September 27, 2009

“Crime hole of Hades!”

“Say, this Soapy Smith fellow must be a regular Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde!” exclaimed an irate stampeder. “And I hear a few silly women of Skagway a few months ago were calling him the ‘dashing, colorful Robin Hood of the North!’—just on account of a few good deeds he did, generally with ulterior motives. One of his so-called ‘good deeds,’ which he never expected to be discovered, was a villainous act! Seems he gave the new preacher a good size sum of money to help build a church … but all the time, his men lay in wait to rob the minister on his way home. Think of it! Not only did they take Soapy Smith’s generous donation, but they took all their other donations as well! And to think, this slick soap salesman, this sleight-of-hand performer whose hand is quicker than the eye is the real power behind this evil ring! Now, they tell me Soapy dresses as a captain of the U.S. militia, drills several hundred of his gang in uniform. Sometimes he rides a beautiful white horse through town. Many call him the ‘Shah of Skagway!’ They say his big ambition, though is to be chief of police. Imagine! It’s a damned outrage, I tell you! Why, with his trained men armed to the teeth, Soapy Smith has the sinister power to declare martial law, and I understand has already threatened to do so. There’s no doubt about it, Skagway is a fever-stricken, crime hole of Hades! And my advice to you is, keep a sharp eye on your money, your hand on your gun; and don’t take up with strangers and, above all don’t go over White Pass unless you’re armed!”

From Black Sand and Gold by Ella Lung Martinsen, 1956.


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