As the road neared the summit, Heney observed that Foy was growing nervous, and that he coughed a great deal. He watched the old fellow, and found that he was not eating well, and that he slept very little. Heney asked Foy to rest, but the latter shook his head. Hawkins and Hislop and Heney talked the matter over in Hislop’s tent, called Foy in, and demanded that he go down and out. Foy was coughing constantly, but he choked it back long enough to tell the three men what he thought of them. He had worked hard and faithfully to complete the job, and now that only one level mile remained to be railed, would they send the old man down the hill? “I will not budge,” said Foy, facing his friends; “an’ when you gentlemen ar-re silibratin’ th’ vict’ry at the top o’ the hill ahn Chuesday nixt, Hugh Foy’ll be wood ye. Do you moind that, now?”
Foy steadied himself by a tent-pole and coughed violently. His eyes were glassy, and his face flushed with the purplish flush that fever gives.
“Enough of this!” said the chief engineer, trying to look severe. “Take this message, sign it, and send it at once.”
Foy caught the bit of white clip and read:—
“Save a berth for me on the ‘Rosalie.’”
They thought, as they watched him, that the old road-maker was about to crush the paper in his rough right hand; but suddenly his face brightened, he reached for a pencil, saying, “I’ll do it,” and when he had added “next trip” to the message, he signed it, folded it, and took it over to the operator.
So it happened that, when the last spike was driven at the summit, on February 20, 1899, the old foreman, who had driven the first, drove the last, and it was his last spike as well. Doctor Whiting guessed it was pneumonia.
When the road had been completed to Lake Bennett, the owners came over to see it; and when they saw what had been done, despite the prediction that Dawson was dead and that the Cape Nome boom would equal that of the Klondike, they authorized the construction of another hundred miles of road which would connect with the Yukon below the dreaded White Horse Rapids. Jack and Foy and Hislop are gone; and when John Hislop passed away, the West lost one of the most modest and unpretentious, yet one of the best and bravest, one of the purest minded men that ever saw the sun go down behind a snowy range.
One winter night, as the west-bound express was pulling out of Omaha, a drunken man climbed aboard. The young Superintendent, who stood on the rear platform, caught the man by the collar and hauled him up the steps.
The train, from the tank to the tail-lights, was crammed full of passenger-people going home or away to spend Christmas. Over in front the express and baggage cars were piled full of baggage, bundles, boxes, trinkets, and toys, each intended to make some heart happier on the morrow, for it was Christmas Eve. It was to see that these passengers and their precious freight, already a day late, got through that the Superintendent was leaving his own fireside to go over the road.