipper, "then you can want," and he
rang the telegraph for full speed ahead.

Rivers was ready with a retort, but Bulson, who on occasion could become
furiously angry, suddenly blazed, and picking up a rifle that lay on the
boat, he fired across the bows of the steamer as she forged up to the
leading canoe.

The captain picked up his speaking trumpet again.

"What in Creation do you think you are doing?" he roared, with all his
force. "This is a United States mail boat," and he pointed to the mail
flag flying at the stern.

Bulson made no reply other than sending another shot across the
steamer's bows.

Then if any man was wild it was that captain. That a government ship,
flying a government flag, should be fired on in American waters by a
party of tramps in two battered canoes! And that those tourists should
have seen it! He fairly danced with rage. It was too much for flesh and
blood to stand.

He swung the ship round sharply, volleying invectives as he did so, and
vowing by all his gods that he would put every member of the party in
irons until they reached port, and then would see them in jail for
treason. And the more he fulminated, the more the tourists chaffed him,
until when the boats sheered alongside, he was purple in the face with
temper.

"What do you mean, sir," he began, stuttering in his speech; "what do
you mean by firing across our bows, sir? Are you aware that this is
treasonable conduct, sir? It is infamous, sir, treasonable and infamous!
Thirty years have I worn the uniform of the service, sir, and I have
never even heard of such insolent and high-handed conduct.

"Do not answer me, sir," he thundered, as Rivers prepared to answer him,
a smile lurking behind the shaggy brown beard. "I will not be answered.
Consider yourself under arrest, sir, and you will be handed over to the
authorities at Fort Gibbon."

"But I think, Captain," said Rivers, enjoying the amusement visible on
the faces of his party, "that you will take us to Fort Hamlin. I presume
you are going that far."

"Take you to Fort Hamlin? Are you the commander of this vessel, sir, or
am I? Answer me that, sir! And," he continued, with unnoticing
inconsistency, "if you do so much as answer me, I shall clap you in
irons. In irons, sir, and every man Jack of your party with you."

"Your threat does not disturb me in the least," was the unmoved reply,
"because you would not dare to do it."

"Not dare?" exploded the little man, and turning, he was about to give
an order, when Rivers stopped him.

"You had better wait," he said, "before you do anything for which you
may be sorry. I have told you several times to take us to Fort Hamlin,
and you reply with threats of arrest and what not. You cannot arrest any
man without some cause, and no cause has been given."

"No cause, sir? You have given cause enough to be strung up at the
yardarm, sir, strung up without any resort to the civil authority. Did
you not fire across my bows, sir? No cause, indeed! Do you not know,
sir, that such an action is a declaration of war, sir, and that in times
of peace, it is privateering and piracy, and a dozen other things
besides, sir?"

"And who has more right to fire across your bows than I have?" queried
Rivers with a fine assumption of authority.

"More right," cried the captain, his voice rising to a perfect shriek,
"you have no right, no one has any right--"

"Nevertheless I have," continued Rivers, but before he could explain his
mission, the little officer broke in again.

"You have? If you were the Czar of Russia, sir, and every one of the
scarecrows with you was a crowned head, sir, you would have no right to
stop an American vessel in American waters. On American waters, did I
say? On any waters, sir. Wherever that flag flies, sir, she shall not be
stopped by any one. And whoever fires on that flag, sir, is an enemy to
me and my country, and I should have no hesitation in shooting him down
like a dog. Like a dog, sir, the dog that he is!"

"Well, Captain," said Rivers, thinking that the matter had gone far
enough. "I am sure you would be sorry if you shot me down like a dog, as
you say. I am on government service, just as you are, and am just as
loyal to the United States as you can be. My name is Rivers, of the
Geological Survey."

"Rivers, the head of the Alaskan work?"

"Yes. The navy department was kind enough to place a gunboat at my
disposal for the trip from Seattle to Cook Inlet, and a revenue cutter
has been ordered to meet us at Point Barrow in the autumn, so I feel
sure the Postal authorities will not complain of your affording us
facilities as far as Fort Hamlin."

"And why did you not say so before, sir?"

"You didn't give me a chance," answered Rivers, smiling.

"If I had known who you were, sir, that would have been an entirely
different matter. I should have esteemed it a pleasure, sir, to have
been able to assist you in any way."

He turned to the passengers, who had been listening to the altercation
with great zest.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you see that only the American government itself
can dare to delay a United States mail boat. Gentlemen, let me introduce
Mr. Rivers, chief of the Geological Survey in Alaska."



CHAPTER XVII

CLAWED BY AN ANGRY BEAR


The first day of June saw the party safely in Fort Hamlin, having landed
from the mail boat. The captain had shown a very great eagerness to be
rid of them, as their presence reminded him of an incident in his trip
which he preferred to forget.

"I am glad to have met you, sir," said the little officer to Rivers, as
the geological party went over the side to their two canoes, "and to
have been able to assist you thus far. But, sir, I trust the next time
you have occasion to board a United States vessel, sir, you will not
deem it necessary to adopt such summary proceedings."

"I am sorry, Captain," said Rivers, "but there really did not seem to be
any other way of stopping you, and it was necessary."

The little skipper waved his hand.

"The incident is closed, sir," he said, "and I wish you good luck on
your trip to the Arctic Ocean. I am only sorry that my duty will not
permit me to take you at least part of the way to Dall City, but, sir, I
am due in Fort Yukon on the sixth of the month."

An appropriate answering expression of good wishes having been made by
Rivers, the little steamer started off and in a few minutes was only
visible as a cloud of smoke around a bend in the river. A busy day was
spent at Fort Hamlin, making the last preparations for the next lap of
the journey, namely to Bettles, at the junction of the John and Koyukuk
Rivers, a long and by no means easy trip.

But the days were growing long, indeed the nights were excessively
short, and as everything was ready for the trip by a little after three
o'clock, Rivers gave the word to start, and a few hours' paddling
brought the voyagers to the Dall River, where it plunged its muddy
waters into the north fork of the Yukon. There, immediately across from
an Indian village, the party made its first camp on the third stage of
the journey.

The Dall River was full to overflowing, as the spring floods had not all
come down, and, so far as the boy could see, it hardly looked like a
river at all, but a large flat marsh, with a sluggish current. Over this
the boats made good time, sometimes following a blind channel only
marked by the trees sticking up out of the water, and sometimes making a
short cut over the submerged land. Several times, in the doing of this,
the canoes grounded, but the bottom was of mud and no harm was done, the
men jumping into the icy water to pull them clear.

Higher up the stream, however, the ground rose a little and these short
cuts no longer became possible, so that the tortuous channel had to be
followed, and as the valley of the Dall is extremely wide and the stream
winds from side to side, a long day's traveling did not cause so great
an advance. Twenty miles of this irregular going was rarely more than
ten or twelve miles of progress, and the eighty-five miles between the
mouth of the river and Coal Creek consumed an entire week. Here Rivers
called a halt, as he desired to examine the lignite or soft coal of the
region.

Taking Roger with him, the geologist ascended Coal Creek for a little
over a mile above its confluence with the Dall, and there they found a
large outcrop of lignite, of which one half the thickness of the seam
showed coal of a firm, bright quality.

"I should think," said Roger, "that this ought to be more valuable than
a gold mine, for Alaska would be all right to live in during the
winter, if coal was cheap and easily obtained."

"It would make an immense difference," his chief rejoined, "for coal
will go further to build up the greatness of a country than any other
factor. That was largely the cause of England's rise, and the United
States would never be what they are to-day if it were not for the
anthracite and bituminous beds of Pennsylvania. If we could lay bare a
big anthracite field, Doughty, it would be better for Alaska than all
the gold that's ever been struck, though the soft coking coals, used in
steel-making, etc., also are extremely valuable."

"Perhaps we may," suggested the boy, his eyes alight with the thought of
a possible discovery.

"I think not," was the conservative reply. "This is the only
coal-bearing horizon, and though it does crop up all over the country it
is a soft coal strata. You see anthracite is a coal much older and
subjected to much greater pressure, so it does not usually occur in the
same strata with soft coal."

Returning to camp in time to complete the remaining five miles assigned
for that day's trip, Rivers told the boy that they would spend the
night in Dall City. When a couple of hours later the canoes stopped in
front of three or four abandoned prospectors' cabins, the boy was
correspondingly disappointed.

"Is this Dall City?" he said aloud in disgust.

"Sure, this is Dall City," said Magee. "The Mayor would have come out to
present us with the freedom of the city on a silk cushion, but as he
couldn't get a quorum of the aldermanic council, he decided to go away
and let us take all the freedom we can lay our hands on. On to freedom!"
and the jokester jumped out of the canoe to aid in running her up on the
bank.

Above Dall City the river becomes absolutely impassable, and there was
no thought of trying it, but Rivers knew that there was a long and heavy
portage from Dall City, although it was over a well-made and often-used
trail. But the pass was immensely steep, the mosquitoes were
incomparably bad, Roger's feet were tender, and that two days' portage
nearly crumpled him up.

At the end of the first day he felt pretty well exhausted, but he had
not shown a sign of letting up throughout the work. He hoped to be
toughened up by next morning, but when daylight came his muscles were so
sore and tender that he could not bear to touch them with his finger.
None the less, he gritted his teeth and settled down to his work,
remembering from past athletic experience that in an hour or so he would
limber up.

The noon day stop was what nearly finished the boy. The moment he sat
down to rest before dinner, he felt as though he could never get up, and
even the food seemed unable to revive his flagging energies. When the
start was called, however, he caught a glance that Rivers cast first on
him and then to Gersup, the topographer. That was the stimulant he
needed, his pride was touched, and he leaped to his feet although he
felt as though it were the last effort he would ever make.

But he was fortunate in having a considerate crowd, and though all could
see that the lad was nearly beaten out, they admired his pluck and grit
in saying nothing about it, and would not dishearten him by letting him
see that they realized how near he was to giving up. On the trail,
however, his pack on his back, and nothing to do but walk, following
Bulson, who was immediately in front of him, his will-power showed
stronger than his legs and back, and though he felt numb and without the
power of thought, he still went on. For the first time he realized how
brutalizing exhausting physical labor can be. On and on until a shout
from the cook, who had been left at the further end of the portage the
night before, told Roger that the carry was over and supper ready. As
they reached the spot and Bulson turned to help the boy unstrap his
pack, he said briefly:

"Bully good work, Doughty; that was a long, hard carry."

"But I had nothing like your load," answered the boy, remembering that
his companion had toted at least forty pounds more in his pack.

"You're not quite so old yet," answered the other, then with a smile,
"maybe I'm a little stronger than you are, too."

Supper was very welcome and the boiling hot tea seemed to put new life
into the boy, but a proposal made by the topographer for a hunting trip
fell on deaf ears.

"If you don't mind, Mr. Gersup," he said, "I think I'd rather not. Now
that the portage is over, I don't mind confessing that I'm a little
tired, and I think a good night's sleep will seem a whole lot better
than any kind of shooting you can think of. I want to be ready for work
to-morrow, and any way, I wouldn't walk half a mile to-night to shoot
wild elephant."

"You're wise," answered the older man. "I wouldn't have taken you any
way, but I wanted to see if you'd have the nerve to say, 'No.' I reckon
for your size and age, son, you're about as good an article as I've ever
seen on a first trip."

"You've been over this ground before, then?" asked the boy, lying down
and resting his head on his elbow.

"Right over this trail. I made a reconnoissance once from Fort Yukon to
Kotzebue Sound, and it's because I know the ground so well that we're
making such good time now. That portage often takes three days."

"What a wonder Bulson is on the trail," said Roger, trying to stifle a
yawn, "he must have had a hundred and thirty pounds in his pack to-day."

"Well, he's as strong as a grizzly," replied the older man, "and he just
eats up the trail. You're stronger in a canoe. By the way, there are
some rapids on the Kanuti River, down which we start to-morrow, and I
suppose you'll have a chance to shine there. But it's nothing like that
fearful mess on the Cantwell."

"It's a pretty wild country up here, just the same," suggested the boy,
"and, speaking of hunting, there must be lots of big game in these
forests."

"Plenty of it. It's not more than ten miles from where we are now that I
came across the only man I ever met who had been thoroughly clawed by a
bear and yet lived to tell the tale."

"The story!" demanded Roger peremptorily.

"It wasn't so much of a yarn. I got it from the half-breed guide. It was
quite early in the season," he began, leaning back against the trunk of
a tree, "and we had just made camp, a little further on than we are now,
because the water in the Kanuti River was not as high as it is this
season, when we heard a shot fired, then after a regular interval
another, and another, and so on."

"Meaning a signal of distress?" questioned the boy.

"Right," rejoined the older man. "Well, of course, we responded the same
way, and half an hour later there staggered into the camp a wounded man
on horseback, and a half-breed holding him in the saddle. The injured
man was a sight, and as I know quite a little about surgery, I looked
after his wounds, took a few stitches here and there, pretty much all
over at that, and started them off on the trail to Fort Hamlin, a couple
of days' ride away, and thence to Rampart, a couple of hours down the
Yukon.

"But before they left I learned in a vague sort of way how the whole
thing had come about. It appeared that the poor fellow had gone up to
Caribou Mountain to shoot some big game, and had taken the half-breed
along as a guide. The luck had been bad, nothing had been shot, or even
sighted, and the two of them had started for home.

"One day, however, the same day that he met us, on turning the corner of
a rock, the half-breed being a little distance away, the hunter saw a
bear. Not knowing much of the bears in this part of the world, it simply
seemed to him like a smaller species, and, dropping on one knee he
pumped three shots into the brute and it fell a few steps away. Then,
foolishly laying his rifle down and taking out his hunting knife, he
walked up to the beast to see what his prize was like.

"Stooping down, he saw that it was but a large well-grown cub, and he
stood looking at it for a moment, when a sudden feeling of danger
flashed into his mind. A cub--then the old bears must be near by; he
turned swiftly to get and reload his rifle. As he turned, he saw,
charging upon him from the direction in which his rifle was lying, the
mother of the cub. The bear, which was coming like an express train, was
not seventy-five yards away, and the rifle was ten.

"Then the fellow did what seemed to me a mighty plucky thing. He knew he
could not outstrip the bear, and he was sure that if he were treed that
would be the end of it, so instead of running from the bear he tore up
the hill to meet her face to face."

"Did he expect to get to the rifle first?" asked Roger, full of
interest.

"He thought that when the bear saw him charging for her it would cause
her to pause, and a few seconds' delay would enable him to get his rifle
and he ran a chance of dropping her in her tracks. It was his only hope.
But the brute never stopped in her rush, and when the hunter reached the
gun she was only twenty feet away.

"Bringing the rifle to his shoulder with a single motion, he pumped
three steel-jacketed bullets into her at point-blank distance, then,
throwing his rifle up, he caught it by the barrel, prepared to club the
bear over the head with an aim to catch her in the eyes and blind her,
so that he could make a get-away."

"That was plucky," said the boy, "to face a mad bear with a clubbed
gun."

"Plucky enough, but foolish. He knew nothing of the strength of a bear,
and even as he brought down the clubbed rifle with all his force, she
rose suddenly upon her hind legs and swept away the descending gun with
her paw. I found it later, bent almost double with the force of that
blow. The hunter jumped aside, but as the bear rushed past she threw out
her other paw with claws outstretched, which, catching him on the neck,
laid open his right arm from shoulder to wrist.

"Dazed and incapacitated, he was an easy mark for the bear, who turning,
with a growl at the pain of her wounds from the three bullets, seized
him in her teeth. Then, apparently suffering acutely herself, she
dropped him to give a vicious bite at the blood dripping from her side,
where one of the bullets had entered.

"The hunter, who had been thrown several feet when the bear dropped him,
was still game. He staggered up with some vague idea of finding and
using the rifle, when, with an angry snort, she rushed at him again. But
one of the steel-coated messengers of death had found a vital part and
her eyes were growing dim, so that though her claws lacerated his
thigh, her jaws came together a foot from him, and in her overreaching
rush she knocked him down without further injury.

"There, then, crouched bear and man, almost within striking distance of
each other, and yet both too weak to get up. Prudence bade the hunter
lie still, but seeing that the eyes of the bear were glazing fast, he
thought he might make shift to defend himself in the event of a final
rush, and he reached out his hand for his hunting knife, which had
fallen a few feet away. But the brute was still conscious of danger, and
she reared with a roar of pain and thundered down upon the man, who
struck with the knife as she fell upon him, the blade striking the
snout, the tenderest part of the whole body. She buried her teeth in his
shoulder, but relaxed the pressure almost instantly from her own pain
and rolled over him leaving him free.

"Once more she lurched heavily to her feet, and the man lying on the
ground in a frenzy of pain, closed his eyes, only hoping that the end
might come quickly. Once he opened them, and there, not three feet away,
stood the bear, apparently blind from the approach of death, rocking and
sawing unsteadily on her feet, and then toppled over, dying. Three or
four times, even then, she tried to rise, but fell back each time with a
low growl, her bloody jaws snapping with fury scarcely a yard from the
hunter's face, but the bullets had not failed to do their work, and with
a last roar she fell back, dead.

"The hunter declared, but is not sure whether he was conscious or no,
that hardly had the she-bear fallen dead, than out from the woods
stepped another immense bear, almost twice the size of the female.
Quietly he walked to the cub, and smelt it with a growl, next smelt the
body of the she-bear with another growl, and with his hair bristling,
walked to where the hunter was lying. The man was paralyzed by fear and
pain and did not move, whereon the bear, showing no hurry, shambled into
the woods again and was gone.

"The whole affair, from the first shooting of the cub to the appearance
and disappearance of the parent bear, had not taken five minutes, and
when the half-breed, who had heard the shooting and the growls, reached
the place, it was all over. The hunter, dazed and scarcely conscious,
was lying beside a stone with the dead cub a few feet behind him and the
dead mother a few feet in front of him. Apparently the man had not
moved since the bear died, and probably was not aware of his escape,
but was lying there, awaiting death in a most horrible form, not
realizing that his foe had passed beyond revenge."

"But how did he get to you?" asked the boy.

"The half-breed brought him, as I told you. In some unexplained way he
lifted him to the saddle, and had the good judgment to let him fall
forward on the neck of the horse, thereby closing the wounds in the neck
and shoulder, which were the worst of all. But the hunter was terribly
lacerated, for the claws of a bear rip right to the bone, sinews,
tendons, veins, everything being shorn clean through.

"I doctored up his wounds as well as I could, but he did not regain
consciousness all night, and I thought he would never pull through. But
just as he had shown plenty of pluck in his fight with the bear, so he
also showed a good deal of vitality in his fight with death. Though time
was very precious to us, we stayed there three days to give him a
chance, and then we sent him down to Rampart."

"I should have thought that the ride would kill him," said the boy.

"There was certainly a chance that it would," replied the topographer.
"But he could not have gone down the Kanuti River with us, and he could
not stay up there alone with the half-breed. Then I thought there was
less danger of some blood poisoning or infection setting in if he was
somewhere that he could be watched by a doctor, and the journey was
worth the risk."

"Did you ever hear of him afterwards?"

"Oh, yes. He is recovering, though, of course, he will never be the same
man again."

"That," mumbled Roger, his voice thick with sleep, "was a close shave,"
and a moment later his heavy breathing told the topographer that his
audience was asleep.

"He's a plucky little customer himself," he commented, as he left the
tent.



CHAPTER XVIII

FIGHTING FIRE IN THE TUNDRA


The next day, June 12th, with Roger at the bow and Harry at the stern of
the leading canoe, they started down the Kanuti River. The stream was
swift, shallow, and full of boulders, and for the first couple of days
more of the work was done wading in the stream than by paddling. The
second day, particularly, it seemed to the boy that he had not been out
of the water at all during the fourteen hours of the march, except for
the brief halt at noon.

The next day, however, was travel of the kind that he liked. Two small
tributaries of the Kanuti, mere mountain streams, flowed in and raised
the water to a height where it was possible to shoot the rapids instead
of wading them, carrying the canoes. Ever since the canoe slide on the
Cantwell, Roger had felt quite proud of his powers as a canoeist, and
this pride was considerably heightened as he found how able he was to
handle the boat on this new stream. It was different, too, for while
the first set of rapids had been a torrent foaming between jagged
upstanding crags of rock, this was a swift river running over heaps of
boulders, and the Indian had to judge by the swirl of the water just
what was below.

A broad valley, through which the river wound in a very crooked way,
afforded a quick day's journey, but bad rapids were then met with, which
taxed the resources of the party to the utmost, and proved all in vain
to prevent the boats from being swamped. Twice the boats went over, once
the leading boat to Roger's great chagrin, and the second time the
second boat, which in consequence made the boy feel much better. No
serious harm resulted as the supplies were always packed in watertight
bags. There was a fall of eight hundred feet in the thirty miles of
these rapids, so that, as Magee said, "it was a case of whistling for
brakes all the time."

The mosquitoes became very bad in the lower reaches of the river, the
only redeeming feature of which part of the trip was the immense
abundance of ducks and geese, which, being shot, were a welcome and
toothsome addition to the larder. With this to aid the quiet progress,
the party soon arrived at Arctic City, at the junction of the Kanuti
and Koyukuk rivers, and thence one day's paddling up the latter broad
stream brought them to Bergman. This is a central trading post, and
there again they secured supplies for the last stage of the journey.

As it was already June 23d, and the hardest stretch was yet to come,
little time was lost at Bergman, and three days later the voyagers
crossed the Arctic Circle and touched at Bettles, at the junction of the
Koyukuk and John (or Totsenbet) rivers. There Roger saw the last white
face he would see, other than the members of the party, until he had
crossed the great Arctic Divide, made his bow to the not-distant North
Pole, reached the frozen ocean, and returned to civilization.

But when they came to the John River and Roger saw the force of the
waters of the stream, and learned that there was one hundred and
forty-five miles of up-stream work against that current, he realized
that all his previous experience of labor had been child's play compared
to it.

"That's going to be a pretty stiff pull, Mr. Rivers, isn't it?" said
Roger to the geologist, as he was standing by the edge of the river
just as the boats were being launched.

"It would be, Doughty," was the answer, "that is, if it wasn't for the
milking."

"Milking?" questioned the boy in surprise, doubting if he had heard the
word aright.

Just then Magee replied over his shoulder.

"Yes, milking, of course. Didn't you know they had cows here to do all
the work? Sure! You've read of the cleverness of ants? Well, they're no
better than fools compared to John River cows. They have a regular
system. The cows up here have immensely long horns and two of them catch
the end of one horn in the bow of the canoe, and another one, a mooley
cow, shoves behind, and there you are. That's what they call
milking--milking the brush, up here. Don't you expect to go up the John
by milking the brush?" he added, turning to Rivers.

"Certainly," replied the geologist, then, seeing the lad's confusion, he
continued, "but you mustn't mind Magee; milking the brush isn't quite
that. It's a term used to specify that way of traveling which consists
of pulling the canoes up stream by the boughs of branches along the
bank. You see the John River is so swift that, if we were to depend only
on paddling and poling, progress would be extremely slow."

"But how about tracking?" suggested the boy. "What is to prevent the
canoes being pulled along by ropes from the shore?"

"The timber and brush come right down to the water's edge," was the
reply. "There are no bars and level banks such as there were in the
upper part of the Dall River, just before we came to the portage, and of
course it is almost out of the question to pull or tow a canoe, when the
banks are so thick that you would have to cut a trail in order to get
through yourself. The trees and undergrowth overhang the river for quite
a distance. Therefore all that can be done is to pull the boats up along
the branches, hand over hand, one man poling in the stern. Of course,
every few yards the boats get entangled and have to be pushed and pulled
out. It's the only way, but it's back-breaking work."

It was, there was no doubt about that, and Roger added another chapter
to his ideas of what hard work meant. The current of the river was so
swift that it was useless to try and paddle up against it, while keeping
in the middle of the stream, the banks were so thick and wooded that
tracking was impossible, and "milking the brush" required incredible
labor, because it meant keeping the canoe so near the bank that it was
grounding or striking snags or becoming entangled in roots constantly,
or misbehaving itself in some way.


[Illustration: IN ICY WATER UNDER A BURNING SUN.

Taking a canoe up a glacier-fed current in the height of an Alaskan
summer.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


Then to make a change, a long rapid would appear, and the only way to
negotiate it was to lift the canoes shoulder-high, all the party
together under the one canoe, and climb up that rapid with the ice water
perhaps up to the waist, and a cruel, drenching spray whipping into
their faces. In the meantime, if the mosquito veils were thrown
back--and few things are more uncomfortable than a wet mosquito veil
flopping about the face, why, then those torturing pests got in a full
day's work; the while that a hot Alaskan summer sun blazed above them
and blistered face, arms, and neck, exposed alternately to vivid sun and
icy spray.

On July 5th, the spruce, which had thinned out rapidly during the couple
of days preceding, came to a sudden end, the northern limit of timber
having been reached. Nothing seemed to impress on Roger so clearly the
fact that he was now in the Arctic Circle as the thought that he was in
a climate so rigorous and gale-swept in winter that no tree could grow.
A few stunted willow bushes, here and there, still remained, when
sheltered on the bank of the river, but trees, as such, worthy of the
name, there were none of any sort whatever.

"I never realized," said Roger, "that there was no timber of any kind in
the far north. What do the Eskimos burn for fuel?"

"Have you ever seen pictures of stoves or fireplaces in the Eskimo snow
hut?" was the answer. "They depend on the heat of their own bodies in a
hut without any ventilation, on the flame of blubber lamps, and
occasionally, on a little driftwood which may have come down into the
Arctic Ocean from some immense stream like the Mackenzie, which, flowing
thousands of miles, has passed in its upper reaches through a timbered
country."

But by the time that the boy had reached this northern limit of spruce
he had lost all idea of time. The days and nights seemed one perpetual
nightmare. When asleep he dreamed that he was wading, or tracking, or
poling, and when awake he felt as though he were working in his sleep.
It seemed to him that he had spent years and years on an icy river, and
that fate had tied him to it for ever and ever. By the time that two
full weeks of it had passed by, the boy no longer had any thought of
reaching the summit, that this toil could stop was a thought incredible,
and though his muscles, stiffened and well-trained, continued to do
their full man's share of the work, the mental strain was intense.

Rivers and Gersup were considerably troubled over the fact that the
boy's strength showed no signs of giving way, and they would almost
rather have seen him break down physically than continue his work
doggedly, yet like a machine. It became hard, toward the end of the
trip, to make him answer a question, and it would have to be repeated
several times before the boy could grasp it. Orders regarding the work
he seemed to understand at once, but other matters fell on deafened
ears.

The older men tried to sting him into life in many ways. They attacked
his pride, they endeavored to insult him, they reasoned with him, but
there was no response, the heavy and sunken eyes regained no luster, the
hard-set jaw never relaxed, and the channels of speech seemed frozen.
This went on as the river shallowed until, when the John had become so
small that further work by water was impossible, Rivers gave word for a
portage.

But the chief was far too wise a leader not to be prudent as well as
urgent, and he knew that there were times when a rest would be wise for
most of the party, and imperative for Roger. He had not dared to give
anything to the boy, because of the need of travel the next day, but now
that a short rest was in sight, he mixed up from the little medicine
chest a sleeping draught of triple strength, and made the boy take it
down. Through the entire night and the whole of the next day Roger slept
unmoving, and when evening came, Rivers and Gersup discussed whether
they should wake him.

"Let him sleep, if he wants to," put in Magee, who had heard the talk;
"sure he can't be gettin' into any harm while he's asleep, an' if it's
rest he wants, I think it's better not to wake him."

"But, Magee," said the chief, "sometimes a man gets into one of those
sleeps and nothing will rouse him after."

"Of course, there's a risk, but if the boy's brain needs sleep so bad
as all that, I should think the shock of waking him would be bad."

And so it was decided to let the lad sleep as long as he would. All
through that second night he slept, though it was almost full daylight
the whole night through, and all the next morning, till about three
o'clock in the afternoon, when he stirred, looked around languidly, and
fell to sleep again. He woke at five o'clock, and sat right up, his eye
clear and the leaden weight upon his tongue loosened.

The men crowded round with questions, and Roger learned that they had
reached the head of the pass, but he had retained no memory whatever of
the last ten days of the trip. He buckled to and ate steadily for an
hour and a half, to the huge joy of the cook, and then curled up for
some more sleep, awakening the next morning bright and chipper as though
he were in Washington before the trip had been begun.

On July 17th, therefore, the lad being quite himself again, three days
after their arrival at Anaktuvuk Pass, at the head of the John River,
Rivers gave the word for the portage to be begun. It was a twelve-mile
portage and hard going, for though, unlike all the previous carries,
there was no timber to intercept, and through which a trail must be cut,
the entire work was over the tundra.

The moss-plains of the Arctic slopes, brilliant with wild flowers and
fragrant with heather and gorse, which surround the Polar Seas the world
around, come almost first in the list of objectionable travel. Even in
the blazing heat of a summer where the sun shines for twenty-two hours
out of twenty-four and the heat is nothing short of tropical, two feet
below the surface the spade would touch perpetual frost, a factor of no
importance to the branching-rooted tundra moss. Centuries of centuries
of growth and decay have created a network of roots, rotten, spongy, and
wet, so that walking over it resembles treading on soaked sponges two
feet deep.

But that nothing may remain to be thought of in the viciousness of that
footing, every six or eight inches apart, tufts of grass and moss, known
as "niggerheads," hard and round, stick up a foot high. If the unwary
traveler decides to walk on these as on the stones of a ford crossing,
he finds them slippery and insecure, they turn under his foot, and give
him the experience of a twisted ankle; while, on the other hand, if he
should endeavor to walk between them he runs a fair chance of tripping
upon those hummocks and falling headlong in the oozy moss. Indeed, he
can hardly walk at all.


[Illustration: THUS FAR WITH THE BOATS, AND NO FARTHER!

The beginning of a portage at the summit of a divide; often a road must
be cut through the brush.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


The portage took two days, Rivers making a forced march, and the cook
was left at the new camp with the first day's supplies, the carry being
to Cache Lake, a large slough which forms the headwaters of the
Anaktuvuk River. Early the next morning the rest of the party returned
to the old camp, where they had left the canoes, to bring them over to
the Lake for their trip down to the Arctic Ocean.

Towards evening, as they were returning, and had just ascended a little
knoll, Roger hurried up to the chief of the party.

"Mr. Rivers," he said, "there seems to be a lot of smoke over there, in
the direction of the camp."

The geologist looked up sharply and then turned.

"Quick, boys," he said, "take the boats to that pond"--the tundra was
dotted with small stretches of water--"and anchor them in the middle.
The tundra is on fire, and if it's going to spread the boats must be
saved. Harry, you go ahead to the camp." He dropped his pack and broke
into a run.

Bulson, grasping the situation, stuck one of the punting poles deep into
the shallow bottom and made fast the canoes to it in the middle of the
slough. Then, with the rest of the men he followed the Indian and the
chief for the camp. Roger's light weight and his training on the track
had made him a good runner, but he did not try to outdistance the other
men, and of course Harry was out of sight.

Plunging over and through the tundra, however, with veins swollen almost
to bursting with the heavy going, the men kept on, no one speaking,
though once, as a sheet of flame shot up, Gersup pointed with his
finger. It was a welcome sight, on topping a small rise, to see in the
distance that two of the three tents were still standing, though ringed
round with a smoldering fire; in the foreground the blackened figures of
the cook and the Indian, working for their lives, and the chief just
pounding into the camp. With never a pause, save when some fellow
tripped and fell, the men tore over the rough ground until they reached
the flames. Under the vigorous work of all hands an impression began to
be made, and two hours later the fire was under control.

"How did it happen, George?" the chief asked.

Twice the cook tried to answer, but the pungent smoke and the exertion
had made him almost speechless, and he could only whisper hoarsely.
Though the fire was officially out, every few minutes a puff of smoke
would reveal a smoldering root of moss, and all night through two men
watched, two hours apiece, to see that it did not break out anew. And
these men never had five minutes' quietude, for the fire, which had been
burning unseen in the network of roots for hours, would suddenly send up
a flame, and the whole line of that smoldering glow would have to be
beaten and drenched out.

As the cook described it later, the fire did not appear for over an hour
after the party had left, and when the smoke first arose, he did not pay
much attention to it, merely thinking that it was one of the circles of
"smudges" which had been lighted the night before all round the camp to
keep the mosquitoes away, and which had not been properly put out. He
looked up a couple of times, but not for another hour did he notice any
change, and then he saw a faint vapor rising near the first.

Thinking by this time that it might be as well to go and keep the fire
from spreading, he strolled over to the column of smoke. But he had not
come within thirty feet of the place when he found that he was walking
over a glowing furnace, the tundra being red hot between the green moss
above, which would not burn, and the wet roots below. Each step he took,
of course, put out the fire under his footstep by pressing the glowing
moss into the substratum of water, but it created a current of air to
the moss around that footstep, and looking behind he saw smoke arising
from every impress of his foot.

At this point he became alarmed, and instead of making a circle around
the camp of moss thoroughly beaten down and soaked, he started to try to
beat out the existing fire, an almost hopeless task, for the reason that
the flames crept under the surface unseen and almost unfelt, only
betraying their presence by a faint film of vapor. By the time that he
realized that he should have devoted his energy to making a fireguard
around the camp, the tundra was burning too close to the tents for him
to be able to dare stop checking it long enough to start protective
remedies.

In spite of all his labor, however, the fire reached one of the smaller
tents, where some of the maps were kept, and the dry canvas and mosquito
netting, catching alight suddenly, went up in the air as though it had
been a fire balloon, and blazing fragments of the tent, falling on the
tundra about, gave source to a dozen more fires. George rushed over the
red-hot tundra and carried the maps, which, though scorched, were not
badly injured, to the main tent, and then devoted himself to encircling
that tent thoroughly with beaten and wetted moss, watching to see that
no spark crossed and that no treacherous fire crept along between the
roots of the moss.

Matters were at this point when the Indian appeared, and with one man
watching the tents and the other beating out the fire progress was made,
the danger being entirely averted when the whole party arrived. The
peril over, the other members of the party went back for the canoes,
bringing them into the camp late in the evening.

The next morning all boarded the canoes to cross Cache Lake, which,
connected with a score of other sloughs, led to the initial streams of
the Anaktuvuk, the main tributary of the Colville, which latter river
flows into the Arctic Ocean. They had paddled perhaps two miles when the
Indian gave a guttural grunt and pointed to the shore that they had
left. There, rising high in the clear air, was a column of faint blue
smoke.

"They say you can't put out a tundra fire," said Rivers, "and I begin to
believe it."

"Then how long do you suppose that will burn?" asked Roger.

"Until the winter puts about a foot of snow over it, I suppose," the
geologist answered, "and it'll hate to quit even then."



CHAPTER XIX

RACING A POLAR WINTER


The comparatively flat plateau country, dotted with sloughs, on which
the party had embarked after leaving the camp on the tundra, where they
had been forced to fight with fire to save their possessions, lasted but
a short while on the journey. Before evening the edge of the table-land
was neared and the scattering rivulets drained into a narrow and swift
stream, which Roger learned was the Anaktuvuk. Rivers, though
conservative in manner as always, was obviously delighted at the thought
that all the hard up-stream labor was at an end, with the expedition
well ahead of its time, and many important details, topographical and
geological, discovered.

It was a matter of absolute ease to float down the smoothly flowing
Anaktuvuk, and for the first two days the only disadvantage to life were
the clouds of mosquitoes. But the third day these pests disappeared in
time to allow the voyagers to pay due attention to a troubled piece of
water, as the stream shot down the northern slope of the Arctic Rockies
through gorges and canyons of no little height.

The pitch of the stream Roger saw to be very great, but his skill as a
canoeist was not heavily drawn upon, since the bed of the stream was
little impeded, save for a few boulders at scattered intervals. But
despite the smoothness of the stream, the banks overhung the river so
far as to cause a most unpleasant sensation of fear. It seemed to the
boy every minute as though the pendent masses of earth and rock would
fall and overwhelm them, and the boy could tell, from the anxious
glances cast overhead by Rivers, that the same thought was disturbing
the chief of the party.

About two o'clock in the afternoon of the third day they ran through a
long gorge of this undercut character, and one, moreover, from which
little trickling muddy streamlets showed that the frozen ground was
thawing under the hot August sun. Roger, as usual, was in the leading
boat with Rivers and Bulson, the Indian being in the stern. Suddenly the
boy heard a warning cry from the other boat, and looking overhead, saw
a mass of snow and earth detach itself from the top of the cliff four
hundred feet above them and thunder down directly for the boat.

Simultaneously the boy felt Harry reach forward for a long stroke and,
turning, saw Rivers dive from the boat. Bulson, who was also paddling,
put his superb muscle into his stroke, and though Roger felt like
following his chief's policy and taking to the water, he stuck to his
post and made his paddle bite hard on the water. The canoe sprang ahead
like a cannon ball, but a second later, with a dull roar the landslide
struck, just the edge of it catching the boat. Roger was conscious of a
grinding crash, and then a blank.

When he came to his senses a few minutes later he found himself
stretched upon the bank and Rivers bending over him. He lay still for a
moment and then became deathly sick, noting the looks of concern on the
faces of the party. In a few moments he felt better and tried to sit up,
but Bulson placed his large hand on the boy's shoulder and bade him be
still.

"Where's Harry?" was Roger's first question, his last impression before
he went under with the ruins of the canoe having been that of seeing a
piece of rock falling straight for his comrade's head.

"All right," answered the Indian composedly; "jump heap quick, though."

"You certainly did, Harry," said another of the members of the party. "I
could have sworn that the rock hit you."

"No hit at all," was the quiet reply.

"And Bulson?"

"Bulson liked it," broke in Magee; "sure the whole Rocky Mountains could
fall on him, an' he'd like it for a regular exercise before breakfast."

"I guess I'm all right, too," said Roger, and seeing his anxiety to sit
up, they let him rise. He patted himself all over and then laughed. "I
suppose I'd feel it if anything was broken," he said, "so it must be
O. K." He got on his feet.

"Did you get out of it all right, Mr. Rivers?" went on the boy, turning
to his chief. "I'm not sure, but I think I saw you dive."

"Yes," answered the geologist, "and it's lucky I did, for one of the
rocks struck the very spot where I was sitting. I thought it was coming,
and that's why I jumped. You're sure you feel all right?"

"Sure," said the boy. "I lost my wind, that's about all."

Rivers smiled. "You're lucky," he said, "in having been stooping over
when the slide struck, because if it had taken you in the ribs or chest
instead of the back, you'd have had some internal injury for sure. But
since it struck you in the back, and you don't feel any special pain,
your spine hasn't been hurt and nothing else can be, you must be all
right."

"I suppose the canoe is smashed!" the boy said questioningly.

"The boat's at the bottom of the river, with a few tons of earth and
rock and snow on top of it."

Roger's expression changed suddenly.

"But the maps, the plane table, all the work!" he exclaimed, "you don't
mean that everything is lost!"

"Do you suppose," answered the chief, "that I should be satisfied if
those were gone?"

"Then how were they saved? I don't understand," put in the boy,
mystified.

"I grabbed the oilskin bag with the maps when I went over the side,"
replied Rivers, "and Bulson hurled the plane table backwards over his
head, so that it fell in the water for the other boat to pick up. But
all the instruments are gone, of course, and a good many of our
specimens."

"It's a good thing," put in the topographer, "that I made a little
duplicate for my own collection."

"Yes," answered the chief, "it might be a whole lot worse than it is.
It's a mighty fortunate thing that no one was badly hurt."

"And I'm mighty glad," said Roger, "that my camera and all the negatives
were in the other canoe. But now that we've only got one boat, how shall
we get down the rest of the way?"

"In the boat. We shall have to throw everything away except what we
can't do without, and live on short rations. One of the guns is left,
and there are plenty of fish in the river, so we probably will get along
all right until we strike the Eskimo settlement on the delta of the
river."

"And if we don't strike it?" asked Roger.

"Well, if we don't, you'll be pretty hungry. But we'll strike it, all
right, you'll see."

So the party proceeded to lighten their only canoe. Everything which was
of weight and not absolutely essential was cached and a cairn built
over it, not with any intention of coming back, but so that it should be
available if any other traveler should ever pass that way. Since it was
so difficult to transport provisions and camp conveniences at such a
distance, it was felt that it would be sheer wickedness to let anything
be destroyed.

"But people might steal it!" exclaimed the boy.

"To take what you need isn't stealing in this country," answered the
geologist. "You are supposed to help yourself if you are in need, and
you are expected to give to the uttermost if you find any one else in
need. This part of the world is too far away from civilization for any
'dog eat dog' methods. Here, being uncivilized, men are more or less
charitably disposed toward each other."

"That's a cynical speech, Rivers," said the topographer.

"Cynical or not, it's true," the chief answered.

"Sure, it's true," commented Magee, who had been listening. "If I'm
hungry in a big modern city, and I open a man's door, walk to his
pantry, feed myself and a dozen hungry men; and what's more, walk away
with enough provisions for a month, where would I land?"

"In jail," said Roger.

"Sure, an' I would. But that's what you can do out here."

"Well," said the chief, "I wish I were sure of being able to do it at
Nigaluk."

Travel, however, was very different in the one over-loaded canoe, and
Rivers was not willing to allow any chances to be taken. The slightest
evidence of shoal, rapid, or boulders meant wading. For the next three
days, therefore, two men, each at one of the bows of the canoe, waded
down the stream, finding out, with their shins mainly, where were
boulders near enough to the surface of the water to strike the canoe.

On the second day of this sort of work, moreover, the temperature
dropped fifty-two degrees in about six hours, and from a hot sun and
humid air with a thermometer at eighty-eight degrees at noon, by dusk it
was only four degrees above freezing with a driving gale and a stinging
rain. While many camp conveniences had been left behind to lighten the
canoe, a strip of canvas had been retained, and this was propped up with
willow sticks in such wise as to keep some of the rain off.

But through the night the gale howled from the north, and the rain drove
in with the sharpness of a whip-lash, so that the first faint light of
dawn found every one ready for the start, as at least it was warmer
moving about than lying under that pitiless sky. The only gleam of
comfort was that it gave one day's respite from the eternal mosquitoes.
The second day the norther abated, and fair weather returned, bringing
with it, of course, the close personal attention of the mosquitoes of
the lower tundra, though these were rapidly thinning out.

A couple of days of smooth water enabled the use of paddles and fair
time was made, but after the junction with the Telugu River more shallow
rapids and boulders were encountered, leading to more days of wading,
continuing until they struck the main stream of the Colville, a river
with a big head of water. But these various difficulties had delayed
matters considerably, and not until August 10th did the divergence of
the channels of the river show that the delta of the Colville was
reached, where they hoped to find the Eskimo village of Nigaluk.

"What kind of a place is it?" asked Roger, as they encamped for the
night.

"It is the metropolis of the Arctic Ocean," said Rivers with a smile;
"the biggest city between Point Barrow and Hudson's Bay."

The boy was not taken in by the description, for he had a lively
remembrance of Alaskan centers of population, and knew that anything
more than four huts was considered as a post of no small importance,
while one hut, all by itself, was deemed worthy of a place on the map.
But though he did not expect a large place, he watched eagerly enough
the next day for this Arctic city, wondering what kind of houses would
be built to withstand the rigors of an Arctic winter.

But the solitary canoe went on and on, up this channel and down another,
and still no village was seen. All the next two days the party searched,
but to no purpose; apparently the Arctic metropolis was not there. The
matter was extremely serious, for the provisions were almost exhausted,
and on the evening of August 12th the wind switched again to the
northward, and the first of the winter's snows hurled itself at them.

"If this is the middle of August!" exclaimed Roger, shivering, "what
must it be like here in the middle of January?"


[Illustration: WINTER'S THREAT ALMOST FULFILLED.

The shores of the Arctic Ocean, where the tundra-covered coastal plain
extends unbroken for thousands of miles.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


"Nobody knows exactly," was the geologist's reply, "for no white man has
ever wintered here. We shall be the first unless we find Nigaluk in a
hurry. And I doubt if we can spare the time, so to-morrow we will have
to go down this channel to the ocean. I don't like this weather, for if
the winter sets in early we may be caught even yet."

But when, the next day, the party arrived at Harrison Bay, at the mouth
of the river, Roger's heart sank within him at the prospect. Cold,
bleak, and gray, the waters of the Arctic Ocean stretched before him, a
steady swell breaking on the tundra shores that line it without a break
for hundreds of miles. The wind, blowing from the north, was kicking up
a vicious, snappy sea, the tops of the waves showing their teeth, and
upon the horizon the white blink of the ice.

Bad weather, a choppy sea, an Arctic winter setting in, and nothing but
an overloaded Peterboro canoe to hold seven men, it was a bad outlook
for the party. It was over two hundred miles to Point Barrow and the
time of storms was at hand. Rivers called the men together.

"Boys," he said, "so far the trip has been very successful, but owing to
that pesky landslide on the Anaktuvuk, with the loss of a boat, it looks
as though we were going to have a tight run for home, and we shall have
to show a burst of speed. Now there are only three possible things to
do, and I'm going to put them before you and see what you think about
it, because whatever is done must be done without delay."

"And what are those three?" asked Gersup, as second in command of the
party.

"The first of these is to make a camp here, and to chase up and down the
various channels of this delta until we find Nigaluk. If we locate it,
we can get provisions and boats, or if the weather is bad, dogs and
sleds; and, by one means or the other, can get to Point Barrow, or even
down as far as Cape Smyth. The objection to that is that we have no
definite data as to where Nigaluk is. It may not be on this river at
all, but on some other stream flowing into the ocean near by, which has
been confused with the Colville."

"Not only that, Mr. Rivers," answered Gersup, "but the channels of this
delta may have changed and these Eskimo settlements are not very
permanent, in any event."

"That's true," rejoined the chief. "Well, it is obvious that the canoe
is not enough for us to get to Point Barrow, but it might serve to carry
provisions, so that if we could track along the shore, with, say, one
man in the boat to keep her out of the surf, it might be possible to get
there, though, with rounding the indentations of the land, it would be
over three hundred miles. What do you think, Harry?"

The Indian shook his head.

"No can do," he said, "wind drive boat on shore. Smash."

"The only thing that's left then," the chief of the party continued, "is
to pack the entire distance, depending for food on what we can catch or
shoot. I suppose we'd have to portage the canoe because there are
several small streams along the way. Of course, in a couple of weeks,
the frosts will set in, and the tundra won't be so bad to travel over.
But it's a long way."

"It's the longest way, but the surest," said Gersup; "as long as we
don't run short of provisions. How about it, George?"

"Not counting anything you bring in," replied the cook, "I can give you
rations for ten or twelve days. But there seem to be signs of caribou,
and though the geese and ducks are thinning out, they are probably good
for a couple of weeks yet, before all are gone. Then there's always
fish. If everything goes right, we ought to be able to make it."

"Very well then," decided Rivers, "this is what we will do. Unpack the
canoe, let Harry and Doughty take provisions for two days, and with the
canoe light, spend every minute of daylight searching for this place
Nigaluk, returning to camp by nightfall the day after to-morrow, if they
have not found it. In the meantime we will do some hunting and fishing,
and try to build up a store of provisions."

"But how shall we be sure of finding you again?" queried Roger. "If this
Nigaluk is so hard to find and the channels of this river are a regular
maze, we might lose the camp, and then we would be stranded without any
grub and without a gun, and you would be left without a boat."

"We'll keep a big smudge going, of course," said the chief; "I had
thought of that. Now you two had better turn in, and we'll unpack the
canoe and get it ready. I'll have you called early so that you can have
breakfast and start off even before it gets light, because for a few
miles, anyway, we know Nigaluk isn't there."

The next morning, before it was light, Harry and Roger were in the
canoe, and they started off on their hunt for Nigaluk, up this channel
and down the other. Harry was paddling for all he was worth, and the boy
found it hard labor to keep up, but at their noon stop nothing had been
found. As it was growing dusk, however, the Indian gave a grunt and
pointed ahead, and Roger, giving a shout of joy, saw before him the
outlines of a structure. But on arrival, they found nothing but an
Eskimo grave, erect on four driftwood spars. Near by a tiny channel
meandered through what appeared to be an island, and though it was now
almost dark, Harry turned into this, and in a few minutes there sprang
into view a group of not less than twenty huts.

But no dogs barked as they came near, no fires smoked, no boats lay on
the beach, and Harry, even before they landed, gave a disappointed
grunt.

"Heap gone," he said, then as his keen eye discerned through the shadows
evidences of recent occupation, he added, "not gone long!" He stooped
down as they landed, and picked up a little fish, only a few inches
long. "This caught to-day," he said.

Roger's heart gave a bound.

"Then they can't be far away," he answered.

"Not far. Find to-morrow," and the Indian went on to explain to the boy
the usually slow movements of the Eskimo, and their readiness to camp
every few miles. He pointed out also that the channel through which they
had come had an abandoned look, and that therefore the route to this
camp must have been in the other direction. Since winter was drawing on,
moreover, he argued that the natives would not be going up the river,
and therefore, if they followed the other channel and turned seaward the
next day, they might overtake the Eskimo.

This was a stern chase, and Harry routed the boy out when it was still
pitch dark, and they started slowly down the other channel, looking for
the first turn seaward. Just as the first faint gray showed in the sky,
the opening appeared and the canoe shot down it. Dawn is very gradual in
those latitudes, and steadily the light grew clear and the canoe began
going through the water like an express train. Confident in his own
idea, Harry turned neither to right nor left but made the light boat
fairly fly.


[Illustration: ESKIMO SAVIORS.

A group of the tribe that took the party in their umiaks, near the
prized canoe.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


[Illustration: POINTING AWAY FROM WINTER.

The Eskimo grave that led the party to the village, and thence to rescue
and safety.

_Photograph by U.S.G.S._]


By midday Roger was ravenous, but the Indian shook his head when a
moment's stop was suggested and an hour later, when the boy was ready to
drop, they turned into a large inlet and saw ahead of them a party of
Eskimo in their umiaks, eleven boats in all, each containing from three
to six persons. The umiaks, large skin-covered boats made for the Arctic
Ocean fishing, are extremely staunch and fairly swift, but as compared
to a light well-seasoned canoe in the hands of two experts, they were
little better than mud scows.

The sight of the umiaks and the knowledge that this might make or mar,
to a great extent, the resources of the party, put ginger into Roger,
and the way in which that little boat was urged over the water was
almost incredible. To the natives, who had never seen anything but craft
of their own making, and the heavy staunch boats of whaling steamers,
the speed was little short of magic. Harry and Roger overtook them as
though they had been standing still.

The party of Eskimo was on its way to Point Barrow, where most of the
natives expected to winter, and as they planned to trade, had an
interpreter with them. To him Roger explained their needs. But the
natives showed little desire to take the travelers in their boats over
the long sea trip, and the boy, knowing the urgency of the case, was at
his wits' end. Indeed the Eskimo were just about to paddle away to the
open sea, where the little canoe would scarcely dare to follow them,
when Harry said suddenly:

"Good. You offer give canoe."

"You mean in exchange for a passage to Point Barrow?" said Roger, seeing
the plan. "Good scheme, I'll try it."

He turned to the interpreter, and pointed out that if they would give
them provisions and take them to the cape, not only would they get
money, but that the great chief would give them the swift boat as a
token of kindness. But the boy hardly expected that the offer would
create the excitement that resulted.

The very thought that this magical, fast-speeding little boat might
become the property of the tribe excited the occupants of all the
umiaks. Boat races, it appeared, were the only sport in Arctic waters,
and if this tribe had such a boat as that they could be the champions
of the Arctic seas. There was no further hesitation, and with eagerness
the whole party hastened to where the camp had been pitched, the smoke
leading the way without much difficulty. On the way they learned that
Nigaluk was further west, on an arm of the delta which branched off
quite a distance higher up the river, and that the settlement they had
found was a comparatively new place, as yet uncharted.

Bad weather came, and several days were lost by storms, so that the
trip, even in the Eskimo umiaks and under the conditions the natives
knew so well how to overcome, was by no means easy, and Roger shivered
at the thought of the terrible experience he would have had to face, if
they had not overtaken the Eskimo boats. The canoe, which was being
towed behind the largest umiak, was almost a fetish for the natives, and
the way it rose to every wave, never shipping even a drop of water, to
them was a constant source of delight. They jabbered the whole trip
through of their sure success in the races of next season.

Camping along the shore was difficult, as no wood except a few
occasional sticks of driftwood was procurable, and the water, while
plentiful, was uniformly brackish. But trouble was not to let them go so
easily. A steady and heavy gale set in from the northeast and the
ice-pack began to drive.

Then the Eskimos gave a taste of their staying qualities. For fifty-four
consecutive hours their paddles never ceased a second, one man in each
boat eating and resting while the others paddled. The Survey men took
their turn at the labor, and trained to endurance as they were, they
competed well with the untiring swing of the Eskimo paddle, and gained
the admiration of the natives. For the last four hours it was a flight
for life that kept every nerve alert and tense, and the ice-pack was not
fifty yards from shore when the boats, paddling furiously, rounded Point
Barrow. Half of them ran into the little Eskimo village of Nuwuk, just
at the extremity of the point, but the others took the Survey party to
the main settlement, where a store, a mission church, and a post-office
bespeak the habits of the white man.

With steam up and all ready to start, lay with her anchor on a spring
the little revenue cutter, fearing the ice, now only stayed from further
advance by the projection of Point Barrow, the easterly bent of the
wind having so far left open water. The steamer's boat was waiting as
the umiaks ran in, for they had been sighted some hours before. The few
necessaries of the party, the maps and records were trans-shipped
without delay, the natives duly paid and rewarded, mail secured, and in
less than ten minutes from touching the shore the men were on board the
cutter.

As they went up the ladder and set foot on deck Rivers turned to Roger,
who had followed him, with the rest of the party.

"We're back, boys," he said, "and you've stuck right to the end. No man
could ask finer comrades on the trail," he put his hand on the boy's
shoulder; "men, every one of you, and the boy as good a helper as any
one could wish to have."


THE END



BOOKS BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER

U. S. Service Series

Illustrations from Photographs taken for U. S. Government. Large 12mo.
Cloth. Price $1.50 each.


    THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY
    THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FORESTERS
    THE BOY WITH THE U. S. CENSUS
    THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FISHERIES
    THE BOY WITH THE U. S. INDIANS


LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON



U. S. SERVICE SERIES

By FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER

Illustrations from photographs taken in work for U. S. Government

Large 12mo Cloth $1.50 per volume

"There are no better books for boys than Francis Rolt-Wheeler's 'U. S.
Service Series.'"--_Chicago Record-Herald._


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY

[Illustration]

This story describes the thrilling adventures of members of the U. S.
Geological Survey, graphically woven into a stirring narrative that both
pleases and instructs. The author enjoys an intimate acquaintance with
the chiefs of the various bureaus in Washington, and is able to obtain
at first hand the material for his books.

     "There is abundant charm and vigor in the narrative
     which is sure to please the boy readers and will do
     much toward stimulating their patriotism by making them
     alive to the needs of conservation of the vast
     resources of their country."--_Chicago News._


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FORESTERS

The life of a typical boy is followed in all its adventurous detail--the
mighty representative of our country's government, though young in
years--a youthful monarch in a vast domain of forest. Replete with
information, alive with adventure, and inciting patriotism at every
step, this handsome book is one to be instantly appreciated.

     "It is a fascinating romance of real life in our
     country, and will prove a great pleasure and
     inspiration to the boys who read it."--_The Continent,
     Chicago._


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. CENSUS

Through the experiences of a bright American boy, the author shows how
the necessary information is gathered. The securing of this often
involves hardship and peril, requiring journeys by dog-team in the
frozen North and by launch in the alligator-filled Everglades of
Florida, while the enumerator whose work lies among the dangerous
criminal classes of the greater cities must take his life in his own
hands.

     "Every young man should read this story from cover to
     cover, thereby getting a clear conception of conditions
     as they exist to-day, for such knowledge will have a
     clean, invigorating and healthy influence on the young
     growing and thinking mind."--_Boston Globe._


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FISHERIES

[Illustration]

With a bright, active American youth as a hero, is told the story of the
Fisheries, which in their actual importance dwarf every other human
industry. The book does not lack thrilling scenes. The far Aleutian
Islands have witnessed more desperate sea-fighting than has occurred
elsewhere since the days of the Spanish buccaneers, and pirate craft,
which the U. S. Fisheries must watch, rifle in hand, are prowling in the
Behring Sea to-day. The fish-farms of the United States are as
interesting as they are immense in their scope.

     "One of the best books for boys of all ages, so
     attractively written and illustrated as to fascinate
     the reader into staying up until all hours to finish
     it."--_Philadelphia Despatch._


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. INDIANS

[Illustration]

This book tells all about the Indian as he really was and is; the
Menominee in his birch-bark canoe; the Iroquois in his wigwam in the
forest; the Sioux of the plains upon his war-pony; the Apache, cruel and
unyielding as his arid desert; the Pueblo Indians, with remains of
ancient Spanish civilization lurking in the fastnesses of their massed
communal dwellings; the Tlingit of the Pacific Coast, with his
totem-poles. With a typical bright American youth as a central figure, a
good idea of a great field of national activity is given, and made
thrilling in its human side by the heroism demanded by the little-known
adventures of those who do the work of "Uncle Sam."

     "An exceedingly interesting Indian story, because it is
     true, and not merely a dramatic and picturesque
     incident of Indian life."--_N. Y. Times._

     "It tells the Indian's story in a way that will
     fascinate the youngster."--_Rochester Herald._


For sale by all booksellers or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON



HANDICRAFT FOR HANDY BOYS

Practical Plans for Work and Play with Many Ideas for Earning Money

By A. NEELY HALL

Author of "The Boy Craftsman"

With Nearly 600 Illustrations and Working-drawings by the Author and
Norman P. Hall 8vo. Cloth Net, $2.00 Postpaid, $2.25

[Illustration]

This book is intended for boys who want the latest ideas for making
things, practical plans for earning money, up-to-date suggestions for
games and sports, and novelties for home and school entertainments.

The author has planned the suggestions on an economical basis, providing
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realize that in giving them to their boys they are providing wholesome
occupations which will encourage self-reliance and resourcefulness, and
discourage tendencies to be extravagant.

Outdoor and indoor pastimes have been given equal attention, and much of
the work is closely allied to the studies of the modern grammar and high
schools, as will be seen by a glance at the following list of subjects,
which are only a few among those discussed in the 500 pages of text:

     MANUAL TRAINING; EASILY-MADE FURNITURE; FITTING UP A
     BOY'S ROOM; HOME-MADE GYMNASIUM APPARATUS; A BOY'S
     WIRELESS TELEGRAPH OUTFIT; COASTERS AND BOB-SLEDS;
     MODEL AEROPLANES; PUSHMOBILES AND OTHER HOME-MADE
     WAGONS; A CASTLE CLUBHOUSE AND HOME-MADE ARMOR.

Modern ingenious work such as the above cannot fail to develop
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heart.

     "The book is a treasure house for boys who like to work
     with tools and have a purpose in their
     working."--_Springfield Union._

     "It is a capital book for boys since it encourages them
     in wholesome, useful occupation, encouraged
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     discourages extravagance."--_Brooklyn Times._

     "It is all in this book, and if anything has got away
     from the author we do not know what it is."--_Buffalo
     News._


For sale by all booksellers, or sent on receipt of postpaid price by the
publishers

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., Boston



THE BOY CRAFTSMAN

Practical and Profitable Ideas for a Boy's Leisure Hours

By A. NEELY HALL

[Illustration]

     Illustrated with over 400 diagrams and working drawings
     8vo Price, net, $1.60 Postpaid, $1.82

Every real boy wishes to design and make things, but the questions of
materials and tools are often hard to get around. Nearly all books on
the subject call for a greater outlay of money than is within the means
of many boys, or their parents wish to expend in such ways. In this book
a number of chapters give suggestions for carrying on a small business
that will bring a boy in money with which to buy tools and materials
necessary for making apparatus and articles described in other chapters,
while the ideas are so practical that many an industrious boy can learn
what he is best fitted for in his life work. No work of its class is so
completely up-to-date or so worthy in point of thoroughness and
avoidance of danger. The drawings are profuse and excellent, and every
feature of the book is first-class. It tells how to make a boy's
workshop, how to handle tools, and what can be made with them; how to
start a printing shop and conduct an amateur newspaper, how to make
photographs, build a log cabin, a canvas canoe, a gymnasium, a miniature
theatre, and many other things dear to the soul of youth.

     We cannot imagine a more delightful present for a boy
     than this book.--_Churchman, N.Y._

     Every boy should have this book. It's a practical
     book--it gets right next to the boy's heart and stays
     there. He will have it near him all the time, and on
     every page there is a lesson or something that will
     stand the boy in good need. Beyond a doubt in its line
     this is one of the cleverest books on the
     market.--_Providence News._

     If a boy has any sort of a mechanical turn of mind, his
     parents should see that he has this book.--_Boston
     Journal._

     This is a book that will do boys good.--_Buffalo
     Express._

     The boy who will not find this book a mine of joy and
     profit must be queerly constituted.--_Pittsburgh
     Gazette._

     Will be a delight to the boy mechanic.--_Watchman,
     Boston._

     An admirable book to give a boy.--_Newark News._

     This book is the best yet offered for its large number
     of practical and profitable ideas.--_Milwaukee Free
     Press._

     Parents ought to know of this book.--_New York Globe._


For sale by all booksellers or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers.

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON



     Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors
     present in the original print edition have been
     corrected in this electronic version.

     In Chapter I, "I broke for the the ravine" was changed
     to "I broke for the ravine".

     An illustration caption has been changed from "In the
     Home of the Kodiac Bear" to "In the Home of the Kodiak
     Bear".

     In Chapter II, "through the standstone to some other
     rock" was changed to "through the sandstone to some
     other rock".

     In the illustration captioned "A Tangle of Swamp", a
     missing period was added after "U.S.G.S".

     In Chapter III, "had been been a little over his knees"
     was changed to "had been a little over his knees", and
     "safely esconced among the branches" was changed to
     "safely ensconced among the branches".

     In Chapter V, a missing quotation mark was added before
     "You bet!", and an extraneous quotation mark was
     removed following "built up somewhere else in some
     other way."

     In Chapter VI, "lie of of the land" was changed to "lie
     of the land".

     In Chapter VIII, an extraneous quotation mark was
     removed after "They tote every drop."

     In the illustration captioned "Bridged by Double Tree",
     "U.S.G.A." was changed to "U.S.G.S.".

     In Chapter IX, a missing quotation mark was added after
     "Mr. Masseth's."

     In Chapter XI, "the sting of a black hornet?" was
     changed to "the sting of a black hornet.".

     In Chapter XVIII, a missing question mark was added
     after "cows here to do all the work".

     In addition, an advertisement for other books in the
     U. S. Service Series has been moved from the front of
     the book to the back.





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