Part 2 out of 7
fiddle hang. After supper Thorpe was approached by Purdy, the
reptilian red-head with whom he had had the row some evenings
"You in, chummy?" he asked in a quiet voice. "It's a five apiece
for Hank's woman."
"Yes," said Thorpe.
The men were earning from twenty to thirty dollars a month. They
had, most of them, never seen Hank Paul before this autumn. He
had not, mainly because of his modest disposition, enjoyed any
extraordinary degree of popularity. Yet these strangers cheerfully,
as a matter of course, gave up the proceeds of a week's hard work,
and that without expecting the slightest personal credit. The money
was sent "from the boys." Thorpe later read a heart-broken letter
of thanks to the unknown benefactors. It touched him deeply, and
he suspected the other men of the same emotions, but by that time
they had regained the independent, self-contained poise of the
frontiersman. They read it with unmoved faces, and tossed it aside
with a more than ordinarily rough joke or oath. Thorpe understood
their reticence. It was a part of his own nature. He felt more
than ever akin to these men.
As swamper he had more or less to do with a cant-hook in helping
the teamsters roll the end of the log on the little "dray." He
soon caught the knack. Towards Christmas he had become a fairly
efficient cant-hook man, and was helping roll the great sticks of
timber up the slanting skids. Thus always intelligence counts,
especially that rare intelligence which resolves into the analytical
and the minutely observing.
On Sundays Thorpe fell into the habit of accompanying old Jackson
Hines on his hunting expeditions. The ancient had been raised in
the woods. He seemed to know by instinct the haunts and habits of
all the wild animals, just as he seemed to know by instinct when
one of his horses was likely to be troubled by the colic. His
woodcraft was really remarkable.
So the two would stand for hours in the early morning and late
evening waiting for deer on the edges of the swamps. They haunted
the runways during the middle of the day. On soft moccasined feet
they stole about in the evening with a bull's-eye lantern fastened
on the head of one of them for a "jack." Several times they
surprised the wolves, and shone the animals' eyes like the
scattered embers of a camp fire.
Thorpe learned to shoot at a deer's shoulders rather than his heart,
how to tell when the animal had sustained a mortal hurt from the
way it leaped and the white of its tail. He even made progress
in the difficult art of still hunting, where the man matches his
senses against those of the creatures of the forest,--and sometimes
wins. He soon knew better than to cut the animal's throat, and
learned from Hines that a single stab at a certain point of the
chest was much better for the purposes of bleeding. And, what is
more, he learned not to over-shoot down hill.
Besides these things Jackson taught him many other, minor, details
of woodcraft. Soon the young man could interpret the thousands of
signs, so insignificant in appearance and so important in reality,
which tell the history of the woods. He acquired the knack of
These Sundays were perhaps the most nearly perfect of any of the
days of that winter. In them the young man drew more directly face
to face with the wilderness. He called a truce with the enemy;
and in return that great inscrutable power poured into his heart
a portion of her grandeur. His ambition grew; and, as always with
him, his determination became the greater and the more secret. In
proportion as his ideas increased, he took greater pains to shut
them in from expression. For failure in great things would bring
keener disappointment than failure in little.
He was getting just the experience and the knowledge he needed; but
that was about all. His wages were twenty-five dollars a month,
which his van bill would reduce to the double eagle. At the end
of the winter he would have but a little over a hundred dollars to
show for his season's work, and this could mean at most only fifty
dollars for Helen. But the future was his. He saw now more plainly
what he had dimly perceived before, that for the man who buys timber,
and logs it well, a sure future is waiting. And in this camp he was
beginning to learn from failure the conditions of success.
They finished cutting on section seventeen during Thorpe's second
week. It became necessary to begin on section fourteen, which lay
two miles to the east. In that direction the character of the
country changed somewhat.
The pine there grew thick on isolated "islands" of not more than
an acre or so in extent,--little knolls rising from the level of a
marsh. In ordinary conditions nothing would have been easier than
to have ploughed roads across the frozen surface of this marsh. The
peculiar state of the weather interposed tremendous difficulties.
The early part of autumn had been characterized by a heavy snow-
fall immediately after a series of mild days. A warm blanket of
some thickness thus overlaid the earth, effectually preventing the
freezing which subsequent cold weather would have caused. All
the season Radway had contended with this condition. Even in the
woods, muddy swamp and spring-holes caused endless difficulty and
necessitated a great deal of "corduroying," or the laying of poles
side by side to form an artificial bottom. Here in the open some
six inches of water and unlimited mud awaited the first horse that
should break through the layer of snow and thin ice. Between each
pair of islands a road had to be "tramped."
Thorpe and the rest were put at this disagreeable job. All day long
they had to walk mechanically back and forth on diagonals between
the marks set by Radway with his snowshoes. Early in the morning
their feet were wet by icy water, for even the light weight of a
man sometimes broke the frozen skin of the marsh. By night a road
of trampled snow, of greater or less length, was marked out across
the expanse. Thus the blanket was thrown back from the warm earth,
and thus the cold was given a chance at the water beneath. In a
day or so the road would bear a horse. A bridge of ice had been
artificially constructed, on either side of which lay unsounded
depths. This road was indicated by a row of firs stuck in the snow
on either side.
It was very cold. All day long the restless wind swept across the
shivering surface of the plains, and tore around the corners of the
islands. The big woods are as good as an overcoat. The overcoat
had been taken away.
When the lunch-sleigh arrived, the men huddled shivering in the lee
of one of the knolls, and tried to eat with benumbed fingers before
a fire that was but a mockery. Often it was nearly dark before their
work had warmed them again. All of the skidways had to be placed on
the edges of the islands themselves, and the logs had to be travoyed
over the steep little knolls. A single misstep out on to the plain
meant a mired horse. Three times heavy snows obliterated the roads,
so that they had to be ploughed out before the men could go to work
again. It was a struggle.
Radway was evidently worried. He often paused before a gang to
inquire how they were "making it." He seemed afraid they might
wish to quit, which was indeed the case, but he should never have
taken before them any attitude but that of absolute confidence in
their intentions. His anxiety was natural, however. He realized
the absolute necessity of skidding and hauling this job before the
heavy choking snows of the latter part of January should make it
impossible to keep the roads open. So insistent was this necessity
that he had seized the first respite in the phenomenal snow-fall of
the early autumn to begin work. The cutting in the woods could wait.
Left to themselves probably the men would never have dreamed of
objecting to whatever privations the task carried with it. Radway's
anxiety for their comfort, however, caused them finally to imagine
that perhaps they might have some just grounds for complaint after
all. That is a great trait of the lumber-jack.
But Dyer, the scaler, finally caused the outbreak. Dyer was an
efficient enough man in his way, but he loved his own ease. His
habit was to stay in his bunk of mornings until well after daylight.
To this there could be no objection--except on the part of the cook,
who was supposed to attend to his business himself--for the scaler
was active in his work, when once he began it, and could keep up
with the skidding. But now he displayed a strong antipathy to the
north wind on the plains. Of course he could not very well shirk
the work entirely, but he did a good deal of talking on the very
"I don't pose for no tough son-of-a-gun," said he to Radway, "and
I've got some respect for my ears and feet. She'll warm up a little
by to-morrow, and perhaps the wind'll die. I can catch up on you
fellows by hustling a little, so I guess I'll stay in and work on
the books to-day."
"All right," Radway assented, a little doubtfully.
This happened perhaps two days out of the week. Finally Dyer hung
out a thermometer, which he used to consult. The men saw it, and
consulted it too. At once they felt much colder.
"She was stan' ten below," sputtered Baptiste Tellier, the Frenchman
who played the fiddle. "He freeze t'rou to hees eenside. Dat is
too cole for mak de work."
"Them plains is sure a holy fright," assented Purdy.
"Th' old man knows it himself," agreed big Nolan; "did you see him
rammin' around yesterday askin' us if we found her too cold? He
knows damn well he ought not to keep a man out that sort o' weather."
"You'd shiver like a dog in a briar path on a warm day in July,"
said Jackson Hines contemptuously.
"Shut up!" said they. "You're barn-boss. You don't have to be out
in th' cold."
This was true. So Jackson's intervention went for a little worse
"It ain't lak' he has nuttin' besides," went on Baptiste. "He can
mak' de cut in de meedle of de fores'."
"That's right," agreed Bob Stratton, "they's the west half of eight
ain't been cut yet."
So they sent a delegation to Radway. Big Nolan was the spokesman.
"Boss," said he bluntly, "she's too cold to work on them plains
to-day. She's the coldest day we had."
Radway was too old a hand at the business to make any promises on
"I'll see, boys," said he.
When the breakfast was over the crew were set to making skidways
and travoy roads on eight. This was a precedent. In time the work
on the plains was grumblingly done in any weather. However, as to
this Radway proved firm enough. He was a good fighter when he knew
he was being imposed on. A man could never cheat or defy him openly
without collecting a little war that left him surprised at the
jobber's belligerency. The doubtful cases, those on the subtle line
of indecision, found him weak. He could be so easily persuaded that
he was in the wrong. At times it even seemed that he was anxious to
be proved at fault, so eager was he to catch fairly the justice of
the other man's attitude. He held his men inexorably and firmly to
their work on the indisputably comfortable days; but gave in often
when an able-bodied woodsman should have seen in the weather no
inconvenience, even. As the days slipped by, however, he tightened
the reins. Christmas was approaching. An easy mathematical
computation reduced the question of completing his contract with
Morrison & Daly to a certain weekly quota. In fact he was surprised
at the size of it. He would have to work diligently and steadily
during the rest of the winter.
Having thus a definite task to accomplish in a definite number of
days, Radway grew to be more of a taskmaster. His anxiety as to
the completion of the work overlaid his morbidly sympathetic human
interest. Thus he regained to a small degree the respect of his
men. Then he lost it again.
One morning he came in from a talk with the supply-teamster, and
woke Dyer, who was not yet up.
"I'm going down home for two or three weeks," he announced to Dyer,
"you know my address. You'll have to take charge, and I guess
you'd better let the scaling go. We can get the tally at the
banking grounds when we begin to haul. Now we ain't got all the
time there is, so you want to keep the boys at it pretty well."
Dyer twisted the little points of his mustache. "All right, sir,"
said he with his smile so inscrutably insolent that Radway never
saw the insolence at all. He thought this a poor year for a man
in Radway's position to spend Christmas with his family, but it
was none of his business.
"Do as much as you can in the marsh, Dyer," went on the jobber.
"I don't believe it's really necessary to lay off any more there
on account of the weather. We've simply got to get that job in
before the big snows."
"All right, sir," repeated Dyer.
The scaler did what he considered his duty. All day long he tramped
back and forth from one gang of men to the other, keeping a sharp
eye on the details of the work. His practical experience was
sufficient to solve readily such problems of broken tackle, extra
expedients, or facility which the days brought forth. The fact that
in him was vested the power to discharge kept the men at work.
Dyer was in the habit of starting for the marsh an hour or so after
sunrise. The crew, of course, were at work by daylight. Dyer heard
them often through his doze, just as he heard the chore-boy come in
to build the fire and fill the water pail afresh. After a time the
fire, built of kerosene and pitchy jack pine, would get so hot that
in self-defense he would arise and dress. Then he would breakfast
Thus he incurred the enmity of the cook and cookee. Those
individuals have to prepare food three times a day for a half
hundred heavy eaters; besides which, on sleigh-haul, they are
supposed to serve a breakfast at three o'clock for the loaders
and a variety of lunches up to midnight for the sprinkler men.
As a consequence, they resent infractions of the little system
they may have been able to introduce.
Now the business of a foreman is to be up as soon as anybody. He
does none of the work himself, but he must see that somebody else
does it, and does it well. For this he needs actual experience
at the work itself, but above all zeal and constant presence. He
must know how a thing ought to be done, and he must be on hand
unexpectedly to see how its accomplishment is progressing. Dyer
should have been out of bed at first horn-blow.
One morning he slept until nearly ten o'clock. It was inexplicable!
He hurried from his bunk, made a hasty toilet, and started for the
dining-room to get some sort of a lunch to do him until dinner
time. As he stepped from the door of the office he caught sight of
two men hurrying from the cook camp to the men's camp. He thought
he heard the hum of conversation in the latter building. The cookee
set hot coffee before him. For the rest, he took what he could find
cold on the table.
On an inverted cracker box the cook sat reading an old copy of the
Police Gazette. Various fifty-pound lard tins were bubbling and
steaming on the range. The cookee divided his time between them
and the task of sticking on the log walls pleasing patterns made
of illustrations from cheap papers and the gaudy labels of canned
goods. Dyer sat down, feeling, for the first time, a little guilty.
This was not because of a sense of a dereliction in duty, but
because he feared the strong man's contempt for inefficiency.
"I sort of pounded my ear a little long this morning," he remarked
with an unwonted air of bonhomie.
The cook creased his paper with one hand and went on reading; the
little action indicating at the same time that he had heard, but
intended to vouchsafe no attention. The cookee continued his
"I suppose the men got out to the marsh on time," suggested Dyer,
The cook laid aside his paper and looked the scaler in the eye.
"You're the foreman; I'm the cook," said he. "You ought to know."
The cookee had paused, the paste brush in his hand.
Dyer was no weakling. The problem presenting, he rose to the
emergency. Without another word he pushed back his coffee cup
and crossed the narrow open passage to the men's camp
When he opened the door a silence fell. He could see dimly that
the room was full of lounging and smoking lumbermen. As a matter
of fact, not a man had stirred out that morning. This was more for
the sake of giving Dyer a lesson than of actually shirking the work,
for a lumber-jack is honest in giving his time when it is paid for.
"How's this, men!" cried Dyer sharply; "why aren't you out on
No one answered for a minute. Then Baptiste:
"He mak' too tam cole for de marsh. Meester Radway he spik dat we
kip off dat marsh w'en he mak' cole."
Dyer knew that the precedent was indisputable.
"Why didn't you cut on eight then?" he asked, still in peremptory
"Didn't have no one to show us where to begin," drawled a voice in
Dyer turned sharp on his heel and went out.
"Sore as a boil, ain't he!" commented old Jackson Hines with a
In the cook camp Dyer was saying to the cook, "Well, anyway, we'll
have dinner early and get a good start for this afternoon."
The cook again laid down his paper. "I'm tending to this job of
cook," said he, "and I'm getting the meals on time. Dinner will
be on time to-day not a minute early, and not a minute late."
Then he resumed his perusal of the adventures of ladies to whom the
illustrations accorded magnificent calf-development.
The crew worked on the marsh that afternoon, and the subsequent
days of the week. They labored conscientiously but not zealously.
There is a deal of difference, and the lumber-jack's unaided
conscience is likely to allow him a certain amount of conversation
from the decks of skidways. The work moved slowly. At Christmas
a number of the men "went out." Most of them were back again after
four or five days, for, while men were not plenty, neither was work.
The equilibrium was nearly exact.
But the convivial souls had lost to Dyer the days of their debauch,
and until their thirst for recuperative "Pain Killer," "Hinckley"
and Jamaica Ginger was appeased, they were not much good. Instead
of keeping up to fifty thousand a day, as Radway had figured was
necessary, the scale would not have exceeded thirty.
Dyer saw all this plainly enough, but was not able to remedy it.
That was not entirely his fault. He did not dare give the
delinquents their time, for he would not have known where to fill
their places. This lay in Radway's experience. Dyer felt that
responsibilities a little too great had been forced on him, which
was partly true. In a few days the young man's facile conscience
had covered all his shortcomings with the blanket excuse. He
conceived that he had a grievance against Radway!
Radway returned to camp by the 6th of January. He went on snowshoes
over the entire job; and then sat silently in the office smoking
"Peerless" in his battered old pipe. Dyer watched him amusedly,
secure in his grievance in case blame should be attached to him.
The jobber looked older. The lines of dry good-humor about his eyes
had subtly changed to an expression of pathetic anxiety. He attached
no blame to anybody, but rose the next morning at horn-blow, and the
men found they had a new master over them.
And now the struggle with the wilderness came to grapples. Radway
was as one possessed by a burning fever. He seemed everywhere at
once, always helping with his own shoulder and arm, hurrying eagerly.
For once luck seemed with him. The marsh was cut over; the "eighty"
on section eight was skidded without a break. The weather held cold
Now it became necessary to put the roads in shape for hauling. All
winter the blacksmith, between his tasks of shoeing and mending,
had occupied his time in fitting the iron-work on eight log-sleighs
which the carpenter had hewed from solid sticks of timber. They were
tremendous affairs, these sleighs, with runners six feet apart, and
bunks nine feet in width for the reception of logs. The bunks were
so connected by two loosely-coupled rods that, when emptied, they
could be swung parallel with the road, so reducing the width of the
sleigh. The carpenter had also built two immense tanks on runners,
holding each some seventy barrels of water, and with holes so
arranged in the bottom and rear that on the withdrawal of plugs the
water would flood the entire width of the road. These sprinklers
were filled by horse power. A chain, running through blocks attached
to a solid upper framework, like the open belfry of an Italian
monastery, dragged a barrel up a wooden track from the water hole to
the opening in the sprinkler. When in action this formidable machine
weighed nearly two tons and resembled a moving house. Other men had
felled two big hemlocks, from which they had hewed beams for a V plow.
The V plow was now put in action. Six horses drew it down the road,
each pair superintended by a driver. The machine was weighted down
by a number of logs laid across the arms. Men guided it by levers,
and by throwing their weight against the fans of the plow. It was a
gay, animated scene this, full of the spirit of winter--the plodding,
straining horses, the brilliantly dressed, struggling men, the
sullen-yielding snow thrown to either side, the shouts, warnings,
and commands. To right and left grew white banks of snow. Behind
stretched a broad white path in which a scant inch hid the bare earth.
For some distance the way led along comparatively high ground. Then,
skirting the edge of a lake, it plunged into a deep creek bottom
between hills. Here, earlier in the year, eleven bridges had been
constructed, each a labor of accuracy; and perhaps as many swampy
places had been "corduroyed" by carpeting them with long parallel
poles. Now the first difficulty began.
Some of the bridges had sunk below the level, and the approaches
had to be corduroyed to a practicable grade. Others again were
humped up like tom-cats, and had to be pulled apart entirely. In
spots the "corduroy" had spread, so that the horses thrust their
hoofs far down into leg-breaking holes. The experienced animals
were never caught, however. As soon as they felt the ground giving
way beneath one foot, they threw their weight on the other.
Still, that sort of thing was to be expected. A gang of men who
followed the plow carried axes and cant-hooks for the purpose of
repairing extemporaneously just such defects, which never would
have been discovered otherwise than by the practical experience.
Radway himself accompanied the plow. Thorpe, who went along as one
of the "road monkeys," saw now why such care had been required of
him in smoothing the way of stubs, knots, and hummocks.
Down the creek an accident occurred on this account. The plow had
encountered a drift. Three times the horses had plunged at it, and
three times had been brought to a stand, not so much by the drag of
the V plow as by the wallowing they themselves had to do in the drift.
"No use, break her through, boys," said Radway. So a dozen men
hurled their bodies through, making an opening for the horses.
"Hi! YUP!" shouted the three teamsters, gathering up their reins.
The horses put their heads down and plunged. The whole apparatus
moved with a rush, men clinging, animals digging their hoofs in,
snow flying. Suddenly there came a check, then a CRACK, and then
the plow shot forward so suddenly and easily that the horses all
but fell on their noses. The flanging arms of the V, forced in a
place too narrow, had caught between heavy stubs. One of the arms
had broken square off.
There was nothing for it but to fell another hemlock and hew out
another beam, which meant a day lost. Radway occupied his men with
shovels in clearing the edge of the road, and started one of his
sprinklers over the place already cleared. Water holes of suitable
size had been blown in the creek bank by dynamite. There the
machines were filled. It was a slow process. Stratton attached
his horse to the chain and drove him back and forth, hauling the
barrel up and down the slideway. At the bottom it was capsized
and filled by means of a long pole shackled to its bottom and
manipulated by old man Heath. At the top it turned over by its
own weight. Thus seventy odd times.
Then Fred Green hitched his team on and the four horses drew the
creaking, cumbrous vehicle spouting down the road. Water gushed in
fans from the openings on either side and beneath; and in streams
from two holes behind. Not for an instant as long as the flow
continued dared the teamsters breathe their horses, for a pause
would freeze the runners tight to the ground. A tongue at either
end obviated the necessity of turning around.
While the other men hewed at the required beam for the broken V
plow, Heath, Stratton, and Green went over the cleared road-length
once. To do so required three sprinklerfuls. When the road should
be quite free, and both sprinklers running, they would have to keep
at it until after midnight.
And then silently the wilderness stretched forth her hand and pushed
these struggling atoms back to their place.
That night it turned warmer. The change was heralded by a shift of
wind. Then some blue jays appeared from nowhere and began to scream
at their more silent brothers, the whisky jacks.
"She's goin' to rain," said old Jackson. "The air is kind o' holler."
"Hollow?" said Thorpe, laughing. "How is that?"
"I don' no," confessed Hines, "but she is. She jest feels that way."
In the morning the icicles dripped from the roof, and although the
snow did not appreciably melt, it shrank into itself and became
pock-marked on the surface.
Radway was down looking at the road.
"She's holdin' her own," said he, "but there ain't any use putting
more water on her. She ain't freezing a mite. We'll plow her out."
So they finished the job, and plowed her out, leaving exposed the
wet, marshy surface of the creek-bottom, on which at night a thin
crust formed. Across the marsh the old tramped road held up the
horses, and the plow swept clear a little wider swath.
"She'll freeze a little to-night," said Radway hopefully. "You
sprinkler boys get at her and wet her down."
Until two o'clock in the morning the four teams and the six men
creaked back and forth spilling hardly-gathered water--weird,
unearthly, in the flickering light of their torches. Then they
crept in and ate sleepily the food that a sleepy cookee set out
By morning the mere surface of this sprinkled water had frozen, the
remainder beneath had drained away, and so Radway found in his road
considerable patches of shell ice, useless, crumbling. He looked
in despair at the sky. Dimly through the gray he caught the tint
The sun came out. Nut-hatches and wood-peckers ran gayly up the
warming trunks of the trees. Blue jays fluffed and perked and
screamed in the hard-wood tops. A covey of grouse ventured from the
swamp and strutted vainly, a pause of contemplation between each
step. Radway, walking out on the tramped road of the marsh, cracked
the artificial skin and thrust his foot through into icy water.
That night the sprinklers stayed in.
The devil seemed in it. If the thaw would only cease before the ice
bottom so laboriously constructed was destroyed! Radway vibrated
between the office and the road. Men were lying idle; teams were
doing the same. Nothing went on but the days of the year; and four
of them had already ticked off the calendar. The deep snow of the
unusually cold autumn had now disappeared from the tops of the
stumps. Down in the swamp the covey of partridges were beginning
to hope that in a few days more they might discover a bare spot in
the burnings. It even stopped freezing during the night. At times
Dyer's little thermometer marked as high as forty degrees.
"I often heard this was a sort 'v summer resort," observed Tom
Broadhead, "but danged if I knew it was a summer resort all the
The weather got to be the only topic of conversation. Each had his
say, his prediction. It became maddening. Towards evening the chill
of melting snow would deceive many into the belief that a cold snap
"She'll freeze before morning, sure," was the hopeful comment.
And then in the morning the air would be more balmily insulting
"Old man is as blue as a whetstone," commented Jackson Hines, "an'
I don't blame him. This weather'd make a man mad enough to eat the
devil with his horns left on."
By and by it got to be a case of looking on the bright side of the
affair from pure reaction.
"I don't know," said Radway, "it won't be so bad after all. A
couple of days of zero weather, with all this water lying around,
would fix things up in pretty good shape. If she only freezes
tight, we'll have a good solid bottom to build on, and that'll be
quite a good rig out there on the marsh."
The inscrutable goddess of the wilderness smiled, and calmly,
relentlessly, moved her next pawn.
It was all so unutterably simple, and yet so effective. Something
there was in it of the calm inevitability of fate. It snowed.
All night and all day the great flakes zig-zagged softly down
through the air. Radway plowed away two feet of it. The surface
was promptly covered by a second storm. Radway doggedly plowed it
This time the goddess seemed to relent. The ground froze solid.
The sprinklers became assiduous in their labor. Two days later the
road was ready for the first sleigh, its surface of thick, glassy
ice, beautiful to behold; the ruts cut deep and true; the grades
sanded, or sprinkled with retarding hay on the descents. At the
river the banking ground proved solid. Radway breathed again, then
sighed. Spring was eight days nearer. He was eight days more behind.
As soon as loading began, the cook served breakfast at three
o'clock. The men worked by the light of torches, which were often
merely catsup jugs with wicking in the necks. Nothing could be more
picturesque than a teamster conducting one of his great pyramidical
loads over the little inequalities of the road, in the ticklish
places standing atop with the bent knee of the Roman charioteer,
spying and forestalling the chances of the way with a fixed eye and
an intense concentration that relaxed not one inch in the miles of
the haul. Thorpe had become a full-fledged cant-hook man.
He liked the work. There is about it a skill that fascinates. A
man grips suddenly with the hook of his strong instrument, stopping
one end that the other may slide; he thrusts the short, strong stock
between the log and the skid, allowing it to be overrun; he stops
the roll with a sudden sure grasp applied at just the right moment
to be effective. Sometimes he allows himself to be carried up
bodily, clinging to the cant-hook like an acrobat to a bar, until
the log has rolled once; when, his weapon loosened, he drops
lightly, easily to the ground. And it is exciting to pile the logs
on the sleigh, first a layer of five, say; then one of six smaller;
of but three; of two; until, at the very apex, the last is dragged
slowly up the skids, poised, and, just as it is about to plunge
down the other side, is gripped and held inexorably by the little
men in blue flannel shirts.
Chains bind the loads. And if ever, during the loading, or
afterwards when the sleigh is in motion, the weight of the logs
causes the pyramid to break down and squash out;--then woe to the
driver, or whoever happens to be near! A saw log does not make a
great deal of fuss while falling, but it falls through anything that
happens in its way, and a man who gets mixed up in a load of twenty-
five or thirty of them obeying the laws of gravitation from a height
of some fifteen to twenty feet, can be crushed into strange shapes
and fragments. For this reason the loaders are picked and careful
At the banking grounds, which lie in and about the bed of the river,
the logs are piled in a gigantic skidway to await the spring freshets,
which will carry them down stream to the "boom." In that enclosure
they remain until sawed in the mill.
Such is the drama of the saw log, a story of grit, resourcefulness,
adaptability, fortitude and ingenuity hard to match. Conditions
never repeat themselves in the woods as they do in the factory. The
wilderness offers ever new complications to solve, difficulties to
overcome. A man must think of everything, figure on everything,
from the grand sweep of the country at large to the pressure on a
king-bolt. And where another possesses the boundless resources of
a great city, he has to rely on the material stored in one corner
of a shed. It is easy to build a palace with men and tools; it is
difficult to build a log cabin with nothing but an ax. His wits
must help him where his experience fails; and his experience must
push him mechanically along the track of habit when successive
buffetings have beaten his wits out of his head. In a day he must
construct elaborate engines, roads, and implements which old
civilization considers the works of leisure. Without a thought
of expense he must abandon as temporary, property which other
industries cry out at being compelled to acquire as permanent.
For this reason he becomes in time different from his fellows.
The wilderness leaves something of her mystery in his eyes, that
mystery of hidden, unknown but guessed, power. Men look after him
on the street, as they would look after any other pioneer, in vague
admiration of a scope more virile than their own.
Thorpe, in common with the other men, had thought Radway's vacation
at Christmas time a mistake. He could not but admire the feverish
animation that now characterized the jobber. Every mischance was as
quickly repaired as aroused expedient could do the work.
The marsh received first attention. There the restless snow drifted
uneasily before the wind. Nearly every day the road had to be
plowed, and the sprinklers followed the teams almost constantly.
Often it was bitter cold, but no one dared to suggest to the
determined jobber that it might be better to remain indoors. The
men knew as well as he that the heavy February snows would block
traffic beyond hope of extrication.
As it was, several times an especially heavy fall clogged the way.
The snow-plow, even with extra teams, could hardly force its path
through. Men with shovels helped. Often but a few loads a day, and
they small, could be forced to the banks by the utmost exertions of
the entire crew. Esprit de corps awoke. The men sprang to their
tasks with alacrity, gave more than an hour's exertion to each of
the twenty-four, took a pride in repulsing the assaults of the
great enemy, whom they personified under the generic "She." Mike
McGovern raked up a saint somewhere whom he apostrophized in a
personal and familiar manner.
He hit his head against an overhanging branch.
"You're a nice wan, now ain't ye?" he cried angrily at the
unfortunate guardian of his soul. "Dom if Oi don't quit ye!
"Be the gate of Hivin!" he shouted, when he opened the door of
mornings and discovered another six inches of snow, "Ye're a
burrd! If Oi couldn't make out to be more of a saint than that,
Oi'd quit the biznis! Move yor pull, an' get us some dacint
weather! Ye awt t' be road monkeyin' on th' golden streets, thot's
what ye awt to be doin'!"
Jackson Hines was righteously indignant, but with the shrewdness of
the old man, put the blame partly where it belonged.
"I ain't sayin'," he observed judicially, "that this weather ain't
hell. It's hell and repeat. But a man sort've got to expec' weather.
He looks for it, and he oughta be ready for it. The trouble is we
got behind Christmas. It's that Dyer. He's about as mean as they
make 'em. The only reason he didn't die long ago is becuz th'
Devil's thought him too mean to pay any 'tention to. If ever he
should die an' go to Heaven he'd pry up th' golden streets an' use
the infernal pit for a smelter."
With this magnificent bit of invective, Jackson seized a lantern
and stumped out to see that the teamsters fed their horses properly.
"Didn't know you were a miner, Jackson," called Thorpe, laughing.
"Young feller," replied Jackson at the door, "it's a lot easier
to tell what I AIN'T been."
So floundering, battling, making a little progress every day, the
One morning in February, Thorpe was helping load a big butt log.
He was engaged in "sending up"; that is, he was one of the two
men who stand at either side of the skids to help the ascending log
keep straight and true to its bed on the pile. His assistant's end
caught on a sliver, ground for a second, and slipped back. Thus the
log ran slanting across the skids instead of perpendicular to them.
To rectify the fault, Thorpe dug his cant-hook into the timber and
threw his weight on the stock. He hoped in this manner to check
correspondingly the ascent of his end. In other words, he took the
place, on his side, of the preventing sliver, so equalizing the
pressure and forcing the timber to its proper position. Instead of
rolling, the log slid. The stock of the cant-hook was jerked from
his hands. He fell back, and the cant-hook, after clinging for a
moment to the rough bark, snapped down and hit him a crushing blow
on the top of the head.
Had a less experienced man than Jim Gladys been stationed at the
other end, Thorpe's life would have ended there. A shout of
surprise or horror would have stopped the horse pulling on the
decking chain; the heavy stick would have slid back on the
prostrate young man, who would have thereupon been ground to atoms
as he lay. With the utmost coolness Gladys swarmed the slanting
face of the load; interposed the length of his cant-hook stock
between the log and it; held it exactly long enough to straighten
the timber, but not so long as to crush his own head and arm; and
ducked, just as the great piece of wood rumbled over the end of the
skids and dropped with a thud into the place Norton, the "top" man,
had prepared for it.
It was a fine deed, quickly thought, quickly dared. No one saw it.
Jim Gladys was a hero, but a hero without an audience.
They took Thorpe up and carried him in, just as they had carried
Hank Paul before. Men who had not spoken a dozen words to him in
as many days gathered his few belongings and stuffed them awkwardly
into his satchel. Jackson Hines prepared the bed of straw and warm
blankets in the bottom of the sleigh that was to take him out.
"He would have made a good boss," said the old fellow. "He's a
hard man to nick."
Thorpe was carried in from the front, and the battle went on
Thorpe never knew how carefully he was carried to camp, nor how
tenderly the tote teamster drove his hay-couched burden to Beeson
Lake. He had no consciousness of the jolting train, in the baggage
car of which Jimmy, the little brakeman, and Bud, and the baggage
man spread blankets, and altogether put themselves to a great deal
of trouble. When finally he came to himself, he was in a long,
bright, clean room, and the sunset was throwing splashes of light
on the ceiling over his head.
He watched them idly for a time; then turned on his pillow. At once
he perceived a long, double row of clean white-painted iron beds, on
which lay or sat figures of men. Other figures, of women, glided
here and there noiselessly. They wore long, spreading dove-gray
clothes, with a starched white kerchief drawn over the shoulders
and across the breast. Their heads were quaintly white-garbed in
stiff winglike coifs, fitting close about the oval of the face.
Then Thorpe sighed comfortably, and closed his eyes and blessed the
chance that he had bought a hospital ticket of the agent who had
visited camp the month before. For these were Sisters, and the
young man lay in the Hospital of St. Mary.
Time was when the lumber-jack who had the misfortune to fall sick
or to meet with an accident was in a sorry plight indeed. If he
possessed a "stake," he would receive some sort of unskilled
attention in one of the numerous and fearful lumberman's boarding-
houses,--just so long as his money lasted, not one instant more.
Then he was bundled brutally into the street, no matter what his
condition might be. Penniless, without friends, sick, he drifted
naturally to the county poorhouse. There he was patched up quickly
and sent out half-cured. The authorities were not so much to blame.
With the slender appropriations at their disposal, they found
difficulty in taking care of those who came legitimately under their
jurisdiction. It was hardly to be expected that they would welcome
with open arms a vast army of crippled and diseased men temporarily
from the woods. The poor lumber-jack was often left broken in mind
and body from causes which a little intelligent care would have
With the establishment of the first St. Mary's hospital, I think at
Bay City, all this was changed. Now, in it and a half dozen others
conducted on the same principles, the woodsman receives the best of
medicines, nursing, and medical attendance. From one of the numerous
agents who periodically visit the camps, he purchases for eight
dollars a ticket which admits him at any time during the year to
the hospital, where he is privileged to remain free of further
charge until convalescent. So valuable are these institutions, and
so excellently are they maintained by the Sisters, that a hospital
agent is always welcome, even in those camps from which ordinary
peddlers and insurance men are rigidly excluded. Like a great many
other charities built on a common-sense self-supporting rational
basis, the woods hospitals are under the Roman Catholic Church.
In one of these hospitals Thorpe lay for six weeks suffering from
a severe concussion of the brain. At the end of the fourth, his
fever had broken, but he was pronounced as yet too weak to be moved.
His nurse was a red-cheeked, blue-eyed, homely little Irish girl,
brimming with motherly good-humor. When Thorpe found strength to
talk, the two became friends. Through her influence he was moved
to a bed about ten feet from the window. Thence his privileges were
three roofs and a glimpse of the distant river.
The roofs were covered with snow. One day Thorpe saw it sink into
itself and gradually run away. The tinkle tinkle tank tank of drops
sounded from his own eaves. Down the far-off river, sluggish reaches
of ice drifted. Then in a night the blue disappeared from the stream.
It became a menacing gray, and even from his distance Thorpe could
catch the swirl of its rising waters. A day or two later dark masses
drifted or shot across the field of his vision, and twice he thought
he distinguished men standing upright and bold on single logs as they
rushed down the current.
"What is the date?" he asked of the Sister.
"The eleventh of March."
"Isn't it early for the thaw?"
"Listen to 'im!" exclaimed the Sister delightedly. "Early is it!
Sure th' freshet co't thim all. Look, darlint, ye kin see th' drive
"I see," said Thorpe wearily, "when can I get out?"
"Not for wan week," replied the Sister decidedly.
At the end of the week Thorpe said good-by to his attendant, who
appeared as sorry to see him go as though the same partings did not
come to her a dozen times a year; he took two days of tramping the
little town to regain the use of his legs, and boarded the morning
train for Beeson Lake. He did not pause in the village, but bent
his steps to the river trail.
Thorpe found the woods very different from when he had first
traversed them. They were full of patches of wet earth and of
sunshine; of dark pine, looking suddenly worn, and of fresh green
shoots of needles, looking deliciously springlike. This was the
contrast everywhere--stern, earnest, purposeful winter, and gay,
laughing, careless spring. It was impossible not to draw in fresh
spirits with every step.
He followed the trail by the river. Butterballs and scoters paddled
up at his approach. Bits of rotten ice occasionally swirled down the
diminishing stream. The sunshine was clear and bright, but silvery
rather than golden, as though a little of the winter's snow,--a
last ethereal incarnation,--had lingered in its substance. Around
every bend Thorpe looked for some of Radway's crew "driving" the
logs down the current. He knew from chance encounters with several
of the men in Bay City that Radway was still in camp; which meant,
of course, that the last of the season's operations were not yet
finished. Five miles further Thorpe began to wonder whether this
last conclusion might not be erroneous. The Cass Branch had
shrunken almost to its original limits. Only here and there a
little bayou or marsh attested recent freshets. The drive must
have been finished, even this early, for the stream in its present
condition would hardly float saw logs, certainly not in quantity.
Thorpe, puzzled, walked on. At the banking ground he found empty
skids. Evidently the drive was over. And yet even to Thorpe's
ignorance, it seemed incredible that the remaining million and a
half of logs had been hauled, banked and driven during the short
time he had lain in the Bay City hospital. More to solve the
problem than in any hope of work, he set out up the logging road.
Another three miles brought him to camp. It looked strangely wet
and sodden and deserted. In fact, Thorpe found a bare half dozen
people in it,--Radway, the cook, and four men who were helping to
pack up the movables, and who later would drive out the wagons
containing them. The jobber showed strong traces of the strain he
had undergone, but greeted Thorpe almost jovially. He seemed able
to show more of his real nature now that the necessity of authority
had been definitely removed.
"Hullo, young man," he shouted at Thorpe's mud-splashed figure,
"come back to view, the remains? All well again, heigh? That's
He strode down to grip the young fellow heartily by the hand. It
was impossible not to be charmed by the sincere cordiality of his
"I didn't know you were through," explained Thorpe, "I came to see
if I could get a job."
"Well now I AM sorry!" cried Radway, "you can turn in and help
though, if you want to."
Thorpe greeted the cook and old Jackson Hines, the only two whom he
knew, and set to work to tie up bundles of blankets, and to collect
axes, peavies, and tools of all descriptions. This was evidently the
last wagon-trip, for little remained to be done.
"I ought by rights to take the lumber of the roofs and floors,"
observed Radway thoughtfully, "but I guess she don't matter."
Thorpe had never seen him in better spirits. He ascribed the older
man's hilarity to relief over the completion of a difficult task.
That evening the seven dined together at one end of the long table.
The big room exhaled already the atmosphere of desertion.
"Not much like old times, is she?" laughed Radway. "Can't you just
shut your eyes and hear Baptiste say, 'Mak' heem de soup one tam
more for me'? She's pretty empty now."
Jackson Hines looked whimsically down the bare board. "More room
than God made for geese in Ireland," was his comment.
After supper they even sat outside for a little time to smoke their
pipes, chair-tilted against the logs of the cabins, but soon the
chill of melting snow drove them indoors. The four teamsters played
seven-up in the cook camp by the light of a barn lantern, while
Thorpe and the cook wrote letters. Thorpe's was to his sister.
"I have been in the hospital for about a month," he wrote. "Nothing
serious--a crack on the head, which is all right now. But I cannot
get home this summer, nor, I am afraid, can we arrange about the
school this year. I am about seventy dollars ahead of where I was
last fall, so you see it is slow business. This summer I am going
into a mill, but the wages for green labor are not very high there
either," and so on.
When Miss Helen Thorpe, aged seventeen, received this document she
stamped her foot almost angrily. "You'd think he was a day-laborer!"
she cried. "Why doesn't he try for a clerkship or something in the
city where he'd have a chance to use his brains!"
The thought of her big, strong, tanned brother chained to a desk
rose to her, and she smiled a little sadly.
"I know," she went on to herself, "he'd rather be a common laborer
in the woods than railroad manager in the office. He loves his out-
"Helen!" called a voice from below, "if you're through up there, I
wish you'd come down and help me carry this rug out."
The girl's eyes cleared with a snap.
"So do I!" she cried defiantly, "so do I love out-of-doors! I like
the woods and the fields and the trees just as much as he does, only
differently; but I don't get out!"
And thus she came to feeling rebelliously that her brother had been
a little selfish in his choice of an occupation, that he sacrificed
her inclinations to his own. She did not guess,--how could she?--
his dreams for her. She did not see the future through his thoughts,
but through his words. A negative hopelessness settled down on her,
which soon her strong spirit, worthy counterpart of her brother's,
changed to more positive rebellion. Thorpe had aroused antagonism
where he craved only love. The knowledge of that fact would have
surprised and hurt him, for he was entirely without suspicion of
it. He lived subjectively to so great a degree that his thoughts
and aims took on a certain tangible objectivity,--they became so
real to him that he quite overlooked the necessity of communication
to make them as real to others. He assumed unquestioningly that
the other must know. So entirely had he thrown himself into his
ambition of making a suitable position for Helen, so continually
had he dwelt on it in his thoughts, so earnestly had he striven for
it in every step of the great game he was beginning to play, that
it never occurred to him he should also concede a definite outward
manifestation of his feeling in order to assure its acceptance.
Thorpe believed that he had sacrificed every thought and effort to
his sister. Helen was becoming convinced that he had considered
After finishing the letter which gave occasion to this train of
thought, Thorpe lit his pipe and strolled out into the darkness.
Opposite the little office he stopped amazed.
Through the narrow window he could see Radway seated in front of
the stove. Every attitude of the man denoted the most profound
dejection. He had sunk down into his chair until he rested on
almost the small of his back, his legs were struck straight out in
front of him, his chin rested on his breast, and his two arms hung
listless at his side, a pipe half falling from the fingers of one
hand. All the facetious lines had turned to pathos. In his face
sorrowed the anxious, questing, wistful look of the St. Bernard
that does not understand.
"What's the matter with the boss, anyway?" asked Thorpe in a low
voice of Jackson Hines, when the seven-up game was finished.
"H'aint ye heard?" inquired the old man in surprise.
"Why, no. What?"
"Busted," said the old man sententiously.
"How? What do you mean?"
"What I say. He's busted. That freshet caught him too quick. They's
more'n a million and a half logs left in the woods that can't be got
out this year, and as his contract calls for a finished job, he don't
get nothin' for what he's done."
"That's a queer rig," commented Thorpe. "He's done a lot of valuable
work here,--the timber's cut and skidded, anyway; and he's delivered
a good deal of it to the main drive. The M. & D. outfit get all the
advantage of that."
"They do, my son. When old Daly's hand gets near anything, it
cramps. I don't know how the old man come to make such a contrac',
but he did. Result is, he's out his expenses and time."
To understand exactly the catastrophe that had occurred, it is
necessary to follow briefly an outline of the process after the
logs have been piled on the banks. There they remain until the
break-up attendant on spring shall flood the stream to a freshet.
The rollways are then broken, and the saw logs floated down the
river to the mill where they are to be cut into lumber.
If for any reason this transportation by water is delayed until
the flood goes down, the logs are stranded or left in pools.
Consequently every logger puts into the two or three weeks of
freshet water a feverish activity which shall carry his product
through before the ebb.
The exceptionally early break-up of this spring, combined with the
fact that, owing to the series of incidents and accidents already
sketched, the actual cutting and skidding had fallen so far behind,
caught Radway unawares. He saw his rollways breaking out while his
teams were still hauling in the woods. In order to deliver to the
mouth of the Cass Branch the three million already banked, he was
forced to drop everything else and attend strictly to the drive.
This left still, as has been stated, a million and a half on
skidways, which Radway knew he would be unable to get out that year.
In spite of the jobber's certainty that his claim was thus annulled,
and that he might as well abandon the enterprise entirely for all he
would ever get out of it, he finished the "drive" conscientiously
and saved to the Company the logs already banked. Then he had
interviewed Daly. The latter refused to pay him one cent. Nothing
remained but to break camp and grin as best he might over the loss
of his winter's work and expenses.
The next day Radway and Thorpe walked the ten miles of the river
trail together, while the teamsters and the cook drove down the
five teams. Under the influence of the solitude and a certain
sympathy which Thorpe manifested, Radway talked--a very little.
"I got behind; that's all there is to it," he said. "I s'pose I
ought to have driven the men a little; but still, I don't know. It
gets pretty cold on the plains. I guess I bit off more than I could
His eye followed listlessly a frenzied squirrel swinging from the
tops of poplars.
"I wouldn't 'a done it for myself," he went on. "I don't like the
confounded responsibility. They's too much worry connected with it
all. I had a good snug little stake--mighty nigh six thousand.
She's all gone now. That'd have been enough for me--I ain't a
drinkin' man. But then there was the woman and the kid. This ain't
no country for woman-folks, and I wanted t' take little Lida out o'
here. I had lots of experience in the woods, and I've seen men make
big money time and again, who didn't know as much about it as I do.
But they got there, somehow. Says I, I'll make a stake this year--
I'd a had twelve thousand in th' bank, if things'd have gone right--
and then we'll jest move down around Detroit an' I'll put Lida in
Thorpe noticed a break in the man's voice, and glancing suddenly
toward him was astounded to catch his eyes brimming with tears.
Radway perceived the surprise.
"You know when I left Christmas?" he asked.
"I was gone two weeks, and them two weeks done me. We was going
slow enough before, God knows, but even with the rank weather and
all, I think we'd have won out, if we could have held the same gait."
Radway paused. Thorpe was silent.
"The boys thought it was a mighty poor rig, my leaving that way."
He paused again in evident expectation of a reply. Again Thorpe was
"Didn't they?" Radway insisted.
"Yes, they did," answered Thorpe.
The older man sighed. "I thought so," he went on. "Well, I didn't
go to spend Christmas. I went because Jimmy brought me a telegram
that Lida was sick with diphtheria. I sat up nights with her for
"No bad after-effects, I hope?" inquired Thorpe.
"She died," said Radway simply.
The two men tramped stolidly on. This was too great an affair for
Thorpe to approach except on the knees of his spirit. After a long
interval, during which the waters had time to still, the young man
changed the subject.
"Aren't you going to get anything out of M. & D.?" he asked.
"No. Didn't earn nothing. I left a lot of their saw logs hung up
in the woods, where they'll deteriorate from rot and worms. This is
their last season in this district."
"Got anything left?"
"Not a cent."
"What are you going to do?"
"Do!" cried the old woodsman, the fire springing to his eye. "Do!
I'm going into the woods, by God! I'm going to work with my hands,
and be happy! I'm going to do other men's work for them and take
other men's pay. Let them do the figuring and worrying. I'll boss
their gangs and make their roads and see to their logging for 'em,
but it's got to be THEIRS. No! I'm going to be a free man by the G.
Thorpe dedicated a musing instant to the incongruity of rejoicing
over a freedom gained by ceasing to be master and becoming servant.
"Radway," said he suddenly, "I need money and I need it bad. I
think you ought to get something out of this job of the M. & D.--not
much, but something. Will you give me a share of what I can collect
"Sure!" agreed the jobber readily, with a laugh. "Sure! But you won't
get anything. I'll give you ten per cent quick."
"Good enough!" cried Thorpe.
"But don't be too sure you'll earn day wages doing it," warned the
other. "I saw Daly when I was down here last week."
"My time's not valuable," replied Thorpe. "Now when we get to town
I want your power of attorney and a few figures, after which I will
not bother you again."
The next day the young man called for the second time at the little
red-painted office under the shadow of the mill, and for the second
time stood before the bulky power of the junior member of the firm.
"Well, young man, what can I do for you?" asked the latter.
"I have been informed," said Thorpe without preliminary, "that
you intend to pay John Radway nothing for the work done on the
Cass Branch this winter. Is that true?"
Daly studied his antagonist meditatively. "If it is true, what is
it to you?" he asked at length.
"I am acting in Mr. Radway's interest."
"You are one of Radway's men?"
"In what capacity have you been working for him?"
"Cant-hook man," replied Thorpe briefly.
"I see," said Daly slowly. Then suddenly, with an intensity of
energy that startled Thorpe, he cried: "Now you get out of here!
Right off! Quick!"
The younger man recognized the compelling and autocratic boss
addressing a member of the crew.
"I shall do nothing of the kind!" he replied with a flash of fire.
The mill-owner leaped to his feet every inch a leader of men. Thorpe
did not wish to bring about an actual scene of violence. He had
attained his object, which was to fluster the other out of his
"I have Radway's power of attorney," he added.
Daly sat down, controlled himself with an effort, and growled out,
"Why didn't you say so?"
"Now I would like to know your position," went on Thorpe. "I am
not here to make trouble, but as an associate of Mr. Radway, I have
a right to understand the case. Of course I have his side of the
story," he suggested, as though convinced that a detailing of the
other side might change his views.
Daly considered carefully, fixing his flint-blue eyes unswervingly
on Thorpe's face. Evidently his scrutiny advised him that the young
man was a force to be reckoned with.
"It's like this," said he abruptly, "we contracted last fall with
this man Radway to put in five million feet of our timber, delivered
to the main drive at the mouth of the Cass Branch. In this he was
to act independently except as to the matter of provisions. Those
he drew from our van, and was debited with the amount of the same.
Is that clear?"
"Perfectly," replied Thorpe.
"In return we were to pay him, merchantable scale, four dollars a
thousand. If, however, he failed to put in the whole job, the
contract was void."
"That's how I understand it," commented Thorpe. "Well?"
"Well, he didn't get in the five million. There's a million and a
half hung up in the woods."
"But you have in your hands three million and a half, which under
the present arrangement you get free of any charge whatever."
"And we ought to get it," cried Daly. "Great guns! Here we intend
to saw this summer and quit. We want to get in every stick of
timber we own so as to be able to clear out of here for good and
all at the close of the season; and now this condigned jobber ties
us up for a million and a half."
"It is exceedingly annoying," conceded Thorpe, "and it is a good
deal of Radway's fault, I am willing to admit, but it's your fault
"To be sure," replied Daly with the accent of sarcasm.
"You had no business entering into any such contract. It gave him
"I suppose that was mainly his lookout, wasn't it? And as I already
told you, we had to protect ourselves."
"You should have demanded security for the completion of the work.
Under your present agreement, if Radway got in the timber, you were
to pay him a fair price. If he didn't, you appropriated everything
he had already done. In other words, you made him a bet."
"I don't care what you call it," answered Daly, who had recovered
his good-humor in contemplation of the security of his position.
"The fact stands all right."
"It does," replied Thorpe unexpectedly, "and I'm glad of it. Now
let's examine a few figures. You owned five million feet of timber,
which at the price of stumpage" (standing trees) "was worth ten
"You come out at the end of the season with three million and a
half of saw logs, which with the four dollars' worth of logging
added, are worth twenty-one thousand dollars."
"Hold on!" cried Daly, "we paid Radway four dollars; we could have
done it ourselves for less."
"You could not have done it for one cent less than four-twenty in
that country," replied Thorpe, "as any expert will testify."
"Why did we give it to Radway at four, then?"
"You saved the expense of a salaried overseer, and yourselves some
bother," replied Thorpe. "Radway could do it for less, because, for
some strange reason which you yourself do not understand, a jobber
can always log for less than a company."
"We could have done it for four," insisted Daly stubbornly, "but
get on. What are you driving at? My time's valuable."
"Well, put her at four, then," agreed Thorpe. "That makes your
saw logs worth over twenty thousand dollars. Of this value Radway
added thirteen thousand. You have appropriated that much of his
without paying him one cent."
Daly seemed amused. "How about the million and a half feet of ours
HE appropriated?" he asked quietly.
"I'm coming to that. Now for your losses. At the stumpage rate
your million and a half which Radway 'appropriated' would be only
three thousand. But for the sake of argument, we'll take the actual
sum you'd have received for saw logs. Even then the million and a
half would only have been worth between eight and nine thousand.
Deducting this purely theoretical loss Radway has occasioned you,
from the amount he has gained for you, you are still some four or
five thousand ahead of the game. For that you paid him nothing."
"That's Radway's lookout."
"In justice you should pay him that amount. He is a poor man. He
has sunk all he owned in this venture, some twelve thousand dollars,
and he has nothing to live on. Even if you pay him five thousand,
he has lost considerable, while you have gained."
"How have we gained by this bit of philanthropy?"
"Because you originally paid in cash for all that timber on the
stump just ten thousand dollars and you get from Radway saw logs to
the value of twenty," replied Thorpe sharply. "Besides you still
own the million and a half which, if you do not care to put them in
yourself, you can sell for something on the skids."
"Don't you know, young man, that white pine logs on skids will spoil
utterly in a summer? Worms get into em."
"I do," replied Thorpe, "unless you bark them; which process will
cost you about one dollar a thousand. You can find any amount of
small purchasers at reduced price. You can sell them easily at
three dollars. That nets you for your million and a half a little
over four thousand dollars more. Under the circumstances, I do not
think that my request for five thousand is at all exorbitant."
Daly laughed. "You are a shrewd figurer, and your remarks are
interesting," said he.
"Will you give five thousand dollars?" asked Thorpe.
"I will not," replied Daly, then with a sudden change of humor, "and
now I'll do a little talking. I've listened to you just as long as
I'm going to. I have Radway's contract in that safe and I live up
to it. I'll thank you to go plumb to hell!"
"That's your last word, is it?" asked Thorpe, rising.
"Then," said he slowly and distinctly, "I'll tell you what I'll
do. I intend to collect in full the four dollars a thousand for the
three million and a half Mr. Radway has delivered to you. In return
Mr. Radway will purchase of you at the stumpage rates of two dollars
a thousand the million and a half he failed to put in. That makes
a bill against you, if my figuring is correct, of just eleven thousand
dollars. You will pay that bill, and I will tell you why: your
contract will be classed in any court as a gambling contract for lack
of consideration. You have no legal standing in the world. I call
your bluff, Mr. Daly, and I'll fight you from the drop of the hat
through every court in Christendom."
"Fight ahead," advised Daly sweetly, who knew perfectly well that
Thorpe's law was faulty. As a matter of fact the young man could
have collected on other grounds, but neither was aware of that.
"Furthermore," pursued Thorpe in addition, "I'll repeat my offer
before witnesses; and if I win the first suit, I'll sue you for the
money we could have made by purchasing the extra million and a half
before it had a chance to spoil."
This statement had its effect, for it forced an immediate settlement
before the pine on the skids should deteriorate. Daly lounged back
with a little more deadly carelessness.
"And, lastly," concluded Thorpe, playing his trump card, "the suit
from start to finish will be published in every important paper in
this country. If you do not believe I have the influence to do this,
you are at liberty to doubt the fact."
Daly was cogitating many things. He knew that publicity was the
last thing to be desired. Thorpe's statement had been made in
view of the fact that much of the business of a lumber firm is done
on credit. He thought that perhaps a rumor of a big suit going
against the firm might weaken confidence. As a matter of fact,
this consideration had no weight whatever with the older man,
although the threat of publicity actually gained for Thorpe what he
demanded. The lumberman feared the noise of an investigation solely
and simply because his firm, like so many others, was engaged at the
time in stealing government timber in the upper peninsula. He did
not call it stealing; but that was what it amounted to. Thorpe's
shot in the air hit full.
"I think we can arrange a basis of settlement," he said finally.
"Be here to-morrow morning at ten with Radway."
"Very well," said Thorpe.
"By the way," remarked Daly, "I don't believe I know your name?"
"Thorpe," was the reply.
"Well, Mr. Thorpe," said the lumberman with cold anger, "if at
any time there is anything within my power or influence that you
want--I'll see that you don't get it."
The whole affair was finally compromised for nine thousand dollars.
Radway, grateful beyond expression, insisted on Thorpe's acceptance
of an even thousand of it. With this money in hand, the latter felt
justified in taking a vacation for the purpose of visiting his
sister, so in two days after the signing of the check he walked
up the straight garden path that led to Renwick's home.
It was a little painted frame house, back from the street, fronted
by a precise bit of lawn, with a willow bush at one corner. A white
picket fence effectually separated it from a broad, shaded, not
unpleasing street. An osage hedge and a board fence respectively
bounded the side and back.
Under the low porch Thorpe rang the bell at a door flanked by two
long, narrow strips of imitation stained glass. He entered then a
little dark hall from which the stairs rose almost directly at the
door, containing with difficulty a hat-rack and a table on which
rested a card tray with cards. In the course of greeting an elderly
woman, he stepped into the parlor. This was a small square apartment
carpeted in dark Brussels, and stuffily glorified in the bourgeois
manner by a white marble mantel-piece, several pieces of mahogany
furniture upholstered in haircloth, a table on which reposed a
number of gift books in celluloid and other fancy bindings, an
old-fashioned piano with a doily and a bit of china statuary, a
cabinet or so containing such things as ore specimens, dried
seaweed and coins, and a spindle-legged table or two upholding
glass cases garnished with stuffed birds and wax flowers. The
ceiling was so low that the heavy window hangings depended almost
from the angle of it and the walls.
Thorpe, by some strange freak of psychology, suddenly recalled a
wild, windy day in the forest. He had stood on the top of a height.
He saw again the sharp puffs of snow, exactly like the smoke from
bursting shells, where a fierce swoop of the storm struck the laden
tops of pines; the dense swirl, again exactly like smoke but now of
a great fire, that marked the lakes. The picture super-imposed
itself silently over this stuffy bourgeois respectability, like the
shadow of a dream. He heard plainly enough the commonplace drawl
of the woman before him offering him the platitudes of her kind.
"You are lookin' real well, Mr. Thorpe," she was saying, "an' I
just know Helen will be glad to see you. She had a hull afternoon
out to-day and won't be back to tea. Dew set and tell me about what
you've been a-doin' and how you're a-gettin' along."
"No, thank you, Mrs. Renwick," he replied, "I'll come back later.
How is Helen?"
"She's purty well; and sech a nice girL I think she's getting right
"Can you tell me where she went?"
But Mrs. Renwick did not know. So Thorpe wandered about the maple-
shaded streets of the little town.
For the purposes he had in view five hundred dollars would be none
too much. The remaining five hundred he had resolved to invest in
his sister's comfort and happiness. He had thought the matter over
and come to his decision in that secretive, careful fashion so
typical of him, working over every logical step of his induction so
thoroughly that it ended by becoming part of his mental fiber. So
when he reached the conclusion it had already become to him an axiom.
In presenting it as such to his sister, he never realized that she
had not followed with him the logical steps, and so could hardly be
expected to accept the conclusion out-of-hand.
Thorpe wished to give his sister the best education possible in
the circumstances. She was now nearly eighteen years old. He
knew likewise that he would probably experience a great deal of
difficulty in finding another family which would afford the young
girl quite the same equality coupled with so few disadvantages.
Admitted that its level of intellect and taste was not high, Mrs.
Renwick was on the whole a good influence. Helen had not in the
least the position of servant, but of a daughter. She helped around
the house; and in return she was fed, lodged and clothed for nothing.
So though the money might have enabled Helen to live independently
in a modest way for a year or so, Thorpe preferred that she remain
where she was. His game was too much a game of chance. He might
find himself at the end of the year without further means. Above all
things he wished to assure Helen's material safety until such time
as he should be quite certain of himself.
In pursuance of this idea he had gradually evolved what seemed to him
an excellent plan. He had already perfected it by correspondence
with Mrs. Renwick. It was, briefly, this: he, Thorpe, would at
once hire a servant girl, who would make anything but supervision
unnecessary in so small a household. The remainder of the money he
had already paid for a year's tuition in the Seminary of the town.
Thus Helen gained her leisure and an opportunity for study; and
still retained her home in case of reverse.
Thorpe found his sister already a young lady. After the first
delight of meeting had passed, they sat side by side on the
haircloth sofa and took stock of each other.
Helen had developed from the school child to the woman. She was
a handsome girl, possessed of a slender, well-rounded form, deep
hazel eyes with the level gaze of her brother, a clean-cut patrician
face, and a thorough-bred neatness of carriage that advertised her
good blood. Altogether a figure rather aloof, a face rather
impassive; but with the possibility of passion and emotion, and
a will to back them.
"Oh, but you're tanned and--and BIG!" she cried, kissing her brother.
"You've had such a strange winter, haven't you?"
"Yes," he replied absently.
Another man would have struck her young imagination with the wild,
free thrill of the wilderness. Thus he would have gained her
sympathy and understanding. Thorpe was too much in earnest.
"Things came a little better than I thought they were going to,
toward the last," said he, "and I made a little money."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" she cried. "Was it much?"
"No, not much," he answered. The actual figures would have been so
much better! "I've made arrangements with Mrs. Renwick to hire a
servant girl, so you will have all your time free; and I have paid
a year's tuition for you in the Seminary."
"Oh!" said the girl, and fell silent.
After a time, "Thank you very much, Harry dear." Then after another
interval, "I think I'll go get ready for supper."
Instead of getting ready for supper, she paced excitedly up and down
"Oh, why DIDN'T he say what he was about?" she cried to herself.
"Why didn't he! Why didn't he!"
Next morning she opened the subject again.
"Harry, dear," said she, "I have a little scheme, and I want to see
if it is not feasible. How much will the girl and the Seminary cost?"
"About four hundred dollars."
"Well now, see, dear. With four hundred dollars I can live for a
year very nicely by boarding with some girls I know who live in a
sort of a club; and I could learn much more by going to the High
School and continuing with some other classes I am interested in
now. Why see, Harry!" she cried, all interest. "We have Professor
Carghill come twice a week to teach us English, and Professor
Johns, who teaches us history, and we hope to get one or two more
this winter. If I go to the Seminary, I'll have to miss all that.
And Harry, really I don't want to go to the Seminary. I don't think
I should like it. I KNOW I shouldn't."
"But why not live here, Helen?" he asked.
"Because I'm TIRED of it!" she cried; "sick to the soul of the
stuffiness, and the glass cases, and the--the GOODNESS of it!"
Thorpe remembered his vision of the wild, wind-tossed pines, and
sighed. He wanted very, very much to act in accordance with his
sister's desires, although he winced under the sharp hurt pang of
the sensitive man whose intended kindness is not appreciated. The
impossibility of complying, however, reacted to shut his real ideas
and emotions the more inscrutably within him.
"I'm afraid you would not find the girls' boarding-club scheme a
good one, Helen," said he. "You'd find it would work better in
theory than in practice."
"But it has worked with the other girls!" she cried.
"I think you would be better off here."
Helen bravely choked back her disappointment.
"I might live here, but let the Seminary drop, anyway. That would
save a good deal," she begged. "I'd get quite as much good out of
my work outside, and then we'd have all that money besides."
"I don't know; I'll see," replied Thorpe. "The mental discipline
of class-room work might be a good thing."
He had already thought of this modification himself, but with his
characteristic caution, threw cold water on the scheme until he
could ascertain definitely whether or not it was practicable. He
had already paid the tuition for the year, and was in doubt as to
its repayment. As a matter of fact, the negotiation took about two
During that time Helen Thorpe went through her disappointment and
emerged on the other side. Her nature was at once strong and
adaptable. One by one she grappled with the different aspects of
the case, and turned them the other way. By a tour de force she
actually persuaded herself that her own plan was not really
attractive to her. But what heart-breaks and tears this cost her,
only those who in their youth have encountered such absolute
negations of cherished ideas can guess.
Then Thorpe told her.
"I've fixed it, Helen," said he. "You can attend the High School
and the classes, if you please. I have put the two hundred and
fifty dollars out at interest for you."
"Oh, Harry!" she cried reproachfully. "Why didn't you tell me
He did not understand; but the pleasure of it had all faded. She no
longer felt enthusiasm, nor gratitude, nor anything except a dull
feeling that she had been unnecessarily discouraged. And on his
side, Thorpe was vaguely wounded.
The days, however, passed in the main pleasurably for them both.
They were fond of one another. The barrier slowly rising between
them was not yet cemented by lack of affection on either side, but
rather by lack of belief in the other's affection. Helen imagined
Thorpe's interest in her becoming daily more perfunctory. Thorpe
fancied his sister cold, unreasoning, and ungrateful. As yet this
was but the vague dust of a cloud. They could not forget that, but
for each other, they were alone in the world. Thorpe delayed his
departure from day to day, making all the preparations he possibly
could at home.
Finally Helen came on him busily unpacking a box which a dray had
left at the door. He unwound and laid one side a Winchester rifle,
a variety of fishing tackle, and some other miscellanies of the
woodsman. Helen was struck by the beauty of the sporting implements.
"Oh, Harry!" she cried, "aren't they fine! What are you going to
do with them?"
"Going camping," replied Thorpe, his head in the excelsior.
Helen's eyes lit up with a fire of delight. "How nice! May I go
with you?" she cried.
Thorpe shook his head.
"I'm afraid not, little girl. It's going to be a hard trip a long
ways from anywhere. You couldn't stand it."
"I'm sure I could. Try me."
"No," replied Thorpe. "I know you couldn't. We'll be sleeping
on the ground and going on foot through much extremely difficult
"I wish you'd take me somewhere," pursued Helen. "I can't get
away this summer unless you do. Why don't you camp somewhere nearer
home, so I can go?"
Thorpe arose and kissed her tenderly. He was extremely sorry that
he could not spend the summer with his sister, but he believed
likewise that their future depended to a great extent on this very
trip. But he did not say so.
"I can't, little girl; that's all. We've got our way to make."
She understood that he considered the trip too expensive for them
both. At this moment a paper fluttered from the excelsior. She
picked it up. A glance showed her a total of figures that made her
"Here is your bill," she said with a strange choke in her voice,
and left the room.
"He can spend sixty dollars on his old guns; but he can't afford
to let me leave this hateful house," she complained to the apple
tree. "He can go 'way off camping somewhere to have a good time,
but he leaves me sweltering in this miserable little town all
summer. I don't care if he IS supporting me. He ought to. He's
my brother. Oh, I wish I were a man; I wish I were dead!"
Three days later Thorpe left for the north. He was reluctant to go.
When the time came, he attempted to kiss Helen good-by. She caught
sight of the rifle in its new leather and canvas case, and on a
sudden impulse which she could not explain to herself, she turned
away her face and ran into the house. Thorpe, vaguely hurt, a
little resentful, as the genuinely misunderstood are apt to be,
hesitated a moment, then trudged down the street. Helen too paused
at the door, choking back her grief.
"Harry! Harry!" she cried wildly; but it was too late.
Both felt themselves to be in the right. Each realized this fact
in the other. Each recognized the impossibility of imposing his
own point of view over the other's.
In every direction the woods. Not an opening of any kind offered
the mind a breathing place under the free sky. Sometimes the pine
groves,--vast, solemn, grand, with the patrician aloofness of the
truly great; sometimes the hardwood,--bright, mysterious, full of
life; sometimes the swamps,--dark, dank, speaking with the voices
of the shyer creatures; sometimes the spruce and balsam thickets,--
aromatic, enticing. But never the clear, open sky.
And always the woods creatures, in startling abundance and tameness.
The solitary man with the packstraps across his forehead and
shoulders had never seen so many of them. They withdrew silently
before him as he advanced. They accompanied him on either side,
watching him with intelligent, bright eyes. They followed him
stealthily for a little distance, as though escorting him out of
their own particular territory. Dozens of times a day the traveller
glimpsed the flaunting white flags of deer. Often the creatures
would take but a few hasty jumps, and then would wheel, the
beautiful embodiments of the picture deer, to snort and paw the
leaves. Hundreds of birds, of which he did not know the name,
stooped to his inspection, whirred away at his approach, or went
about their business with hardy indifference under his very eyes.
Blase porcupines trundled superbly from his path. Once a mother-
partridge simulated a broken wing, fluttering painfully. Early one
morning the traveller ran plump on a fat lolling bear, taking his
ease from the new sun, and his meal from a panic stricken army of
ants. As beseemed two innocent wayfarers they honored each other
with a salute of surprise, and went their way. And all about and
through, weaving, watching, moving like spirits, were the forest
multitudes which the young man never saw, but which he divined, and
of whose movements he sometimes caught for a single instant the
faintest patter or rustle. It constituted the mystery of the forest,
that great fascinating, lovable mystery which, once it steals into
the heart of a man, has always a hearing and a longing when it makes
its voice heard.
The young man's equipment was simple in the extreme. Attached to a
heavy leather belt of cartridges hung a two-pound ax and a sheath
knife. In his pocket reposed a compass, an air-tight tin of
matches, and a map drawn on oiled paper of a district divided into
sections. Some few of the sections were colored, which indicated
that they belonged to private parties. All the rest was State or
Government land. He carried in his hand a repeating rifle. The
pack, if opened, would have been found to contain a woolen and a
rubber blanket, fishing tackle, twenty pounds or so of flour, a
package of tea, sugar, a slab of bacon carefully wrapped in oiled
cloth, salt, a suit of underwear, and several extra pairs of thick
stockings. To the outside of the pack had been strapped a frying
pan, a tin pail, and a cup.
For more than a week Thorpe had journeyed through the forest without
meeting a human being, or seeing any indications of man, excepting
always the old blaze of the government survey. Many years before,
officials had run careless lines through the country along the
section-boundaries. At this time the blazes were so weather-beaten
that Thorpe often found difficulty in deciphering the indications
marked on them. These latter stated always the section, the township,
and the range east or west by number. All Thorpe had to do was to
find the same figures on his map. He knew just where he was. By
means of his compass he could lay his course to any point that suited
The map he had procured at the United States Land Office in Detroit.
He had set out with the scanty equipment just described for the
purpose of "looking" a suitable bunch of pine in the northern
peninsula, which, at that time, was practically untouched. Access
to its interior could be obtained only on foot or by river. The
South Shore Railroad was already engaged in pushing a way through
the virgin forest, but it had as yet penetrated only as far as Seney;
and after all, had been projected more with the idea of establishing
a direct route to Duluth and the copper districts than to aid the
lumber industry. Marquette, Menominee, and a few smaller places
along the coast were lumbering near at home; but they shipped entirely
by water. Although the rest of the peninsula also was finely wooded,
a general impression obtained among the craft that it would prove
too inaccessible for successful operation.
Furthermore, at that period, a great deal of talk was believed as
to the inexhaustibility of Michigan pine. Men in a position to know
what they were talking about stated dogmatically that the forests of
the southern peninsula would be adequate for a great many years to
come. Furthermore, the magnificent timber of the Saginaw, Muskegon,
and Grand River valleys in the southern peninsula occupied entire
attention. No one cared to bother about property at so great a
distance from home. As a consequence, few as yet knew even the
extent of the resources so far north.
Thorpe, however, with the far-sightedness of the born pioneer, had
perceived that the exploitation of the upper country was an affair
of a few years only.
The forests of southern Michigan were vast, but not limitless, and
they had all passed into private ownership. The north, on the other
hand, would not prove as inaccessible as it now seemed, for the
carrying trade would some day realize that the entire waterway of
the Great Lakes offered an unrivalled outlet. With that elementary
discovery would begin a rush to the new country. Tiring of a
profitless employment further south he resolved to anticipate it,
and by acquiring his holdings before general attention should be
turned that way, to obtain of the best.
He was without money, and practically without friends; while
Government and State lands cost respectively two dollars and a half
and a dollar and a quarter an acre, cash down. But he relied on the
good sense of capitalists to perceive, from the statistics which
his explorations would furnish, the wonderful advantage of logging
a new country with the chain of Great Lakes as shipping outlet at
its very door. In return for his information, he would expect a
half interest in the enterprise. This is the usual method of
procedure adopted by landlookers everywhere.
We have said that the country was quite new to logging, but the
statement is not strictly accurate. Thorpe was by no means the
first to see the money in northern pine. Outside the big mill
districts already named, cuttings of considerable size were already
under way, the logs from which were usually sold to the mills of
Marquette or Menominee. Here and there along the best streams,
men had already begun operations.
But they worked on a small scale and with an eye to the immediate
present only; bending their efforts to as large a cut as possible
each season rather than to the acquisition of holdings for future
operations. This they accomplished naively by purchasing one forty
and cutting a dozen. Thorpe's map showed often near the forks of
an important stream a section whose coloring indicated private
possession. Legally the owners had the right only to the pine
included in the marked sections; but if anyone had taken the trouble
to visit the district, he would have found operations going on for
miles up and down stream. The colored squares would prove to be
nothing but so many excuses for being on the ground. The bulk of
the pine of any season's cut he would discover had been stolen from
unbought State or Government land.
This in the old days was a common enough trick. One man, at present
a wealthy and respected citizen, cut for six years, and owned just
one forty-acres! Another logged nearly fifty million feet from an
eighty! In the State to-day live prominent business men, looked
upon as models in every way, good fellows, good citizens, with sons
and daughters proud of their social position, who, nevertheless,
made the bulk of their fortunes by stealing Government pine.
"What you want to-day, old man?" inquired a wholesale lumber dealer
of an individual whose name now stands for domestic and civic virtue.
"I'll have five or six million saw logs to sell you in the spring,
and I want to know what you'll give for them."
"Go on!" expostulated the dealer with a laugh, "ain't you got that
forty all cut yet?"
"She holds out pretty well," replied the other with a grin.
An official, called the Inspector, is supposed to report such
stealings, after which another official is to prosecute. Aside
from the fact that the danger of discovery is practically zero in
so wild and distant a country, it is fairly well established that
the old-time logger found these two individuals susceptible to the
gentle art of "sugaring." The officials, as well as the lumberman,
became rich. If worst came to worst, and investigation seemed
imminent, the operator could still purchase the land at legal rates,
and so escape trouble. But the intention to appropriate was there,
and, to confess the truth, the whitewashing by purchase needed but
rarely to be employed. I have time and again heard landlookers
assert that the old Land Offices were rarely "on the square," but
as to that I cannot, of course, venture an opinion.
Thorpe was perfectly conversant with this state of affairs. He
knew, also, that in all probability many of the colored districts
on his map represented firms engaged in steals of greater or less
magnitude. He was further aware that most of the concerns stole
the timber because it was cheaper to steal than to buy; but that
they would buy readily enough if forced to do so in order to
prevent its acquisition by another. This other might be himself.
In his exploration, therefore, he decided to employ the utmost
circumspection. As much as possible he purposed to avoid other
men; but if meetings became inevitable, he hoped to mask his real
intentions. He would pose as a hunter and fisherman.
During the course of his week in the woods, he discovered that
he would be forced eventually to resort to this expedient. He
encountered quantities of fine timber in the country through which
he travelled, and some day it would be logged, but at present the
difficulties were too great. The streams were shallow, or they did
not empty into a good shipping port. Investors would naturally
look first for holdings along the more practicable routes.
A cursory glance sufficed to show that on such waters the little red
squares had already blocked a foothold for other owners. Thorpe
surmised that he would undoubtedly discover fine unbought timber
along their banks, but that the men already engaged in stealing it
would hardly be likely to allow him peaceful acquisition.
For a week, then, he journeyed through magnificent timber without
finding what he sought, working always more and more to the north,
until finally he stood on the shores of Superior. Up to now the
streams had not suited him. He resolved to follow the shore west
to the mouth of a fairly large river called the Ossawinamakee.*
It showed, in common with most streams of its size, land already
taken, but Thorpe hoped to find good timber nearer the mouth. After
several days' hard walking with this object in view, he found himself
directly north of a bend in the river; so, without troubling to hunt
for its outlet into Superior, he turned through the woods due south,
with the intention of striking in on the stream. This he succeeded
in accomplishing some twenty miles inland, where also he discovered
a well-defined and recently used trail leading up the river. Thorpe
camped one night at the bend, and then set out to follow the trail.
*Accent the last syllable.
It led him for upwards of ten miles nearly due south, sometimes
approaching, sometimes leaving the river, but keeping always in its
direction. The country in general was rolling. Low parallel ridges
of gentle declivity glided constantly across his way, their valleys
sloping to the river. Thorpe had never seen a grander forest of
pine than that which clothed them.
For almost three miles, after the young man had passed through a
preliminary jungle of birch, cedar, spruce, and hemlock, it ran
without a break, clear, clean, of cloud-sweeping altitude, without
underbrush. Most of it was good bull-sap, which is known by the
fineness of the bark, though often in the hollows it shaded gradually
into the rough-skinned cork pine. In those days few people paid
any attention to the Norway, and hemlock was not even thought of.
With every foot of the way Thorpe became more and more impressed.
At first the grandeur, the remoteness, the solemnity of the virgin
forest fell on his spirit with a kind of awe. The tall, straight
trunks lifted directly upwards to the vaulted screen through which
the sky seemed as remote as the ceiling of a Roman church. Ravens
wheeled and croaked in the blue, but infinitely far away. Some
lesser noises wove into the stillness without breaking the web of
its splendor, for the pine silence laid soft, hushing fingers on
the lips of those who might waken the sleeping sunlight.
Then the spirit of the pioneer stirred within his soul. The
wilderness sent forth its old-time challenge to the hardy. In
him awoke that instinct which, without itself perceiving the end on
which it is bent, clears the way for the civilization that has been
ripening in old-world hot-houses during a thousand years. Men must
eat; and so the soil must be made productive. We regret, each after
his manner, the passing of the Indian, the buffalo, the great pine
forests, for they are of the picturesque; but we live gladly on the
product of the farms that have taken their places. Southern Michigan
was once a pine forest: now the twisted stump-fences about the most
fertile farms of the north alone break the expanse of prairie and