Part 6 out of 7
actually represents, as in the suggestion it holds out to another.
So often it is with a beautiful character. Analyze it carefully,
and you will reduce it generally to absolute simplicity and absolute
purity--two elements common enough in adulteration; but place it
face to face with a more complex personality, and mirror-like it
will take on a hundred delicate shades of ethical beauty, while at
the same time preserving its own lofty spirituality.
Thus Hilda Farrand reflected Thorpe. In the clear mirror of her
heart his image rested transfigured. It was as though the glass
were magic, so that the gross and material was absorbed and lost,
while the more spiritual qualities reflected back. So the image was
retained in its entirety, but etherealized, refined. It is necessary
to attempt, even thus faintly and inadequately, a sketch of Hilda's
love, for a partial understanding of it is necessary to the
comprehension of what followed the moon of delight.
That moon saw a variety of changes.
The bed of French Creek was cleared. Three of the roads were
finished, and the last begun. So much for the work of it.
Morton and Cary shot four deer between them, which was unpardonably
against the law, caught fish in plenty, smoked two and a half pounds
of tobacco, and read half of one novel. Mrs. Cary and Miss Carpenter
walked a total of over a hundred miles, bought twelve pounds of
Indian work of all sorts, embroidered the circle of two embroidery
frames, learned to paddle a birch-bark canoe, picked fifteen quarts
of berries, and gained six pounds in weight. All the party together
accomplished five picnics, four explorations, and thirty excellent
campfires in the evening. So much for the fun of it.
Little Phil disappeared utterly, taking with him his violin, but
leaving his broken bow. Thorpe has it even to this day. The
lumberman caused search and inquiry on all sides. The cripple was
never heard of again. He had lived his brief hour, taken his subtle
artist's vengeance of misplayed notes on the crude appreciation of
men too coarse-fibered to recognize it, brought together by the
might of sacrifice and consummate genius two hearts on the brink
of misunderstanding;--now there was no further need for him, he had
gone. So much for the tragedy of it.
"I saw you long ago," said Hilda to Thorpe. "Long, long ago, when
I was quite a young girl. I had been visiting in Detroit, and was
on my way all alone to catch an early train. You stood on the corner
thinking, tall and straight and brown, with a weather-beaten old hat
and a weather-beaten old coat and weather-beaten old moccasins, and
such a proud, clear, undaunted look on your face. I have remembered
you ever since."
And then he told her of the race to the Land Office, while her eyes
grew brighter and brighter with the epic splendor of the story. She
told him that she had loved him from that moment--and believed her
telling; while he, the unsentimental leader of men, persuaded himself
and her that he had always in some mysterious manner carried her image
prophetically in his heart. So much for the love of it.
In the last days of the month of delight Thorpe received a second
letter from his partner, which to some extent awakened him to the
"My dear Harry," it ran. "I have made a startling discovery.
The other fellow is Morrison. I have been a blind, stupid dolt,
and am caught nicely. You can't call me any more names than I
have already called myself. Morrison has been in it from the start.
By an accident I learned he was behind the fellow who induced me
to invest, and it is he who has been hammering the stock down ever
since. They couldn't lick you at your game, so they tackled me
at mine. I'm not the man you are, Harry, and I've made a mess of
it. Of course their scheme is plain enough on the face of it.
They're going to involve me so deeply that I will drag the firm
down with me.
"If you can fix it to meet those notes, they can't do it. I have
ample margin to cover any more declines they may be able to bring
about. Don't fret about that. Just as sure as you can pay that
sixty thousand, just so sure we'll be ahead of the game at this
time next year. For God's sake get a move on you, old man. If you
don't--good Lord! The firm'll bust because she can't pay; I'll bust
because I'll have to let my stock go on margins--it'll be an awful
smash. But you'll get there, so we needn't worry. I've been an
awful fool, and I've no right to do the getting into trouble and
leave you to the hard work of getting out again. But as partner
I'm going to insist on your having a salary--etc."
The news aroused all Thorpe's martial spirit. Now at last the
mystery surrounding Morrison & Daly's unnatural complaisance was
riven. It had come to grapples again. He was glad of it. Meet
those notes? Well I guess so! He'd show them what sort of a
proposition they had tackled. Sneaking, underhanded scoundrels!
taking advantage of a mere boy. Meet those notes? You bet he
would; and then he'd go down there and boost those stocks until M.
& D. looked like a last year's bird's nest. He thrust the letter
in his pocket and walked buoyantly to the pines.
The two lovers sat there all the afternoon drinking in half sadly
the joy of the forest and of being near each other, for the moon
of delight was almost done. In a week the camping party would be
breaking up, and Hilda must return to the city. It was uncertain
when they would be able to see each other again, though there was
talk of getting up a winter party to visit Camp One in January.
The affair would be unique.
Suddenly the girl broke off and put her fingers to her lips. For
some time, dimly, an intermittent and faint sound had been felt,
rather than actually heard, like the irregular muffled beating of
a heart. Gradually it had insisted on the attention. Now at last
it broke through the film of consciousness.
"What is it?" she asked.
Thorpe listened. Then his face lit mightily with the joy of battle.
"My axmen," he cried. "They are cutting the road."
A faint call echoed. Then without warning, nearer at hand the sharp
ring of an ax sounded through the forest.
THE FOLLOWING OF THE TRAIL
For a moment they sat listening to the clear staccato knocking of
the distant blows, and the more forceful thuds of the man nearer at
hand. A bird or so darted from the direction of the sound and shot
silently into the thicket behind them.
"What are they doing? Are they cutting lumber?" asked Hilda.
"No," answered Thorpe, "we do not cut saw logs at this time of year.
They are clearing out a road."
"Where does it go to?"
"Well, nowhere in particular. That is, it is a logging road that
starts at the river and wanders up through the woods where the pine
"How clear the axes sound. Can't we go down and watch them a little
"The main gang is a long distance away; sound carries very clearly
in this still air. As for that fellow you hear so plainly, he is
only clearing out small stuff to get ready for the others. You
wouldn't see anything different from your Indian chopping the
cordwood for your camp fire. He won't chop out any big trees."
"Let's not go, then," said Hilda submissively.
"When you come up in the winter," he pursued, "you will see any
amount of big timber felled."
"I would like to know more about it," she sighed, a quaint little
air of childish petulance graving two lines between her eyebrows.
"Do you know, Harry, you are a singularly uncommunicative sort of
being. I have to guess that your life is interesting and picturesque,
--that is," she amended, "I should have to do so if Wallace Carpenter
had not told me a little something about it. Sometimes I think you
are not nearly poet enough for the life you are living. Why, you are
wonderful, you men of the north, and you let us ordinary mortals who
have not the gift of divination imagine you entirely occupied with
how many pounds of iron chain you are going to need during the
winter." She said these things lightly as one who speaks things
not for serious belief.
"It is something that way," he agreed with a laugh.
"Do you know, sir," she persisted, "that I really don't know
anything at all about the life you lead here? From what I have
seen, you might be perpetually occupied in eating things in a log
cabin, and in disappearing to perform some mysterious rites in the
forest." She looked at him with a smiling mouth but tender eyes,
her head tilted back slightly.
"It's a good deal that way, too," he agreed again. "We use a
barrel of flour in Camp One every two and a half days!"
She shook her head in a faint negation that only half understood
what he was saying, her whole heart in her tender gaze.
"Sit there," she breathed very softly, pointing to the dried needles
on which her feet rested, but without altering the position of her
head or the steadfastness of her look.
"Now tell me," she breathed, still in the fascinated monotone.
"What?" he inquired.
"Your life; what you do; all about it. You must tell me a story."
Thorpe settled himself more lazily, and laughed with quiet enjoyment.
Never had he felt the expansion of a similar mood. The barrier
between himself and self-expression had faded, leaving not the
smallest debris of the old stubborn feeling.
"The story of the woods," he began, "the story of the saw log. It
would take a bigger man than I to tell it. I doubt if any one man
ever would be big enough. It is a drama, a struggle, a battle.
Those men you hear there are only the skirmishers extending the
firing line. We are fighting always with Time. I'll have to hurry
now to get those roads done and a certain creek cleared before the
snow. Then we'll have to keep on the keen move to finish our
cutting before the deep snow; to haul our logs before the spring
thaws; to float them down the river while the freshet water lasts.
When we gain a day we have scored a victory; when the wilderness
puts us back an hour, we have suffered a defeat. Our ammunition
is Time; our small shot the minutes, our heavy ordnance the hours!"
The girl placed her hand on his shoulder. He covered it with his
"But we win!" he cried. "We win!"
"That is what I like," she said softly, "the strong spirit that
wins!" She hesitated, then went on gently, "But the battlefields,
Harry; to me they are dreadful. I went walking yesterday morning,
before you came over, and after a while I found myself in the most
awful place. The stumps of trees, the dead branches, the trunks
lying all about, and the glaring hot sun over everything! Harry,
there was not a single bird in all that waste, a single green thing.
You don't know how it affected me so early in the morning. I saw
just one lonesome pine tree that had been left for some reason or
another, standing there like a sentinel. I could shut my eyes and
see all the others standing, and almost hear the birds singing and
the wind in the branches, just as it is here." She seized his
fingers in her other hand. "Harry," she said earnestly, "I don't
believe I can ever forget that experience, any more than I could
have forgotten a battlefield, were I to see one. I can shut my eyes
now, and can see this place our dear little wooded knoll wasted and
blackened as that was."
The man twisted his shoulder uneasily and withdrew his hand.
"Harry," she said again, after a pause, "you must promise to leave
this woods until the very last. I suppose it must all be cut down
some day, but I do not want to be here to see after it is all over."
Thorpe remained silent.
"Men do not care much for keepsakes, do they, Harry?--they don't
save letters and flowers as we girls do--but even a man can feel the
value of a great beautiful keepsake such as this, can't he, dear?
Our meeting-place--do you remember how I found you down there by the
old pole trail, staring as though you had seen a ghost?--and that
beautiful, beautiful music! It must always be our most sacred
memory. Promise me you will save it until the very, very last."
Thorpe said nothing because he could not rally his faculties. The
sentimental association connected with the grove had actually never
occurred to him. His keepsakes were impressions which he carefully
guarded in his memory. To the natural masculine indifference toward
material bits of sentiment he had added the instinct of the strictly
portable early developed in the rover. He had never even possessed a
photograph of his sister. Now this sudden discovery that such things
might be part of the woof of another person's spiritual garment came
to him ready-grown to the proportions of a problem.
In selecting the districts for the season's cut, he had included in
his estimates this very grove. Since then he had seen no reason for
changing his decision. The operations would not commence until
winter. By that time the lovers would no longer care to use it as
at present. Now rapidly he passed in review a dozen expedients by
which his plan might be modified to permit of the grove's exclusion.
His practical mind discovered flaws in every one. Other bodies of
timber promising a return of ten thousand dollars were not to be
found near the river, and time now lacked for the cutting of roads
to more distant forties.
"Hilda," he broke in abruptly at last, "the men you hear are clearing
a road to this very timber."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"This timber is marked for cutting this very winter."
She had not a suspicion of the true state of affairs. "Isn't it
lucky I spoke of it!" she exclaimed. "How could you have forgotten
to countermand the order! You must see to it to-day; now!"
She sprang up impulsively and stood waiting for him. He arose more
slowly. Even before he spoke her eyes dilated with the shock from
her quick intuitions.
"Hilda, I cannot," he said.
She stood very still for some seconds.
"Why not?" she asked quietly.
"Because I have not time to cut a road through to another bunch of
pine. It is this or nothing."
"Why not nothing, then?"
"I want the money this will bring."
His choice of a verb was unfortunate. The employment of that one
little word opened the girl's mind to a flood of old suspicions
which the frank charm of the northland had thrust outside. Hilda
Farrand was an heiress and a beautiful girl. She had been constantly
reminded of the one fact by the attempts of men to use flattery of
the other as a key to her heart and her fortune. From early girlhood
she had been sought by the brilliant impecunious of two continents.
The continued experience had varnished her self-esteem with a glaze
of cynicism sufficiently consistent to protect it against any but
the strongest attack. She believed in no man's protestations. She
distrusted every man's motives as far as herself was concerned. This
attitude of mind was not unbecoming in her for the simple reason that
it destroyed none of her graciousness as regards other human relations
besides that of love. That men should seek her in matrimony from a
selfish motive was as much to be expected as that flies should seek
the sugar bowl. She accepted the fact as one of nature's laws,
annoying enough but inevitable; a thing to guard against, but not
one of sufficient moment to grieve over.
With Thorpe, however, her suspicions had been lulled. There is
something virile and genuine about the woods and the men who
inhabit them that strongly predisposes the mind to accept as proved
in their entirety all the other virtues. Hilda had fallen into this
state of mind. She endowed each of the men whom she encountered
with all the robust qualities she had no difficulty in recognizing
as part of nature's charm in the wilderness. Now at a word her eyes
were opened to what she had done. She saw that she had assumed
unquestioningly that her lover possessed the qualities of his
Not for a moment did she doubt the reality of her love. She had
conceived one of those deep, uplifting passions possible only to a
young girl. But her cynical experience warned her that the reality
of that passion's object was not proven by any test besides the
fallible one of her own poetizing imagination. The reality of the
ideal she had constructed might be a vanishable quantity even though
the love of it was not. So to the interview that ensued she brought,
not the partiality of a loving heart, nor even the impartiality of
one sitting in judgment, but rather the perverted prejudice of one
who actually fears the truth.
"Will you tell me for what you want the money?" she asked.
The young man caught the note of distrust. At once, instinctively,
his own confidence vanished. He drew within himself, again beyond
the power of justifying himself with the needed word.
"The firm needs it in the business," said he.
Her next question countered instantaneously.
"Does the firm need the money more than you do me?"
They stared at each other in the silence of the situation that had
so suddenly developed. It had come into being without their volition,
as a dust cloud springs up on a plain.
"You do not mean that, Hilda," said Thorpe quietly. "It hardly
comes to that."
"Indeed it does," she replied, every nerve of her fine organization
strung to excitement. "I should be more to you than any firm."
"Sometimes it is necessary to look after the bread and butter,"
Thorpe reminded her gently, although he knew that was not the real
reason at all.
"If your firm can't supply it, I can," she answered. "It seems
strange that you won't grant my first request of you, merely
because of a little money."
"It isn't a little money," he objected, catching manlike at the
practical question. "You don't realize what an amount a clump of
pine like this stands for. Just in saw logs, before it is made into
lumber, it will be worth about thirty thousand dollars,--of course
there's the expense of logging to pay out of that," he added, out
of his accurate business conservatism, "but there's ten thousand
dollars' profit in it."
The girl, exasperated by cold details at such a time, blazed out.
"I never heard anything so ridiculous in my life!" she cried.
"Either you are not at all the man I thought you, or you have some
better reason than you have given. Tell me, Harry; tell me at once.
You don't know what you are doing."
"The firm needs it, Hilda," said Thorpe, "in order to succeed. If
we do not cut this pine, we may fail."
In that he stated his religion. The duty of success was to him one
of the loftiest of abstractions, for it measured the degree of a
man's efficiency in the station to which God had called him. The
money, as such, was nothing to him.
Unfortunately the girl had learned a different language. She knew
nothing of the hardships, the struggles, the delight of winning for
the sake of victory rather than the sake of spoils. To her, success
meant getting a lot of money. The name by which Thorpe labelled his
most sacred principle, to her represented something base and sordid.
She had more money herself than she knew. It hurt her to the soul
that the condition of a small money-making machine, as she considered
the lumber firm, should be weighed even for an instant against her
love. It was a great deal Thorpe's fault that she so saw the firm.
He might easily have shown her the great forces and principles for
which it stood.
"If I were a man," she said, and her voice was tense, "if I were
a man and loved a woman, I would be ready to give up everything for
her. My riches, my pride, my life, my honor, my soul even,--they
would be as nothing, as less than nothing to me,--if I loved. Harry,
don't let me think I am mistaken. Let this miserable firm of yours
fail, if fail it must for lack of my poor little temple of dreams,"
she held out her hands with a tender gesture of appeal. The affair
had gone beyond the preservation of a few trees. It had become the
question of an ideal. Gradually, in spite of herself, the conviction
was forcing itself upon her that the man she had loved was no
different from the rest; that the greed of the dollar had corrupted
him too. By the mere yielding to her wishes, she wanted to prove the
Now the strange part of the whole situation was, that in two words
Thorpe could have cleared it. If he had explained that he needed
the ten thousand dollars to help pay a note given to save from ruin
a foolish friend, he would have supplied to the affair just the
higher motive the girl's clear spirituality demanded. Then she
would have shared enthusiastically in the sacrifice, and been the
more loving and repentant from her momentary doubt. All she needed
was that the man should prove himself actuated by a noble, instead
of a sordid, motive. The young man did not say the two words,
because in all honesty he thought them unimportant. It seemed to
him quite natural that he should go on Wallace Carpenter's note.
That fact altered not a bit the main necessity of success. It was
a man's duty to make the best of himself,--it was Thorpe's duty to
prove himself supremely efficient in his chosen calling; the mere
coincidence that his partner's troubles worked along the same lines
meant nothing to the logic of the situation. In stating baldly that
he needed the money to assure the firm's existence, he imagined he
had adduced the strongest possible reason for his attitude. If the
girl was not influenced by that, the case was hopeless.
It was the difference of training rather than the difference of
ideas. Both clung to unselfishness as the highest reason for human
action; but each expressed the thought in a manner incomprehensible
to the other.
"I cannot, Hilda," he answered steadily.
"You sell me for ten thousand dollars! I cannot believe it! Harry!
Harry! Must I put it to you as a choice? Don't you love me enough
to spare me that?"
He did not reply. As long as it remained a dilemma, he would not
reply. He was in the right.
"Do you need the money more than you do me? more than you do love?"
she begged, her soul in her eyes; for she was begging also for
herself. "Think, Harry; it is the last chance!"
Once more he was face to face with a vital decision. To his
surprise he discovered in his mind no doubt as to what the answer
should be. He experienced no conflict of mind; no hesitation;
for the moment, no regret. During all his woods life he had been
following diligently the trail he had blazed for his conduct. Now
his feet carried him unconsciously to the same end. There was no
other way out. In the winter of his trouble the clipped trees alone
guided him, and at the end of them he found his decision. It is
in crises of this sort, when a little reflection or consideration
would do wonders to prevent a catastrophe, that all the forgotten
deeds, decisions, principles, and thoughts of a man's past life
combine solidly into the walls of fatality, so that in spite of
himself he finds he must act in accordance with them. In answer
to Hilda's question he merely inclined his head.
"I have seen a vision," said she simply, and lowered her head to
conceal her eyes. Then she looked at him again. "There can be
nothing better than love," she said.
"Yes, one thing," said Thorpe, "the duty of success."
The man had stated his creed; the woman hers. The one is born
perfect enough for love; the other must work, must attain the
completeness of a fulfilled function, must succeed, to deserve it.
She left him then, and did not see him again. Four days later the
camping party left. Thorpe sent Tim Shearer over, as his most
efficient man, to see that they got off without difficulty, but
himself retired on some excuse to Camp Four. Three weeks gone in
October he received a marked newspaper announcing the engagement
of Miss Hilda Farrand to Mr. Hildreth Morton of Chicago.
He had burned his ships, and stood now on an unfriendly shore. The
first sacrifice to his jealous god had been consummated, and now,
live or die, he stood pledged to win his fight.
Winter set in early and continued late; which in the end was
a good thing for the year's cut. The season was capricious,
hanging for days at a time at the brink of a thaw, only to stiffen
again into severe weather. This was trying on the nerves. For at
each of these false alarms the six camps fell into a feverish haste
to get the job finished before the break-up. It was really quite
extraordinary how much was accomplished under the nagging spur of
weather conditions and the cruel rowelling of Thorpe.
The latter had now no thought beyond his work, and that was the
thought of a madman. He had been stern and unyielding enough
before, goodness knows, but now he was terrible. His restless
energy permeated every molecule in the economic structure over
which he presided, roused it to intense vibration. Not for an
instant was there a resting spell. The veriest chore-boy talked,
thought, dreamed of nothing but saw logs. Men whispered vaguely
of a record cut. Teamsters looked upon their success or failure
to keep near the top on the day's haul as a signal victory or a
disgraceful defeat. The difficulties of snow, accident, topography
which an ever-watchful nature threw down before the rolling car of
this industry, were swept aside like straws. Little time was wasted
and no opportunities. It did not matter how smoothly affairs
happened to be running for the moment, every advantage, even the
smallest, was eagerly seized to advance the work. A drop of five
degrees during the frequent warm spells brought out the sprinklers,
even in dead of night; an accident was white-hot in the forge
almost before the crack of the iron had ceased to echo. At night
the men fell into their bunks like sandbags, and their last conscious
thought, if indeed they had any at all, was of eagerness for the
morrow in order that they might push the grand total up another
notch. It was madness; but it was the madness these men loved.
For now to his old religion Thorpe had added a fanaticism, and over
the fanaticism was gradually creeping a film of doubt. To the
conscientious energy which a sense of duty supplied, was added the
tremendous kinetic force of a love turned into other channels. And
in the wild nights while the other men slept, Thorpe's half-crazed
brain was revolving over and over again the words of the sentence
he had heard from Hilda's lips: "There can be nothing better than
His actions, his mind, his very soul vehemently denied the
He clung as ever to his high Puritanic idea of man's purpose. But
down deep in a very tiny, sacred corner of his heart a very small
voice sometimes made itself heard when other, more militant voices
were still: "It may be; it may be!"
The influence of this voice was practically nothing. It made
itself heard occasionally. Perhaps even, for the time being, its
weight counted on the other side of the scale; for Thorpe took
pains to deny it fiercely, both directly and indirectly by increased
exertions. But it persisted; and once in a moon or so, when the
conditions were quite favorable, it attained for an instant a shred
Probably never since the Puritan days of New England has a community
lived as sternly as did that winter of 1888 the six camps under
Thorpe's management. There was something a little inspiring about
it. The men fronted their daily work with the same grim-faced,
clear-eyed steadiness of veterans going into battle;--with the
same confidence, the same sure patience that disposes effectively
of one thing before going on to the next. There was little merely
excitable bustle; there was no rest. Nothing could stand against
such a spirit. Nothing did. The skirmishers which the wilderness
threw out, were brushed away. Even the inevitable delays seemed
not so much stoppages as the instant's pause of a heavy vehicle in
a snow drift, succeeded by the momentary acceleration as the plunge
carried it through. In the main, and by large, the machine moved
steadily and inexorably.
And yet one possessed of the finer spiritual intuitions could not
have shaken off the belief in an impending struggle. The feel of it
was in the air. Nature's forces were too mighty to be so slightly
overcome; the splendid energy developed in these camps too vast to
be wasted on facile success. Over against each other were two great
powers, alike in their calm confidence, animated with the loftiest
and most dignified spirit of enmity. Slowly they were moving toward
each other. The air was surcharged with the electricity of their
opposition. Just how the struggle would begin was uncertain; but its
inevitability was as assured as its magnitude. Thorpe knew it, and
shut his teeth, looking keenly about him. The Fighting Forty knew
it, and longed for the grapple to come. The other camps knew it,
and followed their leader with perfect trust. The affair was an
epitome of the historic combats begun with David and Goliath. It
was an affair of Titans. The little courageous men watched their
enemy with cat's eyes.
The last month of hauling was also one of snow. In this condition
were few severe storms, but each day a little fell. By and by the
accumulation amounted to much. In the woods where the wind could
not get at it, it lay deep and soft above the tops of bushes. The
grouse ate browse from the slender hardwood tips like a lot of
goldfinches, or precipitated themselves headlong down through five
feet of snow to reach the ground. Often Thorpe would come across
the irregular holes of their entrance. Then if he took the trouble
to stamp about a little in the vicinity with his snowshoes, the
bird would spring unexpectedly from the clear snow, scattering a
cloud with its strong wings. The deer, herded together, tramped
"yards" where the feed was good. Between the yards ran narrow
trails. When the animals went from one yard to another in these
trails, their ears and antlers alone were visible. On either side
of the logging roads the snow piled so high as to form a kind of
rampart. When all this water in suspense should begin to flow,
and to seek its level in the water-courses of the district, the
logs would have plenty to float them, at least.
So late did the cold weather last that, even with the added plowing
to do, the six camps beat all records. On the banks at Camp One
were nine million feet; the totals of all five amounted to thirty-
three million. About ten million of this was on French Creek; the
remainder on the main banks of the Ossawinamakee. Besides this the
firm up-river, Sadler & Smith, had put up some twelve million more.
The drive promised to be quite an affair.
About the fifteenth of April attention became strained. Every day
the mounting sun made heavy attacks on the snow: every night the
temperature dropped below the freezing point. The river began to
show more air holes, occasional open places. About the center the
ice looked worn and soggy. Someone saw a flock of geese high in
the air. Then came rain.
One morning early, Long Pine Jim came into the men's camp bearing a
huge chunk of tallow. This he held against the hot stove until its
surface had softened, when he began to swab liberal quantities of
grease on his spiked river shoes, which he fished out from under
"She's comin', boys," said he.
He donned a pair of woolen trousers that had been chopped off at
the knee, thick woolen stockings, and the river shoes. Then he
tightened his broad leather belt about his heavy shirt, cocked his
little hat over his ear, and walked over in the corner to select a
peavey from the lot the blacksmith had just put in shape. A peavey
is like a cant-hook except that it is pointed at the end. Thus it
can be used either as a hook or a pike. At the same moment Shearer,
similarly attired and equipped, appeared in the doorway. The opening
of the portal admitted a roar of sound. The river was rising.
"Come on, boys, she's on!" said he sharply.
Outside, the cook and cookee were stowing articles in the already
loaded wanigan. The scow contained tents, blankets, provisions, and
a portable stove. It followed the drive, and made a camp wherever
"Lively, boys, lively!" shouted Thorpe. "She'll be down on us
before we know it!"
Above the soft creaking of dead branches in the wind sounded a
steady roar, like the bellowing of a wild beast lashing itself to
fury. The freshet was abroad, forceful with the strength of a
whole winter's accumulated energy.
The men heard it and their eyes brightened with the lust of battle.
At the banks of the river, Thorpe rapidly issued his directions.
The affair had been all prearranged. During the week previous he
and his foremen had reviewed the situation, examining the state of
the ice, the heads of water in the three dams. Immediately above
the first rollways was Dam Three with its two wide sluices through
which a veritable flood could be loosened at will; then four miles
farther lay the rollways of Sadler & Smith, the up-river firm; and
above them tumbled over a forty-five foot ledge the beautiful Siscoe
Falls; these first rollways of Thorpe's--spread in the broad marsh
flat below the dam--contained about eight millions; the rest of
the season's cut was scattered for thirty miles along the bed of
Already the ice cementing the logs together had begun to weaken.
The ice had wrenched and tugged savagely at the locked timbers
until they had, with a mighty effort, snapped asunder the bonds of
their hibernation. Now a narrow lane of black rushing water pierced
the rollways, to boil and eddy in the consequent jam three miles
To the foremen Thorpe assigned their tasks, calling them to him one
by one, as a general calls his aids.
"Moloney," said he to the big Irishman, "take your crew and break
that jam. Then scatter your men down to within a mile of the pond
at Dam Two, and see that the river runs clear. You can tent for a
day or so at West Bend or some other point about half way down; and
after that you had better camp at the dam. Just as soon as you get
logs enough in the pond, start to sluicing them through the dam.
You won't need more than four men there, if you keep a good head.
You can keep your gates open five or six hours. And Moloney."
"I want you to be careful not to sluice too long. There is a bar
just below the dam, and if you try to sluice with the water too
low, you'll center and jam there, as sure as shooting."
Bryan Moloney turned on his heel and began to pick his way down
stream over the solidly banked logs. Without waiting the command,
a dozen men followed him. The little group bobbed away irregularly
into the distance, springing lightly from one timber to the other,
holding their quaintly-fashioned peaveys in the manner of a rope
dancer's balancing pole. At the lowermost limit of the rollways,
each man pried a log into the water, and, standing gracefully erect
on this unstable craft, floated out down the current to the scene
of his dangerous labor.
"Kerlie," went on Thorpe, "your crew can break rollways with the
rest until we get the river fairly filled, and then you can move
on down stream as fast as you are needed. Scotty, you will have
the rear. Tim and I will boss the river."
At once the signal was given to Ellis, the dam watcher. Ellis and
his assistants thereupon began to pry with long iron bars at the
ratchets of the heavy gates. The chore-boy bent attentively over
the ratchet-pin, lifting it delicately to permit another inch of
raise, dropping it accurately to enable the men at the bars to
seize a fresh purchase. The river's roar deepened. Through the
wide sluice-ways a torrent foamed and tumbled. Immediately it spread
through the brush on either side to the limits of the freshet banks,
and then gathered for its leap against the uneasy rollways. Along
the edge of the dark channel the face of the logs seemed to crumble
away. Farther in towards the banks where the weight of timber still
outbalanced the weight of the flood, the tiers grumbled and stirred,
restless with the stream's calling. Far down the river, where Bryan
Moloney and his crew were picking at the jam, the water in eager
streamlets sought the interstices between the logs, gurgling
excitedly like a mountain brook.
The jam creaked and groaned in response to the pressure. From its
face a hundred jets of water spurted into the lower stream. Logs
up-ended here and there, rising from the bristling surface slowly,
like so many arms from lower depths. Above, the water eddied back
foaming; logs shot down from the rollways, paused at the slackwater,
and finally hit with a hollow and resounding BOOM! against the tail
of the jam. A moment later they too up-ended, so becoming an integral
part of the "chevaux de frise."
The crew were working desperately. Down in the heap somewhere, two
logs were crossed in such a manner as to lock the whole. They
sought those logs.
Thirty feet above the bed of the river six men clamped their peaveys
into the soft pine; jerking, pulling, lifting, sliding the great logs
from their places. Thirty feet below, under the threatening face, six
other men coolly picked out and set adrift, one by one, the timbers
not inextricably imbedded. From time to time the mass creaked,
settled, perhaps even moved a foot or two; but always the practiced
rivermen, after a glance, bent more eagerly to their work.
Outlined against the sky, big Bryan Moloney stood directing the
work. He had gone at the job on the bias of indirection, picking
out a passage at either side that the center might the more easily
"pull." He knew by the tenseness of the log he stood on that,
behind the jam, power had gathered sufficient to push the whole
tangle down-stream. Now he was offering it the chance.
Suddenly the six men below the jam scattered. Four of them, holding
their peaveys across their bodies, jumped lightly from one floating
log to another in the zigzag to shore. When they stepped on a small
log they re-leaped immediately, leaving a swirl of foam where the
little timber had sunk under them; when they encountered one larger,
they hesitated for a barely perceptible instant. Thus their
progression was of fascinating and graceful irregularity. The other
two ran the length of their footing, and, overleaping an open of
water, landed heavily and firmly on the very ends of two small
floating logs. In this manner the force of the jump rushed the
little timbers end-on through the water. The two men, maintaining
marvellously their balance, were thus ferried to within leaping
distance of the other shore.
In the meantime a barely perceptible motion was communicating
itself from one particle to another through the center of the jam.
A cool and observant spectator might have imagined that the broad
timber carpet was changing a little its pattern, just as the earth
near the windows of an arrested railroad train seems for a moment
to retrogress. The crew redoubled its exertions, clamping its
peaveys here and there, apparently at random, but in reality with
the most definite of purposes. A sharp crack exploded immediately
underneath. There could no longer exist any doubt as to the motion,
although it was as yet sluggish, glacial. Then in silence a log
shifted--in silence and slowly--but with irresistible force. Jimmy
Powers quietly stepped over it, just as it menaced his leg. Other
logs in all directions up-ended. The jam crew were forced continually
to alter their positions, riding the changing timbers bent-kneed, as
a circus rider treads his four galloping horses.
Then all at once down by the face something crashed. The entire
stream became alive. It hissed and roared, it shrieked, groaned and
grumbled. At first slowly, then more rapidly, the very forefront of
the center melted inward and forward and downward until it caught
the fierce rush of the freshet and shot out from under the jam.
Far up-stream, bristling and formidable, the tons of logs, grinding
savagely together, swept forward.
The six men and Bryan Moloney--who, it will be remembered, were
on top--worked until the last moment. When the logs began to cave
under them so rapidly that even the expert rivermen found difficulty
in "staying on top," the foreman set the example of hunting safety.
"She 'pulls,' boys," he yelled.
Then in a manner wonderful to behold, through the smother of foam
and spray, through the crash and yell of timbers protesting the
flood's hurrying, through the leap of destruction, the drivers
zigzagged calmly and surely to the shore.
All but Jimmy Powers. He poised tense and eager on the crumbling
face of the jam. Almost immediately he saw what he wanted, and
without pause sprang boldly and confidently ten feet straight
downward, to alight with accuracy on a single log floating free
in the current. And then in the very glory and chaos of the jam
itself he was swept down-stream.
After a moment the constant acceleration in speed checked, then
commenced perceptibly to slacken. At once the rest of the crew
began to ride down-stream. Each struck the caulks of his river
boots strongly into a log, and on such unstable vehicles floated
miles with the current. From time to time, as Bryan Moloney
indicated, one of them went ashore. There, usually at a bend of
the stream where the likelihood of jamming was great, they took
their stands. When necessary, they ran out over the face of the
river to separate a congestion likely to cause trouble. The rest
of the time they smoked their pipes.
At noon they ate from little canvas bags which had been filled
that morning by the cookee. At sunset they rode other logs down
the river to where their camp had been made for them. There they
ate hugely, hung their ice-wet garments over a tall framework
constructed around a monster fire, and turned in on hemlock
All night long the logs slipped down the moonlit current, silently,
swiftly, yet without haste. The porcupines invaded the sleeping
camp. From the whole length of the river rang the hollow BOOM,
BOOM, BOOM, of timbers striking one against the other.
The drive was on.
In the meantime the main body of the crew under Thorpe and his
foremen were briskly tumbling the logs into the current. Sometimes
under the urging of the peaveys, but a single stick would slide
down; or again a double tier would cascade with the roar of a
little Niagara. The men had continually to keep on the tension of
an alert, for at any moment they were called upon to exercise their
best judgment and quickness to keep from being carried downward with
the rush of the logs. Not infrequently a frowning sheer wall of
forty feet would hesitate on the brink of plunge. Then Shearer
himself proved his right to the title of riverman.
Shearer wore caulks nearly an inch in length. He had been known
to ride ten miles, without shifting his feet, on a log so small
that he could carry it without difficulty. For cool nerve he was
"I don't need you boys here any longer," he said quietly.
When the men had all withdrawn, he walked confidently under the front
of the rollway, glancing with practiced eye at the perpendicular wall
of logs over him. Then, as a man pries jack-straws, he clamped his
peavey and tugged sharply. At once the rollway flattened and toppled.
A mighty splash, a hurl of flying foam and crushing timbers, and the
spot on which the riverman had stood was buried beneath twenty feet
of solid green wood. To Thorpe it seemed that Shearer must have been
overwhelmed, but the riverman always mysteriously appeared at one
side or the other, nonchalant, urging the men to work before the
logs should have ceased to move. Tradition claimed that only once
in a long woods life had Shearer been forced to "take water" before
a breaking rollway: and then he saved his peavey. History stated
that he had never lost a man on the river, simply and solely because
he invariably took the dangerous tasks upon himself.
As soon as the logs had caught the current, a dozen men urged them
on. With their short peaveys, the drivers were enabled to prevent
the timbers from swirling in the eddies--one of the first causes of
a jam. At last, near the foot of the flats, they abandoned them to
the stream, confident that Moloney and his crew would see to their
passage down the river.
In three days the rollways were broken. Now it became necessary to
start the rear.
For this purpose Billy Camp, the cook, had loaded his cook-stove, a
quantity of provisions, and a supply of bedding, aboard a scow. The
scow was built of tremendous hewn timbers, four or five inches thick,
to withstand the shock of the logs. At either end were long sweeps
to direct its course. The craft was perhaps forty feet long, but
rather narrow, in order that it might pass easily through the chute
of a dam. It was called the "wanigan."
Billy Camp, his cookee, and his crew of two were now doomed to
tribulation. The huge, unwieldy craft from that moment was to
become possessed of the devil. Down the white water of rapids it
would bump, smashing obstinately against boulders, impervious to
the frantic urging of the long sweeps; against the roots and
branches of the streamside it would scrape with the perverseness
of a vicious horse; in the broad reaches it would sulk, refusing
to proceed; and when expediency demanded its pause, it would drag
Billy Camp and his entire crew at the rope's end, while they tried
vainly to snub it against successively uprooted trees and stumps.
When at last the wanigan was moored fast for the night,--usually
a mile or so below the spot planned,--Billy Camp pushed back his
battered old brown derby hat, the badge of his office, with a sigh
of relief. To be sure he and his men had still to cut wood,
construct cooking and camp fires, pitch tents, snip browse, and
prepare supper for seventy men; but the hard work of the day was
over. Billy Camp did not mind rain or cold--he would cheerfully
cook away with the water dripping from his battered derby to his
chubby and cold-purpled nose--but he did mind the wanigan. And the
worst of it was, he got no sympathy nor aid from the crew. From
either bank he and his anxious struggling assistants were greeted
with ironic cheers and facetious remarks. The tribulations of the
wanigan were as the salt of life to the spectators.
Billy Camp tried to keep back of the rear in clear water, but when
the wanigan so disposed, he found himself jammed close in the logs.
There he had a chance in his turn to become spectator, and so to
repay in kind some of the irony and facetiousness.
Along either bank, among the bushes, on sandbars, and in trees,
hundreds and hundreds of logs had been stranded when the main
drive passed. These logs the rear crew were engaged in restoring
to the current.
And as a man had to be able to ride any kind of a log in any water;
to propel that log by jumping on it, by rolling it squirrel fashion
with the feet, by punting it as one would a canoe; to be skillful
in pushing, prying, and poling other logs from the quarter deck of
the same cranky craft; as he must be prepared at any and all times
to jump waist deep into the river, to work in ice-water hours at a
stretch; as he was called upon to break the most dangerous jams on
the river, representing, as they did, the accumulation which the jam
crew had left behind them, it was naturally considered the height
of glory to belong to the rear crew. Here were the best of the
Fighting Forty,--men with a reputation as "white-water birlers"--
men afraid of nothing.
Every morning the crews were divided into two sections under Kerlie
and Jack Hyland. Each crew had charge of one side of the river, with
the task of cleaning it thoroughly of all stranded and entangled
logs. Scotty Parsons exercised a general supervisory eye over both
crews. Shearer and Thorpe traveled back and forth the length of the
drive, riding the logs down stream, but taking to a partly submerged
pole trail when ascending the current. On the surface of the river
in the clear water floated two long graceful boats called bateaux.
These were in charge of expert boatmen,--men able to propel their
craft swiftly forwards, backwards and sideways, through all kinds
of water. They carried in racks a great supply of pike-poles,
peaveys, axes, rope and dynamite, for use in various emergencies.
Intense rivalry existed as to which crew "sacked" the farthest down
stream in the course of the day. There was no need to urge the
men. Some stood upon the logs, pushing mightily with the long
pike-poles. Others, waist deep in the water, clamped the jaws of
their peaveys into the stubborn timbers, and, shoulder bent, slid
them slowly but surely into the swifter waters. Still others,
lining up on either side of one of the great brown tree trunks,
carried it bodily to its appointed place. From one end of the
rear to the other, shouts, calls, warnings, and jokes flew back
and forth. Once or twice a vast roar of Homeric laughter went up
as some unfortunate slipped and soused into the water. When the
current slacked, and the logs hesitated in their run, the entire
crew hastened, bobbing from log to log, down river to see about
it. Then they broke the jam, standing surely on the edge of the
great darkness, while the ice water sucked in and out of their shoes.
Behind the rear Big Junko poled his bateau backwards and forwards
exploding dynamite. Many of the bottom tiers of logs in the
rollways had been frozen down, and Big Junko had to loosen them
from the bed of the stream. He was a big man, this, as his nickname
indicated, built of many awkwardnesses. His cheekbones were high,
his nose flat, his lips thick and slobbery. He sported a wide,
ferocious straggling mustache and long eye-brows, under which
gleamed little fierce eyes. His forehead sloped back like a
beast's, but was always hidden by a disreputable felt hat. Big
Junko did not know much, and had the passions of a wild animal,
but he was a reckless riverman and devoted to Thorpe. Just now
he exploded dynamite.
The sticks of powder were piled amidships. Big Junko crouched over
them, inserting the fuses and caps, closing the openings with soap,
finally lighting them, and dropping them into the water alongside,
where they immediately sank. Then a few strokes of a short paddle
took him barely out of danger. He huddled down in his craft,
waiting. One, two, three seconds passed. Then a hollow boom shook
the stream. A cloud of water sprang up, strangely beautiful. After
a moment the great brown logs rose suddenly to the surface from below,
one after the other, like leviathans of the deep. And Junko watched,
dimly fascinated, in his rudimentary animal's brain, by the sight of
the power he had evoked to his aid.
When night came the men rode down stream to where the wanigan had
made camp. There they slept, often in blankets wetted by the
wanigan's eccentricities, to leap to their feet at the first cry
in early morning. Some days it rained, in which case they were
wet all the time. Almost invariably there was a jam to break,
though strangely enough almost every one of the old-timers believed
implicitly that "in the full of the moon logs will run free at night."
Thorpe and Tim Shearer nearly always slept in a dog tent at the
rear; though occasionally they passed the night at Dam Two, where
Bryan Moloney and his crew were already engaged in sluicing the
logs through the chute.
The affair was simple enough. Long booms arranged in the form of an
open V guided the drive to the sluice gate, through which a smooth
apron of water rushed to turmoil in an eddying pool below. Two men
tramped steadily backwards and forwards on the booms, urging the
logs forward by means of long pike poles to where the suction could
seize them. Below the dam, the push of the sluice water forced them
several miles down stream, where the rest of Bryan Moloney's crew
took them in charge.
Thus through the wide gate nearly three-quarters of a million feet
an hour could be run--a quantity more than sufficient to keep pace
with the exertions of the rear. The matter was, of course, more or
less delayed by the necessity of breaking out such rollways as they
encountered from time to time on the banks. At length, however, the
last of the logs drifted into the wide dam pool. The rear had
arrived at Dam Two, and Thorpe congratulated himself that one stage
of his journey had been completed. Billy Camp began to worry about
shooting the wanigan through the sluice-way.
The rear had been tenting at the dam for two days, and was about
ready to break camp, when Jimmy Powers swung across the trail to
tell them of the big jam.
Ten miles along the river bed, the stream dropped over a little
half-falls into a narrow, rocky gorge. It was always an anxious
spot for the river drivers. In fact, the plunging of the logs
head-on over the fall had so gouged out the soft rock below, that
an eddy of great power had formed in the basin. Shearer and Thorpe
had often discussed the advisability of constructing an artificial
apron of logs to receive the impact. Here, in spite of all efforts,
the jam had formed, first a little center of a few logs in the
middle of the stream, dividing the current, and shunting the logs
to right and left; then "wings" growing out from either bank, built
up from logs shunted too violently; finally a complete stoppage of
the channel, and the consequent rapid piling up as the pressure of
the drive increased. Now the bed was completely filled, far above
the level of the falls, by a tangle that defied the jam crew's
The rear at once took the trail down the river. Thorpe and Shearer
and Scotty Parsons looked over the ground.
"She may 'pull,' if she gets a good start," decided Tim.
Without delay the entire crew was set to work. Nearly a hundred
men can pick a great many logs in the course of a day. Several
times the jam started, but always "plugged" before the motion
had become irresistible. This was mainly because the rocky walls
narrowed at a slight bend to the west, so that the drive was
throttled, as it were. It was hoped that perhaps the middle of
the jam might burst through here, leaving the wings stranded. The
hope was groundless.
"We'll have to shoot," Shearer reluctantly decided.
The men were withdrawn. Scotty Parsons cut a sapling twelve feet
long, and trimmed it. Big Junko thawed his dynamite at a little
fire, opening the ends of the packages in order that the steam
generated might escape. Otherwise the pressure inside the oiled
paper of the package was capable of exploding the whole affair.
When the powder was warm, Scotty bound twenty of the cartridges
around the end of the sapling, adjusted a fuse in one of them, and
soaped the opening to exclude water. Then Big Junko thrust the long
javelin down into the depths of the jam, leaving a thin stream of
smoke behind him as he turned away. With sinister, evil eye he
watched the smoke for an instant, then zigzagged awkwardly over the
jam, the long, ridiculous tails of his brown cutaway coat flopping
behind him as he leaped. A scant moment later the hoarse dynamite
Great chunks of timber shot to an inconceivable height; entire logs
lifted bodily into the air with the motion of a fish jumping; a
fountain of water gleamed against the sun and showered down in fine
rain. The jam shrugged and settled. That was all; the "shot" had
The men ran forward, examining curiously the great hole in the log
"We'll have to flood her," said Thorpe.
So all the gates of the dam were raised, and the torrent tried
its hand. It had no effect. Evidently the affair was not one
of violence, but of patience. The crew went doggedly to work.
Day after day the CLANK, CLANK, CLINK of the peaveys sounded with
the regularity of machinery. The only practicable method was to
pick away the flank logs, leaving a long tongue pointing down-
stream from the center to start when it would. This happened time
and again, but always failed to take with it the main jam. It was
cruel hard work; a man who has lifted his utmost strength into a
peavey knows that. Any but the Fighting Forty would have grumbled.
Collins, the bookkeeper, came up to view the tangle. Later a
photographer from Marquette took some views, which, being
exhibited, attracted a great deal of attention, so that by the end
of the week a number of curiosity seekers were driving over every
day to see the Big Jam. A certain Chicago journalist in search of
balsam health of lungs even sent to his paper a little item. This,
unexpectedly, brought Wallace Carpenter to the spot. Although
reassured as to the gravity of the situation, he remained to see.
The place was an amphitheater for such as chose to be spectators.
They could stand or sit on the summit of the gorge cliffs,
overlooking the river, the fall, and the jam. As the cliff was
barely sixty feet high, the view lacked nothing in clearness.
At last Shearer became angry.
"We've been monkeying long enough," said he. "Next time we'll
leave a center that WILL go out. We'll shut the dams down tight
and dry-pick out two wings that'll start her."
The dams were first run at full speed, and then shut down. Hardly
a drop of water flowed in the bed of the stream. The crews set
laboriously to work to pull and roll the logs out in such flat
fashion that a head of water should send them out.
This was even harder work than the other, for they had not the
floating power of water to help them in the lifting. As usual,
part of the men worked below, part above.
Jimmy Powers, curly-haired, laughing-faced, was irrepressible. He
badgered the others until they threw bark at him and menaced him
with their peaveys. Always he had at his tongue's end the proper
quip for the occasion, so that in the long run the work was
lightened by him. When the men stopped to think at all, they
thought of Jimmy Powers with very kindly hearts, for it was known
that he had had more trouble than most, and that the coin was not
made too small for him to divide with a needy comrade. To those who
had seen his mask of whole-souled good-nature fade into serious
sympathy, Jimmy Powers's poor little jokes were very funny indeed.
"Did 'je see th' Swede at the circus las' summer?" he would howl
to Red Jacket on the top tier.
"No," Red Jacket would answer, "was he there?"
"Yes," Jimmy Powers would reply; then, after a pause--"in a cage!"
It was a poor enough jest, yet if you had been there, you would
have found that somehow the log had in the meantime leaped of its
own accord from that difficult position.
Thorpe approved thoroughly of Jimmy Powers; he thought him a good
influence. He told Wallace so, standing among the spectators on
"He is all right," said Thorpe. "I wish I had more like him. The
others are good boys, too."
Five men were at the moment tugging futilely at a reluctant timber.
They were attempting to roll one end of it over the side of another
projecting log, but were continually foiled, because the other end
was jammed fast. Each bent his knees, inserting his shoulder under
the projecting peavey stock, to straighten in a mighty effort.
"Hire a boy!" "Get some powder of Junko!" "Have Jimmy talk it out!"
"Try that little one over by the corner," called the men on top of
Everybody laughed, of course. It was a fine spring day, clear-eyed
and crisp, with a hint of new foliage in the thick buds of the trees.
The air was so pellucid that one distinguished without difficulty
the straight entrance to the gorge a mile away, and even the West
Bend, fully five miles distant.
Jimmy Powers took off his cap and wiped his forehead.
"You boys," he remarked politely, "think you are boring with a
mighty big auger."
"My God!" screamed one of the spectators on top of the cliff.
At the same instant Wallace Carpenter seized his friend's arm and
Down the bed of the stream from the upper bend rushed a solid wall
of water several feet high. It flung itself forward with the
headlong impetus of a cascade. Even in the short interval between
the visitor's exclamation and Carpenter's rapid gesture, it had
loomed into sight, twisted a dozen trees from the river bank, and
foamed into the entrance of the gorge. An instant later it collided
with the tail of the jam.
Even in the railroad rush of those few moments several things
happened. Thorpe leaped for a rope. The crew working on top
of the jam ducked instinctively to right and left and began to
scramble towards safety. The men below, at first bewildered and
not comprehending, finally understood, and ran towards the face
of the jam with the intention of clambering up it. There could
be no escape in the narrow canyon below, the walls of which rose
Then the flood hit square. It was the impact of resistible power.
A great sheet of water rose like surf from the tail of the jam;
a mighty cataract poured down over its surface, lifting the free
logs; from either wing timbers crunched, split, rose suddenly into
wracked prominence, twisted beyond the semblance of themselves.
Here and there single logs were even projected bodily upwards, as
an apple seed is shot from between the thumb and forefinger. Then
the jam moved.
Scotty Parsons, Jack Hyland, Red Jacket, and the forty or fifty top
men had reached the shore. By the wriggling activity which is a
riverman's alone, they succeeded in pulling themselves beyond the
snap of death's jaws. It was a narrow thing for most of them, and
a miracle for some.
Jimmy Powers, Archie Harris, Long Pine Jim, Big Nolan, and Mike
Moloney, the brother of Bryan, were in worse case. They were,
as has been said, engaged in "flattening" part of the jam about
eight or ten rods below the face of it. When they finally
understood that the affair was one of escape, they ran towards
the jam, hoping to climb out. Then the crash came. They heard
the roar of the waters, the wrecking of the timbers, they saw the
logs bulge outwards in anticipation of the break. Immediately
they turned and fled, they knew not where.
All but Jimmy Powers. He stopped short in his tracks, and threw
his battered old felt hat defiantly full into the face of the
destruction hanging over him. Then, his bright hair blowing in
the wind of death, he turned to the spectators standing helpless
and paralyzed, forty feet above him.
It was an instant's impression,--the arrested motion seen in the
flash of lightning--and yet to the onlookers it had somehow the
quality of time. For perceptible duration it seemed to them they
stared at the contrast between the raging hell above and the yet
peaceable river bed below. They were destined to remember that
picture the rest of their natural lives, in such detail that each
one of them could almost have reproduced it photographically by
simply closing his eyes. Yet afterwards, when they attempted to
recall definitely the impression, they knew it could have lasted
but a fraction of a second, for the reason that, clear and distinct
in each man's mind, the images of the fleeing men retained definite
attitudes. It was the instantaneous photography of events.
"So long, boys," they heard Jimmy Powers's voice. Then the rope
Thorpe had thrown fell across a caldron of tortured waters and of
During perhaps ten seconds the survivors watched the end of Thorpe's
rope trailing in the flood. Then the young man with a deep sigh
began to pull it towards him.
At once a hundred surmises, questions, ejaculations broke out.
"What happened?" cried Wallace Carpenter.
"What was that man's name?" asked the Chicago journalist with the
eager instinct of his profession.
"This is terrible, terrible, terrible!" a white-haired physician
from Marquette kept repeating over and over.
A half dozen ran towards the point of the cliff to peer down stream,
as though they could hope to distinguish anything in that waste of
"The dam's gone out," replied Thorpe. "I don't understand it.
Everything was in good shape, as far as I could see. It didn't
act like an ordinary break. The water came too fast. Why, it was
as dry as a bone until just as that wave came along. An ordinary
break would have eaten through little by little before it burst,
and Davis should have been able to stop it. This came all at once,
as if the dam had disappeared. I don't see."
His mind of the professional had already began to query causes.
"How about the men?" asked Wallace. "Isn't there something I can
"You can head a hunt down the river," answered Thorpe. "I think
it is useless until the water goes down. Poor Jimmy. He was one
of the best men I had. I wouldn't have had this happen---"
The horror of the scene was at last beginning to filter through
numbness into Wallace Carpenter's impressionable imagination.
"No, no!" he cried vehemently. "There is something criminal about
it to me! I'd rather lose every log in the river!"
Thorpe looked at him curiously. "It is one of the chances of war,"
said he, unable to refrain from the utterance of his creed. "We all
"I'd better divide the crew and take in both banks of the river,"
suggested Wallace in his constitutional necessity of doing something.
"See if you can't get volunteers from this crowd," suggested Thorpe.
"I can let you have two men to show you trails. If you can make it
that way, it will help me out. I need as many of the crew as
possible to use this flood water."
"Oh, Harry," cried Carpenter, shocked. "You can't be going to work
again to-day after that horrible sight, before we have made the
slightest effort to recover the bodies!"
"If the bodies can be recovered, they shall be," replied Thorpe
quietly. "But the drive will not wait. We have no dams to depend
on now, you must remember, and we shall have to get out on freshet
"Your men won't work. I'd refuse just as they will!" cried
Carpenter, his sensibilities still suffering.
Thorpe smiled proudly. "You do not know them. They are mine. I
hold them in the hollow of my hand!"
"By Jove!" cried the journalist in sudden enthusiasm. "By Jove!
that is magnificent!"
The men of the river crew had crouched on their narrow footholds
while the jam went out. Each had clung to his peavey, as is the
habit of rivermen. Down the current past their feet swept the
debris of flood. Soon logs began to swirl by,--at first few, then
many from the remaining rollways which the river had automatically
broken. In a little time the eddy caught up some of these logs, and
immediately the inception of another jam threatened. The rivermen,
without hesitation, as calmly as though catastrophe had not thrown
the weight of its moral terror against their stoicism, sprang,
peavey in hand, to the insistent work.
"By Jove!" said the journalist again. "That is magnificent! They
are working over the spot where their comrades died!"
Thorpe's face lit with gratification. He turned to the young man.
"You see," he said in proud simplicity.
With the added danger of freshet water, the work went on.
At this moment Tim Shearer approached from inland, his clothes
dripping wet, but his face retaining its habitual expression of
iron calmness. "Anybody caught?" was his first question as he
"Five men under the face," replied Thorpe briefly.
Shearer cast a glance at the river. He needed to be told no more.
"I was afraid of it," said he. "The rollways must be all broken
out. It's saved us that much, but the freshet water won't last
long. It's going to be a close squeak to get 'em out now. Don't
exactly figure on what struck the dam. Thought first I'd go right
up that way, but then I came down to see about the boys."
Carpenter could not understand this apparent callousness on the
part of men in whom he had always thought to recognize a fund of
rough but genuine feeling. To him the sacredness of death was
incompatible with the insistence of work. To these others the
two, grim necessity, went hand in hand.
"Where were you?" asked Thorpe of Shearer.
"On the pole trail. I got in a little, as you see."
In reality the foreman had had a close call for his life. A
toughly-rooted basswood alone had saved him.
"We'd better go up and take a look," he suggested. "Th' boys has
things going here all right."
The two men turned towards the brush.
"Hi, Tim," called a voice behind them.
Red Jacket appeared clambering up the cliff.
"Jack told me to give this to you," he panted, holding out a chunk
of strangely twisted wood.
"Where'd he get this?" inquired Thorpe, quickly. "It's a piece
of the dam," he explained to Wallace, who had drawn near.
"Picked it out of the current," replied the man.
The foreman and his boss bent eagerly over the morsel. Then they
stared with solemnity into each other's eyes.
"Dynamite, by God!" exclaimed Shearer.
For a moment the three men stared at each other without speaking.
"What does it mean?" almost whispered Carpenter.
"Mean? Foul play!" snarled Thorpe. "Come on, Tim."
The two struck into the brush, threading the paths with the ease
of woodsmen. It was necessary to keep to the high inland ridges for
the simple reason that the pole trail had by now become impassable.
Wallace Carpenter, attempting to follow them, ran, stumbled, and
fell through brush that continually whipped his face and garments,
continually tripped his feet. All he could obtain was a vanishing
glimpse of his companions' backs. Thorpe and his foreman talked
"It's Morrison and Daly," surmised Shearer. "I left them 'count
of a trick like that. They wanted me to take charge of Perkinson's
drive and hang her a purpose. I been suspecting something--they've
been layin' too low."
Thorpe answered nothing. Through the site of the old dam they
found a torrent pouring from the narrowed pond, at the end of which
the dilapidated wings flapping in the current attested the former
structure. Davis stood staring at the current.
Thorpe strode forward and shook him violently by the shoulder.
"How did this happen?" he demanded hoarsely. "Speak!"
The man turned to him in a daze. "I don't know," he answered.
"You ought to know. How was that 'shot' exploded? How did they
get in here without you seeing them? Answer me!"
"I don't know," repeated the man. "I jest went over in th' bresh
to kill a few pa'tridges, and when I come back I found her this
way. I wasn't goin' to close down for three hours yet, and I
thought they was no use a hangin' around here."
"Were you hired to watch this dam, or weren't you?" demanded the
tense voice of Thorpe. "Answer me, you fool."
"Yes, I was," returned the man, a shade of aggression creeping
into his voice.
"Well, you've done it well. You've cost me my dam, and you've
killed five men. If the crew finds out about you, you'll go over
the falls, sure. You get out of here! Pike! Don't you ever let
me see your face again!"
The man blanched as he thus learned of his comrades' deaths. Thorpe
thrust his face at him, lashed by circumstances beyond his habitual
"It's men like you who make the trouble," he stormed. "Damn fools
who say they didn't mean to. It isn't enough not to mean to. They
should MEAN NOT TO! I don't ask you to think. I just want you to
do what I tell you, and you can't even do that."
He threw his shoulder into a heavy blow that reached the dam watcher's
face, and followed it immediately by another. Then Shearer caught his
arm, motioning the dazed and bloody victim of the attack to get out of
sight. Thorpe shook his foreman off with one impatient motion, and
strode away up the river, his head erect, his eyes flashing, his
"I reckon you'd better mosey," Shearer dryly advised the dam watcher;
Late in the afternoon the two men reached Dam Three, or rather the
spot on which Dam Three had stood. The same spectacle repeated
itself here, except that Ellis, the dam watcher, was nowhere to
"The dirty whelps," cried Thorpe, "they did a good job!"
He thrashed about here and there, and so came across Ellis
blindfolded and tied. When released, the dam watcher was
unable to give any account of his assailants.
"They came up behind me while I was cooking," he said. "One of
'em grabbed me and the other one kivered my eyes. Then I hears
the 'shot' and knows there's trouble."
Thorpe listened in silence. Shearer asked a few questions. After
the low-voiced conversation Thorpe arose abruptly.
"Where you going?" asked Shearer.
But the young man did not reply. He swung, with the same long,
nervous stride, into the down-river trail.
Until late that night the three men--for Ellis insisted on
accompanying them--hurried through the forest. Thorpe walked
tirelessly, upheld by his violent but repressed excitement. When
his hat fell from his head, he either did not notice the fact, or
did not care to trouble himself for its recovery, so he glanced
through the trees bare-headed, his broad white brow gleaming in
the moonlight. Shearer noted the fire in his eyes, and from the
coolness of his greater age, counselled moderation.
"I wouldn't stir the boys up," he panted, for the pace was very
swift. "They'll kill some one over there, it'll be murder on
He received no answer. About midnight they came to the camp.
Two great fires leaped among the trees, and the men, past the idea
of sleep, grouped between them, talking. The lesson of twisted
timbers was not lost to their experience, and the evening had
brought its accumulation of slow anger against the perpetrators of
the outrage. These men were not given to oratorical mouthings, but
their low-voiced exchanges between the puffings of a pipe led to a
steadier purpose than that of hysteria. Even as the woodsmen joined
their group, they had reached the intensity of execution. Across
their purpose Thorpe threw violently his personality.
"You must not go," he commanded.
Through their anger they looked at him askance.
"I forbid it," Thorpe cried.
They shrugged their indifference and arose. This was an affair of
caste brotherhood; and the blood of their mates cried out to them.
"The work," Thorpe shouted hoarsely. "The work! We must get those
logs out! We haven't time!"
But the Fighting Forty had not Thorpe's ideal. Success meant a
day's work well done; while vengeance stood for a righting of the
realities which had been unrighteously overturned. Thorpe's dry-
eyed, burning, almost mad insistence on the importance of the
day's task had not its ordinary force. They looked upon him from
a standpoint apart, calmly, dispassionately, as one looks on a
petulant child. The grim call of tragedy had lifted them above
little mundane things.
Then swiftly between the white, strained face of the madman trying
to convince his heart that his mind had been right, and the
fanatically exalted rivermen, interposed the sanity of Radway.
The old jobber faced the men calmly, almost humorously, and somehow
the very bigness of the man commanded attention. When he spoke,
his coarse, good-natured, everyday voice fell through the tense
situation, clarifying it, restoring it to the normal.
"You fellows make me sick," said he. "You haven't got the sense
God gave a rooster. Don't you see you're playing right in those
fellows' hands? What do you suppose they dynamited them dams for?
To kill our boys? Don't you believe it for a minute. They never
dreamed we was dry pickin' that jam. They sent some low-lived whelp
down there to hang our drive, and by smoke it looks like they was
going to succeed, thanks to you mutton-heads.
"'Spose you go over and take 'em apart; what then? You have a
scrap; probably you lick 'em." The men growled ominously, but did
not stir. "You whale daylights out of a lot of men who probably
don't know any more about this here shooting of our dams than a hog
does about a ruffled shirt. Meanwhile your drive hangs. Well?
Well? Do you suppose the men who were back of that shooting, do
you suppose Morrison and Daly give a tinker's dam how many men of
theirs you lick? What they want is to hang our drive. If they
hang our drive, it's cheap at the price of a few black eyes."
The speaker paused and grinned good-humoredly at the men's attentive
faces. Then suddenly his own became grave, and he swung into his
argument all the impressiveness of his great bulk,
"Do you want to know how to get even?" he asked, shading each word.
"Do you want to know how to make those fellows sing so small you
can't hear them? Well, I'll tell you. TAKE OUT THIS DRIVE! Do
it in spite of them! Show them they're no good when they buck up
against Thorpe's One! Our boys died doing their duty--the way a
riverman ought to. NOW HUMP YOURSELVES! Don't let 'em die in vain!"
The crew stirred uneasily, looking at each other for approval of the
conversion each had experienced. Radway, seizing the psychological
moment, turned easily toward the blaze.
"Better turn in, boys, and get some sleep," he said. "We've got a
hard day to-morrow." He stooped to light his pipe at the fire. When
he had again straightened his back after rather a prolonged interval,
the group had already disintegrated. A few minutes later the cookee
scattered the brands of the fire from before a sleeping camp.
Thorpe had listened non-committally to the colloquy. He had
maintained the suspended attitude of a man who is willing to allow
the trial of other methods, but who does not therefore relinquish
his own. At the favorable termination of the discussion he turned
away without comment. He expected to gain this result. Had he
been in a more judicial state of mind he might have perceived at
last the reason, in the complicated scheme of Providence, for his
long connection with John Radway.
Before daylight Injin Charley drifted into the camp to find Thorpe
already out. With a curt nod the Indian seated himself by the fire,
and, producing a square plug of tobacco and a knife, began leisurely
to fill his pipe. Thorpe watched him in silence. Finally Injin
Charley spoke in the red man's clear-cut, imitative English, a
pause between each sentence.
"I find trail three men," said he. "Both dam, three men. One man
go down river. Those men have cork-boot. One man no have cork-boot.
He boss." The Indian suddenly threw his chin out, his head back,
half closed his eyes in a cynical squint. As by a flash Dyer, the
scaler, leered insolently from behind the Indian's stolid mask.
"How do you know?" said Thorpe.
For answer the Indian threw his shoulders forward in Dyer's nervous
"He make trail big by the toe, light by the heel. He make trail
big on inside."
Charley arose and walked, after Dyer's springy fashion, illustrating
his point in the soft wood ashes of the immediate fireside.
Thorpe looked doubtful. "I believe you are right, Charley," said
he. "But it is mighty little to go on. You can't be sure."
"I sure," replied Charley.
He puffed strongly at the heel of his smoke, then arose, and without
farewell disappeared in the forest.
Thorpe ranged the camp impatiently, glancing often at the sky. At
length he laid fresh logs on the fire and aroused the cook. It was
bitter cold in the early morning. After a time the men turned out
of their own accord, at first yawning with insufficient rest, and
then becoming grimly tense as their returned wits reminded them of
From that moment began the wonderful struggle against circumstances
which has become a by-word among rivermen everywhere. A forty-day
drive had to go out in ten. A freshet had to float out thirty
million feet of logs. It was tremendous; as even the men most
deeply buried in the heavy hours of that time dimly realized.
It was epic; as the journalist, by now thoroughly aroused, soon
succeeded in convincing his editors and his public. Fourteen,
sixteen, sometimes eighteen hours a day, the men of the driving
crew worked like demons. Jams had no chance to form. The phenomenal
activity of the rear crew reduced by half the inevitable sacking.
Of course, under the pressure, the lower dam had gone out. Nothing
was to be depended on but sheer dogged grit. Far up-river Sadler &
Smith had hung their drive for the season. They had stretched heavy
booms across the current, and so had resigned themselves to a
definite but not extraordinary loss. Thorpe had at least a clear
Wallace Carpenter could not understand how human flesh and blood
endured. The men themselves had long since reached the point of
practical exhaustion, but were carried through by the fire of their
leader. Work was dogged until he stormed into sight; then it became
frenzied. He seemed to impart to those about him a nervous force
and excitability as real as that induced by brandy. When he looked
at a man from his cavernous, burning eyes, that man jumped.
It was all willing enough work. Several definite causes, each
adequate alone to something extraordinary, focussed to the necessity.
His men worshipped Thorpe; the idea of thwarting the purposes of
their comrade's murderers retained its strength; the innate pride
of caste and craft--the sturdiest virtue of the riverman--was in
these picked men increased to the dignity of a passion. The great
psychological forces of a successful career gathered and made head
against the circumstances which such careers always arouse in
Impossibilities were puffed aside like thistles. The men went at
them headlong. They gave way before the rush. Thorpe always led.
Not for a single instant of the day nor for many at night was he
at rest. He was like a man who has taken a deep breath to reach
a definite goal, and who cannot exhale until the burst of speed be
over. Instinctively he seemed to realize that a let-down would
After the camp had fallen asleep, he would often lie awake half of
the few hours of their night, every muscle tense, staring at the
sky. His mind saw definitely every detail of the situation as he
had last viewed it. In advance his imagination stooped and sweated
to the work which his body was to accomplish the next morning.
Thus he did everything twice. Then at last the tension would relax.
He would fall into uneasy sleep. But twice that did not follow.
Through the dissolving iron mist of his striving, a sharp thought
cleaved like an arrow. It was that after all he did not care. The
religion of Success no longer held him as its devoutest worshiper.
He was throwing the fibers of his life into the engine of toil, not
because of moral duty, but because of moral pride. He meant to
succeed in order to prove to himself that he had not been wrong.
The pain of the arrow-wound always aroused him from his doze with a
start. He grimly laughed the thought out of court. To his waking
moments his religion was sincere, was real. But deep down in his
sub-consciousness, below his recognition, the other influence was
growing like a weed. Perhaps the vision, not the waking, had been
right. Perhaps that far-off beautiful dream of a girl which Thorpe's
idealism had constructed from; the reactionary necessities of
Thorpe's harsh life had been more real than his forest temples
of his ruthless god! Perhaps there were greater things than to
succeed, greater things than success. Perhaps, after all, the
Power that put us here demands more that we cleave one to the other
in loving-kindness than that we learn to blow the penny whistles it
has tossed us. And then the keen, poignant memory of the dream girl
stole into the young man's mind, and in agony was immediately thrust
forth. He would not think of her. He had given her up. He had
cast the die. For success he had bartered her, in the noblest, the
loftiest spirit of devotion. He refused to believe that devotion
fanatical; he refused to believe that he had been wrong. In the
still darkness of the night he would rise and steal to the edge of
the dully roaring stream. There, his eyes blinded and his throat
choked with a longing more manly than tears, he would reach out
and smooth the round rough coats of the great logs.
"We'll do it!" he whispered to them--and to himself. "We'll do it!
We can't be wrong. God would not have let us!"
Wallace Carpenter's search expedition had proved a failure, as
Thorpe had foreseen, but at the end of the week, when the water
began to recede, the little beagles ran upon a mass of flesh
and bones. The man was unrecognizable, either as an individual or
as a human being. The remains were wrapped in canvas and sent for
interment in the cemetery at Marquette. Three of the others were
never found. The last did not come to light until after the drive
had quite finished.
Down at the booms the jam crew received the drive as fast as it
came down. From one crib to another across the broad extent of the
river's mouth, heavy booms were chained end to end effectually to
close the exit to Lake Superior. Against these the logs caromed
softly in the slackened current, and stopped. The cribs were very
heavy with slanting, instead of square, tops, in order that the
pressure might be downwards instead of sidewise. This guaranteed
their permanency. In a short time the surface of the lagoon was
covered by a brown carpet of logs running in strange patterns like
windrows of fallen grain. Finally, across the straight middle
distance of the river, appeared little agitated specks leaping
back and forth. Thus the rear came in sight and the drive was
all but over.
Up till now the weather had been clear but oppressively hot for
this time of year. The heat had come suddenly and maintained itself
well. It had searched out with fierce directness all the patches of
snow lying under the thick firs and balsams of the swamp edge, it
had shaken loose the anchor ice of the marsh bottoms, and so had
materially aided the success of the drive by increase of water.
The men had worked for the most part in undershirts. They were as
much in the water as out of it, for the icy bath had become almost
grateful. Hamilton, the journalist, who had attached himself
definitely to the drive, distributed bunches of papers, in which
the men read that the unseasonable condition prevailed all over
At length, however, it gave signs of breaking. The sky, which
had been of a steel blue, harbored great piled thunder-heads.
Occasionally athwart the heat shot a streak of cold air. Towards
evening the thunder-heads shifted and finally dissipated, to be
sure, but the portent was there.
Hamilton's papers began to tell of disturbances in the South and
West. A washout in Arkansas derailed a train; a cloud-burst in
Texas wiped out a camp; the cities along the Ohio River were
enjoying their annual flood with the usual concomitants of floating
houses and boats in the streets. The men wished they had some of
that water here.
So finally the drive approached its end and all concerned began in
anticipation to taste the weariness that awaited them. They had
hurried their powers. The few remaining tasks still confronting
them, all at once seemed more formidable than what they had
accomplished. They could not contemplate further exertion. The
work for the first time became dogged, distasteful. Even Thorpe
was infected. He, too, wanted more than anything else to drop on
the bed in Mrs. Hathaway's boarding house, there to sponge from his
mind all colors but the dead gray of rest. There remained but a few
things to do. A mile of sacking would carry the drive beyond the
influence of freshet water. After that there would be no hurry.
He looked around at the hard, fatigue-worn faces of the men about
him, and in the obsession of his wearied mood he suddenly felt a
great rush of affection for these comrades who had so unreservedly
spent themselves for his affair. Their features showed exhaustion,
it is true, but their eyes gleamed still with the steady half-
humorous purpose of the pioneer. When they caught his glance they
All at once Thorpe turned and started for the bank.
"That'll do, boys," he said quietly to the nearest group. "She's
It was noon. The sackers looked up in surprise. Behind them, to
their very feet, rushed the soft smooth slope of Hemlock Rapids.
Below them flowed a broad, peaceful river. The drive had passed
its last obstruction. To all intents and purposes it was over.
Calmly, with matter-of-fact directness, as though they had not
achieved the impossible; as though they, a handful, had not cheated
nature and powerful enemies, they shouldered their peaveys and
struck into the broad wagon road. In the middle distance loomed the
tall stacks of the mill with the little board town about it. Across
the eye spun the thread of the railroad. Far away gleamed the broad
expanses of Lake Superior.
The cook had, early that morning, moored the wanigan to the bank.
One of the teamsters from town had loaded the men's "turkeys" on
his heavy wagon. The wanigan's crew had thereupon trudged into
The men paired off naturally and fell into a dragging, dogged walk.
Thorpe found himself unexpectedly with Big Junko. For a time they
plodded on without conversation. Then the big man ventured a remark.
"I'm glad she's over," said he. "I got a good stake comin'."
"Yes," replied Thorpe indifferently.
"I got most six hundred dollars comin'," persisted Junko.
"Might as well be six hundred cents," commented Thorpe, "it'd
make you just as drunk."
Big Junko laughed self-consciously but without the slightest
"That's all right," said he, "but you betcher life I don't blow
"I've heard that talk before," shrugged Thorpe.
"Yes, but this is different. I'm goin' to git married on this.
Thorpe, his attention struck at last, stared at his companion. He
noted the man's little twinkling animal eyes, his high cheek bones,
his flat nose, his thick and slobbery lips, his straggling, fierce
mustache and eyebrows, his grotesque long-tailed cutaway coat. So
to him, too, this primitive man reaching dully from primordial chaos,
the great moment had yielded its vision.
"Who is she?" he asked abruptly.
"She used to wash at Camp Four."
Thorpe dimly remembered the woman now--an overweighted creature
with a certain attraction of elfishly blowing hair, with a certain
pleasing full-cheeked, full-bosomed health.
The two walked on in re-established silence. Finally the giant,
unable to contain himself longer, broke out again.
"I do like that woman," said he with a quaintly deliberate
"That's the finest woman in this district."
Thorpe felt the quick moisture rush to his eyes. There was something
inexpressibly touching in those simple words as Big Junko uttered
"And when you are married," he asked, "what are you going to do? Are
you going to stay on the river?"
"No, I'm goin' to clear a farm. The woman she says that's the thing
to do. I like the river, too. But you bet when Carrie says a thing,
that's plenty good enough for Big Junko."
"Suppose," suggested Thorpe, irresistibly impelled towards the
attempt, "suppose I should offer you two hundred dollars a month
to stay on the river. Would you stay?"
"Carrie don't like it," replied Junko.
"Two hundred dollars is big wages," persisted Thorpe. "It's twice
what I give Radway."
"I'd like to ask Carrie."
"No, take it or leave it now."
"Well, Carrie says she don't like it," answered the riverman with
Thorpe looked at his companion fixedly. Somehow the bestial
countenance had taken on an attraction of its own. He remembered
Big Junko as a wild beast when his passions were aroused, as a man
whose honesty had been doubted.
"You've changed, Junko," said he.
"I know," said the big man. "I been a scalawag all right. I quit
it. I don't know much, but Carrie she's smart, and I'm goin' to do
what she says. When you get stuck on a good woman like Carrie, Mr.
Thorpe, you don't give much of a damn for anything else. Sure!
That's right! It's the biggest thing top o' earth!"
Here it was again, the opposing creed. And from such a source.
Thorpe's iron will contracted again.
"A woman is no excuse for a man's neglecting his work," he snapped.
"Shorely not," agreed Junko serenely. "I aim to finish out my time
all right, Mr. Thorpe. Don't you worry none about that. I done my
best for you. And," went on the riverman in the expansion of this
unwonted confidence with his employer, "I'd like to rise to remark
that you're the best boss I ever had, and we boys wants to stay with
her till there's skating in hell!"
"All right," murmured Thorpe indifferently.
His momentary interest had left him. Again the reactionary weariness
dragged at his feet. Suddenly the remaining half mile to town seemed
very long indeed.
Wallace Carpenter and Hamilton, the journalist, seated against
the sun-warmed bench of Mrs. Hathaway's boarding-house, commented
on the band as it stumbled in to the wash-room.
"Those men don't know how big they are," remarked the journalist.
That's the way with most big men. And that man Thorpe belongs to
another age. I'd like to get him to telling his experiences; he'd
be a gold mine to me."
"And would require about as much trouble to 'work,'" laughed
Wallace. "He won't talk."
"That's generally the trouble, confound 'em," sighed Hamilton.
"The fellows who CAN talk haven't anything to say; and those who
have something to tell are dumb as oysters. I've got him in though."
He spread one of a roll of papers on his knees. "I got a set of
duplicates for you. Thought you might like to keep them. The
office tells me," he concluded modestly, "that they are attracting
lots of attention, but are looked upon as being a rather clever
sort of fiction."
Wallace picked up the sheet. His eye was at once met by the heading,
"'So long, boys,'" in letters a half inch in height, and immediately
underneath in smaller type, "said Jimmy Powers, and threw his hat in
the face of death."
"It's all there," explained the journalist, "--the jam and the break,
and all this magnificent struggle afterwards. It makes a great yarn.
I feel tempted sometimes to help it out a little--artistically, you
know--but of course that wouldn't do. She'd make a ripping yarn,
though, if I could get up some motive outside mere trade rivalry
for the blowing up of those dams. That would just round it off."
Wallace Carpenter was about to reply that such a motive actually
existed, when the conversation was interrupted by the approach of
Thorpe and Big Junko. The former looked twenty years older after
his winter. His eye was dull, his shoulders drooped, his gait was
inelastic. The whole bearing of the man was that of one weary to
"I've got something here to show you, Harry," cried Wallace Carpenter,
waving one of the papers. "It was a great drive and here's something
to remember it by."
"All right, Wallace, by and by," replied Thorpe dully. "I'm dead.
I'm going to turn in for a while. I need sleep more than anything
else. I can't think now."
He passed through the little passage into the "parlor bed-room,"
which Mrs. Hathaway always kept in readiness for members of the
firm. There he fell heavily asleep almost before his body had
met the bed.
In the long dining room the rivermen consumed a belated dinner.
They had no comments to make. It was over.