Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lillian Travel Blog, Entry #6

October, 1927

I did not think to find myself back in this town again so soon, back at the beginning of the Telegraph Trail – and without my precious freedom. I have been bitterly betrayed, by a man I thought was my friend.

After I bid farewell to Sam at Cabin One, I continue north, following the telegraph line. Sam has replenished my supplies, so I have enough food to keep me strong. I am wary of bears and wolves, but I learn not to jump at every twig breaking, at every rustle of bushes. I begin to enjoy this untamed country, to marvel at its wild beauty and to drink deeply of its moist air. Perhaps this is where I belong. But I must not daydream. I must stay focused on finding Telegraph Creek, and Jozéf.

I count on my map eight more linemen’s cabins I must pass before I reach Telegraph Creek. On the first day I make good progress, but on the second day I am slowed by rain so heavy that I am forced to take shelter. Even so, I am drenched to the skin. My boots take the worst of it. Sodden, they begin to pull apart at the seams when I start walking again.

I drop my pack and fall asleep on the bank of a stream, too chilled and exhausted even to eat. I awake in darkness to the sound of snuffling and grunting nearby. By moonlight, I make out the lumbering shape of a bear. My heart is in my throat, but the bear is too busy eating my food to notice me. I lie perfectly still while he devours the last of my dried salmon. I keep a tight grip on the pistol in my pocket – although I know it would be useless against this giant.

I travel two more days without food. I am hot with fever. At times the trail is overgrown with brambles, and I must fight my way through them. They tear at my clothes, and my skin. At last I reach Cabin Two. The door is open. I am too starving to be polite and knock. Inside the door on a shelf, I see tins of food. Without thinking, I take several. Only then do I see the lineman, sitting at his telegraph machine, his back to me. Then he turns and sees me. I run.

This lineman is young and fit. He catches me in the clearing outside the cabin, holding onto me firmly with his strong hands. I look up expecting anger, but instead I see a broad smile across his handsome face. “I know you!” he says. He calls me the “Mystery Woman”, heading for Siberia, and to my chagrin I remember the small lie I told Sam, now grown into a small legend. I have been invisible for so long that I resent the loss of my anonymity to the telegraph line.

But Scotty Macdonald is a gentleman, and he seems to understand that I do not like questions. He insists that I stay with him until my blisters have healed and my fever is gone. He warns me there will be snow before long, and tries hard to persuade me to turn back and wait out the winter in Hazelton. I wish I could explain to him what drives me to find Jozéf.

On the third day, I prepare to say good-bye. Scotty finds excuses to delay me – cutting down a pair of his pants to fit me, hiding my boots. Like a fool, I think it is because he likes me, but then I find out the real reason. The policeman, Wyman, arrives. He has come for me, because – behind my back -- Scotty has called him on his telegraph. My worst fear comes true. Wyman arrests me, and brings me back here to Hazelton. To jail! Tomorrow I will be brought before a judge. Scotty Macdonald, I will never forgive you.