Part 2 out of 4
throat. "Seems 'ough you hain't but jest come, Mr. Thayor. But you got
what ye come for, didn't ye? I dunno as I ever see a nicer deer."
"Yes, thanks to you and the old dog. But I'm coming back."
"Thar! what did I tell ye, Hite?" exclaimed the Clown.
"And when I do come back it will be to stay--at least during the
summer months--perhaps for all the months."
The Clown and the trapper looked up with a puzzled expression.
"And as it is a decision which concerns all of us," Thayor resumed,
"I want to tell you now that I have decided to buy Big Shanty Brook as
far as we can see, and build a home here for myself and my family."
"Gee whimey!" cried the Clown. "I want to know!" The keen eyes of the
trapper opened wide in astonishment.
"I have left the matter of purchase," continued Thayor, "entirely in
Holcomb's hands. He will be my superintendent. I now ask your help,
my friends, both of you; and so if you are willing you may consider
yourselves under salary which Billy will settle with you, beginning
from the morning I first saw this shanty. And now, Billy, if you don't
mind, I want to see Big Shanty Brook once more before it gets dark.
Maybe we can pick out a place for the new camp."
For some time neither the trapper nor the Clown spoke. Both sat
amazed, silently gazing into the fire. Then Hite said slowly, turning
to the Clown:
"Freme, I dunno as if I ever seen a nicer man."
* * * * *
Once outside Thayor stretched his arms above his head.
"Ah--what a day, it has been, Billy," he sighed. "What a full,
glorious day, and what a rest it has all been. At what hour do we
start in the morning?" and a touch of sadness came into his voice.
"At seven," Holcomb replied; "Freme will take us out to the railroad
with a team from Morrison's. We can send your telegram there."
"Good!" cried Thayor, brightening. "And, Mr. Holt--isn't he coming
"I'm afraid not; he said to me before lunch that he and the dog were
going to stay on for a spell."
"What--not alone! Oh, Billy, I wouldn't want to leave him here alone.
He's an old man, you know, even if he is tough as a pine knot. Can't
we persuade him to go with us? He's been so loyal and lovable I hate
to leave him."
"I don't think you need worry, sir--he won't be alone."
"But Skinner is going with us."
"Yes--but he'll have company."
"The man you saw yesterday. You didn't suspect, perhaps, but that was
Bob Dinsmore, who killed Bailey."
"The hide-out!" exclaimed Thayor, with a start.
"Yes, he's been around here ever since we came."
"Oh! I'm so sorry! Why didn't you let me see him?"
"Well, we didn't think any good would come of it, sir. Hite won't let
him go hungry if he can help it, and he can now. We haven't eaten half
the grub we brought."
Thayor stood for a moment in deep thought, reached down into his
pocket and took from it a roll of bills.
"Hand this to Holt, Billy, and tell him to give it to the poor fellow
When Blakeman opened the steel grille for his master at an early hour
the day following, the thought uppermost in his mind was the change in
Thayor's appearance. He saw at a glance that the wilderness had put
a firmness into his step and a heartiness in his voice, as well as
a healthy colour in his cheeks, such as he had not seen in him for
years. He would gladly have sacrificed his month's salary to have been
with him, and more than once during his absence had he gone to his
room, finding a certain consolation even in looking for rust spots on
his favourite gun.
With the casting off of his heavy travelling coat and hat, Thayor's
first words were of his daughter.
"And how is Miss Margaret?" he asked, as Blakeman followed him
upstairs with his gun and great-coat.
Dr. Sperry's villainous verdict still rankled in the butler's mind,
and at first he had half decided to tell Thayor all he had overheard
in the teakwood room. Then the pain it would give his master
"Miss Margaret is quite well, sir," he returned in the unctious, calm
voice he assumed in service.
"Ah, that's good. She's asleep, I suppose, at this hour."
"I presume so, sir, as she was out rather late last night. I beg
pardon, sir, but might I ask if you have had good luck?"
"Well, I managed to kill a fine buck, Blakeman," returned his master,
as he continued up the stairs.
"Did you, indeed, sir!" exclaimed Blakeman, his face lighting up.
"Well, I'm happy to hear it, sir--I am, indeed. A full blue-coat, sir,
I dare say."
"Yes, and a splendid set of horns."
They had reached the broad corridor leading to his wife's bedroom,
Blakeman continuing up to Thayor's room with his traps.
Thayor stepped briskly to Alice's door and knocked, then stood there
waiting for her response, keyed up for the scene he knew would ensue
the moment he crossed the threshold. The next instant, in response
to her voice, he opened the door and entered. To his amazement Alice
raised her eyes to his and smiled.
"So you're back," she laughed, re-tying a ribbon at her throat.
"Yes," he replied, closing the door and drawing a chair mechanically
to her bedside. "Yes, I'm back and I've had a good time, dear."
In spite of her disarming welcome he could not dispel a lingering
distrust of her sincerity. "How do I look?" he added.
She leaned toward him, her head pillowed on her hand, and regarded
him intently, a smile playing about the corners of her mouth. Again he
searched for the truth in her eyes, and again he was baffled.
"Splendid, Sam--like a man who had never been ill."
Instantly the doubt faded. A sense of mingled relief and of intense
happiness stole through him. If she would only believe in him now, he
thought, and understand him, and be a help and a comfort to him.
"I was ill when I left," he continued in a softened tone. "You would
not believe it, dear, but I was. I should have been ill in bed if I
had stayed a day longer."
"Yes," she answered carelessly, "you must have been, otherwise I doubt
if you would have had pluck enough to leave me as you did. It was
quite dramatic, that little exit of yours, Sam."
"And so you got my note?" he inquired, stiffening up, yet determined
to ignore her touch of sarcasm, and so preserve the peace.
"Oh, yes; Blakeman did not forget. He never forgets anything you tell
him. I must say it was very thoughtful of you after our interview a
night or two before." This came with a shrug of her shoulders, the
smile still flickering about her mouth. "Of course you had a good
"Yes, and I feel twenty years younger," he ventured; "couldn't help
it, the way those men took care of me."
"Who?" she asked, still gazing at him curiously.
"Young Holcomb and--"
"Ah, yes, I remember," she mused, while she played with the lace on
the sleeve of her gown.
"And there was Freme Skinner and a grizzled, kindly old trapper,
named Hite Holt," he added. "I have never met with such sincere
"What deliciously amusing names," she sighed, changing her position
beneath the lace with the swift suppleness of a kitten. "And what luck
hunting?" she asked, as she loosened the ribbon at her throat.
"I killed a smashing big buck," he declared with boyish enthusiasm.
She buried her head once more among the lace pillows and ran one hand
through her wealth of hair.
"So you intend to stay up there all summer?" in the same half playful,
half sneering tone.
"No, dear; I intend to buy a tract of land and build a house, or camp,
that will house you properly."
This last came as a distinct shock, but she did not waver.
"And your decision is final, I suppose," she returned, as she
readjusted her rings. "And when will this be?" she added.
"As soon as I can get the title deeds--not later than a month at the
outside. Would you like me to tell you about the country?"
She shrugged her shoulders, raising herself among the pillows.
"No, I shouldn't know anything more about it."
"But you haven't the slightest idea what Big Shanty Brook is like,"
he said with conviction--"a superb wilderness, an unbroken forest.
She raised her hand with a bored little laugh.
"Now, Sam, dear, don't," she protested. "I hate long descriptions of
places; besides, I can imagine it perfectly--a muddy old stream with
a lot of sad looking trees sticking about in a wilderness miles away
from any human being anyone in his or her right mind would ever care
to see. As for your Holcomb and the other two tramps, they would
simply bore me to death."
The assumed tenderness in her voice had vanished now. After all
she had not changed. What he had supposed was a return of the old
cameraderie was but another of her covert sneers.
She drew her knees up under the embroidered coverlid, resting her
chin firmly upon them, and for some moments gazed in dogged silence in
front of her, with half-closed eyes.
"Then you have settled the matter," she said at length, without
"Yes," he replied. "You have known for years that I have longed for
just such a place; now I'm going to have it."
She raised herself on her elbow and looked straight at him.
"Then you'll have it to yourself," she burst out, "and you'll live in
it without me; do you understand? You and Margaret can have whatever
you want up there together, but you'll count me out. Oh, you need not
go out of your head," she cried, noticing his sudden anger.
Thayor sprang from his chair, all his anger in his face.
"You'll do as I say!" he exclaimed, "and when my camp up at Big Shanty
Brook is built you will come to it--come to it as any self-respecting
wife should--out of your duty to me and to your daughter."
"I will not!" she retorted, her breast heaving.
"You will do as I say, madam," he returned, lowering his voice. "This
luxury--this nonsensical life you crave is at an end. From this day
forth I intend to be master of my own house and all that it contains.
Do you understand?"
She stared at him fixedly, her hand on her throat. A certain flash of
pride in the man before her welled up in her heart. She hadn't thought
it was in him.
"Yes--and master of you," he went on, pacing before her. "I'll sell
this house if need be!" he cried with a gesture of disgust. "I don't
want it--I never did; it was your making, not mine. Tell me what life
I have had in it? There has not been a day since it was built that
I would not have given twice its cost to be out of it. From this day
forth my time is my own," and with a blow he brought his fist down
on the back of the chair. Then squaring his shoulders he looked
fearlessly into her eyes. Something of the roar of the torrent of
Big Shanty Brook was in his voice as he spoke--something, too, of the
indomitable grit and courage of the old dog.
For some seconds she did not answer. The outburst had given her time
to think, but what move should she make next? Up to now she had lived
as she pleased and had managed to be selfishly happy. She knew he
could force her into a life she loathed, and she realized, too,
that, shrewd and resourceful as her friend the doctor was, there were
obstacles that neither he nor she could overcome. Instantly her course
was determined upon.
"Sam," she began, a forced sob rising in her throat, "I want you to
listen to me." Her voice had changed to one of infinite tenderness;
now it was the voice of a penitent child, asking a favour.
Thayor looked at her in astonishment.
"Well," he said after a moment, strangely moved by the appeal in her
eyes and the sudden pathos in her tones.
"Since you intend to force me into exile, I'm going to make the best
of it. I won't promise you I'll be happy there; I'll simply tell you
I'll make the best of it." He started to speak, but she stopped him.
"I know what my life there will mean; I know how unhappy I shall
be, but I'll go because you want me to--but Sam, dear, I want you to
promise me that for one month in the year I shall be free to go where
I please--alone if I choose. Won't you, Sam?"
Thayor started, but he did not interrupt.
"What I ask is only fair. Everyone needs to be alone--to be free, I
mean, at times--away from everything. You, yourself needed it, and you
went--and how much good it has done you!"
"Yes," he said after a moment's hesitation--"I understand. Yes--that
"Is it a bargain?" she asked.
"Yes, it is a bargain," he answered simply. "I accept your condition."
"And you will give me your word of honour not to interfere during all
He put out his hand.
"Yes, you shall have your month. And now, Alice, can't we be friends
once more? I've been brutal to you, I know," he said, bending over
her. "I am sorry I lost my temper; try to understand me better. I am
so tired of these old quarrels of ours. Won't you kiss me, Alice? It's
so long since you kissed me, dear."
"Don't!" she murmured; "not now--I can't stand it. Let me thank you
for your promise--won't that do?"
He turned from her with set lips and began to pace the floor.
Again her mood changed.
"I wish you'd sit down, Sam," she said. Her helpless tone had gone
now. "You make me nervous walking up and down like a caged lion. Sit
down--won't you, please?"
"I was thinking," he said.
"Well, think over in that chair. I have something to say to you which
is important--something about Margaret's health."
He stopped abruptly.
"What do you mean? Is she ill?"
"No, not now, but she may be."
Thayor strode rapidly to the door.
"Come back here--don't be a fool. She is asleep after the Trevis
dance. The child did not get home till after three."
"And you let her get ill?" he cried.
"Sit down, will you--and listen. Dr. Sperry came here the day you
left, and he told me he had not liked the child's appearance for a
long time, and that she ought to have the air of the mountains at
"And you called that charlatan in to see my daughter!" he cried
indignantly. All his anger was aroused now. When any wall was raised
in his path, this man Sperry was always behind it.
"I did not," she retorted savagely, "and Dr. Sperry is not a
charlatan, and you know it. It was owing to his good heart that he
came of his own accord and told me."
Thayor gripped the arm of his chair.
"Why didn't you call Leveridge?" he cried.
"There was no necessity. Dr. Sperry merely told me that Margaret was
not over strong, and that she needed a change of air, and where she
could be kept out of doors. He said there was no immediate danger,"
she went on steadily, "because the child's lungs are still untouched."
"Does Margaret know?" he asked between his teeth. Sperry and Margaret
were the two poles of a battery to Thayor.
"Does she know? Of course not! Do you consider Dr. Sperry a fool?"
"Do I think him a fool? Yes, and sometimes I think he's worse," and
he looked at her meaningly. "I'll see Leveridge at once--now--before
I change my clothes. He's seen Margaret almost every day since she
was born and this silk-stocking exquisite of yours hasn't seen her ten
times in his life!" And he strode from the room.
Thayor's interview with Alice only made him more determined than
ever to carry out his plans at Big Shanty. If he had hesitated at the
danger to Margaret, he got over it when Leveridge said, with marked
"I should not have diagnosed her case as seriously; I should not worry
in the least," adding confidentially--"I should be very much surprised
if Dr. Sperry were right. However, I'll keep an eye on Margaret, and
if I see things going the wrong way I might advise Lakewood in the
spring. To send that child to as severe a climate as the woods in
winter, would, in my opinion, be the worst thing in the world for her,
Thayor had repeated Leveridge's words to Alice, and she had replied:
"Well, if you are fool enough to believe in Leveridge I wash my hands
of the whole affair."
Margaret, as Thayor had expected, was radiantly happy over the idea of
the camp. She and her father talked of nothing else, Margaret taking
an absorbed interest in every detail concerning the new home. Every
letter from Holcomb was eagerly scanned by her. She even treasured in
her bureau drawer a duplicate set of the plans, as well as memoranda
of the progress of the work, and so knew everything that the young
woodsman was doing. Furthermore, the frank simplicity of his letters
to her father appealed to her--showing, as they did, a manliness
sadly lacking in the fashionable young men about her. Thus it was not
strange that she began to take a personal interest in Holcomb himself,
whom she dimly remembered at Long Lake. With this there developed in
her mind a certain feeling of respect and admiration for the young
superintendent, due more to her democratic spirit than to anything
personal about the man. Then, again, those who were natural appealed
to her. As to men of Dr. Sperry's stamp and the idle youths who
chattered to her in the world which her mother had forced her into,
these she detested.
* * * * *
During the long winter months Big Shanty lay buried under tons of snow
and ice. The broad bed of the stream became unrecognizable; its roar
muffled. Along its wild course the boulders showed above the heavy
drifts, capped with a sea of white domes, like some straggling city of
sunken mosques. Along the bed of the brook open wounds gaped here and
there, while at the bottom of these crevasses the treacherous black
water chuckled and grumbled through a maze of passages, breaking out
at rare intervals into angry pools, their jagged edges piled with floe
ice. For days at a time the big trees moaned ceaselessly; often the
snow fell silently all through the day, all through the bitter cold of
the night, until the knotted arms of the hemlock were cruelly laden to
the cracking point, and the moose hopple and scrub pines lay smothered
up to their tops. Always the crying wind and the driving snow.
As the winter wore itself out the sun began to assert its warmth.
All things now steamed at midday, dripping and oozing in sheer
gratefulness; the snow became so soft that even the tail of a wood
mouse slushed a gash in it, the dripping hemlocks perforating the
snow beneath them with myriads of holes. Soon the woods were oozing in
earnest, the warm sun swelling the young buds. Day by day the roar of
Big Shanty Brook grew mightier, its waters sweeping over the boulders
with the speed of a mill race, tearing away its crumbling banks.
With the opening of spring Holcomb started work in earnest. The woods
reverberated with the shouts of teamsters. Soon the deserted clearing
became the main centre of activity, echoing with the whacking strokes
of axes and the crash of falling trees. Horses strained and slipped
in their trace chains, snaking the big logs out to the now widened
clearing--slewing around stumps--tearing and ripping right and left.
By early March the clearing had widened to four times its original
size, reaching for rods back of the shanty; the air had become
fragrant, spiced with the odour of fresh stumps and the great piles of
logs stacked on the skidways.
At last the work of chopping ceased. Then began the ripping whine of
saws and the wrenching clutch of cant hooks; loads of clean planks
now came clattering up the rough road from the sawmill in the valley
below--men cursed over wheels sunk over their hubs in mud--over broken
axles and shifted loads.
The clearing had now become Holcomb's home--if a square box provided
with a door and a factory-made window can be called a home. In it
he placed a cot bed and a stove, the remainder of its weather-proof
interior being littered with blue prints, bills, and receipts. Before
long these had resulted in the development of the skeleton of a
pretentious main structure; its frame work suggesting quaint eaves and
a broad piazza. At the same time a dozen other skeletons were erected
about it, flanking a single thoroughfare leading to the road. This,
too, had undergone a radical change. Before many weeks had passed the
newly cut road lay smooth as a floor in macadam.
Strange men now appeared at Big Shanty on flying trips from Albany and
New York--soulless looking men, thoroughly conversant with gas engines
and lighting plants; hustling agents in black derby hats with
samples, many of whom made their head quarters at Morrison's, awaiting
Holcomb's word of approval. Most of these the trapper and the Clown
treated with polite suspicion.
Wagon loads of luxuries then began to arrive--antique furniture,
matchless refrigerators, a grand piano and a billiard table--cases of
pictures and bundles of rare rugs. So great was the accumulation of
luxuries at Big Shanty that little else was talked of.
"How much money do ye cal'late Sam Thayor's got?" one of the prophets
at Morrison's would ask. The "Mr." had been long since dropped from
lack of usage.
"Goll--I hain't no idee," another would reply, "but I presume if the
hull of it was dumped inter Otter Pond you'd find the water had riz
consider'ble 'round the edge."
During all this time Thayor had not once put in an appearance. He had
left Holcomb, as he had promised, entirely in charge. Billy worried
over the ever-increasing expenditure which had grown to a proportion
he never dreamed of at the beginning, and was in constant dread of
being asked for explanations--yet the vouchers he sent to New York
invariably came back "O.K.'d" without a murmur or a criticism from the
man who had told him to buy Big Shanty "as far as he could see."
The only thing that caused the young superintendent any real anxiety,
and one he had tried in vain to stop--was the sale of liquor to his
men at Morrison's. When pay-day came half of his gang were invariably
absent for several days, including even his trustworthy and
ever-to-be-relied-upon Freme Skinner, the Clown.
Holcomb had reasoned with Freme and had threatened him with discharge
a dozen times, his example being a bad one for the French Canadians
under his immediate care. As a last resort he had taken Belle Pollard,
Freme's sweetheart, a waitress at Morrison's, into his confidence. If
Belle could keep Freme sober over Sunday--it was impossible to keep
him away from her--Holcomb would speak a good word to Thayor for Freme
and Belle and then they could both get a place as caretakers of the
house during the coming winter, be married in the fall and so live
happy ever after.
The girl promised, and the next Saturday the test came.
"If Freme will let liquor alone," he had written to Thayor the day
these final arrangements were completed, "you couldn't have a
better man or a better girl, but I'm afraid we'll have to move Bill
Morrison's bar-room into Canada to accomplish it."
The result of this bargain Holcomb learned from the girl herself as
she sat in his cabin, the glow of a swinging lamp lighting up her
On Saturday night, as usual, so Belle said, the Clown, his wages in
his pocket, had sat in one corner of Morrison's bar-room, the heels of
his red-socked feet clutched in the rung of his chair. A moment before
there had been a good-natured, rough-and-tumble wrestle as he and
another lumber jack grappled. The Clown had thrown his antagonist
fairly, the lumberjack's shoulders striking the rough floor with a
whack that made things jingle. The next moment the two had treated one
another at the bar, and with a mutual, though maudlin appreciation
of each other had gone back to their respective chairs among the line
tilted against the wall.
At that moment she had opened the bar-room door and announced supper.
Instantaneously the front legs of the line of tilted chairs came to
the floor with a bang. The Clown reached the girl and the half-open
"Blast you, Freme Skinner," she said, "be you a-goin' in or out?"
"Wall, I swow, Belle," remarked the Clown, steadying himself and
turning his bleary eyes on the closed door, "you be techier 'n a
sp'ilt colt, ain't ye?"
Soon the long table was filled by the hungry crowd. They sat heavily
in their chairs, their coats off, their hair slicked down for the
occasion. The Clown was seated at one end of the table, nearest the
swing door leading to the kitchen. He wore a red undershirt, cut low
about his bull neck. It was Belle's ring that dangled from one ear.
Loosing the strap about his waist he began to sing:
"My gal has a bright blue eye,
And she steps like a fox in the snow;
And a thousand miles I'd tra-vel
To find her other beau."
Then in crescendo:
"She used to live in Stove-pipe City--"
Here the girl kicked the swing door and appeared with the first
assortment of bird dishes.
"Here, boys, you'll kinder have to sort 'em out for yerselves," she
laughed, her eager eyes watching the Clown.
Freme started in again, unconscious of the girl's anxiety--too drunk
to notice anything in fact:
"She used to live in Stove-pipe--"
He stopped short and looked at the girl with a half-drunken leer, then
wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his red shirt.
"Ham an' eggs, fried pork, tea or coffee, mince or apple pie," rattled
the girl, holding the dishes under Freme's nose.
Skinner leaned back, tried to fix his gaze upon her, lurched in his
chair and slid heavily to the floor. Such breaches of etiquette were
not infrequent occurrences at Morrison's.
The men filed out, crowding around the red-hot stove in the bar-room.
When Belle burst in again to clear the table, the Clown lay snoring
flat on his back.
By daylight Monday morning Morrison's hotel held but a single
guest--the rest, penniless by Sunday night, had gone back to work. The
Clown, with a dollar still in his pocket, remained. When the others
had gone he came down softly in his sock feet from his room and drew
up a chair to the stove in the stagnant and deserted bar-room. The
room had not yet been either swept or aired. Then he rose, opened the
door leading to the porch and let in the tingling frosty air and the
sunlight. For a long time he played with the kitten under the stove,
but he did not take a drink. He had promised Belle that he would not,
and she had kissed him as a reward. A new light shone in the girl's
eyes as she busied herself with the dishes in the kitchen beyond the
bar-room--now and then she sang to herself the refrain of a popular
song. Finally she opened the door of the kitchen and entered the
bar-room. The next moment the Clown placed his great paw of a hand
about her slim waist.
"I hain't took no drink," he said shakily, with an embarrassed laugh.
She looked up at him.
"I knowed you wouldn't, Freme," she answered searching his blood-shot
blue eyes. "You promised, Freme, and--you know I'll marry ye," she
said, "jest as I said I would if ye'll only keep to what ye promised.
I guess we kin be as happy as most folks," she added, smiling bravely
"Thar ain't no guessin' 'bout it, Belle. Thar--you needn't cry 'bout
it," he replied.
"You was awful drunk, Freme," she went on. "There warn't no one could
handle ye 'cept me. They was tryin' to get ye upstairs and to bed, but
ye was uglier 'n sin."
"Pshaw--I want to know," drawled the giant sheepishly. "Didn't none
git hurted, did they?"
"None 'cept Ed Munsey; ye throwed him downstairs."
"Ed ain't hurted, be he?" he asked in alarm.
"His shoulder was swelled bad when he come back to work," she
confessed. She nodded to the door behind the bar and the splinters
sticking through its panel.
"Gosh all whimey!" he exclaimed; "who done that?"
"You done it, Freme; you was crazy drunk. There warn't none of 'em
could handle you 'cept me, I tell ye. I spoke to ye and ye come
'long with me back inter the kitchen and set there lookin' at me
strange-like for most an hour. Arter I got my dishes washed I took ye
up to the little room at the end of the hall."
The Clown scratched his head as if trying to remember.
"Warn't it Ed that throwed that buffalo hide over me?" he asked after
a moment of useless research.
"No," she said, "I wouldn't let one of 'em tech ye."
"And do you think he'll keep his promise, Belle?" asked Holcomb, when
she had finished the story.
"I dunno. He will if I kin stay 'longside of him. But if he don't he's
got to git along without me. He says he loves me better 'n liquor, and
I guess maybe he does."
The following night Freme swung into the forest and took the short cut
to Big Shanty, and that same night Holcomb welcomed him with a hearty
handshake and the morning after set him to work. When the next day
came around and Freme shook his head when the liquor passed, those
around the stove at Morrison's marvelled at his grit and speculated
how long it would last, wondering if Freme had "got religion"--to
which the girl had answered, "Yes, he has--I'm his religion."
* * * * *
But liquor was not the only menace that threatened the work down
Morrison's way. Drunkenness Holcomb could handle to some extent--had
handled it in the cases of both the Clown and the Clown's
head-chopper, a little French Canadian by the name of Le Boeuf, from
whom Holcomb himself had extracted a pledge, which, to the little
Kanuck's credit, he manfully kept. What was more to be feared was the
drove of stragglers, outlaws, and tramps who, attracted by the unusual
expenditure at Big Shanty, made Morrison's their resting place as long
as they had a dollar to pay for a lodging or a glass of whiskey.
In addition to these there came a more prosperous and, for that
reason, a more dangerous class--speculators, lumber sharps, land
agents, and the like, each one with a scheme for the improvement of
some part of Big Shanty. Most, if not all of them, Holcomb turned down
with a curt "No--don't want it." Now and then someone more shrewd
than the others would write direct to Thayor, and on the strength of
a formal business answer--"You might inquire of my superintendent, Mr.
William Holcomb," etc., etc., would use the document to pave the way
for an introduction.
One evening in June a rickety buck-board rattled up to Morrison's
and inquired the way to Big Shanty. The passenger was short and
broad-shouldered; wore a derby hat shading a pair of crafty eyes as
black as his thick, scrubby beard. In his hand he carried a small
The stranger stepped into the bar, emptied his glass, waited until
Morrison had cleared his throat and uttered the customary remark of "I
goll--we cal'late to keep the best--" and then asked:
"How far did you say this place of Thayor's was?" The voice was harsh
and peremptory--with a nasal twang in it and a faint trace of Jewish
accent, despite the fact that he spoke the dialect of the country from
"'Bout two miles, we cal'late it by the new road," returned the
proprietor as he re-corked the bottle. "You'll see the new road 'bout
a hundred rod 'bove here to the left; you can't miss it."
"I've got a letter from Thayor himself," explained the stranger, as he
squinted over his hooked nose and searched cautiously the contents
of an inside pocket. "It's for a man named Holcomb--he's Thayor's
superintendent, ain't he?"
"Yes," said Morrison, "and a durn good one, too. I'll warrant Sam
Thayor got the feller he was lookin' for when he got Billy."
"Ain't the job gettin' too big for him?" ventured the man with an
attempt at a grin under the thick beard that grew to the corners of
his crafty eyes.
"He kin handle any job he's a mind to," said Morrison with rough
"Um!" grunted the man. "What's your name?" he asked.
"Bill Morrison--and yourn?"
Morrison leaned forward over the bar and his brow tightened:
"Guess I've hearn of you before--horse-trader, bean't ye?"
"Yes; if you ever want a good horse"--and his small, black eyes
glittered--"let me know."
"Got 'bout all I kin afford," replied Morrison; "twenty to work on
my job now." Again Morrison looked at him; this time from his scrubby
black beard to his dust-covered shoes. "Seems to me I heard your name
before. There was a man by that name that was mixed up in that Jim
Bailey murder. You ain't he, be ye?"
"No--I come from Montreal," replied Bergstein in a more positive tone.
"The name's common enough." Here he opened the black valise stuffed
with business papers and handed Morrison a card.
Morrison looked at it carefully, tucked it in a fly-specked screen
behind the bar, and with a satisfied air said:
"Let's see--you hain't had no supper, hev ye? Supper's most
ready--I'll go and tell the old woman you're here."
"No--I ain't stoppin' for supper," replied Bergstein, paying for his
glass. "I'm going up to Thayor's place now; this feller Holcomb's
"Suit yourself, friend," returned Morrison, and he pulled down the
heavy shutter screening the array of bottles.
Bergstein left with a brusque good-night and walked slowly up the
He had not told Morrison all he knew. Trading horses was not the Jew's
only business; he was equally adept in buying and selling timber-lands
and the hiring of men. When he was successful--and he was generally
successful--his gains were never less than fifty per cent; less than
that would have spelled failure in his eyes. For in Bergstein's veins
ran the avaricious tenacity of the Pole and the insincerity of the
Irishman. The former he inherited from his father, a peddler, the
latter from his mother, the keeper for many years of a rough dive for
sailors along the quay in Montreal. Both had died when he was a child
and from an early age he shifted for himself, made no friends and
needed little sleep and pursued his business with ferocious energy by
night as well as by day. Added to this was a certain secretiveness. He
appeared in localities mysteriously and left them as suddenly. It was
often his habit to walk to unfrequented stations and take his
chances of boarding a train. His movements were carefully planned and
guarded--evidently he did not care to have many of them known.
He was not long in reaching the camp, though it was getting dark when
he started, the straight road of macadam showing white among the gloom
of the trees.
When he arrived hardly a detail of the new camp escaped his shifty
glance. Once in the good graces of the millionaire, he said to
himself, he would stick to him like a leech.
Holcomb's expression, when he greeted him, showed plainly a feeling of
distrust and dislike. He received him courteously because of a letter
from Thayor which reached camp the day before, telling him to take
care of a man of his name from Montreal, if he came--he having heard
that he had some excellent horses for sale--and as Billy had needed a
pair this was his opportunity. As Holcomb looked at him he felt that
if Thayor had ever seen the man he would not have sent him to Big
Shanty at this or any other time. There was a glitter in those small,
black eyes that the young man did not like. Neither was the Clown's
nor the trapper's opinion of him any more flattering. As for the old
dog, he showed his dislike by discreetly keeping away from him.
Though Bergstein left Big Shanty at a quarter before eight in the
morning with the order for the horses in his pocket, it was noon by
the sawmill whistle before he reached Morrison's. There he engaged a
single rig to take him out to the railroad.
What he had done, or where he had been in the meantime, no one knew.
Early in August Big Shanty was ready for its owner; ready, too, when
it had been promised. Thayor was expected within a few days. He had
written Holcomb that he would come alone; Mrs. Thayor and Margaret
were to arrive a week later, accompanied by Blakeman and Annette;
the rest of the servants being already in camp under charge of the
Now that only a few days intervened before Thayor's arrival, Holcomb,
for the first time in his active life, experienced a feeling of
genuine nervous anxiety. Would the man who had entrusted all to him
be satisfied? he wondered. The thought made him strangely silent. The
trapper was the first to mention it as he and the Clown sat smoking
with Billy in the dusk outside the latter's cabin the evening before
Thayor's arrival. Holcomb, squatting on the ground, had been whittling
a twig to a fine point--now he leaned forward and drove it out of
sight in the cool earth with his heel. Then, closing his jack-knife,
he gazed across the tidy clearing at the big camp, and the line of
low-roofed cabins showing dimly in the twilight against the trees. But
two lights were visible--one in the servant's quarters opposite and
one through the window of the men's shanty at the lower end of the
"What ails ye, son?" asked the trapper, breaking the silence.
"Ain't feelin' bad, be ye, Billy?" inquired the Clown with kindly
Holcomb shook his head. Presently he said, still gazing straight
"I've been wondering, boys, if Mr. Thayor is going to be satisfied."
"Thar--I knowed it!" exclaimed the trapper. "Ye needn't worry a mite,
"If he hain't satisfied I'll eat my shirt!" declared the Clown,
clenching his brawny fist with a gesture of conviction, as he jumped
up simultaneously on his long legs. "Thar ain't a man livin' that
could hev done a better job 'n you done for him," he declared. "Jest
look 'round ye! Look what it was when we fust come. Reg'lar ruin,
"You've come pretty close to it, Freme," confessed Holcomb.
"If it warn't for the old brook roarin' down thar," remarked the
trapper, "a feller wouldn't know whar he was. Wall, sir, if it don't
beat all I ever see in the way of a camp! The old dog was a-tellin' me
only yisterday that he never see the beat nowhar, and he's travelled
some, I kin tell ye."
"Jest so--jest so," affirmed the Clown, his blue eyes beaming with
enthusiasm as he resumed: "Wall, sir, you'd oughter seen Ed Munsey
when he fust seen it. 'Gol,' says Ed; and his eyes stuck out like
marbles. 'Godfrey Mighty!' says Ed; 'wall, sir,' says he, 'if it ain't
the slickest fixed up place I ever seen.' Goll! Ed was tickled. 'Must
'er cost more 'n forty cents,' says he. 'No,' says I, 'thar warn't
no expense 'bout it; we just throwed some odds and ends together,'"
chuckled the Clown, as he sat down hard.
Holcomb was himself again. The Clown's cheeriness was always
contagious to him.
"I've done my best," he said, smiling. "But then, we've spent a lot of
money, boys," he added thoughtfully.
Night settled and it was not long before the three rose, filed into
the cabin and kindled a fire, a delicate attention which the old
dog was grateful for. He had been prowling around by himself in the
clearing and now that he scented smoke came stalking into the
cabin, his nails clicking across the floor, and with a mournful yawn
stretched himself comfortably before the blaze.
* * * * *
By the next twilight Sam Thayor had seen with his own eyes every
detail of his forest domain. Only when this tour of inspection with
Holcomb was over did he lead Billy back into the living hall of his
new house. His manner, after the hearty greeting given him on his
arrival, had lapsed into one of mute enthusiasm. His delight had more
than convinced Billy of his approval. Now that they were alone in the
living hall, he turned suddenly, faced his superintendent and held out
both his hands to him.
"Thank you," was all he could manage to say, wringing Billy's hands
"Come, my boy, draw up a chair. That fire feels good--think of
it--even in August. Oh, if you only knew how glad I am to get here!"
He rubbed the palms of his hands together with satisfaction. "What a
place it is, what a place, Billy! And to find everything far better
than I ever dreamed it would be."
"I'm glad you're satisfied," was Holcomb's simple reply.
The housemaid appeared with a silver tray.
"Ah, there's our toddy!" exclaimed Thayor. "Thank you, Mary; you may
put it between us. Bring us that little low table in the corner." As
the girl busied herself in arranging the table Thayor paused to look
The square room, with its low, heavily beamed ceiling and walls of
birch, stained to a rich sienna, glistening in fresh spar varnish; the
fire licking up the throat of the wide chimney-piece built of rough
boulders from the bed of Big Shanty; the floor laid with rare rugs;
the easy chairs and shaded lights--all gave to this living room a
charm that none in the house of marble possessed. This artistic
result was due to the personal supervision and good taste of the same
architect who had designed the house of marble. Fortunately Alice
Thayor had taken no interest in it.
"Excellent!" exclaimed Thayor, as he poured the hot water into Billy's
temperate portion of Scotch. "The bedrooms are a delight. I'm glad to
see the gun-room paved in brick--muddy boots cannot do any harm there;
it will wash as clean as a stable."
"It has been the expense I have worried over," ventured Holcomb, as
the two settled back in their chair. "The vouchers I was obliged to
send you last month, I mean--wasn't the plumber's bill putting the
screws on a little tight?"
"Nonsense!" returned Thayor, smiling, "you don't seem to realize,
Billy, that had it not been for your honesty and good will and the
faithful help of our friends. Skinner and Holt, Big Shanty would have
cost me twice as much; and if it had"--he paused and gazed into the
fire, while the corners of his mouth twitched from side to side as if
forming his words, a habit of his when giving a decision--"yes, if it
had cost three times the amount, I should be more than satisfied."
The colour crept up under Billy's bronzed cheek.
"It makes me feel good--to hear you say this to me," he said. "It's
been a long job, but I drove things along the best I could. When
things got stuck in the mud there was nothing to do but jump in and
pull them out and get them started and moving, and I want you to know
that Freme--since his sweetheart made him sober--and old man Hite did
all they could. I could never have done it without them."
"I believe you, Billy," declared Thayor briskly. "You have done what
I knew you would. Ah, yes--you're right about those two good fellows,
Holt and Skinner. Their greeting to me this afternoon touched me
deeply. Why, even the old dog remembered me."
"Remembered you? Of course he did. Hite says the old dog has never got
over your killing that buck."
"And the old dog, I suppose, still talks to him?" laughed Thayor.
"I've never known Hite to lie," replied Holcomb with a grin.
"And now tell me about poor Dinsmore. I have watched the papers but I
have seen nothing of his arrest and so I suppose he is safe in Canada,
or is he still about here?"
"I think he is still in hiding, sir," replied Holcomb in an evasive
tone. The least said about Dinsmore the better--the better for
Dinsmore. His safety was in being entirely forgotten.
"And you haven't seen him?"
"No, not since we began work."
For some seconds Thayor drummed with his fingers on the arm of his
chair; then he said in a strangely serious tone--as if to himself:
"Dinsmore had to kill him, perhaps. That's the only way out sometimes,
and that's what would happen every time if I had my way."
Holcomb made no reply. No good could come to the hide-out by
stirring up his case. All his friends said he was dead; that is, to
strangers--some of whom might be sheriffs.
The talk now entered another channel--one more to Holcomb's liking.
"By the way, before I forget it"--here Thayor drew from his pocket a
package of letters--"how about this Mr. Steinberg, the dealer who sold
us the horses?" he inquired.
"Yes, this Mr. Bergstein, as you call him. I gather from your last
letter--I thought I had it with me," he said, searching hurriedly
among the packet of correspondence, "but I have evidently left it--I
gather," he resumed, "from your last letter that he did not make
a very favourable impression. I can't understand it," he went on
seriously, "for he was recommended by one of the vice-presidents of
one of our Canadian companies, a man whom I have had dealings with
by letter for years. I should hesitate to believe he would recommend
anyone to us whom he did not thoroughly know about--who, shall we say,
was sharp in his dealings."
Holcomb for a moment did not reply. Then suddenly he looked straight
into the eyes of his employer.
"I know a man may sometimes be wrong in sizing up another," he began,
"but Bergstein seems to me to have considerable of the peddler in
"And yet you say, Billy, the horses he sent were sound, and the price
"The price he asked was not," replied Holcomb. "I gave him what I knew
they were worth--he wasn't long in taking it. That's where the peddler
part of it struck me."
Thayor made no attempt to reply; he was listening as calmly as a
lawyer to a defence.
"There are a lot of the boys here who think Bergstein is all right,"
Holcomb continued, "but neither Freme, Hite, nor myself liked his
looks from the first. He's too mysterious in his movements--whanging
off at night to catch a train and turning up again--sometimes before
"Yet you say he is a good worker," interrupted Thayor, settling in his
"There isn't a lazy bone in him," confessed Holcomb. "He's all hustle,
and smarter than a steel trap--that's why I put him in charge of the
gang in the lower shanty--besides, I saw the boys wanted him."
"I must see Mr. Bergstein in the morning," was Thayor's reply.
"He left day before yesterday," said Holcomb. "He told me an uncle
of his had died in Montreal; he'll be back, he said, in three or four
"Ah, indeed," said Thayor with a nod. "I trust we are all mistaken
in the fellow. You know, my boy," he said turning suddenly about,
"we must all learn to be tolerant of others--of their ignorance. I've
found in life a true philosophy in this. It's my creed, Billy--'Be
tolerant of others, even of those who at times seem intolerable to
Holcomb was not the man to censure another without the strength of
his conviction. He had been frank in giving his opinion of Bergstein,
since Thayor had put the question point blank to him. Their talk
before the fire had been a genial one, save for this somewhat
unpleasant subject, yet despite Thayor's kindly optimism in regard to
Bergstein, owing purely to his excellent recommendation, Holcomb felt
a distrust of the mysterious stranger who had wormed his way into
Big Shanty. He could not help being personally convinced that the
vice-president of the Canadian company was either a rascal or a man of
poor judgment. It was also possible that the said vice-president had
never seen Bergstein at all.
Two nights later Holcomb again bade Thayor good-night in the square
room with its heavy-beamed ceiling. All the accounts had now been gone
over--even to the minutest detail, and Billy felt supremely happy and
relieved at his employer's enthusiastic approval of all he had done,
so much so that even the one discordant note--Bergstein--seemed of
He crossed the clearing on his way to his cabin cautiously, feeling
his way with his feet to avoid tripping over an unseen root. The night
was intensely dark--so dark that as he neared his cabin he was forced
to stop and feel for his card of matches. At that instant someone in
the pitch darkness ahead of him coughed.
"Is that you, Freme?" called Holcomb, watching the sputtering sulphur
blaze into flame.
"No," answered a hard nasal voice to the right, and within a rod of
him; "it's me--Bergstein. Got any gin in your place? the nigh hoss on
Jimmy's team is took bad with the colic."
"Come inside," said Holcomb.
"Bad luck," muttered Bergstein, as he followed Holcomb into the cabin;
"there ain't a better work hoss on the place. Must have catched cold
drawin' them heavy loads on the mountain."
Holcomb lighted a candle, extracted a bunch of keys, unlocked a
cupboard, and handed Bergstein a black bottle.
"I thought you were in Canada," he said, eyeing Bergstein closely.
"I jest got back--I didn't wait for the funeral."
"Well, keep that horse covered," Holcomb added; "you'll find some
extra heavy blankets back of the feed bin." After his door was closed,
Holcomb stood thinking for some moments, his eyes fastened on the
"That nigh horse seemed all right this fore-noon," he said to himself.
"That's the second horse with colic."
Thayor's first meeting with Bergstein occurred the next morning. It
was brief and business-like, but it left a good impression on Thayor's
mind. What little he had seen of the man, he told Holcomb, had
convinced him of his honesty and ability; that the nigh horse had died
was no fault of Bergstein's, since he and the boys at the lower shanty
had evidently done everything that could be done. What pleased him
most was Bergstein's humane and untiring efforts to save the poor
beast, adding that he had decided to order him to leave for Montreal
at once with instructions to purchase another horse, together with
some other things, amounting to over three thousand dollars in
all, which were badly needed. He liked, too, his quick return from
Canada--this showed his interest in his work.
An hour later the two, with Bergstein, stood on the veranda before the
"Is there anything else you can think of that we need, Billy?" Thayor
"That's about all I can think of," returned Holcomb, glancing over the
long list that Bergstein held in his hand.
"He was a hard-working man," Bergstein casually remarked, referring to
the uncle who had so suddenly succumbed. There was nothing to lead up
to it, but that was a way with Bergstein. As he spoke he folded the
list and tucked it into his black portfolio.
"Married?" asked Thayor.
"Yes, and to as nice a little woman as you ever see, Mr. Thayor.
He ain't left her much, not more than will keep her out of the
poor-house." Bergstein's voice had grown as soft as an Oriental's.
"I buried him at my own expense. It's hard on her--she's got a little
girl who was always ailin'--sickly from the first." He fumbled at his
scrubby black beard, his rat-like eyes focussed on the ground.
"One moment, Mr. Bergstein," said Thayor, suddenly turning on his heel
and going into the house. Presently he returned and handed Bergstein
an unsealed white envelope. "Will you kindly give this to the mother
and the little girl," he said. "You will oblige me by not saying whom
it is from."
"Well, now, that's mighty good of you, Mr. Thayor," Bergstein
"I trust you will have a pleasant journey," returned Thayor and with
a nod to Billy the two disappeared through the door of Thayor's den,
before the man with the scrubby beard could finish his sentence.
Bergstein tucked the envelope within the black portfolio and went down
the steps to the buckboard waiting to take him out to the railroad.
The boy Jimmy drove, Bergstein taking the back seat. He waited until
they were well into the stretch of wood between the camp and the lower
shanty, then he hurriedly extracted the envelope and glanced within.
It contained a new one-hundred-dollar bill.
That night Bergstein put up at the best hotel in Troy.
* * * * *
Three days after Bergstein's departure Holcomb sat in his cabin going
over his accounts. When it grew dark he lighted his kerosene lamp and
drew a chair beside his desk. As he bent over and unlaced his shoes
the sash of the square cabin window in front of him was raised
cautiously and four bony fingers slipped in and gripped the sill. As
he sprang to his feet the gaunt face of a man rose slowly above the
window sill and a pair of brilliant, cavernous eyes, framed in a shock
of unkempt beard and sandy hair, stared into his own.
It was Bob Dinsmore--the hide-out. The next instant Holcomb was out of
his boots and had raised the sash with a whispered welcome. With the
quickness of a cornered cat Dinsmore was inside.
"It's took me most a week to git this chance to see ye, Billy,"
the hide-out began in a faint, husky voice weakened by exposure.
He glanced about him nervously, his thin body shivering under the
patchwork of skins and threadbare rags that covered him. Holcomb,
without a word, crossed to the cupboard.
"Eat, Bob," he said, putting a dish of cold meat and beans and
another bottle on the table. For the space of a quarter of an hour the
hide-out ate hurriedly in silence, his food and drink guarded between
his soaked forearms like an animal fearful lest its prey be stolen.
Holcomb watched him the while with now and then a friendly word. When
he had finished eating, the cavernous eyes looked up gratefully.
"I dasn't risk it until to-night, Billy," he resumed. "When I seen
that skunk Bergstein leave I thought I'd let ye know." He leaned
forward, one hand fumbling under the rags. "That's what I found," he
said in a whisper, as he drew out a piece of twisted paper. "I had
hard work to get it," he added, carefully untwisting the fragment and
disclosing a teaspoonful of whitish powder. "It may be pizon and
it mayn't--I ain't tried it on nothin' yet, but he was so all-fired
perticler in hidin' it I thought I'd bring it along."
"Where did you find it?"
"Under that hell-hound's mattress. He's got more of it in a blue box.
Thar warn't nobody seen me. Damn him!"--he muttered--"it was him that
told the sheriff last month down to Leetle Moose that he seen me cross
his trail. I'd crep' down to see my leetle gal, and he stepped 'most
on top of us. We weren't more 'n forty rod this side o' whar she
lived, and the skunk went in and told how he'd seen somebody skulkin'
off, and, of course, they knowed then. They made it hot 'nough for
me. I been layin' for him ever since; I was watchin' him through the
winder when I see him hunt for this powder. Folks don't keep stuff
like that whar he kep' it 'less it's sumpin perticler. Somebody'll
find him in the woods some time with a hole in him."
Holcomb laid the powder on the table. What he suspected he dared not
formulate into words, let alone tell the hide-out.
"I ain't never forgot ye, Billy, for what ye've done for me,"
continued the hide-out with a choke in his feeble voice. Then,
starting to his feet, the old fear returning, he whispered hoarsely:
"'Tain't safe here for me; I dasn't stay longer."
"Bob," said Holcomb, "you're safe here until daylight; there's my
"No! No! I dassent, Billy."
"But you're wet to the skin," insisted Holcomb.
"So be everything when it rains. I'm wet most of the time. Now I'm
a-goin', and a-goin' quick. That's what I come to give ye," and he
nodded to the crumpled bit of paper and its contents lying under the
"Is there anything I can do for you, Bob, down below? I saw Katie last
time I drove in."
A hungry eager look stole into the man's face; tears started in his
eyes and lost themselves in his matted, unkempt beard.
"Ye see Katie, Billy?" he moaned. "God--how I'd like to! Growing,
ain't she? Most 'leven now. Some weeks back since I dared go down.
Last time I see her she cried and went on so holdin' on to me I come
near givin' myself up I felt so bad; then I knowed that wouldn't git
"No, Bob, better keep moving. I'm going to speak to Mr. Thayor when
the time comes--but it isn't yet. Hold on--here's matches and what's
left in the cupboard." Taking two of his own shirts and a pair of
his woollen trousers, he wrapped up the food and a little cheer; then
blowing out the lamp he again raised the sash cautiously, and with a
hurried handshake bade him good-night.
"If ye want me again Hite Holt kin find me--he knows whar I be," he
whispered softly. Then he slipped out into the darkness and was gone.
Holcomb regained his chair, folded the paper containing every grain of
the powder into an envelope and slipped it into his desk.
One thing he was resolved upon--not to tell Mr. Thayor of his
suspicions until there was no question of his proof.
It is a long drive in from the railroad to Morrison's. Hite called it
eighteen good miles; the Clown put it at nineteen; what the old
dog estimated it at none knew. He had always trotted the distance
From Thayor's private flag station, the main road into Big Shanty
snakes along over a flat, sparsely settled valley before it enters
the deep woods. Once in the heavy timber it crossed chattering brooks
skirting the ragged edges of wild ravines. On it goes through the
forest mile after mile, up hill and down, until it emerges abruptly
into the open country at the head of the "Deadwater," passes
Morrison's, is met half a mile farther on by the new road leading down
from Big Shanty camp, and continues straight ahead through a rough
notch out to a valley twelve miles beyond.
It was over this road that Alice Thayor went to her exile.
Thayor and Holcomb, this rare August afternoon, were at the flag
station to meet the "Wanderer"--the banker's private car, with a
spick-and-span three-seated buckboard and a fast team of bays. Aboard
the car were Alice and Margaret, Blakeman and Annette.
Alice Thayor's first meeting with Holcomb since the time when he saved
her husband's life, consisted of a slight nod of recognition and an
annoyed "How do you do?" She wore a smart travelling gown of Scotch
homespun and a becoming toque of gray straw enveloped in a filmy
dragon-green veil. Holcomb thought it strange that Thayor kissed his
daughter and simply greeted his wife with the question, "I do hope you
were comfortable, dear, coming up?"
"The heat was something frightful," she replied, lifting the
dragon-green veil wearily and binding it straight across her forehead.
"My head is splitting."
Holcomb glanced at her exquisite features. The brilliancy of her
dark eyes was enhanced by the pallor of her ivory skin. Alice Thayor
Margaret had greeted him far more graciously; she had extended her
firm little gloved hand to him, with genuine delight in her brown
eyes, and had told him how very glad indeed she was to see him--which
was the truth. During the drive in her mother scarcely opened her
lips. She sat in the middle seat beside her daughter, haughtily
gracious and inwardly bored. Margaret's enthusiasm irritated her.
The woman going to her exile was in no mood to enthuse over nature.
Holcomb drove, with Thayor on the front seat beside him; on the back
seat sat Blakeman and Annette, in respectful silence. As they entered
the deep woods at a smart trot, Margaret half closed her eyes in sheer
ecstasy and drew in a long, delicious breath of forest air.
"My--but that's good, daddy!" she exclaimed. Everything was of intense
interest to her. The sudden glimpse of some great mountain towering
above the trees; the velvety green, billowy moss; the merry little
brooks they crossed; the whirring flight of a startled partridge and
now the sinking sun flooding the silent woods with gold. When she was
not in ecstasies over these, her brown eyes glanced at the clean-cut,
handsome profile of the young woodsman who was so skilfully driving
the bay team.
He was no longer the awkward and embarrassed young fellow she
remembered that summer at Long Lake. He had, she realized much to her
agreeable surprise, the ease and manner of a well-bred man about
him now. His honest, cheery frankness appealed to her; moreover, she
thought him exceedingly handsome.
"That's where the line crosses," said Holcomb, pointing quickly to a
"Oh, look, mother--quick!" cried Margaret.
"We're in Big Shanty tract now, dear," explained Thayor. "The line we
have just passed strikes due east from here and runs--how far, Billy?"
"Oh--clear to Alder Brook--about fifteen miles, before it corners
Alice's lips grew tense; she was beginning to realize the vastness of
her husband's purchase. She began to wonder, too, how much it had cost
him--this folly of Sam's.
"And is it all as beautiful as this?" asked Margaret of the young man
whose strong brown hands held the reins.
"Yes, Miss Thayor, and some of it is a good deal better looking."
"You shall see, dearie," added Thayor; "I've a surprise in store for
you both--yes, a hundred surprises. We will cross the East Branch of
Big Shanty Brook in a moment--that is surprise number one. How is the
"A little," she returned indifferently.
"Listen!" said Thayor; "hear it? That's the East Branch roaring."
"Oh--I'm just crazy to see it!" cried Margaret. "It was on the West
Branch you killed the deer, wasn't it, daddy?"
Thayor nodded and smiled.
"Now look, puss!" he commanded, as they reached the rough bridge
spanning the East Branch.
Margaret peered down into the heavy black water a hundred feet below
"Daddy, it's gorgeous--simply gorgeous," exclaimed Margaret. "Look,
mother, at the water swirling through that green pool. Oh, _do_ look,
mother." Alice condescended to look.
"Isn't it superb, Alice?" ventured Thayor.
In the twilight the great brook boiled below them.
"It ain't so lonely," remarked Holcomb pleasantly, turning to Mrs.
Thayor, "when the sun is shining." He had dropped into his native
dialect, which now and then cropped out in his speech.
"I suppose it _ain't_," said Alice in a whisper to Margaret. The girl
touched her mother's arm pleadingly.
"Please don't," she said; "he might hear you. It really isn't kind in
you, mother. You know they speak so differently in the country."
Holcomb had heard it, but not a muscle twitched in resentment. He
tightened the reins, and for a mile drove in silence.
"And this is the man your father lunched with at The Players,"
continued Alice under her breath.
Margaret did not reply.
Presently they came out into the valley at the head of the Deadwater,
still as ink, reflecting the barkless trees it had killed so clearly
that it was difficult to see the point of immersion. Then the plain
gabled roof of Morrison's came into view above a flat of young
poplars, the silver leaves shivering in the breeze.
Morrison, who had been sweeping off his narrow porch, in his
shirt-sleeves, came out into the road at the rapid approach of the
"Hello thar!" he shouted, and Holcomb stopped at an insistent gesture
from the proprietor.
"Hain't seen nothin' of a barril of kerosene fer me down thar, hev
ye?" he asked. "Gosh durn it!--it oughter been here more'n a week
"Nothing there for you. Jimmy's coming along with the trunks," replied
Holcomb. "He won't start before the freight gets in."
"Evenin', Mr. Thayor," said Morrison. "Wall, ye've got 'em all here
now, haven't ye?" he remarked, running his shrewd eyes over the filled
"Mrs. Thayor and my daughter, Mr. Morrison," said Thayor.
"Pleased to meet you, marm." Morrison raised his hat and stretched out
a coarse red hand. Alice extended three fingers of her own despite her
repulsion. There was really no other way out of it. "And here's the
little gal, I 'spose," continued the proprietor. Margaret laughed as
she shook hands. "Won't ye stop and take something, friend?" he asked
Blakeman. Blakeman raised his eyebrows in protest.
"_Mon Dieu!_" whispered Annette.
"Relations of yourn, Mrs. Thayor?" asked Morrison, noticing Annette's
Alice straightened. "My maid!" she said stiffly.
"Wall, I'm sorry none of ye ain't dry," said Morrison.
"No, thank you," replied Thayor; "we must be getting up to camp."
Again the bays fell into a brisk trot.
Alice was furious.
"Who is that dreadful person, Sam?" she asked.
"You must not mind him, Alice. He meant well enough," explained her
husband. "Morrison's rough, I'll grant you, but he's a good fellow at
"It was only his way," added Holcomb. "He didn't mean to be impolite,
"Of course he didn't, mother," added Margaret with a glance at
The bays turned suddenly to the left into the new road. Alice emitted
a sigh of relief. There was a sense of luxury--of exclusiveness--in
passing over its smooth surface. Morrison and his common hotel, with
its blear-eyed windows, were now well out of sight. Presently the camp
lay ahead of them--an orderly settlement of trim buildings. Margaret
was too excited to do more than gaze ahead of her with eager interest.
"Here we are!" exclaimed Thayor. "There, Alice, you can thank Mr.
Holcomb for all you see; I really had nothing to do with it."
His wife did not reply. Only Margaret's eyes met his own--a pair of
brown eyes that seemed to be half sunshine and half tears.
As they drew up to the wide veranda of the camp, the trapper and the
Clown came slowly across the compound to meet them; at the heels of
the trapper stalked the old dog, watching the new arrivals with a
certain dignified interest.
There was nothing strange in the fact that when Alice Thayor saw Big
Shanty Camp she made no comment. It was a bitter disappointment to
Thayor, yet he knew in his heart that he could not have expected her
to do otherwise. Having reached her exile she had been careful to
conceal any outward expression of her approval or dislike. Had the
camp at that moment been filled with a jolly house-party, including
Dr. Sperry, she could have been content to romp in a fashionable way
within it for a week--even a fortnight. It was the thought that it was
her home--a home which she had tried to evade and had been brought to
bodily in the end--that rankled in her heart. She retired early, but
could not sleep. She lay in bed for an hour or more, turning over in
her mind the situation. The realization of her defeat stirred within
her the old dominant spirit. She realized that her imprisonment had
begun. After half an hour more of restless thinking she crept out
of bed, tucked her feet into a pair of slippers, drew a silk wrapper
about her and crossed to the open window. Leaning with her elbows upon
its sill she stood for a long time gazing out over the wilderness.
The night was mild and hushed. It was almost certain that with dawn
would come a downpour of rain; the tree-toads already heralded
the good news. The dry hemlocks whispered it. Bathed in a gauze
of moonlight the forest rolled away--silent--mighty in its
expanse--promising nothing. Big Shanty Brook gleamed defiantly past in
a riot of rapids and whirlpools. Flashing in the crisp sunlight,
these rapids and whirlpools shone in inviting splendour; at night they
It was this torrent that swept below the woman leaning on the window
sill; it mocked her, roaring with joy, chuckling to itself at the
prisoner, every leaping crest in the chaos of foam rearing again for
a last glimpse of the exile, and, having seen, dashed on to give place
to those who followed. Little waves fawned by, partisans in the same
Suddenly she buried her face in her ringless hands:
"My God--I can't stand this!" she moaned. "I can't and I won't!" she
muttered helplessly. Then she broke into hysterical sobbing, pressing
her nails into the sensitive flesh of her temples; her lips trembling
in a nervous chill. Her body grew cold, chilling even her bare feet
thrust deep in her slippers. The torrent of Big Shanty became to her
a jeering crowd, unlimitless--that poured from nowhere and dashed on
into the unknown. She shut her eyes tight. In the darkness now she saw
only Sperry; she saw him plainly--close to her, as one sees a face
in a dream. She felt the idle, comforting tone of his voice--the warm
pressure of his hand--and with her mental vision, looked into his
"Be patient, dear friend," he said to her quite clearly. Could she
have looked on Sperry at that moment she would have found him playing
billiards at his club, his whole mind occupied in making a difficult
carom shot. When he made it he ordered a fresh brandy and soda.
The roar of Big Shanty continued. An owl screamed hoarsely from
somewhere in the timber below. Alice shuddered, her cheeks burning
against the palms of her cold hands, and crept back to bed.
Margaret, too, had been gazing out of her window. Big Shanty to her
meant a new life--she, too, had been crying, but from sheer happiness.
Some mornings after Alice's arrival--she had spent most of the hours
in her room in the interim--she came gaily into the room where her
husband and Margaret were at breakfast, her face all smiles,
her figure clothed in a jaunty walking dress which fitted her to
perfection. Thayor looked up from his coffee and bacon; he thought he
had never seen her look so pretty.
"Why, Alice!" he exclaimed, all his love for her in his eyes.
"Yes--I don't wonder you are astonished," she said, regarding them
both mischievously. "The day is too glorious to breakfast in bed;
besides, I've slept like a top. Sam, the camp is exceedingly pretty,"
she went on, as Blakeman ceremoniously pushed a chair beneath her and
hurriedly laid the unexpected cover.
"And now may I ask where you two gad-abouts are going?" she inquired,
noticing Margaret's short skirt and Sam in a pair of stout tramping
"To a pond, mother--the nearest, I believe. Think of it--we have four
of them," announced Margaret proudly.
"Then I'm going too," declared her mother.
"Good!" cried Thayor. "Holcomb says he can easily take us there and
back in time for luncheon."
Alice turned to her husband, and patting the back of his hand, said:
"Sam, you'll forgive me for my lack of enthusiasm since I came, won't
you? I was really ill; the heat was something frightful coming up."
The tone of her voice was captivating.
Thayor covered her hand with his own.
"Of course I will--you were tired out, dear--that was all. Hurry up
and drink your coffee," he continued, looking at the clock over the
chimney-piece in the breakfast room; "Holcomb is waiting for us. But
put on your heaviest boots, Alice, before you start; the trail is apt
to be damp in places after the misty night. We are lucky not to have
waked up in a drizzling rain."
Margaret looked across the table at her mother:
"Oh, what a night it was!" she burst out. "Could there be anything
more beautiful than the wilderness in the moonlight? It really seemed
a sin to go to bed. I hope you saw it too--I was coming to wake you,
it was so lovely."
"And so I gather," returned Alice with a smile, "that you went to bed
"Yes, I did," confessed Margaret; "and so I have every night since we
came--never have I seen anything so grand as the tumbling water. Oh,
I just love it!" and she laid her little hand in her father's as a
silent tribute to his generosity in giving it to her.
The breakfast hurriedly finished, Thayor went out to the veranda and
lighted a long, slim cigar. He felt like a man who had just received
good news. For some moments he paced jauntily up and down, waiting
for Holcomb to appear. Alice's sudden change of manner had made him
as happy as a boy. It was so extraordinary and so unexpected that he
could hardly believe it was true. Her whole attitude during the drive
in, and since, had been a bitter disappointment to him; now it seemed
as if he had awakened from a bad dream. The caressing touch of her
hand had put new life in him. Was she at last really repentant? he
wondered; was there after all, a throb of love in her heart for him?
Suddenly he caught sight of Holcomb coming across the compound. He
wore his gray slouch hat, a short jacket and his high boots. Very few
of the young fellows about him had his build and breadth, and none his
"Good morning, Billy!" he called.
"Good morning, Mr. Thayor," returned Holcomb cheerily.
"And what a day, Billy!" answered Thayor, rubbing his hands in boyish
"Just about as nice as they make them. You look happy, Mr. Thayor, and
you look hearty--that's best of all."
"I am, Billy--who wouldn't be well and happy a morning like this?
And I've got a piece of news for you, too--good news; Mrs. Thayor is
coming along with us. How will the new trail be--a little rough for
her, do you think?"
"Not a bit of it! Clear going all the way--besides it isn't more than
two miles there and back. Freme has made a clean job of it. There's a
short swamp just before we get to the pond, but I guess we can manage
to get the ladies across without their getting wet."
"Oh, that air--just smell it, Billy!" reiterated the owner of Big
Shanty enthusiastically. Think of the poor people in the city who have
none of it. I must send for Randall as soon as we get settled, and
some of those fellows we met at The Players that day, and let them
have a whiff of it--do them a lot of good. Randall loves it. Poor
boy--he needs a change now worse than I did. And have you seen Mrs.
Thayor this morning?"
"Well--you never saw her look better; she tells me she slept
splendidly. Why, think of it, my boy, she actually came down to
breakfast--a thing I have not known her to do in years."
"I'm mighty glad to hear Mrs. Thayor is better," returned Billy
thoughtfully--he wished it might include her manners. "She did not
seem well yesterday or the day before."
"No--one of her old headaches. It must have been pretty hot, even in
the 'Wanderer.' Here they are now!"
Alice and Margaret appeared on the veranda.
"Good morning, Mr. Holcomb," said Alice, nodding pleasantly. "You
see," she added with her most captivating smile, "you must show me
this wonderful little pond my daughter has told me about, too. May I
Holcomb lifted his slouch hat from his head.
"Why, certainly, Mrs. Thayor. We can make it there and back by noon,"
and his eyes wandered over the trim and graceful figure accentuated so
charmingly by her short skirt.
Margaret had also followed the lines of the costume. "You must always
wear a short skirt, mother--it is most becoming."
"And so comfortable, my dear," added Alice nonchalantly as she placed
both hands about her flexible waist and half turned. It was her
stronghold, this figure--she would have been adorable in sackcloth and
ashes, she knew, but she preferred a tailor-made.
Soon the little party, lead by Holcomb, were seen picking their way
along the trail; Margaret keeping close to the young woodsman and
plying him with innumerable questions. She thought she had never
seen him look so handsome, debonair and manly. Then, too, his wide
knowledge of the woods was a delight to her. Little by little he
explained, as he followed the trail, those secrets of woodcraft not
found in books.
At length the trail ended in an opening at the edge of a small
pond--nameless, and round as a dollar, its circumference framed in
an unbroken line of timber. A few rods from this opening, where the
little party was now seated, a big trout plunged half out of the
"He's after that miller," explained Holcomb. The others strained their
eyes, but they could see nothing but the widening rings where the
trout had disappeared. Again he rose out of a basin of moulten
turquoise like a flash of quicksilver. "The old fellow will get him
yet," remarked Billy; "the miller's wing is broken--he's lying flat on
"Your eyes are better than mine, Holcomb," declared Thayor.
"Take an old trout like that," explained Holcomb, "and he'll always
strike with his tail first; he broke that miller's wing the second
time he rose."
Alice and Margaret were straining their eyes to catch, if possible, a
glimpse of the unfortunate moth.
"I can't see him," confessed Margaret; "can you, mother?"
"My dear child, my eyes are not fitted with a microscope," Alice
"There!" cried Holcomb, as the trout splashed still farther out on the
quiet pond. "He's got him!"
"And we'll get _him_ some day," exclaimed Thayor, the fever of fishing
tingling within him.
"There are some big trout in here, Mr. Thayor," continued Holcomb.
"I've known this pond for several years and it has been rarely, if
"Then, Billy, we'll have to go at them at twilight," declared Thayor.
"You had better tell Freme to bring in one of the canvas canoes."
The four retraced their way over the trail. As they reached a muddy
place half way home Holcomb noticed the imprint of Margaret's trim
little feet. It was evident to Alice, who had been watching him, that
the tracks puzzled the young woodsman. There were four of these dainty
tracks instead of two; soon the mystery was cleared as Alice Thayor
passed ahead of him and Holcomb saw that Margaret's and her mother's
footprint were identical in size.
"You seem puzzled," Alice remarked, as Holcomb steadied her along a
"I was looking where you had stepped, Mrs. Thayor," he confessed.
Alice laughed, a low, delicious laugh.
"You see," she explained frankly, putting forth her trim boot, "my
daughter and I wear the same size."
Again Margaret and Holcomb took the lead. Thayor and Alice followed
them leisurely, Thayor talking of his purchase of which he had yet
only seen a small portion, Alice listening eagerly. During a pause she
"It must be frightfully hot in town, Sam. New York is dirty and
deserted; I pity those who cannot get away." He stopped and grew
enthusiastic again over the rare purity of the air.
"We ought to be thankful for _that_," he said, as he filled his lungs
with a deep breath. "Think of how many poor devils and delicate women
struggling for a living, and little children it would save."
"And the other people, too," she ventured boldly. "Poor Dr. Sperry
told me he would be lucky if he got out of New York at all this
summer. There are some important cases of his, I believe, which may
need him at any moment."
The mention of the doctor's name would have jarred on Sam at any other
time, but this morning he was too happy to care, and Alice, quick to
notice it, pressed on:
"I do wish he could come up here for a rest. I saw him at the Trevises
Thursday; he seemed utterly used up. Do you think he would come if we
asked him, Sam? Besides," she added cleverly, "I should like him to
Thayor stopped abruptly and looked at his wife with a curious
"So should I," he replied with some severity. "I should like him to
see that child now, if for nothing more than to have the satisfaction
of seeing how much even these few hours in the woods have
accomplished, and what a mistake he made when he said the child's
lungs needed looking after. Sperry is a surgeon, not a physician--and
he only makes himself ridiculous when he tries to be."
"I am quite of your opinion, Sam," Alice declared, not daring to
contradict her husband--a feeling of infinite rest creeping through
her veins as she spoke.
"He will then see for himself, I believe, that he was mistaken,"
continued Thayor in the same positive tone. "Margaret delicate!
Nonsense, my dear! By George--his diagnosis was not only brutal, it
was ridiculous. Why, Leveridge--"
"Be tolerant, Sam," returned Alice. "You know you always tell others
to be tolerant. Dr. Sperry evidently said what he believed to be the
truth. If he has been wrong I am sure he will be the first one to
acknowledge it, as any gentleman who has been mistaken would."
"Then he shall have the chance," replied Thayor. "You may invite him
at once, Alice, if you wish, but for one week only. Too much of Sperry
gets on my nerves."
* * * * *
When Alice reached her bedroom she locked the door and threw herself
on the bed in an ecstasy of tears. After some moments she arose with
an exultant look in her eyes, went over to her desk, unlocked a jewel
case and extracted from between the lining of a hidden compartment a
small photograph of Sperry at thirty, taken at Heidelberg.
Below the torrent of Big Shanty laughed in the sunlight.
For Thayor to welcome Sperry with a warm grasp of the hand and an
outburst of--"Oh! I'm glad you are here; it seems like a special
Providence," was so strange and unusual a performance that it is no
wonder Alice, moving toward the buckboard to add her own greeting to
her husband's, was lost in astonishment even when the cause of the
outburst became clear to her.
Her husband's mental attitude toward the doctor, if the truth be told,
was one of the things that had never ceased to trouble her. Polite as
he was to everybody, he had been so particularly polite to Sperry that
it always aroused her suspicions. She knew he had sent for him purely
to oblige her and to help her over the chasm which divided Big Shanty
from Newport, but what other reasons her husband had for inviting him
to share his hospitality at the camp, she was not so familiar with. It
therefore came as a distinct surprise when she heard him repeat with
increased warmth in his manner:
"Yes, a special Providence, my dear Dr. Sperry"--nor did the real
cause of the doctor's welcome set her mind at rest.
"This way, doctor," continued Thayor, dragging Sperry with him.
"Blakeman will bring your bag. One of our men is badly hurt; I was
on my way to him when I heard you driving up. He's only a few rods
The little man lay on his back on the floor of the lower shanty where
the men had carried him. The chain cinching down a heavy sapling
binding a load of shingles had snapped, and the wiry little
Frenchman--Gaston Le Boeuf--who was standing on top of the load, had
been shot into the air and landed in a ditch with his right
forearm splintered in two. The pain was intense, both bones of the
forearm--the ulnar and radius--being shattered transversely, the ulnar
poking through the flesh in an ugly blue wound.
When Thayor and the doctor reached him, the Clown was holding the
broken arm taut--he had to keep up a steady pull, for with the
slightest release the knotty sinews and muscles would cause the broken
forearm to fly back at right angles. Although this had happened a
dozen times while they were bringing him in, the wiry little man did
not utter a groan. He lay there white, in a cold sweat, the corners of
his black eyes crinkling over his bad luck. He had known what pain was
before. Once on Bog River his skinning knife had slipped while he was
dressing out a deer, and the keen blade had gone through his knotty
calf, severing the nerve; yet he had walked nearly a dozen miles back
As Sperry entered, the circle of lumber jacks about the wounded man
widened, then closed again about him, watching the doctor who soon had
the broken arm in an improvised splint.
The man from the city rarely gets very close to a backwoods people
unless he possesses sincerity, democracy, and an inborn love of the
woods--three virtues without which a man may remain always a stranger
in the wilderness.
The New York doctor possessed none of these qualities; moreover, he
was pitifully unadaptable outside of the artificial world in which
he posed. So much so that at first sight of the trapper and the
Clown--two men whom Thayor had pointed out to him as being his most
reliable assistants next to Holcomb--his only thought had been how Sam
Thayor could have such eccentric boors on the place. He noticed, too,
with irritation and astonishment, that none of the men raised their
hats until Alice and Margaret arrived on the scene; then not a man
among them remained covered.
What he did not notice, however, was the way the men around him were,
to use the Clown's expression, "sizin' him up," as they did all city
men and this before he had been ten minutes among them, with the
result that the trapper had concluded that he looked like a man who
was afraid of spoiling his clothes; that Holcomb and the Clown thought
him sadly lacking in Sam Thayor's frank simplicity; while the others
stood about waiting for some word or gesture on which to hang their
But all this was changed now. With his ready skill Sperry had become,
by the turn of his hand, so to speak, the Medicine Man of the tribe.
They were even ready to let down their social barriers and extend to
him all their friendship--a friendship he could have relied on for the
rest of his days.
"Dunno as I ever see a neater job," remarked a big fellow--a former
doubter--peering over the shoulders of the crowd, intent on the
doctor's handling of the wounded arm.
"Yes--yes--" drawled the Clown. "Goll! seems 'ough he knowed jest whar
to take hold."
"There," said Sperry, as he gave a final adjustment to the improvised
bandage. "You had better get him to bed."
"By gar, Doc'," grunted the little man between his teeth, "what you
goin' to do now, hein! I feel lot bettaire I tink eff I tak a drink."
He had not even asked for a drop of water before, nor had he spoken a
"He may have it," said Sperry, in the voice he used at consultations.
The Clown poured a tin cup full of whiskey and the little man drained
it to the last drop.
"He'll suffer," said Sperry, turning to the trapper, "when the arm
begins to swell under the bandage."
"Broke bad, Doc'?" asked the trapper.
"Yes, a compound fracture; but he'll be all right, my man, in a few
weeks." Sperry opened a thin leather case, which he took from his bag,
extracted a phial, and shook two whitish gray pills into the trapper's
palm. "Give him one in an hour, and another to-night if he can't
sleep," he said. He went over to the patient, felt his pulse, then
with a nod to the rest, he started toward the door.
"Hold on, Doc'!" came from half a dozen in the group of lumber jacks;
"won't ye take a leetle somethin' 'fore ye go?"
Sperry shook his head and smiled. "No, thank you," he said, half
amused. "I seldom take anything before luncheon."
"But, say--we'd like to fix it with ye--what's the damage, Doc'?" and
half a dozen rough hands went into their trousers pockets. But Sperry
only waved his hand in an embarrassed way in protest, and added:
"Of course not--what I have done for one of you men, I would do for
anybody. I shall see him in the morning"--and he strode out of the
By this time the little Frenchman's eyes were closed, and he was
breathing heavily--he was dead drunk.
"Goll! warn't that an awful hooker ye give him, Freme?" asked
the trapper. He turned to the sufferer, now that the doctor had
disappeared, and drew an extra blanket tenderly over him.
"Wall, he ain't no home'path," replied the Clown with a grin; "'sides,
I presume likely he needed all he could git down him."
* * * * *
The days that followed were full of joy to Alice. Never had Thayor
seen her in so merry a mood. Le Boeuf's broken arm had somehow
changed Thayor's attitude toward his guest--so much so that the
man's personality no longer jarred on him. He concluded that whatever
suspicions he had had--and they were never definite--were groundless.
Alice was simply bored in New York and Sperry amused her. That was the
secret of his success with his women patients; she was bored here, and
again Sperry amused her! Why not, then, give her all the pleasure
she wanted? With this result fixed in his mind, his attitude to the
"Exquisite" changed. He even sought out ways in which his guest's stay
could be made happy.
"You must see the trout pond, doctor," he would say. "Ah! you don't
believe we've got one--but we have; you must show it to the doctor, my
dear"--at which her eyes would seek her friend's, only to be met with
an answering look and the words:
"Delighted, my dear Mrs. Thayor," as he dropped a second lump of sugar
in his cup. Whereupon the two would disappear for the day, it being
nearly dusk before they returned again to camp; Alice bounding into
the living room radiant from her walk, her arms full of wild flowers.
There came a day, however, when Sperry, with one of his sudden
resolves, preferred the daughter's company to the wife's. What had
influenced his decision he must have confided to Alice--that is, his
version of it--for when he asked Margaret to come for a walk, and had
received the girl's answer, "I'm afraid we haven't time for a walk
before luncheon," Alice had replied: "Of course you have. The walk
will do you good."
What really determined him to seek Margaret's companionship was a
desire to fathom her heart. She was her father's confidante, and as
such might be dangerous, or useful. To have refused him Margaret knew
would only have made matters worse. Much as she disliked him, she was
grateful to him for having set the little Frenchman's arm; so she ran