The Judge now produced his cigar case, and the General, bowing to the young lady, followed the great financier to the other end of the car, leaving Mary alone, for they had seen Bradford coming up the track.
The dew of her sweet sorrow was still upon her face when Bradford entered, but the sunshine of her smile soon dried it up. The hands he reached for escaped him. They were about his face; then their great joy and the tears it brought blinded them, and the wild beating of their happy hearts drowned their voices so that they could neither see nor hear, and neither has ever been able to say just what happened.
On the day following this happy meeting, when the consolidated special was rolling east-ward, while the Judge and the General smoked in the latter’s car, the tent boy brought a telegram back to the happy pair. It was delivered to Miss Manning, and she read it aloud:
“Washington, May 11, 1869.
“General G.M. Dodge:
“In common with millions I sat yesterday and heard the mystic taps of the telegraph battery announce the nailing of the last spike in the Great Pacific Road. All honor to you, to Durant, to Jack and Dan Casement, to Reed and the thousands of brave followers who have wrought out this glorious problem, spite of changes, storms, and even doubts of the incredulous, and all the obstacles you have now happily surmounted!
“Well!” she exclaimed, letting her hands and the telegram fall in her lap, “he doesn’t even mention my hero.”
“Oh, yes, he does, my dear,” said Bradford, laughing. “I’m one of the ‘thousands of brave followers.’”
Then they both laughed and forgot it, for they were too happy to bother with trifles.
[Footnote 1: The subsidy from the Government was $16,000 a mile on the plains, and $48,000 a mile in the mountains.]
Athabasca Belle did not burst upon Smith the Silent all at once, like a rainbow or a sunrise in the desert. He would never say she had been thrust upon him. She was acquired, he said, in an unguarded moment.
The trouble began when Smith was pathfinding on the upper Athabasca for the new transcontinental. Among his other assets Smith had two camp kettles. One was marked with the three initials of the new line, which, at that time, existed only on writing material, empty pots, and equally empty parliamentary perorations. The other was not marked at all. It was the personal property of Jaquis, who cooked for Smith and his outfit. The Belle was a fine looking Cree—tall, strong, magnifique. Jaquis warmed to her from the start, but the Belle was not for Jaquis, himself a Siwash three to one. She scarcely looked at him, and answered him only when he asked if she’d encore the pork and beans. But she looked at Smith. She would sit by the hour, her elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand, watching him wistfully, while he drew crazy, crooked lines or pictured mountains with rivers running between them—all of which, from the Belle’s point of view, was not only a waste of time, but had absolutely nothing to do with the case.