The Valley of Silent Men eBook

James Oliver Curwood
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 227 pages of information about The Valley of Silent Men.
earth to hopeful purchasers thousands of miles away—­“Do others as they would do you.”  And with it, too, has come the legitimate business of barter and trade, with eyes on all that treasure of the North which lies between the Grand Rapids of the Athabasca and the edge of the polar sea.  But still more beautiful than the dream of fortunes quickly made is the deep-forest superstition that the spirits of the wilderness dead move onward as steam and steel advance, and if this is so, the ghosts of a thousand Pierres and Jacquelines have risen uneasily from their graves at Athabasca Landing, hunting a new quiet farther north.

For it was Pierre and Jacqueline, Henri and Marie, Jacques and his Jeanne, whose brown hands for a hundred and forty years opened and closed this door.  And those hands still master a savage world for two thousand miles north of that threshold of Athabasca Landing.  South of it a wheezy engine drags up the freight that came not so many months ago by boat.

It is over this threshold that the dark eyes of Pierre and Jacqueline, Henri and Marie, Jacques and his Jeanne, look into the blue and the gray and the sometimes watery ones of a destroying civilization.  And there it is that the shriek of a mad locomotive mingles with their age-old river chants; the smut of coal drifts over their forests; the phonograph screeches its reply to le violon; and Pierre and Henri and Jacques no longer find themselves the kings of the earth when they come in from far countries with their precious cargoes of furs.  And they no longer swagger and tell loud-voiced adventure, or sing their wild river songs in the same old abandon, for there are streets at Athabasca Landing now, and hotels, and schools, and rules and regulations of a kind new and terrifying to the bold of the old voyageurs.

It seems only yesterday that the railroad was not there, and a great world of wilderness lay between the Landing and the upper rim of civilization.  And when word first came that a steam thing was eating its way up foot by foot through forest and swamp and impassable muskeg, that word passed up and down the water-ways for two thousand miles, a colossal joke, a stupendous bit of drollery, the funniest thing that Pierre and Henri and Jacques had heard in all their lives.  And when Jacques wanted to impress upon Pierre his utter disbelief of a thing, he would say: 

“It will happen, m’sieu, when the steam thing comes to the Landing, when cow-beasts eat with the moose, and when our bread is found for us in yonder swamps!”

And the steam thing came, and cows grazed where moose had fed, and bread was gathered close to the edge of the great swamps.  Thus did civilization break into Athabasca Landing.

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
The Valley of Silent Men from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook