Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: King Spruce, A Novel
Author: Day, Holman, 1865-1935
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 "King Spruce, A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



book was produced from scanned images of public domain


 KING SPRUCE

 A NOVEL

 BY

 HOLMAN DAY

 AUTHOR OF

 "SQUIRE PHIN" "UP IN MAINE"
 "KIN O' KTAADN" ETC.

 ILLUSTRATED BY
 E. ROSCOE SHRADER

 NEW YORK AND LONDON
 HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS



 Copyright, 1908, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

 _All rights reserved._

 Published April, 1908.



[Illustration: "'I KNOW YOUR HEART'" [_See p. 289_]



 TO

 A. B. D.

 MY COMRADE OF
 TRAIL AND CAMP



CONTENTS


 CHAP.                                                      PAGE

 I.      UP IN "CASTLE CUT 'EM"                               1
 II.     THE HEIRESS OF "OAKLANDS"                           17
 III.    THE MAKING OF A "CHANEY MAN"                        27
 IV.     THE BOSS OF THE "BUSTERS"                           35
 V.      DURING THE PUGWASH HANG-UP                          55
 VI.     AS FOUGHT BEFORE THE "IT-'LL-GIT-YE CLUB"           62
 VII.    ON MISERY GORE                                      78
 VIII.   THE TORCH, AND THE LIGHTING OF IT                   92
 IX.     BY ORDER OF PULASKI D. BRITT                       104
 X.      "LADDER" LANE'S SOIRÉE                             114
 XI.     IN THE BARONY OF "STUMPAGE JOHN"                   127
 XII.    THE CODE OF LARRIGAN-LAND                          142
 XIII.   THE RED THROAT OF POGEY                            153
 XIV.    THE MESSAGE OF "PROPHET ELI"                       164
 XV.     BETWEEN TWO ON JERUSALEM                           174
 XVI.    IN THE PATH OF THE BIG WIND                        181
 XVII.   THE AFFAIR AT DURFY'S CAMP                         198
 XVIII.  THE OLD SOUBUNGO TRAIL                             217
 XIX.    THE HOME-MAKERS OF ENCHANTED                       230
 XX.     THE HA'NT OF THE UMCOLCUS                          241
 XXI.    THE MAN WHO CAME FROM NOWHERE                      256
 XXII.   THE HOSTAGE OF THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE             270
 XXIII.  IN THE MATTER OF JOHN BARRETT'S DAUGHTER           278
 XXIV.   THE CHEESE RIND THAT NEEDED SHARP TEETH            293
 XXV.    SHARPENING TEETH ON PULASKI BRITT'S WHETSTONE      303
 XXVI.   THE DEVIL OF THE HEMPEN STRANDS                    312
 XXVII.  THE "CANNED THUNDER" OF CASTONIA                   324
 XXVIII. "'TWAS DONE BY TOMMY THUNDER"                      341
 XXIX.   THE PARADE PAST RODBURD IDE'S PLATFORM             352
 XXX.    THE PACT WITH KING SPRUCE                          361



ILLUSTRATIONS


 "'I KNOW YOUR HEART'"                           _Frontispiece_

 "WADE STOOD ABOVE THE FALLEN FOE"            _Facing p._    70

 "WRITHING AT HIS BONDS, HIS CONTORTED FACE
 TOWARDS THE RED FLAMES GALLOPING UP THE
 VALLEY"                                          "         172

 "'WHAT I SAY ON THIS RIVER GOES!'"               "         334



NOTE


When the trees have been cut and trimmed in the winter's work in the
woods the logs are hauled in great loads to be piled at "landing-places"
on the frozen streams, so that the spring floods will move them. Most of
the streams have a succession of dams. On the spring drive the logs are
floated to the dams, and then the gates are raised and the logs are
"sluiced" through with a head of water behind them to carry them
down-stream. Thus the drive is lifted along in sections from one dam to
another. It will be seen that Pulaski D. Britt's series of dams on
Jerusalem constituted a valuable holding, and enabled him to control the
water and leave the logs of rivals stranded if he wished. The collection
of water and quick work in "sluicing" are most important, for the
streams give down only about so much water in the spring.

When a load of logs is suddenly set free from the cable holding it back
on a steep descent, as in Chapter XXVI., it is said to be "sluiced."

When there is a jam of entangled logs as they are swept down-stream, if
it is impossible to find and pry loose the "key-log," it is sometimes
necessary to blow up the restraining logs with dynamite.

When the floating logs are caught upon rocks, and the men are prying
them loose, they are said to be "carding" the ledges.

A "jill-poke," a pet aversion of drivers, is a log with one end lodged
on the bank and the other thrust out into the stream.

The "cant-dog" is illustrated on the cover of the book.

The "peavy" is the Maine name for a slightly different variety of
"cant-dog," which takes its title from its maker in Old Town.

The "pick-pole" is an ashen pole ten to twelve feet long, shod with an
iron point with a screw-tip, which enables a driver to pull a log
towards him or to push it away.



KING SPRUCE



CHAPTER I

UP IN "CASTLE CUT 'EM"

     "Oh, the road to 'Castle Cut 'Em' is mostly all uphill.
     You can dance along all cheerful to the sing-song of a mill;
     King Cole he wanted fiddles, and so does old King Spruce,
     But it's only gashin'-fiddles that he finds of any use.

     "Oh, come along, good lumbermen, oh, come along I say!
     Come up to 'Castle Cut 'Em,' and pull your wads and pay.
     King Cole he liked his bitters, and so does old King Spruce,
     But the only kind he hankers for is old spondulix-juice."

               --From song by Larry Gorman, "Woods Poet."


The young man on his way to "Castle Cut 'Em" was a clean-cut picture of
self-reliant youth. But he was not walking as one who goes to a welcome
task. He saw two men ahead of him who walked with as little display of
eagerness; men whose shoulders were stooped and whose hands swung
listlessly as do hands that are astonished at finding themselves idle.

A row of mills that squatted along the bank of the canal sent after them
a medley of howls from band-saws and circulars. The young man, with the
memory of his college classics sufficiently fresh to make him fanciful,
found suggestion of chained monsters in the aspect of those shrieking
mills, with slip-openings like huge mouths.

That same imagery invested the big building on the hill with attributes
that were not reassuring. But he went on up the street in the sunshine,
his eyes on the broad backs of the plodders ahead.

King Spruce was in official session.

Men who were big, men who were brawny, yet meek and apologetic, were
daily climbing the hill or waiting in the big building to have word
with the Honorable John Davis Barrett, who was King Spruce's high
chamberlain. Dwight Wade found half a dozen ahead of him when he came
into the general office. They sat, balancing their hats on their knees,
and each face wore the anxious expectancy that characterized those who
waited to see John Barrett.

Wade had lived long enough in Stillwater to know the type of men who
came to the throne-room of King Spruce in midsummer. These were stumpage
buyers from the north woods, down to make another season's contract with
the lord of a million acres of timber land. Their faces were brown,
their hands were knotted, and when one, in his turn, went into the inner
office he moved awkwardly across the level tiles, as though he missed
the familiar inequalities of the forest's floor.

The others droned on with their subdued mumble about saw-logs, sleeper
contracts, and "popple" peeling. The young man who had just entered was
so plainly not of themselves or their interests that they paid no
attention to him.

This was the first time Wade had been inside the doors of "Castle Cut
'Em," the name the humorists of Stillwater had given the dominating
block on the main street of the little city. The up-country men, with
the bitterness of experience, and moved by somewhat fantastic
imaginings, said it was "King Spruce's castle."

In the north woods one heard men talk of King Spruce as though this
potentate were a real and vital personality. To be sure, his power was
real, and power is the principal manifestation of the tyrant who is
incarnate. Invisibility usually makes the tyranny more potent. King
Spruce, vast association of timber interests, was visible only through
the affairs of his court administered by his officers to whom power had
been delegated. And, viewed by what he exacted and performed, King
Spruce lived and reigned--still lives and reigns.

Wade, not wholly at ease in the presence, for he had come with a
petition like the others, gazed about the reception-room of the Umcolcus
Lumbering and Log-driving Association, the incorporators' more decorous
title for King Spruce. It occurred to him that the wall-adornments
were not reassuring. A brightly polished circular-saw hung between two
windows. It was crossed by two axes, and a double-handled saw was the
base for this suggestive coat of arms. The framed photographs displayed
loaded log-sleds and piles of logs heaped at landings and similar
portraiture of destruction in the woods. Everything seemed to accentuate
the dominion of the edge of steel. The other wall-decorations were the
heads of moose and deer, further suggestion of slaughter in the forest.
A stuffed porcupine on the mantel above the great fireplace mutely
suggested that the timber-owners would brook no rivalry in their
campaign against the forest; they had asked the State to offer a bounty
for the slaughter of this tree-girdler, and a card propped against the
"quill-pig" instructed the reader that the State had already spent more
than fifty thousand dollars in bounties.

The deification of the cutting-edge appealed to Wade's abundant fancy.
He had noticed, when he came past the windows of the lumber company's
outfitting store on the first floor of the building, that the window
displays consisted mostly of cutting tools.

When the door of the inner office opened and one of those big and
awkward giants came out, Wade discovered that King Spruce had evidently
placed in the hands of the Honorable John Davis Barrett something sharp
with which to slash human feelings, also. The man's face was flushed and
his teeth were set down over his lower lip with manifest effort to dam
back language.

"Didn't he renew?" inquired one of the waiting group, solicitously.

"He turned me down!" muttered the other, scarcely releasing the clutch
on his lip. "I've wondered sometimes why 'Stumpage John' hasn't been
over his own timber lands in all these years. If he has backed many out
of that office feelin' like I do, I reckon there's a good reason why he
doesn't trust himself up in the woods." He struck his soft hat across
his palm. He did not raise his voice. But the venom in his tone was
convincing. "By God, I'd relish bein' the man that mistook him for a
bear!"

"Give any good reason for not renewin'?" asked a man whose face showed
his anxiety for himself.

"Any one who has been over my operation on Lunksoos," declared the
lumberman, answering the question in his own way--"any fair man knows I
haven't devilled: I've left short stumps and I 'ain't topped off under
eight inches, though you all know that their damnable scale-system puts
a man to the bad when he's square on tops. But I 'ain't left tops to rot
on the ground. I've been square!"

Wade did not understand clearly, but the sincerity of the man's distress
appealed to him.

One of the little group darted an uneasy look towards the door of the
inner office. It was closed tightly. But for all that he spoke in a
husky whisper.

"It must be that you didn't fix with What's-his-name last spring--I
heard you and he had trouble."

The angry operator dared to speak now. He looked towards the door as
though he hoped his voice would penetrate to King Spruce's throne-room.

"Trouble!" he cried. "Who wouldn't have trouble? I made up my mind I had
divided my profits with John Barrett's blackmailin' thieves of agents
for the last time. I lumbered square. And the agent was mad because I
wasn't crooked and didn't have hush-money for him. And he spiked me with
John Barrett; but you fellows, and all the rest that are willin' to
whack up and steal in company, will get your contracts all right. And
I'm froze out, with camps all built and five thousand dollars' worth of
supplies in my depot-camp."

"Hold on!" protested several of the men, in chorus, crowding close to
this dangerous tale-teller. "You ain't tryin' to sluice the rest of us,
are you, just because you've gone to work and got your own load busted
on the ramdown?"

"I'd like to see the whole infernal game of graft, gamble, and
woods-gashin' showed up. Let John Barrett go up and look at his woods
and he'll see what you are doin' to 'em--you and his agents! And the man
that lumbers square, and remembers that there are folks comin' after us
that will need trees, gets what I've just got!" He shook his crumpled
hat in their faces. "And I'm just good and ripe for trouble, and a lot
of it."

"Here, you let me talk with you," interposed a man who had said nothing
before, and he took the recalcitrant by the arm, led him away to a
corner, and they entered into earnest conference. At the end of it the
destructionist drove his hat on with a smack of his big palm and strode
out, sullen but plainly convinced.

The other man returned to the group and spoke cautiously low, but in
that big, bare room with its resonant emptiness even whispers travelled
far.

"I'll take a double contract and sublet to him," he explained. "Barrett
won't know, and after this Dave will come back into line and handle the
agent. I reckon he's got well converted from honesty in a lumberin'
deal. It's what we're up against, gents, in this business; the patterns
are handed to us and we've got to cut our conduct accordin' to other
men's measurements. Barrett gets _his_ first; the agent gets _his_; we
get what we can squeeze out of a narrow margin--and the woods get hell."

A man came out of the inner office stroking the folds of a stumpage
permit preparatory to stuffing it into his wallet, and the peacemaker
departed promptly, for it was now his turn to pay his respects to King
Spruce.

In what he had seen and what he had heard, Dwight Wade found food for
thought. The men so manifestly had accepted the stranger as some one
utterly removed from comprehension of their affairs or interest in their
talk that they had not been discreet. It occurred to him that his own
present business with John Barrett would be decidedly furthered were he
to utilize that indiscretion.

This thought occurred to him not because he intended for one instant to
use his information, but because he saw now that his business with John
Barrett was more to John Barrett's personal advantage than that
gentleman realized. This knowledge gave him more confidence. He was
proposing something to the Honorable John Barrett that the latter, for
his own good, ought to be pressed into accepting.

The earlier reflection which had made him uneasy, that a millionaire
timber baron would not listen patiently to suggestions about his own
business offered by the principal of the Stillwater high-school, had
now been modified by circumstances. Even that lurking fear, that awe of
John Barrett which he had his peculiar and private reason for feeling
and hiding, was not quite so nerve-racking.

Barrett left it to his clients to manage the order of precedence in the
outer office. It was only necessary for the awaiting suppliant to note
his place between those already there and those who came in after him;
and Wade was prompt to accept his turn.

He knew the Honorable John Barrett. As mayor that gentleman had
distributed the diplomas at the June graduation. And Mr. Barrett, after
one first, sharp, scowling glance over his nose-glasses, hooking his
chin to one side as he gazed, rose and greeted the young man cordially.

Then he wheeled his chair away from his desk to the window and sat down
where he could feel the breeze.

Looking past him Wade saw the Stillwater saw-mills. There were five of
them in a row along the canal. Each had a slip-opening in the end and it
yawned wide like a mouth that stretched for prey.

The two windows pinched together in each gable gave to the end of the
building likeness to a hideous face. From his seat Wade heard the
screech of the band-saws. The sounds came out of those open mouths. The
dripping logs went up the slips and into those mouths, like morsels
sliding along a slavering tongue. Mingled with the fierce scream of the
band-saws there were the wailings of the lath and clapboard saws. In
that medley of sound the imagination heard monster and victims mingling
howl of triumph and despairing cry.

The breeze that ruffled the awnings stirred the thin, gray hair of John
Barrett, brought fresh scents of sawdust and sweeter fragrance of
seasoning lumber. And fainter yet came the whiff of resinous balsam
from the vast fields of logs that crowded the booms.

With that picture backing him in the frame of the open window--mutilated
trees, and mills yowling in chorus, and with the scent of the riven logs
bathing him--the timber baron politely waited for the young man to
speak. He had put off the brusqueness of his business demeanor, for it
had not occurred to him that the principal of the Stillwater high school
could have any financial errand. He played a little tattoo with his
eye-glasses' rim upon the second button of his frock-coat. One touch of
sunshine on Barrett's cheek showed up striated markings and the faint
purpling that indulgence paints upon the skin. The way in which the
shoulders were set back under the tightly buttoned frock-coat, the
flashing of the keen eyes, and even the cock of the bristly gray
mustache that crossed the face in a straight line showed that John
Barrett had enjoyed the best that life had to offer him.

"I'll make my errand a short one, Mr. Barrett," began Wade, "for I see
that others are waiting."

"They're only men who want to buy something," said the baron,
reassuringly--"men who have come, the whole of them, with the same growl
and whine. It's a relief to be rid of them for a few moments."

Frankly showing that he welcomed the respite, and serenely indifferent
to those who waited, he brought a box of cigars from the desk, and the
young man accepted one nervously.

"I think I have noticed you about the city since your school closed,"
Mr. Barrett proceeded. And without special interest he asked, whirling
his chair and gazing out of the window at the mills: "How do you happen
to be staying here in Stillwater this summer? I supposed pedagogues in
vacation-time ran away from their schools as fast as they could."

If John Barrett had not been staring at the mills he would have seen the
flush that blazed on the young man's cheeks at this sudden, blunt demand
for the reasons why he stayed in town.

"If I had a home I should probably go there," answered Wade; "but my
parents died while I was in college--and--and high-school principals do
not usually find summer resorts and European trips agreeing with the
size of their purses."

"Probably not," assented the millionaire, calmly. A sudden recollection
seemed to strike him. "Say, speaking of college--you're the Burton
centre, aren't you--or you were? I was there a year ago when Burton
clinched the championship. I liked your game! I meant to have said as
much to you, but I didn't get a chance, for you know what the push is on
a ball-ground. I'm a Burton man, you know. I never miss a game. I'm glad
to have such a chap as you at the head of our school. These pale fellows
with specs aren't my style!"

He turned and ran an approving gaze over Wade's six feet of sturdy young
manhood. With his keen eye for lines that revealed breeding and
training, Barrett usually turned once to look after a handsome woman and
twice to stare at a blooded horse. Men interested him, too--men who
appealed to his sportsman sense. This young man, with the glamour of the
football victories still upon him, was a particularly attractive object
at that moment. He stared into Wade's flushed face, evidently accepting
the color as the signal that gratified pride had set upon the cheeks.

"You'll weigh in at about one hundred and eighty-five," commented the
millionaire. It seemed to Wade that his tone was that of a judge
appraising the points of a race-horse, and for an instant he resented
the fact that Barrett was sizing him less as a man than as a gladiator.
"Old Dame Nature put you up solid, Mr. Wade, and gave you the face to go
with the rest. I wish I were as young--and as free!" He gave another
look at the mills and scowled when he heard the mumble of men's voices
in the outer room. "When a man is past sixty, money doesn't buy the
things for him that he really wants." It was the familiar cant of the
man rich enough to affect disdain for money, and Wade was not impressed.

"I'd like to take my daughter across the big pond this summer," the land
baron grumbled, discontentedly, "but I never was tied down so in my
life. I am directing-manager of the Umcolcus Association, and I've got
all my own lands to handle besides, and with matters in the lumbering
business as they are just now there are some things that you can't
delegate to agents, Mr. Wade."

This man, confiding his troubles, did not seem the ogre he had been
painted.

The young man had flushed still more deeply at mention of Barrett's
daughter, but Barrett was again looking at his squalling mills.

The pause seemed a fair opportunity for the errand. The mention of
agents revived the recollection that he was proposing something to John
Barrett's advantage.

"Mr. Barrett, you know it is pretty hard for any one to live in
Stillwater and not take an interest in the lumbering business. I'll
confess that I've taken such interest myself. A few of my older boys
have asked me to secure books on the science of forestry and help them
study it."

"A man would have pretty hard work to convince me that it is a science,"
broke in Barrett, with some contempt. "As near as I can find out, it's
mostly guesswork, and poor guesswork at that."

"Well, the fact remains," hastened Wade, a little nettled by the
curtness that had succeeded the timber baron's rather sentimental
courtesy, "my boys have been studying forestry, and I have been keeping
a bit ahead of them and helping them as I could. Now they need a little
practical experience. But they are boys who are working their way
through school, and as I had to do the same thing I'm taking an especial
interest in them. They have been in your mills two summers."

"Why isn't it a good place for them to stay?" demanded Barrett. "They're
learning a side of forestry there that amounts to something."

"The side that they want to learn is the side of the standing trees,"
persisted Wade, patiently. "I thought I could talk it over with you a
little better than they. I hoped that such a large owner of timber land
had begun to take interest in forestry and would, for experiment's sake,
put these young men upon a section of timber land this summer and let
them work up a map and a report that you could use as a basis for later
comparison, if nothing else."

"What do you mean, that I'm going to hire them to do it--pay them
money?" demanded the timber baron, fixing upon the young man that stare
that always disconcerted petitioners. At that moment Wade realized why
those men whom he had seen waiting in the outer office were gazing at
the door of the inner room with such anxiety.

"The young men will be performing a real service, for they will plot a
square mile and--"

"If there's any pay to it, I'd rather pay them to keep off my lands,"
broke in Barrett. "Forestry--"

He in turn was interrupted. The man who came in entered with manifest
belief in his right to interrupt.

"Forestry!" he cried, taking the word off Barrett's lips--"forestry is
getting your men into the woods, getting grub to 'em, hiring bosses that
can whale spryness into human jill-pokes, and can get the logs down to
Pea Cove sortin'-boom before the drought strikes. That's forestry!
That's my kind. It's the kind I've made my money on. It's the kind John
Barrett made his on. What are you doin', John--hirin' a perfesser?" The
new arrival asked this in a tone and with a glance up and down Wade that
left no doubt as to his opinion of "perfessers." "Are you one of these
newfangled fellers that's been studyin' in a book how to make trees
grow?" he demanded.

Wade had only a limited acquaintance with the notables of the State, but
he knew this man. He had seen him in Stillwater frequently, and his
down-river office was in "Castle Cut 'Em." He was the Honorable Pulaski
D. Britt. He had acquired that title--mostly for newspaper use--by
serving many years in the State senate from Umcolcus County.

Wade gazed at the puffy red face, the bristle of gray beard, the hard
little eyes--pupils of dull gray set in yellow eyeballs--and remembered
the stories he had heard about this man who yelped his words with canine
abruptness of utterance, who waved his big, hairy hands about his head
as he talked, and with every gesture, every glance, every word revealed
himself as a driver of men, grown arrogant and cruel by possession of
power.

"Mr. Britt is executive officer for the lumber company in the north
country," explained Barrett, dryly. "We are all associated more or less
closely, though many of our holdings are separate. We think it is quite
essential to confer together when undertaking any important step." His
satiric dwelling on the word "important" was exasperating. "This young
gentleman is the principal of our high-school, Pulaski, and he wants me
to put a bunch of high-school boys in my woods as foresters--and pay 'em
for it. You came in just as I was going to give him my opinion. But it
may be more proper for you to do it, for you are the woods executive,
and are better posted on conditions up there than I am." His drawled
irony was biting.

The Honorable John Barrett enjoyed sport of all kinds, including
badger-baiting. Now he leaned back in his swivel-chair with the air of a
man about to enjoy the spectacle of a lively affair. But Wade, glancing
from Barrett to Britt, was in no humor to be the butt of the
millionaire.

"I don't think I care to listen to Mr. Britt's opinions," he said,
rising hastily.

"Why? Don't you think I know what I'm talking about?" demanded the
lumberman. He had missed the point of Barrett's satire, being himself a
man of the bludgeon instead of the rapier.

"I'm quite sure you know, Mr. Britt," said the young man, bowing to
Barrett and starting away.

"I've hired more men than any ten operators on the Umcolcus, put 'em all
together," declared Britt, following him, "and I'd ought to know
something about whether a man is worth anything on a job or not. And
rather than have any one of those squirt-gun foresters cuttin' and
caliperin' over my lands, I'd--"

Wade shut the door behind him, strode through the outer office, and
hurried down-stairs, his face very red and his teeth shut very tight.
He realized that he had left the presence of King Spruce in most
discourteous haste, but the look in John Barrett's eyes when he had
leaned back and "sicked on" that old railer of the rasping voice had
been too much for Wade's nerves. To be made an object of ridicule by
_her_ father was bitter, with the bitterness of banished hope that had
sprung into blossom for just one encouraging moment.

When he came out into the sunlight he threw down the fat cigar--plump
with a suggestion of the rich man's opulence--and ground it under his
heel. In the anxiety of his intimate hopes, in the first cordiality of
their interview, it had seemed as though the millionaire had chosen to
meet him upon that common level of gentle society where consideration of
money is banished. Now, in the passion of his disappointment, Wade
realized that he had served merely as a diversion, as a prize pup or a
game-cock would have served, had either been brought to "Castle Cut 'Em"
for inspection.

Walking--seeking the open country and the comforting breath of the
flowers--away from that sickly scent of the sawdust, his cheeks burned
when he remembered that at first he had fearfully, yet hopefully,
believed that John Barrett knew the secret that he and Elva Barrett were
keeping.

Hastening away from his humiliation, he confessed to himself that in
his optimism of love he had been dreaming a beautiful but particularly
foolish dream; but having realized the blessed hope that had once
seemed so visionary--having won Elva Barrett's love--the winning of
even John Barrett had not seemed an impossible task. The millionaire's
frank greeting had held a warmth that Wade had grasped at as vague
encouragement. But now the clairvoyancy of his sensitiveness enabled him
to understand John Barrett's nature and his own pitiful position in that
great affair of the heart; he had not dared to look at that affair too
closely till now.

So he hurried on, seeking the open country, obsessed by the strange
fancy that there was something in his soul that he wanted to take out
and scrutinize, alone, away from curious eyes.

The Honorable Pulaski D. Britt had watched that hasty exit with sudden
ire that promptly changed to amusement. He turned slowly and gazed at
the timber baron with that amusement plainly showing--amusement spiced
with a bit of malice. The reverse of Britt's hard character as bully
and tyrant was an insatiate curiosity as to the little affairs of the
people he knew and a desire to retail those matters in gossip when he
could wound feelings or stir mischief. If one with a gift of prophecy
had told him that his next words would mark the beginning of the crisis
of his life, Pulaski Britt would have professed his profane incredulity
in his own vigorous fashion. All that he said was, "Well, John, your
girl has picked out quite a rugged-lookin' feller, even if he ain't much
inclined to listen to good advice on forestry."

Confirmed gossips are like connoisseurs of cheese: the stuff they relish
must be stout. It gratified Britt to see that he had "jumped" his
friend.

"I didn't know but you had him in here to sign partnership papers,"
Britt continued, helping himself to a cigar. "I wouldn't blame you much
for annexin' him. You need a chap of his size to go in on your lands and
straighten out your bushwhackin' thieves with a club, seein' that you
don't go yourself. As for me, I don't need to delegate clubbers; I can
attend to it myself. It's the way I take exercise."

"Look here, Pulaski," Barrett replied, angrily, "a joke is all right
between friends, but hitching up my daughter Elva's name with a beggar
of a school-master isn't humorous."

Britt gnawed off the end of the cigar, and spat the fragment of tobacco
into a far corner.

"Then if you don't see any humor in it, why don't you stop the
courtin'?"

"There isn't any courting."

"I say there is, and if the girl's mother was alive, or you 'tending out
at home as sharp as you ought to, your family would have had a stir-up
long ago. If you ain't quite ready for a son-in-law, and don't want that
young man, you'd better grab in and issue a family bulletin to that
effect."

"Damn such foolishness! I don't believe it," stormed Barrett, pulling
his chair back to the desk; "but if you knew it, why didn't you say
something before?"

"Oh, I'm no gossip," returned Britt, serenely. "I've got something to do
besides watch courtin' scrapes. But I don't have to watch this one in
_your_ family. I know it's on."

Barrett hooked his glasses on his nose with an angry gesture, and began
to fuss with the papers on his desk. But in spite of his professed
scepticism and his suspicion of Pulaski Britt's ingenuousness, it was
plain that his mind was not on the papers.

He whirled away suddenly and faced Britt. That gentleman was pulling
packets of other papers from his pocket.

"Look here, Britt, about this lying scandal that seems to be snaking
around, seeing that it has come to your ears, I--"

"What I'm here for is to go over these drivin' tolls so that they can be
passed on to the book-keepers," announced Mr. Britt, with a fine and
brisk business air. He had shot his shaft of gossip, had "jumped" his
man, and the affair of John Barrett's daughter had no further interest
for him. "You go ahead and run your family affairs to suit yourself. As
to these things you are runnin' with me, let's get at 'em."

In this manner, unwittingly, did Pulaski D. Britt light the fuse that
connected with his own magazine; in this fashion, too, did he turn his
back upon it.



CHAPTER II

THE HEIRESS OF "OAKLANDS"

     "Pete Lebree had money and land, Paul of Olamon had none,
     Only his peavy and driving pole, his birch canoe and his gun.
     But to Paul Nicola, lithe and tall, son of a Tarratine,
     Had gone the heart of the governor's child, Molly the island's
       queen."

               --_Old Town Ballads._


The coachman usually drove into town from the "Oaklands" to bring John
Barrett home from his office, for Barrett liked the spirited rush of his
blooded horses.

But when his daughter occasionally anticipated the coachman, he resigned
himself to a ride in her phaeton with only a sleepy pony to draw them.

Once more absorbed in his affairs, after the departure of Pulaski Britt,
Barrett had forgotten the unpleasant morsel of gossip that Britt had
brought to spice his interview.

But a familiar trilling call that came up to him stirred that unpleasant
thing in his mind. When Barrett walked to the window and signalled to
her that he had heard and would come, his expression was not exactly
that of the fond father who welcomes his only child. It was not the
expression that the bright face peering from under the phaeton's parasol
invited. And as he wore his look of uneasiness and discontent when he
took his seat beside her, her face became grave also.

"Is it the business or the politics, father?" she asked, solicitously.
"I'm jealous of both if they take away the smiles and bring the tired
lines. If it's business, let's make believe we've got money enough.
Haven't we--for only us two? If it's politics--well, when I'm a
governor's daughter I'll be only an unhappy slave to the women, and you
a servant of the men."

But he did not respond to her rallying.

"I can't get away from work this summer, Elva," he said, with something
of the curtness of his business tone. "I mean I can't get away to go
with you."

"But I don't want you to go anywhere, father," protested the girl.

She was so earnest that he glanced sidewise at her. His air was that of
one who is trying a subtle test.

"I feel that I must go north for a visit to my timber lands," he went
on; "I have not been over them for years. I've had pretty good proof
that I am being robbed by men I trusted. I propose to go up there and
make a few wholesome examples."

He was accustomed to talk his business affairs with her. She always
received them with a grave understanding that pleased him. Her dark eyes
now met him frankly and interestedly. Looking at her as he did, with his
strange thrill of suspicion that another man wanted her and that she
loved the man, he saw that his daughter was beautiful, with the
brilliancy of type that transcends prettiness. He realized that she had
the wit and spirit which make beauty potent, and her eyes and bearing
showed poise and self-reliance. Such was John Barrett's appraisal, and
John Barrett's business was to appraise humankind. But perhaps he did
not fully realize that she was a woman with a woman's heart.

The pony was ambling along lazily under the elms, and the reflective
lord of lands was silent awhile, glancing at his daughter occasionally
from the corner of his eye. He noted, with fresh interest, that she had
greeting for all she met--as gracious a word for the tattered man from
the mill as for the youth who slowed his automobile to speak to her.

"These gossips have misunderstood her graciousness," he mused, the
thought giving him comfort.

But he was still grimly intent upon his trial of her.

"Because I cannot go with you, and because I shall be away in the woods,
Elva," he said, after a time, "I am going to send you to the shore with
the Dustins."

There was sudden fire in her dark eyes.

"I do not care to go anywhere with the Dustins," she said, with
decision. "I do not care to go anywhere at all this summer. Father!"
There was a volume of protest in the intonation of the word. She had the
bluntness of his business air when she was aroused. "I would be blind
and a fool not to understand why you are so determined to throw me in
with the Dustins. You want me to marry that bland and blessed son and
heir. But I'll not do any such thing."

"You are jumping at conclusions, Elva," he returned, feeling that he
himself had suddenly become the hunted.

"I've got enough of your wit, father, to know what's in a barrel when
there's a knot-hole for me to peep through."

"Now that you have brought up the subject, what reason is there for your
not wanting to marry Weston Dustin? He's--"

"I know all about him," she interrupted. "There is no earthly need for
you and me to get into a snarl of words about him, dadah! He isn't the
man I want for a husband; and when John Barrett's only daughter tells
him that with all her heart and soul, I don't believe John Barrett is
going to argue the question or ask for further reasons or give any
orders."

He bridled in turn.

"But I'm going to tell you, for my part, that I want you to marry Weston
Dustin! It has been my wish for a long time, though I have not wanted to
hurry you."

She urged on the pony, as though anxious to end a _tête-à-tête_ that was
becoming embarrassing.

"It might be well to save our discussion of Mr. Dustin until that
impetuous suitor has shown that he wants to marry me," she remarked,
with a little acid in her tone.

"He has come to me like a gentleman, told me what he wants, and asked my
permission," stated Mr. Barrett.

"Following a strictly business rule characteristic of Mr. Dustin--'Will
you marry your timber lands to my saw-mill, Mr. John Barrett, one
daughter thrown in?'"

"At least he didn't come sneaking around by the back door!" cried her
father, jarred out of his earlier determination to probe the matter
craftily.

"Intimating thereby that I have an affair of the heart with the iceman
or the grocery boy?" she inquired, tartly.

She was looking full at him now with all the Barrett resoluteness
shining in her eyes. And he, with only the vague and malicious
promptings of Pulaski Britt for his credentials, had not the courage to
make the charge that was on his tongue, for his heart rejected it now
that he was looking into her face.

"In the old times stern parents married off daughters as they would
dispose of farm stock," she said, whipping her pony with a little
unnecessary vigor. "But I had never learned that the custom had obtained
in the Barrett family. Therefore, father, we will talk about something
more profitable than Mr. Dustin."

Outside the city, in the valley where the road curved to enter the gates
of "Oaklands," they met Dwight Wade returning, chastened by
self-communion.

Barrett did not look at the young man. He kept his eyes on his
daughter's face as she returned Wade's bow. He saw what he feared. The
fires of indignation quickly left the dark eyes. There was the softness
of a caress in her gaze. Love displayed his crimson flag on her cheeks.
She spoke in answer to Wade's salutation, and even cast one shy look
after him when he had passed. When she took her eyes from him she found
her father's hard gaze fronting her.

"Do you know that fellow?" he demanded, brusquely.

"Yes," she said, her composure not yet regained; "when he was a student
at Burton and I was at the academy I met him often at receptions."

"What is that academy, a sort of matrimonial bureau?" His tone was
rough.

"It is not a nunnery," she retorted, with spirit. "The ordinary rules of
society govern there as they do here in Stillwater."

"Elva," he said, emotion in his tones, "since your mother died you have
been mistress of the house and of your own actions, mostly. Has that
fellow there been calling on you?"

"He has called on me, certainly. Many of my school friends have called.
Since he has been principal of the high-school I have invited him to
'Oaklands.'"

"You needn't invite him again. I do not want him to call on you."

"For what reason, father?" She was looking straight ahead now, and her
voice was even with the evenness of contemplated rebellion.

"As your father, I am not obliged to give reasons for all my commands."

"You are obliged to give me a reason when you deny a young gentleman of
good standing in this city our house. An unreasonable order like that
reflects on my character or my judgment. I am the mistress of our home,
as well as your daughter."

"It's making gossip," he floundered, dimly feeling the unwisdom of
quoting Pulaski Britt.

"Who is gossiping, and what is the gossip?" she insisted.

"I don't care to go into the matter," he declared, desperately. "If the
young man is nothing to you except an acquaintance, and I have reasons
of my own for not wanting him to call at my house, I expect you to do as
I say, seeing that his exclusion will not mean any sacrifice for you."

He was dealing craftily. She knew it, and resented it.

"I do not propose to sacrifice any of my friends for a whim, father. If
your reasons have anything to do with my personal side of this matter, I
must have them. If they are purely your own and do not concern me, I
must consider them your whim, unless you convince me to the contrary,
and I shall not be governed in my choice of friends. That may sound
rebellious, but a father should not provoke a daughter to rebellion. You
ought to know me too well for that."

They were at the house, and he threw himself out of the phaeton and
tramped in without reply. During their supper he preserved a resentful
silence, and at the end went up-stairs to his den to think over the
whole matter. It had suddenly assumed a seriousness that puzzled and
frightened him. He had been routed in the first encounter. He resolved
to make sure of his ground and his facts--and win.

Usually he did not notice who came or who went at his house. The still
waters of his confidence in his daughter had never been troubled until
the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt had breathed upon them.

This evening, when he heard a caller announced, he tiptoed to the head
of the stairs and listened.

It was Dwight Wade, and at sight of him his pride took alarm, his anger
flared. After the afternoon's exasperating talk, this seemed like open
and insulting contempt for his authority. It was as though the man were
plotting with a disobedient daughter to flout him as a father. His
purpose of calm thought was swept away by an unreasoning wrath.
Muttering venomous oaths, he stamped down the stairs, whose carpet made
his approach stealthy, though he did not intend it, and he came upon the
two as Wade, his great love spurred by the day's opposition, despondent
in the present, fearing for the future, reached out his longing arms and
took her to his heart.

They faced him as he stood and glowered upon them, a pathetic pair,
clinging to each other.

"You sneaking thief!" roared Barrett.

The girl did not draw away. Wade felt her trembling hands seeking his,
and he pressed them and kept her in the circle of his arm.

"I don't care to advertise this," Barrett went on, choking with his
rage, "but there's just one way to treat you, you thief, and that's to
have you kicked out of the house. Elva, up-stairs with you!"

She gently put away her lover's arm, but she remained beside him, strong
in her woman's courage.

"I have always been proud of my father as a gentleman," she said. "It
hurts my faith to have you say such things under your own roof."

"That pup has come under my roof to steal," raged the millionaire, "and
he's got to take the consequences. Don't you read me my duty, girl!"

Even Barrett in his wrath had to acknowledge that simple manliness has
potency against pride of wealth. Wade took two steps towards him, the
instinctive movement of the male that protects his mate.

"Mr. Barrett," he said, gravely, "give me credit for honest intentions.
If it is a fault to love your daughter with all my heart and soul, I
have committed that fault. For me it's a privilege--an honor that you
can't prevent."

"What! I can't regulate my own daughter's marriage, you young hound?"

"You misunderstand me, Mr. Barrett. You cannot prevent me from loving
her, even though I may never see nor speak to her again."

And Elva, blushing, tremulous, yet determined, looked straight in her
father's eyes, saying, "And I love him."

Barrett realized that his anger was making a sorry figure compared with
this young man's resolute calmness. With an effort he held himself in
check.

"We won't argue the love side of this thing," he said, grimly. "I
haven't any notion of doing that with a nineteen-year-old girl and a
pauper. But I want to inform you, young man, that the marriage of John
Barrett's only child and heir is a matter for my judgment to control.
I'm taking it for granted that you are not sneak enough to run away with
her, even if you have stolen her affections."

The millionaire understood his man. He had calculated the effect of the
sneer. He knew how New England pride may be spurred to conquer passion.

"These are wicked insults, sir," said the young man, his face rigid and
pale, "but I don't deserve them."

"I tell you here before my daughter that I have plans for her future
that you shall not interfere with. This is no country school-ma'am, down
on your plane of life--this is Elva Barrett, of 'Oaklands,' a girl who
has temporarily lost her good sense, but who is nevertheless my daughter
and my heiress. She will remember that in a little while. Take yourself
out of the way, young man!"

The girl's eyes blazed. Her face was transfigured with grief and love.
She was about to speak, but Wade hastened to her and took her hand.

"Good-night, Elva."

She understood him. His eyes and the quiver in his voice spoke to her
heart. She clung to his hands when he would have withdrawn them. The
look she gave her father checked that gentleman's contemptuous
mutterings.

"I am ashamed of my father, Mr. Wade," she said, passionately. "I offer
you the apologies of our home."

"Say, look here!" snarled Barrett, this scornful rebelliousness putting
his wits to flight, "if that's the way you feel about me, put on your
hat and go with him. I'll be d--d if I don't mean it! Go and starve."

He realized the folly of his outburst as he returned their gaze. But he
persisted in his puerile attack.

"Oh, you don't want her that way, do you?" he sneered. "You want her to
bring the dollars that go along with her!"

Then Wade forgot himself.

He wrested one hand from the gentle clasp that entreated him, and would
have struck the mouth that uttered the wretched insult. The girl
prevented an act that would have been an enormity. She caught his wrist,
and when his arm relaxed he did not dare, at first, to look at her. Then
he gave her one quick stare of horror and looked at his hand, dazed and
ashamed.

Barrett, strangely enough, was jarred back to equanimity by the threat
of that blow. He folded his arms, drew himself up, and stood there, the
outraged master of the mansion restored to command, silent, cold, rigid,
his whole attitude of indignant reproach more effective than all the
curses in Satan's lexicon.

Talk could not help that distressing situation. The young man's white
lips tried to frame the words "I apologize," but even in his anguish the
grim humor of this reciprocation of apology rose before his dizzy
consciousness.

"Good-night!" he gasped.

Then he left her and went into the hall, John Barrett close on his
heels. The millionaire watched him take his hat, followed him out upon
the broad porch, and halted him at the edge of the steps.

"Mr. Wade," he said, "you'd rather resign your position than be kicked
out, I presume?"

"You mean that it is your wish that I should go away from Stillwater?"

"That is exactly what I mean. You resign, or I will have your
resignation demanded by the school board."

"I think my school relations are entirely my own business," retorted the
young man, fighting back his mounting wrath.

"I'll make it mine, and have you kicked out of this town like a cur."

Wade remembered at that instant the face of the man whom he had seen
leave John Barrett's office that morning. He recollected his words--"I'd
relish bein' the man that mistook him for a bear!" He knew now how that
man felt. And feeling the lust of killing rise in his own soul for the
first time, he clinched his fists, set his teeth, and strode away into
the night.



CHAPTER III

THE MAKING OF A "CHANEY MAN"

     "We're bound for the choppin's at Chamberlain Lake,
     And we're lookin' for trouble and suthin' to take.
     We reckon we'll manage this end of the train,
     And we'll leave a red streak up the centre of Maine."

               --Murphy's "Come-all-ye."


A company of reserves posted in a thicket, after valiantly withstanding
the hammering of a battery, were suddenly routed by wasps. They broke
and ran like the veriest knaves.

Dwight Wade had determined to face John Barrett's battery of
persecution. But at the end of a week he realized that the little city
of Stillwater was looking askance at him. He knew that gossip attended
his steps and stood ever at his shoulders, as one from the tail of the
eye sees shadowy visions and, turning suddenly, finds them gone.

That John Barrett would deliberately start stories in which his
daughter's affairs were concerned seemed incredible to the lover who,
for the sake of her fair fame and her peace of mind, had resolved to
make fetish of duty, realizing even better than she herself that Elva
Barrett's sense of justice would weigh well her duties as daughter
before she could be won to the duties of wife.

Yet Wade could hardly tell why he determined to stay in Stillwater. He
wanted to console himself with the belief that a sudden departure would
give gossip the proof it wanted. For gossip, as he caught its vague
whispers, said that John Barrett had kicked--actually and violently
kicked--the principal of the Stillwater high-school out of his mansion.
Wade did not like to think that Barrett, by himself or a servant,
started that story. Yet the thought made Wade suspect that the
bitterness of the night at "Oaklands" still rankled, and that he was
remaining in Stillwater for the sake of defying John Barrett, and was
not simply crucifying his spirit for the sake of the peace of John
Barrett's daughter.

For he confessed that his stay there would be martyrdom. He had resolved
that he would not try to see her; that would only mean grief for her and
humiliation for him. He was proud of his love for Elva Barrett, in spite
of her father's contempt and insults. He found no reproach for himself
because he had loved her and had told her so. But for the rôle of a
Lochinvar his New England nature had no taste. He realized, without
arguing the question with himself, that Elva Barrett was not to be won
by the impetuous folly that demanded blind sacrifice of name and
position and father and friends.

There was no cowardice in this realization. It was rather a pathetic
sacrifice on the part of simple loyalty and a love that was absolute
devotion. In deciding to remain in Stillwater he kept his love alight
like a flame before a shrine. But beyond his daily work and the
unflinching purpose of his great love he could not see his way.

It was because his way was so obscure that the wasps found him an easier
victim.

He heard the buzzings at street corners as he passed. There were stings
of glances and of half-heard words.

Like the pastor of a church in a small place, the principal of
a high-school is one in whom the community feels a sense of
proprietorship, with full right to canvass his goings and comings
and liberty to circumscribe and control. For is he not the one that
should "set example"?

The wasps would not accept his silent surrender. They suspected
something hidden, and their imaginings saw the worst. They buzzed more
busily every day. That they would not allow him the peace and the
pathetic liberty of renunciation drove Wade frantic. With all the
courage of his conscience, he still faced John Barrett's battery. But
the wasps he could not face.

And he fled. In the end it was nothing but that--he was put to flight!
The people of Stillwater accepted it as flight, for he placed his
resignation in the hands of the school board barely a week before the
date for the opening of the autumn term. And on the train on which he
fled was the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt, still unconscious that the word
of gossip he had dropped was the match that lighted a fuse, and that the
fuse was briskly burning.

Above the rumble of the starting car-wheels Wade heard the mills of
Stillwater screaming their farewell taunt at him.

Then the Honorable Pulaski Britt came and sat down in his seat, penning
him next to the window.

"Yes, sir," said Britt, with keen memory as to where he had left off in
his previous conversation and with dogged determination to have his say
out, "a man that reads a book written by a perfesser that don't know the
difference between a ramdown and a dose of catnip tea, and then thinks
he understands forestry of the kind that there's a dollar in, needs to
have his head examined for hollows. Do you find anything in them books
about how to get the best figgers on dressed beef?--and when you are
buyin' it in fifty-ton lots for a dozen camps a half a cent on a pound
means something! Is there anything about hirin' men and makin' 'em stay
and work, gettin' cooks and saw-filers that know their business, chasin'
thieves away from depot-camps, keepin' crews from losin' half the
tools? Forestry! Making trees grow! Gawd-amighty, young man, Nature will
attend to the tree-growin'. That's all Nature has got to do. She was
doin' it before we got here, and doin' it well, and do you reckon we
have any right to set up and tell Nature her business? I've got
something else to think of besides tellin' Nature how to run her end.
I'd like to know how to grow men instead of trees. My Jerusalem boss,
MacLeod, writes me he has been two weeks getting together his hundred
men for that operation. He'll meet me at the Umcolcus junction, up the
line here a hundred miles. And I've been tryin' most of that time to get
hold of the right sort of a 'chaney man.'"

Wade, in his resentment at Britt's intrusion on his thoughts, was in no
mood for philological research, but sudden and rather idle curiosity
impelled him to ask what a "chaney man" was.

"Why, a clerk--a camp clerk, time-keeper, wangan store overseer, supply
accountant, and all that," snapped Britt, with small patience for the
young man's ignorance.

At that instant it came more plainly to Wade that he was a fugitive.
When he had left Elva Barrett behind he had let go the strongest cable
of hope. A day before--the day after--his manly spirit probably would
not have allowed him to become a clerk for Pulaski Britt. This day the
impetuous desire to hide in the woods, to escape the wasps of humanity,
to be in some place where sneers and false pity and taunt could not
reach him--that desire was coined into performance.

"Wouldn't I fit into a job of that sort, Mr. Britt?" he asked, blurting
the question. And when the lumberman stared at him with as much
astonishment as Pulaski Britt ever allowed himself to display, Wade
added, "I have given up school-teaching because--well, I want to get
into the woods for my health!"

"It will be healthy, all right, but it won't be dude work," said Britt.
"You'll have to hump 'round on snow-shoes or a jumper to five camps.
Board and thirty-five a month! What's the particular ailment with you?"
he demanded, rather suspiciously. "You look rugged enough."

The young man did not reply, and the Honorable Pulaski stared at him,
his eyes narrowing shrewdly. Mr. Britt had no very delicate notions of
repressing an idea when it occurred to him "Say, look here, young man,"
he cried, "I reckon I understand! The Barrett girl, hey? And John got
after you! Well, he can make it hot for any one he takes a niff at."

"Can't I have that job, Mr. Britt, without a general discussion of my
affairs?" asked Wade, with temper.

"You're hired!" There was the click of business in Britt's tone, but his
gossip's nature showed itself in the somewhat humorous drawl in which he
added: "I'm glad to know that it's only love that ails you. Outside of
that, you strike me as bein' a pretty rugged chap, and it's rugged chaps
we're lookin' for in 'Britt's Busters.' If it's only love that ails you,
I reckon we won't have any trouble about sendin' you out cured in the
spring."

But noting the glitter in Wade's eyes, Mr. Britt chuckled amiably and
took himself off down the car to talk business with a man.

During the long ride to Umcolcus Junction, Wade sat revelling in the
bitterness of his thoughts. He was not disturbed because he had given up
his school. There was a relief in escaping from meddlesome backbiters.
The school had been only a means to an end: it afforded revenue to
attain certain cherished professional plans that loomed large in Wade's
prospects. Money earned honorably in any other fashion would count for
as much. But the fact remained that he was fleeing, was hiding. Britt's
rough and somewhat contemptuous proprietorship, so instantly displayed,
wounded his pride. When he had passed the station to which he had
purchased his ticket before he met Britt, he offered more pay to the
conductor. He had seen Britt talking with the conductor a moment before,
brandishing a hairy hand in his direction.

"It's all settled by Mr. Britt," the train officer stated, passing on.
"You're one of his men, he says."

He growled under his breath as he accepted that label--"One of Britt's
men."

There were one hundred more waiting for them at Umcolcus Junction, where
they changed to the spur line that ran north.

Most of the men were in a state of social inebriety. A few fighters
were sitting apart on their dunnage-bags, nursing bruises and grudges.
Mindful of the State law that forbade the wearing of calked boots on
board a railroad train, the men who owned only that sort of footgear
were in their stocking feet. They carried their boots strung about
their necks by lacings. Many were bareheaded, having thrown away their
hats in their enthusiasm. Wade was not in a frame of mind to see any
picturesqueness in that frowsy crowd. He was one of them; he walked
dutifully behind his master, the Honorable Pulaski Britt.

A little man, with neck wattled blue and red with queer suggestion of
a turkey's characteristics, lurched out of a group and came at Pulaski
Britt with a meek and watery smile of welcome. His knees doubled with
a drunkard's limpness, and he had to run to keep from falling. Britt
evidently did not propose to serve as dock for this human derelict. He
stepped to one side with an oath, and the man made a dizzy whirl and
dove headforemost under the train on the main track, and at that moment
the train started. The man rolled over twice, and lay, serenely
indifferent to death, on the outer rail.

       *       *       *       *       *

After it was all over Wade sourly told himself that he acted as he did
simply to avoid witnessing a hideous spectacle.

For, in spite of Britt's yells of protest, he went under the car, missed
the grinding wheels by an inch, and rolled out on the other side with
the drunken man in his arms.

And when the train had drawn out of the station he came back across the
track, lugging the little man as he would carry a gripsack, tossed him
into the open door of the baggage-car of the waiting train, spatted the
dust off his own clothes, and went into the coach, casting surly looks
at the sputtering inebriates who attempted to shake hands with him.

When the train started Britt came again and penned the young man in his
seat against the window-casing.

"You've started in makin' yourself worth while, even if you are only the
chaney man," vouchsafed his employer. "You did an infernal fool trick,
but you've saved me Tommy Eye, the best teamster on the Umcolcus waters.
As he lies there now he ain't worth half a cent a pound to feed to cats;
when he's on a load with the webbin's in his hands I wouldn't take ten
thousand dollars for him."

"Is he a sort of personal property of yours?" asked Wade, sullenly. He
was venting his own resentment at Pulaski Britt's airs of general
proprietorship over men.

"Just the same as that," replied Britt, complacently. "I've had him more
than twenty years, and I'd like to see him try to go to work for any one
else, or any one else try to hire him away." He struck his hand on the
young man's knee. "Up this way, if you don't make men know you own 'em,
you're missin' one of the main points of forestry!" He sneered this
word every time he used it in his talk with Wade. The new chaney man
began to wonder how much longer he could endure the Honorable Pulaski D.
Britt without rising and cuffing those puffy cheeks.



CHAPTER IV

THE BOSS OF THE "BUSTERS"

     "If you don't like our looks nor ain't stuck on our kind,
     Git back with the dames in the next car behind."


On and on went the yelping staccato of the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt.
The Honorable Pulaski D. was discoursing on his favorite topic, and his
voice was heard above the rattle and jangle of the shaky old
passenger-coach that jolted behind some freight-cars.

"Forty years ago I rolled nigh onto a million feet into that brook
there!" shouted the lumber baron of the Umcolcus. His knotted, hairy
fist wagged under the young man's nose as he pointed at the car
window, his unwholesome breath fanned warmly on Wade's cheek, and
when he crowded over to look into the summer-dried stream his bristly
chin-whiskers tickled his seat-mate's ear. The September day was muggy
and human contact disquieting. Wade shrank nearer the open window. The
Honorable Pulaski did not notice the shrinking. He was accustomed to
crowd folks. His self-assertiveness expected them to get out of the way.

"Yes, sir, nigh onto a million in one spring, and half of it 'down pine'
and sounder'n a hound's tooth. Nothing here now but sleeper stuff. It's
a good many miles to the nearest saw-log, and that's where I'm cutting
on Jerusalem. I tell you, I've peeled some territory in forty years,
young man."

Wade looked at the red tongue licking lustfully between blue lips, and
then gazed on the ragged, bush-grown wastes on either side. While he had
been crowding men the Honorable Pulaski had been just as industriously
crowding the forest off God's acres. The "chock" of the axe sounded in
his abrupt sentences, the rasp of saws in his voice.

"We left big stumps those days." The hairy fist indicated the rotten
monuments of moss-covered punk shouldering over the dwarfed bushes.
"There was a lot of it ahead of us. Didn't have to be economical. Get
it down and yanked to the landings--that was the game! We're cutting
as small as eight-inch spruce at Jerusalem. Ain't a mouthful for a
gang-saw, but they taste good to pulp-grinders."

The train began to groan and jerk to a stand-still, and the old man
dove out of his seat and staggered down the aisle, holding to the
backs of the seats. At the last station he had spent ten minutes of
hand-brandishing colloquy on the platform with a shingle-mill boss
whom he had summoned to the train by wire. He was to meet a birch-mill
foreman here. Wade looked out at the struggling cedars and the white
birches, "the ladies of the forest," pathetic aftermath which was now
falling victim to axe and saw, and wondered with a flicker of grim humor
in his thoughts why the Honorable Pulaski did not set crews at work
cutting the bushes for hoop-poles and then clean up the last remnant
into toothpicks.

"He's a driver, ain't he?" sounded a voice in his ear. An old man
behind him hung his grizzled whiskers over the seat-back and pointed
an admiring finger at the retreating back of the lumber baron.

Wade wished that people would let him alone. He had some thoughts--some
very bitter thoughts--to think alone, and the world jarred on him. The
yelp of the Honorable Pulaski's monologue, that everlasting, insistent
bellow of voices in the smoking-car ahead, where the ingoing crew of
Britt's hundred men were trying to sing with drunken lustiness, and now
this amiable old fool of the grizzled whiskers, stung the dull pain of
his resentment at deeper troubles into sudden and almost childish anger.

"Once when I was swamping for him on Telos stream, he says to me, 'Man,'
he says, 'remember that the time that's lost when an axe is slicin' air
ain't helping me to pay you day's wages!' And I says to him, 'Mister
Britt,' says I--"

Dwight Wade, college graduate, former high-school principal, and at all
times in the past a cultured and courteous young gentleman, did the
first really rude and unpardonable act of his life. He twisted his chin
over his shoulder, scowled into the mild, dim, and watery eyes of his
interlocutor, and growled:

"Oh, cut it short! What in--" He checked the expletive, and snapped
himself up and across the aisle, and slammed down into another seat. The
red came over his face. He did not dare to look back at the old man. He
hearkened to the rip-roaring chorus in the smoking-car, and reflected
that as the new time-keeper he was now one of "Britt's Busters," and
that the demoralizing license of the great north woods must have entered
into his nature thus early. He grunted his disgust at himself under his
breath, and hunched his head down between his shoulders.

In his nasty state of mind he glowered at a passenger who came into the
car at the front. It was a girl, and a pretty girl at that. She nodded a
cheery greeting to the old man of the grizzled whiskers, and with a
smile still dimpling her cheeks flashed one glance at Wade. It was not
a bold look, and yet there was the least bit of challenge in it. The
sudden pout on her lips might have been at thought of confiding her
fresh, crisp skirts to the dusty seat; and yet, when she turned and shot
one more quick glance at the young man's sour countenance, the pout
curled into something like disdain, and a little shrug of her shoulders
hinted that she had not met the response that she was accustomed to find
on the faces of young men who saw her for the first time.

While Wade was gazing gloomily and abstractedly at the fair profile
and the nose, tip-tilted a wee bit above the big white bow of her veil
tied under her chin, one of the crew lurched from the door of the
smoking-car, caught off his hat, and bowed extravagantly. It was Tommy
Eye. He had to clutch the brake-wheel to keep himself from falling. But
his voice was still his own. He broke out lustily:

     "Oh, there ain't no girl, no pretty little girl,
     That I have left behind me.
     I'm all cut loose for to wrassle with the spruce,
     Way up where she can't find me.
     Oh, there ain't no--"

An angry face appeared over his shoulder in the door of the smoker, two
big hands clutched his throat, jammed the melody into a hoarse squawk,
and then the songster went tumbling backward into the car and out of
sight.

Almost immediately his muscular suppressor crossed the platform and came
into the coach, snatching the little round hat off the back of his head
as he entered. Wade knew him. His employer had introduced them at the
junction as two who should know each other. It was Colin MacLeod, the
"boss."

"And Prince Edward's Island never turned out a smarter," the Honorable
Pulaski had said, not deigning to make an aside of his remarks. "Landed
four million of the Umcolcus logs on the ice this spring, busted her
with dynamite, let hell and the drive loose, licked every pulp-wood boss
that got in his way with their kindlings, and was the first into Pea
Cove boom with every log on the scale-sheet. That's this boy!" And he
fondled the young giant's arm like a butcher appraising beef.

Wade paid little attention to him then. With his ridged jaw muscles, his
hard gray eyes, and the bullying cock of his head, he was only a part of
the ruthlessness of the woods.

But now, as he came up the car aisle, his face flushed, his eyes eager,
his embarrassment wrinkling on his forehead, Wade looked at him with the
sudden thought that the boss of the "Busters" was merely a boy, after
all.

"It was only Tommy Eye, Miss Nina," explained MacLeod, his voice
trembling, his abashed admiration shining in his face. "He's just
out of jail, you know." He looked at Wade and then at the old man
of the grizzled whiskers, and raised his voice as though to gain a
self-possession he did not feel. "Tommy always gets into jail after
the drive is down. He's spent seventeen summers in jail, and is
proud of it."

"But there ain't no better teamster ever pushed on the webbin's," said
the old man, admiration for all the folks of the woods still unflagging.

The girl did not display the same enthusiasm, either for Tommy Eye's
mishaps or for the bashful giant who stood shifting from foot to foot
beside her seat.

"Crews going into the woods ought to be nailed up in box-cars, that's
what father says. And when they go through Castonia settlement I wish
they were in crates, the same as they ship bears."

"How is your father since spring?" asked the young boss, stammeringly,
trying to appear unconscious of her scorn.

"Oh, he's all right," she returned, carelessly, patting her hand on her
lips to repress a yawn.

"And is every one in Castonia all right?"

"You can ask them when you get there," she replied, a bit ungraciously.

"I tell you, I was pretty surprised to see you get aboard the train down
here at Bomazeen. I--"

She canted her head suddenly, and looked sidewise at him with an
expression half satiric, half indignant.

"Do you think that all the folks who ever go anywhere in this world are
river drivers and"--she shot a quick and disparaging glance at the still
glowering Wade--"drummers?"

MacLeod noticed the look and its scorn with delight, and grasped at this
opportunity to get outside the platitudes of conversation. But in his
eagerness to be news-monger he did not soften his "out-door voice,"
deepened by many years of bellowing above the roar of white water.

"Oh, that ain't a drummer! That's Britt's new chaney man--the
time-keeper and the wangan store clerk." MacLeod knew that a girl born
and bred in Castonia settlement, on the edge of the great forest, needed
no explanation of "chaney man," the only man in a logging crew who could
sleep till daylight, and didn't come out in the spring with callous
marks on his hands as big as dimes. But he seemed to be hungry for an
excuse to stay beside her, where he could gaze down on the brown hair
looped over her forehead and her radiantly fair face, and could catch
a glimpse of the white teeth. "Britt was tellin' me on the side that
he's been teachin' school or something like that, and--say, you've
heard of old Barrett, who controls all the stumpage on the Chamberlain
waters--that rich old feller? Well, Britt, being hitched up with
Barrett more or less, and knowin' all about it--"

Wade was now upright in his seat, but the absorbed foreman, catching at
last a gleam of interest in the gray eyes upraised to his, did not
notice.

"--Britt says that Mister School-teacher there went to work and fell in
love with Barrett's girl, and now she's goin' to marry a rich feller in
the lumberin' line that her dad picked out for her, and instead of goin'
to war or to sea, like--"

Wade, maddened, sick at heart, furious at the old tattler who had thus
canvassed his poor secret with his boss, had tried twice to cry an
interruption. But his voice stuck in his throat.

Now he leaped up, leaned far over the seat-back in front of him, and
shouted, with face flushed and eyes like shining steel:

"That's enough of that, you pup!"

In the sudden, astonished silence the old man dragged his fingers
through his grizzled whiskers and whined plaintively:

"Ain't he peppery, though, about anybody talking? He shet me up, too!"

"It's my business you're talking!" shouted Wade, beating time with
clinched fist. "Drop it."

MacLeod, primordial in his instincts, lost sight of the provocation, and
felt only the rebuff in the presence of the girl he was seeking to
attract. He had no apology on his tongue or in his heart.

"It will take a better man than you to trig talk that I'm makin'," he
retorted. "This isn't a district school, where you are licked if you
whisper!" He sneered as he said it, and took one step up the aisle.

With the bitter anger that had been burning in him for many days now
fanned into the white-heat of Berserker rage, Wade leaped out of his
seat. Between them sat the girl, looking from one to the other, her
cheeks paling, her lips apart.

At the moment, with a drunken man's instinctive knowledge of ripe
occasions, Tommy Eye lurched out once more on the smoker platform and
began to carol the lay that had consoled him on so many trips from town:

     "Oh, there ain't no girl, no pretty little girl,
     That I have left behind me."

There sounded the clang of the engine bell far to the front. There was
the premonitory and approaching jangle of shacklings, as car after car
took up its slack.

"Look after your man there, MacLeod!" cried the girl. "The yank will
throw him off."

"Let him go, then!" gritted the foreman. The flame in Wade's eyes was
like the red torch of battle to him. Not for years had a man dared to
give him that look.

Suddenly the car sprang forward under their feet as the last shackle
snapped taut. The boss was driven towards Wade, and let himself be
driven. The other braced himself, blind in his fury, realizing at last
the nature of the blood lust.

A squall, fairly demoniac in intensity, stopped them. MacLeod recognized
the voice, and even his passion for battle yielded. When the Honorable
Pulaski D. Britt, baron of the Umcolcus, yelled in that fashion it meant
obedience, and on this occasion the squall was reinforced by a shriek
from the girl. And MacLeod whirled, dropping his fists.

There on the platform stood Britt, clutching the limp and soggy Tommy
Eye by the slack of his jacket. The Honorable Pulaski, jealous of every
second of time, had remained in conversation to the last with his birch
foreman. He stepped aboard just as Tommy, jarred from his feet, was
pitching off the other side of the platform. The Honorable Pulaski
snatched for him and held on, at the imminent risk of his own life.
Already both of them were leaning far out, for Tommy Eye, in the
blissful calm of his spirit, was making no effort to help himself.

In an instant MacLeod was down the car aisle and had pulled both back to
safety.

"Why in blastnation ain't you staying in this hog-car here, where you
belong, you long-legged P.I. steer?" roared the old man, his anger ready
the moment his fright subsided. "What do I hire you for? You came near
letting me lose the best teamster in my whole crew. Now get into that
car and stay in that car till we get to the end of this railroad."

He put his hands against MacLeod's breast and shoved him backward into
the door, where Tommy Eye, grinning in fatuous ignorance of the danger
he had passed through, had just disappeared ahead of him. The angry
shame of a man cruelly humiliated twisted MacLeod's features, but he
allowed his imperious despot to push him into the car, casting a last
appealing look at the girl. Britt slammed the door and stood on the
platform, bracing himself by a hand on either side the casing, and
peered through the dingy glass to make sure that his crew was now under
proper discipline.

"He's a driver and a master," piped up Grizzly Whiskers, with the
appositeness of a Greek chorus.

"There's the song about him, ye know:

     "Oh, the night that I was married,
       The night that I was wed,
     Up there come Pulaski Britt
       And stood at my bed-head.
     Said he, 'Arise, young married man,
       And come along with me.
     Where the waters of Umcolcus
       They do roar along so free.'"

"I'll bet he went, at that," volunteered a man farther back in the car.
"When Britt is after men he gits' em, and when he gits 'em he uses 'em."

"Mr. Britt," he shouted down the car aisle as the old man entered, "that
was brave work you done in savin' Tommy's life!"

"Go to the devil with your compliments!" snapped Britt. "If it wasn't
that I was losing my best teamster I wouldn't have put out my little
finger to save him from mince-meat."

He saw the girl, turned over a seat to face her, and began to fire rapid
questions at her regarding her father and mother and the latest news of
Castonia settlement. When the conversation languished, as it did soon on
account of the inattention of the young woman, the Honorable Pulaski
caught the still flaming eye of Dwight Wade, and crooked his finger to
summon him. Wade merely scowled the deeper. The Honorable Pulaski
serenely disregarded this malevolence as a probable optical illusion,
and when Wade did not start beckoned again.

"Come here, you!" he bellowed. "Can't you see that I want you?"

With new accession of fury at being thus baited, the young man started
up, resolved to take his employer aside and free his mind on that matter
of news-mongering. But the bluff and busy tyrant was first, as he always
was in his dealings with men.

"Here, Wade," he shouted, "you shake hands with the prettiest girl
in the north country! This is Miss Nina Ide, and this is my new
time-keeper, Dwight Wade. He's going to find that there's more in
lumbering than there is in being a college dude or teaching a school.
Sit down, Wade."

He pulled the young man into the seat.

"Entertain this young lady," he commanded. "She don't want to talk with
old chaps like me. Her father--well, I reckon you know her father! Oh,
you don't? Well, he's first assessor of Castonia settlement, runs the
roads, the schools, and the town, has the general store and post-office,
and this pretty daughter that all the boys are in love with."

And at the end of this delicate introduction he pushed brusquely between
them, and went back to talk with his elderly admirer in the rear of the
car.

Wade looked into the gray eyes of the girl sullenly. There was an angry
sparkle in her gaze.

"Well, Mr. Wade, you may think from what that old fool said that I'm
suffering to be entertained. If you think any such thing you can change
your mind and go back."

She had not a city-bred woman's self-poise, he thought. Her manner was
that of the country belle, spoiled the least bit by flattery and
attention. And yet, as he looked at her, he thought that he had never
seen fairer skin to set off the flush of angry beauty. For others there
was something alluring in the absolute whiteness of her teeth, peeping
under the curve of her lip, in the nose (the least bit _retroussé_), in
the looped locks of brown hair crossing her temples. Yet there was no
admiration in his eyes.

"I hope you won't hold me guilty of being the intruder," he said,
coldly.

"Not if you move your brogans over to some seat where there is more room
for them," she returned, with a click of her white teeth that showed
mild savagery. This young man who was in love with some one else, and
who had scowled at her, was decidedly not to her liking, she thought, in
spite of his regular features, his firm chin, his clean-cut mouth
unhidden by beard, and his brown eyes.

Wade flushed, rose, bowed with hat lifted to a rather ironical height,
and took his seat alone, well to the front of the car. He saw MacLeod's
baleful face framed in the little window of the smoking-car's door. For
mile after mile, as the train jangled on, it remained there.

The menace of the expression, the challenge in the attitude, and this
insolent espionage, all following the insults of his gossiping tongue,
wrought upon the young man's feelings like a file on metal. As his
resentment gnawed, it was in his mind to go and smash his fist through
the little window into the middle of that lowering countenance.

To him came the Honorable Pulaski, bristling and bustling.

"They're telling me back there, young man, that you and Colin came near
to having some sort of rumpus a little while ago. Now, I can't have
anything of that sort going on among my men. You mind _your_ business.
I'll make _him_ mind _his_. But what's it all about, anyway? Why were
you going to fight like roosters at sight?"

Wade looked at his pompous red face and into his eyes with their
yellowish sclerotic, and choked back the recrimination he had intended.
The thought of opening his heart's poor secret by bandying words with
this man made him quiver.

"As well to talk to a Durham bull," he reflected.

"Why, you poor college dude," went on his employer, scornfully, "Colin
MacLeod would break you in two and use you to taller his boots, a piece
in each hand. You're hired to keep books and peddle wangan stuff
according to the prices marked! Keep your place, where you belong. Don't
go to stacking muscle against the boss of the Busters."

The former centre of Burton College's football eleven stiffened his
muscles and set his nails into his palms to keep from hot retort. What
was the use? What did college training avail if it didn't help a
gentleman to hold his tongue at the right time?

"Now, remember what I've told you," ordered Britt, "and I'll go and set
MacLeod to the right-about, so that you won't have to be afraid of him
if you mind your own business."

He went away into the smoking-car. Between the opening and the closing
of the door there puffed out a louder jargon from the orgy. It then
settled into its dull diapason of maudlin voices.

For the rest of the journey, to the end of the forest railroad spur,
Wade sat and looked out into the hopeless and ragged ruin left by the
axes. The sight fitted with his mood. Britt, back from his interview
with MacLeod, and serene in the power of the conscious autocrat, sat by
himself and figured endlessly with a stubby lead-pencil. Wade looked
around only once at the girl. When he did he caught her looking at him,
and she immediately snapped her eyes away indignantly.

At last the engine gave a long shriek that wailed away in echoes among
the stumps. It was a different note from its careless yelps at the
infrequent crossings.

"Here we are!" bellowed Britt, cheerfully, stuffing away his papers and
coming up the car for his little bag. He stopped opposite Wade.

"Remember what I told you about minding your business," he commanded,
brusquely. "You may be a college graduate, but MacLeod is your boss. He
won't hurt you if you keep your place!"

In medicine there are cumulative poisons--the effect of small doses at
intervals amounting in the end to a single large dose.

In matters of heart, temper, and moral restraint there are cumulative
poisons, too. Dwight Wade, struggling up as the train jolted to a halt,
felt that this last insult, coming as it did out of that brusque,
rough-sneering, culture-despising spirit of the woods, exemplified in
Pulaski D. Britt, had put an end to self-restraint.

It was the same brusque, money-worshipping, intolerant spirit of the
woods that sounded in John Barrett's voice when he had sneered at Wade's
pretensions to his daughter's hand. There it was now in those roaring
voices in the smoking-car. And yet he had come to it--hating it--fleeing
from the sight of men of his kind when his little temple of love seemed
closed to him, and the world had jeered at him behind his back! He
looked through the dirty car windows at the little shacks of the
railroad terminus, heard the bellow of voices, gritted his teeth in
ungovernable rage at Britt's last words, and determined to--well, he
hardly knew what he did propose to do.

But it should be something to show them all that he could no longer be
bossed and insulted and jeered at--all in that bumptious, braggadocio,
bucko spirit of the woods!

Both platforms of the cars were swarming with men--men rigged in queer
garb: wool leggings, wool jackets striped off in bizarre colors or
checked like crazy horse-blankets. Each man in sight carried his heavy
brogan shoes hung about his neck.

They were singing in fairly good time, and Wade listened to the words
despite himself:

     "Oh, here I come from the Kay-ni-beck,
     With my old calk boots slung round my neck
     Here we come--yas, a-here we come--
     A hundred men and a jug of rum.
                    WHOOP-fa-dingo!
                         Old Prong Jones!"

The girl passed Wade, going down the aisle before he left his seat. He
came behind her. But they were obliged to wait at the door. The men
crowded close upon both platforms. Each man had a meal-sack stuffed with
his possessions. They were all elbowing each other, and the result was a
congestion that the kicks of the Honorable Pulaski and the cuffings of
Colin MacLeod did little to break.

The boss of the Busters kept stealing glances at the girl, as though to
challenge her notice, and perhaps her admiration, as she saw him thus a
master of men.

It was then that the spirit of anger and rebellion seething in Dwight
Wade--the cumulative poison of his many insults--stirred him to bitter
provocation in his own turn.

The girl carried a heavy leather suit-case, and now, waiting for the
press of men to escape from the car, she rested it against a seat, and
sighed in weariness and vexation.

With quiet masterfulness Wade took it from her hand and smiled into the
astonished gray eyes that flashed back over her shoulder at him. It was
a smile that not even a maiden, offended as she had been, could resist.

"I will assist you to--to--I believe it is a stage-coach that takes us
on," he said. "Let me do this, so that you won't remember me simply as a
man whose own troubles made him a boor."

MacLeod's look of fury as he saw the act fell full upon them both, and
the girl resented it.

"I thank you," she returned, smiling at her squire with a little
exaggeration of cordiality. And when at last the platforms were cleared
they stepped out, still talking.

All about them men were kneeling, fastening the latchets of their
spike-sole shoes.

"Rod Ide's gal has got a new mash!" hiccoughed one burly chap, leering
at them as they passed. At the instant MacLeod, at their heels, struck
the man brutally across the mouth, shouldered Wade roughly, and spoke
to the girl, his round hat crumpled in his big fist.

"Miss Nina," he stammered, "I'm--I'm sorry for forgetting that you were
in that car awhile back. But you know I ain't used to takin' talk of
that sort. So, let me see you safe aboard the stage, like an old friend
should."

"This gentleman will look after me," said the girl. She tried to be
calm, but her voice trembled. A city woman, confident of the regard due
to woman, would not have feared so acutely. But Nina Ide, bred on the
edge of the forest, was accustomed to see the brute in man spurn
restraint. The passions flaming in the eyes of these two were familiar
to her. She expected little more from the gentleman in the way of
consideration for her feelings than she did from the lumber-jack. "You
go along about your business, Colin," she said, hastily. "I can attend
to mine."

"Give me that!" snarled the boss, his eyes red under their meeting
brows. In his rage he forgot the deference due the woman.

"See if you can take it!" growled back the other. With him the girl was
only the means to the end that his whole nature now lusted for. He
forgot her.

Wade looked for the young giant to strike. But the woods duello has its
vagaries.

MacLeod lifted one heavy shoe and drove its spiked sole down upon Wade's
foot, the brads puncturing the thin leather. With his foe thus anchored,
he clutched for the valise. But ere his victim had time to strike, the
furious, flaming, bristling face of the Honorable Pulaski was between
them, and his elbows, hard as pine knots, drove them apart with wicked
thrustings. As they staggered back the old lumber baron, used to playing
the tyrant mediator, grabbed an axe from the nearest man of the crew.

"I'll brain the one that lifts a finger!" he howled. "What did I tell
you about this? Who is running this crew? Whose money is paying you? Get
back, you hounds!"

Once more, though he gasped in the pure madness of his rage, MacLeod was
cowed by his despot. He turned and began marshalling the crew aboard
great wagons that were waiting at the station.

"You take your seat in that wagon, young man!" roared Britt, shaking
that hateful, hairy fist under Wade's nose. "We'll see about all this
later! Get onto that wagon!"

At the opposite side of the station was the mail-stage, a dusty, rusty
conveyance with a lurching canopy of cracked leather above its four
seats, and four doleful horses waiting the snap of the driver's whip.

Without a word to Britt, Wade led the way to the coach, and set the
suit-case between the seats. He limped as he walked, and his teeth were
set in pain.

He gave his hand to the girl, and she silently accepted the assistance
and took her place in the coach.

Then he turned to meet the fiery gaze of the Honorable Pulaski, who had
followed close on their heels, choking with expletives.

"I reckon I see through this now," he growled. "Tryin' to cut out the
cleanest feller in the Umcolcus with your dude airs! But Rod Ide's girl
ain't to be fooled by city notions. She knows a man when she sees him."
He chucked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of MacLeod, busy
with the laggard men. "Go aboard, and let this be an end of your
meddling, young man."

"You just speak for yourself and attend to your business, Mr. Britt!"
cried the girl, with a spirit that cowed even the tyrant's bluster.
"'Rod Ide's girl,' as you call her, can choose all her own affairs, and
you needn't scowl at me, for I'm not on your pay-roll and I'm not
afraid of you!"

She turned to Wade with real gentleness in her tones.

"I'm afraid he hurt you. It's a rough country up here. If you hadn't
been trying to help me it wouldn't have happened. He had no right to--"
She checked herself suddenly, and her cheeks flamed.

"That wasn't a fair twit about my sticking my nose into your affairs,
Miss Nina," protested Britt, and turning from her he visited his rage
vicariously on his time-keeper, taking him by the arm and starting to
drag him. "I told you to get aboard!" he rasped. "And when my men that I
hire don't do as I tell 'em to do, I kick 'em aboard--and a time-keeper
is no better than a swamper with me when he leaves this railroad. You
want to understand those things and save lots of trouble."

"You take your hand off my arm, Mr. Britt," said the young man. He did
not speak loudly, but there was something in his voice that impressed
the Honorable Pulaski, who knew men.

"Now," resumed Wade, "for reasons of my own and that I don't propose to
explain, I am going to ride to Castonia settlement on this mail-stage."

"It's safe to go on the wagon," persisted Britt, more mildly. "I tell
you, if you mind your own business, I won't let him lick you."

With face gray and rigid at an insult that the old man couldn't
understand, Wade opened his mouth, then shut it, turned his back, and
climbed aboard the coach. The girl moved along to the farther end, and
gropingly and blindly, without thought as to where he was sitting, he
took the place beside her.

He remembered that as they drove away Britt shook that hairy fist at
him, and that some rude roisterer on the wagons lilted some doggerel
about "the chaney man." And through a sort of red mist he saw the face
of Colin MacLeod.

They were miles along the rough road before he looked at the girl. At
the movement of his head she turned her own, and in the piquant face
above the big white bow of the veil he saw real sympathy.

He did not speak, but he looked into her clear eyes--eyes that had the
country girl's spirit and a resourcefulness beyond her years--and from
them he drew a certain comfort.

"Mr. Wade," she said, at last, "I'm only nineteen years old, but up in
Castonia settlement we see what men are without the wrappings on them. I
don't know much about real society, but I've read about it, and I guess
society women get sort of dazzled by the outside polish and don't see
things very clear. But up our way, with what they see of men, girls get
to be women young. You are a college graduate and a school-teacher and
all that, and I'm only nineteen, but--well, it just seems to me I can't
help reaching over like this--"

She patted his arm.

"--And what I feel like saying is, 'Poor boy!'"

There was such vibrant sympathy in her voice that though he set his
teeth, clinched his hands, and summoned all his resolution, his nervous
strain slackened and the tears came into his eyes--tears that had been
slowly welling ever since he had turned from John Barrett's door.

It was woman's attempt at consolation that broke through his restraint.

"I don't blame you much for squizzlin' a little," broke in the
stage-driver, who saw this emotion without catching the conversation.
"He did bring his huck down solid when he stamped. But I've been calked
myself, and a tobacker poultice allus does the business for me--northin'
better for p'isen in a wound."

The chaney man reached his hand to the girl under the shelter of the
seat-back.

"Shake!" he said, simply. "I've come up here to stay awhile, and it's
good to feel that I've got one friend that's--that's a woman."

"And you--" She faltered and paused to listen, lips apart.

"I've come to stay," he repeated, grimly.

He listened too.

Far behind them they heard the dull rumble of the heavy wagons over the
ledges. The raucous howling of the revellers had something wolf-like
about it. It seemed to close the line of retreat. Ahead were the big
woods, looming darkly on the mountain ridges--that vast region of man to
man, and the devil take the weak.

And again he said, not boastingly, but with a quiet setting of his tense
jaw muscles:

"I've come to stay."



CHAPTER V

DURING THE PUGWASH HANG-UP

     "With eddies and rapids it's middlin' tough,
       To worry a log-drive through.
     But to manage a woman is more than enough
       For a West Branch driving crew."

               --Leeboomook Song.


Just how Tommy Eye escaped so nimbly from the ruck of the fight at the
foot of Pugwash Hill he never knew nor understood, his wits not being of
the clearest that day--and the others being too busy to notice.

But he did escape. One open-handed buffet sent him reeling into and
through some wayside bushes. He sat on his haunches on the other side a
moment like a jack-rabbit and surveyed the stirring scene, and then made
for higher ground. At the end of an enervating sixty-days' sentence in
the county jail--his seventeenth summer "on the bricks" for the same old
bibulous cause; second offence, and no money left to pay the fine--Tommy
did not feel fit for the fray.

He sat on a bowlder at the top of the rise for a little while and gazed
down on them--the hundred men of "Britt's Busters," bound in for the
winter cutting on Umcolcus waters. They were fighting aimlessly, "mixing
it up" without any special vindictiveness, and Tommy, an expert in
inebriety, sagely concluded that they were too drunk to furnish
amusement. So he rolled over the bowlder and nestled down to ease his
headache, knowing, as a teamster should know, that Britt's tote wagons
were to hold up at the Pugwash for a half-hour's rest and bait.

For that matter, a fight at the Pugwash was no novel incident--not for
Tommy Eye, at least, veteran of many a woods campaign.

The hang-up at the hill is a teamster's rule as ancient as the tote
road.

And the fight of the ingoing crew is as regular as the halt. All the way
from the end of the railroad the men have been crowded on the wagons,
with nothing to do but express personal differences of opinion. Every
other man is a stranger to his neighbor, for employment offices do not
make a specialty of introductions. As the principal matter of argument
on the tote wagons is which is the best man, the Pugwash Hill wait,
where there is soft ground and elbow-room, makes a most inviting
opportunity to settle disputes and establish an _entente cordiale_ that
will last through all the winter.

Two other men--two men who had been on the outskirts of the fray from
its beginning--came leisurely up the hill, and sat down on the bowlder
behind which was couched Tommy Eye.

One was the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt; the other was Colin MacLeod.

The Honorable Pulaski tucked the end of a big cigar into the opening in
his bristly gray beard where his mouth was hidden, and lighted it. As an
after-thought he offered one to MacLeod. The young man, his elbows on
his knees, his flushed face turned aside, shook his head sullenly.

"Well, you're having a run of cuss-foolishness that even our champion
fool, Tommy Eye himself, couldn't match," snorted the old man, rolling
his tongue around his cigar.

Tommy, behind the rock, tipped one ear up out of the moss.

"Here you go pouncing into that car to-day, where my new time-keeper
was, and go to picking a fuss with him, and--"

"He was the one that started it, Mr. Britt," said the boss, in the dull
monotone of one who has said the same thing many times before.

"Don't bluff me!" snapped the Honorable Pulaski. "You were gossiping
over a lot of his private business with that Ide girl--and bringing me
into it, too. You can't fool me! Old Jeff back in the car heard it all.
The young feller had a right to put in an oar to stop you, and he did
it, and I'll back him in it."

"Yes, and you went and introduced him to Miss Ide--that's some more of
your backin'," said MacLeod, bitterly.

"Just common politeness--just common politeness!" cried Britt, waving
his cigar impatiently. "That girl hasn't said she'd marry you, has she?
No! I knew she hadn't. Well, she's got a right to talk with nice young
men that I introduce to her, and there's nothing to it to make a fuss
over, MacLeod--only common politeness. You're making a fool of yourself,
and setting the girl herself against you by acting jealous like that
before the face and eyes of every one. That's enough time and talk
wasted on girls. Now, quit it, and get your mind on your work. You
understand that I won't have any more of this scrapping in my crew."

With a blissful disregard of consistency, he gazed through smoke-clouds
down at the men below, who were listlessly exchanging blows or rolling
on the ground, locked in close embrace.

MacLeod stood up, and tugged the collar of his wool jacket away from his
throat.

"I ain't much of a man to talk my business over with any one, Mr.
Britt," he said. "But you are putting this thing on a business basis,
and you don't have the right to do it. I ain't engaged to Nina Ide, and
I 'ain't asked her to be engaged to me, for the time 'ain't come right
yet. But there ain't nobody else in God's world goin' to have her but
me. She ain't too good for me, even if her father is old Rod Ide. I'll
have money some day myself. I've got some now. I can buy the clothes
when I need 'em, if that's all that a girl likes. But it ain't all they
like--not the kind of a girl like Nina Ide is. She knows a man when she
sees him. She knows that I'm a man, square and straight, and one that
loves her well enough to let her walk on him, and that's the kind of a
man for a girl born and bred on the edge of the woods."

He drew up his lithe, tall body, and snapped his head to one side with
almost a click of the rigid neck.

"Along comes that college dude," he snarled, "just thrown over by a city
girl and lookin' for some one else to make love to, and he cuts in"--his
voice broke--"you see what he done, Mr. Britt! He helped her off the
train before I could get there. He put her on the stage, and rode away
with her while you were makin' me handle the men. And he's ridin' with
her now, damn him, and he's a-talkin' with her and laughin' at me behind
my back!" He shook both fists at the road to Castonia settlement,
winding over the hill, and there were tears on his cheeks.

"He probably isn't laughing very much," replied Britt, dryly. "Not since
you plugged that spike boot of yours down on his foot there on the depot
platform. A nasty trick, MacLeod, that was."

"I wish I'd 'a' ground it off," muttered the boss. He struck his spikes
against the bowlder with such force that a stream of fire followed the
kick.

"He can't do it--he can't do it, Mr. Britt! He can't steal her! I've
loved her too long, and I'll have her. You just gave off your orders to
me about fighting. You don't say anything to those cattle down there
fighting about nothin'. You let them settle their troubles. Here I am!"
He struck his breast. "For five years, first up in the dark of the
mornin', last to bed in the dark of the night. I've sweat and swore and
frozen in the slush and snow and sleet, driving your crew to make money
for you. And I've waded from April till September, I've broken jams and
taken the first chance in the white water, so that I could get your
drive down ahead of the rest. And now, when it comes to a matter of hell
and heaven for me, you tell me I can't stand like a man for my own. You
call it wastin' time!"

He bent over the Honorable Pulaski, his face purple, his eyes red. Britt
took out his cigar and held it aside to blink up at this disconcerting
young madman.

"I tell you, you are taking chances, Mr. Britt. You have bradded me on,
and told me that a man of the woods always gets what he wants if he goes
after it right. Twice to-day you have stood between me and what I want.
You've let a college dude take the sluice ahead of me. I know you pay me
my money, but don't you do that again. I'm going to have that girl, I
say! The man that steps in ahead of me, he's goin' to die, Mr. Britt,
and the man that steps between me and that man, when I'm after him, he
dies, too. And if that sounds like a bluff, then you haven't got Colin
MacLeod sized up right, that's all!"

The Honorable Pulaski winked rapidly under the other's savage regard. He
knew when to bluster and he knew when to palter.

"MacLeod," he said, at last, getting up off the rack with a grunt, "what
a man that works for me does in the girl line is none of my business.
But after that kind of brash talk I might suggest to you that a cell in
state-prison isn't going to be like God's out-doors that you're roaming
around in now."

The boss sneered contemptuously.

"Furthermore, this college dude, that you are talking about as though he
were a water-logged jill-poke, was something in the football line when
he was in college--I don't know what, for I don't know anything about
such foolishness--but, anyway, from what I hear, it was up to him to
break the most arms and legs, and he did it, I understand. This is only
in advice, MacLeod--only in advice," he cried, flapping a big hand to
check impatient interruption. "You saw when Tommy Eye, the drunken fool,
fell under the train at the junction to-day, as he is always doing, that
feller Wade picked him up with one hand and lugged him like a pound of
sausage-meat--saved the fool's life, and didn't turn a hair over it. So,
talk a little softer about killing, my boy, and, best of all, wait till
you find out that he wants the girl or the girl wants _you_!"

He walked down the hill.

"Go to blazes with your advice, you old fool!" growled MacLeod, under
his breath. "He's lookin' for it; he's achin' for it! He gave me a look
to-day that no man has given me in ten years and had eyes left open to
look a second time. He'll get it!"

As he turned to follow his employer he saw the recumbent Tommy, and went
out of his way far enough to give him a vicious kick.

"Get onto the wagons, you rum-keg, or you'll walk to Castonia!"

"Be jigged if I won't walk!" groaned Tommy, surveying the retreating
back of the boss with sudden weak hatred. "So there was a man who saved
my life to-day when I didn't know it! And there was another man who
kicked me when I did know it! It's the chaney man he's after, and the
chaney man was good to me! I'll make a fair fight of it if my legs hold
out, and that's all any man could do."

The horses were still munching fodder, and the gladiators, thankful for
an excuse to stop the fray, were stupidly listening to a harangue by the
Honorable Pulaski, who was explaining what would be allowed and what
would not be allowed in his camps.

Tommy Eye ducked around the bushes and took the road with a woodsman's
lope, his wobbly knees getting stronger as the exercise cleared his
brain.

A woodman's lope is not impressive, viewed with a sprinter's eye. Nor is
a camel's stride. But either is a great devourer of distance. So it
happened that Tommy Eye, sweat-streaked and breathing hard, caught up
with the sluggish Castonia stage while it was negotiating the last
rock-strewn hill a half-mile outside the settlement.

Dwight Wade, time-keeper of the Busters, heard the stertorous puffing,
and looked around to see Tommy Eye clinging to the muddy axle and towing
behind. Tommy divided an amiable and apologetic grin between Wade and
the girl beside him.

"I'm only--workin' out--the--the budge!" Tommy explained, between the
jerks of the wagon. "Don't mind me!"

Down the half-mile of dusty declivity into Castonia, the only smooth
road between the railroad and the settlement, the stage made its usual
gallant dash with chuckling axle-boxes and the spanking of splay hoofs.

And Tommy Eye came limply slamming on behind.



CHAPTER VI

AS FOUGHT BEFORE THE "IT-'LL-GIT-YE CLUB"

     "We dug him out of his blankets, and hauled him out to the
       light--
     His eyes were red with the tears he had shed, but now he
       wanted to fight.
     And screaming a string of curses, he struck as he raved and
       swore--
     Floored Joe Lacrosse and the swamping boss and announced
       he was ready for more."

               --The Fight at Damphy's.


Civilization sets her last outpost at Castonia in the plate-glass
windows of Rodburd Ide's store. Civilization had some aggravating
experiences in doing this. Four times hairy iconoclasts from the deep
woods came down, gazed disdainfully at these windows as an effort to put
on airs, and smashed them with rocks dug out of the dusty road. Four
times Rodburd Ide collected damages and renewed the windows--and in the
end civilization won out.

Those experienced in such things can tell a Castonia man anywhere by the
pitch of his voice. Everlastingly, Umcolcus pours its window-jarring
white waters through the Hulling Machine's dripping ledges. Here enters
Ragmuff stream, bellowing down the side of Tumbledick, a mountain that
crowds Castonia close to the river. Most of the men of the settlement do
their talking on the platform of Ide's store, with the spray spitting
into their faces and the waters roaring at them. And go where he will, a
Castonia man carries that sound in his ears and talks like a fog-horn.

The satirists of the section call Ide's store platform "The Blowdown."
In the woods a blowdown is a wreck of trees. On Ide's platform the
loafers are the wrecks of men. Here at the edge of the woods, at the
jumping-off place, the forest sets out its grim exhibits and mutely
calls, "Beware!" There are men with one leg, men with one arm, men with
no arms at all; there are men with hands maimed by every vagary of
mischievous axe or saw. There are men with shanks like broomsticks--men
who survived the agonies of freezing. There is always a fresh
subscription-paper hung on the centre post in Ide's store, meekly
calling for "sums set against our names" to aid the latest victim.

Wade, looking at this pathetic array of cripples as he slowly swung
himself over the wheel of the stage, felt that he was in congenial
company; for the foot that MacLeod had so brutally jabbed with his
spikes had stiffened in its shoe. It ached with a dull, rancor-stirring
pain. When he limped across the platform into the store, carrying the
girl's valise, he hobbled ungracefully. The loungers looked after him
with fraternal sympathy.

"The boss spiked him down to the deepo," advised Tommy, slatting sweat
from his forehead with muddy forefinger. "He's the new time-keeper."

"Never heard of the boss calkin' the chaney man before," remarked Martin
McCrackin, rapping his pipe against his peg-leg to dislodge the dottle.

Tommy twisted his face into a prodigious wink, jabbed a thumb over his
shoulder towards the store door, and gazed archly around at the circle
of faces.

"He cut the boss out with the Ide girl!" He whispered this hoarsely.

The listeners looked at the door where Wade and the girl had
disappeared, and then stared at one another. They had viewed the arrival
of the stage with the dull lethargy of the hopelessly stranded. Now they
displayed a reviving interest in life.

"And that was all he done to him--step on his foot?" demanded a thin
man, impatiently twitching the stubs of two arms, off at the elbows.

"Old P'laski got in!" said Tommy, with meaning. "Used his old elbows for
pick-holes and fended Colin off."

"It will git him, though!" said another. He had shapeless stumps of legs
encased in boots like exaggerated whip-sockets.

"You bet it will git him!" agreed McCrackin.

Rodburd Ide, busy, chatty, accommodating little man, trotted out of the
store at this instant with a handful of mail to distribute among his
crippled patrons.

"That's what the river boys call this crowd here," he said, over his
shoulder, to Wade, who followed him. "The 'It-'ll-git-ye Club.' I guess
It _will_ get ye some time up in this section! Here's the last one, Mr.
Wade. Aholiah Belmore--that's the man with the hand done up. Shingle-saw
took half his fin. Well, 'Liah, don't mind! No one ever saw a whole
shingle-sawyer. It's lucky it wasn't a snub-line that got ye. There's
what a snub-line can do, Mr. Wade."

He pointed to the armless man and to the man with the shapeless legs.

"All done at the same time--bight took 'em and wound 'em round the
snub-post."

"And it's a pity it wa'n't our necks instead of our legs and arms,"
growled one of the men--"trimmed like a saw-log and no good to nobody!"

"Never say die--never say die!" chirruped the jovial "Mayor of
Castonia." He threw back his head in his favorite attitude, thrust out
his gray chin beard and tapped his pencil cheerily against the obtrusive
false teeth showing under his smoothly shaven upper lip. "Your
subscription-papers are growing right along, boys. The first thing you
know you'll have enough to buy artificial arms and legs, such as we were
looking at in the advertisements the other day. It beats all what they
can make nowadays--teeth, arms, legs, and everything."

"They can't make new heads, can they?" inquired Tommy Eye, whose mien
was that of a man who had something important to impart and was casting
about for a way to do it gracefully.

"Who needs a new head around here?" smilingly inquired the "mayor."

"Him," jerked out Tommy, pointing to Wade. "Leastwise, he will in about
ten minutes after the boss gits here." And having thus delicately opened
the subject, Tommy's tongue rushed on. "He was good to me when I didn't
know it!" His finger again indicated the time-keeper. "I ain't goin' to
see him done up any ways but in a fair fight. But _he's_ comin'. There's
blood in his eyes and hair on his teeth. I heard him a-talkin' it over
to himself--and he's goin' to kill the 'chaney man' for a-gittin' his
girl away from him. Now," concluded Tommy, with a hysterical catch in
his throat, "if it can be made a fair fight, knuckles up and man to man,
then, says I, here's your fair notice it's comin'. But there's a girl in
it, and girls don't belong in a fair fight--and I'm afeard--I'm afeard!
You'd better run, 'chaney man.'"

Nina Ide was in the door behind her father. Her face was crimson, and
she winked hard to keep the tears of vexed shame back--for the faces of
the loungers told her that Tommy had been imparting other confidences.
She did not dare to steal even a glance at Wade. She was suffering too
much herself from the brutal situation.

"'A girl!' 'His girl!'" repeated Ide, seeing there was something he did
not understand. "Whose--"

"Father!" cried his daughter. And when he would have continued to
question, snapping his sharp eyes from face to face, she stamped her
foot in passion and cried, "Father!" in a manner that checked him. He
stood surveying her with open mouth and staring eyes.

Dwight Wade had fully understood the quizzical glances that were
levelled at him. It was not a time--in this queer assemblage--for the
observance of the rigid social conventions. Taking the father aside
would be misconstrued--and slander would still pursue the girl.

"Mr. Ide," he cried, his eyes very bright and his cheeks flushing, "I
want you and the others to understand this thing. It's all a mistake.
Mr. Britt introduced me to your daughter, and I paid her a few
civilities, such as any young lady might expect to receive. But I seem
to have stirred up a pretty mess. It's a shameful insult to your
daughter--this--this--oh, that man MacLeod must be a fool!"

"He is!" said the girl, indignantly.

"And he's a fighter," muttered Tommy Eye.

Rodburd Ide clutched his beard and blinked his round eyes, much
perplexed.

"It isn't a very nice thing, any way you look at it--this having two
young men scrapping through this region about my girl. It isn't that I
don't expect her to get some attention, but this is carrying attention
too far." He took her by the arm and led her to one side. "Nina, there
is nothing between you and Colin MacLeod?"

"Nothing, father. We have danced together at the hall, and he has walked
home with me--and that's the only excuse he has for making a fool of
himself in this way."

"And--and this new man, here?"

"I never saw him till this very day! And he's in love with John
Barrett's daughter. Oh, what an idiot MacLeod is! This stranger will
think we're all fools up here!" Tears of rage and shame filled her eyes.

Ide's gaze, wandering from her face to Wade and then to the loafers, saw
one of Britt's great wagons topping the distant rise, and he heard a
wild chorus of hailing yells.

"You run up to the house, girl," he said.

"I'll not," she replied. And when he began to frown at her she clasped
his arm with both her hands and murmured: "He's a stranger and a
gentleman, father, and they're abusing him. He is nothing to me. He's in
love with another girl. It was through being obliging and kind to me
that this horrible mistake has been made. Now, I'll not run away and
leave him to suffer any more."

Rodburd Ide, an indulgent father, scratched his nose reflectively.

"It isn't the style of the Ide family to leave friends on the chips,
Nina," he said--"not even when they're brand new friends. We know what
an ingoing lumber crew is, and he probably doesn't, and it's the green
man that always gets the worst of it. So I'll tell you what to do:
Invite him up to the house, and you entertain him until P'laski and I
can get this thing smoothed over."

Tommy Eye, hovering near in piteous trepidation lest his kindly offices
should miscarry, overheard the invitation that father and daughter
extended to the young man, who was gloomily eying the approach of the
wagon.

"Yess'r, they've got the right of it," stammered Tommy, unluckily.
"You'll git it if ye don't--and the 'It-'ll-git-ye Club' will see ye git
it. Ye'd best run!"

Wade looked into the flushed face of the girl, at the officious father
of commiserating countenance, and at the loungers who had heard Tommy's
condescending counsel and were looking at him with a sort of scornful
pity.

Again that strange, sullen, gnawing rage at the general attitude of the
world seized upon him. He felt a bristling at the back of his neck and
in his hair--the primordial bristling of the beast's mane.

"It is kind of you to invite a stranger," he said, "but I fear that
among these peculiar people even that kindness would be misconstrued. I
belong with Britt's crew. I'll stay here."

There was that in his voice which checked further appeal. The girl stood
back against the wall of the store.

The Honorable Pulaski was the first off the wagon, and he greeted Ide
with rough cordiality. When the latter began to whisper rapidly in his
ear, he shook his head.

"I've wasted a good deal of valuable time and some temper holding those
two young fools apart to-day," he snapped. "The last thing MacLeod
wanted to do was to lick me. Now, I'm too old to be mixed up in love
scrapes. I'm going over to measure that spool stock, and the one that's
alive when I get back, I'll load him onto the wagon and we'll keep on up
the river." He strode away, leaving the "mayor" champing his false teeth
in resentful disappointment.

But the autocrat of Castonia had a courage of his own. He set back his
head and marched up to MacLeod, who was standing in the middle of the
road, his jacket thrown back, his thumbs in his belt.

"Colin," he demanded, indifferent as to listeners, "what's all this
about my girl? Can't she come along home, minding her own business like
the good girl that she is, without a fuss that has set all the section
wagging tongues? I thought you were a different chap from this!"

"He had his lie made up when he got here, did he?" growled MacLeod.

"I believe what my own girl says," the father retorted.

"So he's got as far as that, has he? I tell ye, Rod Ide, if you don't
know enough--don't care enough about your own daughter to keep her out
of the clutches of a cheap masher like that--the kind I've seen many a
time before--then--it's where I grab in. Ye'll live to thank me for it.
I say, ye will! You don't know what you're talking about now. But you'll
know your friends in the end."

He put up one arm, stiffened it against Ide's breast, and slowly but
relentlessly pushed him aside.

Viewed in the code of larrigan-land, the situation was one that didn't
admit of temporizing or mediation. The set faces of the men who looked
on showed that the trouble between these two, brooding through the hours
of that long day, was now to be settled. As for his men, Colin MacLeod
had his prestige to keep--and a man who had suffered a stranger to carry
off the girl he loved without fitting rebuke could have no prestige in a
lumber camp. And it was prestige that made him worth while, made him a
boss who could get work out of men.

The uncertain quantity in the situation was the stranger.

With one movement of heads, all eyes turned to him.

He was not a woodsman, and they expected from him something different
from the usual duello of the woods.

They got it!

For instead of waiting for the champion of the Umcolcus to take the
initiative, this city man calmly walked off the store platform at this
juncture and bearded the champion.

"And there ye have it--two bucks and one doe!" grunted old Martin. "The
same old woods wrassle."

The boss dropped his hands at his side as the time-keeper approached. He
grinned evilly when he noted the limp. Wade came close and spoke without
anger.

"I see you are still determined to be a fool, MacLeod. I want no trouble
with you. Aren't you willing to settle all this fuss like a man?"

"That's what I'm here for," replied the boss, with grim significance.

"Then go and offer an apology to that young lady. Do it, and I'll cancel
the one you owe to me."

If Wade had been seeking to provoke, he could have chosen no more
unfortunate words.

"Apology!" howled MacLeod. "Do ye hear it, boys? Talkin' to me like I
was a Micmac and didn't know manners! Here's an Umcolcus apology for ye,
ye putty-faced dude!"

His lunge was vicious, but in his contempt for his adversary it was
wholly unguarded. A woodsman's rules of battle are simple. They can be
reduced to the single precept: Do your man! Knuckles, butting head, a
kick like a game-cock with the spiked boots, grappling and choking--not
one is called unfair. MacLeod simply threw himself at his foe. It was
blood-lust panting for the clutch of him.

Those who told it afterwards always regretfully said it was not a
fight--not a fight as the woods looks at such diversions. No one who saw
it knew just how it happened. They simply saw that it had happened.

[Illustration: "WADE STOOD ABOVE THE FALLEN FOE"]

To the former football centre of Burton it was an opening simple as "the
fool's gambit" in chess. His tense arms shot forward, his hands clasped
the wrists of the flying giant with snaps like a steel trap's clutch,
his head hunched between his shoulders, he went down and forward,
tugging at the wrists, and by his own momentum MacLeod made his helpless
somersault over the college man's broad back.

And as he whirled, up lunged the shoulders in a mighty heave, and the
woodsman fell ten feet away--fell with the soggy, inert, bone-cracking
thud that brings a groan involuntarily from spectators. He lay where he
fell, quivered after a moment, rolled, and his right arm twisted under
his body in sickening fashion.

The girl gave a sharp cry, gathered her skirts about her, and ran away
up the street.

"He's got it!" said 'Liah Belmore, with the professional decisiveness of
the "It-'ll-git-ye Club."

"I've read about them things bein' done by the Dagoes in furrin' parts,"
remarked Martin McCrackin, gazing pensively on the prostrate boss, "but
I never expected to see it done in a woods fight."

There was silence then for a moment--a silence so profound that the
breathing of the spectators could be heard above the summer-quieted
murmur of the Hulling Machine. Wade walked over and stood above the
fallen foe. He was not gainsaid. Woods decorum forbids interference in a
fair fight.

As he stood there a rather tempestuous arrival broke the tenseness of
the situation. From the mouth of a woods road leading into the tangled
mat of forest at the foot of Tumbledick came a little white stallion
drawing a muddy gig.

Under the seat swung a battered tin pail in which smouldered dry fungi,
giving off a trail of smoke behind--the smudge pail designed to rout the
black-flies of summer and the "minges" of the later season.

An old man drove--an old man, whose long white hair fluttered from under
a tall, pointed, visorless wool cap with a knitted knob on its apex.
Whiskers, parted by his onrush, streamed past his ears.

He pulled up so suddenly in front of Ide's store that his little
stallion skated along in the dust.

"Hullo," he chirped, cocking his head to peer, "Cole MacLeod down!"

He whirled, leaped off the back of the seat, and ran nimbly to the
prostrate figure.

"Broken!" he jerked, fumbling the arm. "No--no! Out of joint!"

"Let the man alone," commanded Wade. "He'll need proper attendance."

"Proper attendance!" shrilled the little old man, with snapping eyes.
"Proper attendance! And I guess that you haven't travelled much that you
don't know me. Here, two of you, come and sit on this man! I'll have him
right in a jiffy. Don't know me, eh?" He again turned a scornful gaze on
the time-keeper. "Prophet Eli, the natural bone-setter, mediator between
the higher forces and man, disease eradicator, the 'charming man'--I
guess this is your first time out-doors! Here, two of you come and hold
Cole MacLeod!"

When Wade, knitting his brows, manifested further symptoms of
interference, Rodburd Ide took him by the arm and led him aside.

"Let the old man alone," he said. "He'll know what to do. A little
cracked, but he knows medicine better than half the doctors that ever
got up as far as this."

They heard behind them a dull snap and a howl of pain from MacLeod.

"There she goes back," said Ide. "He's lived alone on Tumbledick for
twenty years, and I suppose there's a story back of him, but we never
found it out this way. We just call him Prophet Eli and listen to his
predictions and drink his herb tea and let him set broken bones and
charm away disease--and there's no kick coming, for he will never take a
cent from any one."

Four men had carried MacLeod to the wagon. His forehead was bleeding but
he was conscious, for the sudden wrench and bitter pain of the
dislocated shoulder had stirred his faculties.

"Well, you've had it out, have you?" demanded the Honorable Pulaski,
coming around the corner of the store and taking in the scene. "What did
I tell you, MacLeod? Listen to me next time!"

"And you listen to me, too!" squalled MacLeod, his voice breaking like a
child's. "This thing ain't over! It's me or him, Mr. Britt. If he goes
in with your crew, I stay out. If you want him, you can have him, but
you can't have me. And you know what I've done with your crews!"

"You don't mean that, Colin," blustered Britt.

"God strike me dead for a liar if I don't."

"It's easier to get time-keepers than it is bosses," said the Honorable
Pulaski, with the brisk decision natural to him. He whirled on Wade.
"You'd better go home, young man. You're too much of a royal Bengal
tiger to fit a crew of mine." He turned his back and began to order his
men aboard the tote teams.

Wade stood looking after them as the wagons "rucked" away, his face
working with an emotion he could not suppress.

"Well, that's Pulaski all over!" remarked Ide at his elbow. "He'll fell
a saw-log across a brook any time so as to get across without wetting
his feet, and then go off and leave the log there."

He stood back and looked the young man over from head to feet, with the
shrewd eye of one appraising goods.

"Mr. Wade," he said, at last, "will you step into my back office with me
a moment?"

When they were there, the store-keeper perched himself on a high stool,
hooked his toes under a round, thrust his face forward, and said:

"Here's my business, straight and to the point. I'm a little something
in the lumbering line up this way, myself. What with land, stumpage
rights, and tax titles I've got two townships, but they're off the main
river, and I haven't done much with 'em. I'm going to be honest, and
admit I can't do much with 'em so long as Britt and his gang control
roll-dams, flowage, and the water for the driving-pitch the way they do.
They haven't got the law with 'em, but that makes no difference to that
crowd, the way they run things. Now, you don't know the logging
business, but a bright chap like you can learn it mighty quick. And
you've shown to-day that there are some things you don't have to learn,
and that's how to handle men--and that's the big thing in this country
as things are now. What I want to ask you, fair and plain, is, do you
want a job?"

"What, as a prize-fighter?" asked the young man, surlily.

"No, s'r, but as a boss that can boss, and has got the courage to hold
up his end on this river! I know this all sounds as though I were
temporarily out of my head in a business way, but you've made a
reputation in the last half hour here that's worth ten thousand to the
man that hires you. There's money in the lumbering business, Mr. Wade.
The men that are in it right are getting rich. But you've got to get
into it picked end to. Here's the way you and I are fixed: you might
wait for ten years and not find the opportunity I'm offering you. I
might wait ten years and not find just the man I could afford to take in
with me. I've sized you. I know what sort your references will be when I
ask for 'em. You seem right. Are you interested enough to listen to
figures?"

And then Ide, accepting amazed silence as assent, rattled off into his
details. At the end of half an hour Wade was listening with a new gleam
of resolution in his eyes. At the end of an hour he was blotting his
signature at the bottom of a preliminary article of agreement that was
to serve until a lawyer could draw one more ample.

"And now," said Ide, slamming his safe door and whirling the knob,
"it's past supper-time and my folks are waitin'. And it's settled
that you stay. I say, it's settled! Where else would you stop in this
God-forsaken bunch of shacks? I've got a big house and something to eat.
Come along, Mr. Wade! I'm hungry, and we'll do the rest of our talkin'
on the road."

The young man followed him without a word. And thus entered Dwight Wade
into the life of Castonia, and into the battle of strong men in the
north woods.

In front of the store, as they issued, the "It-'ll-git-ye Club" was
still in session, as though waiting for something. They got what they
were waiting for.

"Boys," announced their satisfied "mayor," "I want to introduce to you
my new partner, Mr. Dwight Wade--though he don't really need any
introduction in this region after to-day. Bub!" he called to a
youngster, "get a wheelbarrow and carry Mr. Wade's duffle up to my
house." He pointed to the young man's meagre baggage that had been
thrown off the tote wagon.

As Wade turned away he caught the keen eye of Prophet Eli fixed on him.
The eye was a bit wild, but there was humor there, too. And the cracked
falsetto of the old man's voice followed him as he walked away beside
his new sponsor:

     "Oh, the little brown bull came down from the mountain,
                    Shang, ro-ango, whango-wey!
     And as he was feelin' salutatious,
     Chased old Pratt a mile, by gracious,
     Licked old Shep and two dog Towsers,
     Then marched back home with old Pratt's trousers.
                    Whango-whey!"

"Yes, as I was tellin' you a spell ago--just a little cracked!"
apologized Ide. "There's my house, there! The one with the tower. It
would look better to me, Mr. Wade, if only my wife had lived to enjoy it
with me." But his eyes lighted at sight of his daughter. She was
standing at the gate waiting for them. "Her own mother over again, and
the best girl in the whole north country, sir! It was man's work you did
there to-day for the sake of my girl and her good name--I only wish her
father had the muscle to do as much for her." He stretched out his puny
arms and shook his head wistfully. "But there's one thing I can do, Mr.
Wade. It can't be said that Rod Ide stood by and saw you get thrown out
of a job for his daughter's sake, and didn't make it square with you!"

"Is that the reason you are offering this partnership to me?" inquired
the young man, his pride taking alarm.

"No, sir!" replied the little man, with emphasis. But he added, out of
his honesty: "It's straight business between us, sir, but it wouldn't be
human nature if your best recommendation to me wasn't the fact that
you've done for my girl the service that her father ought to have done,
and I'm not goin' to try to separate that from our business. But before
I get done talking with you, I'll show you that by the time you've
helped me to win out against Pulaski Britt and old King Spruce you'll
have earned your share in this partnership."

And then, with an air that was distinctly triumphant, he pushed Wade
ahead of him through the gate, chatting voluble explanation to a girl
who listened with a welcoming light in her gray eyes. It was a light
that cheered a roving young man who had acquired friends by such a
dizzying train of circumstances.

They talked until far into the night, he and Rodburd Ide.

The next day Christopher Straight was called into the conference.

"There ain't any part of the north country that Christopher don't know,"
eulogized Ide, caressing the woodsman's arm. "Forty years trapper,
guide, and explorer--that's his record."

Wade gazed into the quiet eyes of the veteran as he grasped his hand,
and needed no further recommendation than the look old Christopher
returned. There are few men in the world with such appealing qualities
as those who have passed their lives in the woods and know what the
woods mean. Wade realized now, after his talk with Ide, the nature of
the task that he faced. Knowing that Christopher Straight was to be his
companion and guide, he was heartened, having seen the man.

And with intense eagerness to be away, he completed his modest
preparations for the exploring trip, and set forth towards the great
unknown of the north. He had Rodburd Ide's parting hand-clasp for
reassurance, his daughter's sincere godspeed for his comfort, and the
chance to do battle for his love. And he walked with Christopher
Straight with head erect and a heart full of new hope.



CHAPTER VII

ON MISERY GORE

     "I reckon if gab had been sprawl,
       He'd have climb' to the very top notch.
     As it was, though, he made just one crawl
       To a perch in a next-the-ground crotch."

               --The Pauper.


The two men "hopped" the broad expanse of Patch Dam heath, springing
from tussock to tussock of the sphagnum moss. In that mighty flat they
seemed as insignificant as frogs, and their progress suggested the
batrachian as they leaped and zigzagged.

Ahead bounced Christopher Straight, the few tins of his scanty
cooking-kit rattling in the meal-bag pack on his back.

At his heels came Dwight Wade, blanket-roll across his shoulders and
calipers and leather-sheathed axe in his hands. Sweat streamed into his
eyes, and, athlete though he was, his leg muscles ached cruelly. The
September sunshine shimmered hotly across the open, and the young man's
head swam.

Old Christopher's keen side glance noted this. With the veteran guide's
tactful courtesy towards tenderfeet, he halted on a mound and made
pretence of lighting his pipe. There was not even a bead of perspiration
on his face, and his crisp, gray beard seemed frosty.

"I'm ashamed of myself," blurted the young man in blunt outburst. His
knees trembled as he steadied himself after his last leap.

"It ain't exactly like strollin' down the shady lane, as the song says,"
replied old Christopher, with gentle satire. He looked away towards the
fringe of distant woods.

"We could have kept on around by the Tomah trail, Mr. Wade, but I reckon
you got as sick as I did of climbin' through old Britt's slash. And
until he operated there last winter it used to be one of the best trails
north of Castonia. I blazed it myself forty years ago."

"And just a little care in felling it would have left it open," cried
the young man, indignantly.

"There was orders from Britt to drop ev'ry top across that trail
that could be dropped there, Mr. Wade. So, unless they come in
flyin'-machines, there's been few fishermen and hunters up the Tomah
trail this season to build fires and cut tent-poles."

"Does the old hog begrudge that much from the acres he stole from the
people of the State?" demanded Wade.

"He'd ruther you'd pick your teeth with your knife-blade than pull even
a sliver out of a blow down," replied Christopher, mildly. He tossed his
brown hand to point his quiet satire, and Wade's eyes swept the vast
expanse of wood, from the nearest ridges to the dim blue of the
tree-spiked horizon.

Christopher put his hand to his forehead and gazed north.

"I can show you your first peek at it, Mr. Wade," he said, after a
moment. "That's old Enchanted--the blue sugar-loaf you see through Pogey
Notch there. Under that sugar-loaf is where we are bound, to Ide's
holdin's."

There was a thrill for the young man in the spectacle--in the blue
mountains swimming above the haze, and in the untried mystery of the
miles of forest that still lay between. Even the word "Enchanted"
vibrated with suggestion.

The zest of wander-lust came upon him later--a zest dulled at first by
two days of perspiring fatigue, uneasy slumbers under the stars,
breathless scrambles through undergrowth and up rocky slopes.

"That's Jerusalem Mountain, layin' a little to the right," went on
Christopher. "That's Britt's principal workin' on the east slope of that
this season. He'll yard along Attean and the other streams, and run his
drive into Jerusalem dead-water--and that's where you and Ide will have
a chore cut out for you." The old man wrinkled his brows a bit, but his
voice was still mild.

The romance oozed from Wade's thrill. The thrill became more like an
angry bristling along his spine. During the days of his preparation for
this trip into the north country, Rodburd Ide--suddenly become his
partner by an astonishing juncture of circumstances--had spent as much
time in setting forth the character of the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt as
he had in instructing his neophyte in the duties of a timber explorer.
As a matter of fact, Ide left it mostly to old Christopher to be mentor
and instructor in the art of "exploring," as search for timber in the
north woods is called. Ide was better posted on the acerbities and
sinuosities of Britt's character than he was on the values of standing
timber and the science of economical "twitch-roads," and, with sage
purpose, he had freely given of this information to his new partner.

"Don't worry about the explorin' part--not with Christopher postin'
you," Ide had cheerfully counselled, when he had shaken hands with them
at the edge of Castonia clearing. "You and he together will find enough
timber to be cut. But you can't get dollars for logs until they're
sorted and boomed--and that part means dividin' white water with Britt
next spring. So, don't spend all your time measuring trees, Wade.
Measure chances!"

Now, with his eyes on the promised field of battle, Wade growled under
his breath.

Britt!

For four days now he had struggled behind old Christopher through
tangled undergrowth of striped maple, witch hobble, and mountain
holly--Mother Nature's pathetic attempt to cover with ragged and stunted
growth the breast that the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt had stripped bare.

"He cut her three times," Christopher explained. "First time the virgin
black growth--and as handsome a stand of timber as ye ever put calipers
to; second time, the battens--all under eleven inches through; third
time, even the poles. That's forestry as he practises it! He's robbin'
the squirrels!"

Britt!

Wade had seen rotting tops that would have yielded logs--the refuse of
the first reckless and wasteful cutting. He had passed skidways and
toiled over corduroy in which thousands of feet of good spruce had been
left to decay. The deploring finger of the watchful Christopher pointed
out butts hacked off head high.

"The best timber in the log left standin' there, Mr. Wade. But Pulaski
Britt ain't lettin' his men stop to shovel snow away."

Britt behind him, in the tangled undergrowth! Britt about him, in the
straggle of trees on the hard-wood ridges! Britt ahead of him, where the
black growth shaded the mountains in the blue distance! The same Britt
who had so contemptuously tossed him aside as useless baggage when
Foreman Colin MacLeod had demanded his discharge!

Wade clutched calipers and axe, and went leaping after old Christopher
with new strength in his legs.

But in spite of the vigor that resentment lent him, he was glad when the
guide tossed off his pack beside a brook that trickled under mossy rocks
on the hard-wood slope. It was good to hear the tinkle of water, to feel
the solid ground after the weird wobbling of the sphagnum moss, and to
snuff the smoke of the handful of fire crackling under the tea-pail.

They were munching biscuits and bacon, nursing pannikins of tea between
their knees, when Christopher cocked an ear, darted a glance, and
mumbled a mild oath as savor to his mouthful of biscuit.

"Set to eat a snack within a mile of Misery Gore and one of them crows
will appear to ye. And that's the old he one of them all."

The old man who came shuffling slowly down the path was gaunt with the
leanness of want, and unkempt with the squalor of the hopelessly
pauperized.

"It's one of the Misery Gore squatters, Mr. Wade. All Skeets and
Bushees, and married back and forth and crossways and upside down till
ev'ry man is his own grandmother, if he only knew enough to figger
relationship. All State paupers, and no more sprawl to 'em than there is
to a fresh-water clam."

Old Christopher, with Yankee contempt of the thrifty for the willing
pauper, grumbled on in his scornful explanations after the old man sat
down opposite them. Wade, accustomed to politer usages, winced before
this brutal frankness. He plainly felt worse than the subject, who
looked from one to the other, his blue lips slavering at sight of the
food.

"It ain't no use to set there and drool like a hound pup, Jed," snapped
old Christopher, cutting another slice of bacon. "We're bound in for a
fortnit's explorin' trip, and we ain't got no grub to spare."

The patriarch of Misery Gore drew a greasy bit of brown paper from his
ragged vest, unfolded it, and took out what was apparently a long hair
from his grizzly beard. He pinched the thicker end between his dirty
thumb and forefinger, stroked the whisker upright, and held it before
his gaping mouth. The whisker slowly bent over towards Christopher.

"'Lectric!" announced the experimenter, in thick, stuffy tones, as
though he were talking through a cloth.

Again he gaped his toothless mouth, and the whisker bent towards the
uninviting opening.

"'Lectric!" He grinned at them, rolling his watery eyes from face to
face to seek appreciation. It was evident that he considered the feat
remarkable.

"Full of it! Er huh! Full of it!" He stroked his thin fingers down his
arm and slatted into the air. "Storms, huh? I know. Fair weather, huh? I
know. Things to happen, huh? I know. I can tell."

He hitched nearer, and looked hungrily at the bread and bacon which
Christopher immediately and ruthlessly began to wrap up.

"Them wireless-telegraph folks ought to know about you," grunted the
guide. "Don't pay any attention to the old fool, Mr. Wade. He don't have
to beg of us. Rod Ide furnishes supplies to these critters. Law says
that the assessor of the nearest plantation shall do it, and then Ide
puts in his bill to the State. You needn't worry about their starvin'."

"You'd all see us starve on Misery Gore," wailed the old man. "You'd all
see us starve!" His tone changed suddenly to weak anger. "Ide's an old
hog. No tea, no tobarker."

"Yes, and he ain't been so lib'ral with turkeys, plush furniture, and
champagne as he ought to be," growled Christopher, relishing his irony.

"If there's anything that you really need, Mr.--Mr.--"

"Skeet," snapped the guide.

"--Mr. Skeet, I'll speak to Mr. Ide about it when--"

"Mr. Wade," broke in Christopher, "what's the need of wastin' good
breath on that sculch? They get all they deserve to have. They're too
lazy to breathe unless it come automatic. They let their potatoes rot in
the ground, and complain about starvin'. They won't cut browse to bank
their shacks, and complain about freezin'. The only thing they can do to
the queen's taste is steal, and it's got so in this section that there
ain't a sportin'-camp nor a store wangan that it's safe to leave a thing
in."

He began to stuff tins into the mouth of the meal-sack, glowering at the
ancient pauper.

"They nigh put me out of bus'ness guidin' hereabouts. Stole everything
from my Attean camp that I left there--and it ain't no fun to tugger-lug
grub for sports on your back from Castonia."

When the last knot in the leather thong was twitched close and the
bountiful meal-bag was closed, old Jed abandoned hope and wheedling. He
brandished the whisker at Christopher, his moth-speckled hand quivering.

"Old butcherman!" he screamed. "'Twas my Jed. Off here!" He set the edge
of his palm against his arm.

Christopher's face grew hard under his frosty beard, but his cheeks
flushed when Wade gazed inquiringly at him.

"It's a thief's lookout when there's a spring-gun in a camp," he
muttered. "There was a sign on the door sayin' as much. It ain't my
fault if folks has been too busy stealin' to learn to read. If you ever
hear anything about it up this way, Mr. Wade, you needn't blame me. They
had their warnin' by word o' mouth. I'm sorry it happened, but--"

"What happened?"

"Young Jed Skeet joined the 'It-'ll-git-ye Club' a year ago with a fin
shot off at the elbow."

Christopher swung his pack to his back, thrust his arms through the
straps, and marched away. Wade followed with a new light on some of the
accepted ethics of human combat in the big woods. Old Jed shuffled
behind, a toothless Nemesis gasping maledictions in stuffy tones.

"We'll swing over the ridge and go through Misery Gore settlement, Mr.
Wade," said the old guide, after a time, divining the reason for his
companion's silence. "It may spoil your appetite for supper, but it'll
prob'ly straighten out some of your notions about me and that
spring-gun."

On the opposite slant of the ridge a ledge thrust above the hard-wood
growth, and Christopher led the way out upon this lookout.

"There! Ain't that a pictur' for a Sussex shote to look at, and then
take to the woods ag'in?" he inquired, with scornful disregard for any
civic pride the patriarch of Misery might have taken in his community.

The few miserable habitations of poles, mud, and tarred paper were
scattered around a tumble-down lumber camp, relic of the old days when
"punkin pine" turreted Misery Gore.

"I suppose the man who named it stood here and looked down," suggested
Wade.

"It was named Misery fifty years before this tribe ever came here. I
reckon they heard of it, and it sounded as though it might suit 'em.
They're a tribe by themselves, Mr. Wade. They've been driven off'n a
dozen townships that I know of. Land-owners keep 'em movin'. I reckon
this is their longest stop. This Gore is a surplus left in surveying
Range Nine. Sort of a no man's land. But they hadn't ought to be left
here."

There was so much conviction in the old guide's tone, and the contrast
of utter ruin below was so great, its last touch added by the pathetic
old figure in rags at the foot of the ledge, that the young man's temper
flamed. He had been pondering the spring-gun episode with no very
tolerant spirit.

"For God's sake, Straight, show some man-feeling. Is the selfishness of
the woods down to the point where you begrudge those poor devils that
wallow of stumps and rocks?"

Christopher received this outburst with his usual placidity--the
placidity that only woodsmen have cultivated in its most artistic sense.

"Look, Mr. Wade!" He swept his hand in the circuit that embraced the
panorama of ridges showing the first touches of frost, the hills still
darkling with black growth, the valleys and the shredded forest.

"There she lays before you, ten thousand acres like a tinder-box in this
weather, dry since middle August. You've seen some of the slash. But
you've seen only a little of it. Under those trees as far as eye can see
there's the slash of three cuttin's. Tops propped on their boughs like
wood in a fireplace. Draught like a furnace! It's bad enough now, with
the green leaves still on. It's like to be worse in May before the green
leaves start. And about all those dod-fired Diggers down there know or
care about property interests is that a burn makes blueberries grow, and
blueberries are worth six cents a quart! They have done it in other
places. They're inbred till they've got water for blood and sponges for
brains. When the hankerin' for blueberries catches 'em they'll put the
torch to that undergrowth and refuse, and if the wind helps and the rain
don't stop it they'll set a fire that will run to Pogey Notch like
racin' hosses, roar through there like blazin' tissue-paper in a chimbly
flue, and then where'll your black growth on Enchanted be--the growth
that's goin' to make money for you and Rod Ide? I tell ye, Mr. Wade,
there's more to woods life than roamin' through and cuttin' your gal's
name on the bark. There's more to loggin' than the chip-chop of a sharp
axe or the rick-raw of a double-handled gashin'-fiddle. And when it
comes down to profit, you can't be polite to a porcupine when he's
girdlin' your spruce-trees, nor practice society airs and Christian
charity with damn fools, whether they're dude fishermen tossin'
cigar-stubs or such spontaneously combustin' toadstools as them that
live down yonder eatin' the State's pork and flour. I'm up here with ye
to tell ye something about the woods, Mr. Wade. And it ain't all goin'
to be about calipers, the diffrunce between the Bangor and New Hampshire
scale, and how stumpage ain't profitable under nine inches top
measure--no, s'r, not by a blame sight!"

There was no passion in the old man's remonstrance, but there was an
earnestness that closed the young man's lips against argument. He
followed silently when Christopher led the way down towards the
settlement. Old Jed took up his position at the rear.

The first who accosted them was a slatternly woman, her short skirts
revealing men's long-legged boots. She rapped the bowl of a pipe smartly
in her palm, to show that it was empty, and demanded tobacco. She
scowled, and there was no hint of coaxing in her tones.

When Wade looked at her with an expression of shocked astonishment that
all his resolution could not modify, she sneered at him.

"Oh, you think we don't know northin' here--ain't wuth noticin' 'cause
we live in the woods, hey? Well, we do know something. Here, Ase, tell
this sport the months of the year, and then let's see if he's stingy
enough to keep his plug in his pocket."

Ase, plainly her son, lubberly and man-grown, roared without
bashfulness:

"Jan'warry, Feb'darry, Septober, Ockjuber, Fourth o' July, St. Padrick's
Day, and Cris'mus--gimme a chaw!"

Two or three men lounged out-of-doors--one with his arm significantly
off at the elbow. But there was not even a shadow on his vapid face when
he looked at Christopher, author of his misfortune.

"Ain't ye goin' to give me a piece of your plug, Chris?" he whined.
"Seem's if ye might. You 'n' me's square now--I got your pork and you
got my arm."

"There! Hear that?" growled Straight, in Wade's ear. "Put your
common-sense calipers on this stand of human timber and see what ye make
of it."

Wade, looking from face to face, as the frowsy population of Misery
lounged closer about him, half in indolence, half in the distrustful
shyness that the stupidly ignorant usually assume towards superior
strangers, noted that though the men displayed an almost canine desire
to fawn for favors, the women were sullen. The only exception was a very
old woman who hobbled close and entreated:

"Ain't you got northin' good for Abe, nice young gentleman? Poor Abe!
Hain't got no friend but his old mother." She hooked a hand as blue and
gaunt as a turkey's claw into Wade's belt and held up her spotted face
so close to his that he turned his head in uncontrollable disgust.

"Your hands off the gentleman, Jule," commanded Christopher, brusquely.
"It's old Jule, mate of the old he one that has been chasin' us," he
explained, with more of that blissful disregard for the feelings of his
subjects that had previously shocked the young man. "There's old Jed and
young Jed--old Jule and young Jule. They 'ain't even got gumption enough
here to change names. And that's Abe--the choice specimen that she's
beggin' for. Look at him and wish for a pictur'-machine, Mr. Wade!"

He had thought there could be no worse in human guise than those he had
seen. But this huge, hairy, shaggy, almost naked giant, cowering against
the side of a shack with all the timidity of a child, marked a climax
even to such degeneracy as he had quailed before.

"Mind in him about five years old, and will always stay five years old,"
said the guide, pointing to the wistful, simpering face. "Body speaks
for itself. Look at them muscles! I've seen him ploughin' hitched with
their cow. Clever as a mule. He's the old woman's hoss. Hauls her on a
jumper clear to Castonia settlement."

"An animal!" Wade gasped.

"Not much else. Afraid of the dark, of shadows, and women mostly.
Strange women! Once a woman scared him in Castonia and he ran away like
a hoss, draggin' the jumper. Old Jule hitched him to a post after that."

Cretinism in any form had always shocked Dwight Wade inexpressibly. He
turned away, but the old woman was in his path, begging.

The next moment a tall, lithe girl ran swiftly out of a hut, seized the
whimpering old woman, tossed her over her shoulder as a miller would
up-end a bag of meal, and staggered back into the hut, kicking the frail
door shut with angry heel. Wade got an astonished but a comprehensive
view of this "kidnapper." There was no vacuity in her face. It was
brilliant, with black eyes under a tangle of dark hair disordered but
not unkempt like that of the females he had seen in Misery. Her lips
were very red, and the color flamed on her cheeks above the brown of the
tan. In that compost heap of humanity the girl was a vision, and Wade
turned to old Christopher with unspoken questions on his parted lips.

"Don't know," said the guide, laconically, wagging his head. "No one
knows. She's with 'em. But you and me can see that she ain't one of 'em.
She's always been with 'em as fur back's I know of her--and that was
sixteen years ago, when she was in a holler log on rockers for a
cradle."

"Stolen!" suggested Wade, desperately. The thought had a morsel of
comfort in it. That a girl like that could belong by right of birth in
this tribe, that a girl with--ah, now he realized why his heart had
throbbed at sight of her--that a girl with Elva Barrett's hair and eyes
could be doomed to this existence was a knife-thrust in his
sensibilities.

And the toss of her head and the rebelliousness in the gesture--the
defiance in the upward flash of the sparkling eyes--subdued in Elva
Barrett's case by training--the mnemonics of love, whose suggestions are
so subtle, thrilled him at the sudden apparition of this forest beauty.
Reason angrily rebuked this unbidden comparison. He bit his lips, and
flushed as though his swift thought had wronged his love. Old
Christopher put into blunt woods phrase the pith of the thoughts that
struggled together in Wade's mind. The guide was looking at the closed
door.

"There's lots of folks, Mr. Wade, that don't recognize plain white birch
in some of the things that's polished and set up in city parlors. I've
wondered a good many times what a society cabinet-shop, as ye might say,
would do to that girl."

"They must have stolen her," repeated Wade.

Old Christopher tucked a sliver of plug into his cheek.

"That would sound well in a gypsy fairy-story, but it don't fit the
style of the Skeets and Bushees. They're too lazy to steal anything
that's alive. They want even a shote killed and dressed before they'll
touch it. Near's I can find out, the young one was handed to 'em, and
they was too dadblamed tired to wake up and ask where it came from.
They didn't even have sprawl enough to name her. I did that," he added,
calmly. "Yes," he proceeded, smiling at Wade's astonished glance; "I was
guidin' a sport down the West Branch just before they drove the tribe
out of the Sourdnaheunk country--under old Katahdin, you know! I see her
in that log cradle, and they was callin' her 'it.' So me 'n' the sport
got up a name for her--Kate Arden, for the mountain. 'Tain't a name for
a Maine girl to be ashamed of."

It suddenly occurred to Wade, gazing at the old man, that the quizzical
screwing-up of his eyes was hiding some deeper emotion; for
Christopher's voice had a quaver in it when he said:

"Poor little gaffer! Some one ought to have taken her away from 'em. But
it's hard to get folks interested in even a pretty posy when it grows in
a skunk-cabbage patch."

He looked away, embarrassed that any man should see emotion on his face,
and uttered a prompt exclamation.

Threading their way in single file among the blackened stumps that
bordered the Tomah trail to the north came a half-dozen men.

"That's Bennett Rodliff ahead, and he's the high sheriff of this
county," growled the old man. "There's two deputies and two game-wardens
with him--and old Pulaski Britt bringin' up in the rear. Knowin' them
pretty well, I should say that it spells t-r-u-b-l-e, in jest six
letters. I ain't a great hand to guess, Mr. Wade, but if some one was to
ask me quick, I should say it was the same old checker-game that the
Skeets and Bushees have been playin' for all these years, and that it's
their turn to move."



CHAPTER VIII

THE TORCH, AND THE LIGHTING OF IT

     "We know how to riffle a log jam apart,
       Though it's tangled and twisted and turned;
     But the love of a woman and ways of the heart
       Are things that we never learned."

               --Leeboomook Song.


The sheriff and his men tramped into the little clearing and gave the
usual greeting of woods wayfarers--the nod and the almost voiceless
grunt. The Honorable Pulaski was a little more talkative. He was also in
excellent humor.

"Hear you and Rod Ide have hitched hosses, Wade!" he cried. "Sheriff
here was tellin' me. I'm mighty glad of it. That lets me out of thinkin'
I got you up here on a wild-goose chase. I was sorry to dump you, but it
would take nine time-keepers to make a foreman like Colin MacLeod, and
when he put it up to me you had to go. It was business, and business
beats fun up this way."

The young man did not reply. Words seemed useless just then.

The Honorable Pulaski turned from him briskly and ran an appraising eye
over the miserable huddle of huts. With the true scent of primitive
natures for impending trouble, the population of Misery edged around
this group of new arrivals--the men in advance and wistful, the women
behind and sullen.

"Well, boys," said the Honorable Pulaski, "it's just this way about it,
and we can all be reasonable and do business like business men." His air
was that of a man dealing with children or savages. "As far as I'm
personally concerned, I hate to bother you. But I represent the other
owners of this township, and the other owners aren't as reasonable about
some things as I am."

He paused to light a long cigar. No one spoke. He proffered one to Wade,
who shook his head with a little unnecessary vigor.

Britt talked as he puffed.

"Now--pup--pup--now, boys--pup--you know as well as I do that you've
squatted right in the middle of a lot of slash that we had to leave, and
it lays in a bad way for fire. You ain't so careful about fire as you
ought to be." He held up his cigar. "Here's my style. I don't smoke till
I'm out of the trail. I--pup--pup--own land, and that makes a
difference. You don't own land. I don't want to bring up old stories,
but you know and I know that the prospects of six cents a quart for
blueberries makes you forgetful about what's been said to you. You've
started some devilish big fires. Here's the September big winds about
due--and this one that's just springing up to-day is a fair sample--and
all is, the owners can't afford to run chances of a fire that will stop
God knows where if it gets running in this five thousand acres of dry
tops and slash.

"Here's Mr. Ide's representative," he continued, flapping a hand towards
Wade. "They've got black growth to the north, and he'll tell you just
the same thing."

"Well, Mister Mealy-mouth," sneered young Jule, over the heads of the
others, "git to where you're goin' to. We don't want no sermons. It's
move ag'in, hey?"

"It's move," snapped the Honorable Pulaski, his ready temper starting at
the woman's insolent tone, "and it's move damn sudden."

Whether it was a groan or growl that came from the wretched huddle,
Wade, looking on them with infinite pity, could not determine.

"I could put ye plumb square out of the county," roared Britt; "I've got
land jurisdiction enough to do it. But you be reasonable and I'll be
reasonable. I won't drive ye too far. I'll have four horses over from my
cedar operation to tote what duds you want to take and haul the old
women. Sheriff Rodliff and his men here will go along, and see that you
have grub and don't have to light fires. In fact, everything will be
arranged nice for you, and you'll like it when you get there."

"Where?" asked young Jed.

"On Little Lobster--the old Drake farm," said the Honorable Pulaski,
trying to speak enthusiastically and signally failing.

"O my Gawd!" moaned young Jed; "most twenty miles to hoof it, and when
ye git there no wood bigger'n alder-withes, and all the stones the devil
let drop when his puckerin'-string bruk! Hain't a berry. Hain't northin'
to earn a livin'."

"You never earned your living, and you don't want to earn your living,"
retorted Britt. "You just want to stay up here in the big timber and
start fires."

"No, Mr. Britt, we just want the chance to be human beings!" cried a
tense and piercing voice. The girl had reappeared in the door of the
hut. Above the meek lamentations of those about her, her voice was as
the scream of a young hawk above the baaing of sheep. She pushed her way
through them and stood before the Honorable Pulaski, palpitating,
glowing, splendid in her fury. But she propped her brown hands on her
hips--a woman of the mob--and Wade noted the attitude, and flushed at
the shamed thought of the likeness to Elva Barrett.

In this crisis, by right of her intelligence, her daring, her
superiority, the girl seemed to take her place at the head of the
pathetic herd.

"That's what we want, Mr. Britt. You're driving us down to the
settlements again. And then some bow-legged old farmer will lose a sheep
by bears or a hen by hawks, and we'll be set upon and driven back once
more to the woods. And then you'll come and huff and puff and blow our
house down and chase us away to the settlement. 'The law! The law!' you
keep braying like a mule. You kick us one way; the settlements kick us
another. Mr. Britt, I didn't ask to be put on this earth! But now that
I'm here I've a right to ground enough to set my feet on, and so have
these people. We are using no more of your stolen ground here than we'd
be using in another place, and here we stay!" She stamped her foot.

"You young whippet," snorted the Honorable Pulaski, "don't sneer to me
about the law when I've got eviction-papers in my pocket and the high
sheriff of this county at my back."

"How about the law that makes wild-land owners pay squatters for
improvements to land?" demanded the girl. "I know some law, too."

"Do you call those hog-pens improvements?" He swept his fat hand at the
huts.

"You may pay some one a dollar an acre for that blue sky above us and
claim that, too. You may claim all of God's open country here in the big
woods. But I know that you can't shut even paupers out from the lakes
and the streams any more than you can take away the sunlight from us."

"I don't know where you got your law, young woman, but I'd advise you to
get better posted on the difference between right of way to State
waters and squatting on private land. Now, I ain't got time to--"

"We'll not go back to the settlement--not one of us." She set her feet
apart and bent a fiery gaze on him.

Britt looked away from her to his circle of supporters. The deputies
stooped over their gun-barrels to hide furtive grins at sight of the
timber baron thus baited by a girl on his preserves. Even the broad face
of the sheriff was crinkled suspiciously. The tyrant flamed with the
quick passion for which he was noted in the north country.

"Look here, Rodliff!" His voice was like cracking twigs. "Pile the
dunnage out of those huts. If any one gets in your way drive a stake and
tie 'em to it." He thrust his bulgy nose into the air to sniff the
direction of the wind. "Then set fire to every d--n crib. The wind's all
right to carry it towards the bog."

"I don't believe you've got law enough in your pocket to do a thing like
that, Mr. Britt," broke in Wade, with heat.

"You don't, hey?"

"Not to throw old men and women and children out of their houses and
leave them shelterless a dozen miles from a building. There must be
another way of getting at this eviction matter, Mr. Britt--one that's
different from burning a hornet's nest."

"This don't happen to be any of your special business!" roared the
tyrant. "If it was, you'd stand by property interests instead of backing
State paupers."

"Mr. Sheriff, are you going to do that thing?"

"I'm here by order of the court, to do what Mr. Britt wants done to
protect his property," replied the officer. "I'm to execute, not to plan
nor ask questions."

"King Spruce runs this country up here, not human feelin's," muttered
old Christopher in Wade's ear. "You won't get any satisfaction by
buttin' in. I'm ready to move. I don't like to see such things done,
and I don't believe you do. Come on!" He swung his meal-bag upon his
shoulders.

But the young man lingered doggedly, his eyes on the face of the girl.

"Buckin' a high sheriff and his posse ain't ever been reckoned as a
profitable business speculation in these parts," mumbled the guide. "It
wouldn't amount to a hoorah in tophet, and you'd probably wind up in the
county jail."

The girl was gazing shrewdly at this sudden champion. There was no shade
of coquetry in her glance. It was the frank gaze of man to man.

"I protest, Mr. Britt!" cried Wade.

"And that's all the good it will do," snorted that angry master of the
situation. "Rodliff, you've got my orders!"

Young Jed, sidling near Britt, with the mien of a Judas and with
manifest intent to curry favor, whimpered:

"We don't back her up in all she says, Mr. Britt. We ain't got rights
and we know it, but we've got feelin's. Be ye goin' to do the us'al
thing about damages, Mr. Britt?"

"Why," roared the tyrant, bluffly, "ain't the land-owners always made it
worth your while to move? It's all business, boys! Don't let fools bust
in. We don't want fire here. Get to Little Lobster as quick as the
Lord'll let ye. We'll have six months' supply of pork, flour, and plug
tobacco there waitin' for ye--all with the land-owners' compliments.
We've always believed that the easiest way is the best way, but you
don't buy that way by buckin'. Buck, and the trade is all off--and you
get thrown into another county. Close your girl's mouth and keep it
shut."

"There!" grunted old Christopher, "if ye haven't got any more sympathy
to waste on critters like that"--a jab of his thumb at young Jed--"you'd
better come along."

But at sight of woe on the faces of the women, and mute entreaty in the
eyes of the girl, Wade still lingered.

"She's speakin' for herself," whispered young Jed, hoarsely. "She don't
want to leave the woods because your boss, Colin MacLeod, is courtin'
her, and she's waitin' to see him, now that he's back from
down-country."

Riotous laughter "guffled" in the throat of Pulaski Britt as he stared
from the scarlet face of the girl to Wade's confusion.

"Courtin' her, hey? Another case of it? I say, Rodliff, pretty soon
there won't be a whole arm or leg left on my boss if this young man here
keeps chasin' him round the country and breaks a bone on him for ev'ry
girl the two of 'em get against together."

He laughed to the full content of his soul, and then turned on the girl.

"Why, you ragged little fool, Colin MacLeod is crazier than a hornet in
a thrashin'-machine over Rod Ide's girl. He's up in camp now with an arm
in a sling to make him remember a fight he and this young dude here got
into over her. And he's up there beyond Pogey Notch sitting on a stump
swearing at the choppers and bragging with every other breath that he'll
kill the dude and marry the girl--and I don't reckon he's changed his
mind in two days since I saw him last."

"You lie!" screamed the girl.

"Hold on, there, Miss Spitfire," broke in the sheriff, himself highly
amused by the humor of the situation as it appeared to him, "there isn't
a man between Castonia and Blunder Lake but what is talking about it.
A hundred men saw the fight. I reckon five hundred have heard MacLeod
ravin' about how much he loves the Ide girl. So if he ever courted you
it must have been just for the sake of getting used to the game." Even
the fawning male citizens of Misery Gore cackled their little chorus in
the laughter that followed the high sheriff's jest.

She drew back slowly and gazed on them all, her lips rolled away from
her white teeth. Those jeering faces from "outside" represented
property, law, the smug self-satisfaction of all who despised Misery
Gore's squalid breed.

They stood there in the midst of the land they so arrogantly
claimed, ready to toss her away once more in the everlasting game
of battledore and shuttlecock. They were afraid for the dollars
that made them different from the wretches of Misery. They gloried
in their dollars--they mocked her in that moment, the bitterness of
which only her heart understood. Let them look out for their dollars,
then!

Up there where the blue hills divided was sitting Colin MacLeod calling
on the name of another woman and nursing a wound received for that
woman's sake. Let him look out for himself!

"We can make the Blake-cutting camps with you to-night," said Britt, his
mind on business once again. "We'll take good care of you, and you might
as well start one time as another. Out with the stuff and down with the
houses, Rodliff."

At the orders the men began to busy themselves, paying no further
attention to Misery's inhabitants.

The girl ran into the hut, lifted one of the cedar splints that made the
floor, and took out a section of iron gas-pipe--the most prized
possession of the tribe. It was their wand of plenty. It was Mother
Nature's crutch. Out of it flowed bounty.

Into the unplugged end she poured all the kerosene there was in a
battered can. Then she stuffed into the tube a mass of wicking.

It was a torch--the torch for the blueberry barrens. Dragged after one,
it left a blazing trail such as no other form of fire could produce.

There was a flicker of fire in the rusty stove. She thrust the wicking
into the coals, and on the iron stalk a flame-flower sprang into huge
blossom.

She burst through the hut's rear window and ran straight for the edge of
the clearing, towards the fuel piled high in the forest aisles.

In that moment of blind and desperate fury she realized that the wind
was swinging into the north. It was there that MacLeod was sitting at
the foot of Pogey Notch. Ah, what a furnace-flue that would make!

She did not pause to reason. Her single wild desire was to send the fire
leaping towards him.

The roar of voices behind--voices entreating, voices of
malediction--made her smile. Above all was the Honorable Pulaski's
bull roar. She began to drag the torch.

"Catch her! Damnation, catch that girl!" howled Britt.

She reached the edge of the distant woodland.

Immediately his cry changed to "Shoot her!" He did not mean it the first
time he cried it. He did mean it the second time. The deputies stared
after her and joggled their weapons on their arms.

"Shoot her, or fifty thousand acres of timber are gone!"

But that was quarry before which official guns quailed.

In his fury and his panic and his desperate fear for his fortune, Britt
seized a gun from the nearest deputy and aimed it.

Wade struck it up, muttering an indignant oath. Britt made as though to
club him out of the way. The young man clutched the gun and twisted it
from Britt's quivering clutch. When Britt lunged forward to seize
another rifle Wade struck him under the jaw, and he went down like a
felled ox.

The girl was out of sight in the woods, but yellow smoke shot with
bright flame marked her course.

"I could have told him," mused old Christopher, looking on the Honorable
Pulaski, struggling dizzily to his feet, "havin' watched her more or
less since I named her, that she wa'n't a real sociable kind of a girl
to joke with on matters that's as serious to women as love is."

Sheriff Bennett Rodliff spoke the prologue to that conflagration:

"There is h--l in the core of that fire," he said.

Sometimes a little mischief, started by chance down the slopes of
events, gathers like a rolling snowball into a vast bulk of evil. But
more often in matters of evil it is the intent of the impulse that
governs. It seems at such times as though inanimate nature were
responding to human malevolence.

The fire that started that day on Misery leaped to its grim business
with a spontaneity as fierce as the mad hate behind it.

One man acts in a crisis with more directness and efficiency than many
men, each of whom waits on the other. They had stood and stared after
the girl when she ran into the woods with the hissing fire streaming
behind her. The pursuers that finally did start stopped promptly to
witness the fight between the young man and the baron of the Umcolcus.
Human fists in play afford more of a spectacle than even an incipient
conflagration. When the man who goes down is a man who in the past has
always been aggressor and victor, interest is more acute.

Dwight Wade did not linger to prolong the conflict to which the furious
Britt invited him. Christopher Straight had started for the woods on
the track of the fugitive girl, and Wade ran after him, his knuckles
tingling gloriously. The thrill of that one moment, when his fist met
the flesh of the man who had insulted him, made him realize that when
one searches the depths of human nature hate, as well as love, has its
delights.

Pressing closely on the heels of Christopher, who had waited for him, he
dove into the yellow smoke.

"We've got to find that young she-devil!" gasped the old man. "It's
better for us to find her than for Britt to get hold of her."

But by that time the quest was an uncertain one.

There is craftiness in a woods fire when it is seeking to establish
itself.

The fire sent up first from the crackling slash thick, rolling, bitter
clouds of smoke to veil its beginnings. Running to the left, where the
fresher clouds seemed to be springing, the two men caught sight of the
girl. But she was already far to the right, running and leaping like a
deer, her hideous torch still flaming. Then the smoke shut down and she
was hidden.

A blazing mass of tops, twisted in a blowdown, fronted them, and they
were forced to make a long detour. They saw the wind wrench torches out
of the mass, torches that whirled aloft and went scaling away to the
north. Puffs of smoke showed where they had alighted. Here and there the
tops of little spruces and firs set a net for the torches, afforded
roosting-places for the flame birds that winged their red flight across
the sky. The flame did not merely burn these trees; the trees fairly
exploded; their resinous fronds and tassels were like powder grains.

A wind gust rent the smoke for an instant and showed the pursuers the
spread of the growing destruction. It already was sprinkled over acres.

"She's started fair, and the devil's helpin' her!" mourned the old man.

At that moment the huge bulk of a man went lurching past them. It was
Abe, the foolish giant of the Skeets. In the glimpse they caught before
the smoke swallowed him, in his hairy nakedness, he seemed a gigantic
satyr; he leaped here and there to avoid the blazing patches in the leaf
litter and humus, and his movements seemed like a grotesque dance.

"The old woman has sent him after the girl," explained Christopher, with
quick comprehension. "Come on!"

Dodging, choking, crouching for air, they followed him. At last they
overtook the author of all the mischief. She threw away her torch when
they came upon her, and faced them without shame. She was panting in
utter exhaustion, and clung to a tree for support.

"Bring her, Abe!" commanded Christopher, in a tone that the giant
understood, and he took her up in his brawny arms despite her angry
struggles. "No, not that way!" shouted the old man, when Abe whirled to
make his way back through the fire zone. "It's spread too far," he
explained to Wade; "we've got to keep ahead of it." With a blow to
emphasize his order, he drove Abe ahead of him, and they hurried towards
the north, the conflagration at their heels.

Far ahead of them Jerusalem Mountain lifted the poll of its gray ledge.
It blocked the broad valley to the north. For those in the van of that
fire it was the rock of refuge. The tote road led that way. The
fugitives crashed through the undergrowth into the road. The fire had
already crossed it to the south of them. They took their way to the
north, their eyes on Jerusalem Mountain.



CHAPTER IX

BY ORDER OF PULASKI D. BRITT

     "Twinkle, twinkle, 'Ladder' Lane,
     With your wavin' winder-pane,
     Up above the world so high,
     Like a flash-bug in the sky."


The fire-lookout at the Attean station winked this ditty humorously with
playful heliograph to "Ladder" Lane, lookout on the high, bald poll of
old Jerusalem Knob. The Attean lookout got it by telephone from
Castonia. Lyrist unreported.

Jerusalem station is more serene in its isolation than the other five
lookouts on the mountains of the north country. It has no telephone.
Lane allowed to his lonely self that he got more news than he really
wanted, anyhow. And most of the news was of the sort that the humorous
Attean lookout, or the equally humorous Squaw Mountain man, considered
likely to tease the cranky solitary on the highest and farthest outpost
of the chain of lookouts. They whiled away their solitude by gossipy
chattings over the wire. Lane confined himself to terse winkings that
would have been gruff were it possible for a heliograph to be gruff. He
seemed to take a certain grim pride in the fact that he was a thousand
feet higher than any of them and commanded three hundred thousand acres.

Sitting now in the glare of the September sunshine on the flat roof of
his cabin, he gravely and stolidly scrawled down the words of the verse
as the Attean heliograph, blinking and glaring, spoke to him in the
Morse code.

"Huh!" he grunted, and went on writing with stubby pencil his
interrupted day's entry in his official diary. For the twenty-fifth time
he wrote:

"Clear, bright, and still dry."

He screwed his eyelids close to peer into the heavens bending over him,
hard as the bottom of a brass kettle. He took off his hat and held it
edgewise at his forehead while his gaze swept the mighty range of his
vision. An imaginative person might have smiled at the likeness between
his brown and bald poll, thrust above the straggle of hair, and the bare
and bald poll of old Jerusalem, rounding above the straggle of growth on
its lower slopes.

Some one bawled at him from the ground below. Lane did not start, though
that was the first human voice he had heard in two months.

The young man who stood there, and who had come across the gray ledges
from the edge of the timber growth, carried an arm in a sling.

"Do you ever look at anybody if they're nearer than ten miles away?"
inquired the visitor, with the teasing irony that it seemed popular in
the Umcolcus region to employ with "Ladder" Lane.

When the old man stood up the fitness of his sobriquet was apparent. He
unfolded himself, joint by joint, like a carpenter's rule, and stood
gaunt as a bean pole and well towards seven feet in height.

The name painted on the door of the photograph "saloon" that even now
lies rotting on the banks of Ragmuff in Castonia settlement is: "Linus
Lane. Tintypes and Views." No one in Castonia ever knew whither he had
come. Oxen or horses and a teamster hired for each trip had dragged the
rumbling van from settlement to settlement at the edge of the woods, and
finally to Castonia, where it arrived hobbling on three wheels, one
corner supported by a dragging sapling. Lane strode ahead, swearing over
his shoulder at the driver, and his ill-temper did not seem to leave him
even when he had opened his door for business. It is remembered that his
first customer was old Bailey, who was corresponding with an unknown
woman down-country, and who came for a tintype with hair and whiskers
colored to the hue of the raven's wing, evidently desiring to make an
impression on his correspondent. And when old Bailey, shocked and
disappointed at the painful verity of the tintype, had muttered that it
didn't seem to be a very pretty picture, Lane, who was doubled like a
jack-knife under the saloon's low roof, had yelled at him:

"Pretty picture! You come to me with a face like a scrambled egg dropped
into a bucket of soot and complain because you don't get a pretty
picture! Get out of here!"

And he stopped slicing up the sheet of tintypes, slammed it on the
floor, drove out old Bailey, nailed up the door of the saloon, and
started for the big woods with his few possessions on his back.

To those who remonstrated on behalf of the offended old Bailey, Lane
said he had been feeling like that for some time, and was taking to the
woods before he expressed his disgust by killing some one.

Therefore, the job on the top of Jerusalem that fell to him quite
naturally, after his many years' sojourn as a recluse at its foot, was a
job that fitted admirably with his scheme of life.

"And it looks up there like it must have looked when Noah said, 'All
ashore that's goin' ashore,' on Mount Ariat, or wherever 'twas he
throwed anchor," announced Tommy Eye, of Britt's crew, returning once
from a Sunday trip to the fire station.

For, painfully acquired, with gouges, clawings, and scratches to show
for it all, "Ladder" Lane had accumulated companions of his loneliness,
to wit:

One bull moose, captured in calfhood in deep snow; two bear cubs; a
raccoon; a three-legged bobcat, victim of an excited hunter; two horned
owls; and a fisher cat.

On this menagerie, variously tethered or crated in sapling cages, the
visitor with the disabled arm bestowed a contemptuous side glance while
he blinked at the tall figure on the cabin's flat roof.

Without haste Lane worked himself through the roof-scuttle like an
angle-worm drawing into his hole; without cordiality he appeared at the
cabin door, lounging out into the sunshine.

"I suppose you are still doing the second-hand swearing for Britt,
MacLeod," he suggested.

The young man grunted.

"How did ye hurt your arm? Britt chaw it?"

"Peavy-stick flipped on me," growled the young man, willing to hide his
humiliation from at least one person in the world--and the hermit of the
Jerusalem station seemed to be the only one sufficiently isolated.

"Huh! I thought his name was Wade." There was no spirit of jest in the
tone. The old man surveyed him sourly. "That's what the Attean helio
said."

"Is that what you use them things for--to pass gossip like an old maid's
quiltin'-bee?"

"There's a good deal in this world in letting a man place his own self
where he belongs," remarked Lane, with calm conviction. "I've let you
prove yourself a liar."

He turned and went into the cabin and back up the stairs to the roof,
picking up a huge telescope as he went. Something in the valley seemed
to have attracted his attention. MacLeod followed, his face red, oaths
clucking in his throat.

In the nearer middle ground of the great plat of country below Patch Dam
heath was set into the green of the forest like a medallion of rusty
tin. To the west of it smoke began to puff above the tree-tops.

"On Misery," mumbled Lane, his long arms steadying his instrument. Then,
with the caution of a man of method, he went into the scuttle-hole and
secured his range-finder.

"What's the good of tinker-fuddlin' with that thing?" demanded MacLeod;
"it's on Misery, as you said."

"Two hundred and fifty-nine degrees," muttered the fire-scout, booking
the figures in his dog's-eared diary.

"Say, about that fire, Mr. Lane," blurted MacLeod, nervously. "I'm up
here to-day by Mr. Britt's orders to tell you not to report it. It's on
Misery Gore, and he's there looking after it, and it ain't goin' to be
worth while to report. I know all about it, and that's the truth."

Lane, without bestowing a glance on the speaker, was setting up his
heliograph tripod. At the young man's last words he grunted over his
shoulder:

"So it was a peavy-stick! But they told me his name was Wade."

"Now you look here," stormed the timber baron's boss, "you can slur all
you want to about my lyin', but I tell you, Lane, this is straight
goods. You report that fire, after the orders you've got from Britt, and
you'll lose your job. I know what I'm talkin' about."

Lane kneeled, his thin trousers hanging over his slender shanks like
cloth over broomsticks. MacLeod stifled an inclination to take him in
one hand and snap him like a whip-lash. The old man was peering through
the centre hole in the sun-mirror, bringing his disks into alignment.

"Britt has got orders from the court, and he's there to put the Skeets
and Bushees out and torch off their shacks. That's all there is to that
fire, Lane, and Britt don't want a stir and hoorah made about it. He
told me to tell you that. He says the cussed newspapers get a word here
and a word there, and they're always ready to string out a lot of lies
about King Spruce and wild-landers, and how they abuse settlers, and all
that rot--and it hurts prominent men, like Mr. Britt and his associates,
because folks get wrong ideas from the papers. Now you know that! Don't
report that fire, Lane."

It was fulsome appeal and eager appeal, and MacLeod was apparently
obeying some very emphatic orders from his superior, who had supplied
language as well as directions of procedure.

But the old fire-warden kept on with his preparations, exact, careful,
without haste.

"He said you understood--Britt did," clamored MacLeod, hastening around
in front of the heliograph. "You know it ain't right to have those
people there in this dry time, with all that slash about 'em. Mr. Britt
will make it all right with them--the same as the land-owners always do.
It will be the papers that will lie and call the land-owners names for
the sake of stirrin' up a sensation about leadin' men--makin' politics
out of it, and gettin' the people prejudiced so as to put more taxes
onto wild lands." More of Britt's ammunition! "Mr. Britt said you'd
understand--and you do understand--and you can't report that fire."

Lane set his gaunt grasp about the handle of the screen, ready to tilt
it for the first flash.

"I understand just this, MacLeod--that I'm a fire-warden of the State,
sworn to do my duty as my duty is spread before me." He swept his left
arm in impressive gesture. "Look behind you! Do you see that?"

Smoke was ballooning from the notch of the woods below them. Round puffs
seemed to be dancing in fantastic ballet from tree-top to tree-top.

"That's a fire, MacLeod. I take no man's say-so as to what and why. That
may be Pulaski Britt smoking a cigar. It may be Jule Skeet's new spring
bonnet on fire. I don't care what it is. It's a fire, and it's going to
be reported. Stand out of range."

His code-card was in the top of his hat. He waved the headgear
impatiently at MacLeod, his right hand still on the handle of the
screen.

MacLeod knew what the orders of Pulaski D. Britt meant. Britt had not
hesitated to rely upon the loyalty of "Ladder" Lane, for Britt, when
State senator, had caused Lane to be appointed to the post on Jerusalem.
MacLeod reflected, with fury rising like flame from the steady glow of
his contemptuous resentment at this old recalcitrant, that Pulaski Britt
would never make allowance for failure under these circumstances. To be
sure, that fire yonder didn't look like a carefully conducted
incineration of the dwellings of Misery Gore, and it was a little ahead
of time--that time being set for the calm of early evening. But orders
from Britt were--to his men--orders from the supreme tribunal.

"Britt put you here!" stuttered MacLeod.

"I'm working for the State, not Pulaski D. Britt," replied the old man.

"And I'm working for Britt, and, by ---- he runs the State in these
parts! Him and you and the State can settle it between you later, but
just now"--he swung to one side, leaned back, and drove his foot with
all the venom of his repressed rage against the apparatus--"that fire
report don't go!"

"Ladder" Lane, serene in his proud conjuration, "The State," had
expected no such enormity. The heliograph skated on its spider legs,
went over the edge of the roof, and, after a hushed moment of drop,
crashed upon the ledge with shiver and tinkle of flying glass.

The boss of "Britt's Busters" turned and darted through the scuttle and
down the stairs, excusing this flight to himself on the ground of his
out-of-commission arm.

He leaped out into the sunshine and clattered away over the ledges, the
spikes in his shoes striking sparks.

He had made half a dozen rods when he heard the old man scream "Halt!"
MacLeod kept on, with a taunting wave of his well hand above his head.
The next moment a rifle barked, and the bullet chipped the ledge in
front of him.

"The next one bores you in the back, MacLeod!"

He stopped then, and whirled in his tracks.

Lane stood at the edge of his roof, his rifle-butt at his cheek.

"Come back here!"

"You ain't got the right to hold me up, Lane. I'll have the law on ye!"

"Come back here!"

There was a grate in the tone, a menace not to be braved.

The young man shuffled slowly towards the cabin, roaring oaths and
insults to which Lane deigned no reply.

MacLeod did not try to run when the warden disappeared for his trip to
the door. He waited sullenly.

Near the door was a good-sized, empty cage of strong saplings, built in
"Ladder" Lane's abundant leisure, for the reception of any new candidate
for the menagerie. The old man jerked his head sideways at it. There was
a gap of three saplings in the side, and the poles stood there ready to
be set in.

"I won't be penned that way!" yelled MacLeod. "I ain't no raccoon!"

But the bitter visage of the warden, the merciless flash of his gray
eyes, and the glint of the rifle-barrel, swinging into line with his
face, combined with the sudden remembrance that it was hinted that
"Ladder" Lane was not always right in his head, drove the stubborn
courage out of MacLeod. He slunk rather than walked into the cage with
the mien of a whipped beast. The old man set the saplings one by one
into place, and nailed them with vigorous hammer-blows.

"How long have I got to stay here, Lane?" he pleaded.

"Till I can turn you over to them who will put you where you belong for
destroying State's property and interfering with a State officer."

The old man turned away and gazed out over the forest stretches between
Jerusalem and Misery. MacLeod, clutching the bars of his cage with his
left hand, looked, too.

It was no puny torching of the Misery huts that he was looking on, and
he realized it with growing apprehensiveness as to his zeal in
suppressing news.

Vast volumes of yellow smoke volleyed up over the crowns of the green
growth. It was a racing fire--even those on Jerusalem could see that
much across the six miles between. Spirals waved ahead like banners of a
charging army. Its front broadened as the fire troops deployed to the
flanks. Ahead and ever ahead fresh smoke-puffings marked the advance of
the skirmish-line. Now here, now there, drove the cavalry charges of the
conflagration, following slash-strewn roads and cuttings, while the dun
smoke ripped the green of the maples and beeches.

"It's liable to interest Pulaski D. Britt somewhat when he finds out why
Jerusalem lookout ain't callin' for a fire-posse," Lane remarked,
bitterly.

The situation seemed to overwhelm the boss. He looked with straining
gaze at the rush of the conflagration, and had no word for reply.

"But it may not all be loss for you," the old man proceeded, grimly.
"Perhaps the girl will be burned up--perhaps that was in your trade with
Britt."

"I don't know what you mean about any girl," mumbled MacLeod, looking
away from the old man's boring eyes.

"You're a liar again as well as a dirty whelp of a sneak."

Lane spat the words over his shoulder, stumping away, the bristle of his
gray beard standing out like an angry porcupine's quills.

"I don't allow anybody to put them words on me!" roared MacLeod.

"You don't, heh?" Lane whirled and stumped back. He bent down and set
his face close to the saplings, his eyes narrowing like a cat's, his
nose wrinkling in mighty anger. "You can steal time paid for by Pulaski
D. Britt, and hang around Misery Gore, and coax on an ignorant girl into
a worse hell than she's living in now"--he pointed a quivering finger at
the smoke-wreathed valley--"when you know and I know, and everyone on
these mountain-tops of the Umcolcus knows and gossips it with the
settlements, that you've picked her up only to throw her farther into
the wallow where you found her. It's the Ide girl you're courtin'. It's
poor little Kate of Misery that you're killin'. There isn't another man
in the north woods mean enough to steal from a girl as poor as she
is--steal love and hope and faith. It's all she's got, MacLeod, and
you've taken all."

The young man grunted a sullen oath.

"There's a lot I could say to you," raged Lane, "but I ain't going to
waste time doing it. I'll simply express my opinion of you by--"

He spat squarely into the convulsed face of MacLeod, and went away into
his cabin.



CHAPTER X

"LADDER" LANE'S SOIRÉE

     "And down from off the mountains in the shooting sheets of flame
     The devils of Katahdin come to play their reg'lar game.
     So 'tis: men hold tight! Pray for mornin' light!
     Katahdin's caves are empty and hell's broke loose to-night!"

               --Ha'nt of Pamola.


As the hours of the day went on, Colin MacLeod, caged, helpless, set
high on the bald brow of old Jerusalem, where every phase of the great
fire was spread before his eyes, found abundant opportunity to curse
himself for a fool. In time, of course, Attean or some other point would
realize the extent of the conflagration and call for help. But now,
hidden under Jerusalem and confined to the slash under the green trees,
it was a racing ground-fire that crouched and ran. It came rapidly, but
in a measure secretly. It showed a subtility of selection. It did not
waste time on the green forest of beeches and maples. It was hurrying
north towards its traditional prey. That prey was waiting for it, rooted
on the slopes of Jerusalem and the Umcolcus, on the Attean and the
Enchanted--the towering black growth of hemlock, pine, and spruce--the
apple of Pulaski Britt's commercial eye--the hope of his associates.
Once there, it would spring from its crouching race on the ground. It
would climb the resinous trunks and torch and flare and rage and roar
in the tinder-tops--a dreaded "crown-fire" that only the exhaustion of
fuel or the rains of God would stop.

Attean would see that fire leaping past Jerusalem, and would swear and
wonder and report too late.

Just now hours were as precious as days.

Men could do nothing at mid-day with the wind lashing behind. MacLeod
knew well how that fire should be fought. But with men on the way ready
to flank it at nightfall and work ahead of it with pick and shovel and
beating branches of green--the winds stilled and the dews condensing--it
could be conquered--it must be conquered then, if at all.

Woods fires sleep at night. The men who fight them may as well sleep at
mid-day.

With the dropping of the sun and the sinking of the winds the fires
drowse and flicker and smoulder. Then must one attack the monster; for
at daybreak he is up, ravening and roaring and hungry.

And now--not even Britt's own crew of loggers at the foot of Jerusalem
had word and warning. MacLeod bellowed appeals to be let out. He
besought Lane to hurry down the mountain to camp. He howled frightful
oaths and threats and abject promises.

At dusk the old man came out of his cabin, and brought bread and water
and bacon to his captive without a word. He fed him with as much
unconcern as he brought browse to the tethered bull moose and
distributed provender suited to the various tastes of his menagerie.

The darkness settled in the valleys first, and one by one fire-dottings
pricked out--blazing junipers and the stunted new growth of evergreen.
From Jerusalem the great expanse seemed like a mighty city, its windows
alight, its streets and avenues illuminated gloriously.

MacLeod, silenced except for an occasional hoarse quack of appeal, paced
his little cage, despairing.

"Ladder" Lane sat on the flat roof silent as a spectre. So the hours
dragged past.

"I thought so!" grunted the old man at last. "That's what I've been
sitting up for."

From his eyry he saw a light flickering in the stunted growth far down
Jerusalem, zigzagging nearer. At last it emerged and came across the
ledges--a flare of hissing birch bark stuck into a cleft stick. There
were several men hastening along in the circle of its radiance. Lane
could hear from afar their gruntings of exhaustion.

"If I ain't mistook, it's your friend Britt," remarked the old man,
maliciously, as he passed MacLeod's cage on his way to meet the
visitors.

And it was Britt--Britt with his hat in his hand, perspiration streaming
into his beard, his stertorous breath rumbling in his throat. Lane knew
the man who bore the torch as Bennett Rodliff, high sheriff of the
county.

"It's been--God!--awful work--but we've--come round the east--edge of
it, Lane," panted Britt. Commanding general in the grim conflict, he had
been willing to burst his heart in order to establish headquarters in
the one spot from which he could mobilize his forces and direct their
tactics. "How many men have you ordered in, Lane?"

"Not a man!"

"Not a--not a--you stand there and tell me you haven't reported and
called for every man that Attean and Squaw can reach!" He began to curse
shrilly.

"You'd better save your wire edge, Mr. Britt," counselled Lane. "You're
going to need it. Come here till I show you something."

One of the sheriff's men lighted a fresh sheet of bark at the dying
flare of the other, and Lane led the way to the cage, where MacLeod
peered desperately between the saplings.

"Just a moment, Mr. Britt!" broke in the warden, again checking the
lumber baron's fury. "This man came up here to-day with what he said
were your orders not to report that fire, and--"

"That fire!" roared Britt, fairly beside himself. "Why, you devilish,
infernal--"

"A moment, I say! When I set up my heliograph he kicked it off the roof.
There it lies just as it fell. You and he can settle your part of it! As
for my part of it, I have arrested him by my authority as a fire warden.
The sheriff, here, can take him whenever he gives me a receipt and makes
note of my complaint."

"I did what you told me to, Mr. Britt," protested MacLeod, his voice
breaking. "He was reportin' the first puff of smoke, and said that you
and your orders could go to thunder. He didn't pay any attention--and I
just did what you told me to. I--"

"Shut up!" The Honorable Pulaski, crimson with anger, fearful of his own
part in this conspiracy, and shamed by the exposure of his methods,
bellowed his order. "We'll settle this later. Knock away those saplings,
some one. MacLeod, get down this mountain, even if you break your neck
doing it, and get your crew to the front of that fire! I--I--haven't got
breath to talk to you the way you need to be talked to. As you stand,
you're only half a man on account of a girl." He darted a quivering
finger at the disabled arm.

"And it's your other little d--n fool of a girl at Misery that torched
that fire when she heard that you'd jilted her. Now, is it women or
woods after this?"

"Woods, Mr. Britt!" stammered the boss, eager to conciliate this raging
bull.

"Then get to the front of that fire and stop it, even if you have to lie
down and roll over on it. It's a fire your pauper sweetheart started,
and you've arranged, by your infernal bull-headedness, to let it burn.
Stop it or keep going! It won't be healthy in my neighborhood."

"I'll stop it or die tryin', Mr. Britt."

Lane leaned his back against the cage and faced the group, his gaunt
arms reaching from side to side.

"You can't free a prisoner that way, Mr. Britt," he said, firmly. "You
take this man away from me--or if the high sheriff, here, lets him
go--I'll report the thing under oath to the governor and the people of
this State; and I reckon you can't afford to have that done. I propose
to have it known why Linus Lane didn't do his duty in reporting that
fire."

"Take that old fool away from there and let that man out," commanded
Britt, his passion blind to consequences. He could see no way out of his
muddle. He seemed to be in for wicked notoriety, anyway. Just now his
one thought was to get "Roaring Cole MacLeod," master of men, at the
head of that fire, to hold it in leash until more assistance came. He
knew his man. He understood that MacLeod, bitter in the consciousness of
his blunder, was now worth six men. "Rodliff, I'll take the
consequences!" he shouted. "Let my boss out."

But the high sheriff seemed to be doubtful as to the consequences that
he also would have to accept. Just then he had clearer notions of
official responsibility than did the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt.

"This man is under arrest all regular," protested Rodliff, "and I've
just the same as heard him own up that he interfered with Warden Lane in
his duty. The governor himself wouldn't have the right to order me to
let a prisoner go before a hearing on the case. That's law, Mr. Britt,
and--"

"Talk that south of Castonia," broke in the Honorable Pulaski. "Just now
law won't put that fire out and save a fifty-thousand-acre stand of
black growth. Lane, you've got to be reasonable. There've been
mistakes, but they'll be made good. You can't afford to be bull-headed
in this thing."

But the old man did not move from the cage. The flaring of the torch
lighted his solemn and unrelenting face. The worried face of MacLeod
peered out over one of the extended arms.

"What--what was it happened to 'em on Misery, Mr. Britt?" he asked,
humbly.

"I told you!" snapped Britt, glad of a momentary excuse to cover
embarrassment of this general defiance of his dignity. "Your black-eyed
beauty there, that you've been fooling with when my back's been
turned, is jealous of Rod Ide's girl, and took to the bush with a
blueberry-torch dragging at her heels to show her feelings. I'd have
shot her like I would a rabbit if it hadn't been for your particular
friend Wade." The wrathful sneer of the Honorable Pulaski was a snarl
that would have done credit to "Ladder" Lane's bobcat. "When you come to
settle accounts with that critter, MacLeod, break his leg, and charge it
on my side of the ledger."

"So he was there, hey?" asked the boss, eagerly.

"He was there long enough to hit me like a prize-fighter when I was
protecting my property."

"Why didn't you kill him?" demanded the boss, with venom.

"By the time I got a gun he was out of sight at the tail of the fire,
chasing the girl--he and old Chris Straight. I believe they were
proposing to rescue the girl," concluded Britt, with a mirthless
chuckle. "The only consolation I'm getting out of that fire down there
is that maybe it's burning that Wade and the girl, whatever they call
her, and will chase the Skeets and Bushees south and catch them, too. If
it does I'll be willing to let a thousand more acres burn."

But it appeared that the choicest section of the Honorable Pulaski's
charitable hopes was doomed to disappointment.

A torch, tossing from the edge of the stunted growth, marked the
approach of some one.

"The top of Jerusalem seems liable to be a popular roosting-place for
all them that ain't wearing asbestos pants," remarked the high sheriff,
dryly. "A rush of excursionists during the heated spell, as the
summer-boarder ads say! Lane, can you give the crowd anything to eat at
your tavern except broiled moose and fricasseed bobcat?"

The pleasantry evoked no smile. For the little group at the cabin,
Pulaski Britt first of all, with his keener eyes of hate, recognized
those who were approaching.

Old Christopher Straight came ahead with the torch. The girl of Misery
Gore, moving more slowly now that she saw the group at the top of
Jerusalem, her face sullen, her head cocked defiantly, was at his back,
and Dwight Wade was at her side. Far behind, at the edge of the torch's
radiance, slouched a huge figure of a man. It was foolish Abe, the
hirsute giant of the Skeets.

"And now, speaking of arresting in the name of the law," snarled the
lumber baron, "and your duty that you seem so fond of, Rodliff, get out
your handcuffs for something that's worth while. It's three years in
state-prison for maliciously setting fires on timber lands. It's a long
vacation in the county jail for assaulting a man without provocation.
There's the girl who set that fire; there's the man that struck me. So
you see, Lane, your prisoner is going to have company."

Lane came suddenly away from the cage. The torch showed his face working
with strange emotion.

"Mr. Britt," he said, appealingly, to the astonishment of the senator,
who understood this sour woods cynic's nature, "there are crimes that
ain't crimes in this world--not even when they're judged by God's own
scale. There's your fire yonder! Some one is responsible for it--but not
that poor girl!"

"I saw her set it myself, you devilish idiot!"

"Not that poor girl, I say. Those that threw her--her, with the pride of
good blood that she felt but didn't understand--her, with her hopes and
brains that her blood gave her--"

"Blood!" roared the Honorable Pulaski. "What do you know about her
pedigree?"

"Those that threw her into that pen of swine are responsible," went on
the warden. "Men like you, that have persecuted her and wonder why she
doesn't squeal like the rest of those idiots; men like the whelp in that
cage, trying to wrong her and throw her back into hell--all of you are
responsible for that fire. You bent the limb. It has snapped back and
struck you in your faces. It's the way of the woods."

"Well, of all the infernal nonsense I ever listened to, this sermon on
Mount Jerusalem clears the skidway," blurted Britt. "You stand up at the
trial and repeat that, Lane, and you'll get your picture into the
newspapers."

"And I guess a lot of the rest of us will before this scrape gets
straightened out," muttered the high sheriff, bodingly.

"Mr. Britt, you're going to be sorry for it if you drag that poor abused
girl to prison," said Lane, with such fire of conviction that the timber
baron, cautious in his methods, and always fearing the notoriety that
would embroil the great secrets of the timber interests with public
opinion, blinked at the oracular old warden and then at the still
defiant face of the girl. Like most untrained natures in whom passion
has unleashed natural high spirit, she seemed incapable of calm
reconsideration. She had made such protest against the enormity of her
persecution as opportunity had put into her heart as right and into her
hands as feasible.

"We were fools to bring her here and toss her into the old hyena's
claws," muttered Wade in Christopher's ear. "We might have known that he
and his crowd would make for Jerusalem."

"I did know it," returned the old guide, quietly. "And I knew just as
well what would happen to us in the runway of that fire to-morrow."

"Lane," broke in the Honorable Pulaski, with decision, "two trials won't
stir this thing any worse than one. You've arranged for one. Go ahead
with MacLeod. I'll have the girl."

Those who looked on Lane's face only knew that mighty passions were
shaking him. His voice broke and quavered.

"Mr. Britt, things have been mixed for me in this world till I don't
hardly know what is right. I've tried to do my duty as it's been laid
out for me. But in climbing up to it there's some things I haven't got
the heart to step on. Perhaps in this thing we're mixed in now we've all
been more or less wrong. I don't know. I haven't got the head to-night
to figure it out. Perhaps it's best that what has happened on Jerusalem
to-day don't get out. I don't know as that's right. But I'll say this:
give me the girl; you can take MacLeod."

The Honorable Pulaski hesitated, "hemmed" hoarsely in his throat,
clutched at his beard, looked significantly at the high sheriff, and
then called him apart by a nod of his head.

When he returned to the group he said, crisply: "It's a trade! Under the
circumstances, I don't suppose even such a little tin god as you will
have anything to say about it outside," he sneered, running his red eye
over Dwight Wade. The young man did not reply, but his face gave
assent.

Lane pried away the saplings, and MacLeod stepped out.

"Give him a camp lantern," commanded Britt. "Get your men into that fire
at daylight."

"Tell me that they've all been lying about you, Colin," cried the girl,
her cheeks crimson, her heart going out to him at sight of his face,
"and I'll go with you! I'll work with you! I'm sorry for it if it's made
you mad with me." All her sullen anger was gone. She leaned towards him
as though she yearned to abase herself.

With Britt's flaming eyes on him, MacLeod only moved his lips without
words.

"Ladder" Lane came out of the cabin with two lanterns. A set of
lineman's climbers jangled dully at his belt.

"No, you'll not go, girl!" he cried, brusquely.

With hands on her hips, she threw back her head, her nostrils dilating.

"I've paid a big price for you this night," he went on, more gently,
"and it isn't to a cur of that kind that I'll be giving you. MacLeod,
here's your lantern! Away, now!"

"And I'll go, I say, if you'll tell me they've lied. Colin, darling,
tell me!" But he started away, spurred by a ripping oath from the
Honorable Pulaski. She tore herself from the restraining grasp of Wade
and ran after her lover.

At her movement, Abe, cowering in the gloom away from the torch-lighted
area of ledge, started behind her with canine loyalty. He had followed
her into the fire zone when his mother had screamed command into his
ear. His mother and this girl, her protégée, were the only ones who ever
looked at him without disgust.

"Abe!" shouted "Ladder" Lane. He spoke in a peculiar tone--a tone in
which the fool evidently recognized something of an old-time authority;
for he uttered a little bleat, in curious contrast with his giant bulk,
and halted. "Fire, Abe!" cried Lane, brandishing his arm in the
direction of the distant flamings. "Mother want her saved from fire.
Fetch, Abe!"

It was a tone of authority that the witling recognized, and it commanded
his weak will and giant strength. He sped after the girl, seized her in
spite of her furious protest, and bore her back to the cabin, her
struggles exciting only his amiable grins.

Lane rushed him and his burden into his hut.

"Now, Abe, mother say watch her. No go into the fire! Watch till I
come!" He came out with placid confidence that his order would be
obeyed, and the mien of the giant gave excellent confirmation.

"Men," he said, grimly, looking round on their faces, "I'd rather trust
that girl to the fool than to all of the rest of humankind; but I've had
reasons in my life to distrust men, and the higher the men the more I
distrust them. Don't any of you interfere in that duet in there. There's
only one thing that I ask you to do here till I come back--whoever stays
here--feed the animals. You can't corrupt them." He was "Ladder" Lane
once more, sour in his satire.

"Where are you going, Lane?" demanded Britt.

The old man shook a telephone cut-in sender at him.

"I'm going through the woods ahead of that fire to tap the Attean line
and send my report and call for men," he said, calmly. "I'm still the
fire warden of Jerusalem region."

He set away, striding over the ledges, his lantern winking between his
thin legs.

"Looks like a cross between a lightning-bug and a grampy-long-shanks,"
observed the sheriff, his cheerfulness increased by the happy disposal
of his troublesome prisoners. "Travelling on underpinning like that,
he'll have his word in before daybreak."

But Pulaski Britt had not yet satisfied the curiosity that stirred as
soon as greater matters had been settled. He ran after the warden,
shouting an order to wait.

The little group heard the colloquy, for Lane did not stop, and the
Honorable Pulaski had to bellow his question.

"Say, Lane, in case anything should happen to you! Ain't you going to
let me do the square thing? If this girl is yours, say the word. I'll
look after her. Is she yours?"

"No!" yelled the old man, with a fury in his tones like the rasp of a
file on their flesh as they listened. And the next words seemed to be a
cry wrung from him without his will: "If she were, I'd have killed you
and Colin MacLeod before this!"

He went flitting down the slope of Jerusalem like a will-o'-the-wisp,
and they stood in silence and watched him out of sight.

That night the tenantry of Jerusalem Knob divided itself silently and
sullenly into groups which ignored each other.

Britt and his people took blankets from the fire station, and
established makeshift camps down in the fringe of the trees.

Wade and Christopher Straight went apart, and composed themselves as
best they could on some gray moss that tufted the ledge. Their duty was
plain. That fire threatened Enchanted, once it should sweep through the
chimney draught of Pogey Notch. They must stay there and fight it at the
pass through which it was marching to invade their territory. Rodburd
Ide promised to have the Enchanted crew following them within a week. It
might be that their men were already on the way. Their route lay
through Pogey, and Wade would be there ready to captain them.

The camp was left to the girl and her unkempt guardian. She sat silent
and full of bitter rage; but she understood the vagaries of the fool's
character well enough to realize that after Lane's orders to Abe even
her persuasions could have no effect; the valley fires that lighted the
windows of the camp gave effective point to Lane's commands. The giant
crouched by the open door and gazed upon the sullen glowings in the vast
pit below, muttering his fears to himself.



CHAPTER XI

IN THE BARONY OF "STUMPAGE JOHN"

     "Wilderness lord of the olden time,
       Stalwart and plumed pine;
     They have dragged thee down to the roaring town
       From the realms that once were thine.
     And he who reigns in thy stately stead
       Has never a time o' truce,
     For the axe and saw and the grinder's maw
       Have doomed thee, too, King Spruce."

               --Kin o' Ktaadn.


At half-past four in the dark of the morning "Dirty-apron Harry's"
nickel alarm-clock purred relentlessly, and he rolled out of his bunk,
his eyelids sticking like a blind puppy's. At seventeen, youth relishes
morning naps. But, as cookee of Barnum Withee's camp on "Lazy Tom"
operation, he was chosen to be the earliest bird to crow. His first duty
as chanticleer was to wake "Icicle Ike" and "Push Charlie," the
teamsters, whose hungry charges were stamping impatient hoofs in the
hovel. He dressed himself while stumbling across the dingle to the men's
camp, his eyes still shut. This feat was not as difficult as it sounds.
The difference between Harry's night-gear and day raiment was merely a
Scotch cap and the canvas robe of office that gave him his title.

The teamsters grunted when he shook them, and followed him out of the
frowsy, snore-fretted atmosphere of the big camp. They did their morning
yawnings and stretching as they walked. When Duty calls "Time!" to a
woodsman the body is on the dot, even if the soul lags unwillingly.

The humorists of the woods have it that the cookee pries up the sun when
he jacks the big pot out of the bean-hole. For such an important
operation, "Dirty-apron Harry" went at it listlessly.

The bean-hole was beyond the horse-hovel, sheltered in the angle of a
little palisade of poles whose protection would be needed when the
winter's snows drifted. Harry wearily dragged a hoe in that direction
after he had kindled a fire in the cook-house stove. He did not look up
to the first pearly sheen of sunrise streaming through the yellow of the
frost-touched birches. The glory of the skies would wake him too soon.
He gave up the final fuddle of slumber grudgingly, his dull mind still
piecing the visions of the night, his soul full of loathing for the
workaday world of greasy pots and dirty tins. But when he turned the
corner of the bean-hole shelter he dropped out of dreams with the
suddenest jolt of his life. A black bear was trying to dig up the
bean-pot, growling softly at the heat of the round stones she uncovered.
Two cubs sat near by, watching operations with great interest, their
round ears up-cocked, their jaws drooling expectantly. The big bear
whirled promptly and cuffed the hoe out of Harry's limp grasp, leaped
past him before his trembling legs could move him, and scuffed away into
the woods, with her progeny crowding close to her sheltering bulk. The
cookee sped in the other direction towards the hovel with as great
alacrity.

"Bears?" echoed "Push Charlie," appearing with his pitchfork at the
hovel door. "Stop your squawkin'. I seen half a dozen yistiddy, and all
of 'em streakin' north up this valley. Heard 'em whooffing and barkin'
last night, travellin' past here on the hemlock benches." He pointed his
fork at the terraced sides of the valley above them.

"It's only excursion parties bound for the Bears' Annooal Convention up
at Telos Gorge," suggested "Icicle Ike," rapping the chaff out of a peck
measure.

The cookee, woods-camp traditional butt of jokes, stared from one to the
other, trying to recover his composure.

"And Marm Bear there wanted to take along that pot of beans for the
picnic dinner," added Charlie.

"I think it's goin' to be a general mass-meetin' to discuss the game
laws," said Ike. "The boys who were swampin' the twitch-roads yistiddy
told me that deer kept traipsin' past all day and--well, there goes
three now."

White "flags" flitted through the undergrowth at the edge of the
clearing, and a startled "Whick-i-whick!" further up the valley-side
hinted at the retreat of still others. Their departure was probably
hastened by the cook's shrill "Who-e-e-e!" the general call for the
camp. He came out of the cook-house scrubbing his hands and bare arms
with a towel.

"Git that bean-pot here! What are you standin' round on one foot for?"
he demanded, testily. When the cookee began to stutter explanations,
brandishing freckled arms to point the route of the fugitives, the cook
interrupted, but now there was humor in his tones.

"Thunderation, you gents is sartinly slow to understand what's before
your eyes! Don't you know why all these animiles is runnin' away from
down there?" He jerked a red thumb over his shoulder towards the south.
"Ain't 'Stumpage John' Barrett down there with Withee, lookin' over that
tract where we operated last season?"

Sly grins of appreciation appeared on the faces of the teamsters.

"Ain't you got any notion of what particular kind of language 'Stumpage
John' has been lettin' out of himself for the last twenty-four hours?"

"Well, the idee is," said the cook, "he is down there cussin' to that
extent that he's cussed every animile off'n Square-hole township.
Animiles is natcherally timid, delicate in the ears, and hates cussin'.
The deer come first because they can run fastest. Bears left as soon as
they could, and is hurryin'. Rabbits will come next, and the quill-pigs
are on the way. Then I reckon Barnum Withee will fetch up the rear. Oh,
it must be somethin' awful down there!" He faced the south with grave
mien. His listeners guffawed.

But a moment later "Push Charlie" stepped clear of the hovel and sniffed
with canine eagerness. There was a subtle, elusive, acrid odor in the
air. It seemed to billow up the valley, whose shoulders circumscribed
their vision so narrowly.

"I reckon," he stated, "that he's throwed so much brimstone around him
reckless that he's set fire to the woods."

"That's the way with some of these big timber-owners," remarked the
cook, still in humorous mood. "They raise tophet with a sport because he
throws down a cigar-butt, and they themselves will go out right in a dry
time and spit cuss words that's just so much blue flame. It's dretful
careless!" he sighed.

"But when you come to think of what he found there on that township,"
said Charlie, "you have to make allowances. More'n a third of the board
measure left right there on the ground as slash, and slash that's
propped on the branches of the tops like powder-houses on stilts. And
the whole township only devilled over at that! Barn only took the stuff
that would roll downhill into the water when it was joggled."

"You ain't blamin' your own boss, be ye?" demanded the cook.

"Not by a darned sight!" rejoined Charlie, stoutly. "If I was an
operator, doin' all the hard liftin', with a rich stumpage-owner with a
rasp file goin' at me on one end and a log-buyer whittlin' me at the
other, I'd figger to save myself. But I've always lived and worked in
the old woods, gents. I ain't one of those dudes that never want to see
an axe put in. The old woods need the axe to keep 'em healthy. We, here,
need the money, and the folks outside need the lumber. But when I see
enough of the old woods wasted on every winter operation to make me
rich, and all because the men that are gettin' the most out of it are
fightin' each other so as to hog profits, it makes me sorry for the old
woods and sick of human nature."

The morning bustle of the camp began in earnest now. Men crowded at the
tin wash-basins on the long shelf outside the log wall. As fast as they
slicked their wet hair with the broken comb they hurried into the meal
camp. There they heaped their tin plates with beans steaming from the
hole where they had simmered overnight, devoured huge chunks of brown
bread deluged with molasses, and "sooped" hot coffee.

The odor of warm food was good in the nostrils of old "Ladder" Lane, the
fire warden of Jerusalem, as he strode down the valley wall towards the
camp. He hung his extinguished lantern on a nail outside the cook camp
and stooped and entered the low door. Among woodsmen the amenities of a
camp are as scant as welcome is plentiful. Lane seized up a tin plate,
loaded it with what he saw in sight, and began to eat hastily and
voraciously.

"Fire?" inquired the cook.

Lane jerked a nod of affirmation.

"Where?"

"Misery."

"Big?"

Another nod.

"Talk about your bounty on wildcats and porky-pines," raged the cook,
slamming on a stove-cover to emphasize his remarks, "the State treasurer
ought to offer twenty-five dollars for the scalp and thumbs of every
Skeet and Bushee brought in."

The fire warden ran his last bit of brown bread around his plate,
stuffed it dripping into his mouth, and stood up after sixty seconds
devoted to his breakfast.

"Where's Withee?" he asked the boss chopper, who had lounged to the camp
door and was stuffing tobacco into his pipe.

"Off on Square-hole," replied the boss, with a sideways cant of his head
to show direction.

"Fire on Misery eating north towards the Notch," reported Lane, with
laconic sourness. "Withee ought to send twenty-five men." He was already
starting away.

"He'll probably be back by night," said the boss chopper, "if 'Stumpage
John' Barrett gets through swearin' at him about that last season's
operation."

Lane stopped and whirled suddenly, the lineman's climbers at his belt
clanking dully.

"John Barrett in this region!" he blurted.

"For the first time in a lot o' years," returned the boss, with a grin.
"Suspected that Barn devilled Square-hole and wasted in the cuttin's as
much as he landed in the yards. I reckon it ain't suspicion any more!
He's been down there on the grounds two days. But he don't get any of my
sympathy. A man who stole these lands at twenty cents an acre, buying
tax titles, and has squat on his haunches and made himself rich sellin'
stumpage,[1] has got more'n he deserved, even if half the timber is
rottin' in the tops on the ground."

[Footnote 1: The right to cut trees on the seller's land. Payment is
based on the measurement of the logs as they are brought to the landing
and piled ready for the drive.]

The gaunt jaws of "Ladder" Lane set themselves out like elbows akimbo.
He whirled and started away again as though he had fresh cause for
haste.

"I don't want to take any responsibility for sending off any of the
crew," called the boss. "What particular word do you want to leave for
Withee?"

Lane settled into his woods lope and darted into the Attean trail
without reply.

"I'll be here with my own word," he muttered, talking aloud, after the
habit of the recluse.

"And what do you make of that now?" asked the cook of the boss, scaling
Lane's discarded plate into the cookee's soapy water. "Why ain't he up
on his Jerusalem fire station instead of rampagin' round here in the
woods?"

"He was rigged out to climb a pole and had a telephone thingumajig with
him," suggested the boss.

"He's strikin' acrost to tap the Attean telephone and send in an alarm,
that's what he's doin'. Prob'ly his old lookin'-glass telegraft is
busted," he added, with slighting reference to the Jerusalem helio. He
followed his men, who were streaming up the tote road towards the
cuttings. Far ahead trudged the horses, drawing jumpers. From the
cross-bars the bind-chains dragged jangling over the roots and rocks.

In five minutes only three men were in sight about the camps--the cook,
making ready a baking of ginger-cakes; the cookee, rattling the tins
from the breakfast-table and whistling shrill accompaniment to the
clatter; and the blacksmith, busy at his forge in the "dingle," the
roofed space between the cook-house and the main camp.

It was just before second "bean-time" when Lane came back along the
Attean trail and staggered, rather than walked, into the "Lazy Tom"
clearing. His face was gray with exertion, and sweat coursed in the
wrinkles of his emaciated features.

"Shouldn't wonder from your looks that you'd made time," suggested the
cook, cheerfully, as the warden stumbled up to the door. "From here to
the Attean telephone-line and back before eleven is what I call humpin'.
You've been to Attean, hey?"

"Yes," snapped the old man. "I've reported that fire and done my duty."

"In that case, you've prob'ly got a better appetite than you had this
mornin'," remarked "Beans," hospitably. He started to ladle from the
steaming kettle of "smother" on the stove.

"Nothing to eat for me!" broke in Lane, sullenly. "Are Withee and John
Barrett back yet?"

"Oh, they'll stay out till dark all right. Barrett will want to count
trees as long as he can see."

"I'll wait, then!" Lane started towards the men's camp, but the cook
stopped him.

"If you're reck'nin' to lie down for a nap, warden, don't get into them
bunks. Them Quedaws have brought in the usual assortment of 'travellers'
this season, and I don't want to see a neat man like you accumulate a
menagerie. Now you just go right across there into Withee's private
camp. He'd say so if he was here. I'll do that much honors when he ain't
here. You won't wake up scratchin'."

Without a word Lane turned and strode across to the office camp, went
in, and slammed the door shut after him.

"He's about as sour and crabbed an old cuss to do a favor for as I
ever see," remarked the cook, fiddling a smutty finger under his nose.
"But a man never ought to git discouraged in this world about bein'
polite." He caught sight of the advance-guard of returning choppers up
the road, and whirled on the cookee. "You freckle-faced, hump-backed,
dead-and-alive son of a clam fritter, here come them empty nail-kags!
Get to goin', now, or I'll pour a dish of hot water down your back."

"Is that what you call bein' polite?" growled the cookee.

The cook kicked at him as he fled into the meal camp with a pan of
biscuits.

"They don't use politeness on cookees any more than they put bay-winders
onto pig-pens!" he shouted.

There were two bunks in the little office camp, one above the other.
"Ladder" Lane curled his long legs and tucked himself into the gloom of
the lower bunk. His eyes, red-rimmed and glowing with strange fire under
their knots of gray brow, noted a rifle lying on wooden braces against a
log of the camp wall. He rose, clutched it eagerly, and "broke it down."
Its magazine was full. He jacked in a cartridge, laid the rifle on the
bunk between himself and the wall, and lay down again.

Most men, after the vigil of a night and bitter struggle of the day,
would have slept. Lane lay with eyes wide-propped. His mind seemed to
be wrestling with a mighty problem. Once in awhile he groaned. At other
times his teeth ground together. Twice he put the rifle back on the
wall, shuddering as though it were some fearsome object. Twice he got up
and retook it, and the last time muttered as though his resolution were
clinched.

After the resolution had been formed he may have dozed. At any rate, the
first he heard of Barrett and Withee they had sat down on the steps of
the office camp, and the loud, brusque, and authoritative voice of one
of them went on in some harangue that had evidently been progressing for
a long time previously.

"Damme, Withee, I tell you again that you've robbed me right and left!
You left tops in the woods to rot that had a pulp log scale in 'em. You
devilled the township without sense or system. You cut out the stands
near the waterways without leaving a tree for new seed. You left strips
standing that will go down like a row of bricks in the first big gale
we have. But what's the use in going over all that again? You know you
haven't used me right. The sum and substance is, you pay me a lump sum
and square me for damages to that township or I'll cancel this season's
stumpage contract. I'm using you just as I propose to use the rest of
the thieves up here."

There was silence for a little time. The voice of the other man was
subdued, even disheartened.

"I've said about all I can say, Mr. Barrett," he ventured. "Of course,
you're rich and I'm poor, and if you cancel the contract I can't afford
to go to law. But I've borrowed ten thousand dollars to put into this
season's operation, and I've got it tied up in supplies and outfit. I've
just got located and my camps finished. The way things have worked for
me, I ain't made any money for three years, and I've put my shoulder to
the wheel and my own hands to the axe. The operator can't make money,
Mr. Barrett, the way he's ground between the owners of stumpage and the
men down-river who buy his logs in the boom. You talk of closing your
contract with me! Do you know of a man who can afford to do any better
by you than I have--just as long as things are the way they are now?"

"Oh, I reckon you're about all alike," returned the lumber baron,
ungraciously. "I've been a fool to believe anything stumpage buyers have
told me. I ought to have come up here every year and looked after my
property. But that would be prowling around in these woods that aren't
fit for a human being to live in, and neglecting my other business to
keep you fellows from stealing. Not for me! I've got something better to
do. Clod-hoppers that don't want to stay in their fields all day with a
gun kill one crow and hang it on a stake for the live ones to see. I'm
sorry for you, Withee, but I'm going to make a special example of you."

"It don't seem hardly fair to pick me out of all the rest, Mr. Barrett."

"Well, it's business!" snapped the other. "And business in these days
isn't conducted on the lines of a Sunday-school picnic."

"Ladder" Lane, who had been staring straight up at the poles of the bunk
above his head, had not moved or glanced to right or left since the
brusque, tyrannical voice outside had begun to declaim. Now he swung his
feet off the bunk and sat on its edge. He fumbled behind him for the
rifle and dragged it across his knees.

The night had fallen. The one window of the office camp admitted a
sallow light. From the main camp came the drone of an accordion and the
mumble of many voices. Lane realized that supper had been eaten.

"You're right about business, Mr. Barrett," Withee went on, a touch of
resentment in his voice. "Your Bangor scale is 'business.' You talk
about wasting tops! If an operator leaves the taper of the top on a log,
he's hauling a third more weight to the landing, and then your Bangor
scale gives him a third less measure than on the short log."

"The legislature established the scale; I didn't," retorted Barrett.

"Yes, but you rich folks can tell the legislature what to do, and it
does it! We fellows that wear larrigans haven't anything to say about
it." In his grief and despair he allowed himself to taunt his tyrant.
"Your legislature has peddled away all the rights on the river to men
with power enough to grab 'em. Look here, Mr. Barrett, while you toasted
your shins last winter we worked here like niggers, in the cold and the
snow, the frost and the wet--and the first man to get his drag out of
our work was you. You got your stumpage-money. And when my logs were in
the water, first the Driving Association that you're a director in, with
its legislative charter all right and tight, took its toll. Then the
River Dam and Improvement Company took its toll, and you're a director
in that. Then the Lumbering Association, owned by your bunch, had its
boomage tolls. Then the little private inside clique had its pay for
'taking care of logs,' as they call it. Then on top of all the rest, the
gang had its tolls for running and shoring logs in the round-up boom,
and finally the man who bought 'em scaled down the landing-measure on
which you drew stumpage. I couldn't help myself. None of us fellows that
operate can help ourselves. It's all tied up. We had to take what was
given. Your tolls for this, that, and the other figured up about as much
as stumpage. And when the last and final drag was made out of my little
profits--there were no profits! I came out in debt, Mr. Barrett. That's
all there was to show for a winter's hard work away from my home and
family, in these woods that you say ain't fit for a human bein' to live
in. That's what you're doin' to us--and you're all standin' together
against us poor fellows to do it."

"Same old whine of the old crowd of operators," drawled Mr. Barrett. "If
you old-fashioned chaps can't keep up with the modern business
conditions you'd better get into something else and give the young
fellows a chance."

"Get into the poor-house, perhaps," Withee replied, bitterly. "My father
lumbered this river. I worked with him, before the big fellows had to
have both crusts and the middle of the pie. I don't know how to do
anything else. Every cent I've got in the world is tied up in my outfit.
For God's sake, Mr. Barrett, be fair with me!"

It was the pitiful appeal of the toil of the woods at its last stand.
But "Stumpage John" Barrett resolutely reflected the autocracy of giant
King Spruce.

"This whole matter was gone over at our last directors' meeting, Withee.
We have decided, one and all, that we won't have our timber lands
butchered and gashed and devilled to make profit for you fellows. Our
charters give us our rights, and business is business. We've got to
stand stiff, and we're going to stand stiff until we show you what's
what. I told my associates I would come up here and make an example, and
I'm going to do it. Now, that's all, Withee! It's no good to argue. The
timber interests can't afford to do any more fooling."

"Gents," broke in the voice of "Dirty-apron Harry," "cook sent me to say
that your supper is ready."

"Tell cook I'm ready, too," snapped Barrett, grunting off the step. "I
thought your cattle were never going to get out of that meal camp,
Withee. You feed 'em too much! That's where your profits are going to."

Lane heard him snuffing.

"This smoke seems to be getting thicker, Withee. It must be something
more than a bonfire, wherever it is."

"Cook is waiting to tell you," said Harry. "He didn't want to break in
on your business talk, seein' that you was both so much took up with it.
Warden from Jerusalem was through here this morning to give alarm and
call for fighters. He's takin' a nap in the office camp, waitin' for Mr.
Withee."

"A loafer like the rest of 'em!" snorted Barrett, starting away. "Dig
him out, Withee, and send him to me. I'm going to eat."

At the sound of his retreating footsteps "Ladder" Lane unfolded his
gaunt frame, stood up, and swung the rifle into the hook of his arm. He
opened the office door and came upon Withee standing where Barrett had
left him. In the gloom the operator's toil-stooped shoulders and bowed
legs were outlined by the flare from the cook-camp. He continued his
mutterings as he turned his head to look at Lane, his gray beard
sweeping his shoulder.

"It's runnin' north from Misery, Mr. Withee," reported the warden. "It's
runnin' in the slash and goin' fast. If it gets through Pogey Notch it
means a crown fire in the black growth."

"I hope it'll burn every spruce-tree between Misery and the Canada
line!" barked the furious old operator. "If I could stand here and put
it out by spittin' on it I wouldn't open my mouth."

"I've 'phoned the alarm through Attean," went on Lane, calmly, with no
apparent thought except his duty. "You ought to send twenty-five men."

"Not a man!" roared the operator. "Let the infernal hogs save their own
timber lands. They want all the profit in 'em; let 'em stand all the
loss, then."

"Look here, Withee," said the warden, implacably, "you know the law as
well as I do. A fire warden has the same right as a sheriff to summon a
posse when a fire is to be fought. Every man that is summoned and don't
go pays a fine of ten dollars unless he is sick or disabled, and you'll
have to stand good for your crew."

"I know it!" bellowed Withee, beside himself. "Some more of the devilish
law they've cooked up to make us work like slaves for their profits.
Talk about monarchies! Talk about freedom, whether it's in a city or in
the woods! We ain't anything but cattle. The rich men have stood
together and made us so."

"I didn't make the law, Withee. I'm simply delivering my errand as the
State orders me to do. I've done my duty. It's up to you." He sighed,
shifted the rifle to the other arm, and mumbled behind his teeth, "Now
I'll attend to a little matter of business that ain't the State's."

He started for the door of the meal camp, the operator on "Lazy Tom"
stumping angrily at his heels.



CHAPTER XII

THE CODE OF LARRIGAN-LAND

     "Here's a good health to you, family man,
       From the depths of our hearts and the woods;
     Boughs for our bunks and salt hoss in junks
       Ain't hefty in way o' world's goods.
     Keep your neck near her arms and your cheek near her kiss,
     And don't ever come here to the troubles o' This!
     We've tasted of This and we know what it lacks--
               We lonesome old baches--
               Of peavies and patches,
     Bills, Tommies, and Jacks of the Axe."

               --The Family Man.


Barrett was at the table, his back towards the door. He was filling a
pannikin with whiskey from a silver-mounted flask. The cook, who had
been silently admiring his smart suit of corduroy, was now more intently
and longingly regarding the amber trickle from the mouth of the flask.
But John Barrett was not a man to ask menials to share his bowl with
him. His shaven cheeks looked too hard even to permit the growth of
beard.

The cook, whirling at the sound of Lane's moccasins on the chip dirt,
was officious according to his promulgated code of politeness.

"Here's the warden from Jerusalem, Mr. Barrett. I done the honors of
camp the best I could, seein' that you and Mr. Withee wa'n't here."
In mentioning honors, the cook had one lingering hope that the
stumpage-king would share his flask with a State employé, and that
he himself might participate as one present and one willing.

But the timber baron did not turn his head. He stirred sugar in his
whiskey and growled.

"Do fire wardens up this way earn their pay, sleeping, like cats, in
the daytime?"

Lane had stepped just inside the door, his moccasins noiseless on the
shaved poles.

"How near is that fire to the black growth, and how are they fighting
it?" demanded Barrett.

"It started on Misery"--Lane began, in the same tone that had
characterized his former reports.

But at his first word Barrett jerked his head around, stared wildly,
stood up, and then sat down astride the wooden bench. With his eyes
still on the man at the door, he fumbled for the pannikin of whiskey and
gulped it down. Lane went on talking.

"And if they can get enough men ahead of it perhaps they can stop it in
Pogey Notch," Lane concluded.

The hands that clutched the gun trembled, but his eyes were steady, with
a red sparkle in them. The lumber king endured that stare for a few
moments, like one writhing under the torture of a focussed sun-glass. He
glanced to right and left, as though seeking a chance for flight. The
only exit was the door, and the tall, grim man stood there with his
rifle across his arm.

"Say it, Lane! Say it!" hoarsely cried Barrett, at last, unable to
endure the silence and the doubt.

"I have nothing to say--not now," said Lane. "I'll wait here until you
eat your supper. My lantern is hanging on the nail there, cook. Will you
fill it and light it?"

There was a subtle, strange menace in his bearing that the cook and
Withee, staring, their mouths gaping, could not understand. But it was
plain that the man at the table understood all too well.

"Why didn't you take it when I sent you the offer?" asked Barrett, his
voice beginning to tremble. "I wanted to settle. It was up to me to
settle. It was a bad business, Lane, but I--"

"It's a private matter you're opening up here before listeners, Mr.
Barrett," broke in Lane. "It's my business with you, and you haven't got
the right to do it. Just now you go ahead and eat your supper. You'll
need it, for you're going to take a walk with me."

In his perturbation, forced to eat, as it seemed, by the quiet
insistence of the warden, Barrett swallowed a few mouthfuls of food. But
he cowered, with side glances at the grim man by the door. Then he
pushed his plate away, choking. Maddened by the silent watchfulness, he
stood up.

"I'll see you in the office," he muttered. "I'll tell you now and before
witnesses that I'm ready to settle. I've always been ready to settle. It
would have been settled long ago if you had let my man talk with you.
Now, let's not have any trouble, Lane, over what's past and gone. I'll
do anything that's reasonable."

He shot an appealing glance at Withee.

"We'll take Withee with us," he declared. "We'll talk in the office."

"We'll talk under no roof of yours and on no land belonging to you,"
answered Lane, firmly. "We'll talk private matters before no third
party. If you're done your supper, Mr. Barrett, you'll come with me
where we can stand out man to man in God's open country with no peekers
and listeners--and that's more for your sake than it is for mine. I've
done nothing in this life that I'm ashamed of."

"Do you take me for a fool?" roared the land baron, hiding fear under an
assumption of his usual manner. "Do you think I'm going into the woods
alone with you?"

"You are, Mr. Barrett."

"By ----, I won't!"

"I'm no hand for a threat," grated Lane, in a low, strange voice, "but
you'll come with me. You know why you'll come with me, because you know
what I'm likely to do to you if you don't come."

Barrett looked past the man at the door. The dingle was full of crowding
faces, for the altercation had called every man out. There was some
consolation for Barrett in the spectacle of this silent, wondering mob.
After all, he was on his own land, and these men must acknowledge him as
their master.

"Here! a hundred dollars apiece to the men who grab that lunatic and
take that rifle away from him!" he shouted, darting a quivering finger
at the warden. But before any one made a move Withee stepped forward
into the lamplight. With open, waving palm he imposed non-interference
on his crew.

"Hold on, Mr. Barrett," said he. "Before we run into trouble by
arresting a man that's an officer, we want to know whys and wherefores."

"Don't you know why he wants to make me go away into the woods?" bawled
the lumber king.

"We can't very well know without bein' told," replied Withee, and an
answering grumble from his men indorsed him.

"He wants to murder me--murder me in cold blood!" Barrett fairly
screamed this. "I know what his reason is," he added, seeing that their
faces showed no conviction.

"I've known Linus Lane ever since he came into this region," said
Withee, breaking the awed hush that followed the baron's startling
words. "I never knew him to be anything but peaceable and square. A
little speck odd, maybe, but quiet and peaceable and square. Most of the
men here know him that way, too."

Another answering mumble of assent.

"Odd!" echoed Barrett, grasping at the suggestion. "You've said it. He's
a lunatic. He will kill me."

"What for?" called the chopping-boss, bluntly. His natural desire to get
at the meat of things quickly was stimulated by ardent curiosity.

"You are all sticking your noses into a matter that doesn't belong to
you!" cried Lane, his well-known crustiness showing itself, though it
was evident that he was hiding some deeper emotion. "I want this man to
go with me. It's business. And he's going!" His voice was almost a
snarl, but there was a resoluteness in the tone that awed them more than
violence would have done.

"Are you going to give me up to a murderer?" bleated Barrett, for his
study of the faces in the lamplight did not reassure him.

"Hadn't you better let us step out, and you talk your business over with
him right here, Linus?" inquired Withee, conciliatingly.

"He's going with me, and he's going now!" shouted Lane, his repression
breaking. "The man that gets in our way will get hurt."

He banged his rifle-butt on the floor, and those who looked on him
shrank before his awful rage.

"Put on your hat, Barrett, and walk out!" he shrilled. "Make way, there!
This is my man, by ---- and he knows in his dirty heart why he's mine."

But Barnum Withee's quiet woodsman's soul was not of a nature to be
intimidated, and his instincts of fairness, when it was between man and
man, had been made acute by many years of woods adjudication.

"Hold on a minute, Linus!" he entreated, stepping between the two men
with upraised hand. "You are both under my roof, and you've both eaten
my bread to-day. I never got between men in a fair, square quarrel. I
won't now. But you've got a gun, and he hasn't. I don't want to know
your business. But if there's trouble between you it's got to be settled
fair. You can't drag a man out of my camp to do him dirty--and it would
be the same if it was only young Harry there that you were tryin' to
take."

"Good talk!" yelled the boss.

"I'll give a hundred dollars--" began Barrett, seeing the advantage
swinging his way; but Withee broke in with indignation.

"No more of that talk, Mr. Barrett!" he cried. "I'll run my own crew
when it comes to pay or to orders. Now, Warden Lane, what are you going
to do with this man when you get him where you want to take him?"

"I don't know!" snapped Lane, to the amazement of his listeners. And he
added, enigmatically, "I can tell better after I've asked him some
questions."

"Ain't you ready to tell us that you'll use him man-fashion?" persisted
Withee.

The deep emotion which "Ladder" Lane had been trying to hide whetted the
bitterness of his usual attitude towards mankind.

"I'm not ready to let any fool mix himself into my affairs. We've argued
this question long enough, John Barrett. Now you--step--out!" He leaped
aside from the door, cocked the rifle, and motioned angrily with its
muzzle.

"Stay right where you are, Mr. Barrett," said the old operator,
resolutely. "I'll stand for fair play."

"And you'll get your pay for it, Withee, my friend!" stuttered his
creditor, eagerly. "I don't forget favors. You stand by me, and you'll
get your pay."

"I haven't anything to sell, Mr. Barrett," said Withee, doggedly.

"But I've got something to give you," persisted the frightened magnate,
edging near him, and striving to hint confidentially. "You stand by me,
and when it comes to contracts--"

"I'm not buyin' anything, Mr. Barrett!" He signalled the lumber king
back with protesting palm. "I'm simply tellin' Lane that he can't take a
man out of my camp to do him dirty. And in that there's no fear and no
favor!"

Lane gazed at the determined face of the operator and at the massing men
who crowded at the door, and whose nods gave emphatic approval of
Withee's dictum. No one knew better than he the code of the woods; no
one understood more thoroughly the quixotic prejudices and simple
impulses which moved the isolated communities of the camps. Just then
they would not have surrendered Barrett to an army, and Lane realized
it.

The eyes focussed on him saw the tense ridges of his seamed face tighten
and the gray of an awful passion settle there.

"After all the rest of it, you're forcing me to stand here and put it in
words, are you, you sneak?" he yelped, thrusting that boding visage
towards the timber baron. "You're hiding behind these men! Well, let's
see how long they'll stand in front of you! You've got to have 'em hear
it, eh? Then you listen to it, woodsmen!" His voice broke suddenly into
a frightful yell. "He stole my wife! He stole her! I say he stole her!
That's what I want of him, now that he's here where I can meet him in
God's open country, plain man to plain man!"

"He's lying to you," quavered Barrett. But his eyes shifted, and the
keen and candid gaze of the woodsmen detected his paltering.

"I was away earning an honest living, and he came along with his airs
and his money and fooled her and stole her--stole her and threw her
away. It was play for him; it was death for her, and damnation for me.
I ain't blaming her, men"--his voice had a sob in it--"she was too
young for me. I ought to have known better. Our little house was on his
land that he had stolen from the people of this State. Then he came and
stole _her_!"

He was now close to Barrett, his bony fist slashing the air over the
baron's shrinking head.

"It wasn't that way," stammered Barrett. "I was up there with some
friends fishing and exploring on my lands. It was years ago. The young
woman cooked meals for us. I went farther north to some other townships
of mine, and she went along to take care of camp. That's all there was
to it, men!" He spread out his palms and tried to smile.

"You stole her!" iterated Lane. "I came home, men, and she was gone out
of our little house. I found just four walls, cold and empty, the key
under the rug, and a letter on the table--and I've got that letter, John
Barrett! And when you were tired of her up there in the woods you tossed
her away like you tossed the lemon-skins out of your whiskey-glass. You
didn't wait to see where she fell--she and your child--your child! Curse
you, Barrett, I've never wanted to meet you! I sent word to you to keep
out of these woods. I sent that word by the man you asked to bribe
me--as though your money could do everything for you in this world! You
thought you could sneak in here after all these years, because I was
tied on the top of Jerusalem. But I'm here! What do you think, men? The
fire that is roaring up from Misery township was set by this man's own
daughter--the child that he tossed away in the woods. You that know the
Skeets and Bushees know her. She set the fire! That's why I'm here. It's
his child--his and hers. I don't know whether heaven or hell planned it,
but now that I've met you, Barrett, you're going with me!"

He strode back to the door and stood there, the rifle again across the
hook of his arm. His flaming eyes swept the faces in the dingle. Their
eyes gave him a message that his woodsman's soul interpreted.

"There's the truth for you, men, since you had to have it!" he shouted.
"Once more I'm going to say to John Barrett--'Step out.' And if there's
still a man among you that wants to keep that hound in this camp I'd
like to have that man stand out and say why."

There was not a whisper from the throng. They stood gazing into the door
with lips apart. Silently they crowded back, as though to afford free
passage.

Barrett noted the movement and wailed his terror.

"It means trouble for you, Withee, if you let him take me."

The old operator surveyed him with a lowering and disgusted stare.

"Mr. Barrett," he said, "I've told you that I have nothing to sell. All
that I want to buy of you is stumpage, and I've got your figures on that
and your opinion of me. I don't ask you to change anything." He turned
away, muttering, "He'll have to think pretty hard if he can do anything
more to me than what he's already threatened to do."

Calm once more, and inexorable as fate, Lane motioned towards the door.

"My final word, Barrett: March!"

As he gazed into the faces about him, not one gleam of friendliness
anywhere, desperation or a flicker of courage spurred the magnate. In
that moment John Barrett had none of the adventitious aids of his
autocracy--none of the bulwarks of "Castle Cut 'Em." He was only a man
among them--fairly demanded by another man to settle a matter of the
sort where primordial instinct prompts a universal code. He drove his
hat on his head and strode through the door, his head bent.

Lane took his lighted lantern from the cook's hand and followed. He had
his teeth set tight, as though resolved to say no more. But at the edge
of the camp's lamplight he whirled and faced the crew. Barrett halted,
too, as though hoping for some intervention.

"Look here, men," said Lane, "I want to thank you for being men in this
thing. And seeing that you've been square with me I don't want to go
away from here leaving any wrong idea behind me. I don't know just
what's going to happen between this man and me, for a good deal depends
on him. But you've known me long enough to know that I'm not the
crust-hunting kind that cuts a deer's throat when he's helpless. You put
your confidence in me when you put this man in my hands. And I'll say to
you, I'll do the best I know!"

"We ain't givin' any advice to you that knows your business better'n we
do," called out the boss of the choppers. "But let it be man to
man--good woods style!"

"Good woods style!" echoed the crew, in hoarse chorus. It was plain that
their minds were dwelling on only one solution of the difficulty.

Lane stepped back and set the rifle against the log wall. "I was near
forgetting," he said, apologetically. "I'm so used to carrying a rifle.
This belongs here."

"Take it," suggested Withee, with a touch of grimness in his tones.

"I don't need it," Lane answered, quietly. He whirled and started away,
and Barrett sullenly preceded him. They clambered up the valley wall,
the pale lantern-light tossing against the hemlock boughs. The crew of
"Lazy Tom" watched in silence until the last flicker vanished among the
trees of the Jerusalem trail.

"Well," said the chopping-boss, drawing a long breath, "it appears to me
that there are some things that money can't do for old 'Stumpage John,'
big as he is in this world! One is, he's found he can't buy up the
'Lazy Tom' crew to back him in a dirty job of woman-stealin'."

"I'd like to be there when it happens," panted "Dirty-apron Harry,"
excitedly.

"When what happens?" demanded the boss.

"Well--well--I--I dunno!" confessed Harry.

"Umph!" snorted the boss, "now you're talkin' as though you know
'Ladder' Lane as well as I know him. The man who can stand here and tell
what old Lane is goin' to do next can prophesy earthquakes and have 'em
happen."

He pulled out his watch.

"Nine o'clock!" he roared. "Lights out and turn in!"



CHAPTER XIII

THE RED THROAT OF POGEY

     "Though it ain't for me nor for any one
     To say how the awful thing was done,
     We know that the hand of a grief-crazed man
     Is set to many a desperate plan."

               --On _Isle au Haut._


It was a saffron dawn. It was a dawn diffuse and weird. A smear of
copper in the east marked the presence of the sun. For the rest, the sky
was a sickly monochrome, a dirty yellow, a boding yellow. It was not a
wind that blew; a wind has somewhat of freshness in it. It was simply
smoky air--air that rolled sullenly--choking, heavy, bitter, acrid air
that was to the nostrils what the sky was to the eye.

After they had toiled around the base of the mountain and were well into
Pogey Notch, the man ahead, stumbling doggedly and stubbornly, found
water. It was only a little puddle, cowering from the drouth. The trees
had helped it to hide away. They had scattered their autumn foliage upon
it, beeches and birches which were grateful, for the pool had humbly
cooled their feet in the hot summer.

The man ahead, thirst giving him almost a canine scent, fell rather than
kneeled beside the pool, thrust his face through the leaves, and guffled
the stale water. Then he plunged his smarting eyes, wide open, into the
shallow depths.

When he faced once more the smother of the smoke and the man who stood
over him, he seemed to have a flash of new courage. His eyes blazed
again, his rumpled gray hair seemed to bristle.

But his defiance was only the desperation of the coward at bay.

"You've teamed me all night, Lane--from Withee's camp to here. I have
asked questions, and you haven't answered me; but now, by ----, say what
you want of me, and let's have this thing over!"

It was an air that would have cowed an inferior in John Barrett's office
in the city, where tyranny swelled the folds of a frock-coat and was
framed in the door of a money vault.

But this weary man in knickerbockers, his puffy face mottled by the hues
of self-indulgence and haggard after a night of ceaseless tramping along
a woods trail, was not an object of awe as he squatted beside the pool
like a giant frog.

The woodsman who stood over him, his gaunt face seamed and brown, his
bony frame erect to the height that had won him the sobriquet of
"Ladder" Lane, seemed now the man of dignity and authority. He was of
the woods. He was in the woods. Two nights without sleep, miles of
bitter struggle through the forest to report that conflagration roaring
north to Misery township, and now puffing its stifling breath upon them,
and the agony of recollection that John Barrett's crossing his path had
dragged out--all these gave no sign in "Ladder" Lane's features and
mien. Even his voice was steady with a repression almost humble.

What John Barrett did not know was that this humbleness was that of one
who stood in the presence of a mighty problem, awed by it. In the long
hours of self-communion, as he had plodded on, driving the timber baron
before him, he had pondered that problem until his weary brain reeled.
Introspection had always made his simple nature dizzy.

Now the tumult and torment in his soul frightened him. Over and over
again in the darkness of the night, as he had followed at the heels of
Barrett, he had whispered, in a half-frightened manner, to himself: "I
told him to keep away! And now he's here!"

He had looked at the back of the man, stumbling ahead of him in the
lantern-light, and had pitied him in a sort of dull, wondering fashion.
He had pitied him because he knew that Barrett, despoiler of his home,
seducer of his wife, was helpless in his hands. And because "Ladder"
Lane realized that grief and isolation had made him over into such a one
as sane men flout or fear, he was afraid of himself.

"This here is as good a place as any, Mr. Barrett," he said.

By striving to be calm, even to the point of being humble, Lane tried to
tame the dreadful beast that he knew his inner being had become. But
Barrett, pricking his ears at this humbleness, was too foolish to
understand. In the mystery of the night he had feared cruelly. With day
to reinforce his prestige, it occurred to him that the man was cowed by
his presence and by the reflection that a person of influence cannot be
kidnapped with impunity.

"I can make it hot for you, Lane, for dragging me out of camp and
running me all over creation," he blustered, grasping at what he
considered his opportunity to regain mastery. "But I'm willing to settle
and call quits. I've always been ready to settle. Now, out with it,
man-fashion! How much will it take?"

Another of those red flashes from the sullen coals of many and long
years' hatred roared up in Lane like the torching of a pitch-tree. He
had been trying for hours to beat those flashes down, for they made him
afraid.

He trembled, blinking hard to see past the red. His hands fumbled
nervously at his sides, as though seeking something that they could
seize upon for steadiness. If the wind would only blow upon his face--a
wind of the woods, clear, cool, and hale--he felt that he might get his
grip on manhood once more.

But the woods sent up to him only the fire-breath. It whispered
destruction.

If he only could look up to a bit of blue sky he felt that it might
charm the red flare from his eyes.

But the yellow pall that masked the sky was the hue of combat, not
peace.

All out-doors seemed full of menace. The nostrils found only bitter air.
The smarting eyes saw only the sickly yellow. A normal man would have
cursed at the oppression of it all, without exactly knowing why every
nerve was on the rack. The recluse of Jerusalem Mountain, out of gear
with all the world, with mind diseased by the chronic obsession of
bitter injury, stood there under the glowering sky of that day of ravage
and ruin, and felt himself becoming a madman. And yet he set a single
idea before him for realization, and tried to keep his gaze on that
alone, and to be calm. And the idea was an idea of forcing an atonement.
How crudely conceived, Lane could not realize, for his mind was passing
the stage of clear comprehension.

"I probably haven't got enough money with me," went on the timber baron,
sullenly. "But my word is good in a matter like this. I don't want it
talked about--you don't want it talked about. I'll overlook--you'll
overlook! Give me your figures, and you'll get every dollar."

And still Lane was calm, and replied in a voice that quavered from an
emotion that Barrett failed to understand.

"When you stole my wife away, Mr. Barrett, there were men that came to
me and advised me what they would do if a rich man came along and took a
woman from them, just to amuse himself for a little."

"There are people trying to stick their noses into business that doesn't
concern them, Lane," snorted the baron, regardless that one edge of this
apothegm threatened himself.

"I've been alone a good deal since it happened," went on Lane, in a
curious, dull monotone, "and I've spent most of my time thinking what
I'd say to you and do to you if you stood before me. I hoped it never
would happen that you'd stand before me, man to man. I didn't hunt you
up to find out what I'd do or say, for I was afraid."

He shivered, and Barrett, in his fool's blindness, stiffened his
shoulders with a sudden air of importance, and allowed himself to scowl
with a suggestion that perhaps Lane was wise to avoid him.

"You see, I was always making it end up in my mind that I should kill
you. There didn't seem to be any other natural end to it. I had to kill
you to square it. And that's why I was afraid. It was always one way in
my thoughts. I never could--never can plan out any other way to end it;
and murder is an awful thing, sir."

Barrett, who had been straightening, crouched farther back on his
haunches and lost his important air.

"In my thoughts I always gave you half an hour to think it over, and
stayed looking at you, and then killed you." There was a sudden
convulsion of Lane's features, a smoulder in his eyes, that thrilled
Barrett as though some one had whispered in his ear--"Lunatic."

The warden's groping hands had clutched the heavy lineman's climbers
dangling from his belt, and were now set about them so tightly that
muscles were ridged on the bony surface. Barrett became gray with fear.
But Lane's ferocity disappeared as suddenly as it had flared.

"It all goes to show that in this world most men don't do what they
think they'll do, when it comes to a big matter. I don't want to kill
you, now that I have you where I want you." He looked down on the
frightened man with a sort of pitying scorn. "It would be like batting a
sheep to death. I don't want even to talk about your taking her away.
It--it chokes in my throat! She's dead--and I guess she wanted to go
away with you that time or she wouldn't have gone. That's just the way
it seems to me now! And that's why I don't want to talk about it. It
seems funny to feel that way, after all the thinking I've done about
what I would do to you."

"The idea is, you're taking the sensible, business man's view of it,"
stammered Barrett. "I was young then, and up here in the woods, and--oh,
as you say, it is better not to talk it over. We all make mistakes." He
was pulling his wallet out of his corduroy coat. He evidently felt that
the sight of money would prolong this "sensible, business man's view" of
the situation. He did not want to take any more chances that the other
and vengeful view would return, which had shown its flame in Lane's
contorted face. "Now, I've got here--"

"To hell with your dirty money!" shrieked the warden, in a frenzy that
was a veritable explosion out of his calmness. He kicked the wallet from
the hands of the amazed timber baron. And when Barrett tried to stammer
something, Lane leaned down and yelled, cracking his fists in the
other's shrinking face:

"That's the way you and your kind want to cure everything--a dollar
bill greased with a grin and stuck onto the sore place! Put that kind of
a plaster on your city sneaks if you want to. But do you think I want
it--here?" He swung his arm in a huge gesture and embraced the woods.
"Your money is no good, John Barrett--here!" Another sweep of the long
arm. Then he stooped and scrabbled up a handful of dry leaves. He pushed
them into Barrett's face. "Here, sell me your soul and your decency for
that! You won't? Why not? You get your handfuls of greasy money just as
easy! You only grab out and take! I don't sell for any stuff that's come
at as easy as that."

"Say what you want, Lane," stuttered the timber baron, huddling back
from this madman.

"You'll pay in the way I'll tell you to pay," raged the creditor,
thrusting his fierce face close. "You'll pay out of your pride and your
heart instead of your pocket. That's the kind of coin you've stripped me
of! You stole my wife. She's dead. Settle your accounts with her in hell
when you meet her there. But the girl--your young one--yours and
hers--that you threw into the woods like you'd leave a blind kitten--"

"She was left with people who were paid well--" Barrett broke in, but
Lane slapped him across the mouth.

"I know where she was left--left with a nest of skunks, so that you
could hide your disgrace in the woods. I've watched her all these years.
I've been waiting for the right time to come. It's here. Your girl is up
there on the top of Jerusalem Mountain in my camp, Barrett. An idiot--a
dog on two legs--is guarding her. He's the only friend she's got. That's
your daughter. Now, you're going to take her!"

"Take her?" echoed the cringing millionaire.

"Take her--that's what I said. It belongs to her. Now give it to her."

Barrett misinterpreted Lane's interest. His face lighted with a sudden
thought that to him seemed a happy one.

"Look here, Lane," he said, eagerly, "I didn't realize but what the girl
was getting on all right. I ought to have inquired. But I didn't dare
to. A man in my position has to be careful. Now she needs some one to
take care of her. I'll admit it. I'm sorry it hasn't been attended to
before. Let this matter rest between us two without any stir. I'll give
you ten thousand dollars to act as the girl's guardian. Take her out of
these woods. And I'll put ten thousand more at interest for her."

"I take that spawn--_I_ take her?" demanded Lane, beating his thin hand
on his breast. "I'd as soon pick up a wood adder! Take _her_--the living
reminder of what's made me what I am? Do you suppose I hate you any
worse than I hate her for being what she is?" But he checked himself; a
sudden emotion--a strange emotion--mastered him, and he sobbed as he
muttered, "Poor little girl!" Then his anger flamed again. "By ----,
Barrett, I ought to kill you now, anyway!" He clutched the irons at his
belt. But after a moment, with a wrench of his shoulders, he pulled
himself out of his frenzy.

"You are going to take that girl to your home. You are going to
acknowledge her as your daughter. You are going to give her what belongs
to her." He was grim now, not frenetic.

Barrett's whole body quivered. His voice was husky with appeal.

"I want to talk to you, man to man. I'm going to show you that I have
confidence in you, Lane. I'm not saying this to any one else--only to
you. It's a big matter, Lane. It will prove that I want to be square
with you."

"You're going to take her, I say!"

"For ten years, Lane, the big lumber interests in this State have been
trying to get the right man into the governor's chair. You are
interested in timber. You are a State employé. We all need certain
things, and now we are in a way to get them. I'm going to be the next
governor of this State, Lane. I've got the pledges, from the State
committee down through the ranks. I'm going to be nominated in the next
State convention. I've spent fifty thousand already. Now, you see, I'm
being frank and honest with you." His voice had a quaver. He was
explaining as he would explain to a child. "All the timber interests are
behind me. See what it means if I am turned down? A scandal would do it.
It's the petty scandal that kills a man in this State quicker than
anything else--scandal or a laugh! I can't carry that girl out of the
woods and declare her to be my daughter. It would kill all my chances
for nomination. The papers would be full of it. And think of my family!"

Lane's crude idea of an atonement was not so vague now. His brain
whirled more dizzily, for the problem was bigger--and so was the
revenge. He chuckled. It was the spirit of revenge, after all, that was
driving him, and his madman's soul now realized it and relished it. He
looked up at the saffron sky and snuffed the scorching air. He felt the
impulse seething up from the ruin of the forest, and with almost a sense
of relief loosed the grip that had been holding him above the tide of
his soul's fire and blood.

He ran and recovered Barrett's wallet from among the leaves, and
searched it hastily. He found among the papers a few folded blank sheets
bearing John Barrett's name and monogram. There was a fountain-pen
stuck in a loop. The paper and the pen he shoved into Barrett's hands.

"Write it!" he screamed. "Write it that she is your daughter, and agree
to take her and do right by her. Write it! I wouldn't take your word. I
want a paper. You've got to take her."

Barrett went pale, but his thick lips pinched themselves in desperate
resolve. With the aspiration of his life close to realization he knew
all that such a document could do to him. He stood up and tossed the
paper away.

"I'm willing to do right by the girl in the best way I can," he said,
firmly; "but as to cutting my throat for her, I won't do it. You've got
my word. That's all I'll do for you."

"It's all?" asked Lane, with bitter menace. "All, after what you've done
to me?"

"I won't do it," he repeated, stiffly.

The next instant, and so quickly that a cat could not have dodged, Lane
struck forward with one of the irons. Barrett saw the flash and felt the
impact; his brain clanged once like a great bell, and he crumbled
together rather than fell.

He was standing when he revived. But his hands were lashed by strips of
his torn corduroy coat--drawn behind him around the trunk of a birch and
tied securely. Other strips of the cloth bound legs and body close to
the tree. Lane mouthed and leaped in front of him--a maniac.

"Enjoy it!" he screamed. "There's a thousand-acre fire out in that
level. Here's its chimney-flue. It's going through here on its way to
Enchanted. It's going fast when it comes along, and it will be your
first taste of what's laid up for you in eternity. Burn! And when you're
burning just remember that your daughter set it--set it because you
left her to grow up a hyena instead of a woman."

He whirled and started away at Barrett's first wild appeal.

"I wouldn't take your word! You wouldn't write it! You didn't intend to
keep it!"



CHAPTER XIV

THE MESSAGE OF "PROPHET ELI"

     "And the good, kind skipper and all his crew
     Got a purse and some medals, tew,
     And a lot o' praise for a-savin' me
     From an awful death in the ragin' sea.
     And I got jawed 'cause I left that way,
     And the boss he docked me tew weeks' pay."

               --Hired Man's Sea-song.


Lane's quick ear was the first to catch a new sound. He stopped and
looked down into the Pogey trail. Barrett ceased his wails, and looked
and listened, too.

Men of the woods who knew Prophet Eli of Tumbledick were never surprised
to see him appear anywhere in the Umcolcus region. And it was usually a
time of trouble that he chose for his appearance. In his twenty years'
search of the forest he had found trails and avenues that were hidden to
others. In places where veteran guides wandered and blundered, Prophet
Eli knew a short-cut or detour, and moved with wraithlike swiftness,
enjoying his reputation for surprises with the keen relish of the
shatter-pate.

Those who did not call him "Prophet Eli," his own choice of title,
dubbed him "Old Trouble," for he scented disaster with an elfish sense,
and followed it north, east, and west.

He came down the Pogey Notch on a ding-swingle. It was drawn by his
little white stallion. A ding-swingle is the triangle of a trimmed
tree-crotch, dragged apex forward, its limbs sprawling behind. With peak
mounted on a sapling runner it is the woods vehicle that best conquers
tote roads.

From under the prophet's knitted woollen cap, with its red knob, his
white hair trailed upon his shoulders. His white beard brushed the oddly
checkered jacket, flamboyant with its bizarre colors.

"The Skeets and the Bushees are still running south," he cried at the
two men, in shrill tones. "But I'm around to the front of the trouble,
as usual."

He appeared to have no eyes for the plight of the trussed-up Barrett,
who began to shout desperate appeals to him. He cocked shrewd eyes at
"Ladder" Lane, who, with a muttered oath, started to scramble down the
slope towards him. Perhaps he saw a threat in the madman's face.

He glanced once more at Barrett, as though interested a bit in that
miserable man's frantic urgings, and piped this amazing query, "Don't
you think a stuttering man is an infernal fool to have a name like
McKechnie Connick?"

Then he lashed his long reins against the side of his stallion and sped
away down the valley.

Lane followed him, running.

They left an existent millionaire and a prospective governor helplessly
grinding the skin from his shoulders against a birch-tree, and bellowing
anathema on "lunatics."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Honorable Pulaski D. Britt, sweat pouring down his purple face as he
raged from crew to crew on the fire-line, was not surprised to behold
Prophet Eli emerge from the smoke, riding his ding-swingle. In twenty
years Mr. Britt had often beheld the prophet at troublous junctures. In
his present state of vehement anxiety the king of the Umcolcus felt his
temper flare at sight of this herald of ill-omen.

"Met the Skeets and the Bushees, and they're still running south. Don't
you think a man with pumple-feet is an infernal fool to try to learn to
skate?"

Britt, thrusting past through the underbrush of the tote road, whirled
and poised his foot to kick the inoffensive stallion, as mute expression
of his rage and contempt. But he withheld the kick at the apparition of
"Ladder" Lane. The warden came running. He fairly burst out of the
smoke.

That he was pursuing Prophet Eli for no good to the latter occurred to
the Honorable Pulaski in one startled flash, as he looked at the
warden's savage face. He stepped between the men. But it was not to
protect the prophet, whom he dismissed from his mind as utterly as
though the forest sage were a fugitive rabbit. Mr. Britt had a pregnant
question to ask of Lane on his own account, and he bellowed it at him,
clutching at his arm.

"Where did you leave John Barrett?"

Lane halted at his touch, and glowered on him without reply.

"What's the matter with you, Lane? You look like a crazy man. What did
you want of Mr. Barrett, anyway? What did you drag him out of Barnum
Withee's camp for? Don't try to bluff me. I know about it. Barnum got
here with his crew at daylight to fight fire, and his men have been
talking about it. What right have you got to be bothering John Barrett?
I haven't had time to get facts. I've got something else on my mind
than other folk's troubles. But I know you've picked trouble with
Barrett. Why, great Judas, you long-shanked fool, that man is goin'
to be the next governor of this State! You must have heard of John
Barrett! Trying to arrest John Barrett! What did you take him for--a
game-poacher? Or have you gone clean out of your wits? What have you
done with him?"

During the timber baron's harangue Lane kept his eyes on the prophet,
meeting the latter's blinking regard with sullen threat in his eyes.

"Blast ye! Answer me!" roared the Honorable Pulaski. "Where is Mr.
Barrett? I want to discuss this fire situation with him."

"Then go find him," growled the fire warden.

"Where is he?"

Lane raised his gaunt arm and swung it the circle of the horizon.

"There!" he snarled. He still kept his gaze on the prophet, as though to
note the least intention to betray him. But it appeared that the sage of
Tumbledick was in no mood for dangerous revelations. He thrust up one
grimy finger.

"May be there!" he remarked. He pointed the finger straight down. "May
be there!" He jumped his stallion ahead with a crack of his reins and
disappeared in the smoke. Lane cast after him a look baleful, but
relieved, and whirled and made away in the direction of Jerusalem.

"Me standing here wasting my time on a couple of whiffle-heads with that
fire waltzing into my black growth!" Britt muttered, turning his wrath
on himself, since there was no one else in sight. "It must be only some
fool scare about Barrett. A man like him can take care of himself."

He stumped on, turning to climb a spur of ledge from which, as
commander-in-chief, he might take an observation. Less than a mile to
the south, he spied the thing that he had been dreading.

The ground fire, lashed by the rising wind of the morning, had leaped
off the earth and become a crown fire. It had entered the edge of the
black growth.

One after the other the green tops of the hemlocks and spruces burst
into the horrid bloom of conflagration. They flowered. They seeded. And
the seeds were fire-brands that scaled down the wind, dropping, rooting
instantly, and blossoming into new destruction.

"She can't be stopped! She can't be stopped!" moaned Britt. "She's
headed for the Notch, and then tophet's let loose!"

But with the persistence of his nature he set off to rally the crew to a
flank movement.

With the inadequate force it was rather a skirmish than a battle for
those who fought in the face of the great fire.

Through the night, with shovels and green boughs they had attacked the
conflagration's outposts. The red army of destruction took this
punishment sullenly. The main fire seemed to crouch and doze in the
night, dulled by the condensation of dews and lacking the spur of the
winds.

At daylight Barnum Withee had arrived with his men and set them to
trenching along the tote road parallel with the advance of the fire. He
had not reconsidered his bitterness against his tyrant John Barrett. But
the unconquerable instinct of the veteran woodsman, anxious to save his
forest, had driven him to the scene.

To Barnum Withee's crew Dwight Wade and Christopher Straight attached
themselves by entirely natural selection, having excellent personal
reasons for avoiding the direct commands of the Honorable Pulaski Britt.

And to Wade, struggling with blistered hands to drive his mattock
through roots and vegetable mould to the mineral earth, appeared
Prophet Eli on his ding-swingle. The prophet surveyed him with almost
arch look, and piped, in his shrill tones:

     "Oh, the little brown bull came down from the mountain,
                    Shang-roango, whey?"

Wade stared at him with a vivid recollection of the first time he had
seen that strange figure and had heard that song.

"So you didn't think I knew how to mend bones, eh, young man? Never
heard of Prophet Eli, the charmer-man, the mediator between the higher
and lower forces, natural healer and regulator of the weather? Don't you
think a man an infernal fool to dig a hole out of the dirt when it is so
much easier to dig a hole out of the air and put dirt around it?"

Wade, not feeling inclined towards a discussion of this sort, fell to
his labor again.

"If John Barrett's daughter set this fire, why ain't John Barrett here
to help put it out?" shrilled the prophet, and Barnum Withee hearing the
amazing query, came hurrying out of the smoke. He found Wade staring at
the man with astonished inquiry in his face.

"You heard him say that, did you, Mr. Wade?" demanded Withee, with an
emotion the young man could not understand.

It was the bare mention of John Barrett's daughter that had stirred
Dwight Wade; for in his soul's eye but one picture rose when she was
mentioned--Elva Barrett of the glorious eyes and the loving heart--the
one woman in the world for him--denied to him by the father who ruled
her.

"I heard him--yes," said Wade; "but what kind of lunatic's raving is
it?"

"It may not be a lunatic's raving, Mr. Wade," returned Withee,
enigmatically, his face grave.

The prophet cast a look about, striving to peer into the smoke, as
though apprehensive that some one whom he didn't want in his confidence
might be listening. In a lower tone he went on:

"If a man has got a daughter and is tied to a tree, how much will
'Ladder' Lane scale to be cut up into bean poles?"

There was alarm on Withee's features now. He took Wade by the arm and
led him aside a few steps.

"That old fellow has got something on his mind, Mr. Wade," he said,
earnestly, "and it may be bad business. My men have been talking here
to-day, as men will talk, though I advised them to keep their mouths
shut. It may bring the 'Lazy Tom' crowd into the thing. If there's bad
business on, I want you to be able to say outside that I haven't messed
into affairs that wa'n't mine. It may have to be proved in court, and
the word of a gentleman like you is worth that of fifty rattle-brained
choppers."

"I don't understand, Mr. Withee. I can't appear as witness in matters I
haven't seen."

"You can say I was here on the fire-line attendin' to my own business
when it happened--if it has happened," cried Withee. "You can say that I
had no hand in it. It's this way, Mr. Wade, if you haven't heard. Did
any of my men tell you that John Barrett--you've heard of 'Stumpage
John' Barrett--was at my camp last night?"

"I heard nothing of it," said Wade. He leaned forward with excitement in
his face, for the tone and the air of the lumberman were ominous.

"He was at my camp, and Lane, the Jerusalem warden, after having words
with him over an old matter between them, made Mr. Barrett go away into
the woods with him--and I think Lane was about half crazy at the time."

"And you let an insane man force Mr. Barrett into the woods?" demanded
Wade, indignantly.

Withee straightened, and his face took on a sort of sullen pride. "It's
on that point that I want to explain to you, for my own sake. I don't
know whether you're a friend of John Barrett's or whether you ain't. But
when I hear him confess right before me that he has stolen away another
man's wife and broken up that man's home forever, and has never done
anything to square himself, then I let that matter alone, for it's a
matter between man and man. And my men and I let John Barrett and Linus
Lane settle their own business."

"How?" cried Wade, his face pale. "My God, man, it can't be that John
Barrett did a thing like--"

"I heard him own to it," persisted Withee. "And what's more, it's John
Barrett's daughter that lived with the Skeets and the Bushees, abandoned
by him. And when I know a thing like that about a man, Mr. Wade, he
can't look to Barn Withee to stand behind him."

Dwight Wade staggered back against the tree and put his arms around it
to steady himself. Had he not seen the girl he might have scorned to
believe such a story. But all his first emotions at sight of her there
in her squalid surroundings rushed back upon him now. He had seen in
this forest waif too many suggestions of Elva Barrett, and had been
ashamed to own to himself that his heart confessed as much, as though it
were an insult to the girl who reigned in his heart.

"So, I say," repeated Withee, as if to reassure himself, "I let them
settle their own business."

"But how?" gasped the young man.

"You can prove nothing by me," said the lumberman, with a toss of
his hand and wag of his head, pregnant gestures of disclaimed
responsibility. "But that old fellow sitting on that ding-swingle never
put those hints together without havin' something about it on his mind.
I never knew trouble to happen in these woods unless he was there to see
some part of it."

"What have you seen, old man?" demanded Wade, impetuously.

"Saw the crow catch the hen-hawk. Isn't a man with a harelip an infernal
fool to learn to play a fife?"

But Wade, coming close to the sage, noted a strange twinkle in the blue
eyes under the knots of gray brow. It was a glance so sane, so
significant, so calculating, that the young man had no voice to utter
the angry retort on his lips. It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps
Prophet Eli of Tumbledick had not always been understood by those who
jeered him. The keen glance noted Wade's changing expression and
understood it.

"It was Rodburd Ide said it to me," the prophet stated, lowering his
tone. "He said it was between you and John Barrett's pretty girl until
old John drove you into the woods. Hey?" The young man's face flushed
redly and he was about to reply, but the prophet put up a protesting
hand. "It was Rodburd Ide said to me that John Barrett didn't think you
were good enough for his daughter. Now you follow me! I want to hear
John Barrett whine. I want to see John Barrett squirm. Coals of fire!
Coals of fire, young man! What is Prophet Eli's mission? Coals of fire!
I cure those who have mocked me, don't I? I like to hear 'em whine. I
want to see them squirm. You follow me. Coals of fire!"

[Illustration: "WRITHING AT HIS BONDS, HIS CONTORTED FACE TOWARDS THE
RED FLAMES GALLOPING UP THE VALLEY"]

And singing this over and over to himself, he whirled his stallion and
hurried away. Wade ran behind him without question, for he guessed while
he feared. Withee started, but turned back to his men with a sullen
oath.

It was a long and a bitter chase through the smother of the smoke, and
in the very forefront of the racing conflagration. At last Pogey Notch
had begun to suck at the raging fires with its granite lips. It was the
chimney-flue of the amphitheatre of Misery. The flames roared from tree
to tree. Wade ran, stooping forward, clutching at the cross-bar of the
ding-swingle. Without that help he never would have been able to reach
the spot where at last he found John Barrett, writhing at his bonds,
squealing like an animal--his contorted face towards the red flames
galloping up the valley.

The prophet had left his vehicle to guide the rescuer up the slope. He
stood by, grinning with enjoyment, when the two men faced each other. He
chuckled when Wade cut the bonds. He laughed boisterously when Barrett,
weeping like a child, threw his arms around the young man's neck.

"Coals of fire!" he shrilled. "Heap 'em on! They're hotter than the
other kind that are dropping on you!"

Then he ran from them a few steps and rapped his skinny knuckles on a
scar breast high on a tree.

"Your trail!" he cried. "It's here! It's blazed clear to the bald head
of old Jerusalem. Get up there on the granite. Then sit down and talk it
over! Coals of fire!"

They heard him shrieking it back at them as he fled up the Notch. And
the two men took the trail, strangling, gasping, feeling their direction
from blaze to blaze on the trees, fighting their way up from the Gehenna
of Pogey.



CHAPTER XV

BETWEEN TWO ON JERUSALEM

     "So he didn't have no doctor but a bowl o' ginger tea,
     And it didn't seem to help him, not so far as we could see."

               --Gettin' Larry Home.


When they came out upon the bare granite, long after mid-day, they fell
upon their faces, and lay there without speaking or the desire to speak.
They did not open their smarting eyes.

Over and over again Wade heard a dull rumble which his stricken senses
failed to understand. But when a hollow boom reverberated among the
hills and jarred the granite under his face he sat up. He saw the purple
flash shiver across the swaying smoke, heard the splitting crack of the
bolt, and felt a raindrop on his face.

"Thank God, Mr. Barrett, it has come at last! The rain!" he shouted. And
the timber baron staggered to his feet, and turned a bloodshot gaze on
the panorama of blazing forest and sheeting heavens. Then he looked at
Wade, blinking stupidly and searching his soul for words.

"I haven't got the language, Mr. Wade--" he began. But the young man
broke upon his stammering speech.

"There's no need of saying anything," he said, looking away. "I don't
want to hear any thanks."

"I was left there to die--tied up there and left to die by a crazy fool
that tried to blackmail me--that's it, tried to blackmail me. And I'll
put him where he belongs. It was the most infernal plot ever put up on a
man. Blackmail and murder!" He gabbled his charges hysterically. The
shock of his experience had unmanned him. "You can't blackmail a man
like me without suffering for it. I'll put him into the deepest hole in
the insane asylum--with a gag in his mouth." He was going on to relate
his experience, but Wade again interrupted him.

"I won't bother you to tell it, Mr. Barrett," he said, coldly. "I know
how it happened. Mr. Withee told me this morning."

"It's all lies and blackmail!" screamed Barrett, his fury rising at
thought of this gossip. "Withee is against me, too. I told him I'd take
his stumpage contract away, and this is how he is getting back. I'll
have him and his whole crew in jail for blackmail if he doesn't shut his
yawp."

A roar of thunder drowned his voice, and he stood, with the rain pelting
on him, shaking his fists above his head. But by the twist of his mouth
Wade saw that he was still cursing "blackmail."

The sight angered him. In as insulting a passion had John Barrett railed
at him, Dwight Wade, when he had asked for the hand of John Barrett's
daughter. The man had tossed his arms in the same way when he called
Wade "a beggar of a school-master."

"Don't call it blackmail and murder--not to me, Mr. Barrett," he said,
harshly.

"Don't you know it's blackmail and a put-up job to ruin me?" roared the
timber baron.

Wade stood up now and faced him. Torrents of rain beat upon them, and
they took no heed; for the face of the young man was working with a
mighty emotion and the features of the other man showed that sudden fear
had come upon him.

"Have you ever seen that daughter of yours that you left to wallow with
human swine?" demanded Wade, with a fury he could not restrain. "Well, I
have!" Into those words he put all the bitter resentment of months of
remembrance of John Barrett's insults.

"And I have seen the daughter you cherish in your home. I don't need any
man's say-so to prove to me that they're both your children, Mr.
Barrett. You stand convicted in the eyes of every man who has eyes and
who sees Elva Barrett and then looks on poor Kate Arden--even her name a
cruel jest! I don't want to hear a man like you lie, Mr. Barrett. Don't
talk any more to me about blackmail." He shook his fist at the roof of
the Jerusalem fire station, just showing above the ledges. "I know that
girl over there is your daughter. Now go slow, Mr. Barrett, with your
threats of what you will do to Lane. If there is any unwritten law, he
deserves to have the forfeit of the life that I've helped to save.
That's still a matter between you two. But as to that girl yonder, I
propose to ask something. What are you going to do with her?"

Barrett muttered incoherently, dazed by the new light of Wade's words.

"Your blackmail story may go with woodsmen, Mr. Barrett. But if Lane
should go out of these woods with his story and that girl to back it he
can hold you up to execration by every decent person in the State. The
girl proves it in every feature of her face."

"The lunatic tried to make me take her home, own her publicly, and treat
her as a daughter--and he demanded that to ruin me. It would ruin me in
my political prospects, Wade. You know it. I'm willing to do what's
right. But I can't do that." His courage revived a little. "I'd rather
go down fighting."

The young man pondered awhile.

"I don't want you to think that I'm persecuting you for any of the
trouble between us, Mr. Barrett," he said, at last. "That is all over
and done with. But as a man who knows what that poor girl has been
condemned to, and like others here who can tell by their own eyes that
Lane is speaking the truth, I'm going to see that she gets a fair show."

Barrett concealed his private doubts as to the young man's animus. But
sudden dread of this new weapon in his foe's hand mastered him.

"In the name of God, help me out, Wade!" he pleaded, dropping all his
obstinacy. "I couldn't argue with that crazy man. I'll put the girl to
school. I'll give her money. She shall have everything heart can
wish--except my home. Think of my family, Mr. Wade! Think of my
daughter! I want to have the respect of my family, Mr. Wade, for the few
years that are left to me. Help me, and you won't be sorry for it.
I'll--"

"I want no pay and no promises," broke in the young man. "You have been
free with your cry of blackmail. You can never taunt me with that. I'm
simply appealing to your manhood. But I'm going to see that your
daughter gets her rights, and that is no threat--it is justice."

"Aren't those rights enough--what I have said?" urged Barrett.

"Perhaps they are. They are probably all she can expect. People hardly
ever get all they deserve in this world--either in blessings or
punishments." His tone was bitter. And he stood apart and gazed out over
the broad expanse to the south, his brow wrinkling. He was trying to
analyze the emotions that made him champion the outcast.

The thunder-heads had rolled on, but like mighty and noisy engines they
had dragged behind them masses of clouds that covered the skies with a
slaty expanse, and a storm, settled and steady, poured down its
grateful floods.

Already the fire was dying. Only here and there scattered flames fought
the streaming skies from the tops of resinous trees.

"Mr. Barrett," said Wade, at length, "the girl is at Lane's. You can't
meet her now. It is not the time and place. Probably Lane has returned
there. I don't think his mind is right--and after knowing the wrong you
did him, I can understand why. You've time to reach Britt's camp before
night. It is in the clearing to the north. You are an old woodsman. You
can find your way there."

Barrett nodded relieved assent.

"You have asked me to help you. As that includes helping this poor girl
most of all, I am going to do what I can, for the sake of you and your
family." Barrett gave a quick glance at him, but the young man's face
was impassive. Perhaps the timber baron had hoped, for his own temporary
guarantee, to see a flash of the old love in Wade's eyes. "I'm going to
request you to leave this matter in my hands for the present. I will see
Withee, and try to stop gossip in that quarter. Will you give me the
right to--well, to modify some of your threats? And as to Withee--I
believe you spoke of a contract!"

John Barrett stood straighter now. The sneer of conscious authority, the
frown of tyranny, had gone from his face. There was a frankness in his
face and a sincerity in his tones that few persons had seen or heard
before. But the new inspiration was logical and real. The young man who
stood before him had just waived a mean vengeance so nobly that his
heart swelled. His doubts were quieted.

"My boy," he said, softly, pulling off his cap and standing bareheaded
in the rain, "I'm alive now, after the experience of looking straight
into the eyes of death and giving up every hope. And, I tell you, it
seemed hard to die--just now, when the best hopes of my life are coming
true. I had time to think. I thought. I know I talked hard just a bit
ago. But I wasn't myself then. I was too near the smoke and fire." He
stopped and put his hand to watering eyes. "I can see clear now. And
I've got over my bitterness, and I guess now I can understand the Golden
Rule. That's my word, and there's my hand on it. Now talk for me to
those I've hurt."

They clasped hands. But it was Barrett who made that overture.

"I'll wait for you at Britt's camp--until you come and tell me what I'm
to do," said the timber baron. And then he turned and trudged away
across the wet ledges.

Wade gazed after him until he disappeared in the stunted growth. He
gazed sourly into the palm of the hand that the millionaire had
squeezed, and reflected that perhaps Barrett's precipitate repentance
was off the same piece as his own forgiveness of the bitter matter that
lay between them. Being a young man inclined to be honest with himself,
Dwight Wade confessed that the fabric of his forgiveness had a selvage
that already showed signs of ravelling. He was a little angry at his
state of mind.

"And yet it sounded like a campaign speech to catch votes," he muttered.

He was still angrier at himself then, for, put into words, his doubt
seemed an unjust suspicion.

"I must have got more of a jolt than I thought when I dropped from
ideals to the real," he pondered, gazing out through the slanting lines
of rain. "I seem to have about as many grudges against humanity as old
Lane himself."

When he looked towards the roof of the little fire station he awoke
to the consciousness that the rain was wet and the wind searching. To
himself, in a sudden flash of introspection, he seemed to be as unkempt
within as without. There on the granite of the bare mountain, with the
forces of nature conquering the last embers of the mighty conflagration,
the narrower things of life and living--the amenities, the trammels
that man patiently puts upon himself for the sake of the social
fabric--appeared vain and delusive ideals. It was not thus that the
strong battled and won.

"Considering what sort of a man they're making of me up here, where
cast-iron is better than velvet, I think it's likely, John Barrett, that
it has been lucky for you that you have a daughter away down there."

He set his face in long gaze to the southern hills, bulked dimly behind
the mists.

"As for Kate Arden--" He shook his head despondently, and walked away
across the glistening granite towards "Ladder" Lane's house.



CHAPTER XVI

IN THE PATH OF THE BIG WIND

     "So we fellers of the camp, when the wind-spooks rave and ramp,
     We fasten up the dingle-door with spike and extry clamp;
     For it ain't a mite against 'em if the boldest chaps do hide
     When the big old trees go tumblin', crash and bang, on ev'ry side."

               --_Ha'nt of Pamola._


John Barrett, millionaire, realized rather vaguely that he had left
something on the bald poll of Jerusalem Knob. It was after he had
grasped Dwight Wade's hand, both of them standing shelterless under the
skies, the welcome rains beating into their faces.

John Barrett, millionaire, stumbling weariedly to shelter at the foot of
Jerusalem Knob, having left something in that upper vastness where soul
forgot the petty things, realized--vaguely again--that he had found what
he had left. The Honorable Pulaski D. Britt seemed to pass it to him in
a hand-clasp.

On Jerusalem, John Barrett had left much of his insolence, more of his
selfishness, and all of his vindictiveness. Dwight Wade, generous in his
own triumph, had shamed the baser feelings out of him. And yet that new
poise of a sincerer manliness seemed to be charmed away suddenly by the
mere touch of Pulaski Britt's big hand. That hand represented the brutal
tyranny of the barons of the woods. It was thrust out in welcome over
the threshold of the wangan camp, and Britt hauled in his fellow-baron
with boisterous greeting.

"It's been hell for all of us, John, but I reckon you've been in the
hottest corner of it if what they tell me is true. I didn't have time to
ask for any details, not with that infernal fire on my hands, but it
isn't the first time that rascals have poked up fools in these woods to
pay off old grudges against timber-land owners. I've hit back hard a few
times myself. This time we'll hit hard enough to teach 'em a lesson that
will stick awhile." He put his head out of the door and yelled an order
to the cook.

"It--it may not be best to push things too hard," faltered Barrett,
spreading his wet, blue hands to the blaze of the Franklin stove.
"Things have come up that--"

"They've tried the same bluff on me," blustered the host. "They loaded
old Lane up with threats of what he'd do. It's all conspiracy and
blackmail. There's more behind it than we realize now. But we'll dig 'em
out, Barrett. We've got to smash the whole thing now or they'll have us
on the run. I didn't suppose Barnum Withee was the kind of man to work
out a grudge the way he did, but it shows us the danger in bein' too
easy with any of 'em. Old Lane is only crazy. It's this Wade we want to
bang the hardest. I'll tell you what I believe, John. I'll bet cents to
saw-logs he's been hired to come up here and start a rebellion. There
are interests in this State that will do it. By Judas, in twenty-four
hours I'll show 'em!"

The tacit partnership of honorable reparation bound by hand-clasp on
Jerusalem had not the elements to make it endure in Pulaski Britt's
domains, with Pulaski Britt to sound his old-time rallying call of greed
and tyranny. That earlier partnership, sealed by the arms f Old King
Spruce, had never been dissolved, and Barrett was once more becoming
"Stumpage John," cold and hard and calculating.

"Look here, Pulaski," he blurted out, in sudden confidence, "there's a
little more to this than you understand just now. I'm in a devil of a
position. I--I--" He hesitated, staring into the fire and waving his
hands slowly in the steam that rose from his sodden garments.

"I haven't done just right, I suppose, but there are reasons why, that a
man like you will understand. I just left that Wade fellow up on the top
of Jerusalem. We've had a talk. He didn't understand very well."

"Did he offer to trade something for the sake of gettin' that daughter
of yours that he's in love with?" demanded Britt, maliciously.

"I don't know," confessed the other. "I'm under obligations to him,
Pulaski. He cut me loose from a tree to-day in Pogey Notch. In another
ten minutes the fire would have got me."

"Great Jehosaphat!" exploded the host. "Tried to kill you! A timber
grudge carried that far!" He stamped about the little camp. His face
wrinkled with apprehension and fury. He had a sudden vivid mind-picture
of his own reign of tyranny, and realized that if John Barrett had been
attacked, Pulaski Britt had more reason to fear. "It's a call for a
lynchin', John," he said, hoarsely. "And I've got a crew that will do
it."

"It was Lane that tied me--the fire-station warden," Barrett went on.

"And Withee turned you over to him, knowin' he'd do it!" stormed the
baron. "His men blabbed it that Lane had taken you. Withee, Wade--we'll
clean out the whole coop of 'em!"

But John Barrett did not seem to warm up to this plan of vengeance. He
still kept his eyes on the fire. His shoulders were hunched forward
with something of abjectness in their droop.

"You haven't got some whiskey handy, have you, Pulaski?" he asked,
plaintively. "I don't feel well. I've had an awful night and day."

Britt brought the liquor from a cupboard, cursing soulfully and urging
vengeance. But after Barrett drank from the pannikin he leaned his face
to the blaze again and broke upon the Honorable Pulaski's vicious
monologue.

"I've told the wrong end first--but there are some things easier to say
than others. It was Linus Lane who tied me to that tree and left me to
die there, but"--Barrett rolled his head sideways and gave Britt a queer
glance from his eye-corners--"did you ever see my daughter Elva,
Pulaski?"

Britt blinked as though trying to understand this sudden shifting of
topic, and wagged slow nod of assent.

"Have you ever seen that girl of the Skeet settlement--the one that
doesn't belong to them?" Barrett half choked over the question.

"Have I seen her?" roared the Honorable Pulaski, no longer paying
attention to incongruity of questions. "Why, that's the draggle-tailed
lightnin'-bug that set this fire that we've been fightin' for
forty-eight hours, and that only this rain stopped from bein' a
fifty-thousand-acre crown-fire! Have I seen her! I was there when she
set it, and only the grace o' God and that Wade's fist saved her from
bein' shot, and shot by me! I would have killed her like I'd kill a
quill-pig!"

Barrett did not look up from the fire.

"Then you've seen both those girls, you say? I haven't seen this one in
the woods here. But this Wade told me to-day that they very much
resemble each other. He has heard some gossip and is making threats. He
seems to think I ought to take the girl and care for her."

Britt began a bitter diatribe, coupling the name of Wade and the girl as
examples of all that is inimical to timber interests and timber
owners--but he checked himself suddenly as soon as his native shrewdness
mastered his passion. A flicker in his eyes showed that a light had
burst upon his mind. He strode back and forth behind Barrett's stool,
and gazed down upon the stumpage king's bent back.

"Look here, John," he demanded, bluffly, at last, "was there any truth
in the story that was limpin' round in these woods about you almost
twenty years ago? There was a woman in it--somebody's wife. I've
forgotten who."

"It was Lane's wife," admitted Barrett, finding confession good for the
soul of one who stood bitterly in need of practical advice--and Pulaski
Britt was nothing if not practical. "I was up here prospecting, and she
was bound to follow me up to camp, and I was infernal fool enough to let
her. And when it came time for me to go out of the woods I couldn't take
her--you can see that for yourself! I thought I had provided for her--I
would have done it, but she dropped out of sight, and I couldn't go
hunting around and stirring up gossip. Same way about the child."

"Young one has had a nice, genteel bringin'-up," remarked the Honorable
Pulaski, sarcastically. Hard though his nature was, he had the sincerity
of the woods, and he felt sudden contempt for this man who had uprooted
for one brief sniff of its perfume a woods blossom that he could not
wear.

"I didn't realize it until Lane told me at Withee's camp. I had hoped
she had fallen into good hands. It's a devil of a position to be in,"
the other mourned, returning to his prior lament.

"Well," remarked Britt, inexorably, "you can't exactly complain because
you are now gettin' only a little of what Lane and the girl have been
gettin' a whole lot of all these years. It ain't any use to whine to me,
John. I don't pity you much. I've been hard with men, but, by Cephas,
I've never been soft with women! It don't pay."

"It seems as though you ought to be willin' to advise me a little,"
pleaded Barrett. "I'm ready to do what I can for the girl, now that I've
found out about her. But Lane insisted on my taking her out with me and
declaring her to the world as my daughter. And when I refused he tied me
to the tree."

"Oh, ho! It wasn't just for the old original revenge, then?" queried
Pulaski, his expression indicating a more charitable view of "Ladder"
Lane's assault on the vested timber interests as represented by Stumpage
John Barrett. "Well, if the girl is your young one she ought to have a
chance!"

In his turn, Barrett got up and paced the floor. "Such a thing would
kill my chances of being the next governor of this State, and you and
the whole timber crowd have got a lot at stake there."

"Well, I've got to admit, havin' played politics myself somewhat," said
Britt, unconsolingly, "that a quiet little frost of scandal will nip off
a budding leaf that a wind like this wouldn't start."

He tapped the frame of the chattering window. In the hush of their
voices they heard the wind volleying through the trees and roaring high
overhead among the black clouds. Night had fallen. The crew had long
before finished supper, and the cook had twice summoned the inattentive
two in the wangan to a second table spread more sumptuously.

"And what kind of a trade is it your friend Wade wants to make with
you?" inquired Britt. "Takin' the thing by and large, you must be in
for a prime hold-up. If he should say, 'Your daughter or your
life--political life!'--I reckon you'd have to change your mind about
his qualifications as a son-in-law, wouldn't you?" He eyed Barrett
keenly and heard his oaths with relish. "You see," persisted the host,
"though old Lane is probably out of this for good, after trying to kill
you, and you can handle Barnum Withee and the rest of these woods cattle
in one way or another, this Wade chap is sittin' across from you with
about every trump in the deck under his thumb. What does he say he
wants?"

"He doesn't say," muttered Barrett. "He hasn't asked for anything. He's
thinking it over."

"It's the cat and the mouse, and him the cat!" suggested the Honorable
Pulaski, with manifest intent to irritate. "I should have most thought
you would have thrown your arms around his neck after your rescue and
yelled in his ear: 'My daughter is yours, noble man! Take her and my
money, and live happy ever after!' These fellows that write novels
always have 'em do that sort of thing--and the novel-writers ought to
know!"

"There's no novel about this thing!" retorted Barrett, angrily. "My girl
knows whom she is expected to marry--and she'll marry him when the right
time comes. And it won't be a college dude without one dollar to rub
against another! I'm in a devil of a hole, Pulaski, but do you think for
one minute that I'm going to let that Wade make a slip-noose of this
thing and hang me up with my heels kicking air? I'll either choke him
with thousand-dollar bills, or--or--"

He glanced at Britt and forbore to finish the sentence.

The door opened just then and Tommy Eye, teamster, poked in his grizzled
head.

"Cook has lost his voice hollerin' 'Beans!' gents," he reported, and
Britt whirled on his heel and led the way out.

"After supper, after supper, John!" he snapped, testily, when the other
repeated his plea for advice. "We'll come back here and find a plan
blossoming in our cigar smoke." They hurried away to the cook-camp,
bending against the rush of the wind. "Put some wood on that fire,
Tommy," Britt called over his shoulder.

With the scent of the inebriate, Tommy had sniffed whiskey when he
opened the camp door; his drunkard's eye caressed the bottle that the
Honorable Pulaski had forgotten to replace in the cupboard. He stood
dusting from his sleeves the bark litter of the wood he had brought and
softly snuffled the moisture at the corners of his mouth as he gazed.
One wild impulse suggested that he take the bottle and run into the
woods.

"No," said Tommy, aloud, in order that his voice might brace his
determination. "It would be stealin', and, bless God, Tommy Eye never
stole when he was sober. I may have stole when I was drunk and didn't
know it, but I never stole when I was sober." He paused. "I wish I
wasn't sober," he sighed. He took up the bottle, turned it in his grimy
hands, gustfully studied the streakings of its oil on the glass, and at
last sniffed at the open mouth. "Ah-h-h-h, rich men have the best, and
they have plenty. Some people don't think it is wrong to steal from rich
men. I do. But if he was here he'd probably say: 'Tommy, you have
brought the wood--you have mended the fire. It is a cold night, and sure
the wind is awful! Tommy, take one drink with me and work the harder for
P'laski Britt on the morrer.'"

He took the bottle away from his nose, stared at the window's black
outline, listened to the clattering frame, and muttered, again sighing:
"Sure and them wor-rds don't sound just like the wor-rds that P'laski
Britt would say, but in a night like this it isn't always easy to hear
aright. I wouldn't steal--but I'll dream I heard him say 'em. 'One
drink, Tommy,' I hear him say."

He set the bottle to his lips, tipped it, closed his eyes, and drank
until at last, breathless and choking, he felt the bottle suck dry.

"Bless the saints!" he gasped; "it was one drink he said, and sure with
my eyes shut I couldn't see how big was the drink." He felt the thrill
of the mighty potation from head to toes. His meek spirit became
exalted. "If I should go out now," he mumbled, "he would say that I
stole it. But I will stay here with the bottle in my hand just as it was
when I took the one drink. I will show him. And, after all, it is not
much he can do to me--now!" He rubbed a consolatory palm over his
glowing stomach. He stood there, beginning at last to rock slowly from
heel to toe, until he heard voices and footsteps. The preoccupied barons
had not lingered over their repast. "No, I'll not run away. I'll not
steal," muttered Tommy Eye, "but--but I'll just crawl under the bunk,
here, to think over the snatch of a speech I'll make to him. And a bit
later I'll feel more like bein' kicked."

From the safe gloom of his covert he noted that they had brought back
with them the boss, Colin MacLeod. Britt turned down the wooden button
over the latch of the door and gave his guests cigars.

They smoked in silence for a while, and then Britt spat with a snap of
decision into the open fire and spoke.

"MacLeod, a while ago, when we were talkin' about Rodburd Ide's girl,
Nina, I told you that I wouldn't interfere in your woman affairs
again--or you told me not to interfere--I forgot just which!" There was
a little touch of grim irony in his tones--irony that he promptly
discarded as he went on. "About that Ide girl--you ought to know that
you can't catch her--after what has happened. I know something about
women myself. The girl never took to you. If she had cared anything
about you she would have run to you and cried over you when you were
lying there in the road where Dwight Wade tossed you. That's woman when
she's in love with a man. Don't break in on what I'm saying! This isn't
any session of cheap men sittin' down to gossip over love questions. It
may sound like it, but it's straight business. Don't be a fool any
longer. But there's a girl that you have courted and a girl that thinks
a lot of you, because I heard her say so one night on Jerusalem Knob.
You ought to marry that girl."

The Honorable Pulaski again checked retort by sharp command.

"That girl isn't of the blood of the Skeets and Bushees, and you know
it. She is a pretty girl, and once she is away from that gang and
dressed in good clothes she will make a wife that you'll be proud of.
Now, what do you say, Colin? Will you marry that girl?"

MacLeod stared from the face of his employer to the face of John
Barrett, the latter displaying decidedly more interest than the
questioner. Then he stood up and dashed his cigar angrily into the fire.
Blood flamed on his high cheek-bones and his gray eyes glittered.

"What has marryin' got to do with my job, or what have you got to do
with my marryin'?" he asked, in hot anger.

The Honorable Pulaski continued bland and conciliating.

"Keep on all your clothes, Colin, my boy," he counselled. "Don't say
anything to me that you'll be sorry for after I've shown you that I'm
only doin' you a friendly turn. But I've found out a mighty interesting
thing about this girl--Kate Arden, they call her. As a friend of yours
I'm givin' you the tip. It would be too bad to have a girl with a nice
tidy little sum of money comin' to her slip past you when all you have
to do is to reach and take her."

The boss's face was surly.

"You must have been talkin' with some one in Barn Withee's crew," he
suggested.

"And what does Withee's crew say?" demanded Britt, with heat.

"It wasn't a sewin'-circle I was attendin' out on that fire-line,"
retorted MacLeod, with just as much vigor. "There was somethin' bein'
talked, but I didn't stop to listen."

"Look here, MacLeod," cried his employer. Britt came close to him
and clutched the belt of his wool jacket. "There are some nasty
liars in these woods just now. There are some of them that will go to
state-prison for attempted blackmail. You are too bright a man not to
realize which is your own side. I know you well enough to believe that
all the lunatics and slanderers this side of Castonia couldn't turn you
against your friends. And you've got no two better friends than John
Barrett and I."

"I'm not gainsaying it, Mr. Britt. But what has joinin' this matrimonial
agency of yours got to do with your friendship or my work?"

"I've found out, Colin, that this girl has got money comin' to her from
her folks. She doesn't know about it yet. No one knows about it, except
us here. She never belonged to the Skeets and Bushees. She was stolen.
This money has been waitin' for her. Barrett and I are bank-men, and
things like this come to our attention when no one else would hear of
it. There's--there's--" Britt paused and slid a look at Barrett from
under an eyebrow cocked inquiringly. Barrett slyly spread ten fingers.
"There's ten thousand dollars comin' to her in clean cash, Colin. Now,
what do you think of that?"

"I think it's a ratty kind of a story," said MacLeod, bluntly.

Britt's temper flared.

"Don't you accuse me of lyin'," he roared. "The girl has got the money
comin', I say."

"Maybe it _is_ comin'," replied the boss, doggedly; "but has she got any
name comin'? Has she got any folks comin'? Has she got anything comin'
except somebody's hush-money?"

The woodsman's keen scenting of the trail discomposed the Honorable
Pulaski for a moment. But after a husky clearing of his throat he
returned to the work in hand.

"Folks, you fool! You can't dig folks up out of a cemetery. If her folks
had been alive they'd have hunted up their girl years ago. They were
good folks. You needn't worry about that. There's no need now to bother
the girl about her folks or the money. She wouldn't know how to handle
it if she had it in her own hands. It needs a man to care for her and
the cash. We don't want a cheap hyena to fool her and get it. You're the
man, Colin. Marry her, and the ten thousand will be put into your fist
the day the knot is tied."

"It sounds snide and I won't do it," growled MacLeod, seeming to fairly
bristle in his obstinacy. "Not if she was Queen of Sheby."

"Le' him go, then!" murmured a voice under the bunk. "Here's a gen'lum
puffick--ick--ly willin'."

The Honorable Pulaski turned to behold the simpering face of drunken
Tommy Eye peering wistfully from his retirement.

"I'll do it ch-cheaper, so 'elp me!" said Tommy, pounding down the empty
bottle to mark emphasis.

"Yank that drunken hog out o' there, MacLeod!" roared Britt, after a
preface of horrible oaths. And when Tommy stood before him, swaying
limply in the boss's clutch, he cuffed him repeatedly, first with one
hand, then with the other. The smile on the man's face became a sickly
grimace, but he did not whimper.

"'Spected kickin'," he murmured. "Jus' soon be cuffed." He held up the
empty bottle that he still clung to desperately. "Want to 'splain 'bout
one drink--" he began. But Britt wrenched the bottle from his hand,
raised it as though to beat out Tommy's brains, and, relenting, smashed
it into a corner.

"So you've laid there and listened to our private business," he said,
malevolently. "You've heard more than is good for you, Eye."

"Didn't hear nossin'," protested Tommy. "Was thinkin' up speech. Jus'
heard him say he wouldn't marry--marry--"

"Marry who?"

"'Queen of Sheby,' says he, with all her di'monds. I'll marry her. I'll
settle down wiz Queen of Sheby."

"He's too drunk to know anything," said MacLeod. "Open the door, Mr.
Britt, and I'll toss him out."

And he flung the soggy Tommy out on the carpet of pine-needles with as
little consideration as though he were a bag of oats.

He turned at the door and looked from Britt to Barrett.

"You've put a big thing up to me, gents, and you've sprung it on me like
a crack with a sled-stake. If I got dizzy and answered you short it was
your own fault. Give me a night to sleep on it."

Outside he twisted his hand into the collar of Tommy Eye and started
towards the main camp, dragging the inebriate. "I'll see that he keeps
his mouth shut, gents," he called back to them.

"You needn't worry, John," announced Britt, closing the door and pulling
out another cigar. "He'll do it." He waited for the sulphur to burn from
the match, and lighted his tobacco, a smile of triumph wrinkling under
his beard.

"You don't usually tackle Pulaski D. Britt for good, practical advice
without gettin' it," he went on. "The girl is crazy after MacLeod.
You'll find MacLeod square when he makes a promise. He's got fool
notions about those things. And when she's married to him and settled
down here in these woods, where she belongs, the chap that wants to make
her Exhibit A in a slander against John Barrett will find himself up
against a mighty tough proposition. You see that, don't you? Now the
next thing is to get her out of the hands of that gang that want to use
her against you."

He mused a moment.

"All that we need to do is to send a man up to Jerusalem to-morrow, and
say that you're all ready to start for outside and propose to take the
girl along. If any one in this world has any rights over her, you have.
They can't refuse. And now we'll go to bed, John, for if ever two men
needed sleep, I reckon we're the ones."

But it was not unbroken slumber that came to them. The big winds outside
roared with the sound of a bursting avalanche. Over the camp the sawing
limbs of the interlaced crowns shrieked and groaned. There were deeper,
further, and more mystic sounds, like mighty 'cellos. And when the great
blow was at its height the wangan camp, built upon the roots of the
splay-foot spruces, swayed with the writhing of the roots, creaked in
its timbers, and seemed to toss like a craft on a crazy sea. There were
noises near at hand in the woods like the detonations of heavy guns.
Every now and then the earth shivered, and thunderous echoes boomed down
the forest aisles.

"Do you hear 'em John?" called Britt, at last. He had long been awake,
and had marked the restless stirrings of the other in the bunk below
him.

"I've been listening an hour," said Barrett, despondently, "and it's big
stuff that's coming down. Our loss by fire was small change to what this
means to us, Pulaski. Withee has devilled my lands until there isn't a
wind-break left."

A roar like the awful voice of a park of artillery throbbed past them on
the volleying wind.

"I feel as though it was kissing a thousand dollars good-bye every time
I hear one of those noises," said Britt. "The devil can play jack-straws
in the Umcolcus region after this night, and find a new bunch every
day."

At last they looked dismally out on the dawn. The great gale had blown
overhead and away, the rearguard clouds chasing it, and the hard growth,
stripped of every vestige of leaf, gave pathetic testimony to the
bitterness of the conflict of the night.

The two lumber barons, staring anxiously up at the slopes of the black
growth for signs of ravage, were confronted by Tommy Eye, meek,
repentant, and shaky.

"Sure, the witherlicks and the swamp swogons did howl last night, gents,
and they all did say as how Tommy Eye ought to be ashamed of the size of
his drink. And I've come back to you to get my kick." He turned humbly.

The Honorable Pulaski D. Britt accepted the invitation with alacrity,
and dealt the kick with a vigor that fetched a squawk from the teamster.
The timber tyrant's mood that morning welcomed such an opportunity, even
as a surcharged cloud welcomes a lightning-rod or a farm-house chimney.
But once the kick had been dealt the Honorable Pulaski felt less wire on
the edge of his meat-axe temper.

"And now I'll take my discharge," said Tommy. "MacLeod gave me an order
on you for my pay."

Britt snatched away the paper and tore it up.

"Get into that hovel and look after your horses." But when Tommy turned
to go his employer called him back. "I've got another job for you just
now, you snake-chaser. You need to chew fresh air, and you'll find a lot
of it on top of Jerusalem. I don't know just how much you understood of
our business in the wangan camp last night, Eye, and I don't care. You
know me well enough to understand that if you ever blab any of it I'll
have your ha' slet out of you!" Tommy cringed under a furious glare. "It
will depend on how well you do an errand for me now whether or not I
feed you to bobcats. You get that, do you?"

Again the teamster bowed his wistful assent.

"I wish I hadn't let Sheriff Rodliff and his men leave," remarked Britt
to "Stumpage John," eying Tommy with some disfavor. "But perhaps this
fool can do the trick better than a sheriff's posse. Sending the posse
might make talk and stir suspicions."

"The quieter it's done the better," suggested Barrett. "After my talk
with Wade--which was pretty soft, as I remember it--it will seem natural
for me to send after the girl--and by just such a messenger as this."

"So we'll send the fool--you're right!" affirmed Britt. "Tommy," he
directed, wagging a thick finger under the man's attentive nose to mark
his commands, "you hump up to that fire station on Jerusalem as quick as
leg-work will get you there, and you'll find a young girl. There are not
enough young girls up there so that you'll make any mistake in the right
one. You tell the one that's in charge, or whoever claims to be in
charge, that the girl has been sent for. You'll probably find that
fellow Dwight Wade takin' the responsibility. Tell him that it's all
right, and that the gentleman he made the talk with is prepared to back
up all promises. Bring the girl back with you."

"Girls was never much took with me, and I never was handy in makin' up
to girls," protested Tommy, his face puckering in alarm. "She prob'ly
won't come, and then I'll get kicked again."

"You'll get kicked again mighty sudden if you don't do as I tell you,
and do it quick and do it right!" roared Britt, starting off the camp
platform. And Tommy, cowed by his tyrant, stood not upon the order of
his going. He was trotting with a dog-waddle when he disappeared up the
Jerusalem trail.

"He ought to be back by noon," said Britt. "In the mean time we'll eat
breakfast and then cruise for blowdowns. And I'm thinkin' it isn't goin'
to be a very humorous forenoon for timber-land owners."

Nor was it. Dolefully and silently they traversed wastes of splintered
devastation, blocked ram-downs, choked twitch-roads, and hideous snarls
of cross-piled timber.



CHAPTER XVII

THE AFFAIR AT DURFY'S CAMP

     "The boss was a-thinkin' to swat him, but allowed he had
       better not,
     For 'twas trouble bad that Dumphy had, whatever it was
       he'd got."


When the timber barons came in sight of the camp at noon, Tommy Eye,
returned emissary, was seated on the edge of the wangan platform with
attitude and countenance of alarmed expectancy. By his side was old
Christopher Straight, the guide who had accompanied Dwight Wade from
Castonia settlement.

"I done it--I said as you said for me to say," Tommy began, eagerly,
"and Mr. Straight here will tell you the same. I said it first to old
Noah up there, and he was startin' off with his animiles like as they
done with the ark stranded, and he swore me up hill and down, and--"

"Shut up!" barked the Honorable Pulaski, in a perfectly fiendish temper
after the sights of that forenoon. "Did you bring that girl? And if you
didn't, why not?"

"I can tell you better, perhaps, Mr. Britt," broke in old Christopher,
calmly. "She has been left on Mr. Wade's hands, and Mr. Wade feels that
he ought to be careful. Warden Lane, who had charge of her, seems to
have lost his wits. All last night--it was an awful night, gentlemen,
on Jerusalem--he was out on the ledges raving and howling. I think that
a matter that Mr. Barrett will understand was troubling up his
conscience, if that's the word for it. This mornin' he seemed to be
clean out of his head. He knocked the saplin's off his cages and let out
the animals, and they followed him off down into the woods--"

"Moose, bobcat, fisher-cat--" But Tommy ceased his enumeration to dodge
a vicious sweep of Britt's palm.

"I guess he left the place for good, seeing he took his rifle and his
pack," continued the guide. "I thought the timber owners might like to
know that their fire station is abandoned. As for the girl," he hastened
to add, "Mr. Wade told me to say that for reasons that Mr. Britt would
understand he didn't think she ought to come here."

"Because she's lost her head over my boss, MacLeod, eh?" demanded Britt.

"You saw yourself that the girl wasn't to be controlled easily when the
young man was present," said Christopher, mildly. "So he believes if
there is business to be talked to her and about her it will be better to
meet somewhere else."

"The blasted coward is afraid to come with her or let her come," sneered
the Honorable Pulaski. "Well, we'll go up there; and we'll take a few
men along and find out who's runnin' this thing--a college dude or the
men who own these timber lands." Mr. Barrett would have advised more
pacificatory talk. But Mr. Britt was in a mood too generally unamiable
that day to heed prudence and wise counsel.

"You'll have only your own trouble for your trip," remarked Straight.
"This man here said that Mr. Barrett was all ready to leave the woods.
Mr. Wade has left the top of the mountain with the girl, and will meet
Mr. Barrett to the south of Pogey Notch. You'll not have to go out of
your way, sir," he explained.

"Well, where?" snapped Britt.

"I'm here prepared to lead Mr. Barrett to the place, and I suggest that
if he's ready we'll be on our way. You'll probably want to fetch the
Half-way House at nightfall, sir."

This patent distrust of Pulaski Britt and his designs angered that
gentleman quite beyond the power of even his profanity. But he knew
Christopher Straight too well to attempt to bulldoze that hard-eyed old
woodsman.

"Is this select assembly too good to have me come along?" he inquired,
his thick lips curling under his beard.

"I think Mr. Wade will be glad to have you there," said Christopher,
mildly. "He didn't say anything to the contrary. He expects Mr. Barrett
to have some one to keep him company as far as the stage road, though he
thought it probably would be a woodsman. But Mr. Wade gave particular
instructions about any crowd comin' along, and he'll not meet any one if
your boss MacLeod is in the party. That's straight talk. He's had all
the trouble with your boss that he cares for."

After a withering survey of Straight, which the old guide endured with
much composure, Britt beckoned Barrett away with a jerk of his head, and
the two strolled behind the horse-hovel.

"There you have it, John," he snarled, more ireful as a champion than
the unhappy principal. "It's a put-up job. He's goin' to plaster the
girl onto you. It's his play. He's goin' to use it for all it's worth."

"It will be better for me to take her out than to have him chase along
after me with the girl and the story--if that's the way he feels; and
it's plain that he means to make trouble," said Barrett, moodily. "I can
put her away somewhere in a boarding-school, and--"

The Honorable Pulaski broke upon this doleful capitulation with
contemptuous brusqueness.

"You talk like a fool, John! Take that girl outside these woods and give
her an education? File her teeth so that she can set 'em into your
throat? You teach her to read and to write and to know things, and
that's what it will amount to in the end. The girl has got to stay
here!" He embraced the big woods in a vigorous gesture. "She belongs
here! And the only way to keep her here is to put her in the hands of a
man that--"

Colin MacLeod had followed them to their retreat behind the hovel, and
was standing at a little distance, looking at them.

"Come here, Colin!" And Britt advanced to meet him and clutched his arm,
the arm that Dwight Wade had dislocated in that memorable battle in
Castonia. "Boy, if you are a coward, now is your time to own it. Old
Straight has come down here to tell us that Wade has that girl in his
hands. He knows what she's worth. He wants to meet Barrett and myself.
You can guess why. He proposes to get hold of that money. He knows we
control it. We can't help ourselves if she chooses to stay with him."

The able old liar of the Umcolcus knew his man as the harper knows his
instrument. He felt the muscles ridge under his clutch.

"He has sent word that he won't have you at the meeting. Ask Straight!
He'll give you the message. The dude knows he wouldn't stand the show of
a snowball in tophet with you there where the girl could see you. If
you're a coward, say so, and we'll look further."

"By ----, I'm no coward, and you know it!" growled the boss.

"He's licked you once and cut you out with one girl," persisted Britt.
"The whole Umcolcus knows that! When they find out that he's got away
with a girl that has been in love with you, and with ten thousand
dollars in the bargain, why, boy, even Tommy Eye will dare to put up his
fists to you!"

In MacLeod's tumultuous mind it was no longer love's choice between Nina
Ide and Kate Arden; it was the hard, bitter passion of the primitive
man--the instinct to grasp what a foe is coveting for the sake of
humiliating that foe. Again MacLeod felt himself thrust forth by
circumstances to be the champion of his kind. That man from the city was
of the other sort.

"Mr. Britt," he choked, "let me at him once more!"

"Oh, that will be all right!" said the baron; "but we're not pulling off
a prize-fight, MacLeod. Scraps are interestin' enough when there isn't
more important business on hand. There happens to be business just now.
The whole idea is, are you ready to marry the girl?"

MacLeod had approached them grimly resolved to be defiant on that point.
The flicker in his eyes now was the shadow of that resolution departing.

"If it's him against me again," he snarled, "I'll marry a quill-pig and
ask no questions."

"Not exactly cheerful talk to hear from a prospective bridegroom
marryin' money and good looks," commented the Honorable Pulaski, dryly;
"but a promise is a promise, MacLeod, and I never knew you to break one
you made me. Shake!"

By the way in which both Barrett and MacLeod turned inquiring gaze on
him, the Umcolcus baron understood that he was tacitly elected autocrat
of the situation, and he proceeded about his task with the briskness
characteristic of his habit of command.

"John, you get your dinner, bid us an affectionate farewell, and go
along with old Straight. Go alone. Tell him you left all your duffel at
Withee's camp and don't need any guide. I'll look after the rest of it.
Chris Straight can hide his dude and the girl, but he can't pull up the
ground behind him."

They started off promptly after the noon snack, the taciturn Christopher
offering no comment on Mr. Barrett's amiable compliance, and apparently
blandly unsuspicious that the Honorable Pulaski concealed guile under a
demeanor which had suddenly become pacific.

Men who had made their warfare more by craft and less by brute strength
would have been more wily. John Barrett and Pulaski Britt had always
been too confident of their own power to think subterfuge necessary.
Barrett, especially, as he strode along at the heels of old Christopher,
was so well content with his own first essay in duplicity that his
taking-down was correspondingly humiliating. They were resting, he and
the old guide, after a tough scramble around a blowdown that they had
encountered a mile or so from Britt's camps.

With a jerk of his chin Christopher indicated a far-off sound on the
back trail.

"Pretty busy, that woodpecker is, Mr. Barrett!"

"Stumpage John" assented, wondering at the same time how such an old
woodsman could misinterpret that chip-chop. "The fool Indian ought to
make allowance for a blowdown," he reflected, angrily. "He's following
too close."

"In this world you expect cheap men to lie and cheat," remarked
Christopher, serenely. "But you don't hardly expect State senators and
candidates for governor to be that sort."

"What the devil do you mean?" demanded Barrett, with heat.

"I mean that Britt's Indian, Newell Sockbeson, is following us and
makin' a double-blaze for--well, I suppose it's so that Pulaski Britt
and his men can chase us up. As to why, you probably know better than I
do, Mr. Barrett."

The timber baron stared at this disconcerting old plain-speaker without
finding fit words for reply.

"It can hardly be that he's goin' to all that trouble simply to get the
girl. Mr. Wade is ready to turn the girl over to you, Mr. Barrett. Why
is it that men ain't willin' to play fair in this world? What does
Pulaski Britt want to meddle in this thing for?"

"I think you're wrong about the Indian following us," paltered the
millionaire. "You're only guessin' about that, Straight."

"When I see Pulaski Britt talk to an Indian, when I see that Indian pack
a lunch, take a camp-axe, and hide at the mouth of the trail, I don't
have to guess, Mr. Barrett. Some of us old fellows of the woods see a
whole lot of things without seemin' to take much notice." He got up off
the tree-trunk where he had been sitting and made ready to take the
trail again, swinging his pack to his shoulders.

"There wouldn't have been any misunderstanding if Wade had sent the girl
back by the messenger," protested Barrett. "And if he didn't have
something up his sleeve he would have done so. The girl is nothing to
him, and he's meddling in affairs that are none of his business."

"You'd better save that talk and tell it to him," said the old guide,
grimly. "I'm going to take you to where we arranged to meet if every man
that Britt can rake and scrape on his ten townships comes followin' at
my back. I've thought it over, and the more witnesses there are to some
things the better it is for all concerned--or the worse!"

And reflecting on what these words might mean, and now a little dubious
as to the sagacity of Pulaski Britt in handling delicate negotiations,
"Stumpage John" plodded on with less content in his heart.

Two miles farther down the trail, at a place that Barrett recognized as
the old Durfy camps, Straight signalled by discharging his rifle, and
Dwight Wade came into sight with the girl. Foolish Abe of the Skeets
followed far behind like a sheepish dog, uncertain whether to expect
kick or caress.

"You may as well know first as last that the whole pack is followin' a
little way behind," snorted old Christopher, in disgust. "Britt sent an
Indian to snuff the trail and blaze the way. I did your errand, that's
all. You've got time to get away. You may want to keep on tryin' to do
business with a crowd that ain't square. I don't!" He turned and walked
away, sat down, and filled his pipe.

"I had Straight explain to you why it was better to meet privately
here," declared Wade, with honest resentment glowing in his eyes. "But
I'm not going to run. I've had hard work to get this young woman to
consider your proposition to educate her, Mr. Barrett." He held her by
the hand, and spoke out with a candor that convinced the lumberman that
here there was neither reservation nor complicity. The girl eyed him
sulkily, without interest, as she looked at all outsiders. "I have told
this young woman that you, as a timber-land owner, are sorry for all the
troubles that the Skeets and Bushees have had in years past, and want to
make up in some way. I've told her you're ready to send her to some good
boarding-school. As she can't read or write, she doesn't know what this
means, and she can't express her thanks. But I'm sure that later she'll
understand your kindness and generosity. The girl is untrained, and she
knows it. I hope you'll overlook any lack of gratitude, Mr. Barrett.
She'll know how to express it some day."

John Barrett, looking into a face which recalled the face of the
daughter whom he loved and cherished in his city home, felt one throb of
strange emotion, and then realized in all his selfish nature that
affection is more a matter of habit and cultivation than an affair of
instinct. After one thrill his soul shrank from her. He had not expected
the girl to be so like. He caught himself wishing that he had not made
the compact with the inexorable Britt, and listened for the noise of the
men-pack with shame and some regret. On the other hand, this girl,
unkempt for all her beauty, insolent with the insolence of ignorance,
staring at him from under her knitted brows, was impossible, he
reflected, as an asset of a man with a reputation to preserve and an
ambition to fulfil. Instead of feeling the instinct of tenderness, he
looked at this wild young thing of the woods with uneasy fear in his
shifting eyes.

With honest resentment, Wade noted the baron's reluctance to make his
word good.

"You think I'm a meddler, Mr. Barrett," he said, coming close to the
other, "but don't think that I'm satisfying any personal grudge when I
ask that you care for this poor girl! Perhaps you would have done so
anyway, without my suggestion. I hope so."

"I think I could arrange my own business without any outside help," said
Barrett, dryly. He began to feel that he could get out of the situation
better if he aroused his own resentment.

"Mr. Barrett, it was chance that put the girl in my way and taught me
her story. I've been Don Quixote enough to see her through this thing.
I'm sorry it happens to be you on the other side. I'm afraid you don't
give me credit for unselfishness."

"I'll allow you all the credit you deserve," said "Stumpage John,"
sullenly. "I understand, without your telling me, that you are gentleman
enough to keep this matter behind your teeth on account of my family. I
thank you, Wade. I'll take charge of the girl from now on."

He looked back up the trail anxiously, and the young man's gaze
followed. A man loafed into sight from among stubs blackened by fire.

"There's Newell Sockbeson," remarked old Christopher. "I heard him
making his last blaze a few minutes ago."

"I don't know just what your plan is, Mr. Barrett," said Wade, the red
in his cheeks. "I've been hoping that you trusted me to act the
gentleman, even if I couldn't act the friend. Mr. Straight and I stand
here as witnesses that you have taken charge of this girl." He now spoke
low. "But you haven't told me that you indorse the little plan I adopted
to relieve you from any explanations and to make the thing seem natural
to her."

Wade's face showed that he expected a frank promise.

"Mr. Straight will go to the stage road with you," added the young man.
At this hint of watchfulness the face of Barrett darkened. "As a
school-teacher, I know something of the boarding-schools of the State,
and I'll--" The timber baron's temper flamed at this plain intent to
advise.

"I've taken charge of the girl, I say! Your responsibility ends. You
were apologizing a moment ago for meddling. Now, don't go to--"

"I didn't apologize," replied Wade, with decision. "And I don't intend
to. And my responsibility ends only when I know that this unfortunate
creature is placed in a good school to get the advantages that she has
been robbed of all these years."

The hot retort from Barrett ended in his throat with a cluck. "The
devil!" he blurted, staring down the trail.

Dwight Wade, whirling to look to the south, could not indorse that
sentiment. Close at hand was Nina Ide, riding a horse with the grace of
a boy, whose attire she had adopted with a woods girl's scorn of
conventions. Wade hurried to meet her, cap in hand and eager questions
on his lips. The color mounted to her face, and she shook out the folds
of a poncho, looped across the saddle, and draped it over her knees.

"No, it's not strange, either," she broke in to say. "Your partner--and
that's father--had to come up here on business, and I've come along with
him, just as I always do when he comes here in the partridge season."
She patted a gun-butt. "But I didn't expect to find fire and smoke and
lightning and rain and tornadoes up here, any more than I looked for you
at Pogey Notch when you were supposed to be exploring for a winter's
operation on Enchanted. Now you will have to explain to your partner
here!" And he turned from her smiling face to shake hands with Rodburd
Ide.

"Every man who can handle brush and mattock is expected to be at the
head of a fire in time of trouble!" chirped the "Mayor of Castonia." He
tipped back his head to beam amiably on his partner. "Did it get through
onto us, Wade?"

"The rain stopped it half-way up Pogey."

"Then God was good to us! Isn't that so, Mr. Barrett?" And the cheerful
little man trotted along to grip the hand of "Stumpage John." That
gentleman glowered sullenly, and tried to explain his gloom by muttering
about "blowdowns" being worse than fires. He looked ill. As he came down
the trail a fever had been rising in his blood. He went away by himself,
and sat down feeling faint and weak.

"Old Enchanted is all right," said Ide. "There's a thousand acres of
black growth there, every tree standin' with its arm about its brother.
You mustn't let 'em devil you, Mr. Barrett!" he called.

Mr. Barrett, his lowering gaze on Wade, agreed mentally.

"Well, this is certainly a convention of the timber interests!" cried
the brisk little autocrat of Castonia. He pointed up the trail, where
the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt was advancing alone.

Wade withdrew unobstrusively, and stood beside Nina Ide. Perhaps he
hoped that her talk might bring some word of Elva Barrett.

But at last even Rodburd Ide's cheery consciousness became impressed by
the fact that neither Britt nor Barrett seemed to relish any chat on
timber topics. And he broke upon a constrained silence to suggest to
Wade that they proceed--taking it for granted that now his partner's way
lay to the north, along with his own.

"There's--there's--" Wade stammered, and now for the first time Ide and
his daughter marked the girl of the Skeet settlement leaning moodily
against the side of the Durfy hovel, the unkempt Abe hovering
apprehensively in the background.

"Ah ha!" piped Ide. "There are the remnants, eh? We met the rest of the
colony hiperin' out of the woods. They've gone to Little Lobster, girl,
and the old woman is worryin' about you."

Wade stared straight at Barrett. The timber baron understood the
challenge of his eyes. He was commanded to declare his intentions. In
spite of himself, he scowled. It was a scowl of recalcitrancy. And the
young man, angered by the presence of Britt and the evident appearance
of treachery, shot his bolt.

"There is a piece of good-fortune for this poor girl, Mr. Ide. Mr.
Barrett proposes to educate her, and he's going to take her with him out
of the woods."

"She has been gettin' a lot of attention lately," blurted the Honorable
Pulaski, with malice and derision. "For the past three or four days,
Rodburd, your young partner here has been her steady company. They have
just come strollin' alone together down the Lovers' Lane from Jerusalem
Knob." He fixed his keen eyes on the astonished face of Nina Ide. His
narrow nature believed that, like other girls, she could be stirred to
quick jealousy. And knowing her influence over her father, he foresaw
trouble ahead for the partnership between Ide and Wade. "Seems to be in
the air up this way now for the young men to gallivant through the woods
with the Skeet girl. Wade here seems to have cut out Colin MacLeod."
Then the coarse old jester sneered into the indignant face Wade turned
to him.

"It will be a good thing for her to go to school," said Ide, a little
puzzled by the evident antagonism of these men. "It will be kind of you,
Mr. Barrett."

"Say, look here, Ide," cried Britt, in his irritation suddenly deciding
to play the strong hand with this young interloper, "your friend Wade
here, being a school-teacher, seems to have school on the brain. He also
seems to be full of ready-made plans for men older and better than he
is. From things that come to me, he has picked up a lot of foolishness
about these Skeets and Bushees and this girl since he's been cruisin'
round these woods. Mr. Barrett and myself have made arrangements to take
care of the rest of that pauper settlement, and the Skeets probably told
you so when you met them."

Ide nodded acknowledgment.

"We'll look after the girl, too." He walked up to Wade and snapped his
fingers, unable to resist his desire to bully. "Now, young fellow,
you've been stickin' your nose pretty deep into other men's business.
Take it out, or I'll twist it off your face. Any one would think that
this girl matter was runnin' the world in these parts. There's been too
much talk about what's of no consequence. Go along with your partner.
You're on my land. Keep movin'."

But all of Dwight Wade's stubborn obstinacy rose in his breast; all his
youthful chivalry flamed in his face.

"I've no more business with you, Britt!" he said, significantly; and
Britt's face flamed with the remembrance of a certain knock-down blow.
"My business is with you, Mr. Barrett, and you know what it is. You keep
the word that you've given me about this girl, or I'll set you before
the people of this State in your right colors--and you needn't croak
blackmail to me, for you can't frighten me."

"I--I--don't see that it's any business of yours--of yours, Wade,"
stammered the pacificatory Ide, catching the courage of protest from the
rather indignant face his daughter turned on the young man.

"And I don't see that it is the business of any of you!" stormed Kate
Arden. She came close to the group of men and stood with brown hands
propped on her hips, her head thrown back, and the insolent stare of her
black eyes seeking face after face. "I'll be passed about from hand to
hand no longer. I don't want any old purple-faced fool to send me to
school." Barrett winced. "And as for you," she sneered, turning on Wade,
"you attend to your own business until I ask you to help me in mine."

The Honorable Pulaski saw his opportunity.

"Colin MacLeod!" he bawled.

And with a rush that betrayed his impatience, the boss of the Busters
came out of his hiding-place up the trail.

The girl gave a sharp cry of joy at sight of him.

But MacLeod, half-way to them, saw the girl on the horse and stopped as
suddenly as he had started. Even at that distance they noted that his
face worked with piteous embarrassment.

"You've given in your promise, MacLeod! Don't forget that!" roared
Britt. "There's the boy for you, my girl! He wants to marry you. Go with
him!"

"And you'll be a fool of a gir-rl if ye do!" squalled a voice. It was
Tommy Eye, yelling from the top of the Durfy hovel, to which he had
clambered unobserved. "I know I'm a drunk. I know I ain't worth anything
to anybody!" he gabbled. "But ye saved my life once, Mr. Wade, when I
didn't know it!" He flapped entreating hands at Wade, and that young man
stepped in front of the furious Britt with such determination on his
face that the woods tyrant halted. "But ye'll be a fool gir-rl, I say! I
was under the bunk last night when they planned it. He don't love ye! I
heard him say so. He called you names! Colin MacLeod, ye ain't the liar
enough to stand out here and say ye didn't."

MacLeod, his adoring eyes on Nina Ide, had no word to say. The features
of Kate Arden, who stared at him with her heart in her eyes, twisted
with a promise of bitter tears. This, then, was the girl of Castonia,
with whom they had taunted her!

"It's only for grudge and money he's goin' to marry you!" persisted
Tommy. "May I rest forever in purgatory with no masses for my soul if
that ain't the truth!"

With the instinct of the animal repulsed, the girl read more in the face
of MacLeod than she understood from the declaration of Tommy Eye.

She looked from face to face again, but the flame was gone from her
eyes. There they stood, the silent, hostile, bitter phalanx from
outside--oppressors and scorners. There she stood--alone!

And she fell face down upon the ground--the only mother she had ever
known--a heart-broken, weary, lonely, sobbing child.

Nina Ide reached her before the others moved. Twice the girl fought her
way out of her arms. Twice the sympathetic little mother-heart of the
Castonia beauty conquered the rebel and retook her, whispering to her
eagerly. And she held her tear-streaked face close to her shoulder, and
patted the grimy little fingers between which tears were trickling.
There was something inexpressibly pathetic even in the unkemptness of
the stricken girl, in her torn dress and the brown skin of face and
hands, touched here and there by the stain of exposure to the blackened
forest. And in her loneliness, feeling for the first time in her life
real sympathy from one of her sex, gathering with grateful nostrils the
faint perfume that whispered of the refinement and comfort that her
heart had sought almost unconsciously and had never found, at last the
girl ceased her struggles and clung to her new friend. The waif's true
instinct was proving this friend's sincerity more surely than the
whispered assurances proved it. And Nina Ide bent to her ear, and
murmured:

"We will hate him together, poor little girl! He is not a good man to
have a girl's love."

"When the hysterics are all over," remarked the Honorable Pulaski,
sarcastically, "we'll take the young woman off your hands."

"You'll not take her off _my_ hands!" retorted Nina, with spirit. "She's
going back home with me."

"You haven't got any rights over her!" barked Britt.

"Perhaps, then, Mr. Barrett is ready to stand up and say what his rights
are," suggested Wade, with bitter hint of retaliation in his tones.

Barrett, pale with the illness that was seizing him, grew paler yet with
anger and terror, for he feared exposure.

The Honorable Pulaski picked up the gage of battle with all the alacrity
of his irascible nature.

"For a dog-fight, that girl will be as good a bone as anything else!" he
growled, under his breath. And then he whirled on his heel and bellowed:

"Wake up there, MacLeod! If you can't make love to the girl you are
goin' to marry, I reckon you can at least fight a little to get her!
Call in the crew!"

He walked up to Ide. "Better call off your girl, Rod," he advised,
bluffly. "This isn't any of her business, or yours either."

"I figure that a Skeet girl belongs as much to us as to you," snapped
the doughty little man from Castonia. "If my girl takes interest enough
in her to invite her home, I think you'd better let her go."

"Well, I've got a crew of a hundred men posted back here a few rods in
the woods to back me up when I say she stays right where she belongs."
His tone was offensive, and Rodburd Ide's anger flared.

"My business just now in here, Britt, is to bring a hundred men for our
Enchanted operation. They're down there by the brook eating lunch. I
don't want any trouble over this, but there's some nasty reason back of
this girl matter, and I won't stand for any persecution of a helpless
creature. My men back me when I say she goes home with my girl. Hello,
men for the Enchanted! Up this way in a hurry!"

The look that Nina flashed at her father was inspiration for him!

As his men came into sight over the bank the crew of Britt tramped
towards them down the trail.

"Nina," said Ide, "you'll have to go back now. Chris Straight will go
with you. Take the girl on the horse with you, and let Chris lead by the
headstall. You'll go all safe. Hurry away from here! But after you get
started, take your time to the Half-way House. There's no one going to
get past down this trail to chase you and bother you."

There was determination in the voice of the little man, and his daughter
kissed him at the same time that Dwight Wade was patting his shoulder.

Wade ran along by the side of the horse for a little way, and, when he
turned, eagerly kissed Nina Ide's gloved hand.

"God bless you for a little saint!" he gasped. "You'll understand this
some day, perhaps."

"I understand that she is alone and needs a friend," she
responded--"just as you needed a friend when you were only Britt's
'chaney man.'" She smiled archly at him and passed out of sight, old
Christopher tugging at the bits of the horse.

Wade went back in the forefront of the thronging crew of the men for
Enchanted.

"As I said, Britt, I don't want trouble," repeated Rodburd Ide, "but
you'll please remember that the lower corner of your township is here at
Durfy's camp. I reckon the men for the Enchanted will camp right here on
the trail for a few hours. The man that tries to push past to trouble my
daughter or her friend will get hurt."

"They are goin' past just the same!" shouted Britt, fiercely.

"My God, Pulaski, think of consequences!" pleaded "Stumpage John," in
low tones. He arose with difficulty and staggered to Britt's side. His
tones quavered with weakness. "I'd be ruined by the story of what it was
all about. I'm sick. I only want to get home. I don't want to see
trouble here."

Britt glared at his associate, at Wade, Ide, and at last at Colin
MacLeod, who was staring in the direction of Nina Ide.

The tyrant snorted his disgust.

"Take the combination of a candidate for governor, some fool women,
crazy men, love-sick idiots, and"--his eyes swept the scene in vain
search for Tommy Eye--"a pooch-mouthed blabber, and it's enough to trig
any decent, honest, sensible woods fight ever yarded down. Barrett,
you're right! You'd better get home and get on your long-tailed coat and
plug hat as soon as you can. You and your private"--he sneered the
word--"business don't seem to fit in up here."

He folded his arms and, with his men behind him, stood looking over the
crew for the Enchanted, who, cheerfully and without question, stood
blocking the way.

"It may not happen just now," he grunted, "but it's on my mind to say
that some day these two gangs will get together when there isn't a
governor's boom to step on, nor women to get mussed up."

And the gaze of fury that he bent on Dwight Wade was returned with
interest.

An imaginative man might have seen the new spirit of the woods facing
the old.

But there was no imaginative man there--there were only men who chewed
tobacco and wondered what it all meant.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE OLD SOUBUNGO TRAIL

     "And never a knight in a tournament
       Rode lists with a jauntier mien,
     Than he of the drive who came alive
       Thro' the hell of the Hulling Machine."

               --The Spike-sole Knight.


Larry Gorman, "the woodsman's poet," whose songs are known and sung in
the camps from Holeb to Madawaska, was with Rodburd Ide's incoming crew.
His three most notable lyrics are these: "I feed P.I.'s on tarts and
pies," "Bushmen all, your ear I call until I shall relate," and "The Old
Soubungo Trail."

When Rodburd Ide's hundred men "met up" with the Honorable Pulaski D.
Britt's hundred men at the foot of Pogey Notch, Larry Gorman displayed a
true poet's obliviousness to the details of the wrangle between
principals. He didn't understand why Pulaski Britt, blue with anger
above his grizzled beard, and "Stumpage John" Barrett, mottled with
rage, should object so furiously when Rodburd Ide's girl took away the
tatterdemalion maid of the Skeets, nor did Larry ask any questions. If
this be the attitude of a true poet, there was evidently considerable
true poetry in both crews, for no one appeared to be especially curious
as to the why of the quarrel. However, the imminence of a quarrel was a
matter demanding woodsmen's attention. It might have been noted that
Poet Gorman cut the biggest shillalah of any of them. And while he
rounded its end and waited for more formal declaration of hostilities,
he lustily sang the solo part of "The Old Soubungo Trail," with a
hundred hearty voices to help him on the chorus:

     "I left my Lize behind me,
       Oh, she won't know what to do,
     I left my Lize for the Old Town guys,
       And I left my watch there, too.
     I left my clothes at a boardin'-house,
       I reckon they're for sale,
     And here I go, at a heel-an'-toe,
       On the old Soubungo trail.
     Sou-bung-o! Bungo!
       'Way up the Bungo trail!"

Spirit rather than melody characterized the efforts of these wildwood
songsters. The Honorable Pulaski Britt, who didn't like music anyway,
and was trying to talk in an undertone to timber baron Barrett, swore a
deep bass obligato.

He did not take his baleful gaze from Dwight Wade, who had gone apart,
and was leaning against the mouldering walls of the Durfy hovel.

"You had your chance to block their game, and you didn't do it, John.
You make me sick!" muttered the belligerent Britt. "You've let that
college dude scare you with threats, and old Ide champ his false teeth
at you and back you down. You don't get any of my sympathy from now on.
I had a good plan framed. You knocked it galley-west by poking yourself
into the way. They've got the girl. They'll use her against you. You can
fight it yourself after this."

Barrett stared uneasily from one crew to the other.

"It would have been too tough a story to go out of these woods," he
faltered. "Two crews ste'boyed together by us to capture a State
pauper."

"A story of a woods rough-and-tumble, that's all!" snorted Britt. "And
these dogs wouldn't have known what they were fightin' about--and would
have cared less. And while they were at it I could have taken the girl
out of sight! You spoiled it! Now, don't talk to me! You go ahead and
see if you can do any better." He tossed his big hand into the air and
whirled away, snuffling his disgust.

Larry Gorman, having peeled a hand-hold on his bludgeon, was moved to
sing another verse:

     "I ain't got pipe nor 'backer,
       Nor I ain't got 'backer-box;
     I ain't got a shirt, and my brad-boots hurt,
       For I ain't a-wearin' socks.
     But a wangan's on Enchanted,
       Where they've got them things for sale,
     And I don't give a dam what the price it am
       On the old Soubungo trail.
     Sou-bung-o! Bungo!
       'Way up the Bungo trail!"

Sturdy little Rodburd Ide, magnate of Castonia, bestrode in the middle
of the trail to the south. His head was thrown back, and his mat of
whiskers jutted forward with an air of challenge. To be sure, he did not
exactly understand as yet the full animus of the quarrel. He had heard
his partner, Dwight Wade, announce on behalf of Honorable John Barrett
that the latter proposed to educate the girl protégée of the Skeets'
tribe. He had noted that the timber baron did not warm to the
announcement in a way that might be expected of the true philanthropist.

Tommy Eye's astonishing declaration from the house-top that the timber
magnates of Jerusalem townships were proposing to marry the girl off to
Colin MacLeod, boss of "Britt's Busters," and that, too, in spite of
MacLeod's lack of affection, had some effect in enlisting Ide's
sympathies and interference. But his daughter's spirited championship of
the poor girl was really the influence that clinched matters with the
puzzled Mr. Ide.

"Rodburd," declared the Honorable Pulaski, approaching him on the
contemptuous retreat from Barrett, "you've gone to work and stuck your
nose into matters that don't concern you. Your man Wade there, instead
of attending to your operation on Enchanted, has been spending his time
beauing that girl around these woods and stirring up a blackmail scheme.
I'm telling you as a friend that you'd better ship him. He's going to
make more trouble for you than he has yet. He isn't fit for the woods. I
found it out and fired him. Do the same yourself, or you'll never get
your logs down and through the Hulling Machine."

"Do you mean that you're going to fight him on the drive on account of
your grudge?" demanded Ide.

"I don't mean that," blustered Britt. "It's the man himself who'll queer
you."

"I don't believe it," replied Ide, stoutly. "There are some things goin'
on here that I don't understand the inside of up to now; but as for that
young man, I picked him for square the first time I laid my eyes on him
at Castonia. I've had him looked up by friends of mine outside, and now
I know he's square. You can't break up our partnership by that kind of
talk, Britt. Now own up! What's the nigger in the woodpile here,
anyway?" The little man was still unbending, but his eyes snapped with
curiosity.

But the Honorable Pulaski's shifty eyes dodged the inquiring stare of
the Castonia man. The view down the tote road in the direction in which
Nina Ide and Kate Arden had disappeared under convoy of Christopher
Straight seemed to be a more welcome prospect than that frankly
inquisitive face. And the view down the trail also suggested a safer
topic for conversation.

"I believe in indulgin' a girl's whims, Rod, but this is a time when
you've let yourself go too far. That lucivee[2] kitten that your
daughter has lugged off home set this fire that we've been fightin' up
here. She set it maliciously, in the face and eyes of Sheriff Rodliff
and myself. She's the worst one of the whole lot, and as a plantation
officer you know the Skeets and Bushees pretty well. Are you goin' to
let your girl take a critter like that back home with her?" He noted a
flicker of consternation in the little man's eyes. "Now, don't be a fool
in this thing. Let a half-dozen men run after that girl and fetch her
back. She don't belong in any decent home. John Barrett and I have
arranged a plan to take care of her and keep her out of mischief."

[Footnote 2: Lynx, corruption of the French-Canadian name,
_loup-cervier_.]

But again the timber magnate's eyes failed to meet the test of Ide's
frank stare.

"I've known you a good many years, Pulaski," said he. "I've done a lot
of business with you, and you can't fool me for a minute. You've been
into a milk-pan, for I can see cream on your whiskers."

"I'm only warnin' you not to harbor such a criminal!" stormed the other.
His wrath slipped its leash once more. The presence of Dwight Wade, his
very silence, seemed tacit proclamation of victory and the boast of it.
"The girl belongs back here, and we're goin' to have her back. If your
men don't fetch her, mine will."

But Ide set his short legs astride a little more solidly.

"As first assessor of the nearest plantation, I can handle the State
pauper business of these parts, and do it without help," he said.

"You mean that meddlin' girl of yours is runnin' it," taunted Britt.

In his heart the fond father realized the force of the taunt, and knew
why he was blocking that trail so resolutely. A mother bear would have
shown no more determination in closing the retreat of her cubs.

"If for any reason that I don't understand as yet you want the
guardianship of that girl, Britt," he declared, "come down any time you
want to and get your rights legally. But just now I'm tellin' you again
that you and your men can't get past here. And if you do, you'll go with
cracked heads."

And once more Pulaski D. Britt substituted oaths for action.

Stamping back towards his men, he saw Tommy Eye squatting like a
jack-rabbit on the top of the Durfy camp. That guileless marplot offered
a fair target for his rage against the world in general.

"MacLeod," bawled Britt to the boss, who had not yet pulled himself
together after that final flash of scorn from the eyes of Nina Ide,
"pull that drunken loafer off that roof and yard the men back to camp!"

"I'm discharged out of your crew, Mr. Britt," squealed Tommy, a quaver
of apprehensiveness in his voice. "I've discharged myself. I've told the
truth about what you was tryin' to do. So I ain't fit for you to hire."

It was not the unconscious satire of the statement that put a wire edge
on the Honorable Pulaski's temper. It was Tommy Eye's rebelliousness,
displayed for the first time in a long life of utter subservience.

"You won't be fit for anything but bait for a bear-trap ten minutes
after I get you back to camp," bellowed the tyrant. "MacLeod, get that
man down!"

"Don't you want to hire a teamster, Mr. Ide?" bleated Tommy, crawfishing
to the peak of the low roof. "You know what I be on twitchro'd, ramdown,
or in a yard. You don't find my hosses calked or shoulder-galled." He
hastened in nervous entreaty: "You hire me, Mr. Ide. I never had a team
sluiced yet. You know what I can do in the woods."

The plaintiveness of the frightened man's appeal touched Wade. He
realized the weight of misery this pathetic turncoat might expect
thereafter at the hands of Britt and his crew of "Busters." MacLeod was
advancing towards the ladder that conducted to the roof, his sullen face
lighting with a certain amount of satisfaction. Wade put himself before
the ladder.

"Hirin' men out from under isn't square woods style, Tommy," said Ide,
shaking his head.

"That man isn't a slave," protested Wade. "He is the only man I've found
in these woods with courage enough to stand up for what's right, Mr.
Ide. I don't believe in leaving him to those who are going to make him
suffer for it."

"Up to now, you dude, you've done about everything that shouldn't be
done in the woods!" cried Britt. "But there's one thing you can't do,
and that's take a man out of my crew."

"It's an unwritten law, Wade," protested his partner. "It isn't square
business to meddle with another operator's crew."

"When a case like this comes up, it's time to change the law, then,"
declared Wade, with savageness of his own, the menacing proximity of
MacLeod acting on his anger like bellows on coals.

"I can't afford to be mixed into anything of the sort," persisted Ide.

"And nobody but a fool would try it, Rod. I've warned you to get rid of
him. You can see for yourself now! He don't fit. He's protectin'
fire-bugs, standin' out against timber-owners' interests, and breaking
every article in the code up here."

"And I'm likely to keep on breaking the kind of code that seems to go
north of Castonia!" cried the young iconoclast. For a moment his
flaming eyes dwelt on the face of the Honorable John Barrett, and that
gentleman, who had been wondering just what shaft his own recalcitrancy
would next draw from this champion of the oppressed, looked greatly
perturbed. "Mr. Ide, do you forbid me to hire this man?"

"N-no," admitted his partner, rather grudgingly.

"Then you're hired, Eye." Wade looked up and answered the gratitude in
Tommy's eyes by a nod of encouragement. "Come down, my man, and get into
our crew. You've acted man-fashion, and I'll back you up in it."

"Let it stand--let it stand as it is," whispered Barrett, huskily,
clutching at the arm of Britt as that furious gentleman surged past him.
"If we tackle the young fool now he's apt to blab all he knows about me.
It's a ticklish place. Handle it easy."

"I'll handle it to suit myself!" stormed Britt, yanking himself loose.
"You set back there if you want to, and play dry nurse to your
twins--your family scandal on one arm and your governor's boom on the
other. But when it comes to my own crew and my private business, by the
Lord Harry, I'll operate without your advice!"

He began to call on his men, rallying them with shrill cries. He ordered
them to surround the camp and take the rebel. In the next breath he bade
MacLeod to go up the ladder and pull Tommy down.

"Poet" Larry Gorman, who had been gradually edging near the spot which
he had sagely picked as the probable core of conflict, set himself
suddenly before Colin MacLeod as the boss advanced towards Wade with a
look in his eye that was blood-lust. MacLeod had a weather-beaten ash
sled-stake.

"Sure, and a gent like him don't fight with clubs," said Gorman. "We've
all heard about his lickin' ye once, and man-fashion, too! Now, go get
your reputation. Start with me." The redoubtable bard poked his
shillalah into MacLeod's breast and drove him suddenly back. At this
overture of combat the men for Enchanted came up with a rush. They met
the "Busters" face to face and eye to eye.

"We're all axe-tossers together, boys!" cried Gorman. "Ye know me and
you've sung my songs, and ye know there's no truer woodsman than me ever
chased beans round a tin plate. Now, Britt's men, if ye want to fight to
keep a free man a slave when he wants to chuck his job, then come and
fight. But may the good saints put a cramp into the arm of the man that
fights against the interests of woodsmen all together!"

Under most circumstances even such a cogent argument as this would not
have stayed their hands. But coming from Larry Gorman, author of
"Bushmen All," it made even the "Busters" stop and think a moment. And
when MacLeod was first and only in renewing hostilities--obeying Britt's
insistent commands--Gorman again held him off at the end of his
bludgeon, and shouted:

"Oh, my cock partridge, you're only brisk to get into the game because
you're daffy over a girl. You'd wipe your feet on Tommy Eye or any other
honest woodsman to polish your shoes for the courtin' of her."

It was a taunt whose point the "Busters" realized and relished. It was
even more forceful than Larry's first appeal. Some of the men grinned.
All held back. But for MacLeod it was the provocation unforgivable. He
drew back his arm and swept his stake at Larry's head. That master of
stick-play warded and leaped back nimbly.

"Fair, now! Fair!" he cried. "They're all lookin' at us, and there can't
be dirty work." Gorman's face glowed, for he had won his point. His wit
had balked a general combat. His massing fellows had tacitly selected
him as their champion. He had put the thing on a plane where the
"Busters" were a bit ashamed to take part. They turned their backs on
Britt in order to watch the duellists more intently. They knew that
Larry Gorman was vain of two things--his songs and his stick-swinging.

"What say ye to waitin' till your shoulder ain't so stiff?" he inquired,
with pointed reference to the injury MacLeod had received at the hands
of Wade. His mock condolence pricked Colin to frenzy. He drove so
vicious a blow at the bard that when the latter side-stepped the boss
staggered against the side of the camp.

"But sure I can make it even," said Larry, facing him again without
discomposure; "for I'll sing a bit of song for you to dance by."

The merry insolence of this brought a hoarse hoot of delight from both
sides. And pressing upon his foe so actively that the crippled MacLeod
was put to his utmost to ward thwacks off his head and shoulders, this
sprightly Cyrano of the kingdom of spruce carolled after this fashion:

     "Come, all ye good shillaly men.
     Come, lis-ten unto me:
     Old Watson made a walkin'-cane,
     And used a popple-tree.
     The knob it were a rouser--
     A rouser, so 'twas said--
     And when ye sassed old Watson
     He would knock ye on the head."

MacLeod got a tap that made his eyes shut like the snap of a patent
cigar-cutter.

"Chorus!" exhorted the lyrist. And they bellowed jovially:

     "Knick, knock,
     Hickory dock,
     And he'd hit ye on the head!"

Larry leaped back, whirled his stick so rapidly that its bright peeled
surface seemed to spit sparks, and again got over the boss's indifferent
guard with a whack that echoed hollowly.

MacLeod was too angry to retreat. He was too angry to see clearly, and
his brain rang dizzily with the blows he had received. His injured
shoulder ached with the violence of his exertions. But his pride kept
him up, and forced him to meet the fresh attack that Gorman made--an
attack in which that master seemed to be fencing mostly to mark the time
of his jeering song:

     "Old Watson was a good old man,
     And taught the Bible class,
     But he didn't like the story
     Of the jawbone of the ass.
     'Why didn't he make a popple-club,'
     So Uncle Watson said,
     'And scotch the tribe of the Phlistereens
     By bangin' 'em on the head?'"

The blow that time staggered MacLeod.

"Chorus!" called "Poet" Larry. But before he could rap his antagonist at
the end of that roaring iteration the Honorable Pulaski was between
them, having at last contrived to fight his way through the ranks of the
crowding men. He narrowly missed getting the blow intended for the boss.
He yanked the sled-stake out of the nerveless grasp of the sweating and
discomfited MacLeod, and raised it.

"Be careful, Mr. Britt," yelped Gorman. His mien changed from gay
insouciance to bitter fury. "You've struck me once in my life, and I
took it and went on my way, because I was getting your grub and your
pay. You strike me to-day, and I'll split your head open like a rotten
punkin!"

Britt had begun to rant that he could thrash the whole Enchanted crew
single-handed. He was maddened by the lamblike demeanor of his own men.
But he knew a desperate and dangerous man when he saw him. At that
moment Larry Gorman was dangerous. The tyrant lowered his club and
backed away, muttering some wordless recrimination at which the poet
curled his lip. Seeing his chance, Tommy Eye hooked his legs about the
uprights and slid down the ladder with one dizzy plunge, struck the
ground in squatting fashion, and shot head-first into the ranks of his
protectors.

But after that masterly raillery of Gorman's there was no fight left in
the "Busters." And his vengeful bearding of the Honorable Pulaski left
the autocrat himself speechless and helpless.

Tommy Eye's trembling hand fingered his chin, his wistful eyes peered
over the shoulders of his new friends, and he knew he was safe. The
"Busters," nudging each other and growling half-humorous comment, began
to sift out of the yard of the Durfy hovel, and lounge back along the
trail towards the Jerusalem camp.

"D--n ye for cowards!" yelled the Honorable Pulaski, viciously flinging
the ash sled-stake after them.

"Oh, but they're not cowards!" cried Larry. In his bushman's soul he
realized that even now a chance taunt, a random prick of word, might
start the fight afresh. "Every man-jack there is known to me of old, and
the good, brave boys they are! But your money ain't greasy enough, Mr.
Britt, to make good men as them fight to take away a comrade's
man-rights."

The "Busters" nodded affirmation and kept on. One man stepped back and
hallooed: "Right ye are, Larry Gorman! And when ye try to get your
Enchanted logs first through the Hulling Machine next spring, ye'll find
that we're the kind of gristle that can't be chawed. That'll be man's
business, and no Teamster Tommy Eye to stub a toe over!"

There was a grin on the man's face, but none the less it was a
challenge, and Larry accepted it.

"Sure, and we'll be there!" he called. "We'll be there with hair a foot
long, pick-pole[3] in one hand, peavy-stick[4] in the other, ready for a
game of jack-straws in the white water and a fist-jig on the bank!"

[Footnote 3: An ashen pole, shod with an iron screw-point.]

[Footnote 4: The Maine variety of the cant-dog, illustrated on the
cover.]

"And will ye write it all into a song, Larry Gorman?"

"All into a song it shall go!"

And roaring a good-natured cheer over their shoulders, the "Busters"
filed away into the mouth of Pogey Notch.

"You may as well move, boys," ordered Rodburd Ide. "This business here
isn't swampin' yards nor buildin' camps!"

The men for Enchanted cheerfully shouldered dunnage-sacks, and in their
turn set off up the Notch.

"Here's Tommy Eye's bill of his time, Mr. Britt," said Gorman, holding
out a crumpled paper to the choking tyrant. Tommy himself had prudently
departed, bulwarked by his new comrades.

"I'll not pay it!" blustered Britt. "He broke the contract!"

"No more does he want you to pay it," replied Larry, serenely, speaking
in behalf of the amiable prodigal. "He says to credit it on that one
drink of whiskey he took out of your bottle, and when he earns more
money workin' for honest men he'll pay ye the rest."

He tore the paper across and across, snapped the bits in Britt's face,
turned, and followed the crew.



CHAPTER XIX

THE HOME-MAKERS OF ENCHANTED

     "The clank of the press and the scream of the saws,
     The grunt of the grinder that slavers and chaws
     At the fibre o' pulp-wood, the purr of the plane,
     Sing only one song to the big woods o' Maine.
     So here's for a billion down race-way and sluice--
     Hell for the hemlock, the pine, and the spruce."

               --Off for the Woods.


John Barrett was first to break the embarrassed silence that fell upon
the four men left at the camp. Rodburd Ide's brows were wrinkled, and
his lips were parting to ask the questions that his curiosity urged.
Britt was wrathfully gazing after the insolent Larry. Dwight Wade had
taken up his pack and calipers, and was waiting for Ide with some
impatience.

"Mr. Wade," began the Umcolcus baron, nervously, "I hope you will
understand my position in this matter, and see why it was necessary to
make some change in the plan we discussed on Jerusalem."

"I sha'n't try to understand it," snapped Wade. "You volunteered
promises. I took those promises to the person most interested, and
you've seen fit to drop out from under. That ends our business--all the
business we had in common, Mr. Barrett."

But the baron was anxious to placate. He began guarded explanations, to
which Ide was listening intently, but Wade cut them short with a scorn
there was no mistaking.

"The only sort of interest I took in that unfortunate girl has been
maliciously misinterpreted, Mr. Barrett. She was thrown on my hands in a
way that you thoroughly understand. Mr. Ide, as a plantation officer,
has relieved me of the responsibility. You can talk with him hereafter."

"But what--what are you going to say to him?" faltered Barrett, forced
to show his anxious fear, since Wade was moving away.

In his physical weakness, in the illness that was sapping his nerve, he
became wistfully paltering.

"Nothing," replied the young man, curtly, but with a decisiveness there
was no misunderstanding. "The matter has ceased to be any business of
mine. My business hereafter--and I say this to my partner--is concerned
wholly and entirely with certain lumbering operations on Enchanted
township."

He went away, following the crew. Rodburd Ide, eager to be gone, and
seeing in the affair thus flatly dropped by Wade only a phase of the
older animosity between Britt and the young man--a quarrel that might
seek any avenue for expression, even a State pauper--demanded of
Barrett:

"Do you lay any special claim to the girl?" His tone was that of an
official only.

"Of course he doesn't," broke in Britt, seeing that his associate was
groping for a reply. "We did think of trying to help her, but what's the
use? There isn't any more gratitude in that sculch than there is in a
pine knot. Send her back to the tribe."

The little Castonia magnate looked relieved.

"She's all right with my girl till I get home," he said. "Then the
affair will take care of itself, like all those things do."

Barrett had picked up one of the discarded bludgeons and was supporting
himself on it. His legs trembled visibly when he walked to Ide's side.

"Rodburd," he said, appealingly, "I can see that you think this thing
strange. I don't want you to have wrong ideas. You and I have known each
other too long to get into quarrels. You have seen that I have been
trying to smooth matters here to-day. I can't talk it over with you now.
I'm sick--I'm a sick man, Rodburd! I've been through a dreadful
experience up here."

"You don't look well," returned Ide, solicitously, his ever-ready
sympathy enlisted.

Barrett's face was haggard and his eyes were bloodshot. He wavered on
his feet, tipping from heel to toe like a drunken man.

"You ought to get out of these woods as quick as you can," the Castonia
man went on.

Even Britt saw now that his associate was in a bad way. He gave a keen
glance at him, and shouted to MacLeod, who was waiting at the edge of
the woods, "Send back four of my men!"

"I feel dreadfully," mourned Barrett. His grit and his excitement had
been keeping him up. Now, like most strong men who have to confess that
they are conquered, he gave way to his illness with utter abandonment of
courage.

"Mr. Barrett," said Ide, surveying him pityingly, "I can see that you're
a sick man. I don't want to say that to frighten you, but because you
ought to know it. You'd better only try to make Castonia, and have a
doctor sent there. My girl will be there as soon as you are. You go to
my house, and get doctored up before you tackle the trip down-river.
That buckboard ride will kill you if you try it in the shape you're in
now."

"You'd better do as he says, John," advised Britt, checking the timber
baron's feeble protests. "I'm going to have these four men make a litter
for you and lug you. You can stand that sort of ridin', but unless you
are in better shape when you get to Castonia you wouldn't be good for
that stage ride. Use common-sense, and rest up at Rodburd's house."

"Give the men their orders," whispered the little Castonia magnate in an
aside to Britt. "It's fever, and a bad one if I ain't mistaken. By the
time he's got to my place he'll probably be too sick to give any orders
of his own. I never saw a man grow sick so fast. Tell the men to leave
him there." He talked impatiently, for his crew had disappeared up the
trail. "I've got to be hurryin'," he added. "Mr. Barrett, make my home
yours!" he cried over his shoulder, as he trotted off. "I'll be back in
a few days--as soon as I get this crew of mine located."

The four men were already at work securing poles and boughs for the
litter.

Barrett sat down upon a tussock, and held his throbbing head in his
hands. He began weakly to complain that Britt had made a mistake in
bringing his men and insisting on possession of the girl.

The Honorable Pulaski promptly checked the incoherent expostulations of
the stumpage baron.

"No, I haven't committed you, either," he blurted. "Bluff it out! It's
the only way to do. It's the way I advised you to do in the first place.
The thing looks big to you here in the woods. You're down on the level
with it. Get back into the city, and get your tail-coat on and your
dignity, and sit up on top of that governor's boom of yours, and the
story will only be political blackmail if they try it on you. But they
won't. That Wade fellow is one of those righteous sort of asses that
like to read moral lessons to other people, and especially to you, so
he can work out his grudge. But he's all done. I know the sort. The
thing began to scorch his fingers and he chucked it. He's got enough to
attend to in these woods. Don't you worry."

"But I do worry," mourned Barrett. "And there's the girl to consider.
God save me, Pulaski, she's mine! Her looks show it. I can't sleep
nights after this, unless she is taken care of in a decent way."

"There'll be a dozen methods of doin' it when the time is ripe," urged
the other, consolingly. "As it is now, you get out of these woods and
stay out, and attend to your business--which is my business, too, when
it comes to the governor matter. By ----, you've seen enough in this
trip to understand that we haven't got any too safe timber laws as it
is. If the farmers get control next trip it means trouble for such of us
as take to the tall timber. Buck up, man! Don't believe for a minute
that we're goin' to let a college dude and a State pauper queer you. The
thing will work itself out."

He uttered a sudden snort of disgust, gazing over Barrett's shoulder.

"Foolish Abe" of the Skeets had edged out of the bush, the silence after
the uproar of voices and conflict encouraging him. He seemed pitifully
bewildered. An instinct almost canine prompted him to take the trail to
the south, for his only friend, the girl of the tribe, had gone that
way. But a strange female had gone with her, and of strange females he
entertained unspeakable fear.

"Here, you cross-eyed baboon," called the Honorable Pulaski, "go!
Scoot!" He pointed north in the direction in which the Enchanted crew
had disappeared. "Young man want you. Follow him. Stay with him. Run!"
He picked up his discarded sled-stake, and the fool hurried away towards
the Notch. "I'd like to see that human nail-keg plastered onto the
Enchanted crew for the winter," remarked Britt, with malice. "There's no
fillin' him up. He'll eat as much as three men, and that Wade is just
enough of a soft thing not to turn him out. If I can't bore an enemy
with a pod-auger, John, I'll do it with a gimlet--a gimlet will let more
or less blood."

Five minutes later Barrett was borne on his way south, his courage
braced by some final arguments from his iron associate, his mind made up
to adopt the course of indignant bluff suggested by the belligerent
Britt.

And Britt was stumping north, driving the blubbering Abe before him with
sundry hoots and missiles.

When the poor creature came crawling to the fire on hands and knees at
dusk that evening, hairy, pitiable, and drooling with hunger, Rodburd
Ide accepted him with resignation, though he recognized Britt's petty
malice; for unless he were driven, Abe Skeet would never have come past
a well-stocked lumber-camp to follow wanderers into the wilderness.

That night the Enchanted crew camped on Attean Stream, a short day's
journey from their destination. The tired men snatched supper from their
packs and fell back snoring, their heads on their dunnage-bags.

They were away in the first flush of the morning, Rodburd Ide leading
with his partner. Wade welcomed the little man's absorbed interest in
the business ahead of them. Ide asked no questions about the incident at
Durfy's. Wade put the hideous topic as far behind other thoughts as he
could, and soon other thoughts crowded it out.

As they passed from the zone of striped maple, round-wood, witch-hobble,
and mountain holly that Mother Nature had drawn across her naked breast
after the rude hand of Pulaski Britt had stripped the virgin growth,
his heart lifted. Under the great spruces of Enchanted the town's
bricks, streets, and human passions seemed very far away.

Before he slept that night he had had an experience that thrilled the
sense of the primitive self hidden within him, as it is hidden in all
men, and covered by conventions.

He had staked the metes and bounds, the corners, the frontage, all the
dimensions of a new home, where no roof except the crowns of trees had
ever shut sunlight off the earth.

Mankind in general opens eyes within walls that the hands of those
coming before have built.

Many have no occasion to seek ever for other quarters than those their
fathers have given them. With most the limit of exploration is the quest
for a new rental. Mankind who build, build along settled streets, first
taking note that sewers and water systems have been installed.

Even in the woods most crews come up to find that the advance
skirmishers have builded main camp, meal camp, horse-hovels, and wangan.
Owing to the sudden forming of Rodburd Ide's partnership with the young
man whom Fate threw in his way, and his equally sudden determination to
operate on virgin Enchanted, there had been no time for preliminaries.
Even the tote teams with the first of the winter's supplies were miles
away down the trail, for in the woods the human two-foot outclasses the
equine four-foot.

Therefore, Wade, perspiring in the forefront of the toilers, saw the
first tree topple, heard it crash outward from the site of the camp, and
tugged with the others when it was set into place as the sill. When he
stood back and wiped his forehead and gazed on that one lonesome log it
made roofless out-doors seem bigger and more threatening. The rain was
pattering from a cold sky. The thrall of centuries of housed ancestors
was on him. Roof and walls had attached themselves to his sentiency,
even as the shell of the snail is attached to its pulp.

But the next moment Larry Gorman started a song, and the rollicking
hundred men about him took it up and toiled with merry thoughtlessness
of all except that God's good greenwood was about them and God's sky
above them, and Wade bent again to labor, ashamed that he had counted
shingles and plaster as standing for so much.

They put up eight-log walls for the main camp, notching the ends. A
hundred willing men made the buildings grow like toadstools. While the
walls were going up men laid floors of poles shaved flat on one side.
Others brought moss and chinked the spaces between the logs of the
walls. The first team up brought tarred paper and the few boards needed
for tables and like uses. The tarred paper and cedar splints roofed all
comfortably.

The second team brought stove, tin dishes, and raw staples--and cook and
cookee walked behind.

And when old Christopher Straight came at the tail of the procession as
fast as he could hurry back from Castonia settlement, the camps stood
nearly complete under the frown of Enchanted Mountain, Enchanted Stream
gurgling over brown rocks at the door.

The distant whick-whack of axes told where the swampers were clearing
the way, and the tearing crash of trees punctuated the ceaseless "ur-r
rick-raw!" of the cross-cut saws. The only axe scarf on Ide's trees was
the nick necessary to direct their fall. They were felled by the saw.

Two days of exploration on the spruce benches straight back from the
stream showed up several million feet of black growth easily available
for a first season's operation.

Ide, Wade, and old Christopher cruised, pacing parallels and counting
trees. And when they sat down on an outcropping of ledge the young man
made so many sagacious observations that Ide's eyes opened in amazement.

"Where did you learn lumberin'?" he demanded.

"I wasn't aware that I knew it--not as it is viewed from a practical
stand-point," replied Wade, humbly. "I was going to ask you in a moment
if you wouldn't like to have me keep still so that you and Christopher
could talk sense."

"I never heard better opinions on a stand of timber and a lay of land,"
affirmed his partner. "It looks as though you'd been holdin' out on me,"
he added, with a grim smile.

The young man smiled back. There was a certain grateful pride in his
expression.

"I know how old woodsmen look at book-learned chaps, Mr. Ide. Pulaski
Britt told me once. I was simply trying on you a bit of an experiment
with my little knowledge of books. I was waiting to have you and
Christopher pull me up short. I'm rather surprised to find that you
think what I said was good sense. But after a book-fellow has bumped
against practical men like--like Mr. Britt for a time, he begins to
distrust his books. It's simply this way, Mr. Ide: I had a few young men
in my high-school who were interested in forestry of the modern sort,
and I worked with them to encourage them as much as I could. It is
almost impossible for a reading-man in these days not to take an
interest in the protection of our forests, for the folks at Washington
are making it the great topic of the times."

"Well," remarked Ide, with a sigh of appreciation, "I never read a book
on forestry in my life, and I never heard of a lumberman in these parts
who ever had. But if you can get facts like those you've stated out of
books, I reckon some of us better spend our winter evenin's readin'
instead of playin' pitch pede." He got up and gave the young man a
complimenting palm. "Wade," he said, earnestly, "I'll own up that I've
been a little prejudiced against book-fellows myself. Instead of givin'
an ignorant man the contents of the book--the juice of it, as you might
say---in a way that won't hurt, they are so anxious to have him know
that it's book-learnin' they've got, they'll bang him across the face
with it, book-covers and all. I like your knowledge, because it's goin'
to help us in handlin' this thing we've bit off up here. But I'll be
blamed if I don't like your modesty best of all."

He picked up his calipers, stuck them under his arm, and started for
camp with a haste that showed full confidence in his partner's ability.

And the next morning he buttoned the camp letters in his coat, and
started south for Castonia with the outgoing tote team.

"I don't worry about this end," he said, at parting, "and you needn't
worry about mine. Don't be afraid of going hungry. There's nothin' like
full stomachs to make axes and saws run well. It will have to be
hand-to-mouth till snow flies, then I'll slip you in stores enough to
fill that wangan to the roof. Good heart, my boy! We're goin' to make
some money."

Wade followed him to the edge of the clearing with his first sense of
loneliness tugging within him.

"Safe home to you, Mr. Ide," he said, "and my respectful regards to Miss
Nina, if you will take them. I suppose--she will--probably--the girl she
took away--" he stammered.

"By thunder mighty!" cried the Castonia magnate, whirling on him, "I'd
forgotten all about that Skeet girl, or Arden girl, or whatever they
call her."

He eyed the young man with a dawning of his old curiosity, but Wade met
his gaze frankly.

"The affair of the girl is not mine at all," he said. "Simply because
she seemed superior to the tribe she was with, I hoped Mr. Barrett would
do as he partly promised--use a few dollars of his money to help her
from the muck. Such cases appeal to me, because I'm not accustomed to
seeing them, perhaps."

"If my girl is interested in that poor little wildcat, you needn't think
twice about her bein' taken good care of," cried the admiring father.

And gazing into the wholesome eyes and candid face of the little man,
Wade reflected that perhaps Fate had handled a problem better for John
Barrett's abandoned daughter than he himself, in his resentful zeal, had
planned.

He shook Ide's hand hard, and, with the picture of John Barrett's other
daughter in his dimming eyes and the love of John Barrett's other
daughter burning in his lonely heart, he turned back towards the woods,
whose fronded arms, tossing in the October wind, beckoned him to his
duty.



CHAPTER XX

THE HA'NT OF THE UMCOLCUS

     "For even in these days P. I.'s shake
     At word of the phantom of Brassua Lake;
     And all of us know of the witherlick
     That prowls by the shores of the Cup-sup-tic;
     Of the side-hill ranger whose eyeballs gleam
     In the light of the moon at Abol stream."

               --The Ha'nts.


A few days after the men of Enchanted were housed, those who gazed
southeast from the mountain shoulder saw a smear of white on the
horizon. It was the first snow on lofty Katahdin.

Tommy Eye greeted that sight most enthusiastically. Like a good
teamster, he was anxious for "slippin'."

"Bless the saints, old Winter has pitched camp down there, and is mixin'
up a batch of our kind of weather," he said to Wade. "Injun Summer had
better grab up what's left of her flounces and get out from under."

But Winter proceeded about his business with majestic deliberateness. He
patted down the duff under the big trees with beating, sleety rains; and
when the ground was ready for the sowing of the mighty crop, he piled
his banks of clouds up from the south, and, though he gave the coast
folk rain, he brought the men of the north woods what they were longing
for--snow a-plenty; snow that heaped the arms of the spruces, filled
all the air with smothering clouds, and blanketed the ground.

Wade, blinking the big flakes out of his eyes as he breasted the
swirling storm, came across to the main camp from the wangan, his pipe
and tobacco-pouch in hand. He rejoiced in his heart to see the snow
driving so thickly that the camp window was only a blur of yellow light
smudging the whiteness. This first real storm of the winter promised two
feet on a level, and guaranteed the slipping on ram-downs and
twitch-roads.

The cheer of the storm permeated all the camp on Enchanted. The cook
beamed on Wade with floury face. The bare ground had meant bare shelves.
He predicted the first supply-team for the morrow. He had been thriftily
"making a mitten out of a mouse's ear" for several weeks. Tommy Eye,
ploughing back from his good-night visit to the horse-hovel, proclaimed
his general pleasure for two reasons: No more bare-ground dragging for
the bob-sleds; no more too liberal dosing of bread dough with soap to
make the flour "spend" in lighter loaves. "Eats like wind and tastes
like a laundry," Tommy had grumbled.

The boss of the choppers moved along to give Wade the end of the "deacon
seat," and grinned amiably.

"That's a cheerful old song she's singing overhead to-night," he
remarked.

It needed a lumberman's interpretation to give it cheer.

There were far groanings, there were near sighs; there were silences,
when the soft rustle of the snow against the window-glass made all the
sound; there were sudden, tempestuous descents of the wind that rattled
the panes and made the throat of the open stove "whummle" like a
neighing horse.

Wade lighted his pipe with deep content. He enjoyed the rude fraternity
of the big camp. There was but little garrulity. Those who talked did so
in a drawling monotone that was keyed properly to the monotone of the
soughing trees outside--elbows on knees and eyes on the pole floor.
Clamor would not have suited that little patch of light niched in the
black, brooding night of the forest. But there was comfort within. The
blue smoke from pipe bowls curled up and mingled with the shadows
dancing against the low roof. The woollens, hung to dry on the long
poles, draped the dim openings of the bunks. The "spruce feathers"
within were still fresh, and resinous odors struggled against the more
athletic fragrance of the pipes.

Most of the men loafed along the "deacon seat," relaxed in the luxury of
laziness for that precious three hours between supper and nine o'clock.
A few, bending forward to catch the light from the bracket-lamp,
whittled patiently at what lumbermen call "doodahs"--odd little toys
destined for some best girl or admiring youngster at home. "Windy"
McPheters regaled those with an ear for music by cheerful efforts on his
mouth-harp, coming out strong on the tremolo, and jigging the heel of
his moccasined foot for time. And when "Windy" had no more breath left,
"Hitchbiddy" Wagg sang, after protracted persuasion, the only song he
knew--though one song of that character ought to suffice for any man's
musical attainments.

Its length may be understood when it is stated that it detailed all the
campaigns of the first Napoleon, and "Hitchbiddy" sang it doubled
forward, his elbows on his crossed knees, and the toe of his moccasin
flapping for the beat. He came down "the stretch" on the last verse with
vigor and expression:

     "Next at Waterloo those Frenchmen fought,
     Commanded by brave Bonaparte [pronounced 'paught'],
     Assisted by Field Marshal Ney--
       He never was bribed by gold.
     But when Grouchy let the Prussians in
     It broke Napoleon's heart within.
     'Where are my thirty thousand men?
       Alas, stranger, for I am sold.'
     He led one gallant charge across,
     Saying, 'Alas, brave boys, I fear 'tis lost.'
       The field was in confusion with dead and dying woes.
     When the bunch of roses did advance,
     The English entered into France--
       The grand Conversation [_sic_] of Napoleon arose."

To signal that the song was done, "Hitchbiddy" dropped the tune on the
last line, and in calm, direct, matter-of-fact recitative announced that
"the grand Conversation of Napoleon arose." In the fifty years during
which that song has been sung in the Maine lumber-camps, no one has ever
displayed the least curiosity as to that last line. Away back,
somewhere, a singer twisted a nice, fat word of the original song, and
it has stayed twisted, and no one has tried to trouble it by idle
questions.

"Hitchbiddy's" most rapt listener was Foolish Abe of the Skeets. The
shaggy giant squatted behind the stove beside the pile of shavings he
was everlastingly whittling for the cook-fire. It was the only task that
Abe's poor wits could master, and he toiled at it unceasingly, paying
thus and by a sort of canine gratitude for the food he received and the
cast-off clothes tossed to him.

A mumbled chorus of commendation followed the song. But the
chopping-boss, his humorous gaze on the witling, remarked:

"I reckon I'll have to rule that song out, after this, 'Hitchbiddy.'"

"What for?" demanded the amazed songster.

"It seems to have a damaging and cavascacious effect on the giant
intellect of Perfessor Skeet," remarked the boss, with irony. "Look at
him!"

Abe was on his knees, stretching up his neck and twitching his head from
side to side with the air of an agitated fowl.

"We'll make it a rule after this to have only common songs, like Larry
Gorman's," continued the boss, with a quizzical glance at the woodsman
poet. "These high operas are too thrillin'."

But those who stared at Abe promptly saw that his attention was not
fixed on matters within, but without.

"He heard something," muttered one of the men. "He's got ears like a
cat, anyway."

If the giant had heard something it was plain that he heard it again,
for he dropped his knife and scrambled to his feet.

"Me go! Yes!" he roared, gutturally; and, obeying some mysterious
summons, his haste showing its authority, he ran out of the camp.

"Catch that fool!" yelled the boss. But the first of those who tumbled
out into the dingle after him were not quick enough. The night and the
swirling storm had swallowed him. A few zealous pursuers ran a little
way, trying to follow his tracks, lost them, and then came back for
lanterns.

"It's no use, Mr. Wade," advised the boss. "He's got the strength of a
mule and the legs of an ostrich. The men will only be takin' chances for
nothin'. He's gone clean out of his head, and there's no tellin' when
he'll stop."

And Wade regretfully gave orders to abandon the chase. He and the others
stood for a time gazing about them into the storm, now sifting thicker
and swirling more wildly. He was oppressed by the happening, as though
he had seen some one leap to death. What else could a human being hope
for in that waste?

"He's as tough as a bull moose, and just as used to bein' out-doors,"
remarked the boss, consolingly. "When he's had his run he'll smell his
way back."

Teamster Tommy Eye was the most persistent pursuer. He came in, stamping
the snow, after all the others had reassembled in the camp to talk the
matter over.

"Did ye hear it?" demanded Tommy. "I did, and I run like a tiger so I
could say that at last I'd seen one. But I didn't see it. I only heard
it."

"What?" asked Wade, amazed.

"The ha'nt," said Tommy. "I've always wanted to see one. I was first
out, and I heard it."

"What did it sound like?" gasped one of the men, his superstition
glowing in his eyes.

"It's bad luck forever to try to make a noise like a ha'nt," said Tommy,
with decision. "Nor will I meddle with its business--no, s'r. 'Twould
come for me. Take a lucivee, an Injun devil, a bob-sled runner on grit,
and the gabble of a loon, mix 'em together, and set 'em, and skim off
the cream of the noise, and it would be something like the loo-hoo of a
ha'nt. It's awful on the nerves. I reckon I'll take a pull at the old T.
D." He rammed his pipe bowl with a finger that trembled visibly.

"I've seen one," declared, positively, the man who had inquired in
regard to the sound. "I've seen one, but I never heard one holler. I
didn't know it was a ha'nt till I'd seen it half a dozen times."

"Good eye!" sneered Tommy. "What! did it have to come up and introduce
itself, and say, 'Please, Mister MacIntosh, I'm a ha'nt'?"

"I've seen one," insisted the man, sullenly. "I was teamin' for the
Blaisdell Brothers on their Telos operation, and I see it every day for
most a week. It walked ahead of my team close to the bushes, side of the
road, and it was like a man, and it always turned off at the same place
and went into the woods."

"Do you call that a ha'nt--a man walkin' 'longside the road in
daylight--some hump-backed old spruce-gum picker?" demanded Tommy.

"The last time I see it I noticed that it didn't leave any tracks,"
declared the narrator. "It walked right along on the light snow, and
didn't leave any tracks. Funny I didn't notice that before, but I
didn't."

"You sartinly ain't what the dictionary would set down as a hawk-eyed
critter," remarked Tommy, maliciously. "It must have been kind of
discouragin', ha'ntin' you."

"It was a ha'nt," insisted the man, with the same doggedness. "I got
off'n my team right then and there, and got a bill of my time and left,
and the man that took my place got sluiced by the snub-line bustin',
and about three thousand feet of spruce mellered the eternal daylights
out of him. Say what you're a mind to--I saw a thing that walked on
light snow and didn't make tracks, and I left, and that feller got
sluiced--everybody in these woods knows that a feller got killed on
Telos two winters ago."

"Oh, there's ha'nts," agreed Tommy, earnestly. "Mebbe you saw one; only
you got at your story kind of back-ended."

The old teamster had been watching incredulity settle on the face of
Dwight Wade, and this heresy in one to whom his affections had attached
touched his sensitiveness.

"You're probably thinkin' what most of the city folks say out loud to
us, Mr. Wade," he went on, humbly. "They say there ain't any such things
as ha'nts in the woods. It would be easy to say there ain't any bull
moose up here because they ain't also seen walkin' down a city street
and lookin' into store windows. But I'd like to see one of those city
folks try to sleep in the camp that's built over old Jumper Joe's grave
north of Sourdnaheunk."

There was a general mumble of indorsement. It became evident to Wade
that the crew of the Enchanted were pretty stanch adherents of the
supernatural.

"Hitchbiddy" Wagg cleared his throat and sang, for the sake of
verification:

     "He rattled underneath, and he rattled overhead;
       Never in my life was I ever scared so!
     And I did not dast to lay down in that bed
       Where they laid out old Joe."

"They can't use that place for anything but a depot-camp now," stated
Tommy; "and it's a wonder to me that they can even get pressed hay to
stay there overnight."

"Well, from what I know of human nature," smiled Wade, "I should think
that hay and provisions would stay better overnight in a haunted camp
than in one without protection."

He rapped out his pipe ashes on the hearth of the stove and rose to go.

"And don't you believe that it was a ha'nt that called out Foolish Abe?"
asked Tommy, eager to make a convert. "You saw that for yourself, Mr.
Wade."

"I am afraid to think of what may have happened to that poor creature,"
replied Wade, earnestly, looking into the black night through the door
that he had opened. He heard the chopping-boss call: "Nine! Turn in!" as
he strove with the storm between the main camp and the wangan, and when
he stamped into his own shelter the yellow smudge winked out behind
him--such is the alacrity of a sleepy woods crew when it has a boss who
blows out the big lamp on the dot of the hour. He shuddered as he shut
out the blackness. He had no superstitions, but the unaccountable flight
of the witling, and the eerie tales offered in explanation and the
mystic night of storm in that wild forest waste unstrung him. He went to
sleep, finding comfort in the dull glow of the lantern that he left
lighted.

Its glimmer in his eyes when the cook called shrilly in the gray dawn,
"Grub on ta-a-abe!" sent his first thoughts to the wretch who had
abandoned himself to the storm. He hoped to find Abe whittling shavings
in the cook-house.

"No, s'r, no sign of him, hide nor hair," said the cook, shaking his
head. "Reckon the ha'nt flew high with him."

The snow still sifted through the trees--a windless storm now. The
forest was trackless.

"For a man to start out in the woods in that storm was like jumpin' into
a hole and pullin' the hole in after him," observed the chopping-boss.
That remark might have served as the obituary of poor Abe Skeet. The
swampers, the choppers, the sled-tenders, the teamsters, trudging away
to their work, had their minds full of their duties and their mouths
full of other topics during the day.

And all day the cook bleated his cheerful little prophecy in the ears of
the cookee: "The tote team will be in by night." That morning, with his
rolling-pin, he had pounded "hungryman's ratty-too" on the bottom of the
last flour-barrel to shake out enough for his batch of biscuits, and he
burned up the barrel, even though the pessimistic cookee predicted that
"the human nail-kags" would eat both kitchen mechanics if the food gave
out.

Dwight Wade, at nightfall, surveyed the bare shelves of the cook camp
with some misgivings.

"Don't you worry," advised the master of that domain. "Rod Ide ain't
waitin' three weeks for good slippin' jest for the sake of settin' in
his store window and singin' 'Beautiful snow'! He sure got a load of
supplies started on that first skim o' snow, and they're due here
to-night--" The cook paused, kicked at the cookee for slamming the
stove-cover at that crucial moment of listening, and shrilled, "There
she blows!"

Wade heard the jangle of bells, and hastened to meet the dim bulk of the
loaded sled. The driver did not reply to his delighted hail, but before
he had time to wonder at that silence some one struggled out of the
folds of a shrouding blanket and sprang from the sled. It was a woman;
and while he stood and stared at her, she ran to him and grasped his
hands and clung to him in pitiful abandonment of grief.

It was Nina Ide. In the dim light Wade could see tears and heart-broken
woe on her face. He had had some experience with the self-poise of the
daughter of Rodburd Ide. This emotion, which checked with sobs the words
in her throat, frightened him.

"It's a terrible thing, and I don't understand it, Mr. Wade," quavered
the driver. He slipped down from the load and came and stood beside
them. "We was in Pogey Notch, and the wind was blowin' pretty hard
there, and I told the young ladies they'd better cover their heads with
the blankets. And I pulled the canvas over me, 'cause the snow stung so,
and I didn't see it when it happened--and I don't understand it."

"When what happened?" Wade gasped.

"They took her--whatever they was," stated the driver, in awed tones. "I
didn't see 'em or hear 'em take her. And I don't know jest where we was
when they took her. I went back and hunted, but it wasn't any use. They
was gone, and her with 'em. They wasn't humans, Mr. Wade. It was black
art, that's what it was."

"Probably," said Tommy Eye, with deep conviction. He had led the group
that came out of the camp to greet the tote team. "There were ha'nts
here last night. They got Foolish Abe."

"They sartinly seem to mean the Skeet family this time," said the
driver. "It was that Skeet girl--the pretty one that's called Kate--that
they got off'n my team."

The men of the camp, surrounding the new arrivals, surveyed Nina Ide
with respectful but eager curiosity.

"If I was a ha'nt," growled the chopping-boss, "and had my pick, I
reckon I'd have shown better judgment." His remark was under his breath,
and the girl did not hear it. She clung to Wade. Her agitation
communicated itself to him. A sense of calamity told him that there was
trouble deeper than the disappearance of the waif of the Skeet tribe.

Her words confirmed his suspicion. "My God, what are we going to do, Mr.
Wade?" she sobbed. "I planned it; I encouraged her. It was wild,
imprudent, reckless. I ought to have realized it. But I knew how you
felt towards her. I wanted to help her and--and you!"

Something in the horror of her wide-open eyes told him plainly now that
this could not be merely the question of the loss of one of the Skeets.
And with that conviction growing out of bewildered doubt, he went with
her when she led him away towards the office camp. A suspicion wild as a
nightmare flashed into his mind. In the wangan she faced him, as
woe-stricken, as piteously afraid, as though she were confessing a crime
against him.

"It was John Barrett's daughter Elva on that team with me," she choked.
"She wanted to come--but I'll be honest with you, Mr. Wade. She wouldn't
have come if I hadn't encouraged her--yes, put the idea into her head
and the means into her hands. I've been a fool, Mr. Wade, but I'll not
be a coward and lie about my responsibility."

He gazed at her, his face ghastly white in the lantern-light.

"She wanted to--she was coming here--she is lost?" he mumbled, as though
trying to fathom a mystery.

Infinite pity replaced the distraction in the girl's face.

"Forgive me, Mr. Wade!" she cried. "Not for my folly--you can't overlook
that. Forgive me for wasting time. But I didn't know how to say it to
you." She put her woman's weakness from her, though the struggle was a
mighty one, and her face showed it. "I won't waste any more words, Mr.
Wade. John Barrett has been at my father's house for weeks. He has been
near death--he is near death now, but the big doctors from the city say
that he will get well. He must have been through some terrible trouble
up here."

She looked at him with questioning gaze, as though to ask how much he
knew of the strain that had prostrated John Barrett, the stumpage king.

"He was in great danger--and his exposure--" stammered Wade.

But she went on, hurriedly:

"It was fever, and it went to his head, and he talked and raved. His
daughter came from the city and nursed him, and she has heard him
talking, talking, talking, all the time--talking about you, and how you
saved him from the fire; talking about a woman who is dead and a man who
is alive, and a girl--"

"Does Elva Barrett--know?" he demanded, hoarsely.

"It was too plain not to know--after she saw that girl, Mr. Wade. The
girl was there at our house--she is there now. It isn't all clear to us
yet. We have only the ravings of a sick man--and the face of that girl.
Father doesn't understand all of it, either. But he knows that you do,
although you haven't told him." She clutched her trembling hands to hold
them steady. "And he has talked and talked of other things, Mr.
Wade--the sick man has. He has said that you have his reputation, and
his prospects, and the happiness of his family all in your hands, and
that you are waiting to ruin him because he has abused you; and he has
tossed in his bed and begged some one to come to you and promise
you--buy you--coax you--"

"It's a cursed lie--infernal, though a sick man babble it!" Wade cried,
heart-brokenly. "It holds me up as a blackmailer, Miss Nina. It makes me
seem a wretch in Elva's eyes. And yet--was she--was she coming here
thinking I was that kind--coming here to beg for her father?" he
demanded.

"We--I--oh, I don't like to tell you we believed that of you," the girl
sobbed. "No, I didn't believe it. But if you had only heard him lying
there talking, talking! And you were the one that he seemed to fear. And
we thought if you knew of it you wouldn't want him to worry that way.
And if we could carry back some word of comfort from you to him--She
wanted to come to you, Mr. Wade, and I encouraged her and helped her to
come--because--because--" The girl caught her breath in a long sob, and
cried: "She loves you, Mr. Wade! And I've pitied you and her ever since
that day in the train when I found out about it."

It was not a moment to analyze emotions. Nina Ide, in her ingenuous
declaration of Elva Barrett's motives in seeking him, had made his heart
for an instant blaze with joy. For that instant he forgot the shame of
the baseless babblings of the sick man, the awful mystery of Elva
Barrett's disappearance. The blow of it--that Elva Barrett was
gone--that she was somewhere in those woods alone, or worse than alone,
had stunned him at first. Groping out of that misery, striving to
realize what it meant, he had faced first the hideous thought that she
might believe him mean enough to seek revenge. Then came the dazzling
hope that Elva Barrett so loved him that she adventured--imprudently and
recklessly, but none the less bravely--in order to make her love known.
Then over all swept the black bitterness of the calamity.

"But you must have some suspicion--some hint how she was taken or how
she went!" he cried. "In Heaven's name, Miss Nina, think! think! You
heard some outcry! There was some hidden rock or stump to jar the sled!
The man did not search along the road far enough! She must be
lost--lost!" and his voice rose almost to a shriek.

"There was no cry, Mr. Wade. And I went back with the man. We searched;
we called--we even went as far as the place where we covered ourselves
with the blankets. We could find no track, and the snow was driving and
sifting. The man does not know it was Elva Barrett," she added.

He suddenly remembered the driver's statement.

"She came in Kate Arden's clothes," confided the girl. "Those who saw
her ride out of Castonia, Mr. Wade, thought it was Kate Arden. And Kate
Arden, in Elva Barrett's dress, is sitting now beside John Barrett,
holding his hand, and his daughter's face has soothed him. He thinks it
is his daughter beside him. They are so like, Kate and Elva. We waited
until we had made sure. It was my plan. And Kate obeyed me. I don't know
what she is thinking of. She is sullen and silent, but she took the
place by his bed when I told her to. Then it could not be said that John
Barrett's daughter had come seeking Dwight Wade."

Even in this stress he could still feel gratitude for the subterfuge
that checked the tongues of gossip.

"I wish father had more authority over me," sobbed the girl. "He
wouldn't have let us come on such a crazy errand if I hadn't bossed him
into it." The lament was so guilelessly feminine that Wade put aside his
own woe for the moment to think of the girl's distress.

"This will be your home until I can send you back, Miss Nina," he said,
gently. "I will have old Christopher bring in your supper and mend your
fire."

"And about her, Mr. Wade?" she cried.

"I'm going," he said, simply, but with such earnestness that her eyes
flooded again with tears.



CHAPTER XXI

THE MAN WHO CAME FROM NOWHERE

     "He hadn't a word for no one, not even for me or Mike,
     And whenever we spoke or tried to joke, he growled like a
       Chessy tyke."


Dwight Wade found a lively conference in progress in the main camp.

Tommy Eye was doing most of the talking, and it was plain that his
opinions carried weight, for no one presumed to gainsay him.

"And I'll say to you what I'm tellin' to them here, Mr. Wade," continued
the teamster. "You saw for yourself what happened here last night. A
ha'nt done it. And the ha'nt done this last. They're pickin' Skeets
right and left."

"Ha'nt must be in the pay of Pulaski D. Britt," remarked one rude joker.
"He's been the one most interested in gettin' the tribe out of this
section."

Dwight Wade, love and awful fear raging in his heart, was in no mood to
play dilettante with the supernatural, nor to relish jokes.

"We'll have done with this foolishness, men!" he cried, harshly. "A girl
has been lost in these woods." He was protecting Elva Barrett's
incognito by a mighty effort of self-repression. The agony of his soul
prompted him to leap, shouting, down the tote road, calling her name and
crying his love and his despair. "I want this crew to beat the woods and
find her."

"She can't ever be found," growled a prompt rebel. "I heard the driver
tell. She was picked right up and lugged off. There ain't any of us got
wings."

"Oh, you've got to admit that there are ha'nts!" persisted Tommy, with
fine relish for his favorite topic. "And they pick up people. I see one,
in the shape of a tree, pick up an ox once and break his neck."

"D--n you for drooling idiots!" raved Wade, beside himself. It was the
first outlet for the storm of his feelings.

He ordered them to get lanterns and start on the search--he strode among
them with brandished fists and whirling arms, and they dodged from in
front of him, staring in amazement.

"My Gawd," mourned Tommy, "this camp has had the spell put on it for
sure! The ha'nt has driv' the boss out of his head, and will have him
next. And if it can drive a college man out of his head, what chance has
the rest of us got?"

Panic was writ large in the faces of the simple woodsmen, and fear
glittered in their eyes. A single queer circumstance would merely have
set them to wondering; but these unexplainable events, following each
other so rapidly and taking ominous shade from the glass that lugubrious
Tommy Eye held over them, shook them out of self-poise. It needed but
one voice to cry, "The place is accursed!" to precipitate a rout, and
old Christopher Straight had the woodsman's keen scent for trouble of
this sort.

"A moment! A moment, Mr. Wade!" he called. He patted the young man's
elbow and urged him towards the door. "I want to speak to you. Keep
quiet, my men, and go in to your supper."

As he passed the cook-house door he sharply ordered the cook to sound
the delayed call--the cook being then engaged in discussing, with
chopping-boss and cookee, a certain "side-hill lounger," a ha'nt that
wrought vast mischief of old along Ripogenus gorge.

"Mr. Wade," advised the old man, when they were apart from the camp,
"I'm sorry to see you get so stirred up over the Skeet girl, for I don't
believe she appreciates your kindness. I have this matter pretty well
settled in my own mind. I don't know just why Miss Nina is up here, nor
why she has brought that girl back--or tried to. It is plain, though,
that the girl has deceived her."

"I don't understand," quavered Wade, struggling between his own
knowledge and old Christopher's apparent certainty.

"The Skeet girl, having her own reasons for wanting to come this way
from Castonia, got as far as Pogey Notch, slipped off the team, and made
her way to Britt's camp on Jerusalem to join Colin MacLeod. It's all a
put-up job, Mr. Wade, and they've simply done what they set out to do in
the first place, when Britt and his crew followed John Barrett and me to
Durfy's. So I wouldn't worry any more about the girl, Mr. Wade. Let her
stay where she plainly wants to stay."

Wade blurted the truth without pausing to weigh consequences. He
bitterly needed an adviser. Old Christopher's calm confidence in his own
theory pricked him.

"Great God, man, it isn't the Skeet girl! It is John Barrett's
daughter--his daughter Elva!"

For a moment Christopher gasped his amazement, without words.

"There have been strange things happening outside since we've been
locked in here away from the news," the young man went on, excitedly.
"It is Elva Barrett, I tell you, Christopher, and she has been stolen."

"Then it's a part of the plot--somehow--someway," insisted the old man.
"Colin MacLeod, or some one interested for Colin MacLeod, saw that
girl, and took her for the Skeet girl. I've never seen Elva Barrett, but
you've told me that the Skeet girl is her spittin' image--or words to
that effect," corrected the old guide.

"And she was dressed in Kate Arden's clothes!" groaned Wade, remembering
Nina Ide's little scheme of deception.

"Then she's at Britt's camp--mistaken for the Skeet girl, as I said,"
declared Straight, with conviction.

"But hold on!" he cried, grasping Wade's arm as the young man was about
to rush back into the camp, "that's no way to go after that girl--hammer
and tongs, mob and ragtag. In the first place, Mr. Wade, those men in
there are in no frame of mind to be led off into the night. I know
woodsmen. They've been talkin' ha'nts till they're ready to jump ten
feet high if you shove a finger at 'em. This is no time for an army--an
army of that caliber. They know well enough now at Britt's camp that it
isn't Kate Arden. And I'll bet they're pretty frightened, now that they
know who they've got. It's a simple matter, Mr. Wade. I'll go to Britt's
camp and get the young lady. I'll go now on snow-shoes and take the
moose-sled, and I'll be back some time to-morrow all safe and happy."

"I'll go with you," declared Wade.

"It isn't best," protested the old man. "I've no quarrel with Colin
MacLeod. It means trouble if you show in sight there without your men
behind you."

"But I'm going," insisted Wade, with such positiveness that old
Christopher merely sighed. "I'll let you go into the camp alone,"
allowed Wade, "for I am not fool enough to look for trouble just to find
it; but I'll be waiting for you up the tote road with the moose-sled,
and I'll haul her home here out of that hell."

"I can't blame you for wantin' to play hoss for her," said the woodsman,
with a little malice in his humor. "And if she is like most girls
she'll be willin' to have you do it."

Ten minutes later the two were away down the tote road. They said
nothing of their purpose except to Nina Ide, whom they left intrenched
in the wangan--a woods maiden who felt perfectly certain of the chivalry
of the men of the woods about her.

The storm was over, but the heavens were still black. Wade dragged the
moose-sled, walking behind old Christopher in the patch of radiance that
the lantern flung upon the snow. Treading ever and ever on the same
whiteness in that little circle of light, it seemed to Wade that he was
making no progress, but that the big trees were silently crowding their
way past like spectres, and that he, for all his passion of fear and
foreboding, simply lifted his feet to make idle tracks. The winds were
still, and the only sounds were the rasping of legs and snow-shoes, and
the soft thuddings of snow-chunks dropped from the limbs of overladen
trees.

In the first gray of the morning, swinging off the tote road and down
into the depths of Jerusalem valley, they at last came upon the
scattered spruce-tops and fresh chips that marked the circle of Britt's
winter operation.

The young man's good sense rebuked his rebelliousness when Christopher
took the cord of the sled and bade him wait where he was.

"I don't blame you for feeling that way," said the old man, interpreting
Wade's wordless mutterings; "but the easiest way is always the best. If
she is there she will want to come with me, where Miss Ide is waiting
for her, and the word of the young lady will be respected. I'm afraid
your word wouldn't be--not with Colin MacLeod," he added, grimly.

And yet Dwight Wade watched the lantern-light flicker down the valley
with a secret and shamed feeling that he was a coward not to be the
first to hold out a hand of succor to the girl he loved. That he had to
wait hidden there in the woods while another represented him chafed his
spirits until he strode up and down and snarled at the reddening east.

At last the waiting became agony. The sun came up, its light quivering
through the snow-shrouded spruces. Below him in the valley he heard
teamsters yelping at floundering horses, the grunting "Hup ho!" of
sled-tenders, and the chick-chock of axes. It was evident that the visit
of Christopher Straight had not created enough of a sensation to divert
Pulaski Britt's men from their daily toil. Wade's hurrying thoughts
would not allow his common-sense to excuse the old man's continued
absence. To go--to tear Elva Barrett from that hateful place--to rush
back--what else was there for Straight to do? In the end the goads of
apprehension were driving him down the trail towards the camp,
regardless of consequences.

But when, at the first turn of the road, he saw Christopher plodding
towards him, he ran back in sudden tremor. He wanted to think a moment.
There was so much to say. The old man came into sight again, near at
hand, before Wade had control of the tumult of his thoughts.

The sled was empty.

Christopher scuffed along slowly, munching a biscuit.

"They wouldn't let her go? I--I thought they had made you stay--you were
so long!" gasped the young man, trying by words of his own to calm his
fear.

"She isn't there, Mr. Wade," said the old man, finishing his biscuit,
and speaking with an apparent calmness which maddened the young man.
This old man, placidly wagging his jaws, seemed a part of the stolid
indifference of the woods.

"I brought you something to eat, Mr. Wade," Christopher went on. He
fumbled at his breast-pocket. "We've got tough work ahead of us. You
can't do it on an empty stomach."

"My God! what are you saying, Straight?" demanded the young man.
"They're lying to you. She is there. She must be. There's no one--"

"And I say she isn't there," insisted Christopher, with quiet firmness.
"I know what I'm talking about. You're only guessin'."

"They lied to you to save themselves."

"Mr. Wade, I know woodsmen better than you do. There are a good many
things about Colin MacLeod that I don't like. But when it came to a
matter of John Barrett's daughter Colin MacLeod would be as square as
you or I."

"You told them it was John Barrett's daughter?"

"I did not," said the old man, stoutly. "There was no need to. If it had
been John Barrett's daughter she would have been queening it in those
camps when I got there. She hadn't been there. There has been no woman
there. Colin MacLeod and his men didn't take Miss Barrett from that tote
team. And I've made sure of that point because I knew my men well enough
to make sure. She isn't there!"

"There is no one else in all these woods to trouble her," declared Wade,
brokenly.

"No one knows just who and what are movin' about these woods," said
Christopher, in solemn tones. "In forty years I've known things to
happen here that no one ever explained. Hold on, Mr. Wade!" he cried,
checking a bitter outburst. "I'm not talking like Tommy Eye, either! I'm
not talking about ha'nts now. But, I say, strange things have happened
in these woods--and a strange thing has happened this time. Barrett's
daughter is gone. She's been taken. She didn't go by herself." He gazed
helplessly about him, searching the avenues of the silent woods.

"North or east, west or south!" he muttered, "It's a big job for us, Mr.
Wade! I'm goin' to be honest with you. I don't see into it. You'd better
eat."

The young man pushed the proffered food away.

"You eat, I say," commanded old Christopher, his gray eyes snapping.
"An empty gun and an empty man ain't either of 'em any good on a
huntin'-trip."

He started away, dragging the sled, and Wade struggled along after him,
choking down the food.

When they had retraced their steps as far as the Enchanted tote road,
Christopher turned to the south and trudged towards Pogey Notch. The
trail of the tote team was visible in hollows which the snow had nearly
filled. The snow lay as it had fallen. The tops of the great trees on
either side of the road sighed and lashed and moaned in the wind that
had risen at dawn. But below in the forest aisles it was quiet.

Had not the wind been at their backs, whistling from the north, the
passage of Pogey Notch would have proved a savage encounter. The
stunted growth offered no wind-break. The great defile roared like a
chimney-draught. As the summer winds had howled up the Notch, lashing
the leafy branches of the birches and beeches, so now the winter winds
howled down, harpers that struck dismal notes from the bare trees. The
snow drove horizontally in stinging clouds. The drifting snow even made
the sun look wan. The quest for track, trail, or clew in that storm
aftermath was waste of time. But the old man kept steadily on, peering
to right and left, searching with his eyes nook and cross-defile, until
at the southern mouth of the Notch they came to Durfy's hovel.

Christopher took refuge there, leaning against the log walls, and mused
for a time without speaking. Then he bent his shrewd glance on Wade
from under puckered lids.

"There's no telling what a lunatic will do next, is there?" he blurted,
abruptly.

Wade, failing to understand, stared at his questioner.

"I was thinkin' about that as we came past that place where 'Ladder'
Lane trussed up John Barrett and left him, time of the big fire," the
old man went on. "Comin' down the Notch sort of brought the thing up in
my mind. It's quite a grudge that Lane has got against John Barrett and
all that belongs to him."

Wade was well enough versed in Christopher Straight's subtle fashion of
expressing his suspicions to understand him now.

"By ----, Straight, I believe you've hit it!" he panted.

"I've been patchin' a few things together in my head," said the old man,
modestly, "as a feller has to do when dealin' with woods matters. I've
told you that queer things have happened in the woods. When a number of
things happen you can fit 'em together, sometimes. Now, there wasn't
anything queer at Britt's camps to fit into the rest. I came right on
'em sudden, and there wasn't a ripple anywhere. I didn't go into the
details, Mr. Wade, in tellin' you why I knew Miss Barrett wasn't there.
It would have been wastin' time. But now take the queer things! Out goes
Abe Skeet into the storm! Who would be mousin' around outside at that
time of night except a lunatic--such as 'Ladder' Lane has turned into
since the big fire? You saw on Jerusalem how Lane could boss Abe--he
jumped when Lane pulled the string.

"And it was Lane that called him out of our camp," the old man went on.
"No one else could do it--except that old Skeet grandmother. Lane has
been in these woods ever since he abandoned the Jerusalem fire station.
He's no ordinary lunatic. He's cunnin'. He's only livin' now to nuss the
grudge. Now see here!" Christopher held up his fingers, and bent them
down one by one to mark his points. "He has ha'nted camps in this
section to locate Abe Skeet. Knowed Abe Skeet could probably tell where
Kate Arden had gone, Abe havin' been left to guard her. Called Abe out
to go with him to get that girl back--maybe havin' heard that John
Barrett got out of these woods scot-free and had dumped the girl off
somewhere else. Lane is lunatic enough to think he needs the girl to
carry out his plan of revenge. And he does, if he means to take her
outside and show her to the world as John Barrett's abandoned daughter,
as it's plain his scheme is. Lane and Abe started down towards Castonia.
Heard tote team, and hid side of road (would naturally hide). Saw girl
that looked like Kate Arden (even dressed in her clothes, I believe you
told me?). Followed the team, and when she covered herself in the
blanket, as though to make herself into a package ready for 'em, they
grabbed her off the team before she had time to squawk. Had her ready
muzzled and gagged, as you might say! Mr. Wade, as I told you, I've been
patchin' things in my mind. I ain't a dime-novel detective nor anything
of the sort, but I do know something about the woods and who are in 'em
and what they'll be likely to do, and I can't see anything far-fetched
in the way I've figgered this."

While his fears had been so hideously vague Wade had stumbled on behind
his guide without hope, and with his thoughts whirling in his head as
wildly as the snow-squalls whirled in Pogey. Now, with definite point on
which to hang his bitter fears, he was roused into a fury of activity.

"We'll after them, Christopher!" he shouted. "They've got her! It's just
as you've figured it. They've got her! She will die of fright, man! I
don't dare to think of it!" He was rushing away. Christopher called to
him.

"Just which way was you thinkin' of goin'?" he asked, with mild sarcasm.
"I can put queer things together in my mind so's to make 'em fit pretty
well," went on the old man, "but jest which way to go chasin' a lunatic
and a fool in these big woods ain't marked down on this snow plain
enough so I can see it."

Wade, the cord of the moose-sled in his trembling hands, turned and
stared dismally at Straight. The old man slowly came away from the
hovel, his nose in the air, as though he were sniffing for inspiration.

"The nearest place," he said, thinking his thoughts aloud, "would be to
the fire station up there." He pointed his mittened hand towards the
craggy sides of Jerusalem. "They may have started hot-foot for the
settlement. Perhaps 'Ladder' Lane would have done that if 'twas Kate
Arden he'd got. But seein' as it's John Barrett's own daughter--" He
paused and rubbed his mitten over his face. "Knowin' what we do of the
general disposition of old Lane, it's more reasonable to think that he
ain't quite so anxious to deliver that particular package outside,
seein' that he can twist John Barrett's heart out of him by keepin' her
hid in these woods."

The young man had no words. His face pictured his fears.

"It's only guesswork at best, Mr. Wade," said Christopher. "It's tough
to think of climbin' to the top of Jerusalem on this day, but it seems
to me it's up to us as men." They looked at each other a moment, and the
look was both agreement and pledge. They began the ascent, quartering
the snowy slope. The dogged persistence of the veteran woodsman animated
the old man; love and desperation spurred the younger. The climb from
bench to bench among the trees was an heroic struggle. The passage
across the bare poll of the mountain in the teeth of the bitter blast
was torture indescribable. And they staggered to the fire station only
to find its open doors drifted with snow, its two rooms empty and
echoing.

"I was in hopes--in hopes!" sighed the old man, stroking the frozen
sweat from his cheeks. "But I ain't agoin' to give up hopes here,
sonny." Even Wade's despair felt the soothing encouragement in the old
man's tone.

"We've got to fetch Barnum Withee's camp on 'Lazy Tom' before we sleep,"
said the guide. "There'll be something to eat there. There may be news.
We've got to do it!" And they plodded on wearily over the ledges and
down the west descent.

They made the last two miles by the light of their lantern, dragging
their snow-shoes, one over the other, with the listlessness of
exhaustion. The cook of Withee's camp stared at them when they stumbled
in at the door of his little domain, their snow-shoes clattering on the
floor. He was a sociable cook, and he remarked, cheerily, "Well, gents,
I'm glad to see that you seem to be lookin' for a hotel instead of a
horsepittle."

Not understanding him, they bent to untie the latchets of their shoes
without reply.

"T'other one is in the horsepittle," said the cook, jerking his thumb
over his shoulder in the direction of his bunk in the lean-to. "He was
brought in. I've been lookin' for something of the sort ever since he
skipped from the Jerusalem station. Lunatics ain't fit to fool 'round in
the woods," he rambled on.

"Who've you got in there?" demanded Christopher, snapping up from his
fumbling at the rawhide strings.

"Old 'Ladder' Lane," replied the cook, calmly. "Murphy's down-toter
brought him here just before dark. He's pretty bad. Froze up
considerable. Toter heard him hootin' out in the swirl of snow on the
Dickery pond and toled him ashore by hootin' back at him. No business
tryin' to cross a pond on a day like this! 'Tain't safe for a young man
with all his wits, let alone an old man who has beat himself all out
slam-bangin' round these woods this winter.

"Yes, he's pretty bad. Done what I could for him, me and cookee, by
rubbin' on snow and ladlin' ginger-tea into him, but when it come to
supper-time them nail-kags of mine had to be 'tended to, and here's
bread to mix for to-morrow mornin'. We don't advertise a horsepittle,
gents, but you wait a minute and I'll scratch _you_ up somethin' for
supper. The horsepittle will have to run itself for a little while."

Wade and the old man stared at each other stupidly while the cook
bustled about his task. For the moment their thoughts were too busy for
words. Even Christopher's whitening face showed the fear that had come
upon him.

"Guess old Lane was comin' out to get a letter onto the tote team,"
gossiped the cook. "I was lookin' through his coat after I got it off
and found that one up there."

He nodded at a grimy epistle stuck in a crevice of the log, and went
down into a barrel after doughnuts which he piled on a tin plate.

Noiselessly Christopher strode to the log and took down the letter and
stared at the superscription, and without a word displayed the writing
to Wade. It was addressed to John Barrett at his city address.

The cook was busy at the table.

"By Cephas, this is _our_ business!" muttered the old man. And, turning
his back on the cook, he ripped open the envelope. On a wrinkled leaf
torn from an account-book was pencilled this message:

"_You stole my wife. I've got your daughter. Now, damn you, crawl and
beg!_"

"Look here, cook," called Straight, sharply, "there's bad business mixed
up with Lane. Don't ask me no questions." He flapped the open letter
into the astonished face of the man to check his words. "We've got to
speak to Lane, and speak mighty quick."

"He was in a sog when I put him to bed," said the cook. "Didn't know
what, who, or where. They say lunatics want to be woke up careful. You
let me go." He took a doughnut from the plate and started for the
lean-to, grinning back over his shoulder. "He may be ready to set up,
take notice, and brace himself with a doughnut."

The two men waited, eager, silent, hoping, fearing--each framing such
appeal as might touch the heart of this revengeful maniac.

They heard the cook utter a snort of surprise; then they saw the flame
of a match shielded by his palm. A moment later he came out and stood
looking at them with a singularly sheepish expression.

"Gents," he blurted, "I'll be cussed if the joke ain't on me this time!
I went in there to give the horsepittle patient a fresh-laid doughnut to
revive his droopin' heart, and--"

"Is that man gone?" bawled Christopher, reaching for his snow-shoes.

"Yes," said the cook, grimly; "but you can't chase him on snow--not
where he's gone. He's deader'n the door-knob on a hearse-house door."



CHAPTER XXII

THE HOSTAGE OF THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE

     "Round the bellowin' falls of Abol we lugged him through the
       brush,
     And Death had marked his forehead: 'To a Woman. Kindly
       Rush!'"


When Christopher and Wade started up and hurried into the lean-to, the
cook of the "Lazy Tom" camp went ahead carrying a lamp to light the
place whose rude interior had so suddenly been made mystic by death.

"'Yes, s'r,' says I to him," he repeated, with queer, bewildered,
hysterical sort of chuckle. "I says to him, jolly as a chipmunk in a
beech-nut tree, I says, 'Set up and have a doughnut all fresh laid,' and
I'll be bunga-nucked if he wa'n't dead! And that's a joke on me, all
right!"

He held the lamp over the features of old "Ladder" Lane, and Dwight Wade
and Christopher Straight bent and peered.

"Look; if he ain't grinnin'!" whispered the cook, huskily. For one
horrid moment it seemed to Wade that the fixed grimace of the death-mask
expressed hideous mirth. The scrawl that the young man still clutched
in his fist held the words that the dead lips seemed to be mouthing:
"You stole my wife. I've got your daughter. Now, damn you, crawl and
beg!" And at the thought of Elva Barrett, hidden, lost--worse than
lost--somewhere in that great silence about them, Wade's agony and anger
found vent in the oath that he groaned above the dead man, who seemed to
lie there and mock him.

But Christopher Straight gently laid his seamed hand on the shaggy
fringe of the gray poll.

"It was a hot fire that burned in there, poor old fellow," he murmured.
"And those that knew you can't be sorry that it's gone out."

He pressed his hand up under the hanging jaw, and smoothed down the
half-opened eyelids. And when he stepped back, after his sad and kindly
offices, the old man's face was composed; it was the worn, wasted face
of an old man who had suffered much; grief, hardship, hunger, and all
human misery were writ large there in pitiful characters, in hollow
temple, sunken cheeks, pinched nostrils, and lips drawn as one draws
them after a bitter sob. And over its misery, after a long look of
honest grief, the old woodsman drew up the edge of the bunk's worn gray
blanket, muttering as soothingly as though he were comforting a sick
man: "Take your rest, old fellow! There's a long night ahead of you."

With bowed head Wade led the way into the main camp. He stumbled along
blindly, for the sudden tears were hot in his eyes. He regretted that
instant of anger as a profanation that even his harrowing fears for Elva
Barrett could not excuse. For Linus Lane, lying there dead, he
reflected, was the spoil of the lust of Elva Barrett's father, as his
peace of mind and his sanity had been playthings of John Barrett's
contemptuous indifference; and who was he, Dwight Wade, that he should
sit in judgment, even though his heart were bursting with the agony of
his fears?

"In the woods a tree falls the way of the axe-scarf, Mr. Wade," said old
Christopher, patting his shoulder. "John Barrett felled that one in
there, and he and his got in the way of it. Don't blame the tree, but
the man that chopped it."

"Where is she, Christopher? What has he done with her?" demanded the
young man, hoarsely. He did not look up. His eyes were full. He was
trying to unfold the scrap of paper, but his fingers trembled so
violently that he tore it.

They had not marked the hasty exit of the cook. But his return broke in
upon the long hush that had fallen between Wade and the woodsman. He was
bringing Barnum Withee, operator on "Lazy Tom," and his chopping-boss,
and the men of "Lazy Tom" came streaming behind, moved by curiosity.

"And I says to him--and these gents here will tell you the same--I says,
'Set up and have a fresh-laid doughnut!'" babbled the cook, retailing
his worn story over and over.

"I didn't know you were here," said the hospitable head of the camp,
"till cook passed it to me along with the other news, that poor Lane had
parted his snub-line. I looked him over when he was brought in, but I
didn't see any chance for him." And after inviting them to eat and make
"their bigness" in the office camp, he went on into the lean-to.

"Put on your cap, boy!" said old Christopher, touching Wade's elbow. The
grumble of many voices, the crowd slowly jostling into the camp, the
half-jocose comments on "Ladder" Lane disturbed and distressed
Christopher, and he realized that the young man was suffering acutely
from a bitter cause. "Come out with me for a little while."

The wind had lulled. The heavens were clear. The Milky Way glowed with
dazzling sheen above the forest's nicking, where the main road led.
Wherever the eye found interstice between the fronds of spruce and
hemlock the stars spangled the frosty blue. There was a hush so profound
that a listener heard the pulsing of his blood. And yet there was
something over all that was not silence, nor yet a sound, but a
rhythmical, slow respiration, as though the world breathed and one heard
it, and, hearing it, could believe that nature was mortal--friend or
kin.

Christopher walked to the first turn of the logging-road, and the young
man followed him; and when the trees had shut from sight the snow-heaped
roofs and the yellow lights and all sign of human neighbors, Christopher
stopped, leaned against a tree, and gazed up at the sparkling heavens.

"I reckoned your feelings was gettin' away from you a bit, Mr. Wade,"
said the old man, quietly, "and I thought we'd step out for a while
where we can sort of get a grip on somethin' stationary, as you might
say. In time of deep trouble, when they happen to be round, a chap feels
inclined to grab holt of poor human critters, but they ain't much of a
prop to hang to. Not when there's the big woods!"

"The big woods have got her, Christopher," choked the young man,
despairingly. "And I'm afraid!"

"The big woods look savagest to you when you're peekin' into them from a
camp window in the night," declared the old man. "But when you're right
in 'em, like we are now, they ain't anything but friendly. Look around
you! Listen! There's nothing to be afraid of. Let the big woods talk to
you a moment, my boy. Forget there are men for just a little while. I've
let the woods talk to me in some of the sore times in my life, and
they've always comforted me when I really set myself to listen."

"My God, I can only hear the words that are written on this scrap of
paper!" cried Wade. He shook "Ladder" Lane's crumpled letter before the
woodsman's face, and Christopher quietly reached for it, took it, and
tore it up.

"When a paper talks louder than the good old woods talk, it's time to
get rid of it," he remarked, and tossed the bits over the snow.

"I ain't goin' to tell you not to worry," Christopher went on, after a
time. "I'm no fool, and you're no fool. It's a hard proposition, Mr.
Wade. A lunatic whirling in a snow-cloud like a leaf, round and round,
and then driftin' out, and no way in the world of tellin' where he came
from! And there's some one--off that way he came from--that you want
terrible bad! Yet even that lunatic's tracks have been patted smooth by
the wind. It's no time to talk to human critters, Mr. Wade. It would be
'Run this way and run that!' Let the woods talk to you! They've been
wrastlin' the big winds all day. They'll probably have to wrastle 'em
again to-morrow. And they'll be ready for the fight. Hear 'em sleep? The
same for you and for me, Mr. Wade. Go in and sleep, and be ready for
what comes to-morrow."

He walked ahead, leading the way back to camp, and Wade followed, every
aching muscle crying for rest, though his heart, aching more poignantly,
called on him to plunge into the forest in search of the helpless
hostage the woods were hiding.

It is not in the nature of woodsmen to pry into another's reason for
this or that. Barnum Withee gave Christopher Straight a chance to tell
why he and his employer were so far off the Enchanted operation; but
when Christopher Straight smoked on without explaining, Barnum Withee
smoked on without asking questions. In one of the dim bunks of the
wangan Wade breathed stertorously, drugged with nature's opiate of utter
weariness. And after listening a moment with an air of relief,
Christopher broke upon Withee's meditations.

"Was you tellin' me where Lane has been makin' his headquarters since he
skipped the fire station?" he inquired, innocently.

"I was thinkin' about him, too," returned Withee, promptly.
"Headquarters! Does an Injun devil with a steel trap on his tail have
headquarters while he's runnin' and yowlin'? Whether he's been in the
air or in a hole since he went out of his head, time of the fire, I
don't know. Eye ain't been laid on him till he come out of that
snow-squall, walkin' like an icicle and hootin' like a barn owl."

"Heard of any goods bein' missed from any depot camps?" pursued the
woodsman, shrewdly. "That might tell where he's been hangin' out."

"No," said the operator, suddenly brusque. Then he looked up from the
sliver that he had been whittling absent-mindedly, and fixed keen eye on
Straight. "Say, look here, Chris, if you and your young friend are over
here huntin' for Lane, or for any documents or papers or evidence to
make more trouble for Honorable John Barrett, I've got to tell you that
you can't ring me in. Honorable Barrett and me has fixed!"

"I reckoned you would," said Christopher. "Stumpage kings usually get
their own way."

"Well, it's different in this case," declared the operator,
triumphantly, "and when I've been used square I cal'late to use the
other fellow square, and that's why I'm tellin' you, so that you won't
make any mistakes about how I feel towards Mr. Barrett. I don't approve
of any move to hector him about that Lane matter. He says to me at
Castonia--"

"When?"

"No longer ago than yesterday. I came through from down-river with two
new teamsters and a saw-filer, and hearin' Mr. Barrett was able to set
up and talk a little business for the first time, I stepped into Rod
Ide's house, and we fixed. He throwed off all claims for extry stumpage
and damages on Square-hole. And when a man gives me more than I expect,
that fixes me with him."

"Ought to, for sartin," agreed Christopher. "Change of heart in him, or
because you knowed about the Lane case?" The tone was rather satirical,
and Withee flushed under his tan.

"You don't think I went to a sick man's bedside and blackmailed him, do
you, like some--"

"Friend Barn," broke in the old woodsman, quietly, "don't slip out any
slur that you'll wish you hadn't."

"Well," growled the operator, "it may be that 'Stumpage John' Barrett
ain't always set a model for a Sunday-school, but if I had as pretty a
daughter as that one that was settin' in his room with him, and as nice
a girl as she seems to be, though of course she didn't stoop to talk to
a grizzly looservee like me, I'd hate to have an old dead and decayed
scandal dug up in these woods, and dragged out and dumped over my
front-yard fence in the city!"

And Christopher remembered what he had remarked on one occasion to
Dwight Wade, when they had seen the waif of the Skeet tribe on Misery
Gore, and now he half chuckled as he squinted at Withee and muttered in
his beard, "Lots of folks don't recognize white birch when it's polished
and set up in a parlor."

"What say?" demanded the operator, suspiciously.

"I'm so sleepy I'm dreamin' out loud," explained Christopher, blandly,
"and I'm goin' to turn in." And he sighed to himself as he rolled in
upon the fir boughs and pulled the spread about his ears. "There's some
feller said that good counsel cometh in the morning. Mebbe so--mebbe so!
But it will have to be me and the boy here for the job, because old
Dan'l Webster, with all his flow of language, couldn't convince Barn
Withee now that it's John Barrett's daughter that is lost in the woods.
I know now why something told me to go slow on the hue and cry."



CHAPTER XXIII

IN THE MATTER OF JOHN BARRETT'S DAUGHTER

     "Warmth and comfort? Ay, all these
     Under the arch of the great spruce trees;
     But our cup o' content holds naught but foam!--
     No woman's hand to make a home."


Wade did not wake when the cook's wailing hoot called the camp in the
morning. It was black darkness still. He slept through all the clatter
of tin dishes, the jangle of bind-chains as the sleds started, the yowl
of runners on the dry snow, and the creaking of departing footsteps. The
sun quivered in his eyes when he rolled in the bunk at touch of old
Christopher's hand on his shoulder.

"Oh, but you needed it all, my boy!" protested the woodsman, checking
the young man's peevish regrets that he had slept so long. "Come to
breakfast."

Barnum Withee had eaten with his men, but he was waiting in solitary
state in the cook camp, smoking his pipe, and moodily rapping the horn
handle of a case-knife on the table.

"Law says," he remarked to his guests, continuing aloud his meditations,
"that employer shall send out remains of them that die in camp. But I
ain't employer in this case, and I'm short of hosses, anyway, and the
tote team only came in yesterday, and ain't due to go out again for a
week."

"It makes a lot of trouble, old critters dyin' that ain't got friends,"
observed Christopher, spooning out beans.

"You may mean that sarcastic, but it's the truth just the same,"
retorted Withee. "He ain't northin' to me. What I was thinkin' of, if
you were bound out--"

"Ain't goin' that way," said the woodsman, giving Wade a significant
glance.

"Well, from what things you let drop last night," grumbled the operator,
"I figured that you were more or less interested in old Lane, and
perhaps were lookin' him up for somethin', and if so you ought to be
willin' to help get him out and buried in a cemetery. He ain't a friend
of mine and never was, and it ain't square to have the whole thing
dumped onto me."

Wade, his heart made tender by his own grief, gazed towards the lonesome
isolation of the lean-to with moistening eyes. Alone, living; alone,
dead! But Christopher put into cold phrase the burning fact they had to
face.

"We've got business of our own for to-day, Barnum, and mighty important
business, too."

And pulling their caps about their ears, and tugging their moose-sled,
they set away, up the tote road to the north, leaving Barnum Withee not
wholly easy in his mind regarding their motives.

It was from the snow-swirl on Dickery Pond that "Ladder" Lane had
emerged, even then death-struck. It was straight to Dickery that
Christopher led the way, and two hours' steady trudging brought them
there.

"So it was from off there he came," muttered the woodsman, blinking into
the glare of the snow crystals on its broad surface. "But where, in
God's name, he came from it ain't in me to say!"

It was one of those still winter days when even the wind seems to be
bound by the hard frost. The sliding snow-shoes shrieked as shrilly with
the sun high as they had in the early morning. There was no hint of
melting.

"There are five old operations around this pond, and a set of empty
camps on each one," said Straight. "I've been to each one of them in
times past, and I know where the main roads come out to the landings.
But it's slow business, takin' 'em one after the other. Perhaps we ought
to go back and beat the truth of this thing into Barnum Withee's thick
head, and start the hue and cry--but--but--I'd hoped to do it some
better way."

"Straight," panted the young man, "it's getting to be perfectly
damnable, this suspense! Let's do something, if it's only to run up the
middle of that pond and shout!"

"Well," snorted the old guide, irrelevantly, "I've been lookin' for
old Red Fins to come along for two days now, and I ain't disappointed.
If there's trouble anywhere in this section, old Eli has got a smeller
that leads him to it." Wade whirled from his despairing survey of the
pond and saw Prophet Eli. He was coming down the tote road on his
"ding-swingle," urging on his little white stallion with loose, clapping
reins. Huge mittens of vivid red encased his hands, and his conical,
knitted cap was red, and was pulled down over his ears like a
candle-snuffer.

Wade felt a queer little thrill of superstition as he looked at him, and
then sneered at himself as one who was allowing good wit to be infected
by the idle follies of the woods. And yet there was something eerie in
the way this bizarre old wanderer turned up now, as he had appeared
twice before at times that meant so much, at moments so crucial, in
Wade's woods life.

Prophet Eli swung up to them, halted, and peered at them curiously out
of his little eyes.

"Green, blue, and yellow," he blurted, patting his much-variegated wool
jacket. "And red! Red mittens good for the arterial blood. Why don't you
wear them?"

"Say, look here, prophet--" began Christopher, blandly respectful.

"Green is nature's color. Calms the nerves. Blue, electricity for the
system--got a stripe of it all up and down my backbone. Good for you.
Ought to wear it. Yellow, kidneys and cathartic. You'd rather be sick,
eh? Be sick. Clek-clek!" He clucked his tongue and clapped his reins.
But Christopher grabbed at the stallion's headstall and checked him.

"I believe the idea is all c'rect, prophet, and I'll use it, and I'll
try to make it right with you. But just now I'm wantin' a little
information, and I'll make it right with you for that, too. You're
sky-hootin' round these woods all the time. Now, where's Lane been
makin' his headquarters?--you ought to know!"

"What do you want him for? State-prison or insane asylum?" snapped the
prophet.

"I don't want him," said the woodsman, solemnly. "He's spoken for, Eli.
He's down there, dead, in Barn Withee's camps."

The little gray eyes blinked quickly. What that emotion was, one could
not guess. For the voice of the prophet did not waver in its brisk
staccato. "Dead, eh? Hate-bug crawled into him and did it. I told him to
stay in the woods and the hate-bugs couldn't get him. Told him twenty
years ago. But he wasn't careful. Let the hate-bug get him at last.
Dead, eh? I'll go and get him."

"Get him?" echoed Christopher.

"Promised to bury him," explained the prophet, promptly. "Wanted to be
buried off alone, just as he lived. Rocks for a pillow. Expects to rest
easy. I helped him dig his grave and lay out the rocks a long time ago.
And I'll tell no one the place--no, sir."

"Well, that lets Withee out of trouble and expense," said the woodsman,
"and you'll get a good reception down that way. Now, prophet, where's he
been hiding? You know, probably. It's important, I tell you." The old
man had struck his stallion, and the animal was trying to get away. But
Christopher held on grimly.

"You call yourself a good woodsman?" squealed the indignant Eli.

"I reckon I'll average well."

"If any one wants anything of 'Ladder' Lane now," cried the prophet, "it
must be for something that he's left behind him! Left behind him!" he
repeated. He stood up on the "ding-swingle," and ran his keen gaze about
the ridges that circled the lake.

"Was it something that could build a fire?" he demanded, sharply.
Christopher, in no mood for confidences, stared at the peppery old man.
"You call yourself a good woodsman, and don't know what it means to see
that!" He pointed his whip at a thin trail of white smoke that mounted,
as tenuous almost as a thread, above the distant shore of Dickery Pond.
"No lumbermen operating there for three years, and you see that, and are
lookin' for something, and don't go and find out! And you call yourself
a woodsman!" Without further word or look he lashed the stallion; the
animal broke away with a squeal, and Prophet Eli's "ding-swingle"
disappeared down the tote road in a swirl of snow.

"No, I ain't a woodsman!" snorted Christopher. He started away across
the pond at a pace that left Wade breath only for effort and not for
questions. "I ain't a woodsman. Standin' here and not seein' that smoke!
Not seein' it, and guessin' what it must mean! I ain't a woodsman!" Over
and over he muttered his bitter complaints at himself in disjointed
sentences. "I'm gettin' old. I must be blind. A lunatic can tell me my
business." His anger rowelled him on, and when he reached the opposite
shore of the lake he was obliged to wait for the younger man to come
floundering and panting up to him.

"I don't feel just like talkin' now, Mr. Wade," he said, gruffly. "I
don't feel as though I knew enough to talk to any one over ten years
old." He strode on, tugging the sled.

An abandoned main logging-road, well grown to leafless moose-wood and
witch-hobble, led them up from the lake. Christopher did not have to
search the skies for the smoke. His first sight of it had betrayed the
camp's location. He knew the roads that led to it. And in the end they
came upon it, though it seemed to Wade that the road had set itself to
twist eternally through copses and up and down the hemlock benches.

The camps were cheerless, the doors of main camp, cook camp, and hovel
were open, and the snow had drifted in. But from the battered funnel of
the office camp came that trail of smoke, reaching straight up. Crowding
close to the funnel for warmth, and nestled in the space that the heat
had made in the snow, crouched a creature that Wade recognized as
"Ladder" Lane's tame bobcat. This, then, was "Ladder" Lane's retreat.
Inside there--the young man's knees trembled, and there was a gripping
at his throat, dry and aching from his frantic pursuit of his grim
guide.

"Mr. Wade," said Christopher, halting, "I reckon she's there, and that
she's all right. I'll let you go ahead. She knows you. I don't need to
advise you to go careful."

And Wade went, tottering across the unmarked expanse of snow, the pure
carpet nature had laid between him and the altar of his love--an altar
within log walls, an altar whose fires were tended by--He pushed open
the door! Foolish Abe was kneeling by the hearth of the rusty Franklin
stove. And even as he had been toiling on Enchanted, so here he was
whittling, whittling unceasingly, piling the heaps of shavings upon the
fire--unconscious signaller of the hiding-place of Elva Barrett.

For a moment Wade stood holding by the sides of the door, staring into
the gloom of the camp, for his eyes were as yet blinded by the glare of
out-doors.

And then he saw her. Her white face was peering out of the dimness of a
bunk. Plainly she had withdrawn herself there like some cowering
creature, awaiting a fate she could not understand or anticipate. One
could see that those eyes, wide-set and full of horror, had been
strained on that uncouth, hairy creature at the hearth during long and
dreadful suspense.

Through all that desperate search, in hunger, weariness, and despair, he
had forgotten John Barrett, contemptuous millionaire; he remembered that
John Barrett's daughter Elva had confessed once that she returned his
love, and he had thought that when they met again, this time outside the
trammels of town and in the saner atmosphere of the big woods, she might
understand him better--understand him well enough to know that John
Barrett lied when he made honest love contemptible by his sneers about
"fortune-seekers." They were all very chaotic, his thoughts, to be sure,
but he had believed that the ground on which they would meet would be
that common level of honest, human hearts, where they could stand, eye
to eye, hands clasping hands, and love frankly answering love.

But love that casts all to the winds, love that forgets tact, prudence,
delicacy, love without premeditation or after-thought, is not the love
that is ingrained in New England character. She gazed at him at first,
not comprehending--her fears still blinding her--and he paused to murmur
words of pity and reassurance.

And then Yankee prudence, given its opportunity to whisper, told him
that to act the precipitate lover now would be to take advantage of her
weakness, her helplessness, her gratitude. If he took this first chance
to woo her, demanding, as it were, that she disobey her father's
commands, and putting a price on the service that he was rendering her,
might her good sense not suggest that, after all, he was a sneak rather
than a man?

They call the New England character of the old bed-rock sort hard and
selfish. It is rather acute sensitiveness, timorous even to concealment.

And in the end Dwight Wade, faltering banal words of pity for her
plight, went to her outwardly calm. And she, her soul still too full of
the horror of her experience to let her heart speak what it felt, took
his hands and came out upon the rough floor.

The shaggy giant squatting by the hearth bent meek and humid eyes on the
young man. "Me do it--me do it as you told!" he protested. He patted his
hand on the shavings. He was referring to the task to which Wade had set
him on Enchanted. To the girl it sounded like the confession of an
understanding between this unspeakable creature and her rescuer. Wade,
eager only to soothe, protested guilelessly, when she shrank back, that
the man was not the ogre he seemed, but a harmless, simple fellow whom
he had been sheltering and feeding at his own camp. And then, by the way
she stared at him, he realized the chance for a horrible suspicion.

"I don't understand," she moaned. "It's like a dreadful dream. There was
an old man who sat here and muttered and raved about my father! And
this--this"--she faltered, shrinking farther from Abe--"who brought me
here in his arms! And you say he came from your camp! Oh, these
woods--these terrible woods! Take me away from them! I am afraid!"

She dropped the shrouding blanket from her shoulders, and he saw her now
in the garb of the waif of the Skeets. And under his scrutiny he saw
color in her cheeks for the first time, replacing the pallor of
distress.

"I had thought there was excuse for this folly--reason for it. I thought
it was my duty to--" She faltered, then set her teeth upon her lower
lip, and turned away from him. "Oh, take me away from these woods!
Something--I do not know--something has bewitched me--made me forget
myself--sent me on a fool's errand! The woods--I'm afraid of them, Mr.
Wade!"

It came to him with a pang that the woods were not offering to his love
the common ground of sincerity that he had dreamed of. Elva Barrett,
ashamed of her weakness, would not remember generously an attempt to
take advantage of her distress when every bulwark of reserve lay in
ruins about her, and he felt afraid of his burning desire to take her in
his arms and comfort her. Thus self-convinced, he failed to realise that
the girl with her bitter words was merely striving, blindly and
innocently, to be convinced--and convinced from his own mouth--that she
had been wise in her folly, devoted in her mission, and honest in the
love that had found such heroic expression in her adventuring.

She looked at him, and saw in his face only the struggle of doubt and
hopelessness and fear, and misinterpreted. "You know what the woods have
done to make shame and wretchedness, Mr. Wade!" she cried, a flash of
her old spirit coming into her eyes. "Men who have been honest with the
world outside and honest with themselves have forgotten all honesty
behind the screen of these savage woods."

Her cheeks were burning now. She drew the blanket over herself, hugging
its edges close in front, covering the attire she wore as though it were
nakedness. And in that bitter moment it was nakedness--for the garb she
had borrowed from Kate Arden symbolized for her and for him a father's
guilty secret laid bare.

"Take me away from the woods!" she gasped.

The look that passed between them was speech unutterable. He had no
words for her then. In silence he made the long sledge ready for her.
Christopher helped him, silent with the reticence of the woodsman. If he
had even glanced at Elva Barrett no bystander could have detected that
glance. There were thick camp spreads on the sled. Christopher's
thoughtfulness had provided them, and when they had been wrapped about
her the two men set away, each with hand on the sled-rope.

"We'll go the short way back to Enchanted," said the old guide,
answering Wade's glance. "Back across Dickery, up the tote road, and
follow the Cameron and Telos roads. It will dodge all camps, and keep us
away from foolish questions. I've got enough in my pack from Withee's
camp for us to eat."

Abe floundered behind, keeping them in sight with the pertinacity of a
dog, and he ate the bread that Straight threw to him with a dog's mute
gratitude.

Only the desperation of men utterly resolved could have accomplished the
journey they set before them. The girl rode, a silent, shrouded figure;
the men strode ahead, silent; Abe struggled on behind, ploughing the
snow with dragging feet. When the night fell they went on by the
lantern's light.

It was long after midnight when they came at last to the Enchanted
camps, walking like automatons and almost senseless with fatigue. Wade
lifted the girl from the sled when they halted in front of the wangan.
Her stiffened and cramped limbs would not move of themselves. And when
she was on her feet, and staggered, he kept his arm about her, gently
and unobtrusively.

"This is the best home I have to offer you," he said. "Nina Ide is here
waiting. We will wake her, and she will do for you what should be done.
Oh, that sounds cold and formal, I know--but the poor girl waiting in
there will put into words all the joy I feel but can't speak. My head is
pretty light, and my heels heavy, and I don't seem to be thinking very
clearly, Miss Barrett," he murmured, his voice weak with pathetic
weariness.

She was struggling with sobs, striving to speak; but he hastened on, as
though at last his full heart found words.

"This is--this--I hardly know how to say this. But I understand why you
came." He felt her tremble. "But, my God, Elva, I don't dare to believe
that you thought so ill of me that you were coming to plead with me for
your father's sake." It was not resentment, it was passionate grief that
burst from him, and she put her hands about his arm.

"I told you it was folly that sent me," she sobbed. "But he had been
unjust to you, Dwight. Oh, it was folly that sent me, but I wanted to
know if you--if you--" She was silent and trembled, and when she did not
speak he clasped her close, trembling as pitifully as she.

"Oh, if you only dared say that you wanted to know whether I still loved
you!" he breathed, in a broken whisper. "And I would say--"

It seemed that his heart came into his throat, for her fingers pressed
more closely upon his arm. In that instant he could not speak. He
pretended to look for Christopher, but that wise woodsman's tact did not
fail. He saw Christopher disappearing into the gloom of the dingle, and
heard the careful lisp of the wooden latch in its socket and the
cautious creak of the closing door. There was only the hush of the still
night about him, and when he turned again the starlight was shining on
Elva Barrett's upraised face. And her dark eyes were imperiously
demanding that he finish his sentence--so imperiously that his tongue
burst all the shackles of his sensitive prudence.

"And I would say that my love is so far above the mean things of the
world that they can't make it waver, and it is so unselfish that I can
love you the more be-because you love your father and obey him. And all
I ask is that you don't misunderstand me." There was deep meaning in his
tones.

"Oh Dwight, my boy," she moaned, "it's an awful thing for a daughter to
disobey her father. But it's more awful when she finds that he--" But he
put his fingers tenderly on her lips, and when she kissed them, tears
coursing on her cheeks, he gathered her close, and his lips did the
service that his fingers retired from in tremulous haste.

"My little girl," he said, softly, "keep that story off your lips. It is
too hard, too bitter. I may have said cruel things to your father. He
may tell you they were cruel. But remember that she had your eyes and
your face--that poor girl I found in the woods. And before God, if not
before men, she is your sister. And so I gave of my heart and my
strength to help her. And I know your heart so well, Elva, that I leave
it all to you. It's better to be ashamed than to be unjust."

"She _is_ my sister," she answered, simply, but with earnestness there
was no mistaking. "And you may leave it all in my hands."

Then fearfully, anxiously, grief and shame at shattered faith in a
father showing in the face she lifted to him, she asked:

"It was he, was it not--the old man that took me away and sat before me
and cursed me? He was her--her husband?"

His look replied to her. Then he said, soothingly: "It was not in our
hands, dear. But that which is in our hands let us do as best we can,
and so"--he kissed her, this time not as the lover, but as the faithful,
earnest, consoling friend--"and so--to sleep! The morning's almost here,
and it will bring a brighter day."

She drew his head down and pressed her lips to his forehead.

"True knighthood has come again," she murmured. "And my knight has taken
me from the enchanted forest, and has shown me his heart--and the last
was best."

Still clasping her, he shook the door and called to the girl within; and
when she came, crying eager questions, he put Elva Barrett into her arms
and left them together.

As he walked away from the shadow of the camp into the shimmer of the
starlight he felt the wine of love coursing his veins. His muscles
ached, weariness clogged his heels, but his eyes were wide-propped and
his ears hummed as with a sound of distant music. His thoughts seemed
too sacred to be taken just then into the company of other men. He
dreaded to go inside out of the radiance of the night. He turned from
the door of the main camp when his hand was fumbling for the latch,
pulled his cap over his ears, and began a slow patrol on the glistening
stretch of road before the wangan. The crisp snow sang like fairy bells
under his feet. Orion dipped to the west, and the morning stars paled
slowly as the flush crept up from the east. And still he walked and
dreamed and gazed over the sombre obstacles near at hand in his life
into the radiance of promise, even as he looked over the black spruces
into the faint roses of the dawn.

Tommy Eye, teamster, stumbling towards the hovel for the early
foddering, came upon him, and stopped and stared in utter amazement. He
came close to make sure that the eerie light of the morning was not
playing him false. Wade's cheerful greeting seemed to perplex him.

"It isn't a ha'nt, Tommy," said the young man, smiling on him.

"I have said all along as how it had got you," declared Tommy, with
ingenuous disappointment, looking Wade up and down for marks of
conflict. "But it may be that the ha'nts want only woods folk and are
afraid of book-learnin'! So you're back, and the girl ain't, nor
Christopher, nor--"

"We're all back," explained Wade, calculating on Tommy's news-mongering
ability to relieve him of the need of circulating information. "We found
the--the one that was lost. That was all! She was lost, and we found
her, and we even found Foolish Abe, and he came back with us last night.
There was no mystery, Tommy. They were simply lost, and we found them.
They're asleep."

Tommy fingered the wrinkled skin of his neck and stared dubiously at
Wade.

"You'll see Abe whittling shavings just the same as usual this morning,"
added the young man. "By-the-way, you and he may be interested to know
that Lane, the old fire warden, died at Withee's camp the other day."
For reasons of his own Wade did not care to make either the news of the
rescue or its place too definite.

"Then," declared Tommy, hanging grimly to the last prop left in his
theory, "that accounts for it. 'Ladder' Lane is dead, and has turned
into a ha'nt. It was him that called out the fool. And he'll be making
more trouble yet. You'd better send for Prophet Eli, Mr. Wade, because
the prophet is a charmer-man and can take care of old Lane."

"He has taken care of him already," said the young man. "We saw Prophet
Eli, and he started right away to attend to the case." And Tommy's face
displayed such eminent satisfaction that Wade had not the heart to
destroy the man's belief that his book-learned boss had adopted a part
of the woods creed of the supernatural. It was a day on which he felt
very gentle towards the dreams of other persons, for his own beautiful
dream shed its radiance on all men and all of life.

That she was there, safe, brought by amazing circumstances into the
depths of the woods, and under his protection, seemed like a vision of
the night as he walked back and forth and watched the morning grow.

When the sun was high and the men had been gone for hours, he put his
dream to the test. He rapped gently on the wangan door, and her voice, a
very real and loving voice, answered. With his own hands he brought food
for the two girls and spread a cedar-splint table, and served them as
they ate, and ministered in little ways, through the hours of the day,
and watched Elva's pallor and weariness give way before tenderness and
love. With the poor shifts of a lumber-camp he, not intending it, taught
her heart the lesson that love is independent of its housing.

He rode with them on the tote team to the northern jaws of Pogey Notch
the next day, and sent them on, nestled in a bower of blankets. There
had been no further word between them of the great thing that had come
into their lives. They tacitly and joyously accepted it all, and left
the solution of its problem to saner and happier days. But the face that
she turned back to him as she rode away under the frowning rocks was a
glowing promise of all he asked of life. And as he plodded back up the
trail he went to his toil with tingling muscles and a triumphant soul.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE CHEESE RIND THAT NEEDED SHARP TEETH

     "So, mister, please excuse us, but you open up that sluice,
     Or Gawd have mercy on ye, if I turn these gents here loose!"

               --The Rapogenus Ball.


Rodburd Ide, fresh-arrived from Castonia in hot haste, saw well to it
that he and Dwight Wade were safe from interruption in the wangan camp.
He even drove a sliver from the wood-box over the latch of the door.
Wade, summoned down from the chopping by a breathless cookee to meet his
partner, gazed upon these nervous, eager precautions in some alarm.

"Now, brace your feet, and get hold of something and hang on hard,"
advised the "Mayor of Castonia."

"Good Heavens, Mr. Ide, what has happened to her?" gasped the young man.
His trembling hands clutched at the edge of the splint table, hallowed
by Elva Barrett's smiles of love across it.

"Her!" snorted the little man, in indignant astonishment. "You don't
think I've whaled up here hell-ti-larrup on a jumper to sit down and
talk about women, do you?"

"But Miss Barrett--" gulped Wade.

"Miss Barrett--" Ide checked himself, discreet even in his impatience.
"Miss Barrett is all right, and the girl is all right, and--say,
look-a-here, my boy, don't you think of a girl, don't you look at a
girl, don't you even dream of a girl, for the next two months!" He drove
his hard little fist upon the sacred table.

He leaned forward, and his very beard bristled at the young man. "Forget
your mother, forget your grandmother, forget that there is anything to
you except grit and muscle. For if ever two men had a man's work cut out
for 'em we're the ones. If ever two men found themselves on the outside
of a ripe cheese and needed teeth to gnaw in, we're the men. Money! I
can't see anything but dollar bills hangin' from those spruce-trees. But
you've got to put on brad-boots and climb to get them. You've got to
walk over men to get 'em!" He was striding about the little room. "I
reckon I seem a little excited," he added, with a catch in his voice.
"But by the priest that hammered the tail for the golden calf, I've got
reasons to be excited. I've smelt it comin' for two years, son! I 'ain't
said anything. I didn't say anything to you when I took you into
partnership; I didn't dare to. But I smelt it all the time. I 'ain't
watched the comin's and goin's of certain men at Castonia for nothin'!
Let 'em bring guns and fishin'-poles! They can't fool me. I smelt it
comin'. And now, by ----, it's come!" Again he banged his fist on the
table and glared down on his partner.

The partner stared back at him with so much dismay and reproachful
inquiry that Ide blew off his superfluous excitement in one vigorous
"Poof!" and sat down.

"The sum and substance of it is, those old Hullin' Machine falls ain't
goin' to bellow away all them thousands of hoss-power in empty noise any
longer. But they've made a noise big enough to reach the crowd that's
organized to fight the paper trust. See now?"

Wade's eyes gleamed in swift comprehension.

"The independents are goin' to develop that power. They're goin' to
build the biggest paper-mill in the world there. They're goin' to extend
the railroad up to Castonia. They're goin' to do it all on an old
charter that every one had forgotten except the lobby clique that put it
through and has been holdin' it for speculation. And why I know it all
and no one else knows it on the outside yet, my boy, is because they've
had to come to _me_! They've _had_ to come to _me_!"

And he promptly answered the eager though mute inquiry in the young
man's eyes.

"Every dollar that I could save, rake, and borrow for years I've been
putting into shore rights and timber. What timber country I couldn't buy
I've leased stumpage on. I've smelt it all comin'. And now they've had
to come to me, Wade. They've bonded the shore rights for a purchase, and
it's all settled."

"With all my heart I'm glad for you, Mr. Ide!" cried the young man, with
a sincerity that put a quiver into his voice. And both hands seized the
hands of the magnate of Castonia in a grip that brought gratified tears
to the other's eyes.

"I know it has always been a surprise to you, Wade, that I was so ready
and anxious to give you a lay on the timber end," the little man went
on. "But I knew it was time to operate on these cuttin's this season.
There are things you can't hire done with plain money. I wanted courage,
grit, and honesty. Most of all, I needed absolute loyalty. There's been
too much buyin' up of men in these woods. The old gang is a hard one to
fight. I reckon I've got you with me."

"Heart, soul, and body, now as from the first, Mr. Ide."

"And the lay I've given you is the best investment I could have made,"
declared the partner. "I want you to feel that it is straight business.
It was no gift. You're earnin' it. But the big bunch is ahead of you,
boy!" His tone was serious.

"Your make will come out of the timber lay. I've said I smelt this
comin'. If it hadn't come this year we should have sent our logs 'way
down-river along with the rest, and done the best we could to steal a
profit after Pulaski Britt and his gang had charged us all the tolls and
fees they could think of, and made us accept their selling-scale. But
now! But now!" His voice became tense, and he leaned forward and patted
the young man's arm. "The Great Independent--and that's the name of the
new organization, and it's a name that's goin' to roar like the Hullin'
Machine in the ears of the trust--wants every log we can hand over to
'em this season. What they don't use in construction work and in their
new saw-mill they'll pile to grind into pulp next year.

"I've got their contract, Wade. Every log to be scaled for 'em on
our landings! And I reckon that will be the first time a square
selling-scale was ever made on this river. No Pirate Britt and his
gang of boom-scale thieves for us this time! Every honest dollar we
make will come to us. And there'll be a lot of 'em, son."

Wade, even though Rodburd Ide had so brusquely commanded him to forget
his love, felt that love stirring in the thrill that animated him now.
Did not success mean Elva Barrett? Did not fair return from honest toil
mean that he could face John Barrett, bulwarked by his millions? Forget
his love? Ide couldn't understand. His love was a spur whose every
thrust was delicious pain. But now that the great secret was out,
Rodburd Ide's tide of enthusiasm seemed to be in somewhat ominous and
depressing reflux.

He spread upon the splint table a lumberman's map, and his hands
trembled as he did so.

"You've done as I told you, and only yarded at the ends of the
twitch-roads, and haven't hauled to landings?" he inquired.

Wade nodded.

"I was waitin', I was waitin'," explained the other, nervously scrubbing
his hand over the map. "If nothin' had happened at Umcolcus Hullin'
Machine this year we'd have landed our logs on Enchanted Stream and run
'em down into Jerusalem, and taken our chances along with Britt's logs.
'Twas a hard outlook, Wade. The last time I dared to operate here I did
that, and you'll find jill-pokes with my mark stranded all along the
stream. The old pirate took my drive because he claimed control of the
dams, charged me full fees, and left behind twenty-five per cent. of my
logs, claiming that the water dropped on him. But I noticed he got all
of his out. It's what we're up against, my son. If I'd tried to fight
him with an independent drive he would have had me hornswoggled all the
way to the down-river sortin'-boom, and then would have had my heart out
on the scale. It's what we're up against!" he repeated, despondently.
"There isn't any law to it. It's the hard fist that makes the right up
this way. I'm tellin' you this so you can understand. You've got to
understand, my boy. I wish it was different. I wish it was all square. I
hate to do dirty things myself. I hate to ask others to do 'em."

It was not entirely a gaze of reassurance that the young man turned on
him. Ide avoided it, and with stubby finger began to mark the map to
illustrate his words. Wade leaned close. He realized that a new and
grave aspect of the situation was to be revealed to him. Getting the
timber down off the stumps had absorbed his attention utterly. As to
getting it to market, he had been awaiting the word of his partner and
mentor.

"Here it is!" growled Ide. "It's a picture of it! And if it ain't a good
picture of the damnable reason why no one else but Pulaski Britt and his
crowd can make a dollar on these waters, then I'm no judge. Here we are
on Enchanted--mountain here and pond here! The dam at our pond will give
us water enough to get us down to Britt's dam on Enchanted dead-water.
Then we've got to deal with Britt. Law may be with us, but in dealin'
with Britt up here in this section law is like a woodpecker tryin' to
pull the teeth out of a cross-cut saw. Britt has got the foot of
Enchanted Stream, and he controls Jerusalem Stream that gobbles
Enchanted. That's our outlook to the east of us. Now to the west, and
only two miles from our operation here, is Blunder Stream. Runs into
Umcolcus main river, you see, like Jerusalem Stream away over here to
the east. Straightaway run. Fed by Blunder Lake, up here ten miles to
the north--that is, it ought to be fed! And it ought to be the stream to
take our logs. But more than thirty years ago, without law or justice,
Britt closed in the rightful western outlet of Blunder Lake with a big
dam, and dug a canal from the eastern end to Jerusalem Stream, and every
spring since then he's used the water for the Jerusalem drive. A half a
dozen small operators have been to the legislature from time to time to
get rights. Did they get 'em? Why, they didn't even get a decent look!
Old King Spruce doesn't go to law or the legislature askin' for things.
King Spruce takes them. Then the laborin' oar is with the chaps who try
to take 'em away. Even if a thing is unrighteous, Wade, it doesn't stir
much of a scandal in politics to keep it just as it is. It's what we're
up against, I say!"

He held down the map, his finger on Enchanted, as though typifying the
power that held them and their interests helpless. Wade gazed upon the
finger-end. He felt it pressing upon his hopes. His brows wrinkled, but
he said nothing.

"The Great Independents will make that name heard by the next
legislature, I've no doubt," Ide went on, "but that's a year from now.
In the mean time we've got five millions or so of timber here at this
end, and its market and the money waitin' at the other end, which is
Castonia. And there's another thing, Wade, and it's the biggest of all:
we've got to hold our timber above the Hullin' Machine. Nature has fixed
the place for us. There's the dead-water behind Hay Island. With Britt
drivin' our logs, he'd ram 'em hell-whoopin' through the Hullin'
Machine, and find an excuse for it, and then buy 'em in down-river at
his own price. If we undertook to follow him down Enchanted and
Jerusalem, he wouldn't leave enough water to drown a cat in. I'm taking
the time to show you this thing as it stands, son. You've got to see all
sides of it."

Ide's little gray eyes were gleaming at him, and the expression of his
face showed that he was narrowing possibilities to one prospect, and was
wondering whether his partner had grasped the full import of that
prospect.

"I think I see all sides of it, Mr. Ide," he said, at last. Then he put
his fingers on the thin thread that marked the course of Blunder Stream.
"And the only side that doesn't hurt the eyes seems to be this side,
west of Enchanted Mountain."

"Well, even then it depends on what kind of specs you've got on,"
returned Ide.

"Suppose we forget that dam at the west end of Blunder and Britt's canal
to the east for just a moment, Mr. Ide. If we got our logs down the side
of Enchanted Mountain and landed them on Blunder Stream we'd stand our
only show of heading Britt's drive at the Hulling Machine, wouldn't we?"

"You was reckonin' on havin' water under 'em, wasn't you?" inquired the
little man, with good-natured satire. "Wasn't plannin' on havin' 'em
walk like a caterpillar, nor fly down, nor anything of the sort?"

"I was reckoning on water," returned the young man, flushing slightly,
"but I was not discussing Blunder Lake. I asked you to leave that out
for a moment."

"Leave out Blunder Lake, and you haven't got a brook that will float
chips," said Ide. Then he jumped up and shot his fists above his head.
"But with a drivin'-pitch in Blunder Stream we can have the head of our
drive down into Umcolcus River and to Castonia logan while Pulaski Britt
is still swearin' and warpin' with head-works across Jerusalem
dead-water. We'd have our head there before he had a log down the last
five miles of lower Jerusalem into the main river. We'll have our sheer
booms set and our sortin'-gap, and we'll hold our logs and let his
through--his and the corporation drive that he's master of, and has been
master of for thirty years. He's been the river tyrant, Wade; but with
our head first at Castonia, and our booms set, and we willin' to sort
free of expense to them followin', I'd like to see the man that would
dare to interfere with our common river rights. The old Umcolcus was
rollin' its waters for the use of the tax-payin', law-abidin' citizens
of this State before old Pulaski Britt and his log-drivin' association
gang of pirates was ever heard of. They've usurped, Wade! They've
usurped until they've made possession seem like ownership. I've picked
you as a man that can handle the men that's under him, and isn't afraid
of Pulaski Britt. And it's got to be a case of reach and take what
belongs to you. If they've got any law with 'em in this thing, it's law
they've stolen like they've stolen the timber lands."

"I've never intended to break law in my dealings with men," said Wade,
with a cadence of mournfulness in his tones. "Law up in the big woods
doesn't seem to be quite as clear-cut as it is in men's relations
outside. But can there be honest law, Mr. Ide, that will allow men like
Pulaski Britt to step in and deprive a man of rightful profits earned
by his own hard labor--to deprive him of--" He was thinking then,
despite of himself, of Elva Barrett, but choked and added, wistfully,
"When it's only an even show a man asks, a fair chance to travel his own
course, it seems hard that there are men who go out of their path to
trip him." It was not lament. He had the air of one who displayed his
convictions to have them indorsed.

"It's Britt's way," retorted the other, curtly. "He's made money by
doin' it, and expects to make a lot more by bossin' the river."

"I want to see Mr. Britt," said Wade, quietly.

"See Britt! You don't think for a minute you're goin' to induce him to
take our drive or do the square thing on the water question, do you?"

"But I want to see him for a reason of my own, Mr. Ide. I'm frank to say
I don't expect any justice from Britt, after my experience with him; but
there is such a thing as justification for myself. I see you don't
understand." He noted the little man's wrinkling brows. "I don't know
that I'm exactly sure of my own mind. But I can't seem to bring myself
to fight this thing according to the code of the woods. I'm going into
it with every ounce of strength and hope that's in me, and there's just
one preliminary that I want for my peace of soul. I want to see Pulaski
Britt."

"If I was gettin' ready to fight the devil," remonstrated Ide, "I reckon
I'd keep away from his brimstone-pot. He's at his Jerusalem camp," he
added, grudgingly. "He went through two days ago."

"Then that's where I'll go to find him," said Wade, decisively.

Rodburd Ide fingered his nose and gazed on his partner with frank
scepticism. "Whatever you want with Britt, you're wastin' your time
on him"--his tone was sullen--"and the wind-up will be another
peckin'-match with that long-legged rooster, MacLeod. I say, save
time and strength for our own business, Wade."

"And I say I've got business with Pulaski Britt, and propose to go to
him like a man," declared Wade. "You and I can't afford to have any
misunderstanding about this, Mr. Ide. You have said you picked me to
handle this end. I've got to handle it in my own way, so far as dealings
with men go. I'll take your advice--I'll _ask_ your advice on details of
the work, because I don't know. As to my business with Mr. Britt, there
is no doubt in my mind. I want you to go with me."

And in the end Mr. Ide went, nipping his thin lips, not wholly convinced
as to the logic of the step, but with his opinion of Dwight Wade's
courage and self-reliance decidedly heightened, and he reflected with
comfort that those were the qualities he had sought in his partnership.



CHAPTER XXV

SHARPENING TEETH ON PULASKI BRITT'S WHETSTONE

     "The people in the city felt the shock of it that day.
       And they said, in solemn gloom,
       'The drive is in the boom,
     And O'Connor's drawn his wages; clear the track and give
       him room.'"


For a long time they rode side by side on the jumper without a word. Mr.
Ide decided that his reticent companion was pondering a plan for the
approaching interview, and was careful not to interrupt the train of
thought. He was infinitely disappointed and not a little vexed when Wade
turned to him at last and inquired, with plain effort to make his voice
calm, whether John Barrett had recovered sufficiently to go home.

"He? He went two weeks ago--he and his girl," snapped the little man,
impatiently.

After a moment he began to dig at the buttons of his fur coat, and
dipped his hand into his breast-pocket. He brought out a letter.

"Here's a line Barrett's girl left to be sent in to you the first
chance." He met the young man's reproachful gaze boldly. "When a man's
got real business to attend to," he snorted, "he ain't to blame if he
disremembers tugaluggin' a love-letter." He gave the missive into Wade's
hands, and went on, discontentedly: "What kind of a crazy-headed
performance was it those girls was up to when they came up into these
woods? I've had too much on my mind to try to get it out of my girl, and
probably I couldn't, anyway, if she took a notion not to tell me. She
has her own way about everything, just as her mother did before her," he
grumbled.

"I have no possible right to discuss Miss Nina Ide's movements, even
with her father. Miss Barrett's affairs are wholly her own. May I read
my letter?"

"May you read it?" blurted Ide, missing the delicacy of this
conventional request. "What in tophet do you think I've got to do with
your readin' your own letters?" And he subsided into offended silence,
seeking to express in this way his general dissatisfaction with events
as they were disposing themselves.

Though the cold wind stung bitterly, Wade held the open letter in his
bare hands, for he longed for the touch of the paper where her hand had
rested.

     "MY DEAR DWIGHT,--We are going home. The darkness has not lifted
     from us. For my light and my comfort I look into the north, where I
     know your love is shining. My sister was sitting by my father's
     side when I returned, and he was awake from his long dream and knew
     her, but he had not spoken the truth to her, and if she knows she
     has not told. And the cloud of it all is over us, and I cannot
     speak to him or open my heart to him. He did not even ask where I
     had been. It is as though he feared one word would dislodge the
     avalanche under which he shrinks. And I have to write this of my
     father! So we are going home. Love me. I need all your love. Take
     all of mine in return."

When Wade folded it he found Rodburd Ide studying his face with shrewd
side glance.

"Have you any idea what 'Stumpage John' is goin' to do with the other
one--the left-hand one?" he inquired, blandly. "Favor each other
considerably, don't they? It told the story to me the first time I saw
them together, after the right-hand one got there to my place. You can't
hardly blame John for not takin' the left-hand one out with him, same as
my girl sort of expected he would, same as his own girl did, too, I
reckon."

"Did he say anything to--" stammered Wade, and hesitated.

"Nothin' to me," returned the magnate of Castonia, briskly. "Didn't have
to. Knowed I knew. Day he left he tramped up and down the river-bank for
more'n two hours, and then come to me with his face about the color of
the Hullin' Machine froth and asked me to call the girl Kate into the
back office of my store. I wasn't tryin' to listen or overhear, you
understand, but I heard him stutter somethin' about takin' her out of
the woods and puttin' her in school, and she braced back and put her
hands on her hips and broke in and told him to go to hell."

"What?" shouted Wade, in utter astonishment.

"Oh, not in them words," corrected Ide. "But that's what it come to so
far as meanin' went. And then she sort of spit at him, and walked out
and back to my house."

He clapped the reins smartly on the flank of the lagging horse, as
though this sort of conversation wasted time, and added: "She's still at
my house, and the girl says she's goin' to stay there--so I guess that
settles it. Now let's get down to some business that amounts to
somethin'! What are you goin' to say to Pulaski Britt?"

But if Dwight Wade knew, he did not say. He sat bowed forward, hands
between his knees, the letter between his palms, his jaw muscles ridged
under the tan of his cheeks, and so the long ride ended in silence.

When they were once in the Jerusalem cutting it was not necessary to
search long for the Honorable Pulaski Britt, ex-State senator. They
heard him bellowing hoarsely, and a moment later were looking down on
him from the top of a ramdown. A pair of horses were floundering in the
deep snow, one of them "cast" and tangled in the harness. The teamster
stood at one side holding the reins helplessly. The snow was spotted
with blood.

"You've let that horse calk himself, you beef-brained son of a
bladder-fish!" roared Britt. "You ain't fit to drive a rockin'-horse
with wooden webbin's!" He dove upon the struggling animal, and, hooking
his great fists about the bit-rings, dragged the horse to his feet.
"Stripped to the fetlocks!" mourned the owner. He surveyed the bleeding
leg and whirled on the teamster. "That's the second pair you've put out
of business for me in a week. Me furnishing hundred-and-fifty-dollar
horses for you to paint the snow with!" He ploughed across to where the
man stood holding the reins, and struck him full in the face, and the
fellow went down like a log, blood flying from his face. "Mix some of
your five-cent blood with blood that's worth something!" he yelped. "If
there's got to be rainbow-snow up this way, I know how to furnish it
cheaper."

"That's a nice, interestin' gent down there for you to tackle just now
on your business proposition," observed Ide, sourly. "Now, suppose you
use common-sense, and turn around and go back to Enchanted!"

But the Honorable Pulaski suddenly heard the jangle of their
jumper-bell, and stared up at them.

"Gettin' lessons on how to run a crew, Ide?" he asked. And seeing that
the teamster was up and fumbling blindly at the tangled harness, he
advanced up the slope. "I 'ain't ever forgiven you for takin' Tommy Eye
away from me. That man's a _teamster_! It was a nasty trick, and perhaps
your young whelp of a partner there has found out enough about woods
law by this time to understand it."

"Mr. Britt--" began Wade.

"I don't want to talk to you at all!" snapped the tyrant, flapping his
hand in protest.

"Nor I to you!" retorted Wade, in sudden heat. "But as Mr. Ide's partner
I have taken charge of the woods end of our operation, and I've got
business to talk with you. We haven't begun to land our logs yet
because--"

"It's a wonder to me that you've got any cut down, you dude!" snorted
Britt, contemptuously.

"Because we haven't had an understanding about the drive," went on the
young man, trying to keep his temper. "Now, about logs coming down
Enchanted and into Jerusalem--"

"You'll pay drivin' fees for every stick."

"And you'll take our drive with yours?"

"No, sir. I won't put the iron of a pick-pole into a log with your mark
on it!" declared Britt.[5]

[Footnote 5: Lest the remarkable attitude of the Honorable Pulaski D.
Britt be considered an improbable resource of fiction, the author
hastens to state that the Maine legislature, in considering the repeal
of a log-driving charter, had exactly this situation submitted to it.]

"Mr. Britt," said Wade, his voice trembling in the stress of his
emotions, "as an operator in this section, as a man who is asking you
straight business questions as courteously as I know how, I am entitled
to decent treatment, and it will be better for all of us if I get it."

"Threats, hey?" demanded Britt, malignantly.

"No threats, sir. If you won't take our drive for the usual fees and
guarantee its delivery, will you let us drive it independently?"

"Not with my water--and you'll pay fees just the same!"

"_Your_ water! Who made you the boss of God's rains and rivers? Have you
any charter, giving you the right to turn the State waters of Blunder
Lake from their natural outlet and keep everybody else from using them?"

Britt clacked his finger in his hard palm and blurted contemptuous
"Phuh!" through his beard.

"Show me any such charter, Mr. Britt, or tell me where to find the
record of it, and I'll accept the law."

"Hell on your law!" cried the tyrant of the Umcolcus.

"Aren't you willing to let the law decide it, Mr. Britt?"

"Hell on your law!"

Three times more did Wade, his face burning in his righteous anger, his
voice trembling with passion, ask the question. Three times did the
Honorable Pulaski Britt fling those four words of maddening insult back
at him. And Wade, his face going suddenly white, snatched the reins from
Ide's hands, struck the horse, whirled him into the trail, and drove
away madly. Down the aisles of the forest followed those four words as
long as Pulaski Britt felt that their iteration could reach the ears of
listeners.

"So you finished your business with him, did you?" inquired Ide, at
last, allowing himself, as a true prophet, a bit of a sneer.

"I got just what I went after," snarled the young man. "I got in four
words the fighting rules of these woods, explained by the head devil of
them all, and, by ----, if that's the only way for an honest man to save
his skin up here, they can have the fight on those lines! Take the
reins, Mr. Ide; I want to straighten this thing in my mind."

Little passed between them on the return journey, but they talked far
into the night, leaning towards each other across the little splint
table in the office camp.

The next morning they climbed the side of Enchanted, following the main
road that had been swamped to Enchanted Stream. On the upper slopes they
came upon the log-yards, and heaps of great, stripped spruces piled
ready for the sleds. Farther up the slopes they heard the monotonous
"whush-wish" of the cross-cut saws and the crackling crash of falling
trees.

In the Maine woods it is not the practice to haul to landings until the
tree crop is practically all down and yarded on the main roads. This
practice in the case of the Enchanted operation that winter was
providential; for in the conference of the night before Rodburd Ide and
his partner had definitely abandoned Enchanted Stream. That decision
left them the alternative of Blunder Stream. It was the only plan that
fitted with Rodburd Ide's new hopes based on the log contract in his
breast-pocket. For months he had dimly foreseen this crisis without
clear conception as to how it was to be met. But the possibilities of
the gamble had fascinated him.

In his calculations he had tried to keep prudence to the fore. But he
had been waiting so long that at last prudence became dizzy in the swirl
of possibilities. He had never intended to make Dwight Wade his mere
cat's-paw. But the vehement courage of that sturdy young man, as
displayed in the battle of Castonia, had touched something in Rodburd
Ide's soul. All through his quiet life he had seen might and mastery
make money out of the woods. And so at last he himself ventured,
trusting much to the might and mastery he found in this self-reliant
young gentleman whom Fate had flung into his life. Gasping at the
boldness of it, he was willing that the whole winter's cut of the
Enchanted operation should be landed upon Blunder Stream. That there was
a way to get their water he admitted to himself, but he did not dare to
think much upon the means. Dwight Wade, driven by fierce anger against
Pulaski Britt, who blocked his way to the girl whom his own hands could
win but for Britt, smote the splint table and declared that there should
be a spring flood in Blunder Stream.

"And if you fear lawsuits, being a man of property, Mr. Ide, you should
not know what I intend to do. You may be held as a partner. Dissolve
that partnership. You may be held as an employer. Discharge me when this
log-cut is landed. Protect yourself. I have only my two hands for them
to attach."

The little man blinked at him admiringly, and then patted his shoulder.

"You needn't tell me what you intend to do. You are the one for this
end, and I can trust you. But when it comes to responsibility and the
law, Wade, if those thieves try it on, after all they've stolen, you'll
find Rod Ide right with you. You're my partner, and you'll stay my
partner," declared Ide, stoutly.

He repeated it as they swung around the upper granite dome of Enchanted,
and looked down the western slope into Blunder valley.

"There's the place for your main road, Wade," he said--"down that
shoulder there! Swamp a half-mile of the steep pitch and you'll come
into the Cameron road, and it will take you to the stream. You'll need
about fifteen hundred feet of snub-line for that sharp incline there,
and I'll have it up to you by the time you are ready for it. Put the
swale hay to the rest of the pitches. It will trig better than gravel.
Don't let 'em put a chain round a runner. You want to keep your road so
smooth that every load of logs will go down there like a boy down a barn
rollway. Sprinkle your levels and keep 'em glare ice. By ----, it's a
beauty of an outlook for a landing-job! Cut your high slopes this trip.
Keep your logs above the level of that shoulder, and every hoss team
will make a four-turn day of it. We'll save a dollar a thousand on the
landing-proposition alone, over and above the Enchanted road chance! And
up there--" He gazed to the north up the valley over the wooded ridges,
and then hushed his voice, as though there lay somewhere in that blue
distance a thing that he feared.

"Up there is a lake of water, Mr. Ide, that God designed to flow down
this valley, and it's going to find its own channel again--somehow! I
hope that doesn't sound like cheap boasting. It's only my idea of the
right."

He led the way back around the granite dome above the spruce benches,
and the old man followed in silence.

Two hours later Rodburd Ide was off and away for Castonia, his
jumper-bell jangling its echoes among the trees. He had hope in his
heart and a letter in his pocket. The hope was his own. The letter was
addressed to John Barrett's daughter, and the superscription had brought
a little scowl to the brows of the magnate of Castonia. Somehow it
seemed like communication with the enemy. But Dwight Wade, writing it in
the stillness of the night, while the little man snored in his bunk, had
seemed in his own imaginings to be putting into that letter, as one lays
away for safe keeping in a casket, all that heart and soul held of love
and candor and tenderness. It was as though he intrusted those into her
hands to preserve for him against the day when he might take them back
into life and living once more. Just now they did not seem to belong to
this life on Enchanted; they did not harmonize with the bitter
conditions. He pressed down the envelope's seal with the fantastic
reflection that he was sending out of the conflict witnesses in whose
presence he might stand ashamed.

Therefore, it was not treason that Rodburd Ide bore in the pocket of his
big fur coat. Dwight Wade had sent tenderer emotions to the rear. He
stood at the front, ready to meet iron with iron and fire with fire.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE DEVIL OF THE HEMPEN STRANDS

     "When the snub-line parts and the great load starts
       There's nothing that men may do,
     Except to cower with quivering hearts
       While the wreck goes thundering through."

               --The Ballad of Tumbledick.


Days of winter snow and blow; days of sunshine, hard and cold as the
radiance from a diamond's facets; days of calm and days of tempest; days
when the snowflakes dropped as straight as plummets, and days when the
whirlwinds danced in crazy rigadoons down the valleys or spun like
dervishes on the mountain-tops! And all were days of honest, faithful
toil in the black growth of Enchanted, and the days brought the
dreamless sleep o' nights that labor won.

In those long evenings hope lighted a taper that shone brightly beside
the lantern of the office camp in whose dull beams Dwight Wade wrote
long and earnest letters. But these were not to John Barrett's daughter;
the conditions of their waiting love had tacitly closed the mail between
them.

Again Dwight Wade, in the honesty of his soul, had seen a light of hope
that contrasted cheerily with the red glare of might against might which
made his decency quail. He saw a chance to win as a man, not as a thug.

The most brilliant young attorney of the newer generation in the State
had been Wade's college mate. To him Wade detailed in those long
letters the iniquitous conditions that fettered independent operators in
the north country, and gave the case into his enthusiastic keeping. It
meant digging into the black heart of the State's political corruption,
timber graft, and land steals. It was a task that the young attorney,
with earnest zeal and new ideals of civic honor, had long before entered
upon. He seized upon this store of new ammunition with delight, and Wade
rejoiced at the tenor of his replies. That the law and the right would
intervene in Blunder valley to preserve him from a conflict in which he
must use the shameful weapons selected by Britt for the duello was a
promise that he cherished. And thus heartened, he toiled more eagerly.

It was well into February before they began to haul their logs to the
landing-place on Blunder Stream. But even with an estimated five
millions to dump upon the ice of Blunder, time was ample, for the
snub-line down the steep quarter-mile of Enchanted's shoulder made a
cut-off that doubled the efficiency of the teams. It was the crux of the
situation, that snubbing-pitch. With its desperate dangers, its
uncertainties, its celerity, it was ominous and it was fascinating. But
it was the big end of the great game. Dwight Wade made himself its
captain. Tommy Eye, master of horses, came into his own and was his
lieutenant.

Those two trudged there together in the gray of the dawn; they trudged
back together in the chilled dusk, still trembling with the racking
strain of it all.

Wade, cant-dog in hand, stood beside the snubbing-post and gave the word
for every load to start, and watched every inch of its progress with
tense muscles and pounding heart. Tommy Eye mounted the load and took
the reins from the deposed driver as each team came to the top of the
pitch; and the snorting, fearing horses seemed to know his master touch,
and in blind faith went into their collars and floundered down under
the fateful looming of the great load. Thus, every hour of the day,
Tommy Eye silently, boldly ventured his life in the interests of the man
who had once saved it, and Dwight Wade watched over his safety from the
top of the slope. No word passed between the two. But they understood.
There was no other man in the north country with the soothing voice, the
assuring touch on the reins, and the mystic power to inspire confidence
in dumb brutes--no other man that could bring the qualities that Tommy
Eye brought to his task, coupled with the blind courage to perform. The
horses turned their heads to make sure that he held the reins and was
adventuring with them. Then they went on.

The snubbing-post was a huge beech, sawed to leave four feet of stump.
It had been adzed to the smoothness of an axe-handle. The three-inch
hawser clasped it with four turns, and two men, whose hands were
protected by huge leather mittens, kept the squalling coils loosened and
paid out the slack, when the cable was hooked to the load of logs on its
way down the slope in order to hold it back. And when the coils yanked
themselves loose and the rope ran too swiftly, even making the leather
mittens smoke, Wade, with his cant-dog, threw the hawser hard against
the stump and checked it. It was a trick that Tommy Eye taught him, and
it required muscle and snap. At the instant of peril he drove his
cant-dog's iron nose into the roots of the stump, surged back on his
lever, and pinched the rope between post and ash handle of the tool.
Friction checked and held the load, but it was muscle-stretching,
back-breaking labor.

And all the time there was the rope to watch to make sure that no rock's
edge or sharp stick had severed a strand, for broken strands uncoil like
a spring under the mighty strain. There were the flipping bights of the
coiled hawser to guard against as the men paid it out. Men are caught
by those bights and ground to horrible death against the snubbing-post.

In time that rope came to have sentiency in the eyes of Wade. Some days
it seemed to be possessed by the spirit of evil. It would not run
smoothly. It fed out by jerks, getting more and more of slack at each
jump. It began to sway and vibrate between post and load, a wider arc
with every jerk, a gigantic cello-string booming horrible music. It
snarled on the post; it growled grim and sinister warning along its
tense length. So terrible are these wordless threats that men have been
known to surrender in panic, flee from the snubbing-post, and let
destruction wreak its will. Hence the silent and understanding
partnership between Tommy Eye, shadowed by death on the load, and Dwight
Wade fiercely alert at the snubbing-post.

There came a day when the spirit of evil had full sway.

The weather was hard, with gray skies and a bone-searching chill. The
hawser, made smooth as glass by attrition, was steely and stiff with the
cold. It had new voices. Once it leaped so viciously at the legs of one
of the post-men that he gave a yell and ran. In the tumult of his
passion and fear Wade cursed the caitiff, his own legs in the swirl of
the bights, his cant-dog nipping the rope to the post and checking it
short. And far down the slope Tommy Eye, his teeth hard shut on his
tobacco, waited without turning his head, a mute picture of utter
confidence.

It was while Wade held the line, waiting for the men to re-coil the
hawser into safe condition to run, that the Honorable Pulaski Britt
appeared. He came trotting his horses down the Enchanted main road and
jerked them to a halt at the top of the pitch. Two men were with him on
the jumper. Each wore the little blue badge of a game warden.

"We are after a man named Thomas Eye, of your crew," said one of the
men, catching Wade's inquiring gaze. "We've traced that cow-moose
killing to him--the Cameron case."

For an instant Wade's heart went sick, and then it went wild. Such an
impudent, barefaced plot to rob him of an invaluable man at this crisis
in his affairs seemed impossible to credit. It was vengefulness run mad,
gone puerile.

"Mr. Britt has signed the complaint and has the witnesses," said the
warden. "We've got a warrant and we'll have to take the man."

"And there he is on that load," said the Honorable Pulaski, pointing his
whip-butt.

"Hold that line, men," commanded Wade, coming away from the post. "Tommy
Eye has not been out of my camp, wardens. He is absolutely indispensable
to me. He has killed no moose. But if it can be proven I'll pay his
fine."

"It takes a trial to prove it," said the warden, dryly. "That's why
we're after him."

"Britt, I didn't think you'd get down to this," stormed the young man.

"I'm not a game warden," retorted the baron of the Umcolcus. "You're
dealin' with them, not me."

He sat, slicing his whip-lash into the snow, and watched the young man's
bitter anger with huge enjoyment. And when Wade seemed unable to frame a
suitable retort he went on: "If you think I've got anything to do with
taking that crack teamster out of your crew, you'd better thank me.
Anything that interferes with your landing your logs in a blind pocket
like Blunder Stream is a godsend to you and Rod Ide." His temper began
to flame. "What do you think you're going to do there? Do you calculate
to steal any of my water? Do you think that whipper-snapper whelp of a
lawyer that you've set yappin' at our heels is goin' to spin a thread
for you against the men that have run this section for thirty years? If
you've only got the law bug in your head, give it up. But if you have
the least sneakin' idea of troublin' that dam up there"--he shook his
fist into the north--"coil your snub-line and save time and money; for,
by the eternal Jehovah, blood will run in that valley before water
does!"

In the pause that followed one of the wardens asked, "Do you propose to
resist the arrest of Eye, Mr. Wade?"

The question was an incautious one. In a flash the young man saw that
this last sortie of the Honorable Pulaski was not so much an adventure
against Tommy Eye as against himself--with intent to embroil him with
the officers of the law. That might mean more trouble than he dared
reflect upon. He had a very definite apprehension of what the legal
machinery of Britt and his associates might do to him if he afforded any
pretence for their procedure.

One of the wardens dropped off the jumper at a word from Britt, and the
timber baron urged his horses down the slope, the other officer
accompanying him.

Tommy Eye sat on his load, still with gaze patiently to the front,
waiting in serene confidence the convenience of his employer. That back
turned to Wade was the back of the humble confider, the back of the
martyr. In his sudden trepidation at thought of his own imperilled
interests, were he himself enmeshed in the law, Wade had thought to
leave Tommy's possible fate alone. But now, almost without reflection or
plan, he ran down the hill. The martyr's serene obliviousness struck a
pang to his heart. In those days of strife and toil and understanding
Tommy Eye had grown dear to him. Britt, turning, yelled to the officer
at the top of the slope, "Give that snub-line a half-hitch and hold that
load!"

A bit of a rock shelf broadened the road where the logs were halted.
Britt lashed his horses around in front of the load with apparent intent
to intimidate Tommy. The warden dropped off the jumper and shut off
retreat in the rear. And Wade, running swiftly, carrying his cant-dog,
came and leaped upon the load and stood above Tommy--his protecting
genius, but a genius who had no very clear idea of what he was about to
do.

No one ever explained exactly how it happened!

The warden, who was at the top of the pitch and who did it, gazed a
moment, saw what he had done, and fled with a howl of abject terror,
never to appear on Enchanted again. The men at the snub-post stated
afterwards that he came to them, hearing Pulaski Britt's orders, elbowed
them aside with an oath, and took the hawser. He probably undertook to
loosen the coils to make a half-hitch; but a game warden has no business
with a snub-line when the devil is in it.

It gave one triumphant shriek at its release, and then--"Toom! Toom!
Toom!"--it began to sing its horrible bass note. It was slipping faster
and faster around the snubbing-post under the strain of Tommy Eye's
load, which it had been holding back.

Tommy Eye knew without looking--knew without understanding. He
knew--that most terrible knowledge of all woods terrors--that he was
"sluiced." He screamed once--only once--and the horses came into their
collars. Their hot breath was on the back of Pulaski Britt's neck when
he started--started with a hoarse oath above which sang the shrill yelp
of his whip-lash, and behind him, on the icy slope, slid the great load
of logs now released from anchorage to the snubbing-post and guided only
by the nerve of Tommy Eye.

"Jump, Mr. Wade! Jump!" gasped the teamster. But Wade drove the peak of
his cant-dog into a log and clung to the upright handle. He looked
back. The great hawser spun itself off the spindle of the post and
chased down the hill in spirals, utterly loose and free.

It was no dare-devil spirit that held him on the load. His soul was sick
with horrible fear. It was something that was almost subconsciousness
that kept him there. Perhaps it was pity--pity for Tommy Eye, so brave a
martyr at his post of duty. In the flash of that instant when the great
load gathered speed he stiffened himself to leap, then he looked at
Tommy's patched coat and remembered his oft-repeated little boast: "I've
never left my hosses yet!" And so if Tommy could stay with his horses,
he, Dwight Wade, could stay with Tommy! There was a queer thrill in his
breast and the sting of sudden tears in his eyes as he decided.

The first rush of the descent was along an incline, steep but even.
There were benches below--each shelf ten feet or so of jutting
level--that broke the descent. Wade saw the jumper of Pulaski Britt
strike the first bench. The old man went off the seat into the air, and
when he fell he dropped his reins, clutched the seat, and kneeled,
facing the pursuers, his face ghastly with terror. He crouched there,
not daring to turn. Even if he had held his reins they would have been
as useless in his hands as strips of fog. Ledges and trees hemmed either
side. There was only the narrow road for his flying horses, and they ran
straight on, needing neither whip nor admonitions.

The groan of five thousand feet of timber chafing the bind-chains when
their great load struck the shelf was like the groan of an animal in
agony. The chains held. It was Tommy who had seen to every link and
every loop. Then, for the first time in his life, Wade heard the scream
of horses in mortal fear. The lurch of the forward sled lifted the pole,
and for one dreadful instant both animals kicked free and clear in air.

Tommy Eye shot two words at them like bullets. "Steady, boys!" he
yelled. His head was hunched between his shoulders. His arms were
out-stretched and rigid. Tommy Eye, master of horses! It was his lift on
the bits at just the fraction of a second when they needed it that set
them on their feet when the pole dropped. And down the next descent they
swooped.

From his height Wade looked straight into the eyes of Pulaski Britt. It
seemed that with every plunge of their hoofs Tommy Eye's horses would
smash that puffy face. The checks of the benches, when the huge load
struck and staggered from time to time, allowed Britt's lighter equipage
a little start. But the mighty projectile that drove on him down the
smooth slopes gained with every yard, for the thrusting pole swept the
horses off their feet in plunge after plunge. And then it was Tommy
Eye's desperate coolness that helped them to their infrequent footing.
All of the man's face that Wade could see was a ridged jaw muscle above
the faded collar of his coat. The peak of his cap hid all but that.

There was a curve at the foot of the snub slope. The wall of trees that
closed the vista was disaster spelled by bolled trunk and sturdy limb.
There stood the nether millstone: the upper was rushing down, and the
grist would be flesh of horses and men. No man could see any other
alternative. That horses, shaken every now and then on the up-cocked
pole as helplessly as kittens, could bring that load around the curve
was not a hope; it could be nothing but a dream of desperation.

As to what Tommy Eye dreamed or thought, his passenger had no hint.
There was only the patch of cheek showing under the tilted cap. But the
reins were just as tight, the out-stretched arms just as steady. Wade
crouched low, his eyes on that rigid jaw muscle.

Suddenly, with a yell like the cry of something wild, Eye sprang to his
feet, bestriding the logs, bracing himself for some mighty effort. They
were at the Curve of Death! There came a surge on the tight reins, eight
hoofs dug the snow in one frantic thrust, and they went around--they
went around! With horses and driver straining to one side the great load
pitched, swerved, and, after one breathless instant, swept on in the
road around the curve.

Twenty rods farther on they struck the hay, spread thickly for the
trig--the checking of the runners. And the sled-runners, biting
it, jerked and halted, the bind-chains creaked, the chafing logs
groaned--and they were stopped! The lathering horses stood with legs
wide spraddled, their heads lowered, their snorting noses puffing up
the snow.

Tommy Eye dug the tobacco from his cheek and thoughtfully tossed it
away. Britt's team had disappeared, reins dragging, the horses running
madly, the whitened, puffy face flashing one last look as it winked out
of sight among the trees.

"I've dreamed of such a thing as this," observed Tommy, at last, a
strange tremor in his tones. "I've dreamed of chasin' old P'laski Britt,
me settin' on five thousand feet of wild timber and lookin' down into
his face and seein' him a-wonderin' whether they'd let him into the
front door of hell or make him go around to the back. It's the first
time he was ever run good and plenty, and I done it--but," he sighed,
"it was damnation whilst it lasted!"

He turned now and gazed long and wistfully at Wade.

"Ye stuck by me, didn't ye, Mr. Wade?" he said, softly. "Stuck by me
jest like I was a friend, and not old, drunken Tommy Eye! I reckon we'll
shake on that!" And when they clasped hands he asked, with the wistful,
inexpressible pathos of his simple devotion to duty: "What was it all
about? I jest only know they sluiced me!"

And Wade gasped an explanation, Tommy Eye staring at him with wrinkling
brows and squinting eyes.

"Come to arrest me for northin' I hadn't done?" he shrilled. "Come to
take me off'n a job where I was needed, and where I was earnin' my
honest livin'?"

"They had the warrant, and Britt swore out the lying complaint."

"Mr. Wade," said Tommy, after a solemn pause, "I've done a lot of things
in this life to be ashamed of--but jest gittin' drunk, that's all. I
ain't never done a crime. But jest now, if it hadn't been for that
toss-up between supper in camp or hot broth in tophet to-night, I'd be
travellin' down-country, pulled away from you when you need me worst,
and all on account of P'laski Britt. If that's the chances an honest man
runs in this world, I'm an outlaw from now on!"

Wade stared at him in amazement, for there was a queer significance in
Tommy's tone.

"An outlaw!" repeated Tommy, slapping his breast. "Yes, s'r, I'm an
outlaw! An outlaw so fur as P'laski Britt is concerned. I've showed him
I can run him! Did you see him lookin' at me? He'll dream of me after
this when he has the nightmare."

He took Wade by the arm.

"I 'ain't been sayin' much, Mr. Wade, but I see how things are gettin'
ready to move in this valley. You ain't built for an outlaw. But you
need one in your business. I'm the one from now on."

He pulled his thin hand out of his mitten and shook it towards the north
in the direction in which Blunder Lake lay.

"You need an outlaw in your business, I say! I'm tough from now on. I'll
be so tough in April that you'll have to discharge me. There's no
knowin' what an outlaw will do, is there, Mr. Wade? I'd ruther go to
jail as an outlaw than as a drunk, like I've done every summer. They
look up to outlaws. They make drunks scrub the floors and empty the
slops." His voice trembled. "Oh, you needn't worry, Mr. Wade! I'll be
proud to be an outlaw. And I ain't northin' but old Tommy Eye, anyway."

He slid down off the load and went between the horses' heads, and
fondled them and kissed them above their eyes.

"Brace up, old fellers!" he said. "You won't have to pull no more
to-day. I reckon you've done your stunt!"

"I--I don't understand this outlaw business, Tommy," stammered Wade,
looking down on him from the load. Tommy peered up, his head between the
shaggy manes of the horses.

"Don't you try to, Mr. Wade!" he cried, earnestly. "There ain't no good
in tryin' to understand outlaws. They ain't no kind to hitch up to very
close. Don't you try to understand them!" And as he bent to unhook the
trace-chains he muttered to himself: "I ain't sure as I understand much
about 'em myself, but there's one outlawin' job that it's come to my
mind can be done without takin' private lessons off'n Jesse James, or
whoever is topnotcher in the line just now. In the mean time, let's see
that warden try to arrest me!"

But as days went by it became apparent that the wardens and the
Honorable Pulaski D. Britt considered that they had precipitated an
affair on Enchanted whose possible consequences they did not care to
face.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE "CANNED THUNDER" OF CASTONIA

     "A woodsman hates a coward as he hates diluted rye,
     Stiff upper-lip for livin', stiff backbone when you die!"


When April came, and with caressing fingers began to stroke the
softening snow from the mountain flanks, she found full half a million
of the Enchanted cut still on the yards.

"If it's to be a gamble, let's make it a good one," Rodburd Ide had
counselled his partner. "Pile on every stick that winter's back will
carry. Pile till it breaks!"

Dwight Wade had a trustworthy "kitchen cabinet" of advisers in old
Christopher Straight, Tommy Eye, and the chopping-boss; and with them as
counsellors he ventured further than his own narrow experience would
have prompted.

On nights when April slept and the trickling slopes were stiffened by
the cold, the crew of the Enchanted stole a march on spring. They awoke
at sundown with the owls. They ate breakfast in the gloom of early
evening. And, with the moon holding her lantern for them in the serene
skies, they rushed their logs into the waiting arms of Blunder valley.
That those arms would surrender the timber when the time was ripe seemed
more certain as the days went by. The word of their zealous young man of
law was encouraging. There had been pleas, representations, digging
over of old charters, hunt through dusty records, citation of
precedents, and some very direct talk regarding a thorough legislative
investigation of conditions in the north country to regulate the rights
of independent operators.

It was admittedly too big a question to be hurried. Litigation fattens
by what it feeds on. Grown ponderous, it marches, slow and dignified, in
short stages between terms, and sits and rests and puffs at every
cross-road of argument, exception, appeal, and writ of error. Even that
exigency of five millions of timber waiting in Blunder valley could not
hasten the settlement of the young reformer's main contention or the big
question. But there are in this life some deeper sentiments than
enthusiasm in reform. The old college friendship between Dwight Wade,
famous centre of Burton's eleven, and the little quarter-back whom he
had shielded was one of those deeper sentiments. And now the lawyer, for
the sake of that friendship, was willing to buy Dwight Wade's success in
Blunder valley by honorable compromise on certain points where
compromise was honorable.

With a man open to sane reason and moral decency a compromise might have
been effected. But after Pulaski D. Britt had craftily drawn out proffer
of a truce and proposition of a trade in one phase of the great question
of water-rights, he burst into a bellow of "blackmail" that echoed from
end to end of the State. The words bristled in the newspapers controlled
by the land barons and was rolled on the tongues of gossip. And as
humanity in general, selfish in its easy-going way and jealous of
resolute activity, likes to believe ill of reformers, men were readier
to believe Britt than to give a motive of honest friendship its due. The
jeers of the mob make what some people like to call "public opinion."
And sometimes when public opinion is loudly gabbling and can be
politely referred to in case of doubt, there can be found judges who
will listen with one ear to the voices of the street and with the other
to the specious representations of the man in power.

So it came about that the judge presiding at the _nisi prius_ term in
the great county dominated by Pulaski D. Britt hearkened in chambers to
some very distressing details set before him by that gentleman and
certain other "employers of labor" and "developers of the great timber
interests." The judge pursed his lips and with his tongue clucked
horrified astonishment at stories of brutal assaults made "on members of
Pulaski Britt's crew" (this being Dwight Wade's desperate defence of
himself, as pictured by Britt), and other tales of lunatics provoked to
deeds of violence towards aforesaid "developers"; of incendiaries
spirited away from officers; of men stolen out of Britt's crew (poor
Tommy Eye's rescue from torture, as revamped for evidence by the
Honorable Pulaski D. Britt); and, lastly, of that desperate and
malignant attempt on the life of Honorable Pulaski D. Britt when a load
of timber was sluiced at him from the shoulder of Enchanted Mountain.

Dwight Wade had not put into the hands of his lawyer the details of
those pitiful secrets of the woods; for not only his honor as a man set
a seal on his lips, but the sacredness of his love imposed higher
obligation still. So his lawyer listened, amazed, incredulous, but
incapable of refuting these tales in the categorical way that the law
demands.

So much, then, for what "the gang" had done for Pulaski D. Britt and his
interests. Britt lacked neither words nor will to make the story a black
one.

As to what they intended to do, the Honorable Pulaski declaimed, with
quivering finger rapping tattoo on the map of the Blunder valley, his
voice hoarse with emotion and the perspiration of apprehensiveness
streaking his puffy cheeks.

And with past enormities standing undefended, what might not a judge
believe as to future atrocities when the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt had
made the prediction, his chief exhibit of intended outlawry being five
millions of timber stranded in Blunder valley, and requiring "stolen
water" to move it? His last argument was an uncontradicted allegation of
attempted compromise, his last word "Blackmail!" shot at the face of the
opposing lawyer while his stubby finger vibrated under the lawyer's
nose.

Therefore, at the end of it all, the clerk of courts wrote, the judge
signed, and five minutes after the ink was dry High Sheriff Bennett
Rodliff buttoned his coat over the folded paper and set his face towards
Enchanted.

Forty-eight hours later, having travelled by train, by stage, by sledge,
and on foot, he stood before Dwight Wade in the midst of his crew at the
landings in Blunder valley, gave the paper to him, and watched his face
while he read it. Being a man who enjoyed his own authority and exulted
in the power of the law when it dealt crushing blows, the high sheriff
noted with satisfaction that the young man's face grew pale under its
tan.

"Get the sense, do you?" inquired the sheriff, allowing himself the
relaxation of a chew of tobacco after his headlong rush into the north;
"it's an injunction. You can't meddle with Blunder Lake dam; can't h'ist
gates; can't take water!" He gazed about him at the heaped logs piled in
the bed of the stream. "Kind o' seems to me," he observed, with smug
rebuke, "that I'd have been slow in landin' logs down here till I knowed
what the law court was goin' to do about these water-rights. Law steps
slow and careful, and this whole thing has got to wait till it gets way
up to the full bench. Lettin' you have water here might be an admission
by the big crowd that they was all wrong on the chief proposition. The
big crowd ain't that kind!"

Wade had read the injunction through to its bitter end. Every stilted
phrase, every estopping, restraining word of its redundancy, was like a
bar between him and his hopes. It was a temporary injunction. But the
date set for a hearing on the question of permanency was a date that
made those log-piles in Blunder valley loom in his dizzy gaze like
monuments to buried expectations.

"Where was our lawyer when this damnable document was issued?" he cried,
shaking the paper under the sheriff's nose. His heart was aflame against
the thing called Law. The sheriff stood there as Law's representative,
expressing in his blank face such unfeeling acceptance of the situation
as hopeless, that Wade wanted to jam the paper between those jaws
wagging blandly on their tobacco.

"Oh, he was there!" remarked Rodliff, dryly. "Perhaps if he hadn't been
there your case would have come off better. Judges ain't got much use
for lawyers when the shyster kind get shown up in a graft game. The
fellow who named this Blunder valley years ago," he observed, running
his eyes over the log-piles once more, "must have had a gift of
second-sight. Rod Ide's always been cal'lated to be level-headed. It's a
wonder to me he let you fool him into this. I've heard considerable
about it outside. But it's worse than I'd reckoned on."

For a sickening instant the thing showed to Wade in its blackest light.
To be sure, it was the Law that struck down his hands. But it was plain
that the Law was, after all, only a part of the game--and his enemies
had invoked it and had won.

"Look here, men!" shouted the high sheriff, turning from his survey of
this defeated wretchedness, "I want you to take note of what I've done
here. I've served an injunction on your boss. It means that he's got to
leave Blunder Lake dam alone. Him and all his crew! Understand?"

The men had been slowly gathering near on the log-piles, in order to get
drift of what this visit meant. Some of them had private reasons for
wondering what business a high sheriff was on; all of them were curious.
And the sheriff saw Tommy Eye in the forefront.

"By-the-way, Eye," he called, "the wardens want you! You'd better come
along out with me and save trouble."

"I'm an outlaw," cried Tommy, defiantly, "and I won't come with nobody!"

The sheriff blinked at the man who had been his uncomplaining prisoner
for so many summers, and seemed to be trying to digest this defiance.

"I'm an outlaw!" repeated the man. "I ain't to work for nobody. I've
jacked my job here. I'm just plain outlaw. I ain't responsible to
nobody. Nobody ain't responsible for me. You tell that to everybody
concerned. I'm an outlaw!"

Rodliff, still with wondering eyes on Tommy, slowly worked a revolver
out of his hip-pocket.

"Come down off'n that pile!" he shouted. "I want you!"

But once the revolver was out the target was not visible. Three leaps,
his calk boots biting the logs, put Tommy out of sight behind the pile.
Two minutes later they heard him among the trees far up the slope of
Blunder valley. He was still shouting his declaration of outlawry, and
the diminuendo of tone indicated that he was running like a deer.

The high sheriff shoved back his revolver, scowling up at the grinning
faces on the log-piles. But he found no hint of similar amiability in
Wade's expression when he turned to face the young man; and after
surveying him up and down with much disfavor, he shook his fist in a
gesture that embraced them all, and started away, flinging over his
shoulder the contemptuous remark that he seemed to have "lighted in a
pretty tough gang." The significance of that expressed conviction was
not lost on the young man. It revealed what machination was doing.
Britt, bulwarked by the courts and public sentiment, was not to be
fought by the outlawry he had invoked as the code of combat.

An hour later Dwight Wade was urging his horse towards Castonia. If
Rodburd Ide or a message from Rodburd Ide were on the way north he would
meet the situation so much the sooner. The sting of his bitter thoughts
and the goad of his impatience would not allow him to stay at Enchanted.
He wanted to know the exact facts "outside." He did not dare to
jeopardize his partner by the rashness his bitter anger once
contemplated.

A half-mile down the tote road Tommy Eye dashed at him from the covert
of the spruces.

"I reckoned you'd be goin', Mr. Wade!" he panted. "I ain't intendin' to
bother you--but what did Ben Rodliff say that was--that paper that he
clubbed you with?"

The pitiful intensity of his loyal anxiety struck Wade to the heart. "It
was an injunction, Tommy," he explained, patiently. "It's an order from
the court. Oh, it's horribly unjust! It may be law, but it isn't
justice; for justice would take into account a man's common rights, and
wouldn't tie them up by pettifogging delays." He was talking as much to
himself as to the poor fellow who clung to the thill. The words surged
into his mouth out of his full soul. "I have been square with men,
Tommy, square and decent. I believe in law, and I want to respect it.
But when law obeys Pulaski Britt's bidding, and takes you by the throat
and kneels on you and chokes you, and lets such a man as Britt walk past
on his own business, free and clear, it's law that's devil-made."

But the incantation of that law was having its effect on a nature that
was more docile than it realized. In his hot anger he had said he would
fight Britt with the tyrant's own lawless choice of weapons. He looked
back and remembered that he had intended to do so. A sheriff with a gold
badge and a bit of paper had prevailed over his bitter resolution when
Pulaski Britt and his army at his back would have failed to cow him.

The dull roll of a distant detonation came to them in the little silence
that followed on Wade's outburst. It came from the west, where men of
the Enchanted crew were at work widening the granite jaws of Blunder
gorge to give clear egress to the Enchanted drive. In that moment of his
utter despair the roar of the rend-rock was a mocking voice.

"And that's all there is to an injunction?" demanded Tommy. "Ben Rodliff
hands you a paper, and spits tobacker-juice on the snow, and calls you a
fool, and goes down past here, like he did a little while ago, swingin'
his reins and singin' a pennyr'yal hymn? Only has to do that to tie up
the whole Enchanted drive that we hundred men have sweat and froze and
worked to get onto the landings?"

"Only that, Tommy," replied Wade, bitterly. "The law is sitting there on
Blunder dam. You can't see it, but it's there, and it says, 'Hands
off!'"

"There's something you can see, though," Tommy declared. "You can see
two men in a shack that's been built over the gates of Blunder Lake dam.
One sleeps daytimes, the other sleeps nights, and they've both got
Winchesters. I've been there private and personal, and looked 'em
over."

"I don't want any of my men lurking about that dam," commanded Wade.

Tommy Eye cinched his worn belt one notch tighter over his thin haunches
and buttoned his checkered wool jacket. "I ain't one of your men," he
growled, with such sudden and sullen change in demeanor that Wade stared
at him in amazement. "I've gone into the outlaw business, and I've told
you so, and I've told Ben Rodliff so."

They heard the thudding boom of dynamite once more, and the absolutely
fiendish look that came into Tommy's face as he turned his gaze towards
Blunder valley enlightened his employer.

"That sounds good to me!" shrieked the teamster. It was as though one of
the docile Dobbins of the hovel had suddenly perked up ears and tail and
begun to play the part of a beast of prey.

When Tommy ran back into the spruces Wade shouted after him, insistently
and angrily. But he did not reply, and after a time Wade drove on,
cursing soulfully the whole innate devilishness of the woods. That
another weak nature had run amuck after the fashion to which he had
become accustomed in his woods experience seemed probable; but he had
neither time nor inclination to chase Tommy Eye. As to Blunder Lake dam,
he reflected that the eternal vigilance of the Winchesters guaranteed
Pulaski Britt's interests in that direction, and, soul-sick of the whole
wicked situation, he was glad that the Winchesters were there. He had
failed. He could at least own that much man-fashion to Rodburd Ide.

It was a messenger that he met--not the partner himself. And as he had
anticipated, the messenger summoned him to Castonia. The last few miles
of his journey took him along the bank of the Umcolcus. The big river
had already thrown off its winter sheathing and was running full and
free. It was waiting for the northern lakes, still ice-bound, to
surrender their waters and sweep the logs down to it.

Rodburd Ide's stout soul uttered no complaints when the two had locked
themselves in the little back office of the store. But his mute distress
and bewilderment in the face of calamity sanctioned by the law touched
his young partner more than complaints would have done. The fighting
spirit was gone out of the little man.

"I didn't reckon it could go against us that bad, not after what the
lawyer said. He seemed to know his business, Wade. But maybe he was too
honest to fight a crowd like that. It's a crusher to come after hopes
was up like mine was. I even went to work the minute the ice slid
down-river, and set our sheer-booms above the logan and got the
sortin'-gap ready. I was that sure our logs were comin' down. But it
ain't your fault, Wade, and it ain't mine. It's just as I told you once
before. It's what we're up against!"

And then, striving for a pretext to end the doleful session, he invited
Wade to walk up the river-bank. He wanted to show him the site for the
new great mills. "They can't steal that much away from me, my boy," he
said, trying to be cheerful. "The mills will have to buy out of the
corporation drive this year, seeing that we're coopered on our contract.
That means so much more good profit for Britt and his crowd. They've got
their smell of what's comin', too, and that's probably why they fought
so hard to get the injunction. They're in for a big make and their own
prices this year. But the more I know about that charter of the Great
Independent the more trouble I can see for the old crowd when the next
legislature gets to tearin' this thing to pieces. The G. I.'s know what
they're doin'. They'll have their rights. And when the big wagon starts
little fellers like you and me can climb aboard and ride, too. But the
big wagon won't start till next year," he added, sadly.

Out-of-doors they did not talk. The roar of the Hulling Machine
dominated everything, and the spume-clouds swaying above it spat in
their faces. On the platform of Ide's store the pathetic brotherhood of
the "It-'ll-git-ye Club" sat in silent conclave, stunned into a queer
stupor by the bellow of the Hulling Machine, even as habitual
opium-eaters succumb to the blissful influence of the drug.

Above the falls an island divided the river. On the channel side the
waters raced turbulently. The island sentinelled the mouth of the
logan that deeply indented the shore on the quiet side of the river.
Ide had installed a system of sheer-booms. They spanned the current
diagonally, and were to be the silent herders that would edge the
log-flocks away from the banks, crowd them to centre at the sorting-gap,
and keep them running free. Below the sorting-gap there were two
sheer-booms--divergent. One ushered the down-river logs back into the
current that dashed towards the Hulling Machine. The other would swing
the logs of the Enchanted drive into the quiet holding-ground of the
logan.

[Illustration: "'WHAT I SAY ON THIS RIVER GOES!'"]

The thought of the heaped logs in Blunder valley, the memory of the
dynamite bellowing its farewell to him over the tree-tops, and now the
spectacle of these empty booms, had the eloquence of despair and the
pathos of failure for Dwight Wade. And as the two of them--he and his
partner--stood there and gazed silently, they were forced to face bitter
accentuation of their stricken fortunes. Pulaski D. Britt, master of the
Umcolcus drive, came on his way north at the head of his men. It was an
army marching with all its impedimenta. There were many huge bateaux
swung upon trucks that had hauled them around the white-water. Men
launched them into the eddy above the Hulling Machine, and began to load
them with tents, cordage, and the wangan stores.

Rodburd Ide and his young partner stood at one side, and surveyed this
scene of activity without speaking. And Britt marched up to them,
raucous and domineering with the masterfulness of the river tyrant. It
had long been the saying along the Umcolcus that Pulaski Britt got mad a
week before the driving season opened, and stayed mad a week after it
ended.

"Ide," he cried, "you and I seem to be always in trouble with each other
lately! But it's of your own makin', not mine! These sheer-booms that
you've stuck in here obstruct navigation. I want to get my boats up.
You've got to cut these booms loose."

"Mr. Britt," returned Ide, his tones quivering with passion, "two men in
each bateau crew can shove those booms down with pick-poles and let a
bateau over without wasting a minute's time. You've brought those
bateaux over all your own sheer-booms below here--you've got your own
booms above. You've been riding over 'em for thirty years. Now be
reasonable."

"You run back down there to your store and get onto your job of sellin'
kerosene and crackers," advised the Honorable Pulaski, sarcastically.
"Don't you undertake to tell me my business. As river-master, I say
those logs obstruct navigation, and what I say on this river goes!"

"You talk, Britt, as though a title that you've grabbed onto, the same
as you have everything else along this river, amounted to anything in
law," objected the magnate of Castonia. "I own the land that those booms
are hitched to, and you're not goin' to bluff me by any of your
obstruction-to-navigation talk. You've managed to get most things along
this river this spring your own way, but I reckon I know when you've
gone about far enough. Don't try to rub it in!"

Mr. Britt, serene in his autocracy as drive-master, was in no mood to
bandy arguments nor waste time on such as Rodburd Ide.

He whirled away, lifted a wooden box from one of the wagons, and set it
down gingerly.

"MacLeod!" he called. The boss came away from the river-bank, where he
was superintending stowing of supplies. "Unpack this dynamite, and blow
damnation out of those booms--the sortin'-gap first!"

The man twisted his face in a queer grimace.

"I don't think I'll do it, Mr. Britt," he said, curtly.

He looked away from Britt when the tyrant began to storm at him, and
fixed his eyes on Wade's face with an expression there was no reading.

"No, I ain't no coward, either," he said, at last, interrupting his
employer's flow of invective. "But dynamitin' other folks' booms with
the folks lookin' at you ain't laid down in a river-driver's job; and I
ain't got any relish for nailin' boot-heels all next summer in a jail
workshop."

"I'll take the responsibility of this!" shouted Britt.

"Then you'd better do the job, sir," suggested MacLeod, firmly. "Law has
queer quirks, and I don't propose to get mixed into it."

There was no gainsaying the logic of the boss's position. The Honorable
Pulaski noted that the men had overheard. He noted also that there were
no signs of any volunteers coming from the ranks. And so, with the
impetuosity of his temper, when the eyes of men were upon him, he set
his own hand to the job. With a cant-dog peak he began to pry at the
box-cover.

And Colin MacLeod, hesitating a moment, walked straight up to Dwight
Wade--to that young man's discomposure, it must be confessed. Wade set
his muscles to meet attack. But MacLeod halted opposite him, folded his
arms, and gazed at him with something of appeal in his frank, gray eyes.
There was candor in his look. In their other meetings Wade had only seen
blind hate and unreasoning passion.

"Maybe you've got an idea that I'm a pretty cheap skate, Mr. Wade," he
blurted. "Maybe I am, but it ain't been so between me and men unless
there was women mixed in. My head ain't strong where women is mixed in.
You hold on and let me talk!" he cried, putting up his big hand. "I've
got eleven hundred dollars in the bank that I've saved, my two hands,
and a reputation of bein' square between men. That's all I've got, and I
want to keep all three. I had you sized up wrong at the start. I mixed
women in without any right to. I misjudged the cards as they laid. I
used you dirty, and I got what was comin' to me. Now I've found out. I
know how things stand with you all along the line, from there"--he
pointed south towards the outside world that held Elva Barrett--"to
there on Enchanted. And I'm sorry! I'm sorry I ever got mistaken, and
made things harder for a square man. You heard what I just said to Mr.
Britt. I wanted you to hear it. All is, I'd like to shake hands with you
and start fresh. It may have to be man to man between us yet on this
river, but, by ----, for myself I want it man-fashion."

He cast a glance behind him. Britt had the box open, and had dug out of
the sawdust some cylinders in brown-paper wrappings. When MacLeod
whirled again to face Wade the latter put out his hand without
reservation in face or gesture. Months before, such amazing repentance
and conversion might have astonished him, but now he understood the real
ingenuousness of the woods. Pulaski Britt, hardened by avarice and
outside associations, was not of the true life of the woods. This
impulsive boy, with his mighty muscles and his tender heart, was of the
woods, and only the woods.

MacLeod came one step nearer to Rodburd Ide, and pulled off his hat.

"If it ain't too much trouble, Mr. Ide, I wish you'd tell Miss Nina that
I've done it square and righted it fair. And don't scowl at me that way,
Mr. Ide! It was a dream--and I've woke up! It was a pretty wild
dream--and a man does queer things in his sleep. Your girl ain't for me
or my kind, and I know it, now that I've woke up. I'd like to tell her
so, and explain, but I don't know how to do it, Mr. Ide. You do it for
me. I ask you man-fashion!"

He started away from them hastily, strode back to the bateaux, and began
to swear at the men who had stopped work to gaze on the Honorable
Pulaski. The latter had already embarked in a bateau, carrying several
of those ominous sticks wrapped in their brown-paper cases.

"Britt," shrieked Ide, "we've been to law with you to find out our
rights! Ain't you willin' to take your own medicine?"

"Hell on your law!" blazed the drive-master, contemptuously.

"Give us time to get an injunction before you destroy our good
property," demanded the little man, choking with his ire.

For answer Britt shook one of the dynamite sticks above his head without
even turning to look back. His men crowded the boat over the boom at the
sorting-gap, and Britt lighted the fuse and tossed the explosive upon
the anchored log platform.

"Oh, if our men were only here instead of at Enchanted!" mourned Ide.

"They're just where we ought to have them, Mr. Ide," the young man
growled.

Britt was safely away up-river when the dynamite did its work; his men
had rowed like fiends. It was a beautiful job, viewed from the
stand-point of destruction. The downward thrust of the mighty force
splintered the platform into toothpicks and let the booms adrift.

The partners of Enchanted did not exchange comments. They gazed after
the destroyer. Taking his time, as though to prolong their distress,
Britt dynamited the booms above, and then stood up and jerked his arm as
a signal for his crew to follow. They went splashing up the river, six
oars to a bateau, and disappeared, one boat after the other, bound for
the mouth of Jerusalem Stream. Already the jaws of the Hulling Machine
were gulping down the gobbets of splintered logs.

"How soon can you replace those booms, Mr. Ide?" Wade edged the words
through his teeth, as a man stricken with lockjaw might have spoken. And
without waiting for reply, he hurried on. "Put 'em in, Mr. Ide, because
you're going to need 'em. And put along this shore all the men in
Castonia who can handle guns. Winchesters and dynamite, with 'Hell on
law' for a battle-cry! That's what he's given us. It's good enough for
me. Will you put those booms in, Mr. Ide?"

"I'll put 'em in, and I'll protect 'em after they're put in," declared
the little man, stoutly. The fighting spirit was in him again.

They looked at each other a moment, and turned and hurried back towards
the settlement. Neither man seemed to feel that words could help that
situation nor emphasize determination.

Prophet Eli was in front of Ide's store with his little white stallion
when the two arrived there. The old man surveyed Wade shrewdly when he
hastened to Nina Ide, who was waiting for a word with him.

"Boy! boy!" whispered the girl, clasping his tanned hand in both of
hers, "I don't like to see your eyes shine so! They're hard. But I know
how to soften them. I have a letter for you from the one woman of all
the world. Come with me and get it."

"Keep it for me," he muttered--"keep it until I come for it. I'm not fit
to touch it now. It might make a decent man of me, and--and--I don't
want to be--not just yet, Miss Nina." He whirled away, climbed upon his
jumper, and lashed his horse back along the trail towards Enchanted. The
words of that half-jeering ditty of Prophet Eli's followed him, as they
had on that memorable first day at Castonia, and grotesque as the lilt
was, it seemed to express the young man's flaming resolution:

     "Oh, the little brown bull came down from the mountains,
               Shang, ro-ango, whango-whey!
     And as he was feelin' salutatious,
     Chased old Pratt a mile, by gracious,
     Licked old Shep and two dog Towsers,
     Then marched back home with old Pratt's trousers."



CHAPTER XXVIII

"'TWAS DONE BY TOMMY THUNDER"

     "Twenty a month for daring death--or fighting from dawn
       to dark--
     Twenty and grub and a place to sleep in God's great public
       park.
     We roofless go, with the cook's bateau to follow our hungry
       crew--
     A billion of spruce and hell turned loose when the Allegash
       drive goes through."

               --Ballad of the Drive.


Wade's poor beast was staggering when at last he topped the horseback
overlooking Enchanted valley. He himself plodded behind the jumper,
clinging to it, walking to keep awake. He had started in the dusk, he
had been nearly twenty-four hours on the road from Castonia, and it was
growing dusk again. He was too utterly weary to be surprised when Tommy
Eye came hurrying down from a knoll that commanded a long view of the
tote road. The light of a little camp-fire glowed on the knoll, and he
saw that a horse was tethered there.

"I'm gettin' to be a worse outlaw than ever, Mr. Wade," declared the
teamster. "I've stole one of your hosses, and grub and hay from the
store camp, and I'm livin' here in the woods. I've been waitin' for
you," he added, wistfully. "I might have slept a little last night when
I didn't know, but I reckon I didn't. I figgered you'd come. I've been
waitin' for you. They can't say I'm one of your men, Mr. Wade. I'm
livin' here in the woods."

"Look here, Eye," blurted his employer, roughly, "I haven't any time nor
taste for fool talk just now. You take the horse back to camp and get on
your job." He started on.

"You don't sound as though you'd got what you went after," cried Tommy,
unabashed. He came trotting behind. "You didn't get satisfaction, then,
Mr. Wade! Injunction still there, hey? You didn't get--"

"What did you suppose I'd get from Pulaski Britt, you infernal fool?"
His own brutality towards the faithful servitor made him ashamed. But
the spirit of evil that had taken possession of him was speaking through
lips that he surrendered in weariness of body and bitterness of soul.
And when a shade of repentance smote him at sight of Tommy trotting
sorrowfully at his side, he gasped out of his woe. "He has dynamited our
booms, Tommy. Did it with his own hands. And now"--he threw up his arms
towards Blunder Lake--"wait till to-morrow!"

Tommy Eye stopped without a word and let Wade go on.

"Wait till to-morrow?" he mumbled, as he scrambled back up the knoll.
"Wait till to-morrow, when I've got a two-hoss load of canned thunder
planted under Blunder dam, and the devil helpin' me by puttin' them two
to sleep ev'ry night, snorin' like quill-pigs?" He waited until Wade had
stumbled out of sight, then cinched upon his horse the blankets that had
served for couch during his vigil, mounted, and urged the animal through
the woods, kicking heels into its flanks.

There were men of the crew who heard an unwonted sound in the midnight
hush of the Enchanted camp. It was a dull, heavy, earth-thudding noise
that swept down from the north over the tree-tops and travelled on
through the forest. Men awoke and asked themselves what had awakened
them, and went to sleep again, and knew not what it meant.

Wade did not hear the sound. Exhaustion had fettered his senses when he
crawled into his bunk in the office camp. What he did hear, as he roused
himself in the gray of early dawn to set his hand to the desperate task
he was resolved upon, was the splattering rush of a horse's feet in the
spring ooze of the tote road and a human voice that shrieked,
hysterically: "Man the river, damn ye! Man the river!"

It was Tommy Eye. He was crouched on the back of his horse when the men
came tumbling out. His little eyes were like fire-points. The wattles of
his neck were blood-gorged. He spat froth as he raved at them.

"Man the river, I tell ye! She's b'ilin' full from bank to bank. Ben
Rodliff's injunction busted to blazes and the Enchanted drive started
slam-whoopin', and it's me that's done it!"

"You hellion, have you blowed Blunder dam?" shouted the chopping-boss,
while Dwight Wade was still gasping for words.

"Blowed Blunder dam!" shrieked Tommy, "Why, I've blowed Blunder dam so
high that Ben Rodliff's injunction can't get to it in a balloon. I've
blowed a gouge ten feet deep in the bed-rock. I've let the innards out
of Blunder Lake. She's runnin' valley-full, ice-cakes dancin' jigs on
the black water! And when they ask who done it, tell 'em it was
me--Tommy Eye, the outlaw! Tommy Eye, with a two-hoss load of canned
thunder!" He tried to shake his fists above his head, but groaned, and
one arm dropped as though it were helpless. Blood was caked on his hand
and wrist. He did not wait for Wade to ask the question.

"It's the pay I got for wakin' 'em up in time to run, Mr. Wade. I give
'em a chance. They give me a thirty-thirty! They'd have give me more if
they could have shot straighter. I'm an outlaw, but there ain't no blood
on my head, Mr. Wade."

He slid off the horse and staggered towards the cook camp.

"Gimme mine in my hand, cook!" he called. "I'll eat it while I'm
runnin'. For it's man the river, boys!"

And the rest of them ate running, too. Wade led them, determined that no
one should head him in the race. He heard the husky breathing of the
hundred runners at his back when he swept around the granite dome of
Enchanted and came in view of the valley. They stopped, panting, and
surveyed the scene for a moment. They saw the tumbling waters, yeasty
and brown. They heard the groan and grunt of dissolving log-piles as the
fierce tide tore at them and bore away the logs. And each man took a new
grip on his cant-dog handle and loped on.

It was plain that Tommy Eye had spoken the truth. That flood was not the
mere outrush through shattered dam-gates. Blunder Lake was emptying
itself through a rent deeper than nature had set in its side. In a
stream-bed of intervales and broad levels the Enchanted drive would have
been scattered to its own disaster. But Blunder valley was slashed deep
between the hills. The turbid flood that raced there was penned. The
log-herds could only butt the granite cliffs and surge on. There was but
one outlet--the mad current of Blunder Stream pouring down to its
junction with the Umcolcus.

They "manned the river," scattering along, one man posted at a curve in
sight of another. A hat waved meant that a jam was forming and called
for help. And when timber jack-strawed too wildly to be readily loosened
by cant-dog and pick-pole they dynamited. There was no time for
"knittin'-work" on that drive.

Tommy Eye, with meal-sack slung over his shoulder, made himself
custodian of the "canned thunder." It was Larry Gorman, woodsman poet,
who first called him "Tommy Thunder." If you go into the north country
you can probably find some one to sing you the song that Larry Gorman
composed, the first verse running:

     "Come, listen, good white-water chaps. Who was that man, I wonder,
     Who turned himself to an outlaw bold and put the bang-juice under?
     Who was it cracked the neck of her, 'way up at old Lake Blunder,
     When hell broke loose and sluiced our spruce?
     'Twere done by Tommy Thunder!"

His was the recklessness of mania. Men who saw him coming along the
shore with his horrid burden dodged into the woods. Where and when he
slept no one knew. Daytime and night-time he was racing to where logs
had cob-piled. Roars that boomed among the hills told that he had
arrived. In the first gray of morning men saw him warming his dynamite
over a camp-fire, and shuddered and hurried away. To find the king log
of a jam and drop his cartridge where it would have instant effect, he
took chances that made men turn their backs. It isn't pleasant to see a
man macerated by grinding logs or scattered across the sky.

No word passed between Tommy Eye and Dwight Wade. Those days and nights
when the Enchanted drive was on its roaring way down Blunder Stream
towards the Umcolcus River were not the sort of days that invited
conversation. On the ordinary stream-drives to the main river, in the
desperate hurry of the driving-pitch, men work as many hours as they can
stand up. With the drive under control, they can at least stop sluicing
in the dead hours of the night. But the Enchanted drive that spring was
a wild beast that never closed its eyes. As it raged along they did not
dare to leave it alone for an hour. Men raced beside it, clutched at it,
clung as long as they were able, and dropped off, stunned by the stupor
of exhaustion.

After a few hours some one's prodding foot stirred them back to
wakefulness, and they stumbled up and began the fight once more. Outside
of a charge in battle, there is no place where individual rivalry is so
keen and eager as in a driving-crew on hard waters. Men do not require
to be urged to do their utmost. "Coward" and "shirk" are sneers that cut
deeply down-river.

Wade, rushing from point to point, cant-dog in hand, his shoes mere
pulp, his clothes in tatters, saw men asleep with their faces in the tin
plates that the cookee had heaped with food. They had gone to sleep with
the first mouthful, hungry as demons, but overcome the moment their feet
stopped moving.

Some he found asleep where they were posted to "card"[6] certain ledges.
He beat them about the head with the flat of his hand, and they awoke
and thanked him with wistful smiles that touched his heart. But brutal
force had started the Enchanted drive, brutal force marked its rush, and
it had to be brutal force that could keep it going. Brutal force took
toll in the logs that were splintered by dynamite, but it was a toll
that circumstances demanded. A man unwilling to take the chances that
Tommy Eye took would have wasted thousands of feet instead of hundreds,
and Wade knew it, and gulped words of gratitude when they met, hurrying
on the shore.

[Footnote 6: To disentangle and set free logs caught in the rocks.]

Half-way to the Umcolcus, Lazy Tom Stream enters Blunder, and here Wade
found Barnum Withee rushing in his logs and eager to accept an
invitation to join drives. Withee was asking no questions. He did not
need to. He understood. What had been done upstream was none of his
business. He could declare that much when he got his drive down, and
could defend himself from complicity. In the mean time he would take
advantage of the situation.

There were now one hundred and sixty herders of the wild flock, with
Barnum Withee, one of the best men on the river, to take command of the
rear.

So Wade went to the front--to Castonia, sweeping down the swollen
Umcolcus in one of Withee's bateaux with four men at the oars. He had
played violence against violence in the big game. It was natural to
suppose that Pulaski Britt by this time had his fists clinched ready to
retaliate.

On either side of his bateau as he hurried to Castonia the logs ran
free. But they were all his own logs, this advance-guard, marked with
the double diamond and cross.

Had Rodburd Ide done his part, and were they being held at Castonia?

He found the booms set again, Rodburd Ide in command at the sorting-gap,
and various members of the "It-'ll-git-ye Club" sitting along the shore
with guns across their knees. Every able-bodied man in Castonia was on
the booms with a pick-pole, and already the double-diamond logs were
swirling and herding in the logan.

"It's done, and they'll have us into court, but, by ----, we'll have
some ready money to fight 'em with!" screamed the little man, grasping
Wade's hand as the bateau swung broadside to the sorting-gap platform.
And when he had heard the story of "Tommy Thunder, outlaw," that his
partner hurriedly related, his mouth parted in a grin, even though his
forehead puckered with apprehension.

"But will it let us out, Wade?" he asked. "The man took it on himself
out of his grudge against Britt. But will it let us out?"

"It's your money that is in this thing, and not mine," returned the
young man, "and I suppose it's natural for you to think of your property
first. But as for me, Mr. Ide, I'll take what profits are coming to me
from this operation, and I'll stand in with poor old Tommy Eye, jointly
indicted, jointly in the dock, jointly in jail, till the last dollar is
spent. For he did just what I meant to do!"

For an instant Ide's eyes flickered. Then they became shiny.

"My boy," he said, "the Enchanted Township Lumber Company is
incorporated, and you and I own the stock. With your consent, I'm goin'
to make over ten shares of that stock to Thomas Eye before I sleep
to-night. I reckon this company stands ready to fight its battles and
protect its members."

"Mr. Ide," gulped Wade, contritely, "forgive me for that hasty speech.
But God help me, partner, I've been in hell since I saw you last, and
I'm full of the fires of it! I think you can understand."

He crouched there in the bateau, clutching the gunwale with hands that
trembled until they shook his body to and fro. His face was streaked
with the grime of days and nights of toil. His eyes were haggard with
sleeplessness. Fasting had hollowed his cheeks. Such lines as only the
bitter things of life can set in the human countenance were traced deep
upon the brown skin. In his rags and his weariness he was as one who had
been conquered instead of one who had fulfilled. The little man of
Castonia reached down and patted his shoulder with a hand that had a
father's sympathy in its touch.

"Bub," he murmured, "I'm goin' to take some other time to tell you what
I think of you. Just now I want you to go down to the house. My Nina
will know what to do for you and what to say to you. She has some
letters for you to read before you go to sleep, and I reckon they'll
give you pleasant dreams."

Kate Arden opened the door and welcomed him with a smile, the first he
had ever seen on her face. His heart came into his mouth at sight of
her. Never had she seemed so like Elva Barrett. But before he had word
with her Nina Ide came running, floury hands outspread, her face alight
above her housewife's tire. She stood on tiptoe, put her arms around his
neck, and kissed him.

"Brother Dwight! Brother Dwight!" she half sobbed. "Oh, Brother Dwight,
I didn't know--I didn't realize--I didn't understand, or I would have
held you back until you had torn these two arms from my shoulders. I
prayed for you and watched for you. They buy their logs with blood up
there. But it shall not be with your blood, Dwight. I have hated father
all these days. He knew what you were going back to, and didn't stop
you!"

"It was all my own affair, little girl," Wade returned, gently--"my
duty, to which I was bound by fair man-promise. And I've got our logs
into the river, but it has been the kind of work that blisters souls,
Sister Nina!" His voice had a pathetic quaver of weariness.

"I was at the sorting-gap when the first one came, and I knelt and
kissed it," she said, smiling at him from misty eyes. "And then I wrote
to the one of all the world and told her about a hero."

An hour later he lay asleep in a darkened room, the tense lines gone
from his face, his lax hand spread over a letter, finding the sweetest
solace in slumber he had known for many a day.

At the first peep of light next morning he was at the sorting-gap in
full command, removing a burden of responsibility from Rodburd Ide which
had made that little man a quaking wreck of his ordinarily self-reliant
self; for in every log that had come spinning around the upper bend of
the Umcolcus his fears had seen the peak of Pulaski Britt's rushing
bateau.

That the river tyrant would come, furious beyond words, was a fact
accepted by Dwight Wade, and Wade was ready to meet him. But every hour
that passed without bringing the drive-master meant so much more towards
the success of the Enchanted drive.

The logs came in stampeding droves. Withee's were mixed among the
"double diamonds," but there were no delays at the sorting-gap. Two
crews fed them through--one for day and one for night, with a dozen
lanterns lighting their work. Wade was resolved that Britt should lack
at least one argument in the bitter contention. The sorting should be
done faithfully and promptly, and the down-river drive should be hurried
on its way. But at the end of four days not one of the logs nicked with
the "double hat," Britt's registered mark, had shown up. Nor did Britt
himself appear.

A sullen, suffering man of Britt's crew, who came walking into Castonia
with hand held above his head to ease the agony of a felon, brought the
first news.

Blunder Lake dam had been blown up, he reported, and such a chasm had
been opened in the bed-rock that the lake had vomited its waters to the
west until the bed of Britt's shallow canal to the east was above the
water-line. Britt had only his splash dams along Jerusalem for a
driving-head. In the past years the pour of the canal had given him a
current in Jerusalem dead-water. Now he was trying to warp his logs
across there with head-works and anchor. But the south wind was howling
against him, and no human muscle could turn the windlass, even when the
oaths of the Honorable Pulaski D. Britt dinned in the ears of his
toilers. All this the new-comer related.

"And it's something awful to hear!" said the man. "He walks the platform
of that head-works, back and forth and back and forth. He cusses God and
the angels, the wind and all it blows across. And then when he is well
worked up to cussin', he 'tends to the case of the devil that blowed up
Blunder Lake dam. And his face is as red as my shirt, and the veins
stick out on his for'ead as big as a baby's finger. They say that you
can't cuss only about so much without somethin' happenin' to you. I've
read about the cap'n of a ship that done it too much once, and his ghost
is still a-sailin'. All I've got to say is that if Pulaski Britt don't
stop, he'll get his."

The "It-'ll-git-ye Club" had listened to this recital intently. It
agreed forebodingly. In fact, in special session the club passed a vote
of dismal prophecy for the whole Jerusalem operation.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE PARADE PAST RODBURD IDE'S PLATFORM

     "'Twas a hundred wet miles to the handiest rail,
       And his home it was fifty more;
     And behind on our bateau's bubblin' trail
       Raced Death with his muffled oar."

               --Ballad of the Drive.


Two days later the "It-'ll-git-ye's," as sombre prophets, were
distinctly cheered by the sight of Boss Colin MacLeod borne past Rodburd
Ide's store on a litter. They were hurrying him to the hospital
down-river, and he had his teeth set into his lip to keep back the
groans.

"No, sir! No fifty more miles of that for you, my boy," declared Ide,
when he was told that MacLeod's arm and leg were broken. "Into my house
you go, and the doctor comes here." And MacLeod was put to bed in the
spare room, weeping quietly.

"It was the head-works warp done it, Mr. Wade," he moaned, turning
hollow eyes upon his sympathizer. "Broke and snapped back. I told him
man's strength couldn't warp them logs across against that wind, but he
was bound to make us do it. He said I was a coward, Mr. Wade. But I took
the place at the guide-block to show I wasn't. And then he cursed me for
gettin' hurt!"

When Wade left the room he found Kate Arden waiting outside. During the
days he had been at Castonia the girl had appeared to avoid him. She had
paled when he spoke to her, replied curtly, and hurried away as though
she feared he was about to broach some topic that would distress her.
Yet it was not towards him merely that she had displayed that
apprehensive reserve. Not even to Nina Ide did she open her heart, and
Nina told Wade of this with wonderment and grief. She had been docile,
even to the subterfuge of sitting silent by John Barrett's bedside when
Elva Barrett had resigned her trust to seek Dwight Wade in the
wilderness. She had made no comment, asked no questions. She had showed
dumb gratitude, and eagerly sought such household tasks as could be
intrusted to her untrained hands. But wistful shrinking, the air of a
wild thing confined but not tamed, was with her ever.

Now, when she faced Wade outside the door, her eyes shone like stars,
her cheeks flamed, and the old fearlessness and determination were in
her features.

"I shall take care of him," she said. "I shall nurse him, and no one but
me! I shall know how, Mr. Wade. He'll need me now. You go and tell them
all that I shall nurse him. No one else shall do it."

It was the woods mate claiming her own. It was more than love as
convention has classed it. It was the fire, lighted by the primordial
torch of passion, which burns and does not reason, not to be smothered
by rebuff or abuse; its pride not the calculating pride of a resentment
that can divorce it from its object, but the pride of blind, utter
loyalty through all.

Dwight Wade had gone near enough to the heart of things to understand
this love.

He looked at her a little while, sympathy lighting his eyes and
vibrating in his voice as he answered her:

"You shall have him, poor little girl, because he needs you."

He opened the door for her, closed it behind her, and left them alone
together.

Two days later the "It-'ll-git-ye Club" realized the full climax of
ominous prophecy and was correspondingly content. The Honorable Pulaski
D. Britt was brought out from Jerusalem dead-water and taken down-river,
a helpless hulk of a man grunting stertorous breaths, the right hand,
which had waved command all those years along Umcolcus, now hanging
helpless at his side, his right leg dangling uselessly as they lifted
him along to a wagon.

It was the fate that the choleric tyrant had invited. That last and
mightiest rage of his life, when with swollen veins and purple face he
had stamped about the head-works platform, had done for Pulaski Britt
and his weakened blood-vessels what those who knew him well had
predicted. Wade was not surprised, for the suppression of Britt by this
means and at this frantic climax in Britt's affairs was too entirely
logical. It came to him suddenly that he felt a sense of relief, and
then he wondered with shame whether he had hoped for it. Then he
dismissed the speculation as unprofitable and not agreeable. The tyrant
was in chains of his own forging. His logs came limping along in
scattered squads, and were sent through the sorting-gap and down-river.

The new master of the corporation drive was not cordial when he
appeared, hurrying towards headwaters. But he was not hostile, either.
He surlily demanded expedition at the Castonia sorting-gap, and went on
up-river.

There are some combatants who, seeing a crisis approaching, feel that it
is their best policy to sit down and wait until the crisis comes to
them. This implies the calculation that perhaps the crisis may go around
the other way, but it is not the policy for the intrepid. In his present
mood Dwight Wade decided to go to meet the crisis, with head erect and
shoulders back.

He addressed the president of the Umcolcus Lumbering and Log-driving
Association, requesting a conference with him and the directors of the
body. If the letter thinly screened a demand for that conference it was
the fault of Dwight Wade's resolute determination to face the issue.

The letter remained long unanswered. Its receipt was not even
acknowledged. The delay seemed to be contemptuous slighting of a
possible overture of amicable settlement. Rodburd Ide sadly reasoned to
this conviction, and daily gazed towards the south in search of the
sheriff bringing writs of attachment with as much trepidation as he had
gazed north in the black days when he expected Pulaski Britt.

Dwight Wade was hardly more sanguine. And yet he was heartened by
letters from his lawyer, who was up and at the foe once more. The lawyer
intimated that an earnest conference was going on among the big fellows
of the timber interests. In the past, prior to sittings of the
legislature, they had heard the ominous stampings of the farmer's
cowhide boots and the mutterings about unrighteous privileges, filched
State timber lands, and unequal taxation. In the secret sessions of
those directors the stand-pat roarings of their woods executive had
drowned all pacific suggestions of compromise. But now the Honorable
Pulaski D. Britt lay at home, unable to lift the ponderous hand which
had pounded emphasis.

In the end Wade decided that the big fellows were waiting to settle what
they were to say before they summoned him to conference. That he was
correct was proven by the letter that came at last. It was a courteous
letter; it appointed a time of meeting, and named as the place John
Barrett's office in "Castle Cut 'Em."

On the evening before Wade left Castonia, Colin MacLeod summoned him, a
cheerful convalescent who looked out daily into the new flush of June,
and restlessly moved his stiffened limbs in his chair, and counted the
days between himself and the free life out-of-doors.

"Mr. Ide was tellin' me why you are goin' and where you are goin'," said
MacLeod, with simple earnestness. Kate Arden was sitting with her head
on his knee, and he was smoothing her hair gently. "I wanted the little
girl to stay here while I talked this to you. I told you about my dream
once, man-fashion. I've told her about it. I ain't excusin' or screenin'
myself. I didn't know, that's all. I never tried to fool this little
girl, Mr. Wade. They lied who said I did. I pitied her, Mr. Wade. But
it's a hard place to start in lovin' a girl where I saw her first--and
I'd seen some one else before I saw her. But I know now, sir. I've told
her so all these days that she's been with me, so true and tender. I
reckon I never was in love before. I wouldn't have acted that way with
you, sir, if I really was in love and trusted. But there ain't no
mistake this time, Mr. Wade!" He gulped, a sob in his throat and a smile
in his eyes. "I'm her man for ever and ever. She knows it and she's
glad. And I know she's all mine, and I'm the happiest man in the whole
north country."

He broke in upon Wade's eager burst of congratulation.

"There's just one more word I wanted to say--sort of in the way of
business, Mr. Wade." There was a peculiar expression upon his face.
"Maybe when you're outside some one--_some one_ may drop a word or
inquire about her business--you know--something about her." His look of
strange significance became deeper, and Wade understood. "All is, you
might say that she and Colin MacLeod are goin' to get married, and Colin
MacLeod ain't askin' anybody for her--only herself and God. God ain't
denyin' His Fathership to a girl as good as she is. Colin MacLeod ain't
askin' anything else--ain't allowin' anything else. Say that to 'em.
He's got his own two hands and eleven hundred dollars saved, and the big
woods for her and for him. She and I wouldn't be happy outside the big
woods, Mr. Wade. Say it all to 'em, sir, if any one drops a word to
you--and they probably will, because you've had words with them. You'll
know how to say it. But make it plain that it will be dangerous business
for any man to reach out his hand to her or to me with anything in
it--and tell 'em it's Colin MacLeod says that," he added, bitterly.

"The only things you need, Colin," cried Wade, advancing towards him,
"are good-will and friendship, and both are in the hand I give you."

At the door he turned.

"Will you wait until I come back, Colin?" he asked. "I would like to
stand up with you when you are married--Nina Ide and I."

"I'll wait, Mr. Wade," returned the other, tears of gratitude springing
to his eyes. "And may luck go with you in this business."

That fervent wish, put again into words, followed him next morning when
he departed from Castonia. This time it was Tommy Eye who said it--Tommy
Eye, fresh down with the rear of the drive, and a very timorous and
apprehensive figure of an outlaw. But he seemed to be a little
disappointed after Wade had assured him that the matter of Blunder Lake
dam would be assumed by the Enchanted Company, and that Tommy himself
had nothing to fear.

"I reckon you can do it, Mr. Wade. You can do most anything you set out
to," sighed Tommy. "Howsomever, I kind of figgered on that outlaw
business to keep me away from down-river. The city ain't good for the
likes of me. They begin to rattle the keys of the calaboose the minute I
get off'n the train."

"Tommy," commanded Wade, severely, "don't you go down-river this season.
You stay here and attend to the work we've got marked out for you."

"That's just as good a wheel-trig as the outlaw proposition would be,"
declared Tommy, his face clearing. "Orders from you settles things, Mr.
Wade. Here I stay."

On the morning of his departure Rodburd Ide's daughter walked with Wade
to the store, where the stage started. In the days of their late
intimacy the girl had grown into his heart. The sincerity of a sister,
self-reliance and womanly sympathy had characterized her attitude
towards him from the first; and she had welcomed a friendship which
lifted her to a comrade's level. She was as yet an altruist in matters
of the heart; she frankly and openly interested herself only in the
loves of others.

Wade knew all the unspoken words that her sympathy dictated when,
standing out before them all, she clasped his hand before he clambered
over the wheel of the old stage.

He saw no very clear horizon for his own love, but his comrade's smile
heartened him, and the flutter of her handkerchief carried its message
of good courage when the stage pitched down the slope that hid Castonia
settlement.

The road to "Castle Cut 'Em" lay before him. At that moment the
Honorable John Barrett loomed so largely as a foe that Dwight Wade's
thoughts were of his fight. Of his love he hardly dared to think at all.

The "It-'ll-git-ye Club" watched the departure of the stage that day
with more than usual interest, also with somewhat deeper gloom.

The knowledge that Dwight Wade and his partner had assumed all blame
for the destruction of Blunder Lake dam was current in all the north
country.

King Spruce's delay in visiting punishment only made the situation
graver in the estimation of the prophets of evil. King Spruce had many
weapons, and in the past had promptly seized the one nearest at hand and
dealt a crushing blow when provocation was given. The fact that the new
drive-master had passed on without even as much as a threat of
retribution was taken as an ominous presage. It was agreed that when
King Spruce remained grimly silent so long, in order to revolve a
project of retaliation, he must be whittling an especially mighty
bludgeon.

The members of the "It-'ll-git-ye Club" very frankly expressed thoughts
of this tenor to the half-dozen men who arrived at Castonia in the early
morning to take the stage down-river with Wade. The men gloomily agreed.
Two of them showed signs of funk at the last moment, and had to be
coaxed on board the stage by the young man.

These were the sort of men that Wade had seen a year before in the
general rooms of "Castle Cut 'Em." They were independent operators and
stumpage-buyers, who had responded to the messengers and letters that
Wade had been sending out.

There were more of them who joined the party at the railroad; others
came into the train as it stopped here and there on the way to the
junction. All of them seemed impressed by that sense of gloom and
apprehension; there was not a sanguine face.

But in their unanimity of dolorousness they displayed a further
interesting characteristic. They seemed entirely ready to accept this
young man as their leader and their champion; in fact, as he went among
them, they confessed that they had come along only because he had
assured them that he would bear the brunt of the approaching conflict.
The experience of years had shown them that they had no one man or
combination of men among themselves who could go up against King Spruce.
They even distrusted each other's honesty, for every man realized all
the iniquity of the game of graft and grab that had characterized their
dealings with each other and with the main power in the past.

That they should let this new-comer lead them was because he had already
proved his mettle and his fearlessness, and the whole north country knew
it. He had beaten Pulaski Britt at his own game, he had defied King
Spruce, and now he was willing to beard the tyrant in his own castle,
and only asked their presence at his back in order that the sight of
them might prove his assertions and aid to win some grace for all of
them.

Therefore, they had answered his appeal and had gone with him. But they
went without alacrity, and were encouraged only by the despondent belief
that at least matters could not be made any worse.



CHAPTER XXX

THE PACT WITH KING SPRUCE

     "We 'lowed he was caught, and we never thought we'd see
       Mike any more;
     But he took and he kicked a bubble up, and he rode all safe
       to shore."

               --The "Best White-water Man."


So it came about that once more, after a year had passed, Dwight Wade
walked up the hill towards "Castle Cut 'Em," where the sunlight
shimmered upon grim walls. The mills along the canal screamed at him as
he passed. His fancy detected derision in the squall of the saws.

A score of men plodded along with him--broad-backed, silent men who, now
that they were under the frown of King Spruce's citadel, muttered their
forebodings to one another. Resentment and desperation had left their
hearts open to the young man's appeal when he urged a union against the
tyrant. But now their reluctance hinted that their determination was
built on some very shifty sands. He remembered the man who had declaimed
a year before so stoutly, and had been turned aside from his purpose by
a few words whispered in a corner.

And so it was without high hopes that Wade led the way into the broad
stairway to the castle. He wished that the men would pound down their
feet on those stairs so that King Spruce would know that they were
coming as bold and honest men should come. But his little army tiptoed
up, their heavy boots creaking as do the boots of decorous mourners at a
funeral.

When he opened the door of the big general room his face did not show
that he was disheartened. He had determined not to come to John Barrett
as a mere petitioner. He was no longer allowing hope to soften the
bitter business of demanding.

He saw the situation more plainly now than he saw it when he had bidden
farewell to Elva Barrett in Pogey Notch. There could be no hope of truce
between himself and John Barrett. By winning the love of John Barrett's
daughter, by possessing himself of the secret of John Barrett's shame,
he realized that he had committed offences that the pride of Barrett
could not pardon. He had followed this by striking the first blow
against the autocracy of King Spruce in the north country, and he was
now appearing before King Spruce's high chamberlain as the leader of the
rebels whom his deed had spurred to rebellion.

In spite of his great love for Elva Barrett, he felt a sense of
exaltation because he had the power to put that love behind him in his
dealings with the man he had resolved to fight. It was a relief to
convince himself now that Barrett was his implacable foe. Any other
belief would have made him less courageous.

And when John Barrett, at sound of the tramp of many feet in the outer
room, opened the door of his private office and stood framed there,
Dwight Wade welcomed the spectacle of his antagonist. Barrett's face was
saturnine when he surveyed the group.

"I do not understand this, Mr. Wade," he said. "You and I arranged a
conference. But there was no arrangement for a general hearing."

"The question of conditions on the Umcolcus is a question that takes in
all of us who operate there, Mr. Barrett," said Wade. "I'm present to
answer to matters that can be charged to my individual responsibility,
but the interests of all of us have a bearing on that responsibility,
and we are here to have a fair understanding."

Barrett stepped back, and motioned the young man to enter the private
office.

"If you have come to speak for these men," he said, "you may step in
here, and we will see if we can arrange to have the directors meet them
later."

"Well, Mr. Wade," he remarked, when they were alone, "so you have become
a magnate in the north country in strictly record time!"

"Sarcasm won't help us any in settling this matter!" cried the young
man, warmly. "I can understand very well, Mr. Barrett, how you from your
position look down on me in mine. But I have at least become some sort
of a business man, and I--"

"You have become an almighty good business man," declared the land
baron, with such a ring of sincerity in his voice that the young man
stared at him in sudden astonishment, "and in a little while we will
talk business."

"That is all I'm here to talk," said Wade, the red coming into his
cheeks.

When he had left the group of the lumbermen he noticed that some of them
bent lowering looks upon him. They had seen other men invited apart and
bought from their purpose. Wade wondered if the Honorable John Davis
Barrett was not about to trade amnesty on the Blunder dam charge for
betrayal of the men who had come at his back to "Castle Cut 'Em."

Then a sense of shame at such suspicion came to him, as John Barrett
began to speak:

"Mr. Wade," said he, "you are more of a chap in every way than you were
the last time you were in this office, but--you are still young." From
that moment the older man had the advantage. And yet Barrett was not
calm. He sat down at his desk, and tossed his papers as he talked. His
gaze wavered. His jowls hung heavy and flabby. The marks of his
prostrating illness had not left him. But in the gloom of his face there
was depression that did not arise from physical causes. Barrett's bitter
experience had drawn its black cloud around him. He pulled out the shelf
of his desk, set his elbows upon it as though to steady his nerves, and
faced Wade.

"Young man," he began, "the way the world looks at those things--from
the stand-point of some one who hasn't been through the fire--I can
afford to look down on you from my height as a moneyed man, and as
something more in this State. An outsider might think so. But, by ----,
you are the one that can look down on me, for you are square and clean!"

He would not allow Wade to interrupt.

"I haven't called you in here to buy or bulldoze you. There is a matter
between us that hasn't been settled. I made you a promise on Jerusalem
Mountain that I didn't keep. I had excuses that seemed good to me then.
They don't look that way now. They didn't look good to me when I got off
my sick-bed at Castonia. Did Rodburd Ide tell you anything about my talk
with the girl?"

"He told me, Mr. Barrett."

The magnate plunged on desperately.

"I don't think you're dull, Mr. Wade, but you can't understand what it
meant to me when my child turned on me, spat in my face, and left me. It
wasn't merely the bitterness of that one moment--the blistering memory
of it goes to sleep with me and wakes up with me. It's with me in every
look my daughter Elva gives me, though the poor child tries to hide from
me that her old faith and trust have left her. I'm not going to whine,
young man, but I'm in hell--in hell!"

His voice broke weakly. Then there was silence in the room. Wade heard
only the yell of the distant saws and the shuffle of the woodsmen's feet
as they paced the big reception-hall of King Spruce.

Between the two men there was too much understanding for empty words of
sympathy.

"Lane is dead," blurted the millionaire, at last. "What will become of
the girl?"

"MacLeod is to marry her. She nursed him through his sickness at
Castonia; they love each other very sincerely, Mr. Barrett, and you need
have no trouble about her future. Neither of them will ever trouble you;
in fact, MacLeod asked me to say as much for him."

Barrett was silent a long time, his gaze on the floor. He looked up at
last, and his eyes shone as though a comforting thought had come to him.

"There's one thing I can do. I've got money enough to make them
independent for life. Be my agent in that, Mr. Wade, and--"

"I have another message from MacLeod. I have grown to know the man
pretty well, and you'd best take my advice. He says it will be dangerous
business for any man to put out a hand to him with anything in it."

"You mean they won't take a fortune when I am ready to hand it to them?"

"I mean it, Mr. Barrett. There are strange notions among some of the
folks of the big woods. Your money is of no use. I advise you frankly
not to offer it. At any rate, I'll not insult MacLeod by being your
messenger."

The timber magnate whirled his chair and gazed away from Wade, looking
into the depths of his big steel vault.

At the end of a few minutes Wade spoke to him, but he did not reply.
When the young man accosted him again, after a decent pause, Barrett
spoke over his shoulder without turning his face.

"The directors and myself will meet your party in the board-room across
the hall in half an hour, Mr. Wade."

It was not the voice of John Barrett. It was the thin, quavering tone of
a man who was mourning, and wished to be left alone.

Wade went quietly away.

He was John Barrett once more when Wade saw him half an hour later at
the head of the big table in the directors' room. All the board was
there except Britt.

The lumbermen whom Wade headed stood in solid phalanx at the foot of the
room. There were no chairs for them. But they accepted this fact
patiently.

Wade, a little in advance of his associates, looked into the face of the
Honorable John Barrett, now impassive once more. But there was a strange
gleam in the eyes. In the hush it seemed that the directors were waiting
for Wade to speak--it was the coldly contemptuous silence of King Spruce
ready to hearken.

The young man accepted this waiting as his challenge. He stepped to the
lower end of the huge table; John Barrett arose at the other end, and
bent forward, leaning on his knuckles.

"Gentlemen," he said, his tone courteous, his air pacificatory, "Mr.
Dwight Wade, of the Enchanted Lumber Association is here to-day to
confer with us on those matters that have already been considered by us
in executive session. I wish first, with your permission, to inform him
on one point that we have already decided. My statement will enable us
to avoid discussion of an unpleasant matter--I may say, an unprofitable
matter."

It was plain to be seen that Mr. Barrett was dominating this session, as
he had undoubtedly dominated the preliminary session in which the
sentiment of King Spruce towards Dwight Wade had been crystallized.
Somehow the young man understood that the strange look in Barrett's eyes
meant reassurance.

"The destruction of Blunder Lake dam was a mistake," continued Barrett,
but without even a note of reproach in his voice.

"I am ashamed to have to fight that way for common rights that have been
stolen," said the young man. "It's nasty fighting, and I don't want to
fight that way any more."

"We don't, either," broke in a director, bluntly. "There's no money in
it."

"A moment, gentlemen," interposed Barrett, "I have the floor. I don't
propose to speak any ill of an associate--an unfortunate associate. I
refer to Mr. Britt, who has for so many years been our executive in the
north woods. But I can say frankly, as I have said to his face, that we
have deplored some of his measures as unwise. We have tried to restrain
him, but we have not been able to hold him back. Let us be charitable,
gentlemen, and say merely that old-fashioned lumbering in this State has
been conducted on wrong ideas. The manner of putting in Blunder Lake dam
is a case in point. In compromising the present disputes between the
timber interests and the other tax-paying interests of the State, I'll
be frank to say that the history of that dam would not be helpful.
Prosecuting you, Mr. Wade, would entail going into the history of that
dam. Therefore, we shall not prosecute you; and an arrangement has
already been made by which you are purged of contempt of court in the
matter of the injunction."

He grew earnest.

"You have undoubtedly come here to tell us, Mr. Wade, that the woods are
being butchered for immediate profit; that the present system of
lumbering forces operators to use destructive measures. But we can't
enter into argument on that. We admit it. We have been slow about
getting together to correct those abuses. We also admit that the time
seems to have arrived when we must have a different system. I have been
upon my timber tracts during the past year, and have received new light
on a great many matters that I had not taken pains to inform myself on.
I now view the situation differently, and my associates have coincided
with my views."

For the others it was merely a business confession of error, an appeal
for compromise. To Dwight Wade, looking into the eyes of John Barrett
and studying his strange expression, it was much more, and his heart
beat quickly. "The whole situation will undoubtedly take a new aspect
from now on. We propose, on our part, to leave the past just as it is;
set mistakes against mistakes, gentlemen, and clean the slates."

He straightened, dropping his air of confidential appeal.

"Next week, gentlemen, the convention of my party will nominate me to be
the next governor of this State. I need not tell you that the nomination
means election. I fully realize my responsibilities. I propose to assume
them, and to execute them honestly. I declare here before my associates,
as I shall later to the people of the State, that if I am elected I
shall be a governor of the whole people, and not of any faction.
Personally I shall be glad, Mr. Wade, to have you and all others
interested come before the next legislature, present complaints and
arguments, and let this whole matter be settled justly. You will find
that you and your supporters, as well as we, have interests to protect
against the demagogues. In the new conditions that are coming to
prevail in public matters, those who manage to keep the full measure of
their rights are exceedingly fortunate. Against those new conditions it
is folly to fight. But in correcting abuses the pendulum sometimes
swings too far. I think we can fairly ask you, Mr. Wade, and those
operators who may follow your leadership, to join us in protecting what
rightfully belongs to us--to all of us. You will understand that I am
offering no hint of bulldozing nor inviting corrupt collusion. It has
come to a time when we cannot afford to jeopardize our party or our
property, and the safety of both is concerned in a full and frank
settlement of this question of the timber lands."

He gazed inquiringly at this young man who had come up to the fortress
to fight, and now found fortress and foe dissolving like a mirage. There
was but one manly attitude to take towards a public pledge of that sort.

"Mr. Barrett," declared Wade, earnestly, "on that basis you have my
honest co-operation." He took his hat. There was no excuse for remaining
longer in a directors' meeting of the Umcolcus Lumbering Association.
His head whirled with the suddenness of this new situation.

There was a general mumble of indorsement from the men massed at the
rear of the room, but one of the group spoke out after a moment's
hesitation: "I'm glad to hear you talk of a square deal before next
legislature, Mr. Barrett, but I can't help rememberin' that when some of
us went up to the state-house two years ago, to see if we couldn't get a
few rights, we butted square up against a lobby that was handlin' some
fifteen thousand dollars of King Spruce's money to beat us with, and to
keep things right where they were."

There was no mistaking Barrett's sincerity now.

"Gentlemen," he cried, "I have just been admitting that there have been
mistakes made in handling this matter. I didn't intend to go into
details. It is not a pleasant task. But when I say that this matter
shall have fair and square hearing in future, I mean it. And I pledge
for myself and my associates--call us 'King Spruce,' if that means most
to you--that not one dollar will be used by us in the next legislature,
except for expenses of counsel and witnesses before the committees--the
same legitimate expenses that you of the opposition will incur."

There was no Thomas among them who could persist in the face of a
declaration like that. They dispersed.

Barrett overtook Wade in the corridor, slipped his hand beneath the
young man's arm, and, without a word, led him back into the private
office.

"I want to ask you a question, Mr. Wade," he said, still holding him by
the arm. "Once, in stress of feelings and under peculiar circumstances,
I promised certain things and did not fulfil them. You therefore have a
perfect right to be sceptical as to my good faith now. I ask you--are
you?"

"No, Mr. Barrett, I am not," returned Wade, with simple earnestness.

"Thank you, my boy!" His voice broke on the words. "When even a square
and clean man gets to my age he begins to realize that the world is a
bigger creditor of his than he had figured in the past," he went on,
after a pause. "In the last few months I have had some bills presented
to me that have found me a miserable bankrupt in spite of what my vault
holds. You know what my debts are. Linus Lane was right when he told me
that my kind of currency couldn't pay those debts. The dead have gone,
leaving me their debtor; the living hold me their debtor still. My boy,
when I realize what I owe and how useless that stuff is in there"--he
shook his hand at the open door of the vault--"I loathe my money! You
know what I owe to one child, and you have brought me word that I can
never pay her. You know just as well what I owe to another child--I have
taken from her most of her faith and love and happiness. Thank God, I
can pay that debt in part, and I know the human heart well enough now to
understand that I shall be paying the greater part."

He left Wade abruptly, and walked to the window and looked down into the
street. He beckoned to the young man without turning his head. Wade,
coming to his side, saw Elva Barrett's pony phaeton.

"I told my creditor to come here, and you see she is prompt," said
Barrett, with a wistful smile. "She has accepted what I offer in
settlement of my debt, and I offer you my hand, and tell you, with all
the earnestness of my soul, that since I have come to realize values I
approve my creditor's judgment. I have agreed to pay promptly on demand.
Don't keep her waiting."

He pushed his "collateral" out into the corridor, and shut the door
behind him.

Wade ran down the stairway, his hat in his hand, and came upon the
sidewalk into the glare of the June sunshine. She was there! The silk of
the phaeton's parasol strained a soft and tender light upon her face,
and her glorious eyes received him, coming towards her, as though into
an embrace. He swayed a little as he crossed the sidewalk, for his eyes
swam. And before he reached her he turned and cast one look back at the
great building behind him. He seemed to want to reassure himself about
something--to see solid bricks and stone--to convince himself that it
was not a fairy palace in which he had so amazingly and suddenly found
the full fruition of all his hopes.

"What have they been doing to you in the ogres' den, Dwight, boy?" she
asked, a ripple of laughter in her voice.

"I--I don't know!" he stammered. "It all happened so suddenly. Take me
away, sweetheart, where I can see a tree. I want to find my bearings
once more!"

The pony trotted away demurely--so demurely that the girl surrendered
one hand to him, and he held it tight-clutched between them, wordless, a
mist in his eyes.

"Then it did astonish you, after all?" she ventured, breaking the
silence.

For reply he pressed her hand. She was first to speak again.

"I know what a strange boy you are, Dwight," she said, with a touch of
humor in her tones. "For the peace of your soul for ever and ever, and
the satisfaction of your pride, I want to tell you that my father
offered me to you--I did not beg you from my father; but"--she hesitated
and looked at him slyly--"I didn't question the legal tender! Now that
you are a business man, I suppose we ought to use business terms!"

But with his great love shining in his eyes, he pointed away from the
staring houses, where the road wound on under the trees and the peace of
perfect understanding lay beneath.

                         THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise,
every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and
intent.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "King Spruce, A Novel" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home