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Title: The Boss of Wind River
Author: Chisholm, A. M. (Arthur Murray), 1872-1960
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boss of Wind River" ***

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THE BOSS OF WIND RIVER

[Illustration: The girl caught Joe's arm. "It's going out, Joe! It's
going out! Oh, see it pull!"]



THE BOSS OF WIND RIVER

BY

A. M. CHISHOLM



ILLUSTRATED

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS :: NEW YORK



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
TO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY STREET & SMITH



ILLUSTRATIONS

The girl caught Joe's arm. "It's going out, Joe! It's going out! Oh, see
it pull!"

Miss Crooks came down the walk to meet him ... "I'm so glad to see you,
Joe. I've been looking for you for days"

Haggarty and Rough Shan, locked in a deadly grip, fought like bulldogs

"There's the line. Cross it to-night or try to scrap with McCane's crew
before I tell you to, and I'll shut down"



I


As young Joe Kent entered the office of the Kent Lumber Company at nine
o'clock he was conscious of a sudden pause in the morning's work. He
felt rather than saw that the eyes of every employee were fixed upon him
with an interest he had never before excited. And the quality of this
interest, as he felt it, was curiously composite. In it there was a new
respect, but mingled with misgivings; a sympathy repressed by the
respect; a very dubious weighing of him, a comparison, a sizing up--a
sort of mental shake of the head, as if the chances were in favour of
his proving decidedly light in the balance; and running through it all
was a waiting expectancy, frankly tinged with curiosity.

Kent nodded a somewhat embarrassed, comprehensive good morning, and as
he did so a thick-set, grizzled man came forward and shook hands. This
was Wright, the office and mill manager.

"The personal and important mail is on your desk, Mr. Kent," he said.
"Later I suppose you will want to go into the details of the business."

"I expect Mr. Locke about ten o'clock," Kent replied. "I thought we
might have a little talk together then, if you have time."

Wright smiled a little sadly. "My time is yours, you know. Just let me
know when you want me."

Kent opened the door of the private office that had been his father's,
stepped in, and shut it. He glanced half expectantly at the big,
leather-cushioned revolving chair behind the broad, flat-topped desk on
which the morning's mail lay neatly stacked. The chair was empty. It
came to him in a keen, stabbing pain that whenever in future he should
enter this office which was now his, the chair would be empty--that the
big, square, kindly, keen-eyed man whose business throne it had been
would sit in it no more.

He seated himself at the desk, branded to right and left by countless
cigars carelessly laid down, and drew the pile of correspondence to him.
The topmost envelope bore no stamp, and as he saw his name upon it in
the familiar, bold handwriting, his heart pounded and a lump rose in his
throat. The fingers which slid a paper cutter beneath the flap were a
trifle unsteady. He read:

    My Dear Boy: Locke will see that you get this when I have gone
    out. It is just a little personal note which I like to think you
    will be glad to read.

    I am not going to begin by apologizing for the fact that I leave
    behind me less money than most people, including myself,
    expected. There will be enough to give you a start and keep you
    hustling, which will do you no harm. You'll find it easier to
    hustle now than later. But, nevertheless, a word of explanation
    is due you.

    As you grow older you will observe that when the ordinary man
    acquires a comfortable stack at his own game he is seized with
    an unaccountable desire to play another man's game, at which he
    usually loses. It turned out so with me. I know the logging
    business; but I didn't know, and don't know, the stock market. I
    lost and I have no kick coming. It serves me right, but it may
    be a little hard on you. If that Power which put me in this
    world had seen fit to allow me to remain in it for a few years I
    would have stuck exclusively to my own last and repaired the
    damage. As it is I am warned that I must go out inside six
    months, and may do so at any earlier moment. It is in
    contemplation of the latter possibility that I write you now.
    Afterward I intend to go into business details with Locke. You
    may tie to him and Crooks. They are both white men. Don't be too
    proud to consult them occasionally. And if they both think one
    way and you think the other, make up your mind you're wrong.

    At a rough estimate, setting the present value of my assets
    against my liabilities, there should be a credit balance of
    fifty or sixty thousand dollars. That is lumping the whole
    thing--mills, timber limits, camp equipments, real estate, and
    so on. If you sold out everything you should get that much clear
    cash, perhaps more. But I hope you won't sell. For one thing the
    assets will increase in value. The water powers I own will be
    worth a fortune some day. And then I want you to carry on the
    business because I think you'll like it. You'll make mistakes,
    of course; but in a few years or less I am certain you will have
    lifted the incumbrances with which my folly has saddled the
    concern, and you will begin to lay up a competence against the
    time when your chief regret at leaving this world will be that
    you must become only a memory to some one whom you love.

    Preaching isn't my forte, and I am not trying to write a letter
    which shall be a guide through life under all conceivable
    conditions. But one or two hints may not be amiss. Such as they
    are I've bought 'em with my own money and paid mighty dear for
    some of them.

    Remember this: Straight business is good business, and crooked
    business isn't, no matter how much money you make at it. Apart
    from ethics there's a come-back with it, every time. A very fair
    test of the rectitude or otherwise of any deal is this: How will
    it look in print beneath a good scare head? If you don't mind
    the answer, it's probably all right. If you do, it's apt to be
    mostly wrong, no matter how expensive a lawyer drew the papers.

    Be steady. Don't let any man or thing rattle you into
    unconsidered action. Take your own time; it's just as easy to
    make other people wait for you as to wait for them, but don't
    keep them standing. Know as much of other people's business as
    is consistent with minding your own. When any man offers you a
    gilt-edged snap, try to figure out why he doesn't keep it all
    for himself; and if the answer is that he likes you, guess
    again. If you ever feel that you're beaten and want to quit,
    make sure that the other fellow isn't feeling worse; one more
    punch will help you to make sure. Get your fun as you go along.
    And now and then, Joe, old boy, when the sun is bright on the
    river and woods and the fish are leaping and the birds are
    flying and the tang of the open air makes life taste extra good,
    take time for a thought of him who was your loving father.

                                                    -- William Kent.

Young Kent choked suddenly, put down the letter, and stared out of the
window at a landscape which had become very indistinct and misty. Before
him lay the silver bosom of the river, checkered with the long, black
lines of the booms stretching from shore to anchor-pier, great water
corrals for the herds of shaggy, brown logs that were driven down from
their native forests every spring. The morning breeze, streaming through
the open window, was laden with the clean, penetrating,
never-to-be-forgotten odour of newly cut pine. The air was vibrant with
the deep hum of distant machinery. The thunderous roll of the
log-carriages, the high-pitched whine of the planers, the sharp notes of
edgers and trimmers, blended into one grand harmony; and shouting
through it at exactly spaced intervals came the sustained, ripping crash
of the great saws as their teeth bit into the flesh of some forest
giant, bound and prostrate on an iron bed of torment.

As he looked and listened, his eyes cleared of mists. For the first time
he realized dimly that it was worth while. That the sounds he heard were
part of a great song, a Song of Progress; the triumphant, virile song of
the newest and greatest of nations, ringing from sea to sea across the
breadth of a continent as it built itself, self-sustaining, strong,
enduring.

And young Joe Kent, standing by the window facing his inheritance, was a
fair representative of the average young American who works with his
hands or with his head, and more often with both. There was nothing
striking about him. He was of medium height, of medium weight, of medium
good looks. From the top of his close-clipped brown head to the toes of
his polished brown boots he was neat and trim and healthy and sound.
Only, looking closer, an accurate observer might have noticed a breadth
of shoulder and a depth of chest not apparent at first glance, and a
sweep of lean jaw and set of mouth at variance with the frank, boyish
good humour of the tanned face and brown eyes.

Kent left the window, settled himself in his father's seat with as
business-like an air as he could assume, and proceeded to wade through
the pile of correspondence.

In five minutes he was hopelessly bewildered. It was much less
intelligible to him than Greek, for he was beautifully ignorant of the
details of his father's business. It had been an understood thing
between them that some day, in a year or two--no hurry at all about
it--he should enter that office and master the details of that business
against the time--how far off it looked then!--when it should devolve
upon him to conduct it. But they had both put it off. He was young, just
through college. A year of travel was merely a proper adjunct to a not
particularly brilliant academic degree. And in the midst of it had come
the cablegram summoning him home, where he arrived a scant twenty-four
hours before his father's death.

And now, William Kent having been laid to rest on the sunny slope where
the great, plumed elms whispered messages with every summer breeze to
the dead below them, his son was called to con the business ship through
unknown waters, without any knowledge of navigation or even of ordinary
seamanship.

The letters which he scanned, reading the words but not getting the
sense because he had not the remotest idea of what they were about, were
for the most part exceedingly terse and business-like. They were the
morning cream of the correspondence, skimmed from the mass by the
practised hand of Wright, the manager; letters which, in the ordinary
course of business, go direct to the head of the house to be passed
upon.

But in this case the head of the house had rather vaguer ideas than his
office boy as to how they should be handled. They dealt with timber
berths, with logs, with lumber, with contracts made and to be made; in
fact with almost everything that Joe Kent knew nothing about and with
nothing that he knew anything about. And so, in utter despair, he was on
the point of summoning Wright to elucidate matters when, after an
emphatic rap, the door opened, admitting a burly, red-faced man of
fifty.

This was Locke. He had the appearance of a prosperous farmer, and he was
an exceedingly busy lawyer, with the reputation of a relentless fighter
when once he took a case. He had been William Kent's friend as well as
his legal adviser.

"Well, Joe," said he, "getting into harness already?"

"I can get into it easy enough," Joe replied; "but it's a lot too big
for me."

Locke nodded. "You'll grow. When I started I didn't know any more about
law than you do about logs. You got that letter?"

"Yes, thanks. He said I might tie to you and Crooks."

Locke looked out of the window because his eyes were filling. To
disguise the fact he pretended to search his pockets for a cigar and
growled:

"So you may, within limits. Got a smoke there? I'm out." He lit one of
William Kent's big, black cigars, leaned back in his chair, and crossed
one leg over the other. "Now, then, Joe, where shall we start?" he
asked. "I'm busy, and you ought to be. What do you know of your father's
affairs, anyway?"

"Almost nothing," young Kent admitted. "Say I don't know anything, and
it will be about right. This letter hints at debts--mortgages and
things, I suppose."

"Mortgages and things!" repeated the lawyer. "Lord, what an
unsophisticated young blood you are! I should say there were. Now here
it is, as your father explained it to me."

Kent tried to follow the lawyer's practised analysis, but did not
altogether succeed. Three things emerged clearly. The mills, plant, and
real estate were heavily mortgaged. There was an indebtedness to the
Commercial Bank on notes made by William Kent and endorsed by Crooks.
And there was a further indebtedness to them on Kent's notes alone,
secured by a collateral mortgage on certain timber lands.

"Now, you see," Locke concluded, "setting the assets against the
liabilities you are solvent to the extent of sixty or seventy thousand
dollars, or perhaps more. In all probability you could get that clear if
you sold out. Properly managed for you by somebody else, it would yield
an income of between three and four thousand dollars per annum. On that
you could live comfortably, be free from worry, and die of dry-rot and
Scotch highballs at about my age."

"I'm going to run the business," said Joe. "My father wished it; and
anyway I'm going to."

Locke smoked thoughtfully for some moments. "That's good talk," he said
at length. "I understand your feelings. But before you come to a
definite conclusion take time to look at all sides of the question. The
cold fact is that you have had no experience. The business is solvent,
but too involved to give you much leeway. It is an expensive one to run,
and you can't afford to make many mistakes. For seven months in the year
your payroll and camp supply bill will run into five figures. Your
father intended to make a big cut next winter and clear off some of the
debt. Suppose you try that yourself. It means a big outlay. Can you
swing it? Remember, you haven't got much rope; and if you fail and smash
it won't be a case of living on three or four thousand a year, but of
earning five or six hundred a year to live on."

"I hadn't thought of it in just that way," said Kent. "You see it's all
new to me. But I'm going into it, sink or swim. My mind's made up."

"I thought it would be," said Locke with satisfaction. "If I were you
I'd take Wright into my confidence from the start. He is a good man, and
thinks as much of your interests as if they were his own."

Wright, called in, listened to Locke's succinct statement without much
surprise. "Of course, I knew these things already in a general way," he
commented.

"I have decided to carry on the business," Joe told him. "What do you
think of it?"

"The carrying or the business?"

"Both."

"Well," said Wright slowly, "the business might be in worse shape--a lot
worse. With your father handling it there would be no trouble. With
you--I don't know."

"That's not very encouraging," said Joe, endeavouring to smile at Locke,
an effort not entirely successful. Locke said nothing.

"I don't mean to be discouraging," said Wright. "It's a fact. I _don't_
know. You see, you've never had a chance; you've no experience."

"Well, I'm after it now," said Kent. "Will you stay with me while I get
it?"

"Of course I will," said Wright heartily.

When Locke had gone Joe turned to his manager.

"Now," he said, "will you please tell me what I ought to know about the
business, just what we have on hand and what we must do to keep going? I
don't know a thing about it, and I'm here to learn. I've got to. Make it
as simple as you can. I'm not going to pretend I understand if I don't.
Therefore I'll probably ask a lot of fool questions. You see, I'm
showing you my hand, and I own up to you that there's nothing in it. But
I won't show it to any one else. When I want to know things I'll come to
you; but for all other people know to the contrary I'll be playing my
own game. That is, till I'm capable of running the business without
advice I'll run it on yours. I've got to make a bluff, and this is the
only way I see of doing it. What do you think?"

"I think," said Wright, "that it's the best thing you can do, though I
wouldn't have suggested it myself. I'll give you the best I've got. An
hour ago I was rather doubtful, but now I think you've got it in you to
play a mighty good game of your own one of these days."

Whereupon old Bob Wright and young Joe Kent shook hands with mutual
respect--Wright because he had found that Kent was not a self-sufficient
young ass, and Kent because Wright had treated him as a man instead of
merely as an employer.



II


In the course of a few weeks Joe Kent began to feel that he was making
some progress. The business was no longer a mysterious machine that
somehow produced money for his needs. It became a breathing, throbbing
creature, sensitive to the touch, thriving with attention, languishing
with neglect. It was a delicate organism, wonderfully responsive to the
handling. Every action, every word, every hastily dictated letter had
far reaching results. Conscientiously and humbly, as became a beginner,
he came to the study of it.

He began to meet his men. Not those with whom he came in daily contact
in the office; but his foremen, tanned, weather-beaten, level-eyed
logging bosses, silent for the most part, not at all certain how to take
the "Old Man's" son, and apparently considering "yes" and "no" perfectly
adequate contributions to conversation, who consumed his proffered
cigars, kept their own opinions, and went their several ways.

Kent was conscious that he was being held at arm's length; conscious
that the steady eyes took note of his smart shoes, his well-pressed
clothes, and his smooth cheeks. He did not know that the same critical
eyes also noted approvingly his broad shoulders, deep chest, and firm
jaw. He felt that the questions he asked and the conversation he tried
to make were not the questions and conversation which his father would
have addressed to them. But he was building better than he knew.

Many old friends of William Kent dropped in to shake hands with his son,
and one morning Joe was handed the card of Mr. Stanley Ackerman.

"Tell him to walk in," said Joe.

Mr. Ackerman walked in. He was tall and slim and gray and accurately
dressed. Mr. Ackerman's business, if his varied pursuits might be thus
consolidated, was that of a Director of Enterprises. He was on all sorts
of directorates from banks to hospitals. He had promoted or caused to be
promoted many corporate activities. He was identified in one way and
another with a dozen financial and industrial concerns. He was the
confidential friend and twin brother of Capital; and he was smooth, very
smooth.

His handshake expressed tender, delicate sympathy.

"I should have called sooner, Mr. Kent, after the recent melancholy
event," said he, "but that I feared to intrude. I knew your father very
well, very well indeed. I hope to know his son as well--or better. These
changes come to us all, but I was shocked, deeply shocked. I assure you,
Mr. Kent, I--was--shocked."

"Sit down, won't you?" said Joe. "Have a cigar?"

"Not in the morning, thank you," said Ackerman. "My constitution won't
stand it now. Don't mind me, though."

He watched Joe strike a match. His gaze was very keen and measuring, as
if the young man were a problem of some sort to be solved.

"And how do you find it going?" he asked. "Quite a change for you, to be
saddled with a big business at a moment's notice. If I recollect, you
were at college till very recently. Yes? Unfortunate. Not that I would
deprecate the value of education. Not at all. A most excellent thing.
Fine training for the battle of life. But at the same time scarcely a
practical preparation for the duties you have been called on so suddenly
to assume."

"That's a fact," said Joe. "Just at present I'd trade a couple of the
years I spent there for one in the office. However, I'm learning slowly.
Doing the best I can, you know."

"No doubt, no doubt," returned Ackerman cordially. "If I had a son--I am
sorry I haven't--and Providence in its inscrutable wisdom saw fit to
remove me--we never can tell; as the Good Book says, Death comes like a
thief in the night--that is how I would wish him to face the world.
Bravely and modestly, as you are doing. No doubt you feel your
responsibilities, eh?"

"Well, yes," Joe admitted. "I have my experience to get, and the concern
is pretty large. Naturally it worries me a little."

"Ah," said Mr. Ackerman thoughtfully, "it's a pity your father never
took action along the lines of a conversation I had with him a few
months ago. I expressed surprise that he had never turned his business
into a joint stock company, and--rather to _my_ surprise I confess, for
he was a little old-fashioned in such matters--he said he had been
thinking of doing so. He observed, and very truly, that he was as
capable of managing his own affairs as any board of directors, but that
if anything happened to him, such experienced advice would be of
inestimable benefit to you. And then he spoke of the limited liability
feature as desirable. Looking back at that conversation," said Mr.
Ackerman with a gentle sigh, "it almost seems as if he had a
premonition. I assure you that he spoke with the greatest earnestness,
as if he had thought the matter over carefully and arrived at a definite
conclusion. And yet I suppose nothing has been done in that direction,
yet?"

No, nothing had been done, Joe told him. In fact, this was the first
intimation he had had that such a thing had entered his father's
thoughts.

That, said Mr. Ackerman, was too bad. It was a great responsibility for
a young man--too great. Now, a board of experienced directors would
share it, and they would have an active interest in advising properly.

"Meaning that the advice I get now isn't proper?" asked Joe, with just a
little tightening of the mouth.

"Meaning nothing of the sort," Ackerman hastened to disclaim. "Don't
misunderstand me. But you must admit that it is irresponsible. In the
long run you pay the piper."

"That's true enough," Joe admitted. "In the end it's up to me, of
course."

"Just so," said Mr. Ackerman. "That is what your father foresaw and
intended to provide against. If he had been spared a few months longer I
believe he would have formed a company, retaining the controlling
interest himself, so that you might have had the benefit of the advice
of a board of experienced directors."

Joe Kent was quite sure his father would not have done anything of the
kind, but he did not say so.

Ackerman bestowed on him another measuring glance and proceeded:

"You see, Mr. Kent, business history shows that, generally speaking, the
collective wisdom of half a dozen men is greater than that of the
individual. The exceptions only prove the rule. The weak points in any
proposition rarely get past half a dozen experienced men. And then we
must remember that influence makes for success. Naturally the influence
of half a dozen representative men helps to get business as it helps the
business to buy cheaply, and as it helps to transact business properly.
Why,"--here Mr. Ackerman became prophetic--"I venture to say, Mr. Kent,
that if this business of yours were turned into a joint stock company
and the proper gentlemen interested, its volume would double in a very
short time."

"Perhaps so," said Joe doubtfully.

"Why not do it?" said Mr. Ackerman, seizing the psychological moment. "I
would take stock myself. I think I know of others who would. And as to
forming and organizing the company, I need not say that any small
knowledge I may have of such matters is entirely at your service."

"Very good of you," said Joe. "It's a new idea to me. I don't think,
though, that I quite like it. This is my business now, and I run it. If
a company were formed I couldn't do that. I'd have to do as I was told.
Of course I understand I'd have votes according to what stock I held,
but it wouldn't be the same thing."

"Nominally different only," Ackerman assured him. "Very properly you
would retain a majority of the shares--that is, a controlling interest.
Then you'd be made managing director, at a good salary. No doubt that
would be the arrangement. So that you would have an assured income, a
dividend on your stock, and practical control of the business, as well
as the advice of experienced men and consequent freedom from a good deal
of worry. If I were in your place--speaking as one who has seen a good
many ups and downs in business--I should not hesitate."

But in spite of this personal clinching argument young Kent did
hesitate. And this hesitation so much resembled a plain mulish balk that
Mr. Ackerman was a trifle disconcerted. Nevertheless he beamed upon the
young man with tolerant good nature.

"Well, well, a new proposition," said he. "Take time to think it
over--take plenty of time. You must see its advantages. New capital
brought in would permit the business to expand. It would pay off the
debts----"

"Debts!" said young Kent icily. "What debts?"

"Why--ah"--Mr. Ackerman was again slightly disconcerted--"you must be
aware of the mortgages existing, Mr. Kent."

"I am," said Kent, "but how do you know about them? What business are
they of yours?"

"Tut, tut!" said Ackerman reprovingly. "I read a weekly commercial
report, like other men. The mortgages are no secret."

"I beg your pardon," said Kent. "I shouldn't have spoken as I did. Fact
is, I'm a little touchy on that subject."

"Needlessly so," said Ackerman. "Most of my own property is mortgaged,
and I don't consider it a disgrace. I can use the money to better
advantage in other ways. Well, as I was saying, the new capital would
expand the business, the advice of experienced gentlemen would make
things easy for you; and if the property was put in at a good, liberal
valuation--as of course it would be--your holding would be worth more
than it is to-day."

"That is, the experienced gentlemen would water the stock," said Kent.

Mr. Ackerman reddened a little. "A liberal valuation isn't water," he
replied. "Those who would buy into the concern wouldn't be apt to give
you too much. Of course, they would desire to be perfectly fair."

"Oh, of course," said Kent. "Well, Mr. Ackerman, I don't think we need
discuss the matter further, for I've decided to keep on paddling my own
little canoe."

"Think it over, think it over," Ackerman urged.

"I have thought it over," said Joe. "You see, Mr. Ackerman, I may not
know much about this business, but I don't know any more about any
other. So I might as well stick to it."

"The plan I have outlined"--Ackerman began.

"I don't like," Kent put in, smiling. "My position is this: I want to
handle this business myself and make a success at it. I expect to make
mistakes, but not the same mistake twice. I'm awfully obliged for your
interest, but to be told what to do by a board of directors would spoil
all my fun."

"Fun!" echoed Mr. Ackerman, horrified. "My dear sir,
business--is--not--fun!"

"It is for me--about the bulliest fun I ever had in my life," said young
Kent. "I never played a game I liked as well."

Mr. Ackerman shook his head sadly. The young man was hopeless. "I
suppose," he said casually, as he rose to go, "that in the event of a
syndicate offering you a fair price for the whole concern, lock, stock,
and barrel, you wouldn't sell?"

"No, I don't think so," Joe replied.

"Ah, well, youth is ever sanguine," said Mr. Ackerman. "Your energy and
confidence do you credit, Mr. Kent, though I'm rather sorry you won't
entertain the company idea. We could make this a very big business on
that basis. Perhaps, later, you may come around to it. Anyway, I wish
you luck. If I can assist you in any way at any time just let me know.
Good morning. _Good_ morning! Remember, in _any_ way, at _any_ time."

Joe, from his favourite position at the window, saw Mr. Ackerman emerge
from the building and begin his dignified progress down the street.

"I didn't like his stock proposition," he thought, "but I guess he isn't
a bad old sport at bottom. Seems to mean well. I'm sorry I was rude to
him."

Just then Mr. Ackerman, looking up, caught his eye. Joe waved a
careless, friendly hand. Mr. Ackerman so far forgot his dignity as to
return the friendly salute, and smiled upward benignantly.

"The damned young pup!" said Mr. Ackerman behind his smile.



III


William Crooks, the old lumberman who had been the friend of the elder
Kent, was big and broad and burly, and before the years had silvered his
mane it was as red as any danger flag that ever wagged athwart steel
rails. He held strong opinions, he used strong language, he was swift to
anger, he feared no man on earth, and he knew the logging business from
stump to market.

He inhabited a huge, square, brick structure that would have given an
architect chronic nightmare. Twenty odd years before he had called to
him one Dorsey, by trade a builder. "Dorsey," said Crooks, "I want you
to build me a house."

Dorsey, who was a practical man, removed his pipe, scratched his head
and asked: "What of?"

"Red brick," said Crooks. He held out a sheet of foolscap. "Here's the
number of rooms and the sizes of them."

Dorsey scanned the paper. "What do you want her to cost?"

"What she's worth, and a fair profit to you," said Crooks. "Get at her
and finish her by frost. I'll want to move in by then."

"All right," said Dorsey. "She'll be ready for you."

By frost "she" was finished, and Crooks moved in. There he had lived
ever since; and there he intended to live as long as he could. Kindly
time had partially concealed the weird creation of Dorsey's brain by
trees and creepers; here and there an added veranda or bow window was
offered in mitigation of the original crime; but its stark, ungraceful
outline remained a continual offence to the eye. That was outside.
Inside it was different. The rooms were big and airy and well lighted.
There was an abundance of open fireplaces, as became the residence of a
man whose life had been spent in devastating forests, and the furniture
and furnishings were practical and comfortable, for Bill Crooks hated
"frills."

In that house his children were born, and there three of them and his
wife died. There Jean, his youngest girl, grew to womanhood, a straight,
lithe, slender, dark-haired young tyrant, with his own fearlessness and
directness of speech. She was known to her intimates as "Jack," and she
and Joe Kent had been friends all their young lives.

Since coming home Kent had seen little of her. He was very busy
mastering details of the business, and either went back to his office in
the evenings or spent them quietly at the club. But on the day of his
interview with Mr. Ackerman it occurred to him that he should call upon
Jack Crooks.

When he opened the gate that evening he saw that the wide veranda was
well occupied. Four young men were making exceedingly light conversation
to two young women. William Crooks was nowhere visible. Miss Crooks came
down the walk to meet him, and held out two slim hands in welcome.

"I'm so glad to see you, Joe. I've been looking for you for days."

"You see, I've been busy," said Kent. "And then, naturally, I haven't
been going out much."

She nodded sympathetic comprehension. "I understand, of course. Come up
and be presented. I have a very charming visitor."

"Any one I know?"

"Edith Garwood. She's my guest for a few weeks. Have you met her?"

Joe had never met Miss Garwood. He decided as he shook hands with her
that this was his distinct loss. Edith Garwood was tall and fair and
blue eyed, with the dainty bloom and colouring of a flower. Her smile
was simply distracting. Her voice was low and musical, and her laughter
carried a little trill that stuck in the memory like the first bird
notes of spring. She seemed to be one of those rare girls who are made
to be loved by everybody, madly adored by several, and finally captured
by some undeservingly lucky man.

[Illustration: Miss Crooks came down the walk to meet him ... "I'm so
glad to see you, Joe. I've been looking for you for days"]

At that moment she was holding a little court. Mallane, a young lawyer;
Drew, of Drew & Son; Leadly, whose chief occupation was the
dissemination of his father's money, which he had almost accomplished;
and young Jolly, who honoured a bank with his presence by day, clustered
around her closely. Each was quite positive that her glances and
laughter held a meaning for him which the others did not share. The
charmed circle, momentarily broken by the entrance of Kent, closed
again. They talked at Miss Garwood, they postured at her, and when, now
and then, they remembered the existence of their young hostess and
included her in the conversation, it was evidently as a matter of duty
only. Just then Edith Garwood was the only star in all the heavens.

Joe drew chairs for himself and Miss Jack just outside the group.

"Well?" she asked.

"Quite, thank you."

"I didn't mean that. Is it love at first sight with you, too?"

"No chance for me," laughed Joe. "Competition is too keen. Besides,
Jack, I've been in love with you for years."

"Nonsense!" she said, so sharply that he looked at her in surprise. "I
waive my prior claim," she added, with a laugh. "Confess, Joe! Isn't she
the prettiest girl you ever saw?"

"She seems to be a good deal of a peach," Joe admitted. "Is she related
to Hugh Garwood, the president of the O. & N. Railway?"

"Daughter," said Jack briefly. "His only child."

Joe grinned. "Which probably accounts for the obvious devotion of
Mallane and Leadly."

"Don't be so cynical; it isn't nice. She can't help it, can she?"

"Of course not. I was speaking of the men."

"Well, she's very pretty and charming. If I were a young man I'd fall in
love with her. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see you smitten."

Joe reddened a trifle, conscious that while he had been talking to Jack
his eyes had been on Miss Garwood. Once or twice her glance had met his
and she had given him a friendly smile. It seemed to hint at an
understanding between them--as if she would have been very glad to have
him change places with one of the others. And yet it was absolutely
frank and open.

Kent, being an average young man, did not analyze the quality of it. He
merely felt that he liked Edith Garwood, and she probably did not
dislike him. At the same time he began to feel a slight aversion to the
four men who monopolized her; but he explained this to himself quite
honestly on the ground that it was boorish of them to neglect Jack
Crooks for a guest, no matter how charming the latter might be. His
reply to Jack's prediction was interrupted by William Crooks.

"Well, young people," said the old lumberman, emerging upon the veranda,
"why don't you come into the house and have some music?"

"It's cooler out here, dad," said Jack. "Sit down and make yourself at
home and have a smoke. Here's Joe."

Crooks laid a huge hand on Kent's shoulder. "I want to talk over some
business with you, Joe. You won't mind if I take him away for half an
hour, Jack?"

"Not a bit, dad. Don't keep him all night, though."

"I won't," he promised, smiling at her fondly. "Come on, Joe. We'll go
to the library."

William Crooks's library held few books. Such as there were mainly dealt
with the breeding, training, and diseases of horses and dogs. Stuffed
birds and fish, guns and rods adorned the walls. A huge table in the
centre of the room bore a mass of papers in which pipes, cartridge
cases, trout flies, and samples of various woods mingled in gorgeous
confusion. Crooks laid an open box of cigars on top of the disarray.

"Well, Joe," he asked, "how you makin' it?"

"I don't quite know yet," Kent replied. "I'm just beginning to learn the
ropes around the office. So far I like it."

"You'll like it better," said Crooks. "You come to me if you get stuck;
but work things out for yourself if you can. Now, about those notes I've
indorsed!"

"Yes," said Kent. "I don't see how I'm to take them up just yet."

"Nobody wants you to," said Crooks. "Your father helped me out often
enough. I was doing the same for him, and what I'd do for him I'll do
for you. Don't worry about the notes or renewals. Only--I may as well
talk straight to you, Joe--I don't want to increase my liabilities
without I have to. Understand, if it's a case of need I'll back you up
to any amount in reason, but if you can worry along without more
accommodation I wish you would."

"It's very good of you," said Joe. "I'll try to get along. Anyway, I
never thought of asking you for more endorsements."

"Well, you think of it if you need them," said Crooks gruffly. "Come to
me as if I were your father, boy. I'll go with you as far as I would
with him, and that's to the rim-ice of Hades."

For acknowledgment Joe took his hand and shook it, an action which
embarrassed the old lumber baron exceedingly.

"All right, all right," he growled. "Don't be a blamed young fool. I'm
not going away anywhere."

Joe laughed. "I'm glad of that. I'll ask your advice pretty often, Mr.
Crooks. By the way, what would you think of turning my business into a
joint stock company? I don't fancy the idea myself."

"Who's been talking to you?" demanded Crooks.

"Well, Mr. Ackerman dropped in this morning."

"What did he want?"

"I don't suppose he wanted anything in particular. He just happened in,
being in town. This came up in the course of conversation."

"Son," said Crooks, "Ackerman doesn't go anywhere or see anybody without
he wants something. You tie into that. What did he talk about?"

Joe told him. Crooks listened intently, chewing his cigar.

"He suggested the same thing to your father, and your father refused to
consider it," he said. "Now he comes to you. Huh!" He smoked in silence
for several moments. "I wonder what his game is?" he concluded
thoughtfully.

"Why, I suppose if he organized the company he'd get a block of stock
for his services," said Joe, and he thought the comment particularly
shrewd. "That's all I see in it, Mr. Crooks."

"You don't know a thing about it," growled the lumberman bluntly. "If
you fell in with his proposition he'd kick you out when he got ready."

"No," said Joe. "He suggested that I retain a majority of the shares."

Crooks eyed him pityingly. "In about six months he'd issue more and cut
your throat."

"How could he do that unless I consented?"

"You would consent--the way they'd put it up to you. However, you won't
deal with him if you have any sense. Now, look here. You're not
twenty-five, just starting business. You think all there is to it is to
cut your logs, bring down your drives, cut them up into lumber, and the
demand will take care of the rest. That's how it used to be. It isn't so
now. Timber is getting scarcer and prices are going up. There is a
scramble for what timber limits are left, and the men with the pull get
them. Same way with contracts. You'll find it out. The big concerns are
eating up the little ones in our line, just as in others. That's why
you'd better keep clear of any proposals of Ackerman's."

"I will," Joe promised. At the same time he thought Crooks unduly
pessimistic.

"Now about timber," the old lumberman went on. "I'm starting men to
cruise all north of Rat Lake to the divide. You'd better send a couple
of cruisers into Wind River and let them work east over that stuff, so
you will be in shape to bid for it. That was what your father intended
to do."

"We have two men there now," Joe told him.

"Do you know how this bidding works?" asked Crooks.

"The government calls for tenders and accepts the highest," Joe replied.

"Theoretically," said Crooks. "Practically, if you're not a friend of
their rotten outfit you might tender the mint and not get a look in.
They used to have sales by public auction, and those were square enough;
though sometimes the boys pooled on 'em. Now what happens is this: The
government may open any timber for sale on any man's application, and
they are supposed to advertise for tenders. If the applicant isn't a
friend they won't open it. If he is, they advertise in a couple of
issues of some backwoods paper that no one sees, nobody else tenders,
and he gets it for a song. Of course some one high up gets a rake-off.
Only you can't prove it."

"How do you buy, then?" Joe asked. "You're not friendly to the present
government, and I'm not."

Crooks hesitated for a moment.

"You'll have to know sooner or later," he said. "I tender in the name of
another man, and I pay him from ten to twenty per cent. of the amount I
tender for the bare use of his name--if I get what I want. Oh, I know
it's rotten, but I have to stand for it or shut down. Your father did
the same thing; you'll have to do it, too. I'm not defending it. I'll
tell you more. This infernal political graft is everywhere. You can't
supply a foot of lumber to a contractor on any public work unless you
stand in."

Joe whistled astonishment, not unmixed with disbelief.

"Sounds pretty stiff, hey?" said Crooks. "Well, here's something else
for you to digest. There's a concern called the Central Lumber Company,
capitalized for a hundred thousand, composed of a young lawyer, a
bookkeeper, a real estate man, and an insurance agent--individuals, mind
you, who couldn't raise ten thousand dollars between them--who have
bought in timber lands and acquired going lumber businesses worth
several millions. What do you think of that?"

Joe did not know what to think of it, and said so. The suspicion that
Crooks was stringing him crossed his mind, but the old lumberman was
evidently in deadly earnest.

"And now I'll tell you one thing more," said Crooks, instinctively
lowering his voice. "I had an offer for my business some time ago, and I
turned it down. It came through a firm of lawyers for clients unnamed.
Since then I've had a run of bad luck. My sales have fallen off, I have
trouble in my mills, and the railway can't supply me with cars. There
isn't a thing I can fasten on, either."

"Oh, you must be mistaken," said Joe. It seemed to him that bad luck,
which often runs in grooves, had given rise to groundless suspicions in
Crooks's mind.

"I'm not mistaken," the latter replied. "I'm playing with a cold deck,
and though I can't see a blame thing wrong with the deal I notice I draw
rags every time. That's enough for me. I'm going to find out why,
because if I don't I may as well quit playing." He banged his big fist
viciously on the table. "I'll know the reason why!" he thundered. "I
will, by the Glory Eternal! If any gang of blasted high-bankers think
they can run me out of my own business without a fight they miss their
guess."

His white hair bristled and his cold blue eyes blazed. Thirty years
before he had been a holy terror with fists and feet. Few men then had
cared to arouse Bill Crooks. Now the old fighting spirit surged up and
took possession of him, and he was proceeding to stronger language when
Miss Jack tapped imperatively at the door and opened it.

"May I come in? Dad, this isn't playing fair. You've kept Joe all
evening. Edith and I have been waiting alone for half an hour. Come in,
Edith, and tell him what you think of him."

"Well, you girls had four young fellows without Joe. How many do you
want?"

She raised inquiring eyebrows at his tone. "Anything the matter, daddy?
I didn't mean to intrude."

"You never do that, Jack," he smiled at her fondly. "Business
bothers--nothing to worry about. It'll be all right 'when the drive
comes down!'"

"That always means I mustn't ask questions. I won't; but for being rude
to me you shall sing the song. Edith wants to hear it."

"Oh, do please, Mr. Crooks," said Miss Garwood sweetly.

"I've no more voice than a crow, and Jack knows it," said Crooks, but
followed his daughter meekly to the piano in the next room.

"'When the Drive Comes Down,' as sung by Mr. William Crooks, Selected
Record," Jack announced in a metallic voice. She struck a chord, and
Crooks, his face beaming and his ill humour forgotten, with the
preliminary whine of the genuine shanty vocalist struck into an ancient
ballad of the river, which was his especial favourite:

    "Come all ye gallant shanty boys, an' listen while I sing,
    We've worked six months in cruel frosts, but soon we'll take our
      fling.
    The ice is black an' rotten, an' the rollways is piled high,
    So boost upon yer peavey sticks while I do tell ye why-y-y.

    For it's break the roll ways out, me boys, an' let the big stick
      slide,
    An' file yer corks, an' grease yer boots, an' start upon the
      drive,
    A hundred miles of water is the nearest way to town,
    So tie into the tail of her, an' keep her hustlin' down-n-n."

He roared it in a heavy bass, beating time with a thunderous fist.
Jack's clear alto and Joe's strong baritone struck into the first
refrain:

    "When the drive comes dow-un, when the jam comes down,
    Oh, it's then we're paid our money, an' it's then we own the
      town.
    All the gutters runs with whiskey when the shanty boys so frisky
    Sets their boot corks in the sidewalks when the drive is
      down-n-n."

"Splendid!" cried Miss Garwood. "More, Mr. Crooks!" He nodded at her
indulgently, and let his big voice go:

    "There's some poor lads will never lift a peavey-hook again,
    Nor hear the trees crack wid the frost, nor feel a warm spring
      rain.
    'Twas fallin' timber, rowlin' logs that handed them their time;
    It was their luck to get it so--it may be yours or mine.

    "But break the rollways out, me lads, an' let the big sticks
      slide,
    For one man killed within the woods ten's drownded on the drive.
    So make yer sowls before ye take the nearest way to town
    While the lads that be's in Heaven watch the drive go down-n-n.

    "When the drive starts dow-un, when the drive starts down,
    Oh, it's every lad in Heaven he wud swop his golden crown
    For a peavey stick again, an' a soakin' April rain,
    An' to birl a log beneath him as he drives the river down-n-n."

"Oh, I don't like that verse," protested Miss Garwood. "It's sad,
fatalistic, reckless--anything and everything it shouldn't be. I thought
shanty songs were more cheerful."

"Some of 'em are cheerful enough," said Crooks, winking at Joe, who had
the grace to blush.

"But most describe the lingering deaths of true lovers," said Jack. "A
shantyman requires sentiment or murder, and preferably both, in his
music. Dad, sing us 'The Fate of Lovely May.'"

"I will not," Crooks refused. "It has five hundred verses, more or less.
I'm going to bed. You can lose sleep if you want to."

"Don't take that hint, Joe," laughed Jack. "You're not company."

"Hint nothing," said Crooks. "Jack knows it wasn't."

"I'm a business man now," said Joe. "I feel it my duty to set an example
to frivolous young people."

"Come around often, the way you used to," said Jack.

Miss Garwood, obviously, could not second the invitation in words: but
much can be expressed by a pair of blue eyes. Joe felt that, unless he
was an absolute dub at interpreting such things, his visits would not be
unwelcome to her.



IV


Wright stalked into Joe's office one morning and slapped an open letter
down on his desk. Evidently he was red hot.

"What do you think of that?" he demanded. The communication was brief
and business-like:

    BARKER & SMITH
    Contractors--Builders

    Oshkook, June 10th.

    The Kent Lumber Co., Falls City.

    Dear Sirs: Referring to our correspondence as to a quantity of
    lumber f.o.b. Falls City, we would say that we will not require
    same from you, having been quoted a more favourable rate.
    Regretting that in this instance we must place our order
    elsewhere, we are,

                                    -- Yours truly, Barker & Smith.

Joe whistled dismally. Barker & Smith were large contractors and retail
dealers. The quantity of lumber referred to was large, and the contract
had been all but closed; in fact, he was not sure that it had not been
closed. After consultation with Wright he had quoted the firm a rock
bottom cash price because he needed the money more than the lumber. Now
he was thrown down hard.

"Well, some one underbid us," he said, trying to hide his
disappointment. "That's all there is to it."

"Nobody could underbid us and get out even," said Wright. "We figured
our margin down to a hair-line. I'll bet a hundred to one they can't get
it cheaper without stealing."

"They say they can, and I suppose it goes," said Joe wearily. "Hang it,
I thought it was as good as closed!"

"Same here; and I'm not sure it isn't," said Wright. "They practically
agreed to take the stuff from us."

"Show the correspondence to Locke then, and see what he says," Joe
suggested.

But Locke, after he had waded through the papers, tossed them back to
Wright. "No good," he said. "What's here doesn't amount to a contract,
though it comes mighty close to it."

"It comes so close to it that we had cars run up the spur and started to
load," said Wright. "The understanding was--"

"It had no business to be," Locke interrupted. "You've shown me all the
papers in the matter, haven't you? Very well, I tell you they don't
amount to an agreement. They're simply a series of proposals,
rejections, and requests for other proposals, though you came very
nearly agreeing. While you're dickering some one cuts in with a better
rate and they call it off. You can't hold them."

"But nobody could underbid us; we quoted 'em rock bottom," Wright
persisted. That was the main point in his mind.

"Oh, pshaw, Wright, have some sense!" snapped Locke. "That may be an
excuse, or it may not. It's quite immaterial. Can't you see that?"

"That's all right from a lawyer's standpoint, but not from ours," said
Wright. "Barker & Smith use a lot of lumber, and they're not in business
to lose money. I say nobody could underbid us. They lie when they say
they got a better rate. What do they want to lie for? It's money out of
their pockets."

"I'm a lawyer, not a mind reader," Locke reminded him. "Your quotations
were f.o.b. Falls City. It's just possible the freight rate may have
something to do with it."

Wright returned to the office, pulled out his tariff books and compared
the rate from Falls City to Oshkook with rates from other competitive
points to the latter place.

"We've got 'em skinned there, too," he soliloquized. "They can't lay
down any lumber cheaper than ours. It beats me."

For an hour he pulled at a blackened brier and pondered the question.
Then he went to Kent.

"This thing worries me," he said. "I can't see through it. I think I'll
take a run over to Oshkook and have a talk with Barker & Smith."

"I wouldn't," said Joe, his pride up in arms. "We don't want to go
begging for their business. We quoted 'em a good rate. If they don't
want our stuff at that let 'em go to the devil." He was sore and
stiff-necked, as is the wont of youth when things go wrong.

But the older man persisted:

"I don't care so much that we lost the contract; I want to find out, if
I can, why we lost it. I know we weren't underbid, and I want to know
why they lied about it. It isn't a case of soliciting business; it's a
case of finding out why we don't get what's coming to us, and that's a
mighty vital question to any concern. We've sold Barker & Smith before,
and never had any friction. We can't afford to ride the high horse just
now. There's something behind this, and it's up to us to find out what."

Kent recognized the force of the argument. "I was wrong. Go ahead and
find out all you can."

Wright took train for Oshkook and dropped into Barker & Smith's office.
Barker was out, and he saw Smith.

"I called about the lumber we quoted you a price on," said Wright.

"Oh, that?" said Smith, who was plainly uneasy. "Yes. Let's see! We
didn't come to terms, did we?"

"No, we didn't." said Wright. "We quoted you a price that left us
practically no margin. I don't see how any one could give a lower
quotation. In fact, I wouldn't have believed it possible if your letter
hadn't said so. I tell you whoever underbid us will lose money by it, or
else you'll get poor stuff."

"We won't accept poor stuff," said Smith. "As to whether the other
people lose money or not, that's their affair. I presume they know their
own business."

"Would you mind telling me who they are?" Wright asked.

The question appeared to embarrass Smith.

"Why, upon my word, Wright, I don't exactly know," he replied. "We got a
number of quotations, of course. Barker has been looking after it.
Better see him."

"You'd have the information in the office, wouldn't you?" Wright
pressed.

"I suppose so, I suppose so; but--here, you see Barker. He knows all
about it. I don't. Sorry to leave you, but I've got an appointment." And
he left Wright to wait for the senior partner.

When Barker came in, fully two hours later, his surprise at seeing
Wright was so much overdone that the latter knew Smith had been talking
to him.

"Well, now, look here," said Barker when Wright had opened the matter,
"I don't want to talk about this. We got a dozen quotations and picked
out the one that suited us. That's all there is to it. I'm not going to
tell you where we buy or what we buy for. That's our business."

"You said we were underbid, and that's my business," said Wright. "I
tell you we weren't."

"That," said Barker with first-class indignation, "amounts to a
reflection on our veracity."

"I wouldn't put it that way," retorted Wright. "Your letter was a darned
poor lie, if you want my opinion of it. Now, hold your horses for a
minute while I talk. No one quoted you a better rate then we did; I know
that. And I know that transportation charges cut no figure, either. I'm
not kicking, understand, but I do want to know why we didn't land the
contract. We've done business with you before and hope to do business
with you again. Where do we fall down? Why are you throwing it into us?
What do we have to figure on besides cost, next time you ask us for a
quotation?"

"Better wait till I ask you," said Barker.

"No, because this is a serious thing for us. I want to make it plain
that we recognize your right to buy anywhere, and for any price you
choose to pay. That's all right. You needn't have given any reason at
all. But the reason you did give was not the true one, and we both know
it. Now, man to man, Mr. Barker, tell me what we're up against. Why
didn't we get the contract?"

"Well," said Barker hesitatingly, "there is something in what you say. I
don't mind telling you this much: There are a holy lot of wires in our
business, and we have to stand in with the people who pull them, see?
Sometimes we have to buy where we're told, no matter what the price is.
We get square in other ways. That's about what happened in this case,
otherwise you would have got the order."

Wright felt quite elated when he took his departure, for he had
justified his contention that they had not been underbidden. Wright's
business was to cut logs into lumber and sell the lumber. William Kent
had looked after the logging end of the concern. The limits, the camps,
and the drives were his field. What logs he did not sell he handed over
to Wright and thought no more about, knowing that they would be worked
up into everything from rough boards to matched flooring. Wright, then,
having ascertained the reason of the throw down, accepted it
philosophically as arising from circumstances beyond his control. But
young Kent, when he received his manager's report, was not so
philosophic.

"Pretty rotten state of affairs if people have to buy where they are
told," he fumed. "Nice free country we inhabit! I never took much stock
in such yarns, but I'm beginning to see that there may be something in
them."

He took his troubles to Crooks, who listened, growled profane comment,
but offered no advice. When Kent had gone he went to Locke's office.
Locke heard him with attention.

"What does the boy think about it?" he asked.

"So far," Crooks replied, "he's more indignant because Barker & Smith
have to buy somewhere else than because he can't sell to them. Same
thing in one way, of course. But he's looking at it from what he thinks
is their standpoint. Says it's an outrage that they have to buy where
they're told."

"Now I wonder," said Locke thoughtfully, "if we may go a step further? I
wonder if they are told where not to buy?"

"By George!" exclaimed Crooks.

"It proves nothing," said Locke. "It may not be especially directed at
Kent."

"I'll bet it is," said Crooks. "I'm losing good customers myself without
reason. I can stand it, but Joe can't. He needs good luck to pull him
through as it is."

"What in thunder do you suspect anyway?" asked Locke. "A combine?"

"Not a bit of it," replied Crooks. "I've not been asked to join any ring
to boost prices; but I have been asked to sell out. So has Kent. We
won't do it, and immediately our businesses suffer."

"That is, you think somebody is forcing your hand?"

"That's what I think. If Barker had told the truth he'd have said he'd
been ordered not to buy from Kent."

"Well, if any one is hammering you he'll have to show his hand sooner or
later," said Locke. "Take your medicine till you can get hold of one
definite illegal act susceptible of proof beyond all question. Then
we'll simply raise the roof."



V


In less than a week from their first meeting, Edith Garwood and Joe Kent
were giving a very fair imitation of a flirtation. Joe, as has been said
before, was merely an average young man. He was not genuinely or at all
in love at first; but he was strongly attracted, and he played the
pleasant game without much thought of consequences. And Edith Garwood,
being so constituted that admiration was as the breath of life to her,
entered into it with zest.

Not that she confined herself to Joe. Mallane, Leadly, and half a dozen
others basked in the sunshine of her smiles, and she held the balance
fairly level, enjoying her power. Thus jealousies sprang up which
threatened to disrupt the _entente cordiale_ normally existing in the
younger set of Falls City. These were by no means confined to the young
men, for certain young ladies found themselves suddenly deserted by
cavaliers to whose loyalty they would have sworn, and were much
displeased thereby.

These things bore somewhat hardly on Jack Crooks. She was a frank,
unspoiled, straight-forward girl, and loyalty to her friends was one of
her distinguishing features. But she was very human, and the general
male adoration of her guest made her just a little tired. No young
hostess likes to be completely outshone by a visitor, even a very lovely
one, and to find herself practically overlooked by the young men of her
own town was a new and unpleasant experience.

"I thought Joe, anyway, had more sense," she reflected. "She doesn't
care for him any more than for the others, and he ought to see it. Oh,
well, let him burn his fingers. I don't care."

But she did care, because he was a very old friend, and she rather
resented the pumping process to which Miss Garwood subjected her one
evening. That young lady, after eliciting certain information as to the
habits, characters, and worldly prospects of several young gentlemen, at
last came around to Kent, a sequence which was suspicious in itself.

"Now your Mr. Kent, dear--tell me about him!"

"He's not _my_ Mr. Kent," said Jack, a shade of red stealing into her
cheeks. "Joe's a nice boy, quite the nicest I know. We played together
when we were kids--that is, he condescended to amuse me when he was nine
and I was five, and that's quite a concession for a boy, isn't it?
Lately he's been away at college, and so we haven't seen much of each
other."

"His father died recently. He is the only son, isn't he?"

"Yes. And his mother died when he was a little fellow, so he is quite
alone. He is carrying on the business himself."

"It's a big business, isn't it? Somebody said the late Mr. Kent was
quite wealthy."

Jack's brows drew together a little. She disliked these questions,
perfectly natural though they were.

"I believe he was; that is, of course, he owned mills and timber limits
and so on. I suppose Joe is well off, but he has never confided in me."

"But he may some day?" The unmistakable meaning in the words brought the
red to Jack's cheeks again. She turned the question carelessly.

"Oh, perhaps, when he is in a confidential mood. He always was a clam,
though."

"Jack, dear," said Miss Garwood, "look at me. Is there anything between
you and Mr. Kent?"

"Not a blessed thing," said Jack honestly. "Why?"

"I wanted to make sure I wasn't trespassing," replied Miss Garwood
lightly.

"Well, you're not," said Jack. "Now let me ask a question: Have you
fallen in love with him?"

"No, not exactly," said Miss Garwood. "But--well, dearie, I half suspect
that he has fallen in love with me."

In spite of herself Jack winced. It was what she had told herself, but
to hear it from Edith Garwood's careless lips was different. And yet why
should she care? Joe was no more to her than any other old friend.
Naturally he would fall in love some day and marry. Perhaps Edith, in
spite of her denial, did care for him. In that case-- She gave herself a
mental shake and met the curious look in her guest's blue eyes squarely.

"I don't see how he could help it," she said truthfully. "He isn't the
only one, either. Shall you marry him, Edith?"

Edith Garwood laughed, well pleased, for she liked to be told of her
conquests. "It's rather early to say," she replied. "You see, dear, he
hasn't asked me yet. And if he did, there are all sorts of things to be
considered."

"Such as what?" asked Jack. "If you love one another that's the main
thing, isn't it?"

"You dear, unsophisticated child!" laughed Miss Garwood. "That's only
one thing. We should have to live after we were married, you see."

"Well, I suppose Joe has enough money for that," Jack commented. "And
then you have plenty of money yourself, or your father has."

"Yes," Miss Garwood agreed; "but papa has his own ideas of what would be
a suitable match for me. I'm not sure he would approve of Joe--I mean
Mr. Kent. Confidentially, Jack, how much do you suppose he is worth?"

"I never supposed," said Jack shortly. "His income may be one thousand
or ten thousand a year; I don't know. You aren't marrying him for his
money."

"I haven't decided to marry him at all, you goose," said Miss Garwood
lightly. "It will be time enough to make up my mind when he asks me."

Nevertheless she lay awake for half an hour that night, thinking. Her
flirtation with Joe had reached a point for thought. She wondered how
Hugh Garwood would regard him as a prospective son-in-law. Finding the
answer rather doubtful, she sighed, turned her facile mind to something
else, and almost immediately slept.

For hours after her guest slumbered, Jack Crooks stared from her bed at
the treetops outside the window, and watched the patch of moonlight on
the floor slowly shift and finally disappear. And this sleeplessness was
the more unaccountable because she told herself again that she didn't
care whether Joe married Edith or not. She was quite honest about it.

"But I didn't like her questions about his money," she reflected. "She
has or will have enough for both. I know if I were in love--which thank
goodness I'm not--the amount of money a young man had would be the last
thing I'd think of. I don't believe dad would think of it either, just
so we had enough to live on, and good prospects. Of course not. She
can't think much of Joe if she lets that stand in the way. If he isn't
exactly rich he can't be poor. Mr. Kent was as well off as dad, I should
think. Oh, dear! I've simply _got_ to go to sleep." And finally she did,
just as the faintest light grew in the east.

Meanwhile, Joe Kent was doing a little soul searching himself, without
coming to any definite conclusion. He liked Edith Garwood, and he
suffered acute jealousy when she accepted the marked attentions of
others; but to save his life he couldn't make up his mind whether he
would care to look at her across his breakfast coffee as long as they
both should live. The question of money occurred to him, but not as an
important factor. He knew that old Hugh Garwood, the president of the O.
& N. Railway, had it to burn, to throw at the birds, to stuff cats with,
and half a dozen other ways of disposition. But he himself had enough to
keep a wife in the modest comfort which had always been his. He was
clean, healthy, well educated, and owned a business which, though
encumbered, was perfectly solvent. Therefore he considered himself,
without egotism, eligible for the hand of any girl, no matter how
wealthy her father might be.

But apart from the question of whether he loved Edith Garwood or not was
the somewhat embarrassing one of whether she loved him. It was all right
to flirt, to play the two-handed game for fun. But suppose it was for
marbles; suppose one took it seriously----

"Hang it," said young Kent to himself, "I don't know whether I've got
the real thing or not; and I don't know whether she has been stringing
me along or not. But if she hasn't been it's pretty nearly up to me to
come across with a formal proposal. I wish I knew where I was at. I
wonder if I could get a line from Jack?"

From which the experienced will readily deduce that young Mr. Kent was
somewhat rattled and a little afraid of the future, but not altogether
unwilling to pay for his fun like a man.

His endeavour to sound Miss Crooks was by no means a success. With
unwonted density she did not or would not see the drift of his
questions, framed with what he considered great subtlety; and when he
became more direct she went to the point with embarrassing candour:

"Do you want to marry her, or don't you?" she asked.

"Why, Jack, I'll be hanged if I know," he admitted.

"Well, when you make up your mind, ask her," said Jack. "Meanwhile don't
try to pump me. I don't know anything about her sentiments, and if I did
I wouldn't tell you."

So Joe had to go it blind. The flirtation, however, progressed. One
night the moon, rising gorgeous and serene above a notch in the hills,
discovered Edith Garwood and Joe Kent seated prosaically upon a huge log
by the river side, both very tongue-tied, and both apparently absorbed
in the engrossing pastime of tossing pebbles into the black water and
seeing the rings spread. In fact it had come to a showdown. It was
distinctly Joe's play, but he held up his hand. It was provoking, from
Miss Garwood's standpoint.

"I think," she said, "that we should go home."

"Oh, not yet; it's early," said Joe.

Pause. Miss Garwood sighed inaudibly but impatiently, and her fingers
played nervously with a ring. Joe stared blankly at the water. The ring,
escaping from the lady's hand, fell tinkling on the beach pebbles.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, "I've dropped my ring!"

She knelt at once and began to search for it in the semi-darkness. So
did Joe. Quite by accident her slim white hand came in contact with his
broad brown one. And the natural thing happened.

"Mr. Kent!"

"Yes--Edith!"

"Please!"

But she swayed toward him slightly. Accepting the situation, Joe Kent's
unoccupied hand and arm encircled her waist with considerable facility.
He even applied gentle pressure. She yielded a little, but protested:

"Mr. Kent--Joe!"

"Yes, dear!"

"You shouldn't--I shouldn't. I never gave you any reason to think that I
thought that you thought--I mean you couldn't think I did, could you?"
Which confusion of speech went to show that the usually composed Miss
Garwood was slightly rattled. She had created the situation and she felt
it slipping beyond her control. Joe, who had accepted it recklessly,
drew a long breath and made the plunge.

"I hope you do. I--I love you, Edith." He wondered if the words rang
true. To him they sounded hollow and forced. But Miss Garwood's waist
yielded a little more. The fingers of her disengaged hand clasped the
lapel of his coat and played with it, and her sweet blue eyes looked up
pleadingly, trustfully, into his brown ones.

"Joe," she murmured, "I don't know what to say. I'm not sure, but I half
suspect that I--I--oh!"

The exclamation was smothered, for again the natural thing had happened.

Five minutes afterward Miss Garwood smoothed her hair and said
irrelevantly:

"But we haven't found my ring!"

"Good old ring," said Joe, producing it from his pocket.

"Joe!" she cried in unaffected astonishment. "Did you have it there all
the time?"

"I found it pretty early in the game," he acknowledged without shame.
"I'll buy you another to-morrow."

The dim light hid the sudden gravity of her features. "Do you mean an
engagement ring, Joe?"

"Of course."

"Are we really engaged?"

"Simple process, isn't it? I guess we are."

Miss Garwood dug a daintily shod foot into the sand. This was getting
serious.

"But we ought to have papa's consent first."

"Well, I'll take a run over to your town and tell him about it," said
Joe carelessly. "Matter of form, I suppose. I'll look after that in a
day or two."

Miss Garwood laughed uneasily. "It's plain that you don't know him. I
think you would better leave that to me--about our engagement, I mean.
And meantime we won't say anything about it to anybody."

"I don't like that," said Joe frankly. Having made the plunge he was
ready to stay in the water. "Why shouldn't we announce it? Do you mean
your father wouldn't consent?"

"I doubt if he would, at first," she replied, apparently with equal
frankness. "You see he expects me--please don't be offended--but he
expects me to make what is called a good marriage."

"Do you mean he expects you to marry for money?"

"No, not altogether. But money and social position are desirable." Thus
early she sought to provide an avenue of retreat.

Joe stared at her, his pride hurt. It had never occurred to him that his
own social position was not as good as any one's. He was received
everywhere he wished to go; of fashionable society and the grades and
jealousies of it he knew little and cared less. He had no social
ambitions whatever, and his own modest place was perfectly assured.

"I don't quite get it," said he. "I have enough to live on. And I
suppose I could butt into society, if that's what you mean."

She explained gently, shouldering the responsibility upon her father. In
any event they could not marry at once. Then let their engagement remain
a secret between them. She sighed with relief when she carried her
point, for it gave her time to pause and reflect. Joe had swept her away
a little, for she really liked him. Now she saw things clearly once
more. Relative values emerged. Even a temporary engagement to a
comparatively poor, obscure young man would never do; that is, it must
not be made public. But she was given to following the line of the least
resistance. It never occurred to her to doubt that he was genuinely in
love, and she hated a scene. Later it would be an easy thing to break
with him. Meanwhile she would have what fun she could out of it, for Joe
was really very nice.



VI


As a matter of fact Kent was rather relieved when Miss Garwood's visit
ended. Whether he had made a mistake or not he was ready to abide by it;
but he found himself in a false position, and he greatly disliked to
witness the open attentions of numerous young men, to which he could not
very well object. However, he had a number of other things, just as
important and considerably more pressing, to think about.

For instance, there was the question of car shortage. The Peninsular
Railway, which was the only line serving Falls City, seemed to have no
rolling stock available. Promises were forthcoming in plenty--but no
cars. Complaints of delayed shipments from indignant purchasers poured
down on Kent in a daily deluge. He and Wright besieged the manager, the
traffic superintendent, and the dispatchers, demanding flats and
boxes--anything on wheels--and by dint of unremitting persistence were
able to obtain about half as many cars as they needed.

It was this difficulty which made Joe, after consultation with Wright,
refuse a proposition of Clancy Brothers, with whom they already had a
large delivery contract, calling for almost double the quantity of
lumber which they had a right to purchase under the existing agreement,
and at the same rate and same terms of delivery.

"No use making contracts if we can't get cars," said Joe regretfully
when he had read the Clancys' letter.

"That's so," said Wright. "We'll explain it to them. I suppose if they
want more lumber, and if we can ever get anything to ship it in, we can
sell it to them." And he wrote them to that effect and subsequently
regretted it, for cars began to come easier.

And then there was the situation at the bank. The notes were coming due,
and though there was no objection to renewing those which Crooks had
endorsed, the bank intimated that the others should be reduced.

"But why?" asked Joe. "You have collateral. The security is as good now
as when they were given."

"The personal liability is different," replied Hagel, manager of the
Commercial Bank. He was a stout, pompous, side-whiskered man of middle
age, inclined to a solemnity of speech which partially cloaked an innate
stupidity, and he held his position mainly because he did as he was
told, without question. "Your father's ability to pay was one thing;
yours--you'll pardon me--is quite another."

"In other words, you don't think I can run the business?" said Joe.

Hagel raised a protesting hand. "It is not what _I_ think, Mr. Kent. My
directors, in their wisdom, foresee a--er--a financial storm. We must
shorten sail, Mr. Kent--hem!--yes--shorten sail. I regret the necessity,
but----"

"All right," Joe interrupted. "If you insist, of course I'll have to
take up the notes when they mature. To do that I'll have to borrow
money, and I don't feel inclined to leave my account where I can't get
ordinary accommodation. I'll go over to the Farmers' National and see
what McDowell will do for me."

McDowell was manager of the latter institution, and the very antipodes
of Hagel, who hated him. He was young, popular, brusque, and a
thorough-paced sport after banking hours.

"I trust you won't do that," said Hagel, for the Kent account was a very
valuable one. "You have other accommodation from us, and we have had
your account for a long time."

"That's got nothing to do with it," said Joe, who was developing a most
disconcerting habit of going straight to the point. "You people are
trying to keep the cream and make me hustle to sell skim milk. If you
force me to hunt accommodation elsewhere not another dollar of my money
goes through your hands. You'll do what seems best to you, of course;
but I want to know now where I am at."

Hagel had lost some very good accounts which the Farmers' National had
subsequently acquired, and his directors had made unpleasant remarks.
Although he was merely carrying out their instructions in this instance,
he knew director nature well enough to realize that he would be blamed
if the account were withdrawn.

"Better wait a few days, Mr. Kent," he said. "I'll put your views before
my board, and I think it very likely the matter can be arranged--very
likely indeed."

"All right," said Joe; "but that's how it lies. I don't think I'm
getting a square deal, and if I have to lift the notes I'll take the
account with them."

On top of this there came another trouble, and a serious one. Joe, one
morning, had just rung for his stenographer when Wright burst in upon
him in considerable agitation, brushing past that long-suffering young
lady in the doorway.

"What do you think of this?" he cried, waving a sheet of paper. "That
infernal railway--" He swore venomously, and Joe's stenographer, with a
glance at her employer, discreetly withdrew, for she was a young woman
of experience.

"What's the row?" Joe asked. "And you might shade your language a
little. Not that I mind, but I don't want Miss Brown to quit her job."

"A readjustment of freight rates!" cried Wright. "A readjustment! And
look what they've done to lumber!"

Joe grabbed the paper, glanced at it, and supplemented his manager's
remarks with great heartiness. In a general and long-promised
overhauling of freight rates that on lumber was boosted sky-high. But he
did not at once grasp the full significance of it. He saw that the
result would be to increase the price of lumber proportionately and
restrict building to some extent in certain localities; but in the end
the consumer would pay, as usual.

"Rotten!" he commented. "The old rate was high enough. Looks like a case
for the Transportation Commission. They ought to scale this down."

"They'll get around to it in a couple of years," snorted Wright with
bitter contempt. "Meanwhile where do we get off at? I tell you it just
cuts the heart out of our business."

"I don't see--" Joe began.

"You don't?" Wright fairly shouted. "No, and I don't see it all
myself--yet. But look what it does to our contract with the Clancys!"

Now the contract with Clancy Brothers, mentioned before, was peculiar.
They logged and manufactured lumber, but not nearly all for which they
had sale. They operated a system of selling yards in twenty towns. By
the terms of an agreement made by his father, which had more than a year
to run, Kent was bound to supply them with lumber as required to a
stated maximum amount at a stated price according to quality; and they,
on their part, were bound to order lumber to a stated minimum quantity.

But instead of the price being f.o.b. Falls City, as was usual, the
Clancys had insisted on a delivery price at their central yard, thus
striking an average and getting rid of trouble. Therefore the price of
the lumber per thousand feet was based on a calculation in which the
then existing freight rate was an important factor. Thus an unforeseen
and substantial increase in the rate meant a corresponding loss to Kent,
if the Clancys chose to hold him to the agreement. Joe looked at his
manager in slowly, dawning comprehension.

"Why--why--hang it, Wright," he said slowly, "it means a dead loss to us
on every foot of boards we sell them!"

"Just that," Wright agreed grimly. "And they'll boost their price with
the rest of the retail men and make a double profit."

"Surely they won't hold us up when we're losing money and they're making
two kinds?" said Joe, from his utter inexperience.

"Won't they?" snapped Wright. "They'll hold us up for every foot the
contract calls for." He stopped suddenly. "And only a couple of weeks
ago they wanted us to enter into a new contract for double the quantity
at the same rates. Now I see it!"

"They had advance information of the change!" gasped Joe.

"Sure. After all, that car shortage was a good thing; otherwise we'd
have closed with them. Now our only chance to get out even is to find a
hole in the contract."

Joe's hope that the Clancys would not hold him to a losing agreement
went glimmering, but he didn't quite like Wright's suggestion. "We made
this contract with our eyes open," he said. "At least my father did.
Would it be square to back out now, even if we could?"

"Square?" exclaimed Wright. "Look at the dirty game they tried on us!
Anything's square with people like them. I'd rob their safe if I could.
Didn't they try to get a new contract that would kill us? Did you ever
see them?"

"No," Joe admitted. "I heard they were good business men, that's all."

"Business men!" Wright struggled for appropriate words, and finding none
threw out his hands in a protesting gesture. "They're all that and then
some. I wish I had half their business ability. They're a pair of
cold-blooded, dirty-tongued, sewer-rat devils, with the knack of making
money hand over fist. And you see how they do it! But they pay up to the
day and the cent, and they never squeal when they're hit, I'll say that
for them."

"Then we won't squeal either," said Joe proudly. "Maybe, after all,
they'll let us down easy."

"Not them," said Wright, ungrammatically but positively.

Not two hours afterward a wire was received from Clancy Brothers
ordering a large consignment of dressed lumber which they wanted rushed.

"What did I tell you?" said Wright sadly. "And the nerve of them to want
it rushed. Rushed! I'll see them in blazes first. They'll take their
turn, and that's last."

This strategic delay was provocative of results. Some days afterward
Joe's telephone rang.

"Is that Misther Kent?" demanded a heavy voice at the other end of the
wire. "It is? Well, this is Finn Clancy, talkin'--Finn Clancy of Clancy
Brothers. I want to know how about that lumber we ordered. Is ut shipped
yit?"

"Not yet," Joe replied. "We don't----"

"An' why the divil isn't ut?" interrupted Clancy. "Haven't ye got ut
cut?"

"Yes," Joe admitted, "but----"

"No 'buts' about it," Clancy cut him short again. "Don't tell me ye
can't get cars. I know better. That gag don't work no more. I'll have
yeez people to understand that when we order lumber we want lumber an'
not excuses. Th' contract calls for----"

"I know quite well what it calls for," Joe interrupted in his turn. "If
you think you've got a kick, come up to the office and make it." And he
slammed the receiver back on the hook viciously.

Half an hour afterward Wright ushered in the brothers Clancy. Finn
Clancy fulfilled the promise of his telephone voice. He stood over six
feet; he was broad, deep-chested, and red-bearded, with a pair of bright
blue eyes hard as polished steel. John Clancy was small, dark, and
wizened, and his mouth was a straight slit, tucked in at the corners.

"This is Mr. Kent," said Wright.

The brothers stared at Joe for a moment.

"So ut was you I was talkin' to?" growled Finn Clancy belligerently.

"It was," said Joe shortly, but, realizing the advisability of holding
his temper, he added: "Sit down, gentlemen."

They sat down. Finn heavily; John cautiously.

"Now about the lumber," Joe began. "We've been delayed one way and
another, but we'll ship it in a day or two."

"You betther," Finn rumbled. "We got contracts to fill, an' we got a
contract wid you. You want to remember that."

"I do remember it," said Joe. "Also I remember that you tried to get us
to sign a new one for double the amount, not so very long ago. I suppose
it was a coincidence that the freight rate was boosted a few days
afterward."

They simply grinned at him. John Clancy chuckled dryly, as if it were
the best joke in the world.

"If we'd 'a' got that we'd 'a' made money," he said.

"No doubt," Joe commented. "You're making enough as it is. We lose money
on every order of yours that we fill."

"That's your business," said Finn, and John's mouth tucked in a little
more. He shot an understanding glance at his brother, but said nothing.

"Quite true," said Joe. "And your profits will be doubled by the
increased price of lumber. In view of that it occurred to us that you
might be willing to amend the contract so as to let us out even."

"That occurred to ye, did it?" said the big man. There was a sneer in
his voice. "It didn't occur to us, did it, Jawn?"

"It did not, Finn," said John positively.

"Well, I mention it to you now," said Joe. "We don't want to lose money,
but we'd be satisfied with an even break. Your profits will be big
enough to allow us that. But it's up to you. If you choose to hold us up
I suppose you can do it."

"There's no holdin' up about it," said Finn. "You contract to deliver
lumber at one price; we contract to buy it at that price. If it goes
down we lose; if it goes up you lose. Anyways ye had yer eyes open when
ye signed. That's how I look at it. Am I right, Jawn?"

"Ye are," declared his brother. "If so be lumber had went down, wud we
have came whinin to ye to let us off our contract? We wud not. When we
lose we pay, an' say nawthin' about it. That's business."

"All right," said Joe; "it may be. But if I stood to make as much money
as you do I'd see that the other fellow didn't lose anything, that's
all."

"It's aisy to talk," sneered Finn; "an' all the time ye do be holdin' up
our order, thinkin' to bluff us into amendin' the contract. Is that
straight business, young felly?"

Joe flushed, for there was just a little truth in the words.

"That's not so," he replied. "Your order will go through, but I won't
rush it for you. And if you'll allow me to give you a pointer, Clancy,
it's to the effect that you're not in a position to make insinuations."

"I don't insinuate, I talk straight," retorted Clancy. "I'm onto ye,
young felly. Ye'll keep that contract to the letter, or I'll know why!"
and he emphasized his ultimatum with an oath.

"Mr. Clancy," said Joe icily, though his temper was at boiling point,
"we'll dispense with profanity. I do all the necessary swearing here
myself, understand. I won't have strong language or loud talk in my
office."

"Won't ye?" shouted Clancy. "Why, ye damned little----"

Joe Kent's chair crashed back against the wall. Its occupant put his
hand on the desk and vaulted it, alighting poised on his toes in front
of the big man so suddenly that the latter paused in sheer amazement.

"Go ahead and say what you were going to," said Joe with a queer little
shake in his voice; "and then, you dirty mucker, I'll give you a lesson
in manners!"

Finn Clancy would have tackled a Dago armed with a knife or a
construction hand holding a shovel without an instant's hesitation, for
he was quite devoid of physical fear and a scrapper to his fingers'
tips. But to have a quiet, brown-eyed young man suddenly leap a desk in
an orderly business office and challenge him was so surprising that he
paused.

He took careful note of the steady, watchful eyes, the sweep of the lean
jaw, the two brown fists swinging to just the slightest oscillation of
the tensed forearms, and the poise of the body on the gripping feet; and
he knew that if his tongue uttered the words on the tip of it those
fists would smash into him with all the driving power of a very fine
pair of shoulders behind them.

Knowing it, his lips opened to speak the words; and Joe Kent, who had
mastered the difficult art of starting a punch from wherever his hand
happened to be, tautened his arm and shoulder muscles to steel.

John Clancy intervened.

"There's enough of this," he said. "Dry up, Finn. For why wud ye start
rough-house wid the lad? An' you, Kent, 'tis wan punch ye'd have, an'
then he'd kill ye." He pushed roughly between them and took his brother
by the shoulder. "Come on out o' here, Finn, now. Lave him be, I tell
ye!"

"I won't," said Finn. "I'll tell him what I think iv him. An' if he
makes a pass at me, Jawn, I'll break him acrost me knee!"

"An' be pulled f'r it, wid yer name in the papers, an' a fine, an' a
lawyer to pay, an' all," said his brother bitterly. "Have some sense.
I'll not stand f'r it, an' I warn ye!"

"Let him go, and stand out of the way!" cried Joe. "There'll be no law
about it, Clancy, I promise you that, whichever way it goes." His blood
was dancing in his veins and he laughed nastily in the surge of his
anger. He fairly hungered to whirl two-handed into this big, beefy
Irishman, and give or take a first-class licking.

John Clancy put his open hand on his brother's breast and pushed him
back. "Ye're a pair of fools," he announced dispassionately. "Can't ye
talk over a business matter widout scrappin'? Be ashamed! It's little
good ye've done yerself, Kent, this day. Finn, come on out of here!"

"All right," growled Finn as he took a step toward the door, propelled
by his brother's insistent hand. "Lave me be, Jawn. I'll get him another
time. Mind ye, now," he cried to Kent, "we mane to have every foot of
timber the contract calls for, an' no shenanigan about ut! An' ye may
bless yer stars for Jawn, here, me bucko. Only for him I'd have lamed
ye!"

Joe did not reply to the threat. "When you came in I was willing to stay
with the contract, even at a loss," he said. "Now, I tell you straight
that if there's a way out of it you won't get another foot of boards
from me."

John Clancy grinned at him. "Hunt for holes in it, an' welcome," he said
dryly. "If our lawyers is bum we want to know it, so we can change 'em.
Nicholas K. Ryan drawed that agreement. I'm thinkin' ye couldn't break
it wid dynymite."

When they had gone Joe dug his copy of the agreement out of the safe and
went to see Locke.

"I want to know," he said, "if this agreement will hold water."

Locke barely glanced at the document.

"Ryan drew this, and your father signed it against my advice," he said.
"Hold water? It would hold gas. What's the matter? Aren't they living up
to it?"

"Living up to it? I should say they are!" exclaimed Joe. "That's just
the trouble. I want to know if there's a way out of this for me?" He
explained the position, and the lawyer listened, frowning.

"They're a sweet pair," he commented. "And so you want to dodge out of
an agreement with them because you stand to lose money on it?"

Joe reddened. Baldly put it amounted to just that, though in the heat of
his anger he had lost sight of his former scruples.

"They've rubbed you the wrong way," said Locke, "and no doubt they're
too crooked to lie straight in a ditch, but that doesn't affect this
contract. You can't break it."

"If I haven't a chance I won't fight," said Joe. "I guess you're right
about the ethics of the case, too. They made me so mad I forgot that
side of it. Of course they knew the railway was going to jump the rate
on us. Have you any idea why it was jumped."

"I suppose they knew you'd have to stand for it," said Locke, grimly.
"That's enough reason for any railroad."



VII


Coincident with the rise in the freight rate the car shortage became a
thing of the past. Orders from Clancy Brothers poured in and were filled
as slowly as possible. Around them flourished a mass of acrid
correspondence--complaints and threats from the consignees, tart
rejoinders from Kent. In other quarters sales were slow and small, for
the time was one of money stringency. Credit, once long and easy,
contracted, and the men who held the purse-strings drew them tight.

Hagel, of the Commercial Bank, communicated his directors' decision as
to the maturing notes, with his usual verbose solemnity. Done into plain
English it amounted to this: The directors insisted on having the notes
reduced by half, and they didn't care a hoot for the Kent current
account.

Kent thereupon drew a check for his balance and took it to the Farmers'
National, where he had already made tentative arrangements. New notes
were signed, the Commercial paid off, and the securities held by them
transferred to the Farmers'. That incident was closed.

Joe found McDowell a vast improvement upon Hagel. Where the latter had
backed and filled and referred to his directors, McDowell, to whom
responsibility was as the breath of life, decided instantly. He was less
bound by routine and tradition, more willing to take a chance, and in
closer touch with the exigencies of modern business. But for all that he
never lost sight of his bank's interests, and his impartial and cool
advice was of inestimable benefit to Joe. Also he made it very plain
that while his institution would meet any reasonable proposition more
than half way, it would protect itself first, last, and all the time.
But their policy was a more liberal one than the Commercial's.

Thus Joe was able to pay the interest on the mortgages held by the
Northern Loan Company. This was overdue, and the mortgagees had
threatened legal proceedings. And he was able, also, to accompany his
tender for the choice Wind River limits by a marked check, a necessary
formality which had cost him some sleepless nights.

Naturally neither Crooks nor Kent sat down quietly under the new freight
rate. They protested warmly, and, protests failing, deputed Locke to
handle the matter for them. Locke went straight to headquarters, as was
his custom. Henry J. Beemer, the general manager of the Peninsular
Railway, tilted back his chair and knocked the ashes from his cigar.

"As a matter of fact, Locke," he said, "there never was a freight rate
that pleased everybody."

"Certainly not this one," Locke replied. "It pleases no one."

"Oh, I don't know," said Beemer. "It's not such a bad rate. We have the
usual number of complaints, but nothing more. Before promulgating it we
made inquiries----"

"From my clients?" Locke interrupted sceptically.

"No, I'm afraid we overlooked them. But we have letters from several
large lumber shippers and dealers. Like to read them?"

Locke nodded. He perused the letters produced, with a sardonic smile.

"Very pretty," he commented, handing them back. "You couldn't have
worded them better yourself. They wouldn't deceive a child."

"Do you insinuate that they are not genuine?" asked Beemer sharply,
frowning.

"They're not forgeries, but that lets them out," said Locke. "They're
inspired, every one of them. The signatories would admit it under oath,
too. Are you paying them rebates?"

"Illegal," said Beemer, recovering his usual suavity.

"Yes--but are you?" Locke retorted.

"I'm not in the witness box," said Beemer.

"You will be, one of these days," Locke predicted. "Then we'll thresh
out the letters and the rebate question, if I have the cross-examining
of you."

Beemer smiled rather uneasily. "We don't seem to be getting ahead. What
do you want us to do?"

"Restore the old rate. My clients--or one of them--made contracts on the
faith of it."

"Shouldn't have done it," said Beemer. "Good heavens! You, as a lawyer,
can't hold us responsible for that."

"No, but you see how the new rate hits them."

"We were losing money on the old one," said Beemer. "This has just gone
into effect. We must see how it works. I won't promise anything, but
later we may be able to reduce it."

"That isn't satisfactory," Locke told him bluntly. "I shall advise my
clients to file a complaint with the Transportation Commission."

Beemer laughed. The commission was notoriously slow and over-loaded with
work. Taken in its order of priority the complaint would not, in all
probability, be disposed of inside a year.

"Go ahead!" he said indifferently.

"All right," said Locke. "Give me a list of your directors."

"What do you want that for?"

"I want to find out, if I can, how many or which of them will benefit by
this increased rate on lumber."

"Confound it, Locke," snapped Beemer, "that's another insinuation. It
amounts to a charge of manipulation of rates."

"Which is, of course, absurd," said Locke ironically. "Will you give me
the names, or must I get them another way?"

That night he and Crooks went carefully over the list of directors. They
found several names whose owners were more or less connected with lumber
interests, though just how they benefited by the new rate was not
apparent, unless they received rebates in some form, as doubtless they
did.

"As to Carney it's plain enough," said Crooks. "His business is over on
the O. & N. The rise won't touch him and will cut us out of his
markets."

"That's so," responded Locke. "Now, take Ackerman. I know he's mixed up
in about everything, but I never heard that he had lumber interests."

"He tried to get young Kent to turn his business into a stock company,
and failing that to sell it," said Crooks.

"The devil he did? Then we may assume his interest. But what is it?"

Neither could answer the question. Mr. Ackerman's varied activities were
not blazoned forth to the world. He was more prominent in finance than
in commerce, and so far as they knew he was not identified with any
lumber business.

"But he must be," said Locke thoughtfully. "I'll see what I can find
out. It's strange. I wonder----" He broke off abruptly and pulled out a
drawer of his desk, burrowing among the papers. "Yes, here we are. Huh!"
He laid two papers side by side and ran his eye down them. "By the Lord
Harry, Crooks, Ackerman is a director of the Peninsular Railway, of the
Commercial Bank, and of the Northern Loan Company!"

"Is, hey?" Crooks did not see the connection. "He's in a lot of things
besides."

"Don't you get it?" Locke rapped out. "That bank was Joe Kent's till
they tried to squeeze him and he changed. The loan company hold his
mortgages and threatened foreclosure for an instalment of interest not
much overdue. The railway makes a rate that loses money for him. And
Ackerman, director in all three concerns, tries to get hold of his
business. What do you think of that?"

Crooks's thought compressed itself into one forcible word.

"So there's a coon in the tree somewhere," Locke pursued. "Now, here's
another thing: Clancy Brothers knew of the intended change before the
new rate was promulgated. The contract which they tried to obtain would
have been absolutely ruinous to Kent. The one they have is bad enough.
Therefore we seem to be warranted in assuming some connection between
Ackerman and the Clancys."

The assumption seemed warranted but did not put them much further
forward. Out of their speculations two salient points emerged: Some
person or persons were hammering the lumber interests along the
Peninsular Railway, and Kent's in particular; and Mr. Stanley Ackerman
represented the people who wielded the hammer.

Joe, when told of their deductions, was not nearly as surprised and
indignant as he would have been a couple of months before. He was
learning in a hard school, and hardening in the process. And his brief
and pointed reference to Ackerman, the Clancys, _et hoc genus omne_,
would have done credit to old Bill Crooks in his most vitriolic mood.

"Showing the effect of a modern college education upon the vocabulary,"
Locke commented dryly.

Joe grinned mirthlessly. "They're all that and then some," he said.
"I'll show them yet."

Therefore it was unfortunate for Mr. Stanley Ackerman that he should
have chosen this juncture for a second call upon the son of his highly
respected deceased acquaintance, William Kent.

Joe had just finished reading a letter from that eminent lawyer,
Nicholas K. Ryan, setting forth the law in the matter of breach of
contract, when Mr. Ackerman's accurately engraved card was handed to
him. Followed Mr. Ackerman, perfectly dressed, bland, and smiling. His
manner had lost nothing in warmth; indeed it was, if possible, more
fatherly than ever. He beamed upon Joe, greatly to that young man's
disgust.

"Well, Mr. Ackerman," he said shortly, "what can I do for you?"

"Why, my dear boy, that is exactly what I was about to ask _you_,"
replied Mr. Ackerman. "I promised myself that the first time I was in
Falls City I would drop in and ask if I could be of _any_ assistance in
_any_ way."

"Awfully kind of you," said Joe in a tone which should have given his
visitor warning.

"Not a bit of it, my boy. The signs point to hard times, and the advice
of one who has--hem!--a certain amount of business experience may not
come amiss. What can I do for you? Out with it! How is the business?"

"The business," said Joe grimly, "is doing about as well as can be
expected--under the circumstances."

Involuntarily his eyes sought the letter lying open on his desk. So did
Mr. Ackerman's, and as he recognized the huge, sprawling signature of
that eminent attorney, Nicholas K. Ryan, a satisfied comprehension came
into them.

"Ah," he said, "you feel the prevailing depression already. I am sorry
to say--hem!--it is only beginning. These things move in cycles. Buoyant
trade, optimism, expansion; over-expansion, falling trade, pessimism. We
are on the down grade now, and have not nearly reached the lowest point.
It may be one year or two or three before there is a revival. Those
whose businesses are sound will weather the storm; but those who are
unprepared will perhaps founder."

"Well, I'll weather it all right, if that's what you mean," said Joe.

"I hope so--I sincerely hope so," said Mr. Ackerman in a tone which
implied grave doubt. "By the way, since I was here I mentioned in a
certain quarter--no matter where--the possibility of your being willing
to stock your business or sell it, and I think a very good arrangement
might be made--good from your standpoint, I mean. Let me tell you just
what might be done."

"I won't trouble you," said Joe. "I told you once I wasn't open to
anything of the kind."

"But this would be most advantageous," Ackerman persisted. "It would
allow you to retain practical control of the business and give you more
money than you are making at present."

"Drop it!" rasped Joe. "You and your friends will get hold of the pieces
of my business when you smash it and me, and not before."

Mr. Ackerman was amazed, shocked, and pained. At least his face assumed
an expression combining all three emotions.

"My _dear_ boy----"

"What's the use?" Joe interrupted hotly. "I know more about you than I
did. You and your fellow directors of the railway raised the rate on
lumber and tipped off the Clancys in advance. You nearly got me on that.
You and your fellow directors of the bank tried to close me out when my
security was ample. You and your fellow directors of the loan company
wouldn't give me an ordinary extension of time for an interest payment.
And if I went into any such arrangement as you seem prepared to suggest
you'd cut my throat and throw me overboard when it suited you. And so,
Mr. Ackerman, I think we may as well close this interview now."

"I assure you----" Mr. Ackerman began earnestly.

"Don't!" Joe interrupted curtly. "I wouldn't believe you."

Mr. Stanley Ackerman rose and held out his hand, a smile, tolerant and
forgiving, illuminating a countenance which, to tell the truth, was
somewhat red.

"I'd rather not, thanks," said Joe, looking at the hand. His tone was so
thoroughly contemptuous that Mr. Ackerman's beautiful smile vanished.

"All right, then, young man," he snapped. "This is the last offer you'll
get from me. And in future you need expect no consideration from any
institution with which I am identified. Go ahead and run your own little
business, and see what happens."

Joe brightened instantly.

"That's better talk--and I believe you are telling the truth for once,"
he said cheerfully. "That's precisely what I'm going to do."

Mr. Ackerman's lips opened in a further remark; but thinking better of
it he shut them again and left the office, wearing his dignity about him
as a mantle. He brushed past Wright in the hall, and the latter whistled
his astonishment, for the highly respectable and usually unperturbed
twin brother of Capital was swearing through his teeth in a way that
would have increased the reputation of any drunken pirate who ever
infested the Florida Keys.



VIII


The year drew into September, time of goldenrod, browning grasses,
crisp, clear mornings and hazy, dreamy days. The shanty lads began to
straggle back to town from little backwoods farms where they had spent
the summer loafing or increasing the size of the clearings, from mills,
from out-of-the-way holes and corners. They haunted the lumber
companies' offices looking for jobs. There things began to hum with the
bustle of preparation and owners held long consultations with walking
bosses and laid plans for the winter's campaign.

Kent's tender for the choice Wind River limits was accepted, somewhat to
his surprise and to Crooks's profane amazement. The latter, through the
good offices of a middleman working for his rake-off, secured the limits
on Rat Lake. Remained the question of how the logs should be cut, and
when.

Joe, after taking counsel with Crooks, Wright, and Locke, decided on his
course. That winter he would make a supreme effort to cut every stick he
could, and sell them in the drive, retaining only enough logs to run his
mill on half time or a little better. This seemed the only thing to do.
Locke had been unable to push his complaint anent the freight rate to a
hearing before the commission.

Kent's liabilities were piling up and maturing; the general financial
stringency was increasing, as predicted by Ackerman; his timber sales,
taking into consideration the unprofitable contract with the Clancys,
showed a very narrow margin; and the consensus of advice he received was
to market his raw product while he could, reduce his liabilities as much
as possible, and then sit tight and hope for better luck and better
times.

For once fortune seemed to play into his hand, for while he was
considering the question of opening negotiations for the disposal of the
surplus logs the following spring he received a letter from Wismer &
Holden, who were very large millmen and did little logging, either
jobbing out such limits as they bought or buying their logs from loggers
who had no mills. The letter stated that they wished to obtain from
twenty million feet upward, in the log, deliverable at their booms not
later than July 1st of the following year. They offered a good price,
and were prepared to pay cash on delivery. And they wished to know if
Kent could supply them with the above quantity of logs, or, if not, what
part of it.

This was too good a proposition to be neglected, and Joe immediately
took train and called on Wismer & Holden. In half an hour the
preliminaries were settled.

"You understand," said Wismer, "that we must have these logs by July
1st. A later date won't do."

"I can get them down by then, of course," said Joe.

"Then we might as well close the deal now," said Wismer, and called his
stenographer. He dictated an agreement from a form which he took from
his desk. In this agreement was a clause providing a penalty for
non-delivery by the date named. Joe was not versed in legal terminology,
but it read pretty stiff and he took objection to it.

"That's our ordinary form of delivery contract," said Wismer. "We have
to protect ourselves somehow. We give you ample margin for delivery, you
see, but we've got to have some guarantee that you'll make good, because
we make other contracts in the expectation of getting the logs by a
certain date. If we didn't get them we'd be up against it."

That seemed reasonable enough, and Joe signed the instrument. But when a
few days afterward he showed it to Locke, the lawyer pounced on that
clause like a hawk, switched over to the last page, looked at Joe's
signature duly witnessed, and groaned.

"Boy, what on earth did you sign that for? Did they chloroform you?"

"What's the matter with it?" asked Joe.

"Matter with it?" snorted Locke. "Why, it's a man-trap, nothing short of
it. Can't you read, or didn't you read? If you didn't know what you were
signing there's a glimmer of hope."

"I read the thing," Joe admitted.

"And yet you signed it! Why, you young come on, if you fail to deliver
by July 1st they may refuse to accept any logs whatever; and, moreover,
you become their debtor and bind yourself to pay an amount which they
say is ascertained damages for non-performance. Do you get that with any
degree of clarity?"

"Oh, that's all right, I guess," said Joe, and repeated Wismer's
explanation. "I'm sure to have the logs down early in June, so it
doesn't matter."

"Any clause in a contract matters," said Locke. "You're gambling on a
date. The amount they specify as damages is an arbitrary one, and may be
twice as great as the loss to them. This is another of Nick Ryan's
deadfalls--I recognize the turn of the phrases--and he's got the little
joker tucked inside, as usual. After this don't you sign a blame thing
without showing it to me."

Locke's words would have caused Joe some uneasiness but for the fact
that he was sure of making delivery. Having arranged a market for his
logs, or, rather, one having arranged itself for him, the next thing was
to provide the logs themselves. He and Wright held council with McKenna,
Tobin, Deever, and MacNutt, the former being Kent's walking boss and the
last three his foremen.

The winter's work was divided in this way: Deever and Tobin were to
finish cutting the limits on the Missabini; MacNutt was to take the Wind
River limit, just acquired; Dennis McKenna, the walking boss, had a
general oversight of the camps, but would divide his time between
Tobin's and Deever's, after locating the camp at Wind River, which limit
he had cruised before the purchase.

Immediately on reaching this decision, the foremen got together the
nucleus of crews.

"Why don't you go up to the Wind with McKenna and take a look at
things?" said Crooks.

Joe welcomed the suggestion with enthusiasm. He had been sticking pretty
closely to the office, and the prospect of a couple of weeks in the open
air was attractive.

Three days later saw him trudging beside McKenna and MacNutt, while
behind them a wagon laden with tents, blankets, food, and tools bumped
and jolted.

They left roads behind, and plunged into unmarked, uncharted country
where the wheels sank half-way to the hubs in damp, green moss, crashed
through fern to the horses' bellies, or skidded perilously on rocky
hillsides. Ahead, McKenna piloted his crew, a light axe in his hand,
gashing the trees with blazes at frequent intervals. He blazed them both
back and front, until the road was plainly marked so that going and
coming the way might be seen. To Joe the instinct of the old woodsman
was marvellous. He made no mistakes, never hesitated, never cast back.
But always he followed the lines of the least natural resistance, and
somehow these lines, which he apparently carried in his head, became a
fairly straight route to an objective point.

There were obstacles easier to surmount than to avoid--logs to be cut
and thrown aside, pole bridges to be built, bits of corduroy to be laid
in shaky places; merely temporary things, these, for the flying column.
Later others would make a road of it, but at present anything that would
carry team and wagon served. So the crew slashed out a way with
double-bitted or two-faced axes--"Methodist axes," as they were called
in an unwarranted reflection upon that excellent denomination--throwing
light, frail bridges together with wonderful celerity, twisting fallen
timber out of the way with peavey-hook and cant-dog, and doing the work
effortlessly and easily, for they were one and all experts with the
tools of their trade, and such work was child's play to them.

In due course they arrived at the site chosen by McKenna when he had
cruised the limit. It was a natural opening, ringed about with towering,
feathery-headed pines. At one end it sloped down to alder and willow
through which a little stream slid gently between brown roots and mossy
banks. This meant water supply. Ruffed grouse roared up from under Joe's
feet as he parted the bushes, and when he rose to his knees, having
drunk his fill lying flat on the ground, he saw a big, brown swamp hare,
already graying about the ears, watching him not twenty feet away. Also,
in a bare and muddy place, he saw the pointed tracks of deer, and
dog-like prints which were those of a stray wolf. However, he had not
come to hunt.

Tents came out of the wagon and were rammed up and made fast in short
order. The cook dug a shallow trench and built his fireplace, drove
forked stakes, laid a stout, green pole between them, slung his
pot-hooks on it and below them his pots, and so was ready to minister to
the needs of the inner man. With tape-line and pegs McKenna laid out the
ground plans of bunk-house, eating-camp, caboose, foreman's quarters,
and stables. At a safe distance he located the dynamite storehouse.

Already the crashing fall of trees announced that the crew was getting
out timbers for the buildings, and Joe watched the work of axes and saws
with a species of fascination. No sooner did a tree strike the ground
than men were on it, measuring, trimming, cutting it to length. When a
square timber was required, one man cut notches three feet apart down
the sides of a prostrate trunk and split off the slabs. Another, a lean,
wasp-waisted tiemaker, stripped to underclothes and moccasins, mounted
one end with a huge, razor-edged broad-axe which was the pride of his
heart. Every stroke fell to a hair. He hewed a straight line by judgment
of eye alone, and the result was a stick of square or half-square
timber, absolutely straight, and almost as smooth as if planed.

As fast as the logs were ready the teamster grappled them with hook and
chain, and the big horses yanked them out into position. Another wagon
and more men arrived. Buildings grew as if by magic. The wall-logs were
mortised and skidded up into place; the whole was roofed in; the chinks
were stuffed with moss and plastered with wet clay; bunks in tiers were
built around the walls; tables and benches knocked together in no time;
and the Wind River camp was finished and ready for occupation.

While these preparations were going forward, Joe, McKenna, and MacNutt
prowled the woods at such times as the last two had to spare from
construction work. The walking boss and the foreman sized up the
situation with the sure rapidity of experts. They knew just how many
feet of timber a given area held, how long it should take so many men to
cut it, and in how many loads, given good sleigh-roads, it should be
hauled out to the banking grounds at the river.

"It'll depend a lot on the season, of course," said McKenna. "If she's a
fair winter--a powder of snow and good frost for a bottom and then snow
and hard weather with odd flurries to make good slippin'--we can get out
all we cut. But if she freezes hard and dry, and the snow's late and
scanty or hits us all in a bunch when it comes, it will put us back. Or
if mild weather gets here early and the roads break it will be bad."

As the walking boss spoke he and Joe were standing at the top of a
height looking down a vista of brown tree-trunks which sloped gently
away to a dense cedar swamp. Suddenly Joe's eye caught a moving figure
and he pointed it out to McKenna.

"It can't be one of our men," said the latter; "we'd better see who it
is."

As the stranger came into plain view, heading straight for them, McKenna
gave a grunt of recognition and displeasure.

"That's Shan McCane!"

"Never heard of him," said Joe carelessly.

"You don't miss much," the walking boss commented. "'Rough Shan,' they
call him. The name fits."

Mr. McCane was no beauty. He was big, and looked fleshy, but was not. A
deceptive slouchiness of carriage covered the quickness of a cat when
necessary. His cheeks and chin bristled with a beard of the texture and
colour of a worn-out blacking brush; his nose had a cant to the
northeast, and his left eye was marred by a sinister cast. Add to these
a chronic, ferocious scowl and subtract two front teeth, and you have
the portrait of Rough Shan McCane, as Joe saw him. For attire he wore a
greasy flannel shirt, open in front so that his great, mossy chest was
bare to the winds, short trousers held in place by a frayed leather
strap, and a pair of fourteen-inch larrigans. He and McKenna greeted
each other without enthusiasm.

"Cruisin'?" asked the walking boss.

"Nope," replied McCane. "I got a camp over here a ways. I'm cuttin'
Clancys' limit."

"Clancys'!" said Joe in surprise, for Clancy Brothers had purchased the
next limit in the name of a third party a couple of years before and
their interest did not appear. "Do they own timber here?"

"Their limit butts on your east line," McCane told him.

"How do you get your logs out?" asked McKenna.

"We'll haul down to Lebret Creek and drive that to the Wind."

McKenna nodded. The Kent logs would be driven down Wind River. Lebret
Creek lay east of it. It was a small stream, but fast and good driving.

"Well, I must be gettin' back," said McCane. "Your timber runs better
than ours. So long!"

He nodded and slouched off. McKenna looked after him and shook his head.

"I'd rather have any one else jobbin' Clancys' limit," he observed.
"McCane keeps a bad camp an' feeds his crew on whiskey. He has a wild
bunch of Callahans, Red McDougals, and Charbonneaus workin' for him
always. No other man could hold 'em down."

"How does he get his work done with whiskey in camp?" Joe asked.

"He can make a man work, drunk or sober--or else he half kills him. The
worst is that with a booze-camp handy our boys will get it once in
awhile. Still, MacNutt can hold 'em down. McCane laid him out a couple
of years ago with a peavey, and he hates him. He won't stand any
nonsense. A good man is Mac!"

MacNutt, the foreman of the Wind River crew, was a lean, sinewy logger
who had spent twenty years in the camps. He owned a poisonous tongue and
a deadly temper when aroused; but he had also a cool head, and put his
employer's interests before all else. He heard the news in silence.

"Of course we can't stand for booze in the camp," said Joe. "If any man
gets drunk on whiskey from McCane's camp or elsewhere, fire him at
once." He thought he was putting the seal of authority on a very severe
measure.

MacNutt smiled sourly. "I won't fire a good man the first time--I'll
just knock the daylights out of him," he said. "As for McCane, I look
for trouble with him." Suddenly he swore with venom. "I'll split his
head with an axe if he crowds me again!"

"Oh, come--" Joe began.

"Sounds like talk, I know," MacNutt interrupted. "But he nigh brained me
with a peavey once, when I had only my bare hands. It's coming to him,
Mr. Kent. I'll take nothing from him nor his crew."

Joe, on his way back to town the following day, thought of MacNutt's
hard eyes and set mouth, and felt assured that he would meet any trouble
half-way. His own disposition being rather combative on occasion, he
endorsed his foreman's attitude irrespective of the diplomacy of it.



IX


When he returned from Wind River, Kent determined, after clearing off
what work had accumulated in his absence, to pay a visit to Edith
Garwood. He sent no advance notice of his coming, and her surprise at
seeing him was considerably more apparent than any joy she might have
felt; for she was carrying on an interesting affair with a young
gentleman who really did not know the extent of resources which had been
in his family in the form of real estate for something over a century.
It was most annoying that Joe Kent should turn up just then.

"I'm just going out," she said. "Why didn't you tell me you were
coming?"

"No particular reason," said Joe, feeling the coolness of his reception.
"Does it matter?"

"Of course it matters. I have made engagements which I can't very well
break, even for you. If you had told me----"

"Don't worry," said Joe. "I'll take what's left. You're going out, and I
shan't keep you. May I call to-night?"

That evening happened to be blank. She gave him the desired permission,
and feeling that she had perhaps shown her irritation too plainly, asked
him to accompany her.

"It's an afternoon affair," she explained, "and of course you won't care
to come in; but you may see me that far if you like, and the car will
set you down anywhere."

As they entered the waiting car a gentleman on the other side of the
street raised his hat. Miss Garwood bowed, and Joe acknowledged the
salute mechanically. It was only when the car shot by the pedestrian
that he recognized him as Mr. Stanley Ackerman.

"Hello!" he exclaimed. "Do you know that fellow?"

"Really, Joe," she replied, "I wish you wouldn't speak of my father's
friends in that way." Her annoyance was genuine, but his words were not
the cause of it. She disliked Ackerman and distrusted him. Also he knew
the young man with the real estate pedigree.

"I can't congratulate your father on that particular friend," Kent
observed bluntly, and became thoughtful.

Mr. Ackerman looked after the car and became thoughtful also. Shortly
afterward he entered Hugh Garwood's office.

The president of the O. & N. would have been spare and shapely if he had
taken ordinary exercise; but being far too busy a man to spend any time
on the trifling matter of physical well-being his figure had run to
seed. Only his head was lean and alertly poised, by virtue of the keen,
ever-working brain within. The face was narrow, hard, and determined;
and the mouth, set awry beneath the close-clipped gray moustache, was
ruthless and grim. It was, in fact, a fairly good indication of his
character and methods. He was never known to forego an advantage of any
kind, and he was accustomed to bludgeon opponents into submission
without being particular where he cut his clubs.

"Well, Ackerman," he said, "what's the news?"

Mr. Ackerman had no news. It was a fine day, though cool. Beautiful
weather. Made a man want to be outdoors.

Garwood grunted. He was not interested in the weather, save as it
affected business. Snow blockades and wash-outs and natural phenomena
producing them received his attention. Apart from such things he
scarcely knew whether a day was fine or not.

"All very well for people who have time to burn," he commented. "I
haven't."

"Young people enjoy it," said Mr. Ackerman, getting his opening. "I saw
your daughter go by in a car as I came downtown. Lovely girl that. I
thought she looked remarkably well and happy."

"She ought to be happy," said her father grimly. "She spends enough
money."

"You can afford it. It won't be long till some one else is paying her
bills. Plenty of young men would think it a privilege."

Garwood, from his knowledge of Mr. Ackerman's indirect methods of
approach, suddenly regarded him with attention.

"What are you driving at, anyway, Ackerman?" he asked. "_You_ don't want
to marry her, do you?"

Mr. Ackerman disclaimed any such desire with haste and evident
sincerity. "There was a very good-looking young fellow with her this
afternoon," he observed.

"Trust her for that," growled Garwood. "Who was it? Young Statten?"

"No," said Mr. Ackerman slowly, enjoying the sensation in advance, "his
name is Kent, Joseph Kent of Falls City."

"What?" cried Garwood, and straightened in his chair as if he had
received a shock, as indeed he had.

"Yes," said Mr. Ackerman. "You remember she was in Falls City for some
weeks this summer. I heard somewhere--you know how these things get
about--that she and Kent were--well, in fact, I heard that they were
together a great deal."

Garwood rapped out a man's size oath. "Why didn't you tell me this
before?"

"Knowing Miss Edith's penchant for innocent summer flirtations I
attached no importance to it," smiled Mr. Ackerman.

Garwood sat frowning. "You may be right. That girl would flirt with a
man's shadow. However, I'll put a stop to this at once. Now see here,
Ackerman, you've bungled the Kent matter so far."

"I have not," denied Mr. Ackerman indignantly. "He simply would not
sell. That's not my fault."

Garwood dismissed the protest with an impatient gesture. "The fact
remains that I haven't got what I'm after. Crooks's business and Kent's
are all that prevent us from controlling the lumber market on the O. &
N. and the Peninsular. Crooks is pretty strong, but this winter must
break Kent, and after that we'll get Crooks. We absolutely must have the
water powers which Kent owns. He has a fortune in them, if he only knew
it and had money enough to develop them, and we also need his mills. We
must have these things, and there must be no mistake about it."

"If he doesn't deliver the logs he has contracted to deliver----"
Ackerman began, but Garwood cut him short.

"It must be made impossible for him to deliver them. If he makes good it
gives him a new lease of life and delays our plans; but if he doesn't
cut the logs he can't deliver them, whether his drive is hung up or
not."

"It was against my advice that his tender for the Wind River limits went
through."

"I know. But he could ill afford to put up the cash for them. His credit
is becoming badly strained. A small cut or non-delivery will be fatal to
him."

"But how can we prevent his cutting?"

"Really, Ackerman, you are dense to-day," said Garwood. "Clancy Brothers
have timber near Wind River. We can't touch the other camps, so far as I
can see at present, but if you represent matters properly to the Clancys
I think they will look after that one."

When Garwood went home that evening he called his daughter into his
private room and went straight to the point.

"Now, Edith," said he, "I want to know what there is between you and
young Kent."

She flushed angrily, immediately fixing the responsibility for the leak
on Ackerman. "Who told you there was anything between us?"

"Never mind. Is it a fact?"

"Is what a fact?"

"Don't beat about the bush with me. How far has this flirtation of yours
gone?"

"Not very far," she answered calmly. "Mr. Kent has merely asked me to
marry him."

"What!" cried Garwood, "you don't mean to tell me you're engaged?"

"I suppose we are--in a way."

"This must stop," said Garwood. "I thought you had more sense. You can't
marry him. He is a nobody; he is on the verge of bankruptcy; he is
merely after my money."

She cast a sidewise glance at a long mirror and laughed at the lovely
reflection. "You are not complimentary, papa. Don't you think a young
man might fall in love with me for myself?"

"I am not talking of love, but of marriage," said Garwood cynically. "I
won't have it, I tell you. You must drop Kent now."

"Why?"

"Because I say so," said her father, his mouth setting firmly. "I won't
mince matters with you, Edith. Inside a year Kent will be looking for a
clerk's job. You're not cut out for a poor man's wife."

"You mean that if I married him you would give me nothing?"

"You grasp my meaning exactly. Not a cent during my life nor after my
death."

Edith Garwood sighed as plaintively as she could; but it was in fact a
sigh of relief. It was put up to her so squarely that she had no choice,
as she looked at it. She was already tired of Kent, anxious for an
excuse to break with him, and she had secretly dreaded the affair coming
to her father's knowledge. Now the worst was over. And she saw an
opportunity of avoiding a scene with Joe, which she had dreaded also.

"Of course I haven't been brought up to marry a poor man," she said. "We
would both be miserable, if it came to that. So it would be a mistake,
wouldn't it?"

"Undoubtedly," responded Garwood, who, having carried his point much
more easily than he expected, found a certain amusement in her mental
processes, as one is entertained by the antics of a kitten.

"Then I suppose I shall have to give him up," she continued, with
another beautifully plaintive sigh. "He is to call to-night. Will you
tell him? Or shall I write him a note?"

"No doubt you know the correct procedure," said Garwood. "Write your
note and give it to me. Make it firm and definite."

She nodded agreement. "And now, papa, don't you think I am a very
dutiful, self-sacrificing daughter?"

Garwood reached for his check-book with a smile of grim comprehension.
"How much does it cost me this time?" he asked.

When Joe called that evening he was shown into Hugh Garwood's study. The
railway man, seated at his desk, eyed him keenly. Kent found the
scrutiny unfriendly, and stiffened.

"I called to see Miss Garwood," said he. "My name is Kent."

"Sit down, Mr. Kent," said Garwood. "My daughter has given me this note
for you. Will you please read it."

Joe read. It was brief and to the point, and wound up with perfunctory
regrets. There was no possibility of misunderstanding it. He folded the
missive.

"I presume you know the contents of this letter, Mr. Garwood?"

"I am aware of them, yes."

"Miss Garwood says that you object to her engagement to me. Will you
kindly tell me why?"

"With pleasure. You are not in a position to marry, and you entrapped my
daughter into a clandestine engagement, which was not a manly thing to
do. In fact, to put it very plainly, you are trying to marry money."

"To put it just as plainly," said Joe, flushing, "I don't care about
your money at all. I am in a position to marry. The secret engagement I
own up to and take the blame for. I shouldn't have consented to it."

"Consented?" said Garwood sharply. "Then it was my daughter who
suggested that?"

"Not at all," said Joe, lying manfully as he felt bound to do after the
slip. "It was my fault entirely."

Garwood smiled cynically. "You needn't shoulder all the blame. I know
her better than you do." He was rather surprised at the equanimity with
which Kent accepted his dismissal. He had looked for a stormy interview
with a disappointed, unreasonable youth who would protest and indulge in
heroics. He felt quite kindly toward this young man, whose business,
nevertheless, he intended to smash. Inwardly he made a note to offer him
some sort of a job when that was accomplished. "I take back what I said
a moment ago. But you must understand that there can be nothing between
you and my daughter."

"I think I understand that very well," said Joe. "Glad to have made your
acquaintance, Mr. Garwood. By the way, please tell Mr. Ackerman I
recognized him to-day. Good night."

Edith Garwood, peeping from behind a drawn blind, expected to see an
utterly crushed being slink from the house. What she saw was an erect
young man who paused on the steps to light a cigar, cocked it up at a
jaunty angle, and went down the street head up and shoulders back.

In fact, Joe Kent was shaking hands with himself. He had known for some
time that his feeling for Edith Garwood fell far short of love; but as
he looked at it, he could not tell her so. So that his dismissal,
instead of plunging him into the depths of gloom, boosted his spirits
sky-high.

"Thank the Lord!" he exclaimed fervently as he swung down the street.
"Joe, my son, let this be a lesson to you. Cut out the girl proposition
and stick to business." He became thoughtful. "So old Ackerman's a
friend of Garwood's. And Garwood tells me I'm not in a position to
marry. I wonder how he knows so much about it? I wonder----" He did not
complete the sentence, but Garwood's words stuck in his recollection.



X


When Mr. Ackerman, following the hint received from Garwood, called at
the office of Clancy Brothers, his reception was nothing short of
frosty.

John Clancy was alone, and he regarded his visitor from beneath a
lowering brow.

"Now, here's what I want to know about," said he. "How does it come that
Kent gets them limits at Wind River? We tendered for them ourselves."

"Likely his tender was higher," said Mr. Ackerman with assumed
carelessness.

"An' what's that got to do wid it?" demanded Clancy, who appeared to
find this explanation inadequate. "Don't we give up strong to th'
campaign fund? Neither young Kent nor his father ever gave a cent to it,
and their politics is the other way. It's a raw deal we got, an' ye can
say that we'll remember it. If them limits had gone to one of our own
people we'd have said nawthin', for we could have fixed it wid him or
he'd a had to fix it wid us. But th' way it is we're sore, an' we make
no bones about sayin' so. Where's his pull, that's what we want to know?
An' if it's come to this, that a young felly whose politics is agin ye
an' who don't give up to th' fund can buy limits ahead of us, why, then,
we're through an' be damned to ye! An' there's others who thinks the
same way."

This unusually long and evidently heartfelt speech of Clancy's indicated
a dissatisfaction which Mr. Ackerman, who held confidential relations
with certain members of a thoroughly rotten and graft-ridden
administration, could not afford to ignore.

"Oh, that's nonsense, Clancy," said Ackerman. "There was a reason why
Kent got the limits and we'll see that you get something else."

"We want what we go after, an' we don't have to take what's handed to
us," retorted Clancy unappeased. "See now, Ackerman, we know a thing or
two. Here's Kent been makin' up to ould Garwood's girl. Garwood works
his pull, an' th' limits goes to Kent. I have it from the inside that
Garwood got them for him. Now, I'm not settin' our pull agin
Garwood's--not by no manes--but we will not be used by you to
double-cross him. We want no trouble wid Garwood."

"What do you mean?" Ackerman queried.

"I mane this: You tip us off to make a new contract wid Kent bekase the
railway will raise the rates on boards. Ye don't do that for love of us,
nor yet for a rake-off, for ye asked for none. So ye do it to hit Kent.
Then he tenders for timber limits, an' Garwood, bekase the young man is
keepin' company wid his daughter, sees he gets them. You an' Garwood do
be thick together, an' it's strange you're knockin' his
son-in-law-to-be. Me an' Finn will have no more to do wid it."

Mr. Ackerman chuckled at Clancy's very natural mistake. "If you think
Garwood is a friend of Kent's you're wrong."

"Show me," said Clancy.

"There's nothing now between Garwood's daughter and Kent," responded
Ackerman. "If Garwood had cared to use his influence for him the
Peninsular would not have raised the rate on lumber. That's obvious
enough, I should think."

"I'm talkin' about them limits," said Clancy obstinately.

"Well, admitting that Garwood is responsible for that, he had his
reasons other than the one you mentioned. Kent has sunk a lot of money
in that timber. He may not get it out again."

"Ye mane that the limits was onloaded onto him to tie up his cash
resources?" said Clancy, comprehending.

"I didn't say so," said Mr. Ackerman, smiling sweetly, "but his business
is involved already, and if anything unforeseen should occur he might
smash."

"An' somebody might buy him in," Clancy commented with an appreciative
grin. "I wish ye luck, but what do we get in place of our tender that
was turned down?"

"Let me know what you want and I'll do my best for you," Ackerman
promised. "Now, I understand you have some timber near Kent's Wind River
limits?"

"Buttin' onto 'em at one line," Clancy replied. "That's why we
tendered--to round out our holdin'."

"Are you cutting it this winter?"

"We are."

"Yourselves?"

"We jobbed it out."

"That's too bad," said Mr. Ackerman in disappointment. "I suppose the
jobber is a good man?"

"A good man!" echoed John Clancy. "Is Rough Shan McCane a good man? If
there's a worse one anywheres I never seen him."

"Then why did you give him the stuff to cut?"

"Bekase he'll put in the logs. He can drive a crew, drunk or sober."

"I thought liquor wasn't allowed in the camps?"

"No more it is--in most."

"I suppose," said Mr. Ackerman casually, "that if whiskey got into
Kent's camp his work would suffer?"

John Clancy eyed him keenly. "Two an' two makes four," he said
oracularly. "What are ye drivin' at? Put it in plain words."

Mr. Ackerman put it as plainly as his bias in favour of indirect speech
would permit. Clancy considered with pursed mouth.

"These things works both ways," he said. "A loggin' war, wanst started
bechune two camps, means hell an' docthers' bills to pay, to say
nawthin' of lost time. What would we get out of it?"

Mr. Ackerman told him, prudently sinking his voice to little more than a
whisper, and Clancy's eyes glistened.

"Them's good contracts," he commented. "I'll speak to Finn. He has it in
for Kent."

This partial assurance seemed to satisfy Mr. Ackerman. "Is Kent still
delivering lumber under your contract?" he asked.

"He is--as slow as he can. Ryan says we can't have the law on him for
breach of contract yet. I had him write a letter makin' a bluff, an'
Kent's lawyer wrote back callin' it. So there ye are."

"Well, I suppose it can't be helped," said Mr. Ackerman regretfully. But
on the whole he was very well satisfied with the position of affairs,
and left Clancy's office wearing the peculiarly bland, guileless smile
which was his whenever he had succeeded in arranging a particularly
unpleasant programme for some one else. The smile, however, lost
something of its quality when, just outside the street door, he ran into
Locke.

The lawyer glanced from him to Clancy Brothers' window lettering and
back again, and smiled. His expression somehow reminded Mr. Ackerman of
a dog that has found an exceedingly choice bone.

"Hallo, Ackerman!" said he. "What are you framing up now?"

"I don't think I understand you," said Mr. Ackerman with dignity.

"Well, here's something I wanted to ask you," Locke went on. "Is it a
fact that the O. & N.--otherwise Garwood--has secured control of the
Peninsular?"

The question was so entirely unexpected that Mr. Ackerman was almost
caught off his guard, but he said:

"Control of the Peninsular? You must be joking."

"It is not a fact, then?" asked Locke.

"He may have bought some shares. But control--oh, no! that would be most
unlikely. Our shares are all too strongly held."

"Not an impossibility, however?" Locke persisted.

"Humanly speaking, anything is possible," smiled Mr. Ackerman, getting
his second wind. "Rumours are most unreliable things."

"Yes," Locke assented. "When did you and Garwood go into the lumber
business?"

Once more Mr. Ackerman was taken flat aback. Figuratively speaking, he
even gathered sternway. He simply stared at Locke for a moment.

"The--lumber--business?" he exclaimed, recovering power of speech. "My
dear sir, I am not in the lumber business, save for a few shares which I
own here and there."

"No?" Locke smiled unpleasant, open disbelief. "How about Garwood?"

"Why don't you ask him?" said Mr. Ackerman with unnecessary tartness.

"I will, one of these days," said Locke. "By the way, I'm going to
subpoena both of you in my application to the commission."

"That will come on next year, I believe," said Mr. Ackerman with
something very like a sneer.

"Probably next month," Locke retorted. "Good morning."

Locke's words were by no means random shots. Once convinced that
Ackerman represented some person or persons inimical to Kent and Crooks,
he sought for a clue. One by one he went over Ackerman's business
associates, including Garwood, and discarded them one by one. Then came
the rumour of Garwood's acquisition of the Peninsular, an acquisition
almost coincident with the rise in rates. Therefore, Locke argued,
Garwood somehow benefited by it. But how? The railway man was not known
to be interested in lumber. Still, as Locke saw it, he must be.

"Here," said Locke to himself, "is this Central Lumber Company officered
by dummies, capitalized for a mere trifle, and yet acquiring business
after business. Why the secrecy? Who is behind it? Obviously some man or
men who don't wish their identity known until they have accomplished a
certain purpose. What is the purpose? So far it seems to be the buying
out of existing lumber concerns. Ackerman approached Kent. For whom?
Probably for this Central Lumber Company. Therefore Ackerman is one of
those behind it. Ackerman's influence has been unfriendly to Kent in
every way. Garwood no sooner acquired control of Peninsular stock than
the rate on lumber was boosted. Ackerman is associated with him.
Therefore it is not a wild hypothesis to say that Garwood is financing
the Central Lumber Company."

Thus Locke argued to himself, and he found fresh confirmation in the
methods adopted toward Kent, which were typically those of Hugh Garwood.
Then, too, Mr. Ackerman's evident discomposure when directly charged
with association with him in a lumber business was suspicious.

He arrived at these conclusions quite independently and mentioned them
to no one. His surprise, therefore, was great when Joe Kent, dropping in
one morning, asked what he knew about Hugh Garwood.

"Did it ever strike you," Joe asked, "that he may be the man behind?"

"It did," Locke answered, "but tell me how it happened to strike you."

"Well--it just occurred to me," replied Joe, embarrassed.

"Give up, give up," said the lawyer impatiently. "Don't hold out on your
doctor, your banker, or your lawyer."

Thereupon Joe, under pledge of secrecy, outlined the conjunction of
events. It was a slight thing, but another corroboratory circumstance.
Suppressing Joe's part, Locke mentioned his suspicions to Crooks.

"I'll bet a thousand you're right," said the old lumberman thoughtfully.
"Garwood, hey? He's the last man I'd have suspected. And usually the
last man you suspect is the first man you ought to. It's just like him
to cut a man's throat and then pick his pocket. Why, damn him"--Bill
Crooks' voice rose in indignation--"his girl visited my girl for a month
last summer. You know that, Joe; you used to trot around with her."

Joe reddened. Crooks went on:

"Well, what can we do about it? This is up to you, Locke. Start your
game and I'll back it. So will Joe."

"I haven't got enough evidence to start anything," said Locke. "I hope
to prove Garwood's connection with the Peninsular when our application
to the Transportation Commission comes up for hearing. Outside of that
our best chance lies in investigating this Central Lumber Company. I'll
see what I can find out about them and you'd better get busy along the
same line and pump every lumberman and dealer you know."

Kent's good spirits and increased cheerfulness were so noticeable that
Jack Crooks, knowing of his recent flying trip, drew her own
conclusions. Casually one evening she approached the subject.

"Of course you saw Edith?"

"Oh, yes, I saw her," Joe replied.

"She must have been very glad to see you?"

Joe smiled enigmatically. "Well, Jack, she didn't exactly fall on my
neck. I don't think I brightened up life for her to any extent."

"Modest young man. Are you aware that you have worn a sunny smile ever
since you returned? You can't bluff me, Joe. Why don't you own up?"

"Own up to what?" Joe's smile became a broad grin.

Jack thought he looked idiotically pleased. To her eyes his face
expressed the good-natured fatuity of the recently engaged man who
rather likes to be joked about it--a being whom she despised. She was
disappointed in Joe.

"If you expect me to jolly you into admitting your engagement to her
you're making a mistake," she said coldly. "I can wait till you see fit
to announce it."

"Are you sure you can?" he teased.

"Very nicely. And I beg your pardon for what must have seemed an
impertinent curiosity." She regarded him with an icy dignity.

"Fine speech, that," Joe commented genially. "It's from some third act,
isn't it? And then I say: 'Ah, Beatrice, why that cold and haughty tone?
Me life holds no secrets from you: me heart----'"

"Joe Kent, I'll throw something at you!" she cried indignantly. Then she
laughed. "Joe, I'll come down to the ploughed ground. You and Edith were
very much taken with each other, and when you come back, wearing an
idiotic grin, I'm entitled to suppose. I confess to curiosity. Come,
now; give up, like a good boy!"

"There's nothing to give up," said Joe frankly. "Not a thing."

"I know better," said Jack. "Edith was in a very confidential mood one
night and she told me something. Afterward she regretted it and swore me
to secrecy. Does that make any difference?"

"Not much," said Joe. "But now I can tell you that I've been thrown down
hard. What you spoke of is very much off." He outlined what had
occurred. She listened, indignant but puzzled.

"But--but you seem so cheerful about it. I don't understand. Weren't you
fond of her? And if you weren't, why did you tell her you were? And if
you were, why----"

"Stop!" cried Joe. "Don't get me in so deep." He became serious. "Jack,
most people make mistakes at times. Edith and I made one together. I
think we both saw it as soon as it was made, but it took all this time
to straighten out. I'm sure she's relieved, and, though it doesn't seem
a nice thing to say, I'm just tickled to death."

"Well," said Jack judicially, "I don't approve of flirting, and I never
flirt myself. I think she was flirting straight through, and I don't
know whether to blame you or not. But, anyway, I'm awfully glad it's all
off."

"It's great," said Joe. "Now I can get down to work."

There was, indeed, much to be done. Wright looked after the
manufacturing and sales end of the business and looked after it well;
McKenna was an excellent walking boss; MacNutt, Deever, and Tobin were
good, practical foremen. But the concern lacked a strong, competent
executive head who knew the logging business intimately, who could
decide at once and finally the questions that must ever arise, and who
could command the loyalty and unquestioning obedience of his men in the
camps.

For there is a vast difference in the mind of a lumber jack between
working for wages merely and working for an employer. For the one he
will do a day's work; for the other he will do a day's work and a half,
with the pay as an entirely secondary consideration. Just as great
commanders have fired their troops with enthusiasm to the point of
performing practical impossibilities through pride in them and in
themselves and that magic, mystic thing called _esprit du corps_, so
there have been employers who, in time of need, command the unswerving,
uncomplaining loyalty of the shantyman. For such men he will work
without grumbling in all kinds of weather; he will take all manner of
chances on land or water; he will fight for them at the drop of a hat;
and, finally, he will throw his loyalty into each lick of axe and pull
of saw, so that at the end of the season it may be measured in saw logs.

Nor does this depend wholly or even materially upon the treatment
accorded him by the "Old Man"--save that he must have a square deal. He
may be driven like a mule, cursed in language for which he would kill
any one else, fed poorly and housed worse; but if the essential thing is
possessed by the boss the lumber jack will not grumble overmuch nor ask
for his time.

And this essential is mysterious and hard to define. Much as the
shantyman admires physical prowess, it is not a prime requisite. But
courage is, and so is firmness in dealing with any situation. The boss
must never recede from a position once taken. He may listen to advice,
but he must decide for himself and by himself. He must never argue, he
must never give reasons. He must hold himself aloof and above his men,
and yet not overdo it. He must be approachable but dignified, friendly
but not familiar. He must be boss, first, last, and all the time, and
from his decisions, right or wrong, there must be no appeal and of them
no slackness of enforcement.

William Kent had filled this bill. With his passing a place became
vacant. Some of the old hands hired again into the Kent camps; more did
not come back, but went to others of renown. New blood drifted in, and a
generation arose which literally knew not Joseph--to whom the name of
Kent meant nothing. The old hands would have fought at one word uttered
against the "Old Man's" son, whom most of them had never seen, but they
would have done so on general principles merely, and not because they
cherished any particular feeling toward him. Neither walking boss nor
foreman could take the place which William Kent had filled.

Thus the work of the camps was no better and no worse than the average.
The foremen's capability ensured fair effort. But the something
necessary to weld the crews into a supremely efficient machine was
lacking.

The winter opened hard and dry, without snowfall. Day after day the wind
wailed through the bare arms of the deciduous trees and moaned in the
feathery tops of the pines. The ground was frozen to an iron hardness,
and the little lakes, creeks, and rivers were bound in black ice, smooth
and unbroken.

At the Wind River camp the logging roads--veins leading to main arteries
which in turn led to the river and the banking grounds--were useless. By
dint of effort and good luck logs could be got to the various skidways
located at convenient places beside the roads, and piled there, but they
could not be transported farther. The big sleighs with their nine-foot
bunks, built to accommodate ten thousand feet and upward of logs at a
load, lay idle. MacNutt prayed for snow, or, rather, cursed the lack of
it.

When it came, with continued cold weather, it was hard, dry, and
powdery. It had no bottom. It gritted like sand beneath the
sleigh-shoes, and they went through it to the ground, even without a
load. To obviate this and to get going in some way MacNutt put the
sprinklers to work. These were huge tank affairs on runners, drawn by
from four to six horses. At the top of the tank was a stout, wooden
triangle with a block. A wire rope ran through the block. At one end of
the rope was a barrel; at the other end was a horse. The horse walked
away; the barrel, filled at a water-hole cut in the ice, ran up an
inclined, rungless ladder to the top of the tank, where it dumped its
contents automatically. The water found its exit from the tank through
auger holes bored in the rear, controlled by a closely fitting trap
door. Thus the roads were flooded, they froze, and the hauling began.

So far MacNutt had seen nothing of Rough Shan McCane. Occasionally on a
Sunday, when work was suspended, one of the latter's men would drift
over, but the gang kept very much to themselves. There was no indication
of undue sociability. Still MacNutt, on the principle that storms always
brew in fine weather, kept a very open pair of eyes and ears. Some of
the men, he knew, could not resist liquor; given access to it they would
become drunk as certainly as effect ever follows cause. Over these weak
vessels, then, he kept watch.

It was shortly after the road went into operation that he found the
first sign of trouble. A swamper, named Flett, was trimming the top of a
fallen tree. MacNutt observed the listless rise and fall of the man's
axe in high displeasure. It fell almost of its own weight; there was no
power to the blow, and instead of being recovered and swung up again
with vim for another stroke the blade lay for an appreciable instant in
the gash.

"You, Flett," rasped MacNutt, "I'll have no sojerin' on this job!
Understand?"

The man turned, startled, exhibiting a pair of reddened, bloodshot eyes.

"Who's sojerin'?" he growled.

"Wake up an' work, ye damned lazy dog!" roared MacNutt. "Take a man's
pay, eat a man's grub, an' then loaf on the job, would ye, ye
slab-mouthed, slouchin' son of sin?" For the first time he noticed the
man's eyes, and swore a great oath. "Ye've been drinkin'!"

"I ain't," Flett denied sullenly.

"Ye lie!" barked MacNutt. "Where did ye get it?"

"Go to blazes!" said Flett.

MacNutt caught him by the throat, crooked a knee, and threw him back
down across the log with a shock that almost broke his spine.

"Talk, ye dog, or I'll kill ye!" he gritted; and Flett, staring up
helpless and half stunned into the savage face of the foreman, gave up.

"Regan and me got a bottle apiece from a man in McCane's camp."

MacNutt jerked him to his feet and turned him loose. "Get yer time
to-night and hike in the morning!" he ordered. "You're fired! Not
because ye got drunk, but for bein' no use, drunk or sober."

He sought Regan. Regan was doing a man's work, and doing it well.

"I've fired Flett," said MacNutt without preliminary. "I'll have no
booze in this camp, Regan."

Regan, who was made of different stuff than his fellow-transgressor,
spat on the dry snow and regarded the foreman with a level stare.

"Do I get my time?" he asked.

"Not unless you want it," MacNutt replied. "I can do with ye or without
ye. Suit yourself. But I'll have no more of it."

"A drink now an' then hurts no man," said Regan.

"It raises Cain with a camp, and you know it," MacNutt retorted.

"That's true enough," admitted Regan, who was not unreasonable, "but the
boys over to McCane's camp shoved it at us. They've plenty there."

MacNutt said no more. He could not forbid his men from strolling on
Sunday, when there was nothing else to do, over the few miles which
separated the two camps. But he could and did issue a warning that any
man bringing liquor into the camp would get his time forthwith.

He saw no man drunk, but the little signs were unmistakable. The
percentage of quarrels and fights became higher; the bunk-house at
night, usually noisy, was now uproarious; some of the men obeyed with
less alacrity and grumbled with a great deal more; and through the
entire crew there spread a spirit of devil-may-care slackness very hard
indeed upon a foreman.

One Sunday MacNutt shouldered an axe and took the well-marked trail
which led through the forest to McCane's camp. Arrived at the compass
line dividing the limits, he sat down and lit his pipe. For an hour he
waited, smoking thoughtfully, watching the fluffy, impudent
whiskey-jacks. At the end of that time three men appeared down the trail
from McCane's. One carried a sack over his shoulder, and the sack bulged
suggestively in the shape of a two-gallon jug. MacNutt tapped out his
pipe and stepped into the trail.

"Where are you men headin' for?" he asked.

"None o' your business," replied the man with the sack.

"What's in that sack?" MacNutt demanded.

"Cold tea," answered the man, and the others laughed. MacNutt shut his
lips grimly.

"Go back and take your booze with you," he ordered; "and don't let me
catch you this side of that line again."

"Must think you own the woods," said he of the jug, slipping the bag
from his shoulder in readiness for trouble. "You go to hell!"

The axe resting on MacNutt's shoulder leaped forward and down in a
sweeping stroke. There was a crash of crockery and a sudden strong odour
of alcohol; following these a tremendous burst of profanity. The three
men rushed at MacNutt.

The foreman was not foolish enough to meet three hardened "bully-boys"
with his fists. His axe flashed up and just missed the head of the
leader in its descent. There was such evident deadly sincerity in the
blow that the men paused. MacNutt gave them no time. He charged them
instantly, axe aloft, and, prudence getting the better of anger, they
ran for their lives. MacNutt followed for a short distance, shouted a
final warning, and returned to camp. He did not think that he had put a
stop to the contraband traffic, but he had fired the first gun and made
his attitude clear.

The following day, as he was overseeing the work, Rough Shan McCane came
striding through the snow.

"What's this I hear about your chasing three of my men with an axe?" he
demanded.

"Well, what about it?" asked MacNutt indifferently, and the men near at
hand listened with all their ears.

"This much," said Rough Shan truculently. "My men have a right in the
woods, an' not you nor anny one else will stop them going where they
like."

"Well, I did stop them," retorted MacNutt. "I smashed a jug of booze
they were bringing to my camp, and I'd have split their heads if they
hadn't run."

This was news to the Kent men. MacNutt rose several notches in their
estimation. Regan, who had expected to share the contents of the jug and
had been disappointed by its non-arrival, whispered to Devlin:

"Ain't ould Mac th' bully-boy? I'd 'a' give a week's pay to 'a' seen
it."

"A jug of booze among fifty men!" sneered Rough Shan. "What's that?
Can't ye let the boys have a drink if they want it? An' if it was a
bar'l ain't ye man enough to be boss of yer own camp?"

"When I want your help to run it I'll send for you," rasped MacNutt.
"There's been booze comin' over from your camp, an' I'm goin' to stop
it; an' the way I stop it is my business."

"If you lay out a man of mine I'll take you to pieces," threatened Rough
Shan. "I done it once, an' I'll do it again."

MacNutt's eyes blazed. He caught Regan's axe and tossed it on the snow
before McCane. Himself he seized Devlin's.

"If you want a fight pick up that axe and go to it!" he cried.

McCane was rough and tough, but he had come to run a bluff rather than
to look for serious trouble, and a fight with axes was too cold-blooded
a proposition, even for him.

"I'll go ye with fists an' feet in a minute," he offered.

"No," MacNutt refused. "Take an axe. I want to kill ye!"

McCane was bluffed, to the huge delight of the Kent men.

"I'm no damn fool, if you are," he said. "Leave my men alone, an' I'll
leave you alone. But if you don't, I'll come over and take you apart."

"Bring your own axe," said MacNutt. "Now you get out o' here."

This conversation, retailed at the camp by Devlin, Regan, and others,
with such additions, mainly blasphemous, as the imagination of the
individual narrator could suggest, sent MacNutt's stock booming. The
lumber jack loves a fighter, and a man who could run three of McCane's
crew out of the woods and bluff Rough Shan himself was one after their
own hearts. Regan, himself a rough-and-tumble artist of considerable
ability, voiced the sentiments of the better men.

"I like me drink as well as anny man; but ould Mac is boss, an' what he
says goes wid me, after this. I'll save me thirst till the drive is
down, an' then--" An uplifting of the eyes and a licking of the lips
expressed more than mere words.

But many of the men did not see it in that way. If they could get liquor
they would drink it. Visitors from McCane's camp came empty-handed, and
Kent's men seldom went there. And yet there was liquor in the camp!

MacNutt could not account for it. He pondered the problem over many
pipes. "They get it somewhere," he said to himself. "For a week not a
man has gone to McCane's and not a man of his has been here. There's
only one answer. They've got a _cache_."

Having reached this conclusion by the Holmes process of elimination, he
began a new line of investigation; and he was struck by the popularity
of the tote road as a promenade. There was no reason why the men should
not walk on it, and it bore directly away from McCane's camp, but in the
light of his deduction the fact had to be explained.

MacNutt walked out the tote road. Over a mile from camp he saw a blazed
tree. With this as a base he began a systematic search, and finally
found beneath the butt of a windfall a small keg containing rye whiskey
of peculiarly malignant quality. In the keg was a spigot, so that each
visitor might fill a bottle for himself.

MacNutt did not demolish the keg. Instead he made a flying trip to camp.
When he returned he carried one bottle of horse liniment, half a pound
of cayenne pepper, a tin of mustard, two boxes of "Little Giant" pills,
a cake of soap, and a huge plug of black chewing tobacco. All these he
introduced to the keg's interior and replaced the spigot. This took
time. Afterward he took fifteen minutes' violent exercise in shaking the
keg.

Thus it was that Hicks, up-ending Chartrand's bottle with a grin of pure
anticipation, suddenly choked and gagged, for he had taken two mighty
swallows before the taste reached his toughened palate. Now two swallows
may not make a summer, but they may make a very sick lumber jack. The
winter forest echoed to the sounds of upheaval. Between paroxysms Hicks
cursed Chartrand. The latter regarded him in amazement.

"W'at's de mattaire wit' you, hey?" he queried. "Mo' Gee! I t'ink you
eat too moche grub dat you ain't chaw. S'pose you tak one leetle drink,
encore, for help hold heem down."

"I'll kill you, you blasted pea-soup!" howled Hicks. "I'll kick your
backbone up through your hat; I'll----" Here circumstances over which he
had no control interrupted him.

"I' t'ink you go crazee, me," said Chartrand. "You eat lak one dam beeg
_cochon_--de pork, de bean, de bread an' molass'--_tous les choses_. All
right. I tak heem one leetle drink, _moi-meme_. _A votre sante, mon
ami!_"

He grinned pleasantly at Hicks and tilted the bottle to his own mouth,
rolling a beatific eye as the liquid gurgled down. Suddenly he choked as
Hicks had done.

"_Sacré nom du bon Dieu!_" he shrieked, spitting like a cat. "What is it
that it is? Ah, holy Sainte Agathe, I am poison' lak one wolf! Ah, _bon
Saint Jean Baptiste, venez mes secours_, for I have been one sinful man!
_Sacré dam_, I burn lak hell inside!"

Hicks, sitting weakly on a log, his hands clasped across his outraged
epigastrium, watched Chartrand's gyrations with huge satisfaction, and
roared vindictive sarcasm at the final catastrophe.

"Eat too much grub that I don't chaw, do I?" he mocked. "Make a pig of
meself wid pork an' beans, hey? Take some yerself, me laddybuck. That's
right--tie yerself in knots. How would ye like another little drink to
help hold her down?"

In the end they sat together on the log, cursing in two languages, and
regarding the fragments of the broken bottle balefully. Chartrand rose
and picked up a heavy club.

"Bagosh, I bus' up dat keg for sure!" he announced. But Hicks, whose
wisdom was of the serpentine variety, demurred.

"Let the boys find it out for themselves," he counselled. "If we give
ourselves away we get the dirty laugh."

Therefore there descended upon the camp a sudden sickness amounting to
an epidemic; for the effects of MacNutt's concoction, though violent and
immediate, were also far-reaching and enduring. The foreman noted the
victims of his strategy, issued them chlorodyne from the van, and kept
his mouth shut. He had won the first round, but he knew very well it was
only a preliminary. Rough Shan was still to be reckoned with.



XI


The east line of Kent's limit butted on the west line of Clancys', and
in due course MacNutt began to cut along the line. The snow he had been
longing for fell in plenty and the road already bottomed and made became
good. A constant stream of logs flowed down it on the big-bunked
sleighs, draining the skidways, which were continually replenished by
more logs travoyed out of the woods. At the banking grounds the big
piles grew. The work was going merrily.

About the time MacNutt began to cut to his line McCane did the same. The
crews fraternized to some extent, but the bosses had nothing to say to
each other, each keeping to his own side. Hence Kent's foreman was
surprised when one morning, after a fresh fall of snow, Rough Shan
accompanied by two other men came to him. He noted, also, with an eye
experienced in reading signs of trouble, that most of McCane's crew were
working, or making a pretence of working, just across the line.

"These men is sawyers, MacNutt," said Rough Shan. "Yesterday, late on,
they dropped a tree an' cut her into two lengths. This morning the logs
is gone."

"What have I got to do with that?" asked MacNutt.

"That's what I've come to find out," retorted McCane. "Our teamsters
never touched them. Logs don't get away by themselves."

MacNutt frowned at him. "If you think we took your logs there's our
skidways, and the road is open to the river. Take a look for yourself."

McCane and his men went to the nearest skidway and examined the logs.
They passed on to another, and MacNutt thought it advisable to follow.
At the second skidway one of the sawyers slapped a stick of timber.

"This is her," he announced. "I know her by this here knot. Yes, an'
here's the other length."

Jackson, Ward, and Haggarty, cant-hook men and old employees of the
Kents, had been regarding McCane and his followers with scowling
disfavour, and Haggarty, from his post on top of the pile where he had
been "decking" the logs as they were sent up to him, asked:

"What's wrong wid them sticks?"

"We cut them yesterday on our limit," the man told him.

"Ye lie!" cried Haggarty fiercely, dropping his cant-hook and leaping to
the ground. Jackson and Ward sprang forward as one man.

"You keep out o' this," said Rough Shan. "This is log stealin', and a
matter for your boss, if he's man enough to talk to me face."

"Man enough? Come over here an' say we stole yer logs, ye dirty----"
Haggarty's language became lurid. He was an iron-fisted old-timer and
hated McCane.

MacNutt, when he saw Haggarty drop his cant-hook and jump, ran across to
the skids. So did other men at hand. A ring of fierce, bearded faces and
level, inquiring eyes gathered about the intruders.

"Here is the logs, MacNutt," said Rough Shan. "Now, I want to know how
they come here."

MacNutt examined the logs. They had not yet been branded by the
marking-iron with the big K which proclaimed Kent ownership. They were
in no material particular different from the rest. It was possible that
his teamsters had made a mistake. His sawyers could not identify the
logs positively; they thought they had cut them, but were not sure. On
the other hand, the two teamsters, Laviolette and old Ben Watkins, were
very sure they had never drawn those particular sticks to the pile.

"One o' yeez must 'a done it," asserted McCane.

"Not on your say-so," retorted Watkins, whose fighting blood had not
cooled with age. "Don't you get gay with the old man, Shan McCane.
I'll----"

"Shut up, Ben!" MacNutt ordered. He turned to McCane. "I'll give you the
logs because your men are sure and mine ain't. Break them out o' that,
Haggarty; and you, Laviolette, hitch on and pull them across the line to
wherever they say they laid. All the same I want to tell ye it wasn't my
teamsters snaked them here."

"An' do ye think mine did?--a likely t'ing" said Rough Shan. "Mind this,
now, MacNutt, you be more careful about whose logs ye take."

MacNutt lit his pipe deliberately before replying.

"The next one ye pull onto our skidways we'll keep," said he.

McCane glowered at him. "Ye've got a gall. Steal our logs, an' tell me I
done it meself! I want to tell ye, MacNutt, I won't take that from you
nor anny man."

"Go back and boss your gang," said MacNutt coldly, refusing the evident
challenge.

He had made up his mind to give no provocation; but he had also
determined to push the fight to a finish when it came, as he saw it
inevitably must. The occurrence of the morning' confirmed his suspicion
that McCane was following out a deliberate plan. He perceived, too, that
the matter of the logs was a tactical mistake of the latter's. For, if
Rough Shan had confined his activities to supplying the men with whiskey
and fomenting discontent, MacNutt would have been forced to discharge
half of them, and good hands were scarce. Thus the camp would have been
practically crippled. But an accusation of log stealing would weld the
men solidly together for the honour of their employer.

Haggarty, the iron-fisted cant-hook man, who had drawn Kent pay for
years, took up the matter in the bunk-house that night.

"Nobody knows better nor Rough Shan hisself who put them logs on our
skidway," he declared with a tremendous oath. "An' for why did he do it?
To pick a row, no less. He thought ould Mac would keep the sticks an'
tell him to go to the divil. Mac was too foxy for him that time."

"If he wants a row he can have it," said Regan; "him or anny of his
gang. It's the dirty bunch they are. An' I want to say right here," he
continued, glaring at the row of men on the "deacon seat," "that the man
that fills himself up on rotgut whiskey from McCane's camp after this is
a low-lived son of a dog, an' I will beat the head off of him once when
he's drunk an' again when he's sober."

A growl of approval ran along the bench.

"That's right."

"That's the talk, Larry!"

"To hell wid McCane an' his whiskey, both!"

"Mo' Gee! we pass ourself on hees camp an' clean heem out."

The temperance wave was so strong that the minority maintained a
discreet silence. Indeed, even those who relished the contraband whiskey
most would have relished no less an encounter with McCane's crew, for
whom they had little use, individually or collectively. Save for the
first few bottles to whet their appetites, the whiskey had not been
supplied free. They had paid high for it, and the mystery of the fatal
keg had never been cleared up. The sufferers were inclined to blame one
or more of McCane's men, and, not being able to fasten the
responsibility for the outrage on any individual, saddled it on the
entire crew.

At this juncture Joe Kent arrived in camp, following out a laudable
determination to become acquainted with the woods end of his business.
He came at night, and took up his quarters with MacNutt.

Although he had visited camps before with his father, it was still fresh
and new to Joe--the roomy box stove, the log walls hung with mackinaw
garments, moccasins, and snowshoes, the water pail on the shelf beside
the door, the bunks with their heavy gray blankets and bearskins--all
the raffle that accumulates in a foreman's winter quarters. And because
his imagination was young and active and unspoiled he saw in these
things the elements of romance where an older hand would have seen
utility only. He felt that they typified a life which he had come to
learn, that they were part of a game which he had studied theoretically
from a distance, but was now come to play himself.

MacNutt was silent from habit. A foreman cannot mingle socially with his
men to any extent and preserve his authority. Hence his life is lonely
and loneliness begets silence. He answered questions with clear brevity,
but did not make conversation. He was not at all embarrassed by the
presence of his employer; nor would he have been if the latter had been
old and experienced instead of young and green. He knew very well that
Kent had come to learn the practical side of the woods business. That
was all right and he approved of it. He would tell him whatever he
wanted to know; but as a basis he must know enough to ask intelligent
questions. Outside of that he must learn by experience. That was how
MacNutt had learned himself, and if Joe had asked him the best way to
obtain practical knowledge he would have been advised to go into the
woods with another man's crew and use an axe.

"And now about McCane's gang," said Joe when he had learned what he
could absorb as to the progress of the work. "Are they giving you any
trouble."

"Not more than I can handle," said MacNutt, and for the first time told
of the doctored whiskey.

Joe roared at the recital, and MacNutt smiled grimly. He was not a
humourist, and his narrative was not at all embellished. He went on to
relate the incident of the logs and his deductions.

Kent thought of Finn Clancy and frowned. He told the foreman of the
contract with the Clancy firm and of the narrowly averted row with Finn.

"Then they are behind McCane," said MacNutt conclusively. "That means he
will make it bad for us yet--unless we stop him."

"I don't understand," said Joe.

"It's this way," MacNutt explained. "McCane has his instructions, but
you can't prove them. Suppose he claims a log and doesn't get it and a
fight starts between the crews--why, he's jobbing the limit himself and
the Clancys ain't responsible."

"A bit of a scrap won't matter," said Joe cheerfully.

"It will matter if the woods ain't big enough to hold but one crew--ours
or theirs," returned MacNutt. "I've seen it happen before."

"Tell me about it," said Joe. He listened eagerly to the concise
narrative that followed, which was the little-known history of a logging
war in which the casualties were large.

"The dead men were reported killed by falling timber," the foreman
concluded. "Five of them there was--five lives, and all for one pine
tree that turned out punk when it was cut." He tapped his pipe out
against the stove. "You'll be tired. I get up before light, but I'll try
not to wake you, Mr. Kent."

"I'll get up when you do," said Joe. "I'm going out on the job with the
crew."

"All right; I'll wake you," said the foreman without comment, but
likewise without conviction.

In the morning--or as it seemed to Joe about midnight--he awoke with a
light in his eyes and the foreman's hand on his shoulder. The light came
from the lamp. Outside it was pitch dark, and the wind was shouting
through the forest and whining around the cabin. Now and then a volley
of snow pattered against the window.

By way of contrast never had a bed seemed so absolutely comfortable. For
a moment he was tempted to exercise his right to sleep. The ghost of a
smile on MacNutt's face decided for him. He tumbled out, soused his head
in water, pulled on his heavy clothes, high German socks, and moccasins,
and in five minutes stood, a very solid, good-looking young lumber jack
with a very healthy appetite for breakfast.

The darkness was lifting when the crew left camp for the woods. Joe and
the foreman tramped behind. There was little speech. However excellent
early rising may be theoretically it does not sweeten the temper,
especially in mid-winter. There was a notable absence of laughter, of
jest, even of ordinarily civil conversation. Almost every man bent his
energies to the consumption of tobacco. They had not shaken off the
lethargy of the night, and their mental processes were not yet astir.
They plodded mechanically, backs humped, eyes upon the ground, dully
resentful of the weather, the work, of existence itself.

Arrived at the scene of operations, the lethargy vanished. Men sighed as
they lifted axes for the first blow--such a sigh as one gives when
stooping to resume a burden. With the fall of the blow, and the shock of
it running up the helve through arms and shoulders, they were completely
awake. What remained of the dull, aimless resentment was directed at the
timber that ringed them around--the timber that represented at once a
livelihood and an unending toil.

Joe followed MacNutt, keenly observant. He knew little about the
work--how it should be done, how much each man and team should do, where
odd moments might be saved, and the way in which a desired object might
be accomplished with the least expenditure of effort. But he was by no
means absolutely ignorant, for, like the average young American, he had
spent considerable time in the woods, which involves a more or less
intimate acquaintance with the axe, and he had also the average
American's aptitude for tools and constructive work of any kind. Then,
too, he had absorbed unconsciously much theory from his father and from
the conversation of his father's friends, added to which was the study
and thought of the past few months. Thus he possessed a groundwork.
Remained analysis of the actual individual operations as they were
performed before his eyes, and synthesis into a whole.

With the foreman he went over most of the job, from the first slashings
to the river rollways, and thus gained a comprehensive idea of what had
been done, what remained to do, and what time there was to do it in. He
drank scalding tea and ate pork, bread, and doughnuts with the men at
noon, and smoked a pipe, sheltered from the biting north wind by a thick
clump of firs. In the afternoon, to keep himself warm, he took an axe
and trimmed tree tops with the swampers, showing a fair degree of
efficiency with the implement. Also he took a turn at the end of the
long, flexible cross-cut saw, an exercise which made a new set of
muscles ache; but he learned the rudiments of it--to pull with a long,
smooth, level swing, not to push, but to let the other man pull on the
return motion, to tap in a wedge when the settling trunk began to bind
the thin, rending ribbon of steel, and to use kerosene on the blade when
it gummed and pulled heavily and stickily. When the work ceased with the
falling darkness he tramped back to camp with the men, ate a huge
supper, spent an hour in the bunk-house with them, and sang them a couple
of songs which were received with wild applause, and then rolled into
his bunk, dog-tired, and was asleep as his head settled in the pillow.

Behind him, in the sleeping-camp, he left a favourable impression.

"He's good stuff, that lad," said Haggarty. "He minds me of some one--a
good man, too."

"Would it be Alec Macnamara, now?" asked Regan. Macnamara, a famous
"white-water birler," had met his fate in the breaking of a log-jam some
years before.

"That's who it is, God rest his soul," said Haggarty. "He's younger, but
he's the dead spit of Alec in the eyes an' mouth. It's my belief he
laughs when he fights, like him, an' he'd die game as Alec died."

Whether Haggarty's belief was right or wrong did not appear. Nothing
arose to put the young boss's courage to a test. All went merry as a
marriage bell, and the quantity of logs pouring down to the banking
grounds attested the quality of the work done. Then came trouble out of
a comparatively clear sky.

One day Joe was bossing the job, MacNutt being in camp. His bossing,
truth to tell, lay more in the moral effect of his presence than in
issuing orders or giving instruction. Having the good sense to recognize
his present limitations, he let the men alone. The air was soft with a
promise of snow, and he lit his pipe and sauntered up the logging road.

Before a skidway stood four men in hot argument. Two of these were
Haggarty and Jackson. One was unknown to Kent. The fourth he recognized
as Rough Shan McCane.

"Here's Mr. Kent now," said Haggarty, catching sight of him.

Rough Shan favored Joe with a contemptuous stare. "Where's MacNutt?" he
demanded. "I told him this log stealin' had got to stop."

"MacNutt is in camp," said Joe. "You can talk to me if you like. What's
the matter?"

Rough Shan cursed the absent foreman. "Log stealin's the matter," he
announced. "A load of our logs has gone slick an' clean."

"Gone where?" asked Joe coldly.

"MacNutt knows where!" asserted Rough Shan with an oath. "This is the
second time. I'm goin' to find them, an' when I do----"

"What'll ye do?" demanded Haggarty truculently. "It is the likes of you
can come over here an' say----"

"Dry up, Haggarty!" Joe commanded shortly. "Now, look here, Mr. McCane,
we haven't got your logs."

"But ye have," Rough Shan proclaimed loudly. "I know the dirty tricks of
ye. That's stealin'--stealin', d'ye mind, young felly? I want them logs
an' I want 'em quick, drawed over an' decked on our skidways an' no
words about it. As it is, I'm a good mind to run ye out o' the woods."

Joe's temper began to boil. Here was an elemental condition confronting
him. Rough Shan was big and hard and tough, but he was not much awed. To
him the big lumber jack was not more formidable than any one of a score
of husky young giants who had done their several and collective bests to
break his neck on the football field, and he was not inclined to take
any further gratuitous abuse.

"What makes you think we took your logs?" he asked.

"Who else could 'a' done it?" demanded Rough Shan with elemental logic.

"You might have done it yourself," Joe told him. "Now, you listen to me
for a minute and keep a civil tongue in your head. You're trying to make
trouble for us, and I know it, and I know who is behind you. If you want
a row you can have it, now or any old time. You won't run anybody out of
the woods. As for the logs, you know what MacNutt told you. Still, if
you can prove ownership of any, satisfactorily to me, you may haul them
back with the team you hauled them in with. But, mind you, this is the
last time. The trick is stale, and you mustn't play it again."

"I'll find them an' then I'll talk to you," said Rough Shan with
contempt. "Come on, Mike." He made for the nearest skidway.

"You two men go along and tell the boys to let him look till he's
tired," said Joe to Haggarty and Jackson. "Don't scrap with him,
remember."

"Well, we'll try not," said Haggarty. "That's Mike Callahan wid him--a
divil!"

"You do what I tell you!" Joe snapped, and Haggarty and Jackson uttered
a suddenly respectful "Yes, sir."

In half an hour Jackson came for Joe. He found Rough Shan at the banking
grounds. Before him lay a little pile of thin, round circles of wood;
also sawdust. McCane picked one circle up and handed it to him.

It was a slice cut from the end of a saw log. One side was blank. On the
other the letters "CB" proclaiming the ownership of Clancy Brothers were
deeply indented.

"Well, what about it?" asked Joe.

"What about it!" Rough Shan repeated. "Here's the ends sawed from our
marked logs. Then ye mark them fresh for yerself. A nice trick! That's
jail for some wan."

"Pretty smooth," said Joe. "Saves you the trouble of hauling the logs in
here, doesn't it? One man could carry these ends in a sack."

Rough Shan glared at him. "I want them logs, an' I want them now," he
cried with an oath.

"All right; take them," Joe retorted. "Of course you'll have to match
these ends on the logs they belong to. Possibly you overlooked that
little detail. Haggarty, you see that he makes a good fit."

Haggarty grinned. "Then I'm thinkin' I'll be goin' over onto Clancys'
limit wid him," he commented.

Rough Shan took a fierce step forward. Joe stood his ground and the
other paused.

"Our logs is here," he exclaimed. "These ends proves it. I'll not match
them, nor try to. I give ye an hour to deliver a full load of logs,
average twelve-inch tops, at our skidways."

"Not a log, unless you prove ownership of it, and then you do your own
delivering," said Joe. "Pshaw! McCane, what's the use? You can't bluff
me. Let your employers go to law if they want to."

"Law!" cried Rough Shan. "We run our own law in these woods, young
felly. I give ye fair warnin'!"

"You make me tired," Joe retorted. "Why don't you _do_ something?"

Joe was quick on his feet, but he was quite unprepared for the sudden
blow which Rough Shan delivered. It caught him on the jaw and staggered
him. Instantly Haggarty hurled himself at McCane, while Jackson tackled
Callahan. The men at the rollways ran to the scrap. Callahan floored
Jackson and went for Joe, who met him with straight, stiff punches which
surprised the redoubtable Mike. As reinforcements came up, McCane and
his henchman backed against a pile of timber.

"Come on, ye measly log stealers!" roared the foreman, thoroughly in his
element. The odds against him had no effect save to stimulate his
language. He poured forth a torrent of the vilest abuse that ever
defiled a pinery. Beside him Callahan, heavy-set and gorilla-armed,
supplemented his remarks. There was no doubt of the thorough gameness of
the pair.

In went Haggarty, Reese, Ward, and Chartrand. Others followed. The rush
simply overwhelmed the two. They went down, using fists, knees, and feet
impartially. A dozen men strove to get at them.

[Illustration: Haggarty and Rough Shan, locked in a deadly grip, fought
like bulldogs]

Joe's sense of fair play was outraged. He caught the nearest man by the
collar and slung him back twenty feet.

"Quit it!" he shouted. "Haggarty! Chartrand! White! Let them alone, do
you hear me?" In his anger he rose to heights of unsuspected eloquence
and his words cut like whips. The men disentangled before his voice and
hands. At the bottom Haggarty and Rough Shan, locked in a deadly grip,
fought like bulldogs, each trying for room to apply the knee to the
other's stomach.

"Pull 'em apart!" Joe ordered sharply, and unwilling hands did so. They
cursed each other with deep hatred. Their vocabularies were much on a
par and highly unedifying.

"That'll do, Haggarty!" Joe rasped. "McCane, you shut your dirty mouth
and get out of here."

"You--" McCane began venomously.

"Don't say it," Joe warned him. "Clear out!"

"A dozen of ye to two!" cried McCane. "If I had ye alone, Kent, I'd put
ye acrost me knee!"

"Come to my camp any night this week and I'll take you with the gloves,"
said Joe. "If you want a scrap for all hands bring your crew with you.
Now, boys, get back on the job. We've wasted enough time. These men are
going."

He turned away, and the men scattered unwillingly to their several
employments. Rough Shan and Callahan, left alone, hesitated, shouted a
few perfunctory curses, and finally tramped off. But every one who knew
them knew also that this was only the beginning.



XII


Locke, by means known to himself alone, managed to have his application
to the Transportation Commission set down for an early hearing. This
made Joe's presence necessary, and he came out of the woods lean and
hard and full of vigour. Neither McCane nor his crew had taken up the
challenge, and their intentions remained matter of speculation. Just
before the hearing, however, the railway suddenly restored the old
freight rate on lumber, thus taking the wind out of Locke's sails.

"This puts us in the position of flogging a dead horse," he grumbled.
"Now the commission will tell us we ought to be satisfied, and refuse to
let me show the genesis of the cancelled rate. Confound it! I depended
on this to find out more about Garwood."

This prediction turned out to be correct. The commission refused to
allow its time to be wasted. The old rate was restored, and that was not
complained of. Therefore, said they, there was no question for them to
consider, their powers not being retroactive. Locke was unable to
convince them to the contrary.

Outgeneralled in his plan of attack he sought another, finding it in a
grievance possessed by one Dingle, a small contractor in a town on the
O. & N. There the price of lumber had been boosted sky-high, and this
destroyed Dingle's profits on contracts he had undertaken. Investigation
showed that the Central Lumber Company had bought out two competing
dealers and immediately raised the price. Locke brought action for
Dingle, claiming damages and charging an unlawful combination. He named
the Central Lumber Company, its directors, Ackerman, Garwood, and the O.
& N. Railway, defendants. It was, in fact, a legal fishing expedition
and little more. The object of it was to obtain information looking to
an action by Crooks and Kent against the same defendants, with the
Peninsular Railway added.

Locke's first intimation that he had drawn blood came in the shape of a
visit from Henry J. Beemer, manager of the Peninsular. Beemer offered
him the position of general counsel for that railway. The offer was
apparently _bona fide_, and no visible strings dangled from it. Beemer,
in fact, was not aware of the Dingle action and was merely carrying out
instructions, and he was much surprised when Locke refused the offer.

"But why?" he asked. "It's a good thing."

"I know it is," said Locke with a sigh, as he thought of his own
rough-and-tumble practice. "Still I can't take it. I don't suppose you
are aware of the fact, Beemer, but this is an attempt to buy me up."

"Nonsense!" said Beemer indignantly. "If we had wanted to buy you we
should have done it before. There is no litigation against us now in
which you are interested. We make you the offer in good faith, because
you are the man for the job."

"I have litigation pending against Ackerman and Garwood," the lawyer
informed him. "You didn't know that. So, you see, I have to refuse."

Beemer took his departure, rather indignant at Ackerman for keeping him
in the dark. But a few days afterward Hugh Garwood himself walked into
Locke's office.

"My name is Garwood," he announced.

"I know you by sight," said Locke. "Sit down, Mr. Garwood."

Garwood sat down and looked at the lawyer from narrowed eyes. His face
was an inscrutable mask. "You have made me a defendant in litigation of
yours," he said bluntly. "Why?"

"Because I believe you are financing the Central Lumber Company."

"Can you prove that?" Garwood asked.

"I think so; at least I can put it up to you to disprove it."

"Suppose I am financing it," said Garwood after a pause. "Suppose this
man-of-straw, Dingle, gets a judgment and his paltry damages are
paid--what then?"

"Then he should be satisfied," said Locke.

Garwood frowned impatiently. "You are a clever man, Locke. Give me
credit for average intelligence, please."

"Certainly--for much more than the average, Mr. Garwood."

"Very good. Now I am going to talk plainly. You are promoting this
litigation to form a groundwork for more. If you find what you hope to
find, you will bring an action against myself and others."

"Well?"

"Well, I don't want that action brought."

Locke smiled.

"Understand me, I am not afraid of it; but it might disarrange some of
my plans. Now, a certain offer has been made to you. You refused it.
Wasn't it big enough?"

"No."

"In the not improbable event of the fusion of the Peninsular with the
O. & N.," said Garwood slowly, "you might be offered the post of counsel
for the amalgamated road."

"I should refuse that also, for the same reason."

Garwood threw himself back in his chair.

"Then what _do_ you want?"

"Several things," said Locke. "I want a fair deal for my clients, Crooks
and Kent. I want damages for the outrageous freight rate you made for
their injury. They must have cars, hereafter, when they want them. The
political ukase forbidding purchases from them must be withdrawn, and
the markets must be thrown open to them again. The crooked system of
double-check tenders for timber limits must be altered. And generally
you must stop hammering these men and using your influence against
them."

Garwood waved an impatient hand. "We are not discussing these things
now. Leave them aside. What do you want for yourself?"

"They are not to be left aside. My clients will pay my fees. I can't
accept anything from you as matters stand."

Garwood stared incredulously. "I thought I was dealing with a lawyer,"
said he.

"You will be absolutely certain of that in a very short time," Locke
retorted bitingly.

Garwood saw his own mistake immediately. You may make an amusing pun on
a man's name or gently insinuate that the majority of the members of the
profession to which he belongs are unblushing rascals, and the man may
smile: but in his heart he feels like killing you. And so Garwood, who
desired to come to terms with Locke if possible, apologized. The lawyer
accepted the apology coldly and waited.

"Your demands for your clients are out of the question," Garwood resumed
positively. "We need not discuss them at all. I came here to make an
arrangement with you. I have made you an offer which most men would snap
at. I ask you again what you want?"

"I have told you," Locke replied. "I am bound to my clients. That is
absolute and final. If you will not recognize their claims I will
proceed with the Dingle action and follow it by another, as you infer."

"I dislike to upset your carefully arranged plans," said Garwood, "but
Dingle will come to you to-morrow, pay your fees, and instruct you to
discontinue the action."

"What?" cried Locke, shaken out of his usual calm. If this were true the
enemy had again executed a masterly retreat. It annoyed him exceedingly
to be blocked twice by the same trick, although he did not see how he
could have helped it.

"As I told you, we don't want litigation just now," said Garwood.
"Without admitting Dingle's claim at all, we considered a settlement the
easiest way."

"No doubt," said Locke dryly. "Well, you won't be able to buy off the
next action. I'll take care of that."

"You persist in your refusal to make terms?"

"That is a very cool way of putting it," said Locke. "I tell you now,
Garwood, I'm going after you, and when I get you I'll nail your hide to
the sunny side of the barn."

Garwood rose and shook a threatening forefinger at the lawyer.
"Remember, if you make trouble for me I'll smash your business. Perhaps
you don't think I can. You'll see. Inside a year you won't have a case
in any court."

"You own a couple of judges, don't you?" said Locke cheerfully. "A nice
pair they are, too. You think my clients will get the worst of it from
them. Of course they will, but I appeal most of their decisions now. You
can injure me to some extent, but not as much as you think. Go to it,
Garwood. When I get through with you you'll be a discredited man."

On the whole he considered that he had broken even with the railway
magnate. The settlement of the Dingle action was a confession of
weakness. When that individual made an apologetic appearance the next
day, Locke turned his anger loose and almost kicked him out of the
office. Then he sat down and did some really first-class thinking,
marshalling all the facts he had, drawing deductions, sorting and
arranging, and finally he decided that he had a _prima facie_ case.

Thereupon he brought action against everybody concerned, directly or
remotely, in the assault on the business of Kent and Crooks.

Meanwhile Joe Kent was impatient to get back to the woods, but certain
business held him. A year before he would have been quite content to
pass his evenings at the club, with cards, billiards and the like. Now
these seemed strangely futile and inadequate, as did the current
conversation of the young men about town. It all struck him as not worth
while. He longed for the little log shack with the dully glowing stove
within, the winter storm without, and the taciturn MacNutt. As he lay
back with a cigar in a luxurious chair he could see the bunk-house
filled with the smoke of unspeakable tobacco, the unkempt,
weather-hardened men on the "deacon seat," and the festoons of garments
drying above the stove. The smart slang and mild swearing disgusted him.
He preferred the ribald, man's-size oaths of the shanty men, the
crackling blasphemies which embellished their speech. In fact, though he
did not know it, he was passing through a process of change; shedding
the lightness of extreme youth, hardening a little, coming to the
stature of a man.

Because the club bored him he took to spending his evenings with Jack
Crooks. There was a cosey little room with an open fire, a piano, big,
worn, friendly easy-chairs, and an atmosphere of home. This was Jack's
particular den, to which none but her best friends penetrated. Sometimes
Crooks would drop in, smoke a cigar, and spin yarns of logging in the
early days; but more often they were alone. Jack played well and sang
better; but she made no pretence of entertaining Joe. He was welcome; he
might sit and smoke and say nothing if he chose. She sang or played or
read or created mysterious things with linen, needle, and silk, as if he
were one of the household. On the other hand, if he preferred to talk
she was usually equally willing.

One night she sat at the piano and picked minor chords. Joe, sunk in the
chair he particularly affected, scowled at the fire and thought of logs.
Lately he had thought of little else. He wanted to get back and see the
work actually going on. Jack half turned and looked at him.

"He needs cheering up," she said. "He's thinking of her still."

"What's that?" said Joe with a start.

"'Tis better to have loved and lost," she quoted mockingly. "Brace up,
Joe." She often teased him about his temporary infatuation with Edith
Garwood, knowing that it did not hurt. She swung about to the piano and
her fingers crashed into the keys:

    "Whin _I_ was jilted by Peggy Flynn,
    The heart iv me broke, an' I tuk to gin;
    An' I soaked me sowl both night an' day
    While worrukin' on the railwa-a-a-y.

    "Arrah-me, arrah-me, arrah-me, ay,
    Arrah-me, arrah-me, arrah-me, ay,
    Oh, sorra th' cint I saved of me pay
    While worrukin' on the railwa-a-a-y.

    "But in eighteen hundred an' seventy-three
    I went an' married Biddy McGee,
    An' th' foine ould woman she was to me
    While worrukin' on the railwa-a-a-y.

"We'll omit the next thirteen stanzas, Joe. See what your fate might
have been:

    "In eighteen hundred an' eighty-siven,
    Poor Biddy died an' she went to Hiven;
    An' I was left wid kids eliven
    Worrukin' on the railwa-a-a-y."

"Great Scott, Jack, where did you pick up that old come-all-ye?" Joe
interrupted. "You sing it like an Irish section hand."

"I learned it from one. He was a good friend of mine. Do you want the
rest of the verses? There are about seventy, I think."

"If Biddy is in Heaven, we'll let it go at that," laughed Joe. "Why
don't you sing something touching and sentimental, appropriate to my
bereaved condition? By the way, Jack, where is Drew keeping himself? I
haven't seen him lately. I was just beginning to feel _de trop_ when he
called."

This was carrying the war into Jack's territory. Young Drew had paid her
very pronounced, attentions and had recently discontinued them, for a
reason which only she and himself knew. The colour flamed into her
cheeks.

"Don't talk nonsense! There was no reason why you should feel that way."

"Hello! You're blushing!" Joe commented.

"I'm not; it's the fire."

"Is it?" said Joe sceptically. For the first time in his life he
regarded her carefully. He had been used to taking Jack for granted, and
had paid no more attention to her looks than the average brother pays to
those of a younger sister. Now it struck him that she was pretty. Her
hair was abundant, brown and glossy; her eyes and skin were clean and
clear and healthy, and her small, shapely head was carried with regal
uprightness; she was slim and straight and strong and capable. In fact
she suddenly dawned upon his accustomed vision in an entirely new way.

"Jack," said he, and his surprise showed in his voice, "upon my word I
believe you are rather good looking!"

She rose and swept him a mock curtsey.

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"Nice eyes, plenty of hair, and a good figure," Joe drawled. "I don't
blame Drew at all."

"Now, Joe, quit it. I don't care to be jollied about that."

"What's sauce for the gander is ditto for the goose. I wasn't aware that
there was anything serious----"

"There isn't," Jack snapped, "and there never will be. Will you stop
when I ask you to?"

Joe dropped the subject, but eyed her curiously.

"I take it back," said he after an interval of silence. "Jack, you're
absolutely pretty. What have you been doing to yourself?"

"I always was pretty," Jack declared. "The trouble was with your powers
of observation."

"Likely," said Joe, and fell silent again. Jack picked up a book and
began to read. He watched her idly, pleased by the picture she
presented. She fidgeted beneath his gaze.

"I wish you wouldn't stare at me as if I were a recently discovered
species," she exclaimed at last.

"Now I wonder," said he, "why I never noticed it before."

Jack dimpled charmingly. "I want to tell you, young man, that you are
singularly dense. Even dad knows what I look like."

"So do I--now," said Joe. "I suppose I've been thinking of you as a
little girl. Great Scott!" He shook his head, puzzled by his blindness.
Jack's eyes twinkled and her dimples became pronounced. She was enjoying
his discovery greatly. Presently she said:

"When do you go up to Wind River?"

"As soon as I can--in a day or two, anyway." A slight frown drew lines
between his eyes. "I ought to be up there now. Not that I can tell
MacNutt anything about his job, of course. But there's that outfit of
McCane's! No telling what they will be up to next. And then I ought to
go round to the other camps and see how there're making it. We want a
main drive of twenty-five or thirty million this year. Got to have it.
Yes, I ought to be on the spot."

He was talking to himself rather than to her, and the boyishness had
vanished from his voice and manner. He was the man of affairs, the
executive head, thinking, planning, immersed in his business.

Jack was quick to recognize the change.

"You need the logs, don't you, Joe?"

"I'll smash without 'em, sure. Twenty million feet delivered at Wismer &
Holden's booms by July 1st. Not a day later. Then I can lift the notes,
square my overdraft, and meet the mortgage payments. If I don't--well,
my credit is strained pretty badly now."

"You'll pull through, Joe. I know you will." Her hand fell on his
shoulder. He looked up abstractedly and saw her standing beside him.
Mechanically his hand reached up and closed on hers. At the contact he
felt a little thrill, and something stirred within him. It was the first
time he had touched her hand since childhood, save in greeting or
farewell. And her touch was the first of understanding human sympathy he
had had since called upon to hoe his own row. He vibrated to it
responsively.

"You're a good little sport, Jack," he said gratefully and pressed her
hand.

There was a discreet knock at the door.

"Telegram for you, Joe," said Jack, taking the yellow envelope from the
maid.

"May I?" said Joe, and tore it open. His face became a thunder-cloud. He
bit back the words that rose to his lips.

"What is it?" asked Jack anxiously. "Not bad news?"

"Couldn't be much worse." He held out the slip of yellow paper. She
read:

    Camp burnt out. McCane's crew. Wire instructions.
                                                        --MacNutt.

Joe tore a leaf from a note-book and scribbled:

    Hold men together and build new camp. Rushing supplies.
    Coming at once.

"I've got to have that camp going again in a week," said he grimly.
"That means hustle. I shan't see you again before I go up."

"You're going yourself," she said with approval. "Good boy, Joe. Oh, how
I wish I were a man!"

"If you were I'd have you for a partner," he declared. "But I'm glad
you're not. I like you best this way. Good-bye, little girl, and thanks
for many pleasant evenings. I'll tell you all about the war when I come
back."

In spite of Joe's misfortune Jack went upstairs that night with a light
step, humming the refrain of the last stanza of her father's favourite
song:

    When the drive comes dow-un, when the jam comes down.
    What makes yeez lads so wishful-eyed as we draw near to town?
    Other eyes is soft an' bright like the stars of a June night--
    Wives an' sweethearts--prayin' waitin'--as we drive the river down.
      (Oh, ye divils!)
    God bless the eyes that shine for us when we boil into town.

"Other eyes is soft an' bright;" she crooned to her white-clad
reflection as she braided the great coils of glossy brown hair. "To
think Joe has just found out that _my_ eyes are bright. Charlie Drew
knew it long ago. How stupid some boys are!"

Meanwhile Wright and Locke were swearing angrily as they read the
telegram, while Joe told them of his determination to rebuild at once.

"That's the talk," said Wright.

"I'll sue Clancy Brothers at once," said Locke. "I believe they can be
made liable. Anyway, it will have a good moral effect. And when you get
the names of the men who did the burning I'll have them arrested."

"I don't think I'll bother about law," said Joe.

Locke stared at him in surprise.

"Because the way I feel now," young Kent continued, "I think as soon as
I can spare the time I'll take a bunch of bully-boys and run them out of
the woods."



XIII


At Maguire's station Joe disembarked from the crawling, snow-smothered
train, consisting of engine, baggage car, and day coach. The platform
was covered with boxes, sacks, and bundles; and men were piling them on
bobsleighs. These were shanty boys from the Wind River camp.

Haggarty, one eye blackened and almost closed, growled a hearty welcome
to the young boss. The latter, looking around, observed other marks of
combat. He asked the cause.

"It was like this, Mr. Kent," Haggarty replied. "The camp was burnt at
noon. Half a dozen men wid flour sacks over their heads ran in on the
cook, the cookee bein' out on the job. They took him out an' fired the
camp. Then they tied him, covered him wid blankets so he wouldn't
freeze, an' lit out. The cookee come back an' found him, an' brought us
word. MacNutt an' what men he could hold hit for camp to see what could
be done, but the rest of us was too mad, an' we boiled across to do up
McCane's crew. It was a good fight, but they was too many for us." He
swore with deep feeling. "Just wait. The woods ain't big enough to hold
us both after this."

"Are all the men at camp now?"

"All but what's down wid the teams. There was tents an' stoves went up
yesterday. Before that she was a cold rig for sleepin' and eatin'. Now
it's better."

On the long sleigh drive Joe got details, but the main facts were as
stated by Haggarty. None of the incendiaries had been recognized, but
nobody doubted that they were of Rough Shan's crew.

Joe found a dozen tents pitched around the clearing, well banked with
snow and floored with boughs. New buildings were going up as fast as the
logs could be hauled out of the woods and laid in place. The work of
logging was temporarily suspended. MacNutt, grim and in a poisonous
temper, drove the willing crew from streak of dawn till fall of dark.

"You'll blame me, like enough," said he. "I blame myself. I've seen the
like before, and I knew McCane, curse him! If you say so I'm ready to
quit, but I'll get even with him for this."

"I don't blame you a bit," Joe told him. "It can't be helped. We must
get the camp and the cutting going on again, and then we'll square up
with McCane when we have time."

As the buildings neared completion new men began to arrive--strapping,
aggressive-eyed fellows who viewed each other and the Wind River men
very much after the manner of strange mastiffs. These were draughts from
Tobin's and Deever's camps--the "hardest" men from each, picked by the
foremen by Joe's instructions and sent on to him. In return, Joe
instructed some of his original crew to report to Deever and Tobin. Thus
he found himself with a crew of "bully-boys" who feared nothing on earth
and were simply spoiling for a fight.

In the completed bunk-house a huge, bearded, riverman leaped high,
cracked his heels together and whooped.

"Is it Rough Shan McCane?" he yelled as he hit the floor. "Is it him wid
his raft of Callahans an' Red McDougals an' scrapin's of hell wud burn a
Kent camp?" His blasphemy was original and unreproducible. "By the
Mortal! The moon's high, an' the travellin's good. Come on, bullies,
we'll burn them out of their bunks this night!"

The yell that arose reached the ears of Joe and MacNutt. The foreman
looked at his employer.

"What's up?" the latter asked.

"If you want McCane's camp burnt and his gang run out of the woods all
you have to do is to sit here and smoke your pipe," MacNutt replied.

Joe seized his cap and opened the door just as the crew began to pour
out of the bunk-house hastily pulling on garments as they came. He
dashed across the open space and met the leaders.

"What's the excitement, boys?" he asked.

"We're going to burn out Rough Shan for you," answered the big riverman.

"Oh, you are!" said Joe. "Well, Cooley, I don't remember asking you to
do anything of the kind."

"Sure, you don't need to ask it, Mr. Kent," returned big Cooley with
what he intended for an amiable, protective smile. "The boys will see to
it for you." A yell of fierce affirmation arose behind him. "You go to
bed an' know nawthin' about it."

"Are you giving me orders, Cooley?" Joe demanded in biting tones. "Let
me tell you this," he cried. "Not a man goes out to-night. When I want
McCane's camp burnt I'll tell you. Yes, and I'll set fire to it myself.
That's the kind of fellow I am. I won't hide behind you boys. Now get
back, every man of you!"

They hesitated and murmured. Those behind pushed forward. The young man
was showing unsuspected qualities. Joe stepped up close.

"Do you men think I'll let you run this camp?" he demanded. "You're here
to cut logs when I tell you and not to fight till I tell you. Get it
through you now and get it clear that I'm Boss. _Boss_, do you
understand? BOSS! What I say goes, day or night." He drew a furrow in
the snow with his moccasin. "The man who crosses that line gets his
time. If you all cross you all get it. If half of you cross you all get
it, and I'll shut down this camp. That's what Clancy and McCane are
trying to make me do. If you want to help them and smash me--cross the
line!"

[Illustration: "There's the line. Cross it to-night or try to scrap
with McCane's crew before I tell you to, and I'll shut down"]

His voice rang clear as a trumpet in the frozen stillness. By accident,
almost, he had chosen the right course. Pleadings alone would have been
in vain; orders alone would have been useless; the placing of this
responsibility upon the men turned the scale.

"Aw, now, Mr. Kent," said big Cooley coaxingly, "what harm to put the
run on them high-bankers and burn their dirty camp?"

Joe eyed him coldly. "I won't argue," he said. "There's the line. Cross
it to-night or try to scrap with McCane's crew before I tell you to, and
I'll shut down. I mean it, boys. Goodnight."

He turned and walked to the foreman's quarters without looking back.
Behind him the men stood huddled foolishly. Then, one by one, they
straggled back to the bunk-house. From that moment Joe Kent stood with
his crew on his own feet. He was _boss_.

The following night, when he came in with the crew from the woods, he
was served with an injunction restraining him, his servants, agents, or
workmen, from entering upon the limits of Clancy Brothers, or injuring
or interfering with their property or employees.

"Wouldn't that jar a brick wall?" he commented to MacNutt. "They burn
our camp and get an injunction against us. I half wish I had let the
boys go over last night. Now, I suppose it would be contempt of court to
cross their line."

"Don't let that worry you," said the foreman grimly. "Orders of court is
a poor rig in the woods. All you've got to do is to give me and the boys
our time and hire us again when we've cleaned 'em out."

But this beautifully simple evasion of the law did not appeal to Joe. He
wanted logs, and had no time to waste in satisfying his grudges. The
weather, which had been ideal for logging, changed and choking snows
fell. The road had to be ploughed out time after time. The hauling was
heavy and slow. Then came a great thaw. The horses balled and stumbled
and caulked themselves. The huge sleighs made pitch-holes in the road.
Altogether it was discouraging. Finally the wind switched into the north
and the weather hardened. The mercury dropped to zero at night and rose
to twenty at noon. The road became icy and the runners slid easily in
the ruts. Once more the teamsters took full loads and the choked
skidways found relief.

The men, denied the innocent recreation of burning out the other camp,
worked with vim. The word went around that Kent needed the logs--needed
them, in fact, badly. That was enough. Haggarty, Regan, big Cooley, and
half a dozen others set the pace, and the rest of the crew kept up to
it. They were at work by the first light, and only darkness forced a
halt. The nooning was cut short voluntarily, the men contenting
themselves with a few whiffs of tobacco and resuming work without a word
from MacNutt.

Joe felt the change. There was a subtle difference in the ring of the
axes and the vibration of the saws. They sang a faster song and held a
truer note. As he went over the work from man to man with a joke or a
pleasant word--criticisms, instructions, and suggestions he still wisely
left to MacNutt--he was met by cheerful grins. These rough, virile men
of the woods and the river recognized a kinship with the young boss;
they felt in him their own fearlessness and willingness to take a
chance, and a strength of purpose and of character unmarred by their
vices.

Since the rebuilding of the camp they had seen little of McCane's crew.
Curses and threats had been exchanged between individuals across the
deadline, but on the whole Peace brooded dove-like and triumphant, as it
is accustomed to brood above armed states, and the manner of its sudden,
startled flight was thus:

Joe and MacNutt, going through a slashing at the farthest corner of the
limit which they had reached in the cutting, inadvertently trespassed
upon Clancys'; thereby becoming technically guilty of contempt of court.
As they ploughed through the deep snow two men came into view from
behind the fallen tops. One of these was Rough Shan; the other, to Joe's
astonishment, proved to be Finn Clancy.

The two advanced. Joe and MacNutt stopped. Clancy opened the ball with
an explosion of profanity.

"Are ye lookin' for more logs to steal?" he observed in conclusion.
"Keep to yer own limit, ye young thief, or I'll break yer neck!"

"You've reached _your_ limit!" said Joe through his teeth, and put his
whole weight behind his left fist.

Clancy went back in the snow as if he had been hit by an axe. MacNutt,
like a dog unleashed, went for McCane. The latter, nothing loath, met
him half-way. Clancy staggered up out of the snow spitting blood and
broken dentistry, and charged Joe like a bull moose, roaring
inarticulate invective. Joe smashed him right and left, took a counter
in the face that made his brain swim, was caught in the big man's arms
and fought himself free by straight, hard body punches. Two of McCane's
men ran into the slashing. At sight of the fight they raised a yell and
charged.

This yell reached the ears of Kent's teamster, little Narcisse
Laviolette, bending to clutch the butt of a log with a swamp-hook. He
straightened himself at the sound.

"Bagosh, some feller mak' de beeg row!" he muttered. "I see heem dat
boss an' MacNutt pass heemself dat way. Mo' Gee! mebbe dey ron into
plaintee troub'." He cupped his hands to his mouth. "Ya-hoo-ee!
Ya-hoo-ee!" he shouted in a far-carrying cry. Leaving his team to their
own devices he turned and ran, shouting at every step.

The buoyant cry went echoing through the forest. It spelt trouble. Man
after man left saw in the cut and axe in the limb and ran toward it.

Laviolette bounded into the slashing. In the middle were half a dozen
men, fighting fiercely. On the other side, the woods poured forth a
yelling crew. Laviolette did not hesitate. He hurled himself through the
snow in great leaps, and plunged into the thick of the fray. His heavy
"snag-proof" gum boot crashed into one man's face with all the power of
his leg-muscles behind it. He sprang on the back of another and bore him
to the ground, gripping one ear and tearing it half away from the head,
for little Laviolette was a dirty fighter. Then he was kicked in the
throat and stamped into the snow.

Clancy was getting the worst of it from Joe, and MacNutt was holding his
own with Rough Shan. The first newcomers turned the scale. Laviolette
almost evened it again. Then all were swamped by the rush of McCane's
crew. Kent and MacNutt went down fighting gamely, and were kicked and
hammered until the world swam before their outraged senses.

At this stage of the combat Kent's crew caught sight of the enemy. The
roar that went up from them was heard even at the rollways. They charged
home. A wave of fighting shantymen surged over Joe, and he raised
himself and staggered up as he had often done from the bottom of a
scrimmage. Big Cooley raged in the van of the fight, spouting
blasphemies and swinging his enormous fists right and left. Beside him
Haggarty and Regan found vent for their hatred of the other camp. The
fight spread out into a number of single combats, and it was then that
Kent's picked fighters proved their quality. Man after man of McCane's
gang had enough, quit, and ran. The rout became general.

"Burn them out!" was the cry.

Joe turned to MacNutt, who stood beside him gasping for breath and
swaying. "Shall I stop them?" he said.

"Stop nothing!" said the foreman. "If I get there in time I'll touch her
off myself!"

He ran twenty yards and fell in the snow. For the first time in his life
he had fainted. Joe caught Laviolette darting past and held him.

"Get a sleigh and haul him into camp," he ordered. Laviolette, mad with
excitement, tried to break away. Joe gripped the teamster by the throat
and shook him violently, despite a grinding pain in his side which made
the forest swim. "Do you hear me, damn you?" he thundered. "A sleigh, I
say, or----" His fingers tightened.

"Sure, sure," croaked the teamster. "_Oui, m'sieu!_ Mo' Gee, I choke!"

Joe released him and bent over MacNutt. Suddenly the world grew black
and he pitched down head foremost beside his foreman. Thus neither of
them saw the finish of McCane's camp.

The gang roared through the woods and stormed the camp like demons.
McCane's cook, game enough, grabbed an axe. Instantly an iron pot,
thrown with full force, sailed through the air and broke his right arm.
The cookee emerged from the bunk-house with a gun in his hand and found
himself face to face with Cooley. He levelled the weapon. The big
riverman grinned at him.

"Put it down an' ye won't be hurted," he said. "Shoot, an' the boys will
burn ye alive."

There was no mistaking the temper of the gang, and the cookee wisely did
as he was told. The men raided the van and broached a barrel of kerosene
oil. They threw the contents by the pailful inside the buildings.

"Here she goes to hell!" shouted big Cooley as he struck a match.

The light blue flames ran up the oil-soaked wood and took hold. It began
to crackle and then to roar. Outside, Kent's crew danced with glee. Some
one found a keg of whiskey. Regan smashed in one end and upset the
contents on the snow.

"No booze," said he. "This is no work to get drunk at."

From a neighbouring knoll most of McCane's crew looked on with curses
loud and deep, but they had no collective stomach for further warfare
just then. When nothing but charred end-logs and glowing coals remained,
Kent's men tramped off through the deep snows shouting gibes and taunts
at their enemies. Their vengeance had been ample and satisfying.



XIV


MacNutt was able to boss the job on the following day; but Kent was less
fortunate. Pains in side and head attacked him, what of the pounding he
had received. After waiting a couple of days for them to disappear, with
a healthy man's confidence in his own recuperative powers, he was driven
back to Maguire's, where he took train for Falls City. There his injured
side was strapped and he was ordered complete rest and quiet.

Early in the winter, because he was alone in the world, he had leased
his house and moved to an apartment building. This now seemed to him
about as cheerful as a prison. He longed for human companionship of some
sort, and he would have disobeyed his doctor's orders and gone out in
search of it, but for the fact that his face, covered with bruises,
would have attracted attention. But in the afternoon of his first day's
confinement came William Crooks and Miss Jack.

That young lady took charge of the situation with calm capacity.

"Now, Joe," she said, "you're coming up to the house until you're well.
Doctor's orders. So tell me what things you want and I'll pack them for
you."

"I couldn't think of troubling you," he protested. "I'm not sick, you
know. Just a cracked rib and a jolt on the head. I feel all right,
really."

"You do as you're told," she replied. She began to pull out the drawers
of his chiffonier. "What a mess your things are in! Nothing where it
ought to be. Where _do_ you keep your pajamas? Dad, look in that closet
for his suit case."

"This is kidnapping," said Joe.

"Call it what you like," chuckled Crooks. "Do as Jack tells you and quit
kicking. _I_ have to." He brought out a suit case and a deep club bag.
"Fire in what you think he needs, Jack."

Joe watched uneasily her selection of articles supposedly indispensable
to his comfort, and gave in.

"Hold on, Jack, or else get a trunk. Let me show you, if I have to go."

"That's better," said Crooks. He paused and regarded Joe critically.
"Well, you did get a pounding. Did the whole crew jump on your face?"

"It felt that way at the time," said Joe, "but you ought to see Finn
Clancy's." He told the story of the fight briefly, making little mention
of his own part in it. "So you see I was out of the fun at the wind-up,"
he concluded.

"Too bad," said Crooks with a sympathy born of personal experience.
"There will be trouble over that, though. They'll call it contempt of
court, and malicious destruction, and the Lord and Locke only know what
else."

This prophecy proved to be correct. As soon as he could be located
writs, summonses, and orders to appear and show cause showered on Joe.
These passed on to Locke, who secured delay by physicians' certificates,
affidavits, motions--all the methods by which the experienced attorney
can clog the slowly moving wheels of the law.

Meanwhile Joe nursed his knitting ribs and rested completely. Jack
established an invisible wall about him through which no business
affairs penetrated.

"Dad and Mr. Wright can look after things for a week or two," she
explained. "Mr. Locke says you needn't worry about law matters.
Everything at the camps is going well. So, young man, you just make
yourself comfortable and be lazy. That's your job for the present."

When a few days had accustomed him to inaction it proved to be a very
pleasant job. He developed an unsuspected capacity for sleep. This meant
the restorage of his nerve cells. The pains in his head lessened and
ceased, and the bruised flesh gradually assumed a normal hue.

His favourite place was Jack's den. There was a bow window with a south
exposure, and in the recess stood a huge easy-chair. Joe lay in it and
absorbed sunshine, for the days were warming and lengthening, and stared
up into the blue sky dotted with little white-wool clouds, or watched
Jack, who had made the den her workroom. He found the latter pursuit the
more entertaining.

Jack affected white, with a superb disregard of laundry bills. It set
off her lithe, straight figure, the small uplifted head with the
abundant coils of dark hair, and the pretty piquant face with the firm
yet tender mouth. From top to toe she was spotless and neat and trim and
dainty. Her conversation was a tonic in itself. She was direct of
speech, frank, and often slangy when slang best expressed her meaning.
There were many odd "characters" dependent upon the open-handed bounty
of William Crooks, and from them she had heard strange philosophies born
of twisted lives, odd expressions which occasionally crept into her
speech, and scraps of forgotten song. She had listened by the hour to
old Micky Keeliher who tended the garden; to the widowed Mrs. Quilty who
came once a week to do the washing; to crippled Angus McDougal, once a
mighty riverman, whose strength had departed, and to a dozen others. Not
one of them but would have died for William Crooks's daughter. To her
they sang the songs of their youth in cracked, quavering voices; for her
they unlocked the storehouses of their experience and gave of it freely.
She absorbed their songs, their sayings, their tales; and as nearly as
her youth would permit she understood their viewpoint of life.

Joe, buried in his chosen chair, listened to the queer tunes she
lilted--tunes which had stirred the hearts of by-gone generations in
other lands--and by turns stared at the bright out-of-doors and slept.
And Jack, on her part, felt a strange happiness, as if the room held all
that was best and most to be desired. She did not analyze the feeling;
she was content that it was hers. Bending over her sewing one bright
afternoon during the last days of Joe's convalescence she crooned:

    "Is it far away ye're goin', Danny, dear?
    Is it lavin' me ye arre, widout a tear?
      Sure the ship's white sails is swellin',
      But it's this to ye I'm tellin'--
    Ye shall love an' seek me out widin the year,

    "By the spell that's laid upon ye ye shall come agin to me,
    The dear, bould, handsome head of ye shall drop upon me knee.
      While ye sleep or while ye wake,
      It's the heart of ye shall ache
    Wid love o' that poor weepin' gyurl ye left beside the sea!"

"That's a cheerful song," said Joe ironically from his chair. "Did he
come back?"

"Of course," laughed Jack. "Unfortunately, he died as his head touched
her knee, and naturally she was inconsolable. Like to hear her lament?"
She drew her face into lines of sorrow and threw back her head in a
preliminary wail, as a dog howls.

    E-e-yah-h-h! Oh, why did he die?
    Oh-h-h-h, why did----

"Stop!" cried Joe. "Look here, Jack, remember I'm an interesting
invalid. I want something cheerful."

"Well, that _is_ comparatively cheerful. Now, if I sang you a real
Hielan' lament----"

"Don't you dare," Joe interrupted. "I am still far from strong."

Jack laughed. "You smoked yesterday. Doctor Eberts says that a man who
can enjoy a smoke is well enough to work."

"Good for the doc!" cried Joe. "Me for the office and then back to the
woods. Hooray!"

"Not for a day or two," said Jack. "Things are going all right. You keep
quiet."

Joe sank back in his chair. "I suppose so, but--well, I want to look
after them myself." Far off against the blue sky a wedge of black specks
bored through space, swinging off beyond the limits of the town. "Look,
Jack! The first geese going north. That means the end of winter and open
water. We'll start our drives in a few weeks."

"Yes, Joe." She perched on the arm of the big chair and stared after the
birds, her face clouded with discontent. "That's life, and you can live
it. Oh, heavens! Why wasn't I a boy? I'd love it so. I want to go up to
the camps and see the rollways broken out and the banking grounds
emptied. I want to wear spiked boots and ride a stick in white water and
use a peavey. I want to come back to the wanegan at night, and eat and
dry off by a big fire and sleep out of doors. I want--don't you dare to
laugh at me, Joe Kent--I want to come into town with the bully-boys,
with a hat pulled down over my eyes and a cigar in my mouth sticking up
at an angle, and sing 'Jimmy Judge,' and 'From Far Temiskamang.' I
want"--she faced him defiantly--"I want to ride up town in a hack--_with
my feet out of the window!_ Yes, I do. And now tell me you are shocked."

"I might be if I saw you do it," said Joe. "I've felt the same way
myself--like breaking loose from everything. If you were a man you
wouldn't, though. Only the shanty boys tear off these stunts. _We_
can't."

"All very well for you to talk--you could if you wanted to," said Jack
disconsolately. "I'm a girl. I can't even go up to the camps unless dad
takes me." She voiced her grievance again. "I wish I had been a boy."

She turned to the window and stared out. Joe rose and stood beside her,
looking down at the burnished brown of her hair and the soft profile of
her cheek. Once more the nameless thrill he had felt before when he had
touched her hand possessed him. Hesitatingly, awkwardly, impelled by
something which was not of his own volition, he put his arm around her.
Instantly, as if a curtain had been rolled up--as if a screen had been
withdrawn--he saw his own mind clearly.

Why, he loved her!

It came to him with a shock of utter amazement. Little Jack Crooks, his
playmate, his friend, his confidant, the girl he had looked at so long
with unseeing eyes--she, she was the only woman in the wide world for
him. She had always been the only one. Edith Garwood? Pshaw! How could
he have been so blind? Not all her radiant beauty and deceptive
sweetness could compare with straight, loyal, little Jack, his chum and
his love.

She seemed unconscious of his arm until he spoke her name. Then she
turned her head slowly and her dark eyes looked directly into his. What
she saw there brought the red to her cheeks in a wave. Up and up the
telltale crimson tide leaped to her brow, to the roots of her glossy
brown hair, but her gaze did not waver.

"Should you, Joe?" she asked simply.

Stumblingly, humbly he told her, and she listened, nestling in his arms
as one who has found her own place. And so, when bluff old William
Crooks came home, he found them sitting in the twilight, planning
wonderful things. Joe put the situation simply.

"Jack has consented to marry me, sir."

William Crooks stared at him and then at his daughter.

"Fact, dad," she confirmed.

"Well, I'll be--" began Crooks out of his unbounded astonishment.

She put her hand over his lips. "I hope not, dad."

"Well, you take a man unawares," growled Crooks. "How long has this been
going on?"

"About two hours, I think," said Joe happily.

"Oh," said Crooks; "I was afraid you had been holding out on me. You're
sure about this, I suppose?"

They were very sure.

"Well," said Crooks judicially, "I don't know any young fellow I'd
rather give Jack to, Joe. Shake hands, you robber. But, mind you, you've
got to put your business on its feet before you marry her."

"I'll do it," Joe promised.

"Of course he will," Jack asserted with perfect faith.

Bill Crooks regarded them wistfully. In their youth and hope he saw his
own. He thought of a far day when he and a girl had faced the world
together, determined to wring from it success. The success had come, but
the woman of his heart no longer shared it with him. Suddenly he felt
old and lonely. He roused himself with a sigh and a shake of his big
shoulders. No one, not even his daughter, suspected old Bill Crooks of
sentiment. His thoughts were his own.



XV


Joe Kent tore himself away from his new happiness, visited Tobin's and
Deever's camps, spent a few days at each, and wound up at Wind River.
The banking grounds were full--great piles of timber stretching along
the water's edge waiting the going of the ice. The winter roads were
failing fast and the last logs were coming out the woods in half loads.
Most of the hauling was done by night, for then the roads hardened with
frost. By day the air was mild and the depth of snow sank sensibly. Then
came the first rain of the season, destroying the roads utterly.

All the men, save the driving crew, were paid off. Since a lumber camp
is a self-contained community including a store or "van" at which the
hands purchase most of their simple necessaries, paying off involves an
adjustment of accounts, A lumber jack seldom keeps a record of his
purchases, and is thus dependent upon the honesty of his employer's
bookkeeping. The custom is to run rapidly over the account of each man
in his presence. If he remembers the purchases and is satisfied, as he
is in the majority of cases, well and good. If he does not remember or
is not satisfied after reasonable explanation he is tendered a check and
told to see a lawyer. But there have been logging firms who have robbed
their men shamelessly.

"Jack," one employer is alleged to have said, "you remember that pair of
socks you got in December?"

Jack, after an effort, remembered.

"That's one pair," said the employer, and went on rapidly. "And you
remember the pair you didn't get in January--that's two pairs." And Jack
agreed. Keener men have been flimflammed by much the same formula.

But, on the whole, the men get a square deal, few employers being small
enough to charge excessive prices for supplies, much less to make
fictitious entries against them. There was no dissatisfaction among
Kent's men. Differences of opinion never reached the point of absolute
assertion.

"Well, Billy," MacNutt would say, "there's the entry in our books made
at the time. If you say flat you didn't get the goods we'll let it go,
because we know you're a straight man, and think you're right. But if
you just say you don't remember, why, then, our books show we do."

This unusual but effective system had been installed by William Kent and
worked like a charm. Seldom did a man, having it put up to him in that
way, flatly contradict the books. And then it prevented all friction.

After the surplus men had been paid off, the weather hardened. A bitter
wind held in the north by day; the nights were still, clear, and cold.
Ice actually made and thickened in the river.

It was unheard-of. Each morning the rivermen rose, cocked wise eyes at
the sky, and cursed the weather. Each night they sat around the stove,
for the cold was penetrating.

"It's the qualified adjective moon," said Cooley. "The weather will
break when she changes."

"She'll break when she gets ready," said Jackson. "This will make a late
drive."

"But high water when it does come," said another.

Joe Kent took to looking into the sleeping camp for an hour or so each
night. He had brought a banjo with him, and he exhausted his song
repertory. The men enjoyed it thoroughly. It was, perhaps, bad for
discipline, but it developed a feeling of comradeship. His authority was
not in danger, for they had seen him hold his own against the
redoubtable Mike Callahan, who was a dangerous fighter; and he had also
bested big Finn Clancy, who had whipped many a good man in his day.

Suddenly the weather changed. One morning a southerly wind and a cloudy
sky greeted them; by noon there was a warm rain slashing against the
earth; at night mists and fog hung everywhere.

"She breaks up this time," said Cooley, who was engaged in saturating
his driving boots with oil and hot tallow, not with intent to keep his
feet dry, but to preserve the leather.

"An' time it is," said Regan, busy with a file at the inch spikes which
studded the soles of his footgear. "She's a fortnight later nor she
should be."

This was so, but it had caused Joe little uneasiness, for his margin
seemed ample. His plan was to drive the Wind River cut down the Wind to
the Mattawagan. Tobin and Deever would drive down the Missabini to the
latter stream. The drives would unite at McColl's Sney, where the main
drive would be formed. Thence it would proceed down that great water
artery past Falls City to Wismer & Holden's booms. It was all very
simple--on paper.

But it took a week for the ice to move in the Wind. The driving crew
chafed and cursed, for they regarded Kent's interests as their own, and
they longed to feel a rocking log beneath their feet once more. When the
ice finally moved they attacked the rollways with fury, and the huge
piles of great sticks cascaded thunderously into the water like huge
amphibians. At that point the river was deep and had little current.
Therefore the logs strung out slowly and in an orderly manner with a
dignity befitting their weight and age.

When the drive began to string with the slow current, MacNutt sent part
of the crew downstream to keep the logs moving and prevent jams. The
remainder divided and strung along either bank, releasing such sticks as
grounded in the shallows or caught in the "sweepers" from the banks.

Last of all came the "wanegan," also known as the "sweep." This was a
long, heavy, flat bottomed scow, of primitive but enormously strong
construction. It was the base of supplies for the driving crew. It held
tents, provisions, clothing, and tools, and it was manned by the cook,
cookees, and blacksmith. For propulsion it possessed long sweeps; but
since it had merely to keep pace with the logs and the logs moved no
faster than the current, these were used only for guidance. In slow
water the life of its crew by day was one of dreamy, idyllic ease; but
in fast water this condition was reversed. The scow was big, heavy, and
unwieldly. It refused to be guided, checked or restrained; it bumped
malevolently against boulders, grounded on sandbars, scraped its crew
against overhanging limbs, and dragged them, cursing, into the water
when they tried to line it down a fast, obstructed current.

For the first few days they always endeavoured to control their craft;
after that they let it go and trusted to luck, clinging perfunctorily to
the sweeps and damning the grinning rivermen who shouted sarcastic
comment and advice from the banks and solitary logs.

At night the crew sought the wanegan and ate voraciously. They were
always wet to the waist and often to the ears. They changed and dried
their soaked clothing on pole racks by roaring fires, smoked, and slept
in little tents pitched ready for them. Before the first light they had
breakfasted, and they stepped into ice water in the gray dawn. But with
it they were happy and contented, for the drive was the crowning glory
of the year.

The drive made average progress. There were small jams, easily broken,
minor delays which always occur, but both MacNutt and Joe were pleased.

"The late opening won't matter," said the former as they spread their
blankets in the little wedge tent. "The head will hit the first dam
to-morrow, sometime. We ought to sluice her through inside two days.
Then there's the second dam. If we have luck we'll tie into the main
drive pretty near on time. The others'll be about as late as we are."

"I hope so," said Joe. "We don't want to hang up anywhere. I suppose
McCane's drive will be out of our way?"

"Sure to ---- unless he jams somewhere," said MacNutt. "Lebret Creek is
faster than the Wind and opens earlier. It's good drivin'. He ought to
be through the second dam by now."

Lebret Creek joined the Wind above the second dam. They were then some
twenty-five miles from the confluence, and four miles above the first
dam.

The day broke clear and splendid. Joe and MacNutt set off down stream
for the dam half an hour behind a dozen of the crew. They cut through
the woods across a three-mile bend of the stream and came suddenly upon
it again.

"By the G. jumping Jasper!" cried MacNutt.

The river seemed to have shrunk. Logs lay along the banks, were caught
in shallows, rocked in the feeble current. As far as the eye could reach
stretched the shaggy backs of the brown herd, motionless or nearly so.
The ancient bed of the stream appeared as it had been before the dams
were built--a flat, rocky bottom over which a foot or so of water
brawled noisily and ineffectively, utterly useless from the standpoint
of a logger. The drive was plugged for want of water.

A man appeared through the trees. He was running. "Dam's gone out!" he
shouted as he came within hailing distance.

Joe and the foreman looked at each other. There was no need to put the
single thought into words.

"Come on," said Joe briefly, and broke into a trot.

They found the men gathered by the remnants of the dam. The wings of the
structures sagged forlornly, and through the wrecked centre the stream
poured over a rocky bed. The débris had been swept downstream by the
rush of released water, and the ruin was beautifully complete. The cause
of its going out must remain speculation merely.

"What's the best thing to do?" Joe asked MacNutt.

"Ward," said MacNutt, "you hike. Bring every man here, a-jumping. Load
up a peakie with tools, blocks and tackle and dynamite and run her down
river somehow. Load up another with tents, blankets, and grub, and tell
the cook to bring her down. Camp is here till we move the logs. Get a
move on you, now!"

"There's only one thing to do," he continued to Kent. "The dam has got
to be put in again. There's no fall to speak of, and four foot of water
will float the best part of the logs. The rest we'll have to sack out.
It means a week, but we can't help it."

Regan, who after examining the wreck narrowly had taken to the bank,
appeared above them. He carried a piece of timber, twisted and riven.
This he dumped down before the boss.

"Found her back in the brush," said he. "They used powder. I knowed that
dam never went out by herself."

"The infernal scoundrels!" said Joe.

Regan looked at him hopefully. "I seen an Injun yesterday. He says
McCane's drive is jammed near the mouth of Lebret. Say the word, boss,
an' we'll mosey over an' half murder every mother's son of them!"

"Thank you, Regan, but I can't say it," said Joe. "I have to get these
logs out. If I don't get them I bust. Tell the boys that."

The men began to arrive. MacNutt divided them into gangs and set them to
work staying and shoring the remnants of the dam. Slight progress was
made that day. The wanegan was looted and the peakies--a peakie is a
flat-bottomed, double-ended river boat--made trip after trip, drawn by
men wading in the shallows, until sufficient supplies were transferred
to the camp by the dam.

Light saw the crew at work. There was nothing fancy about the structure
which MacNutt planned. It was built entirely of logs. Holes were blown
in the bed of the river at intervals of a few feet, and in these were
set buttress-logs slanted sharply upstream to back the timbers when the
weight of the water should come against them. These things took
time--days of the hardest kind of toil--but the impromptu dam was
finally completed, even to the construction of a short slide to run the
logs to the free water below.

The river rose and backed up. The newly laid timbers groaned and
complained. Now and then a startling crack made Joe's heart leap.

"Will she hold, Mac?" he asked anxiously.

"She's got to hold," said the foreman grimly. "I don't mean she's a
permanent job; she ain't. If she'll last till we get through we'll blow
her to glory."

"Why?" asked Joe.

"Because if we don't she may go out herself or some skunk may blow her
for us when we're downstream. Half of us might be drowned and the logs
winged out into the bush."

But the jury-rig held. The water mounted higher and higher. Booms were
strung, forming a funnel of which the sluiceway was the outlet. These
also served to keep the weight of floating timber off the dam structure.

Satisfied with the strength of his work, MacNutt hurried up stream. Many
of the logs were afloat, moving sullenly; others were beginning to rock
in the rising water. The men were working hard and steadily, with
concentrated energy. Their peavies clanked regularly, and the logs
twirled out of their resting places and trundled into the stream. Still
the river rose, and MacNutt judged that it was high enough. Fearful for
the strength of his dam he made an outlet by the simple expedient of
knocking a few timbers loose. The water held at the new level.

Down by the dam the herd of logs thickened and packed tight. The boom
strained with their pressure. It was manned by men with long pike poles.
They pushed here, restrained there, feeding the slide constantly and
evenly, so that a nearly solid stream of timber shot through it into the
good water below. When darkness fell, huge fires were lighted on the
banks and the sluicing continued. Half the crew turned in immediately
after supper; the other half kept the logs going. At two o'clock in the
morning they shifted. By noon the last logs shot through. Then came the
wanegan.

MacNutt picked half a dozen men. "Throw her down little by little,
boys," he ordered. "Don't be in a hurry, and don't use powder till
there's no danger of a wave hitting us. We want a head of water, but not
too much of it. The river's rising now."

Joe looked back from the stern of the peakie in which he rode to catch
up with the drive. The men had clambered out on the timbers and were
busy with axes and saws destroying what had been so laboriously
constructed. It had served his turn, but he felt regret. He would have
liked it to stand, so that some day he might show Jack the rude,
effective structure, and tell her the story of its building. He had had
but small part in it, though his hands were blistered and ragged from
handling rocks and rough timbers. He did not pose even to himself as a
conqueror of difficulties; he gave the credit to MacNutt and his crew.



XVI


MacNutt suddenly struck his head a violent blow with his clenched fist
and swore. He and Joe sat before the fire smoking a final pipe before
turning in, and the gurgle of the water under the banks was music to
their ears, for it meant that the logs were travelling free by night.

"What's the matter?" Joe asked, sleepily.

"I ought to be kicked!" cried the foreman in tones of bitter
self-condemnation. "I'm a saphead. I got no more sense than a hen.
McCane blew that dam on us. What's to hinder his blowing the other when
he's finished sluicing his drive? He may be through now."

"By heavens, Mac!" Joe ejaculated, appalled by the prospect. With the
late season's start and the delays which had already occurred such an
occurrence would be a calamity. "By heavens Mac, we can't let him get
away with it again! We can't afford to take a chance. We've got to be
_sure_ he doesn't."

MacNutt scowled at the fire, biting his pipe stem. "I can't think of but
one way out," said he. "We've got to put a guard on that dam, and if it
comes to a case they must have the nerve to make good."

"You mean--?"

"Just what I say. If any one starts monkeying with it they must stop
him--with lead if they have to. Of course you'll be held responsible for
such an order."

Joe's mouth hardened. "Mac," said he, "this is make or break with me.
I've got to get these logs out. Pick one man and I'll go with him
myself."

"Don't do that," MacNutt dissuaded. "The boys will look after it all
right. You better keep out."

"No, I'll go," said Joe with determination. "You need every hand on the
drive. I won't ask any man to do what I won't do myself. Pick your man
and fetch him in here. We ought to start now."

MacNutt arose and left the tent. In five minutes he returned with a
little, brown-faced riverman, Dave Cottrell by name. Joe was surprised.
He had expected the foreman to choose Cooley, Haggarty, or one of the
noted "bully-boys." Cottrell was an excellent riverman, active as a
squirrel and ready to take any chances, but extremely quiet and
self-effacing. He was never in a row, had no chums, and, apparently, no
enemies. He minded his own business and avoided notice. Such speech as
he essayed was brief and to the point.

"Now Dave," said the foreman, "we think McCane may blow this dam on us.
Mr. Kent is going down to see that it ain't done, and he wants a man
with him. How about you? Of course this ain't what you were hired for."

"That's all right," said Cottrell.

"You understand," said Joe, "that we're going to protect the dam at all
costs. Can you shoot?"

"Some," said Cottrell, and MacNutt chuckled to himself.

"Then get ready," Joe ordered. "We'll start in half an hour."

"C'rect," said Cottrell, and departed to roll his blanket.

Blankets and food for two days were made into packs. The outfit owned
two rifles, one belonging to Joe, the other to the foreman, who gave it
to Cottrell. The little riverman tested the action, filled the magazine,
and shouldered his pack.

"Now if you're ready we'll be goin'," said he.

Straightway he took the lead and the command. Joe found himself
relegated to a subordinate position, compelled to follow one who seemed
to possess the eyesight and easy movement of a nocturnal animal. The
riverman had discarded his spiked boots and taken to moccasins. His gait
was the bent-kneed amble of the confirmed woods-loafer. It was not
pretty, and it looked slouchy and slow; but it carried him along at a
tremendous rate. Now and then he paused and waited for the young boss,
but made no comment. They left the river and took to the bush, following
a course presumably known to Cottrell. They crossed swamps and wormed
through alder swales, coming out again on pine and hardwood ridges. Joe
was hopelessly lost and bewildered. He had no idea of the direction in
which they were going.

"You're sure you're heading right?" he asked.

"Why, of course," said Cottrell, surprised at the question.

About two o'clock in the morning he halted by a little creek.

"We better take a spell," he said. "You ain't used to this, but the
travellin' will be better from now on."

Joe was glad to sit down. His legs ached, and he was torn by limbs and
briers; but besides the purely physical fatigue was that which comes of
travelling an unknown route without the faintest idea of how much of it
you are covering. He stretched himself out with his back to a log.
Cottrell built a fire and hung a little pail over it. When the water
boiled he made tea, and they ate. Afterward they smoked. Warmed and
weary, Joe began to nod.

"We better be gettin' on," said Cottrell.

Once more they plunged into the forest, but it was more open and, as the
riverman had foretold, the going was easier. Gradually the stars paled
in the east, and a faint gray light succeeded. Then came the rosy
streaks of dawn. Cottrell halted and held up his hand. Faint in the
distance sounded the measured music of an axe.

"We're in time," said Cottrell.

They came out on the river and on McCane's rear. Cottrell led the way
back into the bush and when they emerged again it was at the dam. The
dam pond was brown with logs, and they were being sluiced through in a
great hurry. A crew of unkempt, tousled rivermen manned the booms and
kept the sticks hustling. Rough Shan McCane stood on the boom by the
water-gate directing operations, and his profane urgings came to them
above the sound of the water. As they stood on the bank, rifles under
their arms, one of the men caught sight of them and pointed. Immediately
they became the nucleus of all eyes. McCane came ashore accompanied by
half a dozen of his crew. He walked up to the new comers.

"What do yez want?" he demanded.

"When will you be sluiced through?" Joe asked.

"What business is that of yours?" growled the rough one.

"You know what business it is of mine," Joe answered. "My drive's coming
down. And I'll tell you something more, McCane, we're going to camp
right here till it does. I warn you now--don't try to wreck this dam!"

"Wreck the dam, is it?" said McCane innocently. "For why should we wreck
the dam?"

"I suppose you don't know that the one above went out and hung my drive
for a week," said Joe with sarcasm.

"Is that so?" said McCane with mock sympathy. "Well, well, ye do be in
hard luck. What's the guns for? Deer is out o' season. Yon's a
pretty-lookin' rifle, now. I'll bet it cost ye somethin'. Let me have a
look at it."

He stretched out his hand casually, and suddenly leaped. His hand
fastened on the rifle barrel. Instantly Cottrell's weapon sprang to a
level.

"Drop that, McCane!" snapped the little riverman. "You men keep back
there, or I'll onhook her into you."

Rough Shan looked into the ominous tube and slowly released his grip.
"Don't ye get gay wid that gun!" he warned. "I could have ye jailed for
pointin' it at me."

The little man's bright eyes twinkled behind the sights. "If she went
off as she's pointin' now you wouldn't know what happened," he announced
gravely.

Joe backed up alongside him. "We're not looking for trouble," said he,
"but the man who tries any funny business with that dam will get hurt.
Go ahead with your sluicing, or my drive will be down on top of you."

"Will it?" said McCane. "Then, let me tell ye this, young felly, it'll
stop till I get through. I'll sluice when I please." Behind him his men
growled angrily. He shook his fist and roared, forth a flood of
blasphemy.

To Joe's utter amazement it was answered by Cottrell. The little man's
language was fairly blood-curdling. His words snapped and crackled with
venom. Such a "cursing out" had never been heard along the Wind. Finally
his voice cracked.

"Burn our camp, would ye?" he croaked hoarsely in conclusion. "Hang our
drive, would ye? Blow a dam on us, an' think for to do it again! The man
that takes a stick of powder near it will never draw his pay. See them
birds!"

Fifty yards away two woodpeckers clung to the bark of a tree, hopping
and tapping in search of the worms that were their food. Dave Cottrell's
rifle swung to his shoulder. Two reports followed, spaced inappreciably
by the jangle of the magazine action. Two mangled masses of bloody
feathers fell from the tree. The little man regarded the unkempt crew
with evil eyes.

"Lemme see one o' ye make a bad move!" he challenged, and there was
death in his voice.

Not a man made a move, bad or otherwise. Cottrell chose a spot
overlooking the packed logs and the sliding water of the sluiceway.
There he sat down, rifle on knees, and smoked. He had apparently talked
himself out, for he answered Joe's remarks with customary brevity.

In half an hour McCane quit sluicing. He and his crew came ashore and
lit their pipes, lounging in the sun. The men from the rear came in and
the whole camp rested. This continued all day. It was evident that
McCane had a purpose in view. With the fall of night Joe and Cottrell
moved down on the dam. The stars gave an intermittent light. The banks
were deep in shadow, but objects could be made out on the river.

"You better lie down and get some sleep," Dave advised his boss. "Then
you can spell me later. They won't touch the dam till their logs is
through, likely, but they may try to do us up."

Joe rolled up in his blanket and presently slept. The fires of the camp
died down. Save for the deep roar of rushing water the night was still.

About twelve o'clock three stones, thrown simultaneously, whizzed out of
the darkness. Two missed Cottrell's head by a few inches; the third,
thrown short, struck Joe's shoulder a glancing blow as he lay in his
blanket.

As he woke with a startled cry Cottrell's rifle spat a rod of flame into
the dark. The man fired three shots and paused. A stick cracked in the
bushes. Instantly he fired twice more at the sound, and listened. The
camp was astir. Men poured out cursing in three languages. Through the
babel Cottrell tried to make out the sound of footsteps. Failing, he
fired once more, on general principles.

"Stop it, Cottrell!" cried Joe. "We don't want to kill any one."

"If one o' them rocks had hit my head it would have killed _me_,"
snarled Cottrell. "I'll put the fear o' God in their rotten hearts!" He
shoved in fresh cartridges savagely.

"I think you've put it there now," Joe commented as the row subsided.
"But don't shoot at their camp, or they'll start shooting back. They
must have a gun in their outfit."

Boom! The roar of a shotgun shattered the silence, and the shot pellets
pattered against the logs and stones. Boom! the second barrel spoke.

"Damn scatter-gun!" said Cottrell with contempt, and fired one shot. The
crowd stampeded for cover as the bullet whined a foot above their heads.
"It's all right--I held high," he explained. "It'd be just my darn luck
to get one o' them little shots in the eye. Now they won't do no more
shootin'."

This prediction proved correct. The night passed without further
incident. With daylight McCane's cook appeared and made up his fire.
Later the crew crawled out of their dingy tents. A few washed at the
river; but most made no attempt at a toilet. They sat on the ground and
wolfed down their food. With the last mouthful they reached for tobacco.

"Red McDougals, Callahans, and Charbonneaus--a dirty bunch," said
Cottrell. The little man had sluiced himself with icy water from top to
toe in the gray of the dawn, and was now frying slices of pork strung on
green twigs above a small fire. "Some day the small pox will do a good
job for 'em. Look at them scratch their backs against the rocks. Ugh!"
His disgust was too deep for words. McCane emerged from his tent and
Cottrell cursed him with venom.

"What have you got against the man?" asked Joe reaching for a slice of
bread.

"He beat up a chum of mine once," Cottrell replied, "a little feller
about my size that had no chance agin him. I'll get him yet for that. I
wish t' God he'd made a move yesterday, an' I'd 'a' blowed his head
off!"

"Now, look here, Dave," said Joe, "we're here to protect the dam, and
that's all. I won't have any feud mixed up with it."

"I ain't mixin' it," said Cottrell. "I'm just prayin' he'll have the
nerve to walk out to the sluice gate with a stick of powder in his hand
or even a bulge in his shirt."

But McCane and his crew lay around camp. Nobody went out on the booms or
touched a log. The Kent drive would soon be running into their rear, and
this meant confusion as well as delay. Joe finally left Cottrell on the
dam and walked down to the camp.

"See here, McCane," said he, "you've got to get your logs out of my way.
You can't hang me up like this."

McCane leered up at him insolently from where he lay stretched on the
ground, resting comfortably against a log.

"Can't I? Not a log goes through till I'm good an' ready."

"But you've got no right----" Joe began hotly, and paused as he saw the
living sneer in the other's eyes. He realized that argument was worse
than useless and went back to his position. There he awaited the coming
of MacNutt and his own crew, wondering what had delayed them.

MacNutt had been delayed for a few hours by a small jam, but finally he
ran into the logs of McCane's rear. He reached the dam at the head of a
dozen indignant "bully-boys," and he and Joe tackled McCane.

"You've got to move your logs," Joe told him again.

"Not till I get ready," McCane answered as before.

"You think you'll hang our drive, do you?" said MacNutt. "Well, you
won't. You get your crew out on them booms at once and go to sluicing."

McCane merely grinned.

"Get at it!" cried the foreman furiously, and took a step forward.

Rough Shan did not yield an inch.

"If you want a fight you can have it quick," said he. "Me men have quit
me. I can't pay their wages; I'm hung up meself."

"That's a poor lie," said MacNutt.

"Ask them," returned McCane. "If ye will step out here I'll beat the
face off of ye!"

MacNutt ignored the challenge and questioned the men. They backed up
Rough Shan's statement surlily. Convinced that they were lying but
unable to prove it, Joe and MacNutt held council. They had to get their
logs through, and the only way to do it was to sluice McCane's first,
and charge him with the time.

"A lot of good that will do," said Joe. "He'll let us sluice them and
then hang us up somewhere again."

"Not if I can help it," said MacNutt. "I think I can work a game on him.
Act as if you were good and sore."

They returned to Rough Shan.

"Your men say they won't work," said Joe. "We'll do your sluicing for
you, but you'll pay us for it."

"Like hell I will," said Rough Shan. "I'll sluice me own logs when I get
a fresh crew."

"You want to hang us up, do you?" cried Joe, finding no difficulty in
simulating anger. "You can't do it. My men will pitch the whole bunch of
you into the pond if I give them the word. I'll put your logs through.
MacNutt, start the sluicing."

"I warn ye to let my logs alone," said Rough Shan. "I'll hold ye
responsible for every stick that goes through the chute."

"All right," said Joe, and turned away.

The sluicing began at once. MacNutt issued private instructions to
Cooley and Cottrell. They started upstream, where they were shortly
joined by ten more. There they picked up a peakie, and laboriously
portaged the heavy boat through the woods well out of sight of the dam,
setting it in the water below. With another trip they brought augers,
boom-chains and shackles, and a manilla rope. Embarking they ran
downstream two miles.

At that point the river ran past the mouth of a backwater, an old
channel, now an almost currentless little lake, reedy, with shores of
floating bog and bottomed with ooze of unknown depth. The water ran into
it sluggishly, and drained out half a mile below over muddy shallows.
Logs once ensnared in this backwater could be taken out only at the cost
of much time and labour.

The dozen, working at speed, constructed a boom of logs shackled end to
end. This they strung slantwise across the stream. One end was moored to
the lower side of the backwater's inlet; the other to the opposite bank
upstream. Thus logs coming down were deflected to the backwater. Six men
with pike poles manned the boom, walking to and fro on the precarious
footing, shoving the logs, as they came down, toward the slough. The
others saw them safe inside. Dave Cottrell sat in midstream in the
peakie, a rifle across his knees, watching either bank.

The work proceeded merrily, for the rivermen enjoyed the trick. Late in
the afternoon half a dozen of McCane's crew hove in sight. When they saw
the boom and comprehended its meaning they ran forward to cut its
moorings.

"You get back there!" yelled Cottrell, raising his rifle. As they paid
no attention to him he fired. The bullet cut dirt at the toes of the
foremost. "I'll drop one of ye next time," Cottrell warned them, his
eyes glued to the sights.

They halted and cursed him.

"When I count twenty I'm goin' to start shootin' the hats off of ye,"
said Cottrell. "If I was on shore I could do it easy, an' hurt no one.
Out here the water jiggles the boat, an' I may go high or low.
One--two--three----"

He began to count. At "ten" they gave back; at "fifteen" they were in
full retreat.

McCane, when the news was brought to him, ran out on the booms, his face
working with rage. Profanity spewed from his mouth in a steady stream.

"You'll bring every log out o' that backwater or I'll know why," he
thundered. "A dirty trick!"

"Dealin' with you we're dirty every time from now out, and you can tie
to that," MacNutt told him. "Every log in your drive is goin' into that
backwater if she'll hold them. You'll get them out yourself, or train
beavers to do it for you. You stinkin', lowdown Mick, you've been givin'
us dirt all winter. Here's where we get square. Now get off o' these
booms, or I'll bash in your head with a peavey. If I say 'sic 'em' to
the boys you know what'll happen. You won't have camp nor crew nor
nothin' in ten minutes, an' you'll spend the summer in a hospital, like
enough. I'm _sick_ of you! Get out!"

McCane's courage was beyond question, but the odds were against him.
Twenty hardened fighters, every one of whom thirsted for a chance to
trample on his face with caulked boots, crowded up behind MacNutt. His
crew, rough and tough as they were, were outnumbered, and Kent's men
were picked "bully-boys" with a score to even.

"All right," said he. "You hear _me_, MacNutt--I'll get even with you
an' Kent. It's comin' to both of ye. The woods ain't big enough for me
an' you now."

"Bah!" said MacNutt, and spat.

McCane went ashore. MacNutt shut down the sluicing with darkness. In the
morning it began again. That day saw McCane's entire drive packed in the
backwater. He was helpless to prevent it.

Kent's logs slid down merrily into the free current, and Rough Shan and
his wild crew cursed the rear out of sight as it swept around a bend
below. Then they went at the tedious task of extricating their own drive
from the backwater. Rough Shan the next day put Callahan in charge and
departed, as he said, to see about supplies, for his grub was running
low.



XVII


In due course the Wind River logs reached McColl's Sney, where Tobin and
Deever had already brought their respective drives, and were waiting
impatiently with McKenna for the others. A strong crew had gone upriver
to lend a hand, and as soon as MacNutt's logs got within a few miles the
booms were opened and the entire drive thrown into the current.

McColl's boasted a post-office, and there Joe found a stack of mail
awaiting him, among it half a dozen letters from Jack; and it is a sad
commentary on his attention to business that he opened these first.

Jack did not run to sentiment in correspondence. Her letters were frank,
newsy notes, and she was keenly interested in the drive and all that
pertained to it. She wrote much as a partner in the business might
write, giving here and there a bit of advice from Bill Crooks's ripe
experience; but beneath the frank words and often slangy phrases ran a
tender undercurrent which Joe was quick to detect.

"What a little brick she is," he said to himself as he folded her last
letter and placed it carefully in an inside pocket. "When we get into
touch with the railway, I'll bring her up to see the drive. She'd like
that, bless her little heart."

This was the real thing at last. He knew that thenceforth no pleasure
would be perfect which she did not share, no sorrow too great to be
borne with her help. He looked at the logs, acres and acres of them
herded in the booms and drifting by in the current, at the steel-shod
rivermen who ran here and there pushing and guiding, at his camp set
back beneath the budding trees; and he realized that the mainspring of
his life and his endeavour had changed. It was no longer the
business--his father's business--personal pride, nor the desire to
succeed that held him to effort; but it was Jack--straight, slim little
Jack, with the crown of dark hair and the frank, fearless eyes. From
such realizations spring success.

The next letter he opened was from Locke, and the news it contained was
not only unexpected but very good indeed.

    You will be surprised to hear the action against Garwood _et
    al._ has been discontinued, Crooks agreeing with me that we
    should accept the terms of settlement offered, which, however,
    did not proceed from Garwood directly. As a matter of fact, the
    action was getting out of the realm of law into that of
    politics. The newspapers were beginning to sit up and take
    notice, and it looked as if our innocent little lawsuit might
    blossom into a general investigation which, in turn, might
    involve a number of prominent people. At this stage I received
    an intimation that if we dropped the action we could have what we
    wanted, and after consultation with Crooks we decided to do so.

    Having the whip hand we were by no means modest in our demands.
    You will hear no more of the proceedings in contempt against you
    for your disregard of the Court's order re-trespass upon
    Clancys' limits, and destruction of their property. So, too,
    Clancys' action against you for the said destruction will be
    withdrawn. In future you will both receive a fair share of
    orders from the contractors who have been boycotting you; you
    will get a fair deal in buying timber berths; the railway will
    give you all the cars you want; and there will be no
    discrimination against you in haulage rates. This means that
    your businesses will be henceforth on a fair competitive basis
    in the above respects, which is all you can expect. It also
    means that the riot act has been read to Garwood by some people
    who are in a position to read it. Just how he was persuaded to
    crawl down I don't know, though I rather think a threat of
    legislation affecting his railways was the means used. You see
    he might very easily be forced to spend anywhere from half a
    million up on useless frills and equipment merely as a
    beginning. Anyway, you may depend upon these terms of settlement
    being carried out.

    But all the same you are by no means out of the woods, and a
    great deal depends upon your ability to deliver your logs to
    Wismer & Holden by July 1st. I am satisfied in my own mind that
    their offer and the "little joker" in the contract were both
    inspired by Garwood; also that they will not give you an hour's
    grace. McDowell, of the Farmers' National, tells me that his
    bank cannot carry you after that date--indeed, only the
    practical certainty of your filling the contract induced them to
    finance you to the extent which they did. If you don't make good
    they will shut down on you, and proceed to realize on what
    securities they hold. Then, a payment will be due on your
    mortgage to the Northern Loan Company. You need not expect any
    leniency from them. So, if I were you, I'd hustle the logs down
    day and night.

Joe was delighted with the first part of the letter. With fair
competition in the future he saw plain sailing ahead. But the latter
part gave him some uneasiness.

It was then well along in May, and the drive was at least three weeks
later than it should have been, due to the backward season and to the
unforeseen delays. That night Joe held council with his foremen. The
probabilities were carefully canvassed, and at the end of the discussion
old Dennis McKenna voiced the general opinion.

"We can make her with a week or two to spare--if we don't strike a snag
somewheres," said he. "That's allowin' for usual hard luck, too. The
river's risin' now. The snows up north are meltin' and she'll boom soon.
That'll help us a lot."

Day after day the brown logs of Kent's big drive slipped down the
current. He had experienced foremen and a strong driving crew. A log no
sooner touched the shore than it was thrust back into deep water. The
drive was strung for miles, and all along the banks prowled husky
rivermen, peavey or pike pole in hand, keeping the sticks hustling.

MacNutt and the Wind River crew, reinforced by most of Deever's, had the
rear, which usually means hard work, for none of the logs must be left
behind. McKenna travelled daily up and down the banks overseeing the
whole, and Joe tramped with him. Tobin, ahead, kept a sharp lookout for
obstructions and possible jams. But so far not a jam worth mentioning
had formed.

"She's too good to last," said McKenna one night. "Tobin will hit the
Silver Chain to-morrow, and then look out. I figured on higher water
than this."

The Silver Chain was a succession of rapids greatly disliked by river
drivers. It extended for a couple of miles, white, torn patches of water
with some clear current between. The banks were steep, sheer rock
fringed with dwarf pines, frowning ceaselessly at the foam and turmoil
below. Jams had a habit of forming there, and nearly always some sort of
trouble occurred. The crew had calculated upon this and they got it, for
early the next day Tobin sent them word of a jam which he had not been
able to break, and demanded more men.

"And she's a bad one, sure enough," said McKenna, when he and Joe
arrived.

The jam had occurred in a rapid familiarly known as "Hell's Bumps,"
about midway in the Chain. Just how it had formed nobody knew. The logs
were running free when suddenly half a dozen plugged and held for an
instant only, but it was sufficient for others to pile on top of them.
Every moment brought down fresh sticks, and the fast water flung them at
the growing mass to make a part of it. Some shoved, up-ended, and forced
others aloft. The face of the jam rose high, abrupt, and dangerous. The
tail grew swiftly upstream. By the time McKenna arrived it had become a
genuine, old-time "teaser." The foremen went over it carefully, with
glum faces, for this meant more delay; no one could tell how long it
would take to break it. They pondered the current and the depth of water
as they knew it by experience, and were not encouraged.

"Sooner or later we'll have to use powder on her," said McKenna; "we
might as well use it sooner."

He set the crew to work picking out logs so that the dynamite might be
exploded in the bowels of the monster. The men worked with a will but
gingerly, for the task was dangerous. The dynamite was placed deep in
the jam. When it exploded the mass heaved, shook, buckled, and moved a
few yards downstream, where it plugged again. Nothing had been gained.

"It'd take a carload of powder to root her out," said Tobin in disgust.
"We'll just have to dig into her with the peavies, Dinny, and trust to
luck."

So they dug with the peavies for three days, and nothing happened.
Occasionally there would be a quiver and a long, shuddering groan as if
a monster were awaking from sleep; and once a series of startling,
premonitory cracks and a sharp movement set the jam crew zig-zagging for
shore. But this proved a false alarm, for the tremendous pack of timber
merely settled down and squatted immutably upon its brown haunches, the
bristling top of it seeming to grin defiance at the puny efforts of man.

"If it takes a trainload of powder we've got to break it," said Joe
desperately, and telegraphed Wright from the nearest station to send on
a supply of high-explosive.

As the keystone supports an arch so key-logs hold a jam. If they can be
found and dislodged, the jam collapses and disentangles. Finding them is
difficult, laborious, and very dangerous. If there are dams above, a
head of water is sometimes let loose suddenly and the jam swept away.
But there were no dams, so that Kent had his choice between manual
labour, which is slow and costly, and dynamite, which is sudden but
uncertain. By way of compromise he used both, and still the logs did not
move.

He began to feel a strange personal enmity toward them. They were his,
bought by his money, cut by his crew, inanimate, senseless things. And
yet in the mass they seemed to possess a personality, a living spirit of
pure, balky cussedness; they lay in bulk, a brown shaggy monster that
obstinately refused to heed the voice of its master.



XVIII


Joe stood on the jam, watching the crew dry-picking out the logs and
throwing them into the water, burrowing down for a place to use more
powder, when his name was shouted. He looked up, and his heart gave a
decided thump. Above him stood William Crooks and Jack.

Joe leaped the logs and ran up the bank. "How did you get here?" he
cried. "Why didn't you let me know you were coming?"

"We thought we'd surprise you," said Jack sedately. "I persuaded dad. I
wanted to see how _our_ drive was coming down."

"It isn't coming down just now," Joe observed. "We can't stir it. Here,
come over to my tent and make yourselves at home. Oh, Jimmy," he called
to the cook, "rustle a good meal, will you? Spread yourself on something
fancy, now."

The cook grinned amiably, and became suddenly shamefaced as Jack smiled
at him. "I ain't got much fixin's," he apologized. "If th' lady, there'd
tell me what she'd like----"

"Why, you're Jimmy Bowes!" cried Jack. "I remember you, twelve years ago
on dad's camp on the Little Canoe. You used to give me lumps from the
brown sugar barrel. Jimmy, I'll always love you for that."

Jimmy Bowes blushed to the top of his bald head as he shook hands.
"You've growed," said he. "Sure, I remember, but I didn't think you'd
know the old bull-cook. You're--you're real purty!" Suddenly embarrassed
by his own candour and Joe's laughter he retreated to his own domain
where, cursing his cookee, he plunged into preparations for a
magnificent meal.

McKenna and MacNutt came ashore and met Crooks.

"Well, boys," said the old lumberman, "she's a teaser, hey!"

"You bet," replied McKenna. "She's solid as a cellar--froze to the
bottom all the way. Still, the water's risin' now, an' she may pull most
any time." He did not believe a word of his statement, but he spoke so
that Joe should not be discouraged. Crooks, who did not believe a word
of it either, nodded.

"That's the way with big jams. I remember, thirty years ago on
Frenchman's Creek--" He drew McKenna and MacNutt out of earshot,
relating his story. Suddenly he stopped. "Look here, Dinny, if this jam
don't break mighty soon young Kent goes out of business."

"Well, I wish t' God I knew how to break her," said McKenna. "The boys
can't work harder than they're doing. We've put in shots 't'd rip a
mountain loose, and she just lays back her ears and sits tighter."

Meanwhile Jack and Joe walked upstream along the bank. Here and there on
the flanks of the wooden monster crews of men picked away with peavies.
The clean smell of the millions of feet of freshly cut, wet timber
struck the nostrils. The water tore and snarled at the wedged logs, and
little streams shot through the mass, hissing and gurgling; the voice of
the checked river was deep and angry.

"To-morrow we're going to fill it up with powder and see what that
does," said Joe. "With the rising water it may start things. If it does
not--" He shrugged his shoulders. If the jam did not "pull" soon he was
broken, and he knew it.

Jack slid her arm in his. "Dad says the big jams go when you least
expect it. This will. You have time yet, Joey-boy."

He patted her hand. "It's good of you, Jack. Anyway, I've done my best,
and if I'm downed this time I can make a fresh start. I know something
about the business now."

Jack looked at him and nodded. He was quite unlike the neatly tailored
Joe Kent of a year before. He wore a battered felt hat, a gray shirt,
trousers cut off below the knees, and heavy woollen stockings. On his
feet were the "cork boots" of the riverman. Already he had mastered the
rudiments of "birling," and could run across floating logs, if not
gracefully at least with slight chance of a ducking. He was bronzed and
hard, and his hands were rough and calloused. But the difference went
deeper than outward appearance. He was stronger, graver, more
self-reliant, and the girl recognized and approved of the change.

The day faded into dusk. Big fires were lighted at the camp. Crooks and
his daughter remained for supper; afterward they were to drive back to
the little town, coming back the next morning to see the big shots let
off.

Crooks lit a cigar and joined the foremen, to discuss the jam and the
probability of breaking it, and yarn of his own experiences with mighty
rivermen whose names were now but traditions. The men lay about the
fires, smoking and talking. They were tired, and the popular vocalists,
shy because there was a girl in the camp, hung back and muttered profane
refusals when asked to sing. Jack was disappointed. "I haven't heard a
shanty song sung by a crew in ages. I wish they would wake up. Am I the
wet-blanket?"

"I'll go over and tell them to sing anything you like," Joe offered
promptly.

"No, that wouldn't do. Some of them are going to their blankets already.
To-morrow night--when the jam is broken--we'll have a celebration. I'll
sing to them myself."

"If it _is_ broken!"

"Now, Joe," she reproved him severely, "you brace up. We're going to
break that jam to-morrow; and we're going to deliver our logs on time,
and don't you dare to even _think_ we're not. I tell you we are! Don't
get discouraged, for we're going to win out."

"You're a good booster, Jack" he said, smothering a sigh. "Of course we
are. And once we get through here we'll have plain sailing."

He pressed her hand gratefully. It was something to receive
encouragement, even if it was plainly labelled, and he would not be so
ungracious as to tell her so. Crooks loomed out of the darkness and
called for his team. Half an hour afterward Joe was the only man awake
in camp, and he drifted into slumber with the memory of the soft touch
of Jack's lips as they lay for a moment on his.

In the morning the jam was sown with dynamite, planted deep beneath the
logs at points approved by McKenna. Crooks and Jack arrived. The men
came ashore and waited anxiously.

Almost simultaneously, columns of water, strips of bark and twisted,
riven wood shot high in the air, and the detonations thundered back from
the rocks. A rumbling growl issued from the inwards of the wooden
monster. It heaved and rose. Logs toppled down the face of it, and then
the whole front cascaded in wild confusion. Just when it seemed that the
whole thing must go motion ceased. The shaggy, bristling brute settled
back into immobility. The shots had failed.

Bosses and men swore fervently. These continued failures were blots on
their records as rivermen. Their employer needed those logs badly, and
it was up to them not to disappoint him. The jam was big and ugly, but
it must be broken. Doggedly they climbed out on the logs again and set
to work.

When the jam failed to "pull," Kent looked at Jack, reading the bitter
disappointment in her face. Somehow it helped him to conceal his own.

"Better luck next time, girlie," he said. "Anyway, we made a lot of
noise."

She smiled back at him, but her lips quivered, "Of course it will pull
next time; it can't help it."

"Of course not," he agreed, being quite convinced to the contrary.

They fell silent, gloomily watching the crew at work. Below them a man
clamped his peavey into a log at the base of the pile and swung back on
it so that the tough stock bent like a whip. Failing to move it he
called a comrade. They pried and boosted, their clinging shirts bulging
with the swell of their back-muscles. Suddenly the log came away.
Immediately a groan rose from the timbers. The men sprang to alertness.
Crackings and complainings ran through the mass.

The girl caught Joe's arm.

"It's going out, Joe! It's going out! Oh, see it pull!"

There was no doubt of it. The jam "pulled" with the bellow of a maddened
beast. Logs shot outward, upward, downward--every way, rolling over and
over, smashing, up-ending, grinding. Through them the white, torn water
boiled madly. The core of the jam seemed to leap bodily downstream and
then split into fragments.

Over the turmoil the rivermen fled for shore, each man balancing himself
with his peavey, held low across his body. Their flight was swift, but
unhurried and calculated. In face of the deadliest peril of the
riverman--the breaking jam--they were cool and wary, timing to a nicety
leap from tossing log to tossing log.

Suddenly, opposite the watchers, a man lost his footing and pitched
forward. Another, twenty feet away, cleared the space with two leaps,
caught the first by the collar and dragged him upright, but the man
sagged down, evidently badly hurt. The other dropped his peavey, heaved
him up in his arms and, thus burdened, made for shore. He sprang once,
twice, hampered by his load. Then a wave of smashing timber surged down
and over them. They were blotted from the world, effaced without even a
stain on the torn water.

Jack, deadly white, with shining eyes and parted lips, stared at the
spot where they had been.

"Oh, the brave boy--the poor, brave boy!" she cried. "Who was he, Joe?"

"Ward--Ward and McClung, two of my best men--chums," Joe told her
bitterly. "I wouldn't have--Jack! Jack, look there!"

Strung along the jam as the men were when it pulled, some of them had no
direct route for shore. Among these were McKenna, Dave Cottrell, and
Hill and Laflamme of Deever's crew. The last three were noted "white
water birlers," experts upon logs under any and all conditions, and
McKenna, the old walking boss, in his best days had never found a man
who could put him off a stick of pine.

When the jam began to pull they were opposite a stretch of rocky bank
that offered no way of escape.

"Boys," said McKenna, "it's a bad chance, but we've got to take
it--we've got to ride her down."

As he spoke the log on which he stood pitched sideways beneath him. He
left it as a bird leaves a bough, alighting on another, and ran the
tossing mass downstream. Cottrell, active as a squirrel, kept close to
him. Hill and Laflamme, too, kept together but without premeditation,
for each instinctively took the course that looked best to him. They
dodged over and across the up-ending, smashing timbers, avoiding death at
each spring by the thickness of a hair. It was this sight which had
caused Joe Kent's exclamation.

Hill was the first to go. Just once he miscalculated by the fraction of
an inch. He disappeared without a sound. Laflamme, just behind him,
sprang across the spot where his companion had been, his eyes widening,
his teeth bared and set, his gaudy voyageur's sash streaming from his
waist, a bright flag fluttering in the face of destruction. Suddenly an
up-ending log brushed his thigh. It was little, but it threw him from
his stride. His shriek soared high above the roar of wood and water as
the great logs nipped out his life.

Neither McKenna nor Cottrell looked back, though they heard the cry.
Their own case was too perilous. A log thrust up suddenly beneath
Cottrell's feet and threw him into the air as if he had been shot from a
springboard. He alighted on his feet again by the purest of luck, and
seeing an opening of water and a free log, leaped on it, whence he made
his way to shore. McKenna, dead-beat, gained the outlying logs and fell
as he reached solid earth.

Behind them the jam swept by in tossing, foaming grandeur, the backed-up
water scouring all before it. McKenna staggered to his feet and waved a
gaunt arm.

"Into her, boys, and keep her hustling!" he shouted.

But MacNutt and Deever were already on their way upstream. Tobin and his
crew attacked the outlying logs and flung them into the current. Soon
the channel was brown with the shooting sticks, flashing by in the
racing water.

Jack, pale and shaken, sat and watched them go by. The bright sun, the
dancing water, the bird songs from the woods, and the fierce activity of
the rivermen were all at variance with the vision of sudden death which
she had beheld. Joe, grave and silent, came up accompanied by her
father.

"I guess we'd better be going, daughter," said Crooks gently.

She shook her head. "No, dad, I'd like to stay, please. Just leave me
here. Joe has the work to see to, and you'd like to be there, too." The
men looked at each other, and her father nodded silently. They went
upstream to where the rear was working ferociously.

Jack, left alone, stared at the river, reconstructing the scene, which
she was never to entirely forget. It was the first time she had seen
men, rejoicing in the pride of their strength, wiped from life as dust
is wiped up by a damp cloth. From her childhood she had spent days and
even weeks in her father's camps, meeting the big, rough shantymen who
one and all adored her; getting glimpses of their life, but only
touching the outer shell of it; seeing them against a background of
cheerful labour, ringing axes, song and jest, as real and yet as unreal
as a stage setting--a background which in her eyes surrounded them with
the elements of romance. Of their vices she knew nothing save by
hearsay; of the tragedy of their lives she knew even less. Now, before
her young eyes, Fate had swooped and struck instantly and without
warning. Small wonder that she was shocked.

And she was shocked, also, by the apparent callousness of the dead men's
comrades. They worked carelessly, as it seemed, about the very spot
where the others had died. But here common sense came to her aid. The
logs--Joe's logs, their logs--must be got out. No matter what toll the
river claimed the drive must go down and to market.

It was the way of the world. In this as in other things, human life was
the cheapest of commodities; its loss the least important hindrance, of
less practical moment than the breakage of an ingenious man-made
machine. She sighed as the realization came to her. It seemed heartless,
yet she could not escape it. Sitting on the log, staring at the river,
her lips moved in almost unconscious prayer for the men who had died
like men, doing the work they were paid to do.



XIX


With the breaking of the big jam the luck of the drive seemed to change.
The river was rising, the water was good, the logs travelled freely day
and night without halt. Indeed, the delays seemed about to prove
blessings in disguise, for other firms' drives, more fortunate, would be
out of the way. Also when they reached the lower almost currentless
stretches of the river, down which the logs would have to be towed in
booms by steamers, there would be no delay. But these calculations were
upset one day when they got news of a drive just ahead of them.

Straightway Tobin and Joe went down to see about it. Sure enough there
was a drive, and as he looked at the end of a stranded log the foremen
swore indignantly, for on it was stamped the "CB" of Clancy Brothers.

"It's their drive from Basket Lake," said Tobin. "They should have had
it down three weeks gone." As they passed downstream he called Joe's
attention to the rear crew. "Look at that. See 'em sojerin' on the job.
They're loafin', every mother's son of them, and they've a stronger crew
than they need, too."

They found Clancys' river-boss, Tom Archer by name, smoking a pipe and
watching the indolent efforts of half a dozen men who were not even
pretending to hustle.

"I thought you would have been down long ago," said Tobin. "Our drive is
right behind, and we'll be bumping your rear to-morrow if you don't get
some ginger into your crew."

"They're a lazy bunch," said Archer without the flicker of an eyelid. "I
just have to do the best I can with them. I've cursed them till my
throat went back on me."

Tobin regarded him narrowly. "Let me handle them for twenty-four hours
and I'll show you a difference."

"Thanks, but I can run my job myself," said Archer dryly.

"The point is," Joe explained, "that my drive is coming down a-humping,
and we need all our time because we have a delivery contract to fill.
Can you keep ahead of us, do you think?"

"Couldn't say," returned Archer.

"I don't want to run down on top of you," said Joe. "How would it be if
I turned a dozen men into your rear to lend a hand?"

Archer regarded him in silence for a ten-second interval. "When I need
your help, bub, I'll ask for it."

"I didn't mean it that way," Joe explained. "I don't suppose you want to
delay me. It's about four days to Moore's Rapids. Will you oblige me by
booming there till I get through? Of course I'll pay for the time of
your crew."

"No," Archer replied. "I have my rights on the river and I don't have to
get out of your way. You can tail along behind me."

"The hell we can!" flared Tobin, whose temper was always set on a
hair-trigger. "Do you think we ain't onto you, Archer. What's Clancys
payin' you for doin' their dirty work?"

Archer put his pipe in his pocket with deliberation. "Any more talk like
that, Tobin, and you and me will settle it right here," he announced.

Tobin, nowise loath, would have accepted the challenge instantly, but
Joe restrained him and pointed to a man who appeared on the bank.

"It's quite plain what this gentleman is up to, Tobin. There's Rough
Shan McCane. I guess any more talk is waste time."

McCane sprang down like a cat and advanced truculently. "Tom," said he
to Archer, "I'm going to give this young feller a father of a lickin'
an' put the boots to him afterward. You look after the other one."

Joe did not assume any attitude popularly supposed to be one of defence,
but the bunched shoulder muscles crept and crawled beneath his shirt,
and Archer, eying him carefully, interposed a decided negative.

"No, you won't. I don't want any trouble with Mr. Kent or his crew. If
they crowd us it'll be different."

"It'll be a lot different," said Tobin. "You're McCane, are you? I've
heard of your doin's this winter. You've got it comin' to you, me buck,
tie into that."

Then and there hostilities would have started but for Joe and Archer,
who kept cool. Tobin and McCane growled at each other like leashed
fighting-dogs.

"Come along, Tobin," Joe ordered. "We're wasting time. You won't
reconsider my offer, Archer?"

"No," replied Archer flatly, "I won't. I have the right-of-way, and I'll
keep it."

The way he intended to keep it immediately became apparent. His drive
travelled with maddening slowness. His rear crew made great pretence of
working, but the feint was transparent and the tempers of Kent's men
wore under the strain. One or two fights took place, more or less
indecisive. Clearly a climax was at hand.

Joe took counsel with his foremen, and they threshed the matter out one
night sitting around the fire. It was plain that as long as Clancys'
drive kept ahead they could make no speed. Much time had already been
lost. They could not pass it on the river, and Archer would not yield
his right-of-way at Moore's Rapids. It looked like an impasse. It was
quiet Deever who suggested the only way out. Deever usually had little
to say. The reverse of Tobin, he was slow to anger, but knew no limit
when aroused, as unruly lumber jacks found to their cost. He was rather
small of frame, but built of wires and steel springs.

"If we run our drive right on top of them and mix the logs we'll make
better time than we're making now," said he. "Then we sack out our own,
and they can bring theirs along or not, as they like. There's sortin'
booms at Moore's, and we've a strong crew, just spoilin' for a scrap. If
we take charge an' cull out all Clancys' logs, why, then we get ahead.
It just means a little fight."

The foremen looked at each other and nodded. Then they looked at Joe.
"It sounds good," said he. "Of course, we haven't any right to do it."

"Not a right," said MacNutt cheerfully, "but we've got a blame good
crew."

Joe laughed. "Go to it, then," said he. "Slam the whole drive down on
top of them as soon as you can."

The speed of a drive depends upon the work of the crew, for although
logs can travel no faster than the current the more that are kept in the
current the faster the whole will travel. Kent's men sailed into the
work like demons. No log had a chance to rest. Soon the two drives
tangled and became one, although naturally Clancys' leading logs were
far in advance of Kent's. The latter's crew left the other logs
religiously alone, but Clancys' men soon began to shove Kent's logs
toward the shallows.

"Leave them logs alone!" roared Big Cooley savagely, detecting a man in
the act. The man swore back at him defiantly and shoved another log
shoreward. Cooley jumped from the log on which he stood, alighting on
the one ridden by the offender, and knocked him into the water.

In two minutes the crews were more tangled than the logs. More of Kent's
men piled downstream and joined the melee. Finally Clancys' rear crew,
badly whipped, left the field to their opponents.

When Archer heard of the fight he came back at once. "I won't stand
this," said he. "You've got no right to run into my drive."

"Keep it out of my way, then," said Joe. "I gave you your chance; I'm
going to drive clean through you."

"We'll see about that," said Archer, and took his departure.

Thereafter his crew worked hard but avoided trouble. Nevertheless the
drives were hopelessly entangled, and they drew near Moore's Rapids.

The booms at Moore's had been put in and were maintained by the various
lumber firms for their own convenience, so that one had as much right to
them as another. This was lucky for Kent, for had the booms been owned
by a river improvement company, as were those on the lower river, he
could not have carried out the high-handed act he contemplated. As it
was, the question resolved itself into whether he could seize the booms
and hold control of them while he sorted the logs. By so doing he laid
himself open to an action for damages, but he could better afford that
than further delay.

Twenty-four hours before any logs could reach Moore's, McKenna chose a
picked crew and took possession of the booms, forestalling Archer, who
intended to do that very thing himself. Therefore when he arrived with a
picked crew of his own some hours later he became righteously indignant.

"I have the right-of-way, McKenna," said he, "and my logs are going down
that channel first. You can sort out yours and wait your turn."

"I hear what you say," said McKenna from the boom. "You're making a
little mistake, Archer. _Ours_ are going through first."

"What?" cried Archer, suddenly realizing the situation. "Do you know
what the law is? The leading drive has precedence in booms, chutes, and
slides. You'd better be careful!"

"I know all that," retorted McKenna. "That's the law--_and we're going
to break it_. You'd hog the river on us, would you? Well, we'll hog the
booms and channel on you!"

Archer spat into the stream and swore. "I have nothing against you,
McKenna, but you nor no other man can hang my drive. I'll bring down my
crew and clear you off the booms. If I can't do that I'll cut them and
let the whole shootin' match go down together."

"That's big talk," said McKenna. "Now you listen here. We're doing this
cold because we have to, and you know it. We won't stop at anything.
Bring down your crew and try to clean us out if you like. We expect it.
But if you try to cut the booms it's different." He pointed to a pier
out in the current. On it in a state of splendid isolation, sat Davy
Cottrell. "That man out there has a rifle and he can hit birds flying
with it. He'll shoot the first man that touches the booms. If you don't
believe that, get somebody to try."

Shortly afterward the first logs began to arrive, and with them Archer's
entire crew. Immediately they made a determined attempt to seize the
booms, but as these were already occupied by Kent's men, against whom
they could advance only in single file, their numbers gave them little
advantage. The fight raged along the length of the slippery, swaying
boom-logs. Men knocked off into the river swam and climbed up again, or
cunningly seized others by the ankles and upset them, taking the chance
of being kicked in the face by spiked boots. Gradually Archer's men
pushed McKenna's backward and might have driven them from the booms
altogether had not the rest of Kent's crew arrived, thirsting for
battle.

Archer's crew, now hopelessly outnumbered, fought gamely. The fight
spread from booms to shore. Tobin went for Archer and met his match.
MacNutt tried to get to Rough Shan, but could not. Quiet Deever,
white-faced and eyes ablaze, his lips lifting at the corners in a
wolfish snarl, was before him.

"'Rough Shan' they call you," he gritted through set teeth. "Let's see
how rough you are, you dirty cur. Come on an' rough it with a littler
man, you lousy, camp-burnin' high-banker!" He planted a terrific right
in McCane's face, and was himself knocked sideways the next instant by a
heavy swing. They went at it hammer-and-tongs.

Joe Kent found himself paired with a smooth-faced, bronzed, shanty lad
who fought with a grin and hit with a grunt. His blows were like the
kicks of a mule, but his knowledge of boxing was rudimentary. The young
boss smashed him almost at will, but the grin never faded. Always he
came back for more, and when he landed, it jarred Joe from top to toe.
Finally they clenched and wrestled to and fro among the rough stones of
the beach. At this game Joe rather fancied himself, but all he ever
remembered of the outcome was that suddenly his feet flew into the
air--the rest was a shock, accompanied by marvellous constellations.

He came to with water sluicing his face and a hat fanning air into his
lungs. He got to his feet rather dizzily, looked around and laughed.

"You cleaned them out, did you?"

Deever, his face battered and swollen and his knuckles cut to raw meat,
grinned happily. Tobin, one eye closed and the other blinking, nodded.

"We're sluicin' now."

"We put the run on them," said McKenna, whose leathery face bore the
marks of war. "Lucky for us we had the numbers. They're hard lads, but
'tis not like they'll bother us again. Now, boys, the boss is all right.
Out on the booms with yez."

Without delay they swarmed out on the booms. Others went upstream to
hustle the logs down. The work of sorting and sluicing went forward
merrily, for Kent's logs outnumbered Clancys' in the proportion of four
to one, and besides the crew was not very particular as to the ownership
of individual logs, which could be culled out later. The main thing was
speed. Clancys' logs were sided into an inner boom; Kent's were allowed
to go down with the current. It took time, but it was worth it.

Thus Kent's big drive passed Clancys' and ran Moore's Rapids in defiance
of the law and usage of the river; but every man, from the young boss
down, was very sure that the end justified the means, and was quite
ready to take any consequences that might accrue from the high-handed
act.



XX


Joe Kent preceded his drive to Falls City by a few days. He found Wright
in great feather. Several large orders had been placed, proof that the
terms of the settlement mentioned by Locke in his letter were being
carried out. But when Joe asked the lawyer for more details the latter
shook his head.

"I can't mention names, for that was part of the arrangement," said he.
"You be satisfied with what you've got. You're a hundred times better
off than if you had merely exposed Garwood."

"I know it," Joe admitted; "but are you sure the arrangement will be
carried out?"

"Certain. You've got good orders coming in, haven't you? You won't have
anything to complain of hereafter. How about those logs? Can you deliver
them on time?"

"I think so," Joe replied.

"Well, you'd better be mighty sure before you take them past your own
booms. Wismer will refuse to accept them if he gets half a chance, and
see where that would leave you. You couldn't bring them back upstream,
and there isn't a concern on the river below Wismer that would buy them,
this side of Hughson's Mills. To get there, towing charges and tolls
would eat up your profits, and old Hughson would whipsaw you, anyway."

"Crooks says I can do it, and so do my foremen," said Joe. "I've got to
sell the logs to meet my liabilities. I'll keep barely enough for my own
mill."

"All right--if you're dead-sure," said Locke.

The situation was made very clear to Joe. He was told plainly that the
bank had gone with him as far as it would go. In the event of
non-delivery his credit would be cut off and his securities sold. The
mortgage company would enforce their rights in any event. Also there was
no doubt that Wismer & Holden would enforce to the letter the penalty
clause in their contract. These things, taken together, meant
bankruptcy. And that would mean that his marriage with Jack must be put
off indefinitely. On the other hand, if he delivered the logs he could
wipe off most of the debt, put his business on a solid basis, and ask
her to become mistress of the old Kent homestead without delay. It was
worth fighting for, and Joe's' lean jaw hardened as he swore to himself
that nothing should stop his drive.

Business claimed him by day, but the evenings he was able to spend with
Jack. They sat in the dusk of Crooks's wide veranda, watching the stars
light and wink in the June sky, while soft-winged moths fluttered
ghost-like among the shading vines. Neither was overly given to
sentiment, but in those brief evenings their confidences grew; and each,
looking into the other's inmost mind, found there only honour and
loyalty and little of ambition, but a great desire to live straightly
and cleanly and truly, thinking evil of none and doing such good as
might be.

Being ordinary young people they did not put these things into words.
They rather shied from the sentimental and high-flown, preferring the
more accustomed planes of speech and thought. But they understood each
other, and so were content. The only shadow, and a constantly recurring
one, was the question of the drive.

"If I don't make it I'm busted," said Joe practically, "and so I've got
to make it. There's no reason why I shouldn't. Now, it's this way." For
the twentieth time he went over the problem.

"Dad says you can make it," Jack agreed. "It's a week to Steven's Ferry.
Down to Burritt's Rapids is two days more. Then allow time to tow
through Thirty Mile Lake--oh, you can make it with nearly a week to
spare."

"Of course I can," said Joe, "and then, Jack, I think we'd better get
married."

She flushed to the roots of her brown hair.

"In the fall, Joe?"

"No--right away. What's the use of waiting? My business will be solid
then, and I deserve a holiday. Let's take one together."

"Well"--she considered the question gravely, without affected
hesitation--"I'd like that. I'll see what dad says about it."

"It's up to you."

"Yes--I know. Still, we'd better not leave him out."

"I don't want to. He's as good a friend as I have. What he says goes, of
course; but he won't object if you don't."

"I won't." Suddenly she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
"Oh, Joe, you've got to deliver those logs! You've got to, you've got
to!"

"Jack," he said grimly, "I'd deliver 'em now if the whole blamed river
dried up. Come down to-morrow and see them go through. We'll cut out
enough to run the mill, but the main drive will go straight ahead and
I'm going with it. I'll wire you as soon as we strike Burritt's Rapids.
I can tell then how it's going to go."

"Do you think I'll stay here?" she cried. "Dad and I are going down to
see the drive come into Wismer & Holden's booms. You'll probably see us
at Thirty Mile."

The sun was barely risen when the first logs of the big drive swung down
leisurely, their pace accelerating as the faster current above the falls
gripped them. This vanguard was run into Kent's booms, and the rivermen
cheered as they caught sight of the young boss, and cheered again for
William Crooks and his daughter who stood beside him. They ran gaily
along the slippery brown logs and danced lightly across their backs,
pushing, pulling, prodding, guiding and restraining, and the booms
filled magically.

The main drive did not halt at all. The river was crowded with logs, and
they were fed through the huge water-gates of the slides as fast and as
thick as they would run. It was beautiful, clean, uninterrupted work,
and when the last stick had shot through Joe bade Jack good-bye and
followed.

Now, at last, the drive was on the homestretch with a few days to
spare--a narrow margin, but still a margin. It was then the fifteenth of
June, and the river was at its best. Taking into consideration the high
water and consequently more rapid current, Joe hoped to reach Burritt's
Rapids by the twenty-third. That would give one week from that point to
Wismer & Holden's mills, a distance of thirty-five miles. Below
Burritt's Rapids, however, was Thirty Mile Lake, a shallow, almost
currentless expansion of the river, some thirty miles long and varying
in width from half a mile to two miles, through which the drive would
have to be towed by steamers owned by a river improvement company, who
also owned the booms above the rapids. The time occupied by towing would
depend on the weather. Therefore, although the probabilities were in
Joe's favour there was always a doubt. He must remain on the anxious
seat till the actual event.

Because of the good water the drive made Burritt's on the twenty-second
instead of the twenty-third. They made it in a heavy downriver gale with
an accompaniment of slashing rain that soaked every one to the skin.

Because a drive turned down the rapids would simply float all over the
lake and have to be gathered up again, a task involving much time and
trouble, the logs were always put through a narrow, inner channel
protected by cribwork and booms, and caught in other booms below. There
steamers took them in tow and turned them loose down other rapids at the
foot of the lake, which were about three miles above Wismer & Holden's
booms. Accordingly, when they made Burritt's with some daylight to spare
the dripping crew ran the drive into the booms and started to feed down
the inner channel. When darkness fell they winched a boom across the
narrow mouth and quit.

The ground was wet, the tents were wet, and so were the blankets.
Although it was June the wind was raw and cutting. The rain slashed and
sputtered at the fires. Clothes hung before them steamed, but
accumulated moisture faster than they dried. Altogether it was
miserable, and the rivermen cursed the weather heartily. They squatted
on the sodden ground beneath canvas that let through fine spray with
every gust, and big teardrops which had an aggravating habit of landing
on the back of the neck, and juggled tin plates piled with pork and
beans on their knees, wiping them up with huge wedges of bread.

"A curse of a night," grumbled Haggarty, shifting away from a drop which
threatened to become a stream. "Black as a cord of black cats, an'
rainin' fit to flood hell! An' not a dry stitch to me back, an' the
blanket's soaked, an' all. Fill up me plate again, you, cookee, an' slap
a dose of molasses on her. Praise be, me hide is waterproof an' the
inside of me's dry."

"An' that's more nor mine will be this day week," said big Cooley,
licking his lips in pure anticipation. "A hard winter, an' a long drive.
The throat of me aches for the rasp of a drink of the good stuff!"

"For sure, for sure," Chartrand agreed with him. "I'll be dry, me, lak
one sap maple in August. When dat drive is finish', by dam' I stay dronk
for one mont'. Hooray!"

"An' you see me so," Cooley promised. "I'll find that McCane an' put the
boots till him till he can't crawl. A dirty dog! An' Tom Archer is no
better--no, nor his bosses."

In another tent Joe and his foremen ate supper and listened to the rain,
the wind, the roar of the rapids, and the swirl of the current as it
talked against the booms. MacNutt went out and came back dripping.

"Can't see a thing," he reported. "The wind is gettin' worse, an' the
water's risen nigh a foot. How is them booms, Dinny? Our whole drive is
down by now, an' there's an awful weight on them with this wind an' the
high water."

"I went over them when we came down," returned McKenna. "They're all
right. The big lower one is three logs, and well anchored."

"They should have another anchor-pier in the middle of it," growled
MacNutt. "It has an awful belly. If it went out on us----" He paused and
shook his head.

The boom referred to was directly above the rapids, strung at an angle
across the river. Upon it came all the pressure of the logs above. It
was a massive affair, built of three logs fastened side by side and
chained to other threes end to end. The ends of the boom were secured to
huge, stone-filled piers. It appeared capable of holding any weight of
logs.

"What's the use of talkin' like that, Mac?" said Tobin, half angrily.
"You're borrowin' trouble for every one. The boom's all right. I looked
at it myself after Dinny did." Nevertheless he went out ten minutes
later and was absent sometime. "She sure has a belly on her," he said
when he returned. "She'll hold, though. I think the wind's dropped
some."

As he uttered the words a shrieking gust almost laid the tent flat. A
shout and muffled curses followed.

"I'll bet one of the men's tents has blown down," said Joe. "Hear Cooley
swear."

They grinned at each other as Cooley rose to the occasion. The wind grew
worse. The side and roof of the tent bellied in and slatted in the
squalls. Tobin went out and tautened the guy ropes.

"It'd blow the bark from a tree," he cried when he came in.

McKenna sat pulling his grizzled moustache. The wind, the rapidly rising
water, the huge weight of timber, and MacNutt's forebodings were getting
on his nerves. Suddenly he began to pull on his spiked river boots.

"What's up, Dinny?" MacNutt asked.

"I'm going to look at that boom," McKenna replied. "You've got me all
worked up over it. I _know_ it's all right; but all the same----"

"I'll go with you," said Joe, reaching for his boots.

"You're not good enough on the logs yet," said the walking boss bluntly.
"It's pitch dark and blowin' great guns. It's an old hand's job, Mr.
Kent. You'd only hinder me."

Joe realized the truth of the words.

"Well, I'm going," said MacNutt.

"Same here," said Tobin.

"Sure," said Deever.

Each man took a lantern. Joe went with them. Anyway he would go as far
as the first pier. They could hear the logs grumbling and complaining.

"I don't like it," said MacNutt. "It sounds--" He hesitated to put the
thought into words, and swung his lantern high, peering at the
intensified darkness.

"Oh, shut _up!_" snapped Tobin. "What do you want to croak for? Of
course they'll talk with the wind an' current an' all. Funny if they
wouldn't."

They ran out across the almost solid carpet of timber that filled the
head of the channel, and reached the anchor-pier of the big lower boom.
McKenna, in advance, stopped short with a gasp:

"They're moving, boys--they're _moving!_"

Slowly, with the calm certainty of irresistible might, the big drive was
on its way. The logs ground at the anchor pier and thrust and bumped at
it. The feeble rays of the upheld lanterns threw a short circle of light
on the field of timber as it slid smoothly downstream. Joe's heart, for
the first time, skipped a beat. The boom had gone out.

McKenna leaped out on the moving logs. MacNutt caught him.

"Come back, Dinny! What do you think you can do?"

McKenna's seamed face was absolutely colourless as he turned to Joe.

"He's right, Mr. Kent. I can't do a damned thing. It's my fault. I
should 'a' backed the boom with another."

His voice was vibrant with sorrow and self-accusation. He knew what it
meant to his employer. The logs, driven by the wind, would go down the
rapids and be flung far and wide over Thirty Mile Lake. To gather them
up would be a task of weeks; they could not be delivered on time.

Joe met the blow like a man. "That's all right, Dinny," he said. "It was
up to the company, not to you. Their boom was weak somewhere, that's
all. Now what can we do about it? They have two steamers below. We'll
need 'em right away. Mac, you tell 'em to get fire under their boilers,
quick. Promise 'em anything. Say you've got the company's orders--but
get 'em. Tobin, rouse out the boys and get 'em down to the boats
double-quick. Take every foot of rope and chain you can find or steal.
Deever, you open the channel boom and let everything go that will go.
Dinny, you come with me."

In five minutes they were banging at the door of the boom company's
representative, bringing that worthy citizen from his bed to the window.

"Your boom has gone out and my drive is over the rapids into the lake,"
Joe told him. "I haven't got time to talk about damages or liabilities
now. I want your steamers day and night till I sweep my logs up and
every other boat you can hire as well. I want every river man you can
lay your hands on, too. I'll pay for these things at once, pending the
adjustment of any question of responsibility. Will you do your best for
me?"

"Sure I will," said the agent. "Wait till I get my clothes on and I'll
come along. It's funny about that boom. I don't see----"

But Joe and McKenna were already out of earshot, hurrying back to the
river. The camp was buzzing like a hornet's nest. Men were catching up
ropes, chains, peavies, and pike poles and hurrying off into the
darkness. Joe, Tobin, and McKenna followed.

As they passed the head of the channel where Deever and half a dozen men
were stationed the foreman called to them:

"I've got something to show you, Mr. Kent. It won't take five minutes."

He led the way over the logs and down the cribwork and booming of the
channel, and stopped: "One end of the boom swung down here when she went
out," he said, and lowered his lantern. "Look at that!"

They bent low and peered at the ends of three joined boom-timbers. The
ends were white, square, and new.

"Sawed through, by thunder!" cried McKenna.



XXI


The _Sophie Green_, a beamy, shallow-draft, paddle-wheeled old
teakettle, lay broad-side-on to a rickety wharf which was piled with
cord wood. From the pile, across her gang-plank and back again, trotted
an endless procession of deckhands and rivermen, carrying the big sticks
that were her fuel. The fires were roaring beneath her boilers, and the
gauge was beginning to move.

A hundred yards away, at another cord wood pile, her sister craft, the
_Ada Bell_, was receiving like attentions. Out in the darkness, by the
fitful light of lanterns, half a dozen big riverboats crowded with men,
were shackling up short lengths of boom into longer ones. Chains rattled
and hammers rang on cold-shuts as the crews joined the timbers. Down the
shore for a mile and more other rivermen hunted for boats, taking
everything that would pull two pairs of oars.

When she had steam enough the _Sophie Green_ bellowed and cast off,
wallowing around in a short semi-circle. A peakie shot under her stern
and a heaving-line uncoiled across her deck. To this was attached a
hawser. It came inboard to the bucking clatter of a winch, and was made
fast to the towing bitts. Then the crew of the peakie swarmed aboard;
the peakie was hoisted up with half a dozen others, and the _Sophie_
felt her way downstream in the darkness, a half-mile of boom trailing
after her. In twenty minutes the _Ada Bell_ followed with more
boom-timbers in tow.

The river just below the rapids was obstructed by the floating logs of
the broken drive, and the _Sophie_ went through them gingerly, fearful
for her paddle-wheels. It was still pitch-dark and blowing hard, but the
rain had ceased. The lake opened out before them, scummed with foam and
torn into choppy, white-topped waves among which the logs were tossing.

Joe and McKenna were in the wheel-house with Capt. Jimmy Congdon, a
veteran of the river who had been a warm friend of William Kent's, and
was ready to do anything for his son. Captain Jimmy was broad, ruddy,
and silver-haired, with a pair of steady blue eyes that never shifted.
Periodically he spat to leeward with precision, but until the lake
opened up his whole attention was devoted to the wheel.

"Steerin' on a night like this is mostly be-guess and be-god," he
vouchsafed. "There's Six Mile Light off to sta'bo'rd. Now, young man, I
run this boat to suit you, so tell me what you want."

"I want to boom the logs the easiest and quickest way," Joe informed
him. "How would you do it?"

Captain Jimmy spat and reflected. "Blowin' like she is now logs'd jump a
boom even if we got 'em into one; but she's breezin' too hard to last.
If it was me, come daylight I'd boom off the Fire Island Channel and
sweep the floatin' stuff into it."

This advice was identical with McKenna's. Joe decided to adopt it.
Daylight found them lying to, below long, swampy Fire Island, which lay
well over toward the eastern shore. They strung a boom from the lower
end to the mainland, thus closing the channel and forming a great
pocket; and then they went at the tough job of "sweeping up" the
scattered drive.

The logs were strewn all over the upper end of the lake; but by that
strange attraction which floating objects have for one another many of
them lay in small rafts. They lay inert, motionless on the almost glassy
expanse, for the storm had blown itself out and a sunny day of almost
perfect calm succeeded. When these floating patches of timber were
reached the peakies were dumped over the side and the rivermen tumbled
into them.

The _Sophie Green_ steamed in a slow, careful circle, and when she had
completed it her half-mile of trailing boom lay in a great loop about
many patches of logs. She picked up the other end and went ahead, and
the logs naturally sagged back into the farther end of the loop.

The _Ada Bell_ went through a similar manoeuvre. Then they steamed up to
more logs, winged out one end of the boom alongside, and the men in the
peakies fed them more logs through the opening. When the booms were
full, they took them to Fire Island, emptied the logs out into the big
pocket, and came back for more.

As the morning lengthened they obtained reinforcements in the form of a
powerful tug belonging to the company and a couple of launches whose
owners were not averse to making a few honest dollars. These were of
material assistance. The tug took one end of a boom and the _Sophie_ the
other and steamed straight ahead in parallel courses. The swath of the
boom took up every log between the two boats. Then the _Sophie_ took up
both ends as before, but left a dozen lengths of boom-timbers trailing
free. These were winged out by a launch, and the rivermen fed logs down
the moving funnel thus formed. The tug, meanwhile, went to the
assistance of the _Ada Bell_.

In this manner the lake was being expeditiously cleared of the rafts of
floating logs. Joe blessed his stars for the quiet weather, but for
which he could have made but little progress, and prayed for its
continuance. He had eight days to sweep up the broken drive and bring it
through, and this was not a bit too much.

The logs floating openly in the lake were the easiest part of the job;
but there were more, strewn along the shore, washed high and dry and
embedded in the sand by the storm or caught in shallows and marshy
bays--there was where the pull would come.

In the afternoon a long, lean power-boat racketed up the lake, nosed the
logs inside Fire Island, went up one shore and down the other, and
finally ran alongside the _Sophie Green_. In it sat Wismer, and he
hailed Joe, who looked over the rail.

"This is a nice mess your drive is in, Kent," said he. "I'm afraid you
won't be able to get it down in time."

"I'll try, anyway," Joe told him.

"You can't make it," said Wismer. "Now, I don't want to be hard on you,
and I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll make you an offer for the logs as
they lie, and if you'll accept it I'll cancel our existing contract."

"Let's hear your offer," said Joe. When he heard it he laughed, for it
was entirely piratical. "You must think I'm easy. You couldn't steal
logs much cheaper."

"Take it or leave it," said Wismer, a little puzzled. The Joe Kent with
whom he had made his contract had certainly been easy; but this bronzed
young fellow leaning over the rail was different. "You don't want to
forget that penalty clause," he added warningly.

"Not for a minute," said Kent. "I know quite well that Ackerman or
Garwood framed up that cinch contract. And I know you're trying to get
the logs cheap now, and give them the double-cross. I'm not
kicking--merely pointing out that I know what you're up to."

Wismer reddened, and for the first time found a difficulty in meeting
the young man's eye. "You're talking utter nonsense," said he. "I don't
know what you mean, and I don't much care. If you like to take up the
offer I've just made, all right. If not, I'll hold you to the letter of
our contract."

"I'm holding myself to it," said Joe. "I want you to have your booms
ready for me, for the first tow of logs goes down the lake to-night."

He watched Wismer's launch gather way, and turned to the business in
hand. At dusk the _Ada Bell_ picked up one tow and the tug another, and
started down the lake. The tired crew went ashore just above Fire
Island, where the camp was established. Joe and McKenna remained on the
_Sophie_. After supper the foreman came aboard to plan the next day's
work.

"Boys," said Joe, "who cut that boom?"

"McCane, an' no one else," MacNutt answered, and the others nodded.

"That's what I think," said Joe, "but I'll never be able to prove it.
Now, then, about the drive. Is it possible to get it down on time?"

"Shure," said McKenna, "if we have good weather."

"Not unless," said Tobin.

On a fine-weather basis they planned the work. In the morning they went
at it again. Before noon the tow-boats returned, the long booms trailing
behind them. Their tows had been emptied down the rapids, and a small
crew was seeing them safe into Wismer & Holden's booms.

Late in the afternoon a launch--a flying thing of spotless paint,
burnished brass, and throbbing engines--split the lake. A wall of water
fell away on either side of her shearing stem, and the white kick of her
wake streamed out behind like a giant ribbon. She slowed and swung
daintily up to the dingy _Sophie Green_. In her sat William Crooks and
his daughter.

"Hello, Joe!" roared the veteran lumberman. "Hello, Jimmy!" to Captain
Congdon. "Throw down a ladder or something. We want to come aboard."

They came aboard, and the very spick-and-span young man who owned the
launch looked doubtfully at the other young man in the flannel shirt,
short trousers, and spiked boots, who was on such enviable terms with
pretty little Miss Crooks.

"How's she comin'?" Crooks demanded, and Joe told him. "I got twenty
boys off my drive on the way to give you a boost," the old lumberman
continued. "We'll show these fellows a thing or two about sweepin' up
logs. Jimmy, my girl and I are going to camp down on this old tub of
yours till the last log's out of the lake. Got room for us?"

"You bet I have, Bill," replied Congdon, "Miss Jack, you take my
quarters."

"Couldn't think of it, thank you, Captain Congdon," said Jack promptly.
"I wouldn't put you out for the world."

"Mutiny, by the Lord!" shouted Captain Jimmy. "Young woman, I'm a
bachelor, and used to having my own way. I get awful mean and cranky
when I'm opposed. It'd be just like me to refuse to tow a single blame
log if you don't obey orders."

"Aye, aye, sir!" said Jack. "Any more orders, sir?"

"Only that you're to ask for what you want if you don't see it," said
Captain Jimmy, grinning.

The launch shot away down the lake, and the _Sophie_ continued to gather
logs. Night fell. This time one boat was sufficient to tow all the day's
take. Jack and Joe sat on the foredeck in the dusk, listening to the
soft lap of water alongside.

"I can't tell you what I felt when I heard the drive had broken, Joe,"
said she. "It seemed so safe before, and now--but you'll make it, Joe, I
know you will!"

"I'll make it or bust--and that's no figure of speech," he told her
grimly. "Those twenty men your father has lent me will just about turn
the scale. The boys are working like demons--each man doing the work of
two; but it depends on the weather more than on anything else. A couple
of windy days would knock us cold. However, there's no use worrying
about that, and all the weather sharps in the crew, and Congdon as well,
say it has set for fair. To-morrow night we'll work by moonlight. I feel
a presentiment amounting to a hunch that you'll be Mrs. Kent before
another moon."

She nestled closer to him. "If I were a very conventional person I'd
insist on three months at least to prepare a trousseau and make sure of
a lot of wedding presents--but I'm not. I've spoken to dad, and he makes
your delivery of these logs the only condition. And now, boy, it's time
you were asleep. You're working as hard as any of the men."

The floating logs had all been gathered up. Now the crew attacked those
hung in bays and jettisoned on shoals and points. It was slow, hard
work, but little by little the broken drive was gathered up. The fine
weather held. Nightly tows went down the lake, and each morning the
empty-booms trailed back for more.

Joe Kent worked with his men. He was strong, active, and enduring. He
developed a fair amount of skill with a peavey, and he derived a fierce
satisfaction from each log that he twisted from its resting place and
rolled into free water. By just that much he was beating Garwood,
Ackerman, Clancys--all the gang who, as principals or tools, had
determined to loot his business and strip him of his inheritance.

His young, sinewy body responded to the calls made upon it. Wet to the
waist he worked all day and at night until the moon set, cheering on his
crew with laugh and joke. Afterward he stumbled aboard the _Sophie
Green_ almost too tired to speak, even to Jack; but the first dim light
saw him drop over the side eager for the new day's work.

That week Joe lost twenty pounds--and he was not fleshy to start with.
Those days of heartbreaking work and the nerve-strain back of it cut
lines in his face which were never wholly erased. It was for him a
desperate hand-to-hand grapple with time. Logs, logs, logs! By day he
worked with them, and by night they crowded his dreams. He had to lift
them, to climb over them, to count millions of them; sometimes piles of
them cascaded on him, burying him from the world; sometimes they were
about to fall on Jack. He would wake, a cry of warning on his lips and
the sweat running from every pore of his iron-hard body.

His men responded nobly to the call. They held a fierce, jealous pride
in their drive, in their ability to bring it down, in making good any
promise given by their employer. Chronic grumblers over small things,
they accepted cheerfully the eighteen hours a day of work, and even
stretched it a little. And every minute of every hour they worked. Each
man moved with a spring and a jump. There were no laggards--none for the
foremen to curse. They took in Bill Crooks's chosen twenty and fired
them with the same fierce energy. But this was not a hard task, for the
word passed around somehow that on their success in getting out the logs
depended the marriage of Kent and Miss Jack. Every man straightway felt
a personal responsibility, and the way they sailed into the job made
Kent's crew hustle to keep pace.

Bill Crooks threw off thirty years, put on a pair of spiked boots, and
tramped up and down the shore bellowing encouragement to the rivermen.
Most of it took the form of virulent curses directed at the men who had
persistently tried to hang Kent's drive.

"But they can't do it, boys!" the old logger would roar. "They may blow
dams and saw booms, but we'll do them yet. Birl into her, bullies! All
the blasted high-bankers between this and the booms of hell can't hang
us up." Then the men would bark fierce assent, and whirl into the logs
with fury.

And so, by unremitting work by day and night, the big drive was swept up
from open water, shoal, point, and bay. On the twenty-eighth of June, at
midnight, the last logs were boomed. Half an hour afterward the _Sophie
Green_, the _Ada Bell_, and the big tug started down the lake with heavy
tows. The boats were full of rivermen, proud in the consciousness that
they had set a record for the river. Their toil and their weariness of
body were forgotten. Only a few days separated them from town, where
they would make up for both, according to time-honoured custom. They
shouted songs--expurgated editions out of deference to Jack Crooks--and
the hoarse cough of the ancient _Sophie Green's_ exhaust, delivered at
exact intervals, chopped the verses in two.

Jack and Joe had arranged a little treat. The cook rustled a wonderful
meal. Boxes of good cigars were passed around. A phonograph played in
the bow of each boat. The trip down the lake was as good as a moonlight
excursion, and the men of Kent's drives talk of it yet. One by one they
lay down on the deck, beside the boilers, anywhere and everywhere, and
slept the sleep of exhaustion.

In the morning they let the tows down the rapids. The rivermen debarked,
followed down the river, and hustled out the bunches of logs that the
few men who had preceded them had not bothered about. It was plain
sailing now. That day and the next the channel was brown with logs.
Kent's foremen and Wismer & Holden's cullers checked them as they came.
Joe and Jack stood out on an anchor pier and watched the booms fill.
More logs came down and still more.

Far away on the morning of the thirtieth they heard the bellowing
whistles of the _Sophie Green_ and _Ada Bell_, and the deep-throated
blast of the tug telling them that the last of the big drive was down.
At six o'clock that night the booms closed behind the last log.

Joe drew a long breath. "Thank heaven," said he. "Now, girlie, we'll
have the best meal they can put up in this little town."

"We will--but we'll have it in camp," she informed him. "I've arranged
with Jimmy Bowes. This is my treat to the men."

They occupied the head of an impromptu table of pine boards. Down its
length and along similar tables were ranged the rivermen. Huge roasts,
fowls, vegetables, and stacks of pies were piled before them, for Jimmy
Bowes, having _carte blanche_ from Jack, had raided the shops of the
town. When the meal was over Haggarty rose, very red and confused amid
low growls of encouragement:

"Go to it, Larry!"

"What are ye waitin' for?"

"Shut up an' listen to him, now!"

"Mr. Kent, an' Miss Crooks an' Mister Crooks," began Haggarty, and
paused. More growls of encouragement. "I'm no speaker, but the boys
wants me to tell ye something, an' it's this: There's them that's had it
in for ye these months past, an' has done their da--I mean their
dirtiest--to spoil yer cut an' hang yer drive. They haven't done it, an'
for why? Bekase ye're good stuff, an' kept a stiff upper lip an' stayed
wid the game when others would have give it up, beaten. There ain't a
man that ain't proud to work for ye, an' we'll stick by ye, Mr. Kent,
till there's snowballin' in--in summer. That's what I was to say. An'
besides that, an' not wantin' to be fresh at all, we wish you an' the
young lady all sorts of luck an' happiness."

Haggarty sat down and was pounded on the back. Joe rose, almost as
confused as Haggarty. "Boys," said he, "you knew I was in a tight place
and you stayed with me. I've got you to thank that my logs are here
to-night, instead of somewhere upriver. Each man of you has done the
work of a dozen, and I want you to know that I'm grateful. I can't pay
you in money, but I want to say that I'm the friend of each man here,
and any time one of you wants anything from me all he has to do is to
ask for it. I hope to have you all with me next year, and I'll saw every
log we cut in my own mills. Just one thing more, and that's an important
one." He took Jack's hand and she rose blushing and laughing while the
men cheered madly. "Miss Crooks will be Mrs. Kent in a few weeks, boys,
and we ask you all to the wedding."

The shout that went up startled the little town. They cheered and
pounded the table with hammer-like fists. Then in the tumult began a cry
which soon grew insistent:

"Cooley, Cooley! Big Bill Cooley!"

"Speech, Bill!"

"Get up on yer hind-legs, ye bully-boy!"

"Tell the boss about it, Bill!"

From the seclusion of the foot of the farthest table came muffled,
shamefaced protest and muttered profanity. Suddenly half a dozen pairs
of arms heaved the big riverman upon the long table.

"Heavens, Joe! what has he been doing?" gasped Jack.

For big Bill Cooley's face was puffed and cut, and one eye was quite
closed. The other glared wickedly at those who had thrust him into
prominence. His right hand was bandaged, and the knuckles of the left
resembled a hamburger steak. Plainly Cooley had been in the wars.

"You fellies make me tired," he growled. "Let me down out o' this!"

"Tell the boss an' his young lady first," howled the crew.

"Go ahead, Cooley," Joe encouraged him.

"They ain't nothin' to tell, Mr. Kent," said Cooley. "I only catched
Rough Shan McCane in among the lumber piles this afternoon and took a
birl out of him."

The crew yelped joyously beneath him.

"He won't walk for a month!"

"Ye done him up good, Billy-buck!"

"The boots in his face, an' all!"

"Hooray for dat beeg Bill Cooley, de boss bully-boy!"

"Dry up, ye divils! How can he hear himself?"

But Cooley made a flying leap from the table, and nothing could induce
him to mount it again. Joe got details at second hand of the fearful
licking administered to McCane by Cooley, a combat which had been
witnessed by only half a dozen. In the end the big riverman had kicked
his enemy into unconsciousness with his spiked boots, according to
ancient custom. He desisted only when it was apparent that the fallen
man's life hung in the balance. As he and his fellows looked at it, this
was merely justice, and very light justice at that.

More than half the crew started for town to drink the health of the
young boss and his bride-to-be. It was a beautiful excuse. Jack and Joe
walked up the river's bank to take a last look at the logs. They had
little to say, for the reaction had set in. They stood silently in the
moonlight, gazing at the fields of brown timber covering the surface of
the river, safe down at last at the cost of a winter's toil, a spring's
heartbreaking endeavour, and a toll of human life.

Joe put his arm around the girl's waist and drew her to him. Strong and
full-throated, mellowed by distance, came the last refrain of old Bill
Crooks's favourite river-song as the crew shouted it on their way to
town.

    "When the drive comes dow-un, when the jam comes down,
    What makes yeez lads so wishful-eyed as we draw near to town?
      Other eyes is soft an' bright, like the stars of a June night--
    Wives an' sweethearts--prayin', waitin'--as we drive the river down.
      (Oh, ye divils!)
    God bless the eyes that shine for us when we boil into town."

"God bless _your_ eyes, Jack, dear!" said Joe softly, and kissed her.
The future lay clear and fair before them, a-flush with the rosy lights
of youth and hope.



XXII


By the terms of Joe's contract with Wismer & Holden, these astute
millmen had agreed to pay cash for the logs on delivery. Joe held them
to this, refusing acceptances at thirty and sixty days. He was thus at
once in a position to reduce his liabilities and sustain his credit,
which had been seriously strained, with his own bank.

His mill was running at capacity. All day the air was vibrant with the
hum of it, the thunder of the log carriages, the deep raucous drone of
the big saws, the higher pitched voices of the smaller. All day a stream
of shaggy, brown logs, prodded by pike poles, was swept upward in
dripping procession on an endless chain, tossed on iron beds, flung
against the saws, rolled on carriers as rough boards to other saws--to
edgers, trimmers and planers--and disgorged from the farther end of the
mill in a dozen grades of product to be carried to the piling yards and
drying sheds. Day and night the smoke from burning sawdust in the huge,
stack-like consumer poured upward to the sky.

Thus the producing end of his business was satisfactory. Not less so
were the sales. In addition to a particularly brisk local demand,
Wright's activities had resulted in some excellent contracts not only
for immediate, but for future delivery. There would be no lack of a
market for every foot the mill could turn out. Also there was no car
shortage. The tacit agreement which Locke had been able to obtain as
part of the price of withdrawing his action was being held to rigidly.
The firm could sell all its mills could cut and deliver all it could
sell. Naturally Wright and Joe were pleased and congratulated each other
upon the rosy outlook.

"It looks as if we were over the hump," said Joe one afternoon. "Those
are good contracts you landed. I want to show you that I appreciate all
you have done. Left to myself I'd have been as helpless as a baby in
this business."

"Oh, I don't know," said Wright. "You pick up things pretty fast. I've
been paid for whatever I've done. But apart from that I've been with
this concern a good many years and your father always treated me well.
Funny if I wouldn't do all I could for you. You've come pretty near
making good so far. You made the big cut that your father planned to
make and you brought the logs down. That's all he could have done, and I
tell you not even Crooks knows the logging business better than he did.
So far as showing your appreciation goes it isn't necessary--or, anyway,
that can wait till you are in better shape. I'm not shouting for money
the minute I see your head above water."

"I know you're not, but at the end of the year we'll fix things up on a
better basis," said Joe.

While Joe was occupied with his business, Jack was busy, too. Mysterious
packages were constantly arriving at Bill Crooks's home. As the wedding
day drew near the patter of these became a downpour. Jack's friends gave
luncheons in her honour, and she was "showered" with articles of alleged
usefulness or ornament.

She and Joe, sitting chatting one night in her den, heard the heavy,
decided tread of the old lumber baron in the darkened hall. Suddenly
there was a stumble, a wrathful bellow, and Bill Crooks's voice raised
in insistent demand for the name of the thus-and-so-forth wretch who
left boxes in the hall, mingled with a prophecy as to his ultimate fate.

"What kind of 'fire' and 'nation' were you speaking of, dad?" asked Jack
as he appeared in the door.

"Never mind," growled Crooks, who was under the impression that his
remarks had been sotto voce. "This house is being cluttered up with a
bunch of junk. I've peeled a six-inch strip of hide clean off my shin.
Who left that box out there?"

"I think you did."

"Hey?"

"I think you did. You took it from the expressman."

"Huh?" snorted Crooks. "If I did I didn't leave it in the middle of the
hall. I put it out of the way behind the hatrack. Somebody moved it out.
That's only one thing. There's a hundred others. You've got enough truck
to start a china shop or a jewellery store or a whitewear sale!"

"I don't get married every summer," his daughter returned placidly. "We
have to have things. And then our friends are good to us. I know one
darling old grouch who gave me a big cheque. Remember what he told me to
do with it?"

"I didn't need to tell you. You can get away with a cheque without
instructions. Never knew a woman who couldn't."

"You told me to 'blow it' on myself--not to put a dollar of it into
house furnishings."

"Suppose I did! You don't need house furnishings. There's two houses
ready furnished for you--this one and Kent's. How many blamed houses do
you want to live in, anyway?"

"Oh, Heavens, Joe, give him a cigar!" exclaimed Jack at the end of her
patience. "He's going to be an awful crank of a father-in-law."

Crooks took Joe's cigar and dropped into a chair, while Jack departed in
search of refreshment; men being, as she declared, invariably hungry
when they were not thirsty.

"I've been thinking, Joe," said the old lumberman, "quite a bit about my
business lately."

"Why, what's the matter with it?" asked Joe in surprise, for Crooks's
business, like his own, had been very good indeed.

"Nothing's the matter with it," Crooks replied. "It's good--it's too
good. I've run it for a long time, and now it's beginning to run me."

"I don't quite understand."

"It's this way," Crooks explained: "I'm getting on, and outside of Jack
I've nobody. Now you're going to marry her. It had to be somebody, I
suppose, and I'm glad it's you. Still, there's the business. It's mine,
I made it and I like it--but it's beginning to drive me too much. I
can't go away for a month or a week without being afraid things will be
tied up in hard knots before I get back. If I had a man as good as
Wright it might be different, but I haven't. I have to be on the job
myself all the time, and I'm getting too old for that. I want to take it
easy a little and get the most out of the years that are left me."

"I see," said Joe as Crooks paused.

"You'll know better how it is yourself thirty years from now," Crooks
continued. "I've nobody but Jack. If the boys had lived they'd have been
able to run the business and let me sit back and just give them a hand
now and then. But they died." He was silent for a long moment. "I'll
tell you something, Joe, you were the one thing I envied your father. I
saw you growing up, a good, clean, healthy young fellow, with no bad
habits to speak of--oh, I don't mean that you were any saint; I suppose
you kicked up once in a while, same as any healthy young colt, but there
was nothing vicious about you--and it seemed hard luck that out of my
three boys one wasn't left me. Well, never mind that. Now all I've got
will be Jack's when I get my time. And so I was thinking of making you a
little proposition."

"Yes," said Joe wondering what this was leading up to. "What is it, Mr.
Crooks?"

"I was wondering," Crooks pursued, "whether you'd care to combine our
businesses?"

Joe was thoughtful for a moment. His eyes narrowed a little, and his
brows drew down in a slight frown. He looked at Crooks steadily. The old
lumberman returned his gaze.

"Is there anything behind this, sir?" Joe asked.

"Behind it--how? You don't think I'm putting up a job to freeze you out,
do you?"

"No, not that. But are you making this proposition for Jack's sake? I
mean, do you think I'd make a mess of my business if I ran it alone?
Because if that's really the reason I'd like to show you."

"If I thought you couldn't run your own business I wouldn't want your
help to run mine," Crooks replied. "Mind you, I consider myself able to
give you a few pointers. You've a lot to learn, but you're one of the
young fellows who will learn. Some can't; others won't. I'd hate to see
Jack marry a man I didn't think would make good. I'd tell him so mighty
quick. No, I gave you my real reason."

"It's a good proposition for me, Mr. Crooks," said Joe. "I'm for it, if
we can arrange details. Were you thinking of forming a company?"

"No, I wasn't," said Crooks. "I don't like companies--too much
shenanigan about stock and directors and meetings. A company can't do a
blamed thing without seeing a lawyer first. I own one business which
will be Jack's and yours some day, and you own another. We just make a
little 'greement to run 'em together and divide the profits; and we
arrange who's to do what work--and there you are. Any time things don't
run to suit us we split the blanket. If we tell Locke what we want he'll
put it in shape in half an hour."

"I'll do it," Joe agreed; "but I feel that I'm getting the best of the
bargain in your experience."

"My experience is all right," said Crooks, "but I can't hustle like I
used to--or else I won't. You will, and I'll be able to tell you how.
That makes it an even break. And then you've got Wright. I've wanted him
or some one like him for years."

"I feel that I owe Wright a good deal," said Joe. "He has really run the
business end of the concern. I was thinking of giving him a share in it.
Seems to me something like that is coming to him."

"I'm glad to hear you say so. We'll take him in with us and give him an
interest."

"I want it to come out of my share."

"No. He's going to work for me as much as for you. Wright is a part of
your equipment and a big asset. Whatever interest he gets must come out
of the whole business and not out of one end of it."

They took their proposition in the rough to Locke, and that experienced
adjuster of other men's perplexities proceeded to hammer it into working
shape, finally producing an agreement, clear, concise and satisfactory.
Thus the lumber firm of Crooks & Kent was born.

A couple of days before the wedding, certain quarters of the town--and
also those charged with the duty of enforcing a fair imitation of law
and order therein--began to notice a sudden influx of strangers. They
were for the most part big and very brown, and they walked with a
truculent swagger and regarded the world through humorously insolent
eyes. Also they held together clannishly, and for the most part--to the
relief of the authorities--maintained themselves in a condition of near
sobriety.

"For if ye get too full," big Cooley explained to the bibulously
inclined Chartrand, "ye miss the weddin'. An' it's not the likes of you
is axed to one every day."

"I'll be mos' awful dry, me!" Chartrand complained. He hailed little
Narcisse Laviolette. "_Hola_, Narcisse, _mon vieux!_ Come on, tak'
leetle drink wit' me. Come on, you beeg Cooley. We don't get dronk--_pas
du tout_. We jus' feex ourself so we lak for sing leetle _chanson_."

He hammered the bar with the heavy-bottomed little glass constructed in
the interests of the house to hold one man's size drink and no more, and
burst into alleged melody:

    "Dat square-face-gin, she'll be ver' fine,
    Some feller lak dat champagne wine--
      But de bes' dam' drink w'hat I never saw
      Come out of a bottle of _whiskey blanc_.
    (O listen to me now, while I'll tol' you how!)
    Dere was Joe Leduc an' me, Larry Frost an' Savigny,
      Chevrier an' Prevost, Jimmy Judge an' Larribee,
    Lamontagne an' Lajeunesse--mebbe fifty mans, I guess;
    You would know de whole kaboodle if I ain't forget de res'.
    We was drive upon dat reever an' we ron heem down _les Chats_,
    An' den we hit dat Quyon where we buy dat _whiskey blanc_!"

"Yell her out, _mes amis!_ Bus' dat roof!"

    "Hooraw! hooraw! _pour le_ good ol' _whiskey blanc_!
      She's gran' for mak love on, she's bully for fight,
        She'll keep out dat col', an'----"

"Shut up!" roared Cooley. "Now you listen here--you ain't goin' to show
up drunk at the boss's weddin', puttin' the whole crew on the hog.
Savvy? You're three parts full now. I'll sober ye, me buck, if it's wid
me feet in yer face!"

And the threat of Cooley, combined with the eloquent profanity of a
self-constituted temperance committee, caused Chartrand to postpone his
celebration. It was Cooley also who constituted himself an authority on
social usage.

"Bein' asked to this weddin'," said he, "the c'rect thing is to put up a
present."

"Sure!"

"That's right, Cooley."

"You bet!"

"We'll do it right while we're about it," said the big man. "Here's ten
dollars in me hat. Sweeten as she goes 'round, boys. Let's buy the boss
an' his girl somethin' good--somethin' they won't be ashamed to keep in
the front room an' tell their friends it come from the boys of Kent's
big drive!"

An hour later the proprietor of Falls City's leading jewelry store was
somewhat startled by an invasion of half a dozen weather-beaten,
rough-looking customers quite different from his ordinary patrons; and
he nearly fainted when the spokesman told him that they were in search
of a wedding present on which they were prepared to expend between three
and four hundred dollars.

In the end they chose a cabinet filled with silver, eying respectfully
the dainty knives, forks, and spoons, and other articles of whose use
they had small conception.

"We want a name plate put on her," said Cooley, "showing a lad in river
clothes standin' on a log wid a peavey in his fist; an' above that we
want the date; an' underneath it, 'From Kent's River Crew.'"

It is safe to say that never had the church, to whose support old Bill
Crooks contributed more often than he attended it, held as motley a
gathering as on the morning of the wedding of his daughter and Joe Kent.
Big, brown men, painfully shaven, in aggressively new garments which
cramped their strong muscles and rendered them awkward and ill at ease,
occupied seats beside the members of Falls City's leading families, who
eyed the intruders askance. And here and there, also ill at ease, were
old men and women, dependents of William Crooks and friends of his
daughter, whom they loved.

Joe and his best man entered from the vestry; but there was a slight
delay. They stood before the chancel waiting for the bride and her
father.

"The boss is nervous," Cooley commented to Haggarty in a low whisper.
"Look at him shift on his feet. An' see the ears of him. Red!"

"Small blame to him," Haggarty responded sympathetically. "I'll bet he'd
rather be swappin' punches wid a man twice his own weight."

But Jack entered on her father's arm--a dainty, queenly Jack, clad in
bride-white, her eyes demurely downcast but the small head with the
crown of glossy brown hair carried as proudly as ever.

"An' I used to give her lumps out of the sugar bar'l!" said Jimmy Bowes,
the fat old bull-cook, in sentimental reminiscence.

"Purty as a little red wagon," said Haggarty with approval.

"Mo' Gee! I leave home for dat myself!" commented little Narcisse
Laviolette, who possessed a wife of double his own fighting weight and
offspring of about the same combined avoirdupois. And Cooley, who
overheard this tribute from the little teamster, took offence thereat.

"Shut up, ye blasted little pea-soup!" he growled. "She's the boss's
wife--or as good as. You remember that, and don't try to be funny!"

"Who's try for be fonnee?" demanded Laviolette with indignation at this
unjust interpretation of his well-meant speech. "You give me de swif'
pain, you. Sacré dam! Some tam, bagosh, I ponch your beeg Irish mug!"

"Sh!" rumbled Haggarty. "Can't ye quit yer dam' swearin' in a church?
Shut up, the both of ye!"

The ceremony, which was rapidly changing Jack Crooks into Mrs. Joe Kent,
proceeded, finished. Kisses were showered on her, handshakes and slaps
on the back on Joe. In the midst of these the latter caught sight of a
group of weather-tanned faces in the centre of the church. Their owners
were standing uncertainly, diffident, not caring to mingle with the more
fashionably clad throng that clustered about the principals. Joe turned
to his bride.

"There's Cooley and Haggarty and a bunch of the boys of my river crew,
Jack," he said. "They want to wish us luck, and they're too bashful to
mix. Come on down and shake hands."

"Of course," said Jack.

With his bride on his arm Joe went down the aisle to the men of his
drive, to have his right hand almost permanently disabled in the grips
he received; but the pressure of the big hands that closed bashfully
around Jack's slim fingers would not have crushed a butterfly. "Wishin'
ye good luck an' happiness, ma'am," was the formula, but little varied.

Into the midst of them came old Bill Crooks. "Come on, boys!" he
exclaimed. "There's a wedding spread up at my house, and I want every
man of you there to drink good luck to the bride--and to the new firm of
Crooks & Kent. No holding back, now. Come along, everybody!"

They came along, though most of them would have preferred to go down a
bad piece of water on a single stick of pine, and their coming taxed the
space of Crooks's dining-room--to say nothing of the commissariat and
canteen--to the limit. They ate and drank solemnly, on their best
behaviour and conscious of it, sipping the unaccustomed wines with
reserved judgment.

"What'll be a dose of this?" whispered Regan, eying his champagne glass
with suspicion. "The waitin' gyurls fill it up whenever I empty it. This
makes five I've had and I can't feel it yet. Belike it acts suddint. I
wouldn't want to get full here."

"Nor me," Cooley agreed. "They're all drinkin' it, an' none the worse.
If they can stand it we can." He gulped down half a glass and thrust his
tongue back and forth experimentally. "Champagne, hey? It has a puckery
taste till it, but no rasp. It might be hard cider wid more fizz.
There's no harm in it. I cud drink enough of it to float a log. Here's
some lad speakin'. Listen to what he says."

They heard the health of the bride proposed in customary language; Joe's
reply, embarrassed, jerky, brief.

"Speaking isn't Kent's strong point," a guest commented. Cooley glowered
at him, resentful of the just criticism.

"He can talk when he has anything to say, and he can curse _fine_!" he
affirmed. He led vociferous cheers as Joe sat down, and cheered almost
equally hard when Crooks concluded five minutes of pointed remarks in
which he announced the formation of the new firm.

But these cheers were as nothing to the leather-lunged roars that bade
Jack and Joe farewell as they stepped into the carriage. With the cheers
came showers of rice. Joe turned up his coat collar; but Jack laughed
back through the fusillade of it, blowing kisses to her father, her girl
friends, and the rivermen, impartially. And the memory of them stayed
with the rough shantymen for years.

The train which bore Joe and his bride on their wedding journey clanked
slowly through the yards following the line of the river. As it looped
around a curve they could see, looking backward from the rear platform
of the last coach which they had to themselves, the mills of Bill Crooks
and of Joe Kent each flying a flag from the topmost point, the silver of
the flowing water checkered with the black lines of the long booms and
the herds of brown logs inside them. In the mills not a wheel turned
that day. But steam was in the boilers, for as they looked it poured
white from the roofs of the engine houses and the bellowing howls of two
fire sirens bade them a joyous farewell.

Jack slipped her hand in Joe's.

"Are you glad?"

"Glad it's over? You bet I am!"

"No--glad we're married?"

"That's a nice question. And you know the answer."

"Of course I do," she admitted happily. "I suppose a wedding trip is a
fine thing. Anyway, it's conventional. But--I'll be glad to come back
home."

"Same here," he agreed. "There's lot to be done--a holy lot. I have to
get right down to work. I want to take all the weight I can off your
father's shoulders. That's up to me. Then, when you come to running two
mills under one management, there must be all sorts of economies
possible, if a fellow could only find out what they are. I don't want to
let Wright do all the finding out for me. Yes, I'll be pretty busy."

"Well, you like the work. That's the main thing."

"That's so," he admitted. "I like it better all the time. I never knew
what real fun was till I had to hustle for myself. A year ago I was no
better than a big kid. I could feed myself and dress myself if somebody
handed me the price, and that just about let me out. And at that I
thought I was having a good time. A good time? Huh! Why, I didn't know I
was alive. Oh, well ... we'll cut out business on this trip--not talk of
it or think of it at all. Shall we?"

"No--o. I like to talk about it. It makes me think I'm helping. If I
were a man----"

"I'm mighty glad you're not. Remember the time you wished you were a
boy?"

"That was before----"

"Before what?"

"You know very well. Before I knew you thought anything of me."

"You are absolutely the best little girl in the world," he said with
conviction. "I always loved you, Jack--ever since we were kids--only I
didn't know it."

She gave his arm a quick little understanding hug, with a new womanly
pride in the hard, swelling muscles that met the pressure. They stood
close together, watching the last silvery reach of the river, burnished,
mirror-like, lustrous beneath the sloping afternoon sun. They had been
born beside it; as children they had played on it, in it; and they loved
it as a part of their lives. It was a treasure stream, bearing to them
year after year the loot of the northern forests--the great, brown
sticks of pine. Changeless and yet ever changing it never failed to
charm. Ages old but ever young it held its children in the spell of its
eternal life. And so as it vanished, shut out by a landscape that seemed
to rush backward as the train gathered speed, their eyes and their
thoughts clung to it; for by the river and with the pine their lifework
lay.

                                THE END



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A pretty American girl in London is touring in a car with a chauffeur
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A shipwreck, a lovely girl stowaway, a rascally captain, a fascinating
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THE CAPTAIN OF THE KANSAS.

Love and the salt sea, a helpless ship whirled into the hands of
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THE MESSAGE. Illustrated by Joseph Cummings Chase.

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THE PILLAR OF LIGHT.

The pillar thus designated was a lighthouse, and the author tells with
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THE WHEEL O'FORTUNE. With illustrations by James Montgomery Flagg.

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A SON OF THE IMMORTALS. Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.

A young American is proclaimed king of a little Balkan Kingdom, and a
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A beautiful blonde Englishwoman visits Russia, and is violently made
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THE GAMBLERS. By Charles Klein and Arthur Hornblow.

Illustrated by C. E. Chambers.

A big, vital treatment of a present day situation wherein men play for
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Clever, original presentations of present day social problems and the
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THE LIGHT THAT LURES. By Percy Brehner.

Illustrated. Handsomely colored wrapper.

A young Southerner who loved Lafayette, goes to France to aid him during
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THE RAMRODDERS. By Holman Day. Frontispiece by Harold Matthews Brett.

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MADAME X. By Alexandre Bisson and J. W. McConaughy. Illustrated with
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A beautiful Parisienne became an outcast because her husband would not
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THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

An unconventional English woman and an inscrutable stranger meet and
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and gorgeous properties.

THE PRINCE OF INDIA. By Lew Wallace.

A glowing romance of the Byzantine Empire, presenting with extraordinary
power the siege of Constantinople, and lighting its tragedy with the
warm underglow of an Oriental romance. As a play it is a great dramatic
spectacle.

TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White. Illust. by Howard
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A girl from the dregs of society, loves a young Cornell University
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A series of clever swindles conducted by a cheerful young man, each of
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THE INTRUSION OF JIMMY. By P. G. Wodehouse. Illustrations by Will Grefe.

Social and club life in London and New York, an amateur burglary
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A CERTAIN RICH MAN. By William Allen White.

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IN OUR TOWN. By William Allen White. Illustrated by F. R. Gruger and W.
Glackens.

Made up of the observations of a keen newspaper editor, involving the
town millionaire, the smart set, the literary set, the bohemian set, and
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NATHAN BURKE. By Mary S. Watts.

The story of an ambitious, backwoods Ohio boy who rose to prominence.
Everyday humor of American rustic life permeates the book.

THE HIGH HAND. By Jacques Futrelle. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

A splendid story of the political game, with a son of the soil on the
one side, and a "kid glove" politician on the other. A pretty girl,
interested in both men, is the chief figure.

THE BACKWOODSMEN. By Charles G. D. Roberts. Illustrated.

Realistic stories of men and women living midst the savage beauty of the
wilderness. Human nature at its best and worst is well portrayed.

YELLOWSTONE NIGHTS. By Herbert Quick.

A jolly company of six artists, writers and other clever folks take a
trip through the National Park, and tell stories around camp fire at
night. Brilliantly clever and original.

THE PROFESSOR'S MYSTERY. By Wells Hastings and Brian Hooker.

Illustrated by Hanson Booth.

A young college professor, missing his steamer for Europe, has a
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THE SIEGE OF THE SEVEN SUITORS. By Meredith Nicholson.

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Seven suitors vie with each other for the love of a beautiful girl, and
she subjects them to a test that is full of mystery, magic and sheer
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THE MAGNET. By Henry C. Rowland. Illustrated by Clarence F. Underwood.

The story of a remarkable courtship involving three pretty girls on a
yacht, a poet-lover in pursuit, and a mix-up in the names of the girls.

THE TURN OF THE ROAD. By Eugenia Brooks Frothingham.

A beautiful young opera singer chooses professional success instead of
love, but comes to a place in life where the call of the heart is
stronger than worldly success.

SCOTTIE AND HIS LADY. By Margaret Morse. Illustrated by Harold M. Brett.

A young girl whose affections have been blighted is presented with a
Scotch Collie to divert her mind, and the roving adventures of her pet
lead the young mistress into another romance.

SHEILA VEDDER. By Amelia E. Barr. Frontispiece by Harrison Fisher.

A very beautiful romance of the Shetland Islands, with a handsome,
strong willed hero and a lovely girl of Gaelic blood as heroine. A
sequel to "Jan Vedder's Wife."

JOHN WARD. PREACHER. By Margaret Deland.

The first big success of this much loved American novelist. It is a
powerful portrayal of a young clergyman's attempt to win his beautiful
wife to his own narrow creed.

THE TRAIL OF NINETY-EIGHT. By Robert W. Service.

Illustrated by Maynard Dixon.

One of the best stories of "Vagabondia" ever written, and one of the
most accurate and picturesque of the stampede of gold seekers to the
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MR. CREWE'S CAREER. Illus. by A. I. Keller and Kinneys.

A New England state is under the political domination of a railway and
Mr. Crewe, a millionaire, seizes the moment when the cause of the people
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The daughter of the railway president, with the sunny humor and shrewd
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THE CROSSING. Illus. by S. Adamson and L. Baylis.

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CONISTON. Illustrated by Florence Scovel Shinn.

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THE CELEBRITY. An Episode.

An inimitable bit of comedy describing an interchange of personalities
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THE SILENT CALL. by Edwin Milton Royle. Illustrated with scenes from the
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and a girl's pretty face.

JOHN MARCH, SOUTHERNER. By George W. Cable.

A story of the pretty women and spirited men of the South. As fragrant
in sentiment as a sprig of magnolia, and as full of mystery and racial
troubles as any romance of "after the war" days.

MR. JUSTICE RAFFLES. By E. W. Hornung.

This engaging rascal is found helping a young cricket player out of the
toils of a money shark. Novel in plot, thrilling and amusing.

FORTY MINUTES LATE. By F. Hopkinson Smith. Illustrated by S. M. Chase.

Delightfully human stories of every day happenings; of a lecturer's
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OLD LADY NUMBER 31. By Louise Forsslund.

A heart-warming story of American rural life, telling of the adventures
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THE HUSBAND'S STORY. By David Graham Phillips.

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most aristocratic European society--but at the price of their happiness.

THE TRAIL OF NINETY-EIGHT. By Robert W. Service.

Illustrated by Maynard Dixon.

One of the best stories of "Vagabondia" ever written, and one of the
most accurate and picturesque descriptions of the stampede of gold
seekers to the Yukon. The love story embedded in the narrative is
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THE SECOND WIFE. By Thompson Buchanan.

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An intensely interesting story of a marital complication in a wealthy
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TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White.

Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.

An amazingly vivid picture of low class life in a New York college town,
with a heroine beautiful and noble, who makes a great sacrifice for
love.

FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSING. By Graces Miller White. Frontispiece and
wrapper in colors by Penrhyn Stanlaws.

Another story of "the storm country." Two beautiful children are
kidnapped from a wealthy home and appear many years after showing the
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THE LIGHTED MATCH. By Charles Neville Buck.

Illustrated by R. F. Schabelitz.

A lovely princess travels incognito through the States and falls in love
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MAUD BAXTER. By C. C. Hotchkiss. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

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THE HIGHWAYMAN. By Guy Rawlence. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

A French beauty of mysterious antecedents wins the love of an Englishman
of title. Developments of a startling character and a clever untangling
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THE PURPLE STOCKINGS. By Edward Salisbury Field. Illustrated in colors;
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A young New York business man, his pretty sweetheart, his sentimental
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