An Old, Old Treasure
An Adventure in the Canadian Rockies
Katy did not like washing dishes at all.
Her family lived in a log cabin near the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta, which meant that she had to wash them in the stream in front of the cabin, which was getting really cold now that summer was over. Katy wished that they had a stove big enough to heat water for the dishes but it wouldn’t come until spring. It would take less wood to keep a store-bought stove going but she didn’t care, she liked helping father cut trees into short lengths with a cross-cut saw. Then Father would split the logs while she stacked them in the lean-to. He always said that she could stack it better than he could; Katy didn’t believe him but it still made her feel important. She slowly gathered up all the dishes and walked down the wagon ruts that led to the house; overshadowed by the tall pine trees on both sides that hid the house from the road. Finally, the house was in sight-- Katy stared in disbelief. The cabin was on fire! She dropped the dishes and ran to the house as fast as she could.
The door was open: through the smoke she could barely see her mother lying on the floor. Katy’s one-year-old brother, Carson, was screaming. Katy grabbed her mother’s hands and pulled her outside, then went back in to the choking smoke and picked up Carson; she couldn’t see her father anywhere. Katy knelt beside her mother so that she could hear her raspy words. “I got Carson from the bedroom and a beam fell from the roof and pinned me to the floor; then your father came in and lifted it. I couldn’t move. I told him to just take Carson and leave me, but he held the beam in one hand and threw Carson and me to the door with the other. Then there was a crash and he was gone. Katy, I want you to always remember that it was your father’s love that kept him in the flames. Hold fast to everything we have taught you and take good care of Carson. Life will be a fight for you two… fight hard.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Two men rode along the edge of a cliff, the young man riding behind said, “Hey Jake, don’t you think we’r goin’ too far?”
“Shore Aye don’t. How many times do Aye got to tell you thet Aye’ve got a map, right ‘ere?” he thumped his saddlebag. “Written by Finn Knox hisself. Setch a valuable document caint be brung out and waved ‘round like a flaig, so Aye mem’rized the hull thang. And Aye won’t tol’rate no more blabberin’ from ye as how Aye’m lewsen th’ way.”
They came to the edge of the cliff where there was descent into the gorge that was made by the passing by of the deer. Jake started to go down it; Sam stopped and looked closely at the rocks immediately below and called out, “Them rocks is wet.”
Jake kept on. “Aye’ve rode wet rocks ‘afore and Aye’l ride wet--”
But Jake never got to finish the sentence. He was riding over a large flat rock that had very wet mud on it and the horse slipped; it spun around a quarter turn and crashed.
Jake started at the sound of a gunshot. Shortly after, he saw Sam looking down at him; he tried to sit but fell back in the mud. Sam said, “Yer arm’s broke. Try not to move it.” He stood Jake up and then tied both of them together with the end of the rope that he tied to the tree at the top. That done, he pulled on it as he walked up the slippery trail. Sam put a stick splint and a sling on Jake’s arm and then took his bags from off his horse, Faidhley. Jake mounted and took off, trying to get Red Creak before it snowed. The name of the outpost was originally supposed to be Red Creek, but the man that made the sign wrote it like this: ReD cReaK. It didn’t seem to matter much because most folks couldn’t read it anyway. Those that could thought that it was the greatest joke to take newly arrived strangers out to the sign and saying, “You know why it’s wrote like that?”
“No,” they would say.
“It stands fer, “Roll Down th’ Road, Kid.”
Sam slung his saddlebags over his shoulders and held on to the rope on his way down the hill, when he got past the rock, he pulled on another length of rope and the knot at the tree undid; he coiled the rope and put it over his bags. Sam looked down at Jake’s horse, there was a huge gash along the right side that was cut deep into the flank; Sam had shot him with his revolver earlier because he was thrashing about and Sam couldn’t help him any. He wished he could have though; he disliked seeing people or animals suffer. Sam could handle about any difficulty that came his way, but it had been hard for him to patch up Jake’s arm. Sam pulled out his bowie knife and cut off the cinch on both sides and then set the saddle in front of him, he took out all the flour and stuffed it in his bag; his trip was going to take longer without a horse and he didn’t want to get caught in a snow storm without food again. Sam found the map buried at the bottom. Jake must have forgotten it, “I never even thought Aye would lay eyes on this thing and now Aye have it!” he tucked the map into the inside pocket of his jacket and then tied the saddle up in a tree in case Jake ever came back for his camping gear.
Sam finally climbed the other side of the gorge, his hands were raw from the jagged rocks, the wind was whistling through the pine trees and numbing his hands and face. He’d lent his goose-down coat and gloves to Jake that morning because he didn’t want Jake to have to get off of Faidhley to start a fire, in case he couldn’t get back on again. Sam shivered as he looked at the clouds flying overhead and walked faster, trying to warm his hands in his jacket pockets. Every once in a while he would look behind his back for approaching danger; he never saw or heard anything but he had the impression that he was being followed.
Sam had walked about two miles from the near side of the gorge when he heard a voice, he walked forward cautiously as he thought, I’ve been roaming these mountains for years with Jake and I never so much as saw a sign of anyone, excepting Red Creak and that’s nigh thirty-five miles South. Sam advanced toward the voice using a tree for cover, he grasped the butt of his revolver as he peered around the tree; what he saw made him stare dumbly. There was a lass of about eleven, kneeling on the ground with her head bowed and her hands clasped in her lap; she said, “God, I’m lost. It is really cold here and I can’t walk any more. I can’t do anything at all except talk to You because You are the only One here.”
She squeezed her hands together until they turned white and bent over nearly to her knees, struggling not to cry as the needles of cold jabbed deeper into her flesh. Her teeth chattered uncontrollably for a moment; then she straightened up again and continued, “Lord, I know that You have lots of angels up there, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble then please send one to come and help me before I freeze up. And please send my greetings to my Father and Mother and Carson. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Sam walked soundlessly over and looked down at her, she was wearing only a blouse and skirt which had been soaked in the previous night’s rain and her skirt was frozen around the hem. She opened her eyes and then gazed up at Sam; he noticed her blue eyes and beautiful brown hair; she looked just like what he imagined when he wished he had a little sister. “Greetin’s, lassie,” said Sam. “Aye’ve seen near ev’ry critter as lives hereabouts, but Aye don’t recollect seein’ one of yer kind out here ‘afore.”
“I didn’t know that angels carried bags around with them,” she said.
Sam chuckled, “Neither did Aye. Aye’m just Sam, explorer o’ the Alberta Rockies. Aye’l get us a fire started ‘afore yer turned a brick.”
Samuel started a fire next to a fir tree, so that the wind wouldn’t blow it out and gently carried her over to it; he started making biscuits and said, “Well, Aye don’t rightly know how t’ care fer a lass like ye, don’t recall s’much as seein’ one fer th’ last five year, so ye jest let me know if yer ever needen’ anything.”
Katy talked to keep her mind off the pain. “My name is Kaitlin Rothstein, everyone calls me Katy though.” She looked into the flames and said, “We used to live out here in the mountains, then one day the cabin caught fire and my father and mother both went to heaven. I took my little brother Carson with me and went to Montaigue and kept house for a crabby old lady there ‘cause no one else wanted us. About three weeks later, Carson got sick and the old lady wouldn’t take him to the doctor, so he died. Then the old lady’s husband came home from Chaquetah Lake where he had a fishing boat, and he was mean. The old lady caught me reading the little New Testament that my mother gave me, and threw it into the stove. When he found out about it, he beat me with a stick until I was near fainted. A few days ago, he borrowed a wagon and took me way into the forest to help haul some big logs that he had cut to make some cabinets with. We got the wagon near filled and I was starting to get cramps in my fingers, and then he dropped his end of the log and the one I was holding fell on my foot and knocked me over. He walked over and said, ‘Well, Aye reckon yer no use anymore. Got no use fer folks as read th’ Bible anyways; it poisins ‘em, makes ‘em think they’re better’n everyone else.’ Then he got in the wagon and drove off without me.”
“That feller oughta be whipped within an inch o’ hell,” said Sam. “Aye caint believe the decent folks in Montaigue would allow setch goings on.”
“He doesn’t need that,” said Katy. “What he really needs is to know how much God loves him and that all the bad things he does makes God grieved.”
Sam was sitting on a rock next to Katy, she looked up at him and said, “Did you know that God loves you too?”
Sam said, “He cares about folks as go t’ church and help th’ poor an’ all, but folks like me, as wander ‘bout these here mountains; we got our own way o’ life, our own way o’ talkin’, we’re near as wild as th’ critters.”
“You just don’t understand,” said Katy. “I will tell you about it tomorrow. You’ll not be going anywhere will you?”
“No. Aye wolnt.”
“I’m so tired that I caint hardly think anymore,” said Katy. “But my foot is starting to unfreeze…”
“Aye’l take mysel’ a look at it.” Sam loosened the laces until her boot slipped off easily; Katy laid back on the ground and gritted her teeth while he checked for broken bones. “There’s naught broke,” said Sam. “Naught Aye kin do fer it neither. My partner Jake broke ‘is arm this mornin’ an’ had t’ ride Faidhley t’ Red Creak; Aye left for ‘im everythin’ Aye couldn’t carry. Wish Aye had somewhat dry fer ye t’ wear but this is all Aye got now.” Sam unrolled a light sleeping bag next to the fire and pushed some sticks into the thawed ground nearby. He unbuttoned Katy’s shirt cuffs and took off her other boot, then stuck the boots upside down on the top of the sticks so they would dry faster. “That ought t’ make et easier fer ye,” Said Sam. “Aye’m goin’ to go an’ gather enough fuel t’ keep this fire burnin’ all night; Aye’l be gone fer awhile. Jest hang up all yer wet thangs on them there poles when yer ready t’ turn in. Help yersel’ t’ all th’ beskits ye kin eat; there’s a cup o’ tea warmin’ there and jerky in that bag. Good-night.”
Sam thought about Katy while he worked. He had never met a girl like her before; all the ones he’d known when he was a boy thought that it was a major catastrophe if their pet cat died and they rarely ever had said anything that was meaningful, it was just empty chatter. He doubted if any one of them could retain their sanity if they had lost their whole family and their home, and then been mistreated like that and abandoned. She had done more than that, though, she had walked for miles with an injured foot and spent several days out in the rain and cold with nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep except the ground. But this wasn’t what impressed him the most, it was that she had been able to handle being alone in the mountains under those conditions. Sam had been lost, hungry, and cold, before; but he had packed his flint-and-steel and his sleeping bag and revolver, these things gave him security, besides the fact that most days he was able to start himself a fire to cheer himself up. Even though he had been roaming the forests for two years before he got lost, he had been mighty fearful back then. He thought about what it would have been like without them and wondered if he could handle what Katy had been through. He couldn’t figure what made her continue onward with her life when circumstances were so bleak and terrorizing; and she seemed to bear no bitterness, she just accepted reality as it was. Sam thought about her New Testament and the prayer he had overheard. Could it be God? He thought back to when he was a boy, he had gone to church with his parents but he did not take it seriously, he thought the sermons were dull and he didn’t like singing and he felt uncomfortable around that many people. He had always been a rather solitary person, oftentimes he would just sit in a corner and imagine going on all kinds of adventures. When he was fourteen, he had run away from home and started exploring the Rockies. Pretty much the only person he’d seen since then was Jake, and Jake never talked about God, he was a mountain man and he had to rely on himself; to actually ask for help from anyone else would mean that he couldn’t. Suddenly a thought occurred to Sam and drew his attention off everything else.
What if God really does control every event that happens on earth and everything that happened to Katy was actually for my benefit more than Katy’s? What if God really cares about me even though I chose to reject Him and treated my parents with contempt? And then he realized that he wanted something he had never cared about before; he wanted to know God.
Sam set down an armload of wood by the fire and looked down at Katy as she slept. Sam studied her face for a long time; she had an expression of such childlike innocence that for the first time in his life there was someone in Samuel’s heart besides himself.
Sam woke suddenly and automatically reached for his revolver; he could sense that something was wrong. Then he heard a low rumbling growl; he slowly pulled himself up to a squat and scanned the shadows in the surrounding groundline. There was nothing. He eased around to the other side of the coals where Katy was sleeping; there was a flicker of movement as a shadow emerged from behind a bush. Sam placed several branches on the coals and waited, drawing a bead on the approaching figure; a flame leapt up suddenly in the branches and Sam saw a pair of glowing eyes; they appeared for a moment and then vanished. Sam holstered his gun and then piled more wood on the fire. He didn’t think that any predators would be hungry enough to come near while it was burning but there had been a shortage of game that year and Sam didn’t want to take any chances. Besides, it was now his responsibility to protect Katy, and like Jake always said, If a man caint take care of ‘Is own r’spons’bilities an’ be cheery while ‘es at it, then ‘e might as well be dead, ‘cause that’s life. So Sam stayed up the rest of the night. He didn’t mind much though, he’d always imagined rescuing some maiden in distress, but back home there never had been any, stressed was more like it, and the most Sam had ever done was open doors for them while they breezed past without even acknowledging his presence. It felt odd to have someone completely dependent upon him, but he liked it; even though he felt awkward and tongue-tied around Katy since he hadn’t so much as seen a lass for five years.
When the sky began to grey, Sam made his usual meal of biscuits and then woke Katy. While they ate, Sam said, “Red Creak is th’ closest town t’ here; so Aye reckon that’s whar we go, but first we’el head north fer a day an’ see if we kin figure this map.” Sam unfolded a sheet of paper and studied it carefully, “We’el come in a few hours to another gorge, that’s our next landmark.” He packed everything back into his saddlebag and they headed into the trees. Katy was limping badly and couldn’t walk very fast, so Sam said, “We’re goin’ to have to find some way fer ye t’ get ‘long faster, we get four days t’ hike, then it snows.”
Katy said, “If you hold my hand and take some of the weight off of my foot then I could; and I can talk to you because I’ll be right there the whole time.”
“Alright then, ye jest let me know if yer hand is fixin’ t’ fall off; Aye recon Aye could smash it pretty good and wouldn’t know aught of it.” The pace finally suited Sam, so he asked Katy to begin her promised talk about God.
“A long, long time ago, when God made the world, He made two people; the man’s name was Adam, and his wife was Eve; they were supposed to live forever with God and they never did anything wrong. Then one day they did the only thing that God told them not to do; they ate some fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When they did that their conscience told them that they had sinned, disobeying God, and they were ashamed of it, but there was nothing valuable enough that they could use to pay God for the consequences of sinning; they had destroyed the perfect lives that God gave them, which means that in order to restore the relationship with God, they had to give Him back a perfect person; but there were not any; so God had to separate Himself from them because He is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Now that they knew what good and evil were, God gave them commandments that they had to follow perfectly in order to go to heaven when they died; but no one can do that, every person does things that they know are wrong. God spent a long time looking down at more and more people and wanting to be in their lives, but they were not perfect. So His Son, Jesus, became a person and lived a perfect life so that He was valuable enough to pay the price of sin, and then He had to die a horrible death in order to pay for it. His own people, the Jews, that he was trying to give the truth, hated Jesus and falsely accused Him and sentenced Him to be crucified. He was whipped and beaten and spit on, and some soldiers made a crown of thorns and jammed it on His head and mocked Him. Jesus didn’t try to fight back or argue with them; He endured it all in silence and did not bear a grudge against any one of them. The soldiers took Jesus to a hill and then nailed Him to a cross, and a lot of people came by and laughed at Him, saying, ‘He saved others, but He cannot save Himself.’ He could have, but if he did, then the price for sin would not have been paid, it was His love for all the lost sinners in the world, including you, that kept Him there. When He died, a man put Him in a tomb and then three days later Jesus rose from the dead and overcame the power of death, so that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His death paid the penalty for your sins; all you have to do is admit that you are a sinner, repent, and ask God to save you, because you cannot pay the penalty, and He will. It is the free gift of God through Christ Jesus our Lord; all of your sins will be forgiven and the Holy Spirit will dwell in your heart and then nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God.”
Right then Sam and Katy knelt upon the ground and Sam invited Jesus into his heart.
As they continued on their way Sam asked a lot of questions about God and he listened carefully; he now knew that God was real and cared about him, because he no longer had to carry around everywhere the bitterness and hate and guilt of his past, it felt like a heavy burden had been taken away and he finally had the peace that nature could not supply.
When they arrived at the descent into the gorge there was a nearly perpendicular drop; Sam used the same technique of tying a knot that could be released, into the middle of the rope. Katy wrapped her arms around Sam’s back, with one arm over his shoulder and the other one under and then Sam started working his way down the rope; he was rather embarrassed being so close, he could feel her breath on his neck and he could even faintly feel the rhythm of her heart. Katy held on tightly and tried not to think about the long distance to the rocks below; they were nearing the end of the rope but they were only halfway down the cliff. Katy looked to the side to find the ledge that they would stand on while Sam relocated the rope; her eyes suddenly grew wide. “Sam, look over there,” she whispered. Sam turned his head; there was a mountain lion on the ledge not three feet away, glaring at them. “Take out my gun.” Katy reluctantly loosed an arm and pulled it out. “Now lean out behind me an’ draw a bead ‘tween th’ eyes.”
Her hand was trembling badly as the lion snarled, she drew the hammer back and fired, blood gushed from the beast’s neck; it screamed, sending chills up their backs and cut four parallel gashes in Sam’s leg with its claws. Katy willed her hand to stay still and another crack sounded as the mountain lion flipped over the edge and receded until there was a distant thud.
Katy started getting weak and dizzy, she started slipping. “I can’t hold on anymore!” she cried.
“Hold fast,” ordered Sam. “Don’t give up.”
In desperation she bit onto his coat and held onto his shoulder with her last remaining strength. Sam quickly found the ledge with his boot and then freed one of his hands and circled her waist with his arm, “Ye kin cease chompin’ on me now.” She released the mouthful of coat and got mighty red in the face, “I’m sorry about that, I really didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Don’t ye bother yersel’,” said Sam. “Ayed far rather have a few teethmarks than loose ye.” Sam maneuvered over to the ledge and set Katy down on it and then sat down himself, Katy leaned on his shoulder so that she felt more secure.
“Ye womenfolk sure bite hard,” Sam commented. “What really does irk me though, is thet Aye caint do anything back.”
“Why not?” Katy grinned mischievously.
“’Cause Aye try t’ live by th’ way my parents teached me, an’ one o’ them was t’ all’aes respect womankind, even when they is snootier ‘n a cock. An’ fer sure Aye respect my mother nowadays; ‘cause thinkin’ back, it must hae been a whoppin’ chore t’ raise me.”
Katy became serious, “I want to thank you for saving my life.”
“Don’t be botherin’ yersel’ ‘bout that. It warn’t nothin’.”
“But it really was nice of you t’ catch me so quickly, even though I didn’t kill it the first time and got you cut; it feels good that someone cares that much again.”
“Well, Aye guess it’s ‘cause ye trusted me so much when ye didnae even know me. Ever since Aye saw thet cat lastnight Ay’ave ‘ad this overwelmin’ urge t’ protect ye from aereythin’ thet comes our way.”
Katy said, “I also appreciate that you take such good care of me, I’m sure that if a princess was in your charge that you couldent do better.”
“Aye thought ye were a princess, the way ye orders me around.”
“Then get up and take me off of this cliff,” she said smiling. “Or I shall lock you up in the dungeon.”
Sam groaned and said, “Aye recon Aye jest got mysel’ in a mighty big muddle.”
The twosome succeeded in crossing the gorge without further adventure and followed the landmarks.
They came to a tall, slender rock that leaned to one side and looked like it was about to topple over. Sam pulled out the map and checked himself, “This ‘ere is th’ plaice.”
“Well, this ‘ere is a treasure map. Folks ‘round ‘ere tells all sorts o’ taels ‘bout this treasure, but there is no point en lookin’ fer it wi’out th’ map. One feller, by the name o’ Finn Knox done wrote th’ map a long tiem ago. We found ‘im out in th’ woods, dead, an’ th’ map was diss’peared; did’n’ tell a soul ‘bout ‘t though. Me an’ Jake, we been lookin’ fer t’ fer years. Finally found ‘t a few days ago an’ then Jake ‘ad t’ ‘ead fer Red Creak ‘cause ‘is arm got broke. Now we jest got t’ find where ‘t is; looks t’ me like its b’neath ‘er, see th’ dot in th’ middle?” Sam fished the two pieces of a shovel out of his saddlebag and fastened them together, “Why don’t ye jest set down an’ taik a break while Aye work on this?”
It took him a while to break through the frozen surface, but soon he was waist deep in a hole and dirt was flying almost constantly. He repeated one of the legends of the treasure while he worked.
“One tale says that the natives put ‘t ‘ere when they was invaded by a strange race from th’ west. They was tall and broad shouldered and came t’ th’ coast in big wooden ships. The folks on th’ coast told ‘em about an inland tribe that lived in th’ mountains and mined gold out o’ a secret mine. The tribe heard about ‘em comin’ and went and hid their treasures. When the strangers showed up, they stormed th’ village, killin’ the chief and some o’ th’ vill’gers. They said th’ rest would be spared if they would tell ‘em where th’ treasure was, but th’ natives knew better. There was a lot more o’ th’ strangers than natives so they dis’ppeared into the trees and killed ‘em one at a time ‘till the strangers got sick of it an’ left. Th’ natives picked ‘em off all the way to the coast of British C’lumbia where they died from a strange d’sease.
“Finn Knox found a map carved into a rock somewhere over there and copied it w’thout tellin’ anyone whar it was. Somehow word got out that he had a map to the treasure an’ aereyone knew about it. Then ‘e vanished. Some say ‘e found the treasure and took it somewhere else, but me an’ Jake knew different. Knox was a decent enough fellow, but he didn’t ‘ave the skills t’ travel alone in the mountains. Then we spent months tryin’ t’ find the map.
Sam peeked out of the hole, discovering that Katy had leaned back on the saddlebag and dozed off after her long day of walking.
Sam was puzzled, he had reached the centre of the rock and there was nothing. He was at a loss whether to go down, or to extend the tunnel out or to the sides; there were too many choices. He decided on going left, swung the shovel back and thrust it into the soft earth, the shovel rang as it struck something hard. Sam quickly dug out around it and a heavy, squareish object rolled out and thumped on the ground. He could not see very well in the tunnel because of the dim light, so he carried it out and set it on the ground. Katy woke as he stood there scratching the back of his head. “What is it?” she asked. “Why it es a plain ole’ rocke. Aye thought fer shure Aye was on t’ somethin’ that time. Reckon Aye’l dig deeper.” He disappeared into the hole once more and Katy studied the rock. It occurred to her that if Sam dug far enough, eventually the tall rock would fall over or else into the hole, making the task difficult. There was some danger that it could crash down into the hole while Sam was still underneath it and she was starting to get concerned. She looked up at the top of the rock again, the sides were smooth, almost like a three-sided pillar and the top was flat; that looks strange, she thought. She called Sam out. “Look at the top of this rock,” said Katy. “Doesn’t it seem strange that it is flat?”
“Come t’ think o’ it, it looks laik it oughter be pointed.”
“It does. I think that the treasure is up there instead of down here!”
“That’s some idea ye has there.”
Sam picked up his rope and tied a slipping knot in one end, transforming it into a lariat. He threw the loop up and cinched it down over the very top portion of the rock and tied the other end to the trunk of a tree. “It’s a longer rope this way, but Aye don’t want t’ tie a whole bunch o’ knots in it so Aye kin pull mysel’ up straight.” Sam swung one hand in front of the other up the rope; when he reached the top, he had some difficulty finding a foothold, but managed to get safely up on top. He found a stone slab lying on the flat surface and pushed it over, revealing a hole in the rock. He peered down for a while and then lowered himself into it. He was standing on an outcropping of the rock, below was darkness with the sunlight shining diagonally through it. He could make out some footholds that had been carved into the hollow inside in order to climb up and down. As he worked his way down these, he felt a sense of awe at being in a place that had been untouched for nearly a thousand years. He walked over to a row of stone boxes that were part of the floor. Evidently, the natives that once lived here were excellent stonemasons; he lifted the lid of one of them. What he saw made him stare in wonder. It was full of all kinds of gold and jewels, mostly fashioned into various ornaments by the natives.
While Sam was staring at the treasure a huge man emerged from the trees and slunk up to where Katy was. She was waiting for Sam to appear at the edge of the rock and did not notice. She heard a click as a revolver cocked behind her and a gruff voice said, “Don’t move or Aye’l blow ye clear ‘t th’ Yukon.” Then he shouted, “You up there. Stik yer blasted mule ears out whar they kin ‘ear me.” A few minutes later, Sam cautiously poked his head over the edge.
“Now look ‘ere. Aye’v got a gun on yer frend. If there’es any queer bis’nus, Aye ain’t afeard t’ use it.”
“You cert’nly look laik ye would.”
“Shut up anless Aye tells you t’ talk! Thar’s gold up there, ain’t there? Aye been followin’ ye fer a long time an’ Aye know what yer after.”
“There shore is. Ther’s gobs o’ it. Huge piles like this,” he said, holding his arms wide.
“Ef ye know what’s good fer yer frend ‘ere, yull make a nice big pile right ‘ere. Then Ayel be on my way an’ ye kin go t’ ‘ell.” Sam’s face disappeared, but not before a meaningful glance passed between Sam and Katy.
“Have you ever been there?” asked Katy.
“To hell of course.”
“Now ye jest keep yer big mule mouth shut,” he said as he jabbed the revolver into her back.
“Why should I?”
“’Cause Aye’ve blown men t’ th’ Yukon fer less.”
“Really? What did they do there?”
The man was getting unnerved. His plan might not work if she was not afraid of the gun. “Turn around and look at me.”
She did; returning his stare as she studied his greasy black hair and fleshy round face. She looked down at his red plaid shirt and discovered that it more black and brown than red, and his bulging stomach was nearly bursting the buttons off.
“How come yer not afeard o’ me? Ever’one else is.”
She looked back up. “Because I can’t die until the moment that God wants me to die; and if you decided to shoot me, how much gold do you think you are going to get?”
At the mention of gold, he suddenly looked at the rock. “What’s holdin’ that mule-tongued catacomb up anyway?”
“It took him a while to get down the first time; there must be tunnel in the rock or something. Which reminds me; you didn’t answer my question about hell.”
He was getting even more irritated and decided to put her in her place, he yelled, “I don’t have to answer a kid that’s still green beneath th’ feet. Ye could talk the legs off a catfish after you talked ‘em on.” He slapped her so hard that she fell over and then a gun went off with a loud crack. As he stood there, glaring at her, the man jerked backward and fell to the ground. Katy almost didn’t want to look to see who the man was, but he was walking toward her. “How did you get here, Sam?” she asked. He helped her up and then said, “The rocke is holler on th’ inside and there is a way t’ climb down. When Aye went down the second time, Aye found a trapdoor in the bottom of ‘t an’ fort’nately it opened into th’ tunnel that Aye dug. Aye snuck out an’ then worked my way ‘round behind ‘im. Aye meant t’ capture ‘im, but when ‘e slapped you, Aye didn’t know if ‘e was goin’ to shoot or not.”
“I was trying to tell him about heaven but I couldn’t seem to get past hell.”
“Don’t worry ‘bout et; some men jest choose not t’ listen t’ God. Et’s raither soberin’ t’ think that Aye was one o’ them until t’day. We ‘ave got a lot t’ do though, let’s get started haulin’ out this treasure.”
They went into the rock, via the tunnel and went through the treasure, picking out their favorite pieces, only taking a fraction of it because of the weight. When they had it all packed in the bags that Sam had brought, he climbed to the top again and coiled up the rope, then closed the upper entrance; he climbed down in the dark and then closed the other one. He tossed the dead man into the tunnel before he filled it and then covered the bare dirt with sticks and grass. He gave the man’s revolver to Katy, saying, “You might need et afore th’ trip’s over.” Then he lit the map on fire with a match and let it fall down to the ground before it burned his hand. “What did you do that for?” asked Katy. “It’s safer that way. Aye have mysel’ a feelin’ that the feller that came fer a visit helped Knox in th’ wrong way. Aye’l know th’ way back t’ this place, but anyone else will ‘ave t’ go t’ th’ coast. Let’s get t’ travelin’, we got t’ get as far from here b’fore dark as we kin.”
They came to Red Creak as the dark snow-laden clouds rolled across the sky. They continued on to a house a ways from the town, where Jake was staying, and Sam knocked on the door. Joe, the man that owned the place answered the door with an ugly scowl and a shotgun in hand. “Gud aifternoon, Mister,” said Sam. “Aye’m Jake’s partner. Came t’ see ‘im.”
The man frowned even more and nodded toward Katy. “And who’s that?”
“A lass that was lost out in th’ woods.”
The man gave them a skeptical look and then said, “Lost in th’ woods, eh? Ye kin come in, but leave yer guns on th’ table. Th’ sooner yer outa ‘ere th’ better.”
Sam and Jake had to speak in code because Joe was standing there the whole time. “That letter in my saddle,” said Jake. “The one about the mule; ye did take it out so as not t’ get ruined?”
“Shore did. Went an’ took a peek at ‘im too. ‘E was real scroungy lookin’. Abs’lutely FILTHY! Aye told th’ fella that we ‘ad no use fer such a mangey critter.”
“Next time don’t go lookin’ at mules without me. They kin get downright dangerus.”
“What’r ye needen’ a mule fer?” asked Joe.
“Aye’m goin’ on a trip t’ Calgr’y.” said Sam.
“This late in th’ year?”
“Important bis’nus y’know.”
“’Ow much’r ye payin’?”
“Twelve beaver ‘ides fer a top notch one.”
A greedy gleam shone in the man’s eyes, “Aye reckon Aye could let a mule ore two go fer that price.”
Joe went into the pen with his mules and slipped a halter on one, while Katy and Sam leaned on the rail fence. “When are you leaving for Calgary?” she asked.
“As soon as Aye can. Aye ’ave t’ get th’ gold changed t’ coins so Aye kin afford t’ feed another mouth. Aye reckon now that we found th’ treasure Aye’l settle down and rent a house fer th’ winter, an’ build us a cabin come spring.”
“How long are you going to be gone?”
“A few weeks at least.”
“Could I go with you?”
Sam thought about this as Joe led the mule up. He had assumed that he would leave her at Red Creak and travel alone, but as he thought about her idea it made sense. Red Creak was a mere outpost, consisting of about twenty buildings. Most of the inhabitants were men and Joe was probably the most hospitable. Sam held the mule and sent Joe after another one. “Aye s’pose ye could go, Katy. You might come in ‘andy en case Aye need someone t’ shoot mountain lions ‘r somethin’.”
Sam bought the two mules and then asked Katy, “Which one would you like?”
“I like this one,” she said, as she pet the smaller of the two. I’ll name this one Faith, and that one can be Fortune.”
“A mule named Faith, eh?”
“That way their names will match with Faidhley’s.”
They camped by Red Creak for a few days while Sam bought the things they would need for the trip, he also had one of the women make some dresses and a warm coat for Katy. When they were ready, they said good-bye to Jake and then rode out of Red Creak. The first snow of the year lay thickly over the landscape, weighting down the evergreen limbs with rounded caps of white. Then the sun came out of the clouds and set the snowflakes sparkling. Katy gazed at the snow covered mountains and said, “They sure are beautiful, aren’t they?”
“Aye’ve lived my whole life in these mountains and Aye never get tired of them.”
As they rode on, side by side, down the trail, Katy said, “God really knew what He was doing when He made the world. I like to think that He knew exactly how much I would like these mountains, and put them there knowing that I would enjoy them.”
“That’s and interestin’ thought,” said Sam. “He must ‘ave made th’ stars fer us t’ look at too.”
“And the snowflakes! You can’t forget those.”
“Aye been thinkin’,” said Sam, “About what Aye’m goin’ t’ do fer th’ winter. Maybe we could write a book together; ‘bout how we found th’ treasure an’ all.”
“That would be fun. I could have you write the way you talk; I have no idea how to write that stuff.”
“It ain’t all that bad,” protested Sam. “You jest wait, Aye reckon in a year ‘r two you’ll be jest as bad yersel’.”