Journey: A Novel by James A. Michener

  Journey is a work of historical fiction. Apart from the well-known actual people, events, and locales that figure in the narrative, all names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to current events or locales, or to living persons, is entirely coincidental.

  2014 Dial Press Trade Paperback Edition

  Copyright © 1988, 1989 by James A. Michener

  Cartography copyright © 1989 by Jean Paul Tremblay

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

  DIAL PRESS and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

  Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Random House, an imprint and division of Random House LLC, in 1989.

  eBook ISBN 978-0-8041-5154-2




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  WHEN ON 17 July 1897 the steamship Portland docked at Seattle, bringing belated news and hard evidence that an enormously rich strike of gold had been made the summer before along the Klondike River on the extreme western border of Canada, the world was startled by a felicitous sentence scribbled in haste by an excited reporter who visited the ship. Instead of saying that the miners had reached Seattle with ‘a huge amount of gold’ or ‘a treasure-trove of gold,’ he wrote words that became immortal: ‘At 3 o’clock this morning the Steamer Portland from St. Michael for Seattle, passed up the Sound with more than a ton of solid gold aboard.’

  Those sensational words, ‘a ton of gold,’ flashed around the world, evoking wild enthusiasm wherever they appeared. Across the United States and Canada, men who had suffered sore deprivation during the great financial panic of 1893 cried: ‘Gold to be had for the picking! Fortunes for everyone!’ and off they scrambled, with no knowledge at all of mining or metallurgy, and very little sense of how to protect themselves on a frontier. Shifty manipulators, who realized that they would have little chance of finding gold in riverbeds, nevertheless knew that with the proper card game or attractive young woman to lure those who did find nuggets, they might win fortunes by mining the miners. Proper businessmen also smelled opportunities; actors out of work visualized theaters with dancing girls, and a few born explorers of untested regions, like Lord Evelyn Luton and his military cousin Harry Carpenter of London, made immediate preparations to rush to the gold fields for the sheer adventure.

  But if the news of the strike could have such electric effect upon so many, why had it taken almost a full year to travel the relatively short distance from the Klondike to Seattle, less than thirteen hundred miles as an eagle would fly? The explanation must be carefully noted, for it explains the tragic events that were about to destroy so many lives.

  The Klondike was a pitiful little stream, too small to admit a boat of any serious size and hidden away in one of the most remote areas of the world. It emptied into the great Yukon River, which rose in the high mountains of the northern coastal range and roamed through Canada and Alaska for more than nineteen hundred desolate and uninhabited miles. So if the big river was available, why had not the miners who found the gold taken boats down the Yukon to bring the news to civilization? Unfortunately, the mighty river was frozen almost solid from early in October through to the first weeks in June. The men who had discovered the bonanza and would profit from it had made their strike so late in the summer of 1896 that they could not get down the Yukon until early summer of the next year. For nearly eleven months they had lived with their great wealth and their explosive secret, but now the genie was out of the bottle and chaos was about to ensue.

  There were two other awesome facts about the discovery on the Klondike: although the gold fields, and they were unbelievably rich and extensive, lay entirely in Canada, there was no practical way to get from the principal settlements of western Canada to the region; the only feasible route was through Alaska, but anyone who tried that found himself facing one of the most fearsome physical challenges in the world, the dreaded Chilkoot Pass, at places almost straight up and passing through snowfields and mountain defiles. And if he did negotiate Chilkoot or the neighboring and equally formidable White Pass, which many failed to do, he then had to build himself a small boat from felled timber, to negotiate a series of deadly rapids and gorges and make a long, dangerous sail down the Yukon to approach the gold fields from the south. ‘In from the south, out to the north’ was the rule at Dawson City, the Canadian settlement that sprang up near the spot where the little Klondike emptied into the wide Yukon.

  It was this land—of frozen rivers, tempestuous gorges, impossible ascents through snow and ice, long sweeps of river through a thousand miles of wilderness—that in the late summer of 1897 attracted adventurers from all parts of the world, and not one of them, when he left Australia, or Indiana, or Ottawa or London, anticipated the hardships he would have to undergo before he reached Golconda.

  In London, a few days after the news from Seattle appeared in national newspapers, a rich uncle and his impecunious nephew, members of the English noble family of Bradcombe, read of the ‘ton of gold’ with considerable excitement. The older man, Lord Evelyn Luton, was the younger son of the redoubtable Marquess of Deal, eighth of that line whose Bradcombe ancestors had helped Queen Elizabeth establish a Protestant foothold in Catholic Ireland. Luton was thirty-one, imperially tall and slim, aloof, soft-spoken, unmarried and a man with a sometimes insufferable patrician manner. He despised familiarity, especially from underlings, and whenever a stranger presumed to approach him uninvited he tended to draw back, lift his nose as if he smelled an unpleasant odor undetected by others, and stare at the intruder. A friend at Oxford had termed this ‘Evelyn’s silent-sneer,’ and when a listener had pointed out that all sneers are silent, the first student had replied: ‘Look to your dictionary. Anyway, when Evelyn hits you with his silent one, it speaks volumes.’

  Another friend had argued: ‘His critics may be right when they call him insufferable, but we suffer him because he’s so … well … correct,’ and the first man had agreed: ‘He is always right, you know.’ But even this concession did not satisfy the first man: ‘Thing I like about him, when he embarks on any project, he’s loyal to all who accompany him.’

  As a result of interminable practice when a boy he had, with only meager athletic skills to begin with, converted himself into one of England’s finest cricketers. When not playing for his county team or representing England against Australia, he was an avid explorer, having penetrated to the upper reaches of the Congo, much of the Amazon, and, of course, the Nile to a point well beyond the great temples at Karnak.

  Actually, there was a solid reason for his wanting to leap into the middle of what threatened to become a gold rush, since so many wished to join, but he scarcely admitted this to himself and certainly not to strangers. Having already probed both Africa and South America on daring expeditions, he fancied traveling next to the arctic and later to remote corners of Asia with the purpose ultimately of writing a travel book, perhaps to be called An Englishman in the Far Corners, in which he would exhibit, as he explained to himself, ‘how an ordinary fellow with a bit of determination could follow in the footsteps of the great explo
rers.’ He patterned himself after notable prototypes who had carried the British flag into the most dangerous parts of the world: Sir Richard Burton, who had written about primitive India and Africa, and Charles Doughty with his incredible Travels in Arabia Deserta.

  Of all the intrepid explorations that had fired the imagination of an entire generation of Englishmen it was the expeditions to the high arctic in search of the fabled Northwest Passage that had most excited Luton. While up at Oxford he had read as many accounts as he could procure of the brave men who had led these northern explorations: Sir John Ross; Sir William Edward Parry, who had attempted to reach the North Pole; Sir Robert McClure, the first to discover the passage through the arctic waters. But none of these men’s deeds had affected Luton as much as that of the noblest and most tragic explorer of them all: Sir John Franklin, who had perished with his gallant team in 1847 in his bold effort to discover the elusive passage.

  Knowing intimately the travails of such Englishmen, Luton felt himself adequately prepared to face whatever challenges a mere gold rush might present. He would be venturing near the lands these men had discovered, perhaps even treading in the path of Sir John Franklin himself, who had once sailed the Mackenzie River in an early commission to map the coastline of the Arctic Ocean.

  Luton had no doubt that he could succeed on his far lesser mission. On several occasions he had demonstrated that he was fearless by performing acts of some valor, but when asked about this he rejected that word: ‘Fearless? Who told you that? Did they also tell you I was so terrified I wet me britches?’ To him the fragmentary word that reached London about the extensive dangers accompanying the gold rush presented an inviting challenge, but he would never have admitted that, for he had cloaked his former adventures as a seeking after scholarship, a thirst for knowledge, and this time he was already explaining to himself and others: ‘What I’d like, you know, is to give me nephew a spot of help.’ He pronounced the word nev-ue.

  This nephew, Philip Henslow, aged nineteen, was the son of Luton’s older sister, and since this made him a grandson of the Marquess of Deal, who was extremely wealthy, it might be supposed that young Philip did not want for money. But that was not the case. His mother, who as the daughter of a marquess enjoyed the title of Lady Phyllis, had displayed both temper and deplorable judgment in ignoring her father’s strictures and eloping with a young chap named Henslow, whom the marquess refused to accept, for he was brash, liberal and Catholic. Growled the old noblemen: ‘Henslow’s the shifty type Queen Elizabeth would have hanged, because he was plotting to remove her from the throne in favor of Mary the Scot.’

  Both Lady Phyllis and her son Philip had been in effect disinherited by the intractable marquess, and since the amiable Henslow had precious little money, the family was more or less strapped. Of course, when the marquess finally died, if he ever did, Lord Luton would be in a position to siphon off some of the Deal fortune to his sister and her son Philip, but while the old man lived, funds were needed.

  For these contrasting reasons, love of adventure on Luton’s part and need on his nephew’s, the former dispatched his footman to Oxford to detach Philip from studies he was conducting during vacation and fetch him to His Lordship’s club in Mayfair. ‘Really, Philip,’ Luton explained to his nephew as they dined that July night in his club, ‘it’s a matter of patriotism.’

  ‘Why should one route to the gold fields be more patriotic than another?’

  ‘Have you no sense of geography? Can’t you visualize Canada?’

  ‘I care little about Canada,’ the younger man confessed, ‘and very little about South Africa or India either.’ He was not teasing, this handsome nineteen-year-old from Eton, about to go up to Oxford, with his modest flair for the classics.

  ‘Canada lies north of the United States, as I’m quite sure you know,’ Luton said, ‘and that’s the infuriating part.’

  ‘I do not understand.’

  With bread rolls and tumblers, His Lordship laid out North America, with a teacup representing Alaska well off to the left: ‘This cascade of American gold we keep hearing about, it’s all from Canada, you know. Not a farthing in the American part.’ And he used a small silver teaspoon to represent the Yukon as it wound its way across the Alaskan border into northwestern Canada. ‘Here’s where the gold is, totally on our side.’

  ‘What’s deplorable about that?’ Philip asked, using one of the big words to which he was addicted.

  ‘To reach the gold, which is all Canadian, you must thread your way through this deplorable Alaska …’ He caught Philip smiling, and the young man said: ‘You’ve picked up one of my words again.’

  ‘Did I? Which one this time?’


  ‘But damn me, it is deplorable to think that we’re forced to pass through American territory to reach what’s ours to begin with.’

  For Luton, like most men of his upbringing, considered all those areas on his globe which were shaded red to be British. He cared little for political matters and was oblivious of the self-government accorded Canada in 1867 when he had barely taken his first steps across the nursery. India, South Africa, Canada: they were all part of the unparalleled British Empire, unlike the American states which had unwisely and rudely rebelled against England’s civilizing rule.

  Philip did not need his uncle’s attitude explained, and so he simply asked: ‘Is there no other way?’

  ‘That’s what we’re here to find out, and we start our investigations tomorrow. We’ve got to put some funds in your exchequer.’

  Of course, Luton could easily have stayed home and sent his nephew to look after his own money matters, but that was not his style.

  He too had attended Eton, with no great distinction other than on the cricket field, and had later jollied his way through Oxford with a minimal degree. In both schools he had done a bit of boxing ‘to keep meself fit,’ as he phrased it, and a modest amount of chasing after young women prominent in the theater. He was known to his friends as an advocate of the telling gesture, as when he appeared dressed in full military regalia, but of the era of William of Orange, to hear the public speech of a general who had won minor honors in the Afghan war. A handshake from Luton was better than a contract attested by a notary, and his friends supposed that he would soon offer such a handshake to one of the various young women of good family whom he escorted to balls and to Ascot. Before he took this extremely grave step, for the Bradcombes did not divorce, he was now eager to lead a small group of like-minded Englishmen to adventure in the gold fields.

  ‘I’ll approach Harry tomorrow,’ he now told his nephew. ‘If we go, and I think we shall, I’d want him along.’

  ‘I, too,’ Philip said with unfeigned enthusiasm, for Harry Carpenter was one of those Englishmen who seemed to do everything easily. Thirty-seven and a graduate of a lesser school than Eton but a good one, he had received his degree from Cambridge with commendable honors but without much intense study. He had played rugby both for the university and his country and had served with his regiment on India’s northwest frontier. He knew nothing of mining, nothing of Canada, but everything about living arduously on whatever frontier he found himself. He had climbed in the Himalayas while on leave from his regiment, but had stayed well away from the highest peaks: ‘I don’t like cold weather and I’m afraid of high places.’ It was unlikely that he was afraid of much except his wife—one of the minor Bradcombes and a most determined woman—for he had more than proved his valor by tramping alone on a feckless scouting penetration from Peshawar on the Indian border, through the Khyber Pass and south into the markets of Kandahar to collect intelligence for a later strike against Afghanistan. He was a formidable man, secretive, self-disciplined and always eager to tackle the next assignment. He was aware that in civilian life he had performed only indifferently and that his place was with troops, but as he approached his forties with a slim or no chance of ever becoming a colonel—he simply hadn’t the private funds to support himsel
f in a position as head of a regiment—he had decided that he was too old to be knocking about as a mere minor officer in some frontier unit in the foothills of the Himalayas, so his cousin Luton knew that for Harry, a chance to try his luck on the gold fields would prove a godsend.

  Next day, when Luton tentatively suggested a foray into the Klondike, Harry, with his customary diffidence, affected to know nothing about the gold there: ‘Is that the place they’ve been making a fuss over in the papers? Revolution or something?’

  ‘Gold, Harry.’

  ‘Oh, yes. That Yukon bit.’

  ‘I was thinking of taking a look. Care to join me?’

  ‘Love to, old chap. Anything to get away from London for a while. But I say, Eskimos and all that. Will we be eating blubber?’

  ‘We’ll be a thousand miles from the Eskimos, if I calculate correctly.’ Luton closed the conversation with an invitation: ‘I say, Harry, I’m joining Phyllis’s boy at the club tonight for dinner. Care to join us, to talk seriously about this?’

  ‘I’ve found it dangerous to talk seriously about anything, but if you do go to the Klondike, consider me part of your team.’

  That night Lord Luton and Philip seated themselves in the foyer of the club so as to keep an eye on the entrance, and it was Philip who spotted Carpenter first: ‘There he comes!’ and into the vestibule, where patrons deposited their cloaks to the care of an elderly attendant, stepped a man of medium height, sturdily built and with a rather large military mustache that projected about half an inch past the flare of each nostril. It was neither a garish mustache nor a flamboyant one; it was the rugged symbol of a rugged man, and opponents on many playing fields had grown to respect it.

  ‘I say, it’s good to see you, Philip. How’s the pater and all that?’ Carpenter was one of Luton’s rare friends who always asked about Henslow the Catholic interloper, and when he did, it was with honest affection, for he had always liked Philip’s father.

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