Part 12 out of 12
here, with a club?"
They followed the tracks left by Saleratus Bill until it was evident
beyond doubt that the gun-man had in reality departed. Then they started
to retrace their steps.
"Why not cut across?" asked Bob.
"I want to see whereabouts I _was_ shooting," said Ware.
"We'll cut across and wait for you on the road."
"All right," Ware agreed.
They made their short-cut, and waited. After a minute or so Ware shouted
"Hullo!" Bob answered.
They returned down the dusty mill road. Just beyond the forks Ware was
standing, looking down at some object. As they approached he raised his
face to them. Even under its tan, it was pale.
"Guess this is another case of innocent bystander," said he gravely.
Flat on his back, arms outstretched in the dust, lay Oldham, with a
bullet hole accurately in the middle of his forehead.
"Good heavens!" cried Amy. "What an awful thing!"
"Yes, ma'am," said Ware; "this is certainly tough. But I can't see but
it was a plumb accident. Who'd have thought he'd be coming along the
road just at that minute."
"Of course, you're not to blame," Amy reassured him quickly. "We must
get help. Of course, he's quite dead."
Ware nodded, gazing down at his victim reflectively.
"I was shootin' a little high," he remarked at last.
Up to this moment Bob had said nothing.
"If it will relieve your mind, any," he told Ware, "it isn't such a case
of innocent bystander as you may think. This man is the one who hired
Saleratus Bill to abduct me in the first place; and probably to kill me
in the second. I have a suspicion he got what he deserved."
"Oh!" cried Amy, looking at him reproachfully.
"It's a fact," Bob insisted. "I know his connection with all this better
than you do, and his being on this road was no accident. It was to see
his orders carried out."
Ware was looking at him shrewdly.
"That fits," he declared. "I couldn't figure why my old friend Bill
didn't cut loose. But he's got a head on him."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, when he see Oldham dropped, what use was there of going to
shooting? It would just make trouble for him and he couldn't hope for no
pay. He just faded."
"He's a quick thinker, then," said Bob.
"You bet you!"
The two men laid Oldham's body under the shade. As they disposed it
decently, Bob experienced again that haunting sense of having known him
elsewhere that had on several occasions assailed his memory. The man's
face was familiar to him with a familiarity that Bob somehow felt
antedated his California acquaintance.
"We must get to the mill and send a wagon for him," Ware was saying.
But Amy suddenly turned faint, and was unable to proceed.
"It's perfectly silly of me!" she cried indignantly. "The idea of my
feeling faint! It makes me so angry!"
"It's perfectly natural," Bob told her. "I think you've shown a heap of
nerve. Most girls would have flopped over."
The men helped her to a streamlet some hundreds of yards away. Here it
was agreed that Ware should proceed in search of a conveyance; and that
Bob and Amy should there await his return.
Ware disappeared rapidly up the dusty road, Bob and Amy standing side by
side in silence, watching him go. When the lean, long figure of the old
mountaineer had quite disappeared, and the light, eddying dust, peculiar
to the Sierra country, had died, Amy closed her eyes, raised her hand to
her heart, and sank slowly to the bank of the little creek. Her vivid
colour, which had for a moment returned under the influence of her
strong will and her indignation over her weakness, had again ebbed from
Bob, with an exclamation of alarm, dropped to her side and passed his
arm back of her shoulders. As she felt the presence of his support, she
let slip the last desperate holdings of physical command, and leaned
back gratefully, breathing hard, her eyes still closed.
After a moment she opened them long enough to smile palely at the
anxious face of the young man.
"It's all right," she said. "I'm all right. Don't be alarmed. Just let
me rest a minute. I'll be all right."
She closed her eyes again. Bob, watching, saw the colour gradually
flowing up under her skin, and was reassured.
The girl lay against his arm limply. At first he was concerned merely
with the supporting of the slight burden; careful to hold her as
comfortably as possible. Then the warmth of her body penetrated to his
arm. A new emotion invaded him, feeble in the beginning, but gaining
strength from instant to instant. It mounted his breast as a tide would
mount, until it had shortened his breath, set his heart to thumping
dully, choked his throat. He looked down at her with troubled eyes,
following the curve of her upturned face, the long line of her throat
exposed by the backward thrown position of her head, the swell of her
breast under the thin gown. The helplessness of the pose caught at Bob's
heart. For the first time Amy--the vivid, self-reliant, capable,
laughing Amy--appealed to him as a being demanding protection, as a
woman with a woman's instinctive craving for cherishing, as a delicious,
soft, feminine creature, calling forth the tendernesses of a man's
heart. In the normal world of everyday association this side of her had
never been revealed, never suspected; yet now, here, it rose up to throw
into insignificance all the other qualities of the girl he had known.
Bob spared a swift thought of gratitude to the chance that had revealed
to him this unguessed, intimate phase of womanhood.
And then the insight with which the significant moment had endowed him
leaped to the simple comprehension of another thought--that this
revelation of intimacy, of the woman-appeal lying unguessed beneath the
comradeship of everyday life, was after all only a matter of chance. It
had been revealed to him by the accident of a moment's faintness, by
which the conscious will of the girl had been driven back from the
defences. In a short time it would be over. She would resume her
ordinary demeanour, her ordinary interest, her ordinary bright,
cheerful, attractive, matter-of-fact, efficient self. Everything would
be as before. But--and here Bob's breath came quickest--in the great
goodness of the world lay another possibility; that sometime, at the
call of some one person, for that one and no other, this inner beautiful
soul of the feminine appeal would come forth freely, consciously,
Amy opened her eyes, sat up, shook herself slightly, and laughed.
"I'm all right now," she told Bob, "and certainly very much ashamed."
"Amy!" he stammered.
She shot a swift look at him, and immediately arose to her feet.
"We will have to testify at a coroner's inquest, I presume," said she,
in the most matter-of-fact tones.
"I suppose so," agreed Bob morosely. It is impossible to turn back all
the strongly set currents of life without at least a temporary turmoil.
Amy glanced at him sideways, and smiled a faint, wise smile to herself.
For in these matters, while men are more analytical after the fact,
women are by nature more informed. She said nothing, but stooped to the
creek for a drink. When she had again straightened to her feet, Bob had
come to himself. The purport of Amy's last speech had fully penetrated
his understanding, and one word of it--the word _testify_--had struck
him with an idea.
"By Jove!" he cried, "that lets out Pollock!"
"What?" said Amy.
"This man Oldham was the only witness who could have convicted George
Pollock of killing Plant."
"What do you mean?" asked Amy, leaning forward interestedly. "Was he
there? How do you know about it?"
A half-hour before Bob would have hesitated long before confiding his
secret to a fourth party; but now, for him, the world of relations had
"I'll tell you about it," said he, without hesitation; "but this is
serious. You must never breathe even a word of it to any one!"
"Certainly not!" cried Amy.
"Oldham wasn't an actual witness of the killing; but I was, and he knew
it. He could have made me testify by informing the prosecuting
Bob sketched rapidly his share in the tragedy: how he had held Pollock's
horse, and been in a way an accessory to the deed. Amy listened
attentively to the recital of the facts, but before Bob had begun to
draw his conclusions, she broke in swiftly.
"So Oldham offered to let you off, if you would keep out of this Modoc
Land case," said she.
"That was it."
"But it would have put you in the penitentiary," she pointed out.
"Well, the case wasn't quite decided yet."
She made her quaint gesture of the happily up-thrown hands.
"Just what you said about Mr. Welton!" she cried. "Oh, I'm _glad_ you
told me this! I was trying so hard to think you were doing a high and
noble duty in ignoring the consequences to that poor old man. But I
could not. Now I see!"
"What do you mean?" asked Bob curiously, as she paused.
"You could do it because your act placed you in worse danger," she told
"Too many for me," Bob disclaimed. "I simply wasn't going to be bluffed
out by that gang!"
"That was it," said Amy wisely. "I know you better than you do yourself.
You don't suppose," she cried, as a new thought alarmed her, "that
Oldham has told the prosecuting attorney that your evidence would be
Bob shook his head.
"The trial is next week," he pointed out. "In case the prosecution had
intended calling me, I should have been summoned long since. There's
dust; they are coming. You'd better stay here."
She agreed readily to this. After a moment a light wagon drove up. On
the seat perched Welton and Ware. Bob climbed in behind.
They drove rapidly down to the forks, stopped and hitched the team.
"Ware's been telling me the whole situation, Bobby," said Welton. "That
gang's getting pretty desperate! I've heard of this man Oldham around
this country for a long while, but I always understood he was interested
against the Power Company."
"Bluff," said Bob briefly. "He's been in their employ from the first,
but I never thought he'd go in for quite this kind of strong-arm work.
He doesn't look it, do you think?"
"I never laid eyes on him," replied Welton. "He's never been near the
mill, and I never happened to run across him anywhere else."
By this time they had secured the team. Ware led the way to the tree
under which lay the body of the land agent. Welton surveyed the
prostrate figure for some time in silence. Then turned to Bob, a curious
expression on his face.
"It wasn't an accident that I never met him," said he. "He saw to it.
Don't you remember this man, Bobby?"
"I saw him in Los Angeles some years ago."
"Before that--in Michigan--many years ago."
"His face has always seemed familiar to me," said Bob slowly. "I can't
place it--yes--hold on!"
A picture defined itself from the mists of his boyhood memories. It was
of an open field, with a fringe of beech woods in the distance. A single
hickory stood near its centre, and under this a group lounged, smoking
pipes. A man, perched on a cracker box, held a blank book and pencil.
Another stood by a board, a gun in his hand. The smell of black powder
hung in the atmosphere. Little glass balls popped into the air, and were
snuffed out. He saw Oldham distinctly, looking younger and browner, but
with the same cynical mouth, the same cold eyes, the same slanted
eyeglasses. Even before his recollections reproduced the scorer's
drawling voice calling the next contestant, his memory supplied the
"It's Newmark!" he cried aloud.
"Joe Newmark, your father's old partner! He hasn't changed much. He
disappeared from Michigan when you were about eight years old; didn't
he! Nobody ever knew how or why, but everybody had suspicions.... Well;
let's get him in."
They disposed the body in the wagon, and drove back up the road. At the
little brook they stopped to let off Ware. It was agreed that all danger
to Bob was now past, and that the gun-man would do better to accompany
Amy back to headquarters. Of course, it would be necessary to work the
whole matter out at the coroner's inquest, but in view of the
circumstances, Ware's safety was assured.
At the mill the necessary telephoning was done, the officials summoned,
and everything put in order.
"What I really started over to see you about," then said Bob to Welton,
"is this matter of the Modoc Company." He went on to explain fully Amy's
plan for checkmating Baker. "You see, if I get in my word first, Baker
is as much implicated as you are, and it won't do him any good to turn
"I don't see as that helps me," remarked Welton gloomily.
"Baker might be willing to put himself in any position," said Bob; "but
I doubt if he'll care to take the risk of criminal punishment. I think
this will head him off completely; but if it doesn't, every move he
makes to save his own skin saves yours too."
"It may do some good," agreed Welton. "Try it."
"I've already written Baker. But I didn't want you to think I was
starting up the bloodhounds against you without some blame good reason."
"I'd know that anyway, Bobby," said Welton kindly. He stared moodily at
the stovepipe. "This is getting too thick for an old-timer," he broke
out at last. "I'm just a plain, old-fashioned lumberman, and all I know
is to cut lumber. I pass this mess up. I wired your father he'd better
come along out."
"Is he coming?" asked Bob eagerly.
"I just got a message over the 'phone from the telegraph office. He'll
be in White Oaks as fast as he can get there. Didn't I tell you?"
"Wire him aboard train to go through to Fremont, and that we'll meet him
there," said Bob instantly. "It's getting about time to beard the lion
in his den."
The coroner's inquest detained Bob over until the week following. In it
Amy's testimony as to the gun-man's appearance and evident intention was
quite sufficient to excuse Ware's shooting; and the fact that Oldham, as
he was still known, instead of Saleratus Bill, received the bullet was
evidently sheer unavoidable accident. Bob's testimony added little save
corroboration. As soon as he could get away, he took the road to
Orde was awaiting his son at the station. Bob saw the straight, heavy
figure, the tanned face with the snow-white moustache, before the train
had come to a stop. Full of eagerness, he waved his hat over the head of
the outraged porter barricaded on the lower steps by his customary
accumulation of suit cases.
"Hullo, dad! Hullo, there!" he shouted again and again, quite oblivious
to the amusement of the other passengers over this tall and bronzed
young man's enthusiasm.
Orde caught sight of his son at last; his face lit up, and he, too,
swung his hat. A moment later they had clasped hands.
After the first greetings, Bob gave his suit case in charge to the hotel
"We'll take a little walk up the street and talk things over," he
They sauntered slowly up the hill and down the side streets beneath the
pepper and acacia trees of Fremont's beautiful thoroughfares. So
absorbed did they become that they did not realize in the slightest
where they were going, so that at last they had topped the ridge and,
from the stretch of the Sunrise Drive, they looked over into the canon.
"So you've been getting into trouble, have you?" chaffed Orde, as they
left the station.
"I don't know about that," Bob rejoined. "I do know that there are quite
a number of people in trouble."
"Tell me about this Welton difficulty," said he. "Frank Taylor has our
own matters well in hand. The opposition won't gain much by digging up
that old charge against the integrity of our land titles. We'll count
that much wiped off the slate."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Bob heartily. "Well, the trouble with Mr.
Welton is that the previous administration held him up--" He detailed
the aspects of the threatened bribery case; while Orde listened without
comment. "So," he concluded, "it looked at first as if they rather had
him, if I testified. It had me guessing. I hated the thought of getting
a man like Mr. Welton in trouble of that sort over a case in which he
was no way interested."
"What did you decide?" asked Orde curiously.
"I decided to testify."
"I suppose so. I felt a little better about it, because they had me in
the same boat. That let me out in my own feelings, naturally."
"How?" asked Orde swiftly.
"There had been trouble up there between Plant--you remember I wrote you
of the cattle difficulties?"
"With Simeon Wright? I know all that."
"Well, one of the cattlemen was ruined by Plant's methods; his wife and
child died from want of care on that account. He was the one who killed
Plant; you remember that."
"I happened to be near and I helped him escape."
"And some one connected with the Modoc Company was a witness,"
conjectured Orde. "Who was it?"
"A man who went under the name of Oldham. A certain familiarity puzzled
me for a long time. Only the other day I got it. He was Mr. Newmark."
"Newmark!" cried Orde, stopping short and staring fixedly at his son.
"Yes; the man who was your partner when I was a very small boy. You
"Remember!" repeated Orde; then in tones of great energy: "He and I both
have reason to remember well enough! Where is he now? I can put a stop
to him in about two jumps!"
"You won't need to," said Bob quietly; "he's dead--shot last week."
For some moments nothing more was said, while the two men trudged
beneath the hanging peppers near the entrance to Sunrise Drive.
"I always wondered why he had it in for me, and why he acted so
queerly," Bob broke the silence at last. "He seemed to have a special
and personal enmity for me. I always felt it, but I couldn't make it
"He had plenty of reasons for that. But it's funny Welton didn't
recognize the whelp."
"Mr. Welton never saw him," Bob explained--"that is, until Newmark was
dead. Then he recognized him instantly. What was it all about?"
Orde indicated the bench on the canon's edge.
"Let's sit," said he. "Newmark and I made our start together. For eight
years we worked together and built up a very decent business. Then, all
at once, I discovered that he was plotting systematically to do me out
of every cent we had made. It was the most cold-blooded proposition I
ever ran across."
"Couldn't you prove it on him?" asked Bob.
"I could prove it all right; but the whole affair made me sick. He'd
always been the closest friend, in a way, I had ever had; and the shock
of discovering what he really was drove everything else out of my head.
I was young then. It seemed to me that all I wanted was to wipe the
whole affair off the slate, to get it behind me, to forget it--so I let
"I don't believe I'd have done that. Seems to me I'd have had to blow
off steam," Bob commented.
Orde smiled reminiscently.
"I blew off steam," [A] said he. "It was rather fantastic; but I
actually believe it was one of the most satisfactory episodes in my
life. I went around to his place--he lived rather well in bachelor
quarters, which was a new thing in those days--and locked the door and
told him just why I was going to let him off. It tickled him hugely--for
about a minute. Then I finished up by giving him about the very worst
licking he ever heard tell of."
[Footnote A: See "The Riverman."]
"Was that what you told him?" cried Bob.
"Did you say those words to him?--'I'm going to give you the very worst
licking you ever heard tell of'?"
"Why, I believe I did."
Bob threw back his head and laughed.
"So did I!" he cried; and then, after a moment, more soberly. "I think,
incidentally, it saved my life."
"Now what are you driving at?" asked Orde.
"Listen, this is funny: Newmark had me kidnapped by one of his men, and
lugged off to a little valley in the mountains. The idea was to keep me
there until after the trial, so my testimony would not appear. You see,
none of our side knew I had that testimony. I hadn't told anybody,
because I had been undecided as to what I was going to do."
"I got away, and had quite a time getting home. I'll tell you all the
details some other time. On the road I met Newmark. I was pretty mad, so
I lit into him stiff-legged. After a few words he got scared and pulled
a gun on me. I was just mad enough to keep coming, and I swear I believe
he was just on the point of shooting, when I said those very same
words: 'I'm going to give you the very worst licking you ever heard
tell of.' He turned white as a sheet and dropped his gun. I thought he
was a coward; but I guess it was conscience and luck. Now, wouldn't that
come and get you?"
"Did you?" asked Orde.
"Did I what?"
"Give him that licking?"
"I sure did start out to; but I couldn't bring myself to more than shake
him up a little."
Orde rose, stretching his legs.
"What are your plans now?"
"To see Baker. I'm going to tell him that on the first indications of
his making trouble I'm going to enter complaint for bribery against
_both_ him and Mr. Welton. You see, I was there too. Think it'll work?"
"The best way is to go and see."
"Come on," said Bob.
The two men found Baker seated behind his flat-top desk. He grinned
cheerfully at them; and, to Bob's surprise, greeted him with great
"All hail, great Chief!" he cried. "I've had my scalp nicely
smoke-tanned for you, so you won't have to bother taking it." He bowed
to Orde. "I'm glad to see you, sir," said he. "Know you by your picture.
Please be seated."
Bob brushed the levity aside.
"I've come," said he, "to get an explanation from you as to why, in the
first place, you had me kidnapped; and why, in the second place, you
tried to get me murdered."
Baker's mocking face became instantly grave; and, leaning forward, he
hit the desk a thump with his right fist.
"Orde," said he, "I want you to believe me in this: I never was more
sorry for anything in my life! I wouldn't have had that happen for
anything in the world! If I'd had the remotest idea that Oldham
contemplated something of that sort, I should have laid very positive
orders on him. He said he had something on you that would keep your
mouth shut, but I never dreamed he meant gun play."
"I don't suppose you dreamed he meant kidnapping either," observed Bob.
Baker threw himself back with a chuckle.
"Being kidnapped is fine for the health," said he. "Babies thrive on it.
No," he continued, again leaning forward gravely, "Oldham got away from
his instructions completely. Shooting or that kind of violence was
absurd in such a case. You mustn't lay that to me, but to his personal
"What do you know of a personal grudge?" Bob flashed back.
"Ab-so-lute-ly nothing; but I suspected. It's part of my job to be a
nifty young suspector--and to use what I guess at. He just got away from
me. As for the rest of it, that's part of the game. This is no croquet
match; you must expect to get your head bumped if you play it. I play
"I play the game, too," returned Bob, "and I came here to tell you so.
I'll take care of myself, but I want to say that the moment you offer
any move against Welton, I shall bring in my testimony against both of
you on this bribery matter."
"Sapient youth!" said Baker, amused; "did that aspect of it just get to
you? But you misinterpreted the spirit of my greeting when you came in
the room. In words of one syllable, you've got us licked. We lie down
and roll over. We stick all four paws in the air. We bat our august
forehead against the floor. Is that clear?"
"Then you drop this prosecution against Welton?"
"Nary prosecution, as far as I am concerned."
"But the Modoc Land case----"
"Take back your lands," chaffed Baker dramatically. "Kind of bum lands,
anyway. No use skirmishing after the battle is over. Your father would
tell you that."
"Then you don't fight the suit?"
"That," said Baker, "is still a point for compromise. You've got us, I'm
willing to admit that. Also that you are a bright young man, and that I
underestimated you. You've lifted my property, legally acquired, and
you've done it by outplaying my bluff. I still maintain the points of
the law are with me--we won't get into that," he checked himself. "But
criminal prosecution is a different matter. I don't intend to stand for
that a minute. Your gang don't slow-step me to any bastiles now listed
in the prison records. Nothing doing that way. I'll fight her to a
fare-ye-well on that." His round face seemed to become square-set and
grim for an instant, but immediately reassumed its customary rather
careless good-nature. "No, we'll just call the whole business off."
"That is not for me to decide," said Bob.
"No; but you've got a lot to say about it--and I'll see to the little
details; don't fret. By the way," mentioned Baker, "just as a matter of
ordinary curiosity, _did_ Oldham have anything on you, or was he just a
strong-arm artist?" He threw back his head and laughed aloud at Bob's
face. At the thought of Pollock the young man could not prevent a
momentary expression of relief from crossing his countenance. "There's a
tail-holt on all of us," Baker observed.
He flipped open a desk drawer and produced a box of expensive-looking
cigars which he offered to his visitors. Orde lit one; but Bob, eyeing
the power-man coldly, refused. Baker laughed.
"You'll get over it," he observed--"youth, I mean. Don't mix your
business and your personal affairs. That came right out of the copy
book, page one, but it's true. I'm the one that ought to feel sore,
seems to me." He lit his own cigar, and puffed at it, swinging his bulky
form to the edge of the desk. "Look here," said he, shaking the butt at
the younger man. "You're making a great mistake. The future of this
country is with water, and don't you forget it. Fuel is scarce; water
power is the coming force. The country can produce like a garden under
irrigation; and it's only been scratched yet, and that just about the
big cities. We are getting control; and the future of the state is with
us. You're wasting yourself in all this toy work. You've got too much
ability to squander it in that sort of thing. Oldham made you an offer
from us, didn't he?"
"He tried to bribe me, if that's what you mean," said Bob.
"Well, have it your way; but you'll admit there's hardly much use of
bribing you now. I repeat the offer. Come in with us on those terms."
"Why?" demanded Bob.
"Well," said Baker quaintly, "because you seem to have licked me fair
and square; and I never want a man who can lick me to remain where he is
likely to do so."
At this point Orde, who had up to now remained quietly a spectator,
"Bob," said he, "is already fairly intimately connected with certain
interests, which, while not so large as water power, are enough to keep
Baker turned to him joyously.
"List' to the voice of reason!" he cried. "I'm sorry he won't come with
us; but the next best thing is to put him where he won't fight us. I
didn't know he was going back to your timber--"
Bob opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again at a gesture from his
Baker glanced at the clock.
"Well," he remarked cheerfully, "come over to the Club with me to lunch,
Bob stared at him incredulously. Here was the man who had employed
against him every expedient from blackmail to physical violence; who had
but that instant been worsted in a bald attempt at larceny,
nevertheless, cheerfully inviting him out to lunch as though nothing had
happened! Furthermore, his father, against whose ambitions one of the
deadliest blows had been aimed, was quietly reaching for his hat. Baker
looked up and caught Bob's expression.
"Come, come!" said he; "forget it! You and I speak the language of the
same tribe, and you can't get away from it. I'm playing my game, you're
playing yours. Of course, we want to win. But what's the use of cutting
out lots of bully good people on that account?"
"You don't stick to the rules," insisted Bob stoutly.
"I think I do," said Baker. "Who's to decide? You believe one way, I
believe another. I know what you think of my methods in business; and
I'd hate to say what I think of you as the blue ribbon damn fool in
that respect. But I like you, and I'm willing to admit you've got stuff
in you; and I know damn well you and your father and I can have a fine
young lunch talking duck-shooting and football. And with all my faults
you love me still, and you know you do." He smiled winningly, and hooked
his arm through Bob's on one side and his father's on the other. "Come
on, you old deacon; play the game!" he cried.
Bob laughed, and gave in.
Bob took his father with him back to headquarters. They rode in near the
close of day; and, as usual, from the stovepipe of the roofless kitchen
a brave pillar of white smoke rose high in the shadows of the firs. Amy
came forth at Bob's shout, starched and fresh, her cheeks glowing with
their steady colour, her intelligent eyes alight with interest under the
straight, serene brows. At sight of Orde, the vivacity of her manner
quieted somewhat, but Bob could see that she was excited about
something. He presented his father, who dismounted and greeted her with
a hearty shake of the hand.
"We've heard of you, Miss Thorne," said he simply, but it was evident he
was pleased with the frankness of her manner, the clear steadiness of
her eye, the fresh daintiness of her appearance, and the respect of her
greeting. On the other hand, she looked back with equal pleasure on the
tanned, sturdy old man with the white hair and moustache, the clear
eyes, and the innumerable lines of quaint good-humour about them. After
they had thus covertly surveyed each other for a moment, the aforesaid
lines about Orde's eyes deepened, his eyes twinkled with mischief, and
he thrust forth his hand for the second time. "Shake again!" he offered.
Amy gurgled forth a little chuckle of good feeling and understanding,
and laid her fingers in his huge palm.
After this they turned and walked slowly to the hitch rails where the
men tied their horses.
"Where's the Supervisor?" Bob asked of Amy.
"In the office," she replied; and then burst out excitedly: "I've the
"So have I," returned Bob, promptly. "Best kind."
"Oh, what is it?" she cried, forgetting all about her own. "Is it Mr.
"It'll take some time to tell mine," said Bob, "and we must hunt up Mr.
Thorne. Yours first."
"Pollock is free!"
"Pollock free!" echoed Bob. "How is that? I thought his trial was not
until next week!"
"The prosecuting attorney quashed the indictment--or whatever it is they
do. Anyhow, he let George go for lack of evidence to convict."
"I guess he was relying on evidence promised by Oldham, which he never
got," Bob surmised.
"And never will," Orde cautioned them. "You two young people must be
careful never to know anything of this."
Bob opened his mouth to say something; was suddenly struck by a thought,
and closed it again.
"Why do you say that?" he asked at last. "Why do you think Miss Thorne
must know of this?"
But Orde only smiled amusedly beneath his white moustache.
They found Ashley Thorne, and acquainted him with the whole situation.
He listened thoughtfully.
"The matter is over our heads, of course; but we must do our best. Of
course, by all rights the man ought to be indicted; but there can be no
question that there is a common sense that takes the substance of
victory and lets the shadow go."
Orde stayed to supper and over night. In the course of the evening
California John drifted in, and Ware, and Jack Pollock, and such other
of the rangers as happened to be in from the Forest. Orde was at his
best; and ended, to Bob's vast pride, in getting himself well liked by
these conservative and quietly critical men of the mountains.
The next morning Bob and his father saddled their horses and started
early for the mill, Bob having been granted a short leave of absence.
For some distance they rode in silence.
"Father," said Bob, "why did you stop me from contradicting Baker the
other day when he jumped to the conclusion that I was going to quit the
"I think you are."
"Only if you want to, Bob. I don't want to force you in any way; but
both Welton and I are getting old, and we need younger blood. We'd
rather have you." Bob shook his head. "I know what you mean, and I
realize how you feel about the whole matter. Perhaps you are right. I
have nothing to say against conservation and forestry methods
theoretically. They are absolutely correct. I agree that the forests
should be cut for future growths, and left so that fire cannot get
through them; but it is a grave question in my mind whether, as yet, it
can be done."
"But it is being done!" cried Bob. "There is no difficulty in doing it."
"That's for you to prove, if you want to," said Orde. "If you care to
resign from the Service, we will for two years give you full swing with
our timber, to cut and log according to your ideas--or rather the ideas
of those over you. In that time you can prove your point, or fail.
Personally," he repeated, "I have grave doubts as to whether it can be
done at present; it will be in the future of course."
"Why, what do you mean?" asked Bob. "It is being done every day! There's
nothing complicated about it. It's just a question of cutting and piling
the tops, and--"
"I know the methods advocated," broke in Orde. "But it is not being done
except on Government holdings where conditions as to taxation, situation
and a hundred other things are not like those of private holdings; or on
private holdings on an experimental scale, or in conjunction with older
methods. The case has not been proved on a large private tract. Now is
your chance so to prove it."
Bob's face was grave.
"That means a pretty complete about-face for me, sir," said he. "I
fought this all out with myself some years back. I feel that I have
fitted myself into the one thing that is worth while for me."
"I know," said Orde. "Don't hurry. Think it over. Take advice. I have a
notion you'll find this--if its handled right, and works out right--will
come to much the same thing."
He rode along in silence for some moments.
"I want to be fair," he resumed at last, "and do not desire to get you
in this on mistaken premises. This will not be a case of experiment, of
plaything, but of business. However desirable a commercial theory may
be, if it's commercial, _it must pay_! It's not enough if you don't lose
money; or even if you succeed in coming out a little ahead. You must
make it pay on a commercial basis, or else it's as worthless in the
business world as so much moonshine. That is not sordid; it is simply
common sense. We all agree that it would be better to cut our forests
for the future; but _can it be done under present conditions?_"
"There is no question of that," said Bob confidently.
"There is quite a question of it among some of us old fogies, Bobby,"
stated Orde good-humouredly. "I suppose we're stupid and behind the
times; but we've been brought up in a hard school. We are beyond the age
when we originate much, perhaps; but we're willing to be shown."
He held up his hand, checking over his fingers as he talked.
"Here's the whole proposition," said he. "You can consider it. Welton
and I will turn over the whole works to you, lock, stock and barrel, for
two years. You know the practical side of the business as well as you
ever will, and you've got a good head on you. At the end of that time,
turn in your balance sheet. We'll see how you come out, and how much it
costs a thousand feet to do these things outside the schoolroom."
"If I took it up, I couldn't make it pay quite as well as by present
methods," Bob warned.
"Of course not. Any reasonable man would expect to spend something by
way of insurance for the future. But the point is, the operations must
pay. Think it over!"
They emerged into the mill clearing. Welton rolled out to greet them,
his honest red face aglow with pleasure over greeting again his old
friend. They pounded each other on the back, and uttered much facetious
and affectionate abuse. Bob left them cursing each other heartily, broad
grins illuminating their weatherbeaten faces.
Bob's obvious course was to talk the whole matter over with his superior
officer, and that is exactly what he intended to do. Instead, he hunted
up Amy. He justified this course by the rather sophistical reflection
that in her he would encounter the most positive force to the contrary
of the proposition he had just received. Amy stood first, last and all
the time for the Service; her heart was wholly in its cause. In her
opinion he would gain the advantage of a direct antithesis to the ideas
propounded by his father. This appeared to Bob an eminently just
arrangement, but failed to account for a certain rather breathless
excitement as he caught sight of Amy's sleek head bending over a pan of
"Amy," said he, dropping down at her feet, "I want your advice."
She let fall her hands and looked at him with the refreshing directness
peculiarly her own.
"Father wants me to take charge of the Wolverine Company's operations,"
"Well?" she urged him after a pause.
"What do you think of it?"
"I thought you had worked that all out for yourself some time ago."
"I had. But father and Mr. Welton are getting a little too old to handle
such a proposition, and they are looking to me--" he paused.
"That situation is no different than it has been," she suggested. "What
"You see through me very easily, don't you? Well, the situation is
changed. I'm being bribed."
"Bribed!" Amy cried, throwing her head back.
"Extra inducements offered. They make it hard for me to refuse, without
seeming positively brutal. They offer me complete charge--to do as I
want. I can run the works absolutely according to my own ideas. Don't
you see how I am going to hurt them when I refuse under such
"Refuse!" cried Amy. "Refuse! What do you mean!"
"Do you think I ought to leave the Service?" stammered Bob blankly.
"Why, it's the best chance the Service has ever had!" said Amy, the
words fairly tumbling over one another. "You must never dream of
refusing. It's your chance--it's our chance. It's the one thing we've
lacked, the opportunity of showing lumbermen everywhere that the thing
can be made to pay. It's the one thing we've lacked. Oh, _what_ a
"But--but," objected Bob--"it means giving up the Service--after these
years--and all the wide interests--and the work----"
"You must take it," she swept him away, "and you must do it with all
your power and all the ability that is in you. You must devote yourself
to one idea--make money, make it pay!"
"This from you," said Bob sadly.
"Oh, I am so _glad_!" cried Amy. "Your father is a dear! it's the one
fear that has haunted me--lest some visionary incompetent should attempt
it, and should fail dismally, and all the great world of business should
visit our methods with the scorn due only his incompetence. It was our
great danger! And now it is no longer a danger! You can do it, Bob; you
have the knowledge and the ability and the energy--and you must have the
enthusiasm. Can't you see it? You _must!_"
She leaned over, her eyes shining with the excitement of her thought,
to shake him by both shoulders. The pan of peas promptly deluged him.
They both laughed.
"I'd never looked at it that way," Bob confessed.
"It's the only way to look at it."
"Why!" cried Bob, in the sudden illumination of a new idea. "The more
money I make, the more good I'll do--that's a brand new idea for you!"
He rose to his feet, slowly, and stood for a moment lost in thought.
Then he looked down at her, a fresh admiration shining in his eyes.
"Yours is the inspiration and the insight--as always," he said humbly.
"It has always been so. I have seemed to myself to have blundered and
stumbled, groping for a way; and you have flown, swift as a shining
arrow, straight to the mark."
"No, no, no, no!" she disclaimed, coming close to him in the vigour of
her denial. "You are unfair."
She looked up into his face, and somehow in the earnestness of her
disclaimer, the feminine soul of her rose to her eyes, so that again Bob
saw the tender, appealing helplessness, and once more there arose to
full tide in his breast the answering tenderness that would care for her
and guard her from the rough jostling of the world. The warmth of her
young body tingled in recollection along his arm, and then, strangely
enough, without any other direct cause whatever, the tide rose higher to
flood his soul. He drew her to him, crushing her to his breast. For an
instant she yielded to him utterly; then drew away in a panic.
"My dear, my dear!" she half whispered; "not here!"
Bob rode home through the forest, singing at the top of his voice. When
he met his father, near the lower meadow, he greeted the older man
"That," said Orde to him shrewdly, "sounds to me mighty like relief.
Have you decided for or against?"
"For," said Bob. "It's a fine chance for me to do just what I've always
wanted to do--to work hard at what interests me and satisfies me."
"Go to it, then," said Orde. "By the way, Bobby, how old are you now?"
"Well, you're a year younger than I was when I started in with Newmark.
You're ahead of me there. But in other respects, my son, your father had
a heap more sense; he got married, and he didn't waste any time on it.
How long have you been living around in range of that Thorne girl,
anyway? Somebody ought to build a fire under you."
Bob hesitated a moment; but he preferred that his good news should come
to his father when Amy could be there, too.
"I'm glad you like her, father," said he quietly.
Orde looked at his son, and his voice fell from its chaffing tone. "Good
luck, boy," said he, and leaned from his saddle to touch the young man
on the shoulder.
They emerged into the clearing about the mill. Bob looked on the
familiar scene with the new eyes of a great spiritual uplift. The yellow
sawdust and the sawn lumber; the dark forest beyond; the bulk of the
mill with its tall pines; the dazzling plume of steam against the very
blue sky, all these appealed to him again with many voices, as they had
years before in far-off Michigan. Once more he was back where his blood
called him; but under conditions which his training and the spirit of
the new times could approve. His heart exulted at the challenge to his
As he rode by the store he caught sight within its depths of Merker
methodically waiting on a stolid squaw.
"No more economic waste, Merker!" he could not forbear shouting; and
then rocked in his saddle with laughter over the man's look of slow
surprise. "It's his catchword," he explained to Orde. "He's a slow,
queer old duck, but a mighty good sort for the place. There's Post, in
from the woods. He's woods foreman. I expect I'll have lively times with
Post at first, getting him broken into new ways. But he's a good sort,
"Everybody's a good sort to-day, aren't they, son?" smiled Orde.
Welton met them, and expressed his satisfaction over the way everything
had turned out.
"I'm going duck shooting for fair," said he, "and I'm going fishing at
Catalina. Out here," he explained to Orde, "you sit in nice warm sun and
let the ducks insult you into shooting at 'em! No
freeze-your-fingers-and-break-the-ice early mornings! I'm willing to let
the kid go it! He can't bust me in two years, anyway."
Later, when the two were alone together, he clapped Bob on the back and
wished him success.
"I'm too old at the game to believe much in new methods to what I've
been brought up to, Bob," said he; "but I believe in you. If anybody can
do it, you can; and I'd be tickled to see you win out. Things change;
and a man is foolish to act as though they didn't. He's just got to keep
playing along according to the rules of the game. And they keep
changing, too. It's good to have lived while they're making a country.
I've done it. You're going to."