Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 204

Thus, the region indicated as "over the divide" meaning the continental water-shed-or "over the range" came to signify not a delectable land alone, but a sum of delectable conditions, and, ultimately, the goal of posthumous delights. Hence the phrase in use to-day: "Poor Bill! He's gone over the divide."

The Indian's name of heaven—"the happy hunting ground"—is of similar significance, and among many of the tribes it had a definite place in the far Southwest, to which their souls were carried on cobweb floats. Just before reaching it they came to a dark river that had to be crossed on a log. If they had been good in the world of the living they suffered no harm from the rocks and surges, but if their lives had been evil they never reached the farther shore, for they were swept into a place of whirlpools, where, for ever and ever, they were tossed on the torrent amid thousands of clinging, stinging snakes and shoals of putrid fish. From the far North and East the Milky Way was the star-path across the divide.


Soon after the rails were laid across Marshall Pass, Colorado, where they go over a height of twelve thousand feet above the sea, an old engineer named Nelson Edwards was assigned to a train. He had travelled the road with passengers behind him for a couple of months and met with no accident, but one night as he set off for the divide he fancied that the silence was deeper, the canon darker, and the air frostier than usual. A defective rail and an unsafe bridge had been reported that morning, and he began the long ascent with some misgivings. As he left the first line of snow-sheds he heard a whistle echoing somewhere among the ice and rocks, and at the same time the gong in his cab sounded and he applied the brakes.

The conductor ran up and asked, "What did you stop for?"

"Why did you signal to stop?"

"I gave no signal. Pull her open and light out, for we've got to pass No. 19 at the switches, and there's a wild train climbing behind us."

Edwards drew the lever, sanded the track, and the heavy train got under way again; but the whistles behind grew nearer, sounding danger-signals, and in turning a curve he looked out and saw a train speeding after him at a rate that must bring it against the rear of his own train if something were not done. He broke into a sweat as he pulled the throttle wide open and lunged into a snow-bank. The cars lurched, but the snow was flung off and the train went roaring through another shed. Here was where the defective rail had been reported. No matter. A greater danger was pressing behind. The fireman piled on coal until his clothes were wet with perspiration, and fire belched from the smoke-stack. The passengers, too, having been warned of their peril, had dressed themselves and were anxiously watching at the windows, for talk went among them that a mad engineer was driving the train behind.