Lister's Great Adventure
Part 1 out of 5
LISTER'S GREAT ADVENTURE
BY HAROLD BINDLOSS
_Author_ of "THE WILDERNESS MINE," "WYNDHAM'S PAL," "PARTNERS OF THE
OUT-TRAIL," "THE BUCCANEER FARMER," "THE LURE OF THE NORTH," "THE GIRL
FROM KELLER'S," "CARMEN'S MESSENGER," ETC.
PART I--BARBARA'S REBELLION
I CARTWRIGHT MEDDLES
II IN THE DARK
III BARBARA VANISHES
IV THE GIRL ON THE PLATFORM
V SHILLITO GETS AWAY
VI WINNIPEG BEACH
VII LISTER'S DISSATISFACTION
VIII THE TEST
IX BARBARA PLAYS A PART
X VERNON'S CURIOSITY
PART II--THE RECKONING
I VERNON'S PLOT
II BARBARA'S RETURN
III LISTER CLEARS THE GROUND
IV A DISSATISFIED SHAREHOLDER
V CARTWRIGHT'S SCRUPLES
VI A NASTY KNOCK
VII THE SHAREHOLDERS' MEETING
VIII A STOLEN EXCURSION
IX CARTWRIGHT SEES A PLAN
X A BOLD SPECULATION
XI THE START
PART III--THE BREAKING STRAIN
I THE FIRST STRUGGLE
II THE WRECK
III A FUEL PROBLEM
IV MONTGOMERY'S OFFER
V MONTGOMERY USES HIS POWER
VI LISTER MEETS AN OLD ANTAGONIST
VII BARBARA'S REFUSAL
VIII CARTWRIGHT GETS TO WORK
IX LISTER MAKES GOOD
X BARBARA TAKES CONTROL
XI LISTER'S REWARD
PART I--BARBARA'S REBELLION
Dinner was over, and Cartwright occupied a chair on the lawn in front of
the Canadian summer hotel. Automatic sprinklers threw sparkling showers
across the rough, parched grass, the lake shimmered, smooth as oil, in
the sunset, and a sweet, resinous smell drifted from the pines that
rolled down to the water's edge. The straight trunks stood out against a
background of luminous red and green, and here and there a slanting beam
touched a branch with fire.
Natural beauty had not much charm for Cartwright, who was satisfied to
loaf and enjoy the cool of the evening. He had, as usual, dined well,
his cigar was good, and he meant to give Mrs. Cartwright half an hour.
Clara expected this, and, although he was sometimes bored, he indulged
her when he could. Besides, it was too soon for cards. The lights had
not begun to spring up in the wooden hotel, and for the most part the
guests were boating on the lake. When he had finished his cigar it would
be time to join the party in the smoking-room. Cartwright was something
of a gambler and liked the American games. They gave one scope for
bluffing, and although his antagonists declared his luck was good, he
knew his nerve was better. In fact, since he lost his money by a
reckless plunge, he had to some extent lived by bluff. Yet some people
trusted Tom Cartwright.
Mrs. Cartwright did so. She was a large, dull woman, but had kept a
touch of the beauty that had marked her when she was young. She was
kind, conventional, and generally anxious to take the proper line.
Cartwright was twelve years older, and since she was a widow and had
three children when she married him, her friends declared her money
accounted for much, and a lawyer relation carefully guarded, against
Cartwright's using her fortune.
Yet, in a sense, Cartwright was not an adventurer, although his ventures
in finance and shipping were numerous. He sprang from an old Liverpool
family whose prosperity diminished when steamers replaced sailing ships.
His father had waited long before he resigned himself to the change, but
was not altogether too late, and Cartwright was now managing owner of
the Independent Freighters Line. The company's business had brought him
to Montreal, and when it was transacted he had taken Mrs. Cartwright and
her family to the hotel by the Ontario lake.
Cartwright's hair and mustache were white; his face was fleshy and red.
He was fastidious about his clothes, and his tailor cleverly hid the
bulkiness of his figure. As a rule, his look was fierce and commanding,
but now and then his small keen eyes twinkled. Although Cartwright was
clever, he was, in some respects, primitive. He had long indulged his
appetites, and wore the stamp of what is sometimes called good living.
The managing owner of the Independent Freighters needed cleverness,
since the company was small and often embarrassed for money. For the
most part, it ran its ships in opposition to the regular liners. When
the _Conference_ forced up freights Cartwright quietly canvassed the
merchants and offered to carry their goods at something under the
standard rate, if the shippers would engage to fill up his boat. As a
rule, secrecy was important, but sometimes, when cargo was scarce,
Cartwright let his plans be known and allowed the _Conference_ to buy
him off. Although his skill in the delicate negotiations was marked, the
company paid small dividends and he had enemies among the shareholders.
Now, however, he was satisfied. _Oreana_ had sailed for Montreal, loaded
to the limit the law allowed, and he had booked her return cargo before
the _Conference_ knew he was cutting rates.
Mrs. Cartwright talked, but she talked much and Cartwright hardly
listened, and looked across the lake. A canoe drifted out from behind a
neighboring point, and its varnished side shone in the fading light.
Then a man dipped the paddle, and the ripple at the bow got longer and
broke the reflections of the pines. A girl, sitting at the stern, put
her hands in the water, and when she flung the sparkling drops at her
companion her laugh came across the lake. Cartwright's look got keen and
he began to note his wife's remarks.
"Do you imply Barbara's getting fond of the fellow?" he asked.
"I am afraid of something like that," Mrs. Cartwright admitted. "In a
way, one hesitates to meddle; sometimes meddling does harm, and, of
course, if Barbara really loved the young man--" She paused and gave
Cartwright a sentimental smile. "After all, I married for love, and a
number of my friends did not approve."
Cartwright grunted. He had married Clara because she was rich, but it
was something to his credit that she had not suspected this. Clara was
dull, and her dullness often amused him.
"If you think it necessary, I won't hesitate about meddling," he
remarked. "Shillito's a beggarly sawmill clerk."
"He said he was _treasurer_ for an important lumber company. Barbara's
very young and romantic, and although she has not known him long--"
"She has known him for about two weeks," Cartwright rejoined. "Perhaps
it's long enough. Shillito's what Canadians call a looker and Barbara's
a romantic fool. I've no doubt he's found out she'll inherit some money;
it's possible she's told him. Now I come to think about it, she was off
somewhere all the afternoon, and it looks as if she had promised the
fellow the evening."
He indicated the canoe and was satisfied when Mrs. Cartwright agreed,
since he refused to wear spectacles and own his sight was going.
Although Clara was generous, he could not use her money, and, indeed,
did not mean to do so, but he was extravagant and his managing owner's
post was not secure. When one had powerful antagonists, one did not
admit that one was getting old.
"I doubt if Shillito's character is all one could wish,'" Mrs.
Cartwright resumed. "Character's very important, don't you think? Mrs.
Grant--the woman with the big hat--knows something about him and she
said he was _fierce_. I think she meant he was wild. Then she hinted he
spent money he ought not to spend. But isn't a treasurer's pay good?"
Cartwright smiled, for he was patient to his wife. "It depends upon the
company. A treasurer is sometimes a book-keeping clerk. However, the
trouble is, Barbara's as wild as a hawk, though I don't know where she
got her wildness. Her brother and sister are tame enough."
"Sometimes I'm bothered about Barbara," Mrs. Cartwright agreed. "She's
rash and obstinate; not like the others. I don't know if they're tame,
but they had never given me much anxiety. One can trust them to do all
Cartwright said nothing. As a rule, Clara's son and elder daughter
annoyed him. Mortimer Hyslop was a calculating prig; Grace was finicking
and bound by ridiculous rules. She was pale and inanimate; there was no
blood in her. But Cartwright was fond of the younger girl. Barbara was
frankly flesh and blood; he liked her flashes of temper and her pluck.
When the canoe came to the landing he got up. "Leave the thing to me,"
he said. "I'll talk to Shillito."
He went off, but when he reached the steps to the veranda in front of
the hotel he stopped. His gout bothered him. At the top Mortimer Hyslop
was smoking a cigarette. The young man was thin and looked bored; his
summer clothes were a study in harmonious colors, and he had delicate
hands like a woman's. When he saw Cartwright stop he asked: "Can I help
you up, sir?"
Cartwright's face got red. He hated an offer of help that drew attention
to his infirmity, and thought Mortimer knew.
"No, thanks! I'm not a cripple yet. Have you seen Shillito?"
"You'll probably find him in the smoking room. The card party has gone
in and he's a gambler."
"So am I!"
Mortimer shrugged, and Cartwright wondered whether the fellow meant to
imply that his gambling was not important since he had married a rich
wife. The young man, however, hesitated and looked thoughtful.
"I don't know your object for wanting Shillito, but if my supposition's
near the mark, might I state that I approve? In fact, I'd begun to
wonder whether something ought not to be done. The fellow's plausible.
Not our sort, of course; but when a girl's romantic and obstinate--"
Cartwright stopped him. "Exactly! Well, I'm the head of the house and
imagine you can leave the thing to me. Perhaps it doesn't matter if your
sister is obstinate. I'm going to talk to Shillito."
He crossed the veranda, and Mortimer returned to his chair and
cigarette. He did not approve his step-father, but admitted that
Cartwright could be trusted to handle a matter like this. Mortimer's
fastidiousness was sometimes a handicap, but Cartwright had none.
Cartwright entered the smoking-room and crossed the floor to a table, at
which two or three men stood as if waiting for somebody. One was young
and tall. His thin face was finely molded, his eyes and hair were very
black, and his figure was marked by an agile grace.
He looked up sharply as Cartwright advanced.
"I want you for a few minutes," Cartwright said roughly, as if he gave
Shillito frowned, but went with him to the back veranda. Although the
night was warm and an electric light burned under the roof, nobody was
about. Cartwright signed the other to sit down.
"I expect your holiday's nearly up, and the hotel car meets the train in
the morning," he remarked.
"What about it?" Shillito asked. "I'm not going yet."
"You're going to-morrow," said Cartwright grimly.
Shillito smiled and gave him an insolent look, but his smile vanished.
Cartwright's white mustache bristled, his face was red, and his eyes
were very steady. It was not for nothing the old ship-owner had fronted
disappointed investors and forced his will on shareholders' meetings.
Shillito saw the fellow was dangerous.
"I'll call you," he said, using a gambler's phrase.
"Very well," said Cartwright. "I think my cards are good, and if I can't
win on one suit, I'll try another. To begin with, the hotel proprietor
sent for me. He stated the house was new and beginning to pay, and he
was anxious about its character. People must be amused, but he was
running a summer hotel, not a gambling den. The play was too high, and
young fools got into trouble; two or three days since one got broke.
Well, he wanted me to use my influence, and I said I would."
"He asked you to keep the stakes in bounds? It's a good joke!"
"Not at all," said Cartwright dryly. "I like an exciting game, so long
as it is straight, and when I lose I pay. I do lose, and if I come out
fifty dollars ahead when I leave, I'll be satisfied. How much have you
Shillito said nothing, and Cartwright went on: "My antagonists are old
card-players who know the game; but when you broke Forman he was drunk
and the other two were not quite sober. You play against young fools and
_your luck's too good_. If you force me to tell all I think and
something that I know. I imagine you'll get a straight hint to quit."
"You talked about another plan," Shillito remarked.
"On the whole, I think the plan I've indicated will work. If it does not
and you speak to any member of Mrs. Cartwright's family, I'll thrash you
on the veranda when people are about. I won't state my grounds for doing
so; they ought to be obvious."
Shillito looked at the other hand. Cartwright's eyes were bloodshot, his
face was going purple, and he thrust out his heavy chin. Shillito
thought he meant all he said, and his threat carried weight. The old
fellow was, of course, not a match for the vigorous young man, but
Shillito saw he had the power to do him an injury that was not
altogether physical. He pondered for a few moments, and then got up.
"I'll pull out," he said with a coolness that cost him much.
Cartwright nodded. "There's another thing. If you write to Miss Hyslop,
your letters will be burned."
He went back to the smoking-room, and playing with his usual boldness,
won twenty dollars. Then he joined Mrs. Cartwright on the front veranda
and remarked: "Shillito won't bother us. He goes in the morning."
Mrs. Cartwright gave him a grateful smile. She had long known that when
she asked her husband's help difficulties were removed. Now he had
removed Shillito, and she was satisfied but imagined he was not.
Cartwright knitted his white brows and drew hard at his cigar.
"You had better watch Barbara until the fellow starts," he resumed.
"Then I think you and the girls might join the Vernons at their fishing
camp. Vernon would like it, and he's a useful friend; besides, it's
possible Shillito's obstinate. Your letters needn't follow you; have
them sent to me at Montreal, which will cover your tracks. I must go
back in a few days."
Mrs. Cartwright weighed the suggestion. Vernon was a Winnipeg merchant,
and his wife had urged her to join the party at the fishing camp in the
woods. The journey was long, but Mrs. Cartwright rather liked the plan.
Shillito would not find them, and Mrs. Vernon had two sons.
"Can't you come with us?" she asked. "Mortimer is going to Detroit."
"Sorry I can't," said Cartwright firmly. "I don't want to leave you, but
He was relieved when Mrs. Cartwright let it go. Clara was a good sort
and seldom argued. He had loafed about with her family for two weeks and
had had enough. Moreover, business did call. If the _Conference_ found
out before his boat arrived that he had engaged _Oreana's_ return load,
they might see the shippers and make trouble. Anyhow, they would use
some effort to get the cargo for their boats. Sometimes one promised
regular customers a drawback on standard rates.
"I'll write to Mrs. Vernon in the morning," Mrs. Cartwright remarked.
"Telegraph" said Cartwright, who did not lose time when he had made a
plan. "When the lines are not engaged after business hours, you can send
a night-letter; a long message at less than the proper charge."
Mrs. Cartwright looked pleased. Although she was rich and sometimes
generous, she liked small economies.
"After all, writing a letter's tiresome," she said. "Telegrams are easy.
Will you get me a form?"
IN THE DARK
In the morning Cartwright told the porter to take his chair to the beach
and sat down in a shady spot. He had not seen Barbara at breakfast and
was rather sorry for her, but she had not known Shillito long, and
although she might be angry for a time, her hurt could not be deep.
Lighting his pipe, he watched the path that led between the pines to the
By and by a girl came out of the shadow, and going to the small
landing-stage, looked at her wrist-watch. Cartwright imagined she did
not see him and studied her with some amusement. Barbara looked
impatient. People did not often keep her waiting, and she had not
inherited her mother's placidity. She had a touch of youthful beauty,
and although she was impulsive and rather raw, Cartwright thought her
charm would be marked when she met the proper people and, so to speak,
got toned down.
Cartwright meant her to meet the proper people, because he was fond of
Barbara. She had grace, and although her figure was slender and girlish,
she carried herself well. Her brown eyes were steady, her small mouth
was firm, and as a rule her color was delicate white and pink. Now it
was high, and Cartwright knew she was angry. She wore boating clothes
and had obviously meant to go on the lake. The trouble was, her
companion had not arrived.
"Hallo!" said Cartwright. "Are you waiting for somebody?"
Barbara advanced and sat down on a rocky ledge.
"No," she said, "I'm not waiting _now_."
Cartwright smiled. He knew Barbara's temper, and his line was to keep
her resentment warm.
"You mean, you have given him up and won't go if he does arrive? Well,
when a young man doesn't keep his appointment, it's the proper plan."
She blushed, but tried to smile. "I don't know if you're clever or not
just now, although you sometimes do see things the others miss. I really
was a little annoyed."
"I've lived a long time," said Cartwright. "However, perhaps it's
important I haven't forgotten I was young. I think your brother and
sister never were very young. They were soberer than me when I knew them
"Mortimer _is_ a stick," Barbara agreed. "He and Grace have a calm
superiority that makes one savage now and then. I like human people, who
sometimes let themselves go--"
She stopped, and Cartwright noted her wandering glance that searched the
beach and the path to the hotel. He knew whom she expected, and thought
it would give her some satisfaction to quarrel with the fellow.
Cartwright did not mean to soothe her.
"Mr. Shillito ought to have sent his apologies when he found he could
not come," he said.
Barbara's glance got fixed, and Cartwright knew he had blundered.
"Oh!" she said, "now I begin to see! Mother kept me by her all the
evening; but mother's not very clever and Mortimer's too fastidious to
meddle, unless he gets a dignified part. Of course, the plot was yours!"
Cartwright nodded. Sometimes he used tact, but he was sometimes brutally
"You had better try to console yourself with the Wheeler boys; they're
straight young fellows. Shillito is gone. He went by the car this
morning and it's unlikely he'll come back."
"You sent him off?" said Barbara, and her eyes sparkled. "Well, I'm not
a child and you're not my father really. Why did you meddle?"
"For one thing, he's not your sort. Then I'm a meddlesome old fellow and
rather fond of you. To see you entangled by a man like Shillito would
hurt. Let him go. If you want to try your powers, you'll find a number
of honest young fellows on whom you can experiment. The boys one meets
in this country are a pretty good sample."
"There's a rude vein in you," Barbara declared. "One sees it sometimes,
although you're sometimes kind. Anyhow, I won't be bullied and
controlled; I'm not a shareholder in the Cartwright line. I don't know
if it's important, but why don't you like Mr. Shillito?"
Cartwright's eyes twinkled. In a sense, he could justify his getting rid
of Shillito, but he knew Barbara and doubted if she could be persuaded.
Still she was not a fool, and he would give her something to think
"It's possible my views are not important," he agreed. "All the same,
when I told the man he had better go he saw the force of my arguments.
He went, and I think his going is significant. Since I'd sooner not
quarrel, I'll leave you to weigh this."
He went off, but Barbara stopped and brooded. She was angry and
humiliated, but perhaps the worst was she had a vague notion Cartwright
might be justified. It was very strange Shillito had gone. All the same,
she did not mean to submit. Her mother's placid conventionality had long
irritated her; one got tired of galling rules and criticism. She was not
going to be molded into a calculating prude like Grace, or a prig like
Mortimer. They did not know the ridiculous good-form they cultivated was
out of date. In fact, she had had enough and meant to rebel.
Then she began to think about Shillito. His carelessness was strangely
intriguing; he stood for adventure and all the romance she had known.
Besides, he was a handsome fellow; she liked his reckless twinkle and
his coolness where coolness was needed. For all that, she would not
acknowledge him her lover; Barbara did not know if she really wanted a
lover yet. She imagined Cartwright had got near the mark when he said
she wanted to try her power. Cartwright was keen, although Barbara
sensed something in him that was fierce and primitive.
Perhaps nobody else could have bullied Shillito; Mortimer certainly
could not, but Barbara refused to speculate about the means Cartwright
Shillito ought not to have gone without seeing her; this was where it
hurt. She was entitled to be angry--and then she started, for a page boy
came quietly out of the shade.
"A note, miss," he said with a grin. "I was to give it you when nobody
Barbara's heart beat, but she gave the boy a quarter and opened the
envelope. The note was short and not romantic. Shillito stated he had
grounds for imagining it might not reach her, but if it did, he begged
she would give him her address when she left the hotel. He told her
where to write, and added if she could find a way to get his letters he
had much to say.
His coolness annoyed Barbara, but he had excited her curiosity and she
was intrigued. Moreover, Cartwright had tried to meddle and she wanted
to feel she was cleverer than he. Then Shillito was entitled to defend
himself, and to find the way he talked about would not be difficult.
Barbara knitted her brows and began to think.
At lunch Mrs. Cartwright told her they were going to join the Vernons in
the woods and she acquiesced. Two or three days afterwards they started,
and at the station she gave Cartwright her hand with a smiling glance,
but Cartwright knew his step-daughter and was not altogether satisfied.
Barbara did not sulk; when one tried to baffle her she fought.
The Vernons' camp was like others Winnipeg people pitch in the lonely
woods that roll west from Fort William to the plains. It is a rugged
country pierced by angry rivers and dotted by lakes, but a gasolene
launch brought up supplies, the tents were large and double-roofed, and
for a few weeks one could play at pioneering without its hardships. The
Vernons were hospitable, the young men and women given to healthy sport,
and Mrs. Cartwright, watching Barbara fish and paddle on the lake,
banished her doubts. For herself she did not miss much; the people were
nice, and the cooking was really good.
When two weeks had gone, Grace and Barbara sat one evening among the
stones by a lake. The evening was calm, the sun was setting, and the
shadow of the pines stretched across the tranquil water. Now and then
the reflections trembled and a languid ripple broke against the
driftwood on the beach. In the distance a loon called, but when its wild
cry died away all was very quiet.
Grace looked across the lake and frowned. She was a tall girl, and
although she had walked for some distance in the woods, her clothes were
hardly crumpled. Her face was finely molded, but rather colorless; her
hands were very white, while Barbara's were brown. Her dress and voice
indicated cultivated taste; but the taste was negative, as if Grace had
banished carefully all that jarred and then had stopped. It was
characteristic that she was tranquil, although she had grounds for
disturbance. They were some distance from camp and it would soon be
dark, but nothing broke the gleaming surface of the lake. The boat that
ought to have met them had not arrived.
"I suppose this is the spot where Harry Vernon agreed to land and take
us on board?" she said.
"It's like the spot. I understand we must watch out for a point opposite
an island with big trees."
"Watch out?" Grace remarked.
"Watch out is good Canadian," Barbara rejoined. "I'm studying the
language and find it expressive and plain. When our new friends talk you
know what they mean. Besides, I'd better learn their idioms, because I
might stop in Canada if somebody urged me."
Grace gave her a quiet look. Barbara meant to annoy her, or perhaps did
not want to admit she had mistaken the spot. Now Grace came to think
about it, the plan that the young men should meet them and paddle them
down the lake was Barbara's.
"I don't see why we didn't go with Harry and the other, as he
suggested," she said.
"Then, you're rather dull. They didn't really want us; they wanted to
fish. To know when people might be bored is useful."
"But there are a number of bays and islands. They may go somewhere
else," Grace insisted.
"Oh well, it ought to amuse Harry and Winter to look for us, and if
they're annoyed, they deserve some punishment. If they had urged us very
much to go, I would have gone. Anyhow, you needn't bother. There's a
short way back to camp by the old loggers' trail."
Grace said nothing. She thought Barbara's carelessness was forced;
Barbara was sometimes moody. Perhaps she felt Shillito's going more than
she was willing to own. For all that, the fellow was gone, and Barbara
would, no doubt, presently be consoled.
"If mother could see things!" Barbara resumed. "Sometimes one feels one
wants a guide, but all one gets is a ridiculous platitude from her
old-fashioned code. One has puzzles one can't solve by out-of-date
rules. However, since she doesn't see, there's no use in bothering."
"I'm your elder sister, but you don't give me your confidence."
Barbara's mood changed and her laugh was touched by scorn. "You are
worse than mother. She's kind, but can't see; you don't want to see. I'd
sooner trust my step-father. He's a very human old ruffian. I wish I had
a real girl friend, but you tactfully freeze off all the girls I like.
It's strange how many people there are whom virtuous folks don't
Grace missed the note of appeal in her sister's bitterness. She did not
see the girl as disturbed by doubts and looked in perplexity for a
guiding light. Afterwards, when understanding was too late, Grace partly
"Mr. Cartwright is not a ruffian." she said coldly.
"I suppose you're taking the proper line, and you'd be rather noble,
only you're not sincere. You don't like Cartwright and know he doesn't
like you. All the same, it's not important. We were talking about
getting home, and since the boys have not come for us we had better
The loon had flown away and nothing broke the surface of the lake; the
shadows had got longer and driven back the light. Thin mist drifted
about the islands, the green glow behind the trunks was fading, and it
would soon be dark.
"In winter, the big timber wolves prowl about the woods," Barbara
remarked. "Horrible, savage brutes! I expect you saw the heads at the
packer's house. Still, one understands they stay North until the frost
She got up, and when they set off Grace looked regretfully across the
lake, for she would sooner have gone home on board the fishing bateau.
She was puzzled. The bays on the lake were numerous, and islands dotted
the winding reaches, but it was strange the young men had gone to the
wrong spot. They knew the lake and had told Barbara where to meet them.
In the meantime, however, the important thing was to get home.
Darkness crept across the woods, and as she stumbled along the uneven
trail Grace got disturbed. She felt the daunting loneliness, the quiet
jarred her nerve. The pines looked ghostly in the gloom. They were
ragged and strangely stiff, it looked as if their branches never moved,
and the dark gaps between the trunks were somehow forbidding.
Grace did not like Canada. Her cultivation was artificial, but Canada
was primitive and stern. In the towns, one found inventions that
lightened labor, and brought to the reach of all a physical comfort that
in England only the rich enjoyed, but the contrasts were sharp. One left
one's hotel, with its very modern furniture, noisy elevators and
telephones, and plunged into the wilderness where all was as it had been
from the beginning. Grace shrank from primitive rudeness and hated
adventure. Living by rule she distrusted all she did not know. She
thought it strange that Barbara, who feared nothing, let her go in
They came to a pool. All round, the black tops of the pines cut the sky;
the water was dark and sullen in the gloom. The trail followed its edge
and when a loon's wild cry rang across the woods Grace stopped. She knew
the cry of the lonely bird that haunts the Canadian wilds, but it had a
strange note, like mocking laughter. Grace disliked the loon when its
voice first disturbed her sleep at the fishing camp; she hated it
"Go on!" said Barbara sharply.
For a moment or two Grace stood still. She did not want to stop, but
something in Barbara's voice indicated strain. If Barbara were startled,
it was strange. Then, not far off, a branch cracked and the pine-spray
rustled as if they were gently pushed aside.
"Oh!" Grace cried, "something is creeping through the bush!"
"Then don't stop," said Barbara. "Perhaps it's a wolf!"
Grace clutched her dress and ran. At first, she thought she heard
Barbara behind, but she owned she had not her sister's pluck and fear
gave her speed. She must get as far as possible from the pool before she
stopped. Besides, she imagined something broke through the undergrowth
near the trail, but her heart beat and she could not hear properly.
At length her breath got labored and she was forced to stop. All was
quiet and the quiet was daunting. Barbara was not about and when Grace
called did not reply. Grace tried to brace herself. Perhaps she ought to
go back, but she could not; she shrank from the terror that haunted the
dark. Then she began to argue that to go back was illogical. If Barbara
had lost her way, she could not help. It was better to push on to the
camp and send men who knew the woods to look for her sister. She set
off, and presently saw with keen relief the light of a fire reflected on
Grace's arrival was greeted by a shout, and when she stopped in front of
the dining-tent a group of curious people surrounded her. The double
roof of the big tent was extended horizontally, and a lamp hanging from
a pole gave a brilliant light. Grace would sooner the light had been
dim, for she was hot and her clothes were torn and wet with dew.
Besides, she must tell her tale and admit that she had not played a
"Where's Barbara?" Mrs. Cartwright asked.
"I don't know. Harry Vernon did not meet us and we started home by the
loggers' trail. I lost Barbara by the pool. Something in the bush tried
to creep up to us; a wolf, I think--"
"Oh, shucks!" remarked a frank Winnipeg girl who did not like Miss
Hyslop. "In summer, you can't find a wolf south of Broken Range. Looks
as if you were scared for nothing, but I can't see why Barbara didn't
beat you at hitting up the pace."
Others asked questions, and when Grace got breath she tried to satisfy
their curiosity. Some of the group looked thoughtful and Mrs. Vernon
"Nothing can have hurt Barbara, and if she has lost her way, she cannot
wander far, because she must be in the loop between the river and the
lake. But Harry did go to meet you, and when he found you had not come
back went off again with Bob. I expect they'll soon arrive with
They waited for half-an-hour, and then, when the splash of paddles stole
out of the dark, ran down to the beach. Presently a double-ended bateau
crossed the beam of light and grounded. A young man helped Barbara out
and gave her his arm.
"You mustn't bother, Harry. I can walk all right," she said.
"Get hold," said Vernon. "You're not going to walk. If you're obstinate,
I'll carry you."
Barbara leaned upon his arm, but her color was high and her look
strained when he helped her across the stones. Harry Vernon was a tall,
thin, wiry Canadian, with a quiet face. When he got to the tent he
opened the curtain, and beckoning Mrs. Cartwright, pushed Barbara
"You'll give her some supper, ma'am, and I'll chase the others off," he
said. "The little girl's tired and mustn't be disturbed."
Barbara gave him a grateful look and the blood came to his sunburned
"I am a little tired," she declared, and added, too quietly for Mrs.
Cartwright to hear: "You're a white man."
Vernon pulled the curtain across, and joining the others, lighted a
"The girls stopped at False Point, two miles short of the spot we
fixed," he said. "I reckon Bob's directions were not plain enough. Since
we didn't come along, they started back by the loggers' trail, while we
went to look for them by the other track. At the pool, they thought they
heard a wolf. That's so, Miss Hyslop?"
"Yes," said Grace. "I ran away and thought I heard Barbara following.
But what happened afterwards?"
"She fell. Hurt her foot, had to stop, and then couldn't make good time.
We found her limping along, and shoved through the bush for the river,
so she needn't walk. Well, I think that's all."
It was plausible, but Grace was not altogether satisfied. Moreover, she
imagined Vernon was not, and noted that Mrs. Vernon gave him a
thoughtful glance. All the same, there was nothing to be said, and she
went to her tent.
At daybreak Vernon left the camp, and when he reached the pool walked
round its edge and then sat down and lighted his pipe. A few yards in
front, a number of faint marks were printed on a belt of sand. By and by
he heard steps, and frowned when Winter came out from an opening in the
row of trunks. They were friends, and Bob was a very good sort, but
Vernon would sooner he had stopped away.
"Hallo!" he said. "Why have you come along?"
"I lost my hunting-knife," Winter replied. "It was hooked to my belt and
I thought the clip let go when we helped Miss Hyslop over the big log. A
bully knife; I wanted to find the thing." He paused and smiled when he
resumed: "I reckon you pulled out of camp to meditate?"
Vernon hesitated. Had Winter stopped a few yards off, he would have
begun some banter and drawn him away from the pool. Bob was a woodsman
and his eyes were keen. The sun was, however, rising behind the pines
and a beam of light touched the sand. There was no use in trying to hide
the marks. In fact, Vernon imagined Bob had seen them.
"No," he said. "I thought I'd try to trail the wolf Miss Hyslop talked
"Looks as if you'd found some tracks," Winter remarked. "Well, they're
not a wolf's." He sat down opposite Vernon. "A man's! I saw another at a
soft spot. He followed the girls from the lake and stopped for some
time. I allow I reckoned on something like that."
Vernon made an experiment. "Might have been a packer going to a logging
camp, or perhaps an Indian."
"Shucks!" said Winter, although he gave Vernon a sympathetic smile.
"There are no Indians about the lake and packers' boots don't make marks
like those. A city boot and a city man! A fellow who's wise to the bush
lifts his feet. Anyhow, I reckon he doesn't belong to your crowd."
"A sure thing!" Vernon agreed. "I can fix where all the boys were.
Besides, if somebody in our lot had wanted to talk to Miss Hyslop, he
wouldn't have hung around in the woods. My mother's pretty fastidious
about her guests. Well, I'll own up the thing bothers me."
Winter nodded. Harry was frank and honest, and Bob imagined he had felt
Barbara Hyslop's charm. He was sorry for Harry. The thing was awkward.
"What are you going to do about it?" he asked.
"To begin with, I'm going to hide these tracks. After all, I don't see
much light. I suppose I ought to tell my mother and put Mrs. Cartwright
wise; but I won't. Spying on a girl and telling is mean. All the same,
I'm surely bothered. In a sense, my mother's accountable for her guests
and the girl's nice. I'd like it if I could talk to the man."
"Nothing doing there; he'll watch out. Well, we'll hide up his tracks
and look for my knife. D'you think Grace Hyslop knew the job was put
"I don't," said Vernon dryly. "I reckon she was puzzled, but that's all.
You couldn't persuade Miss Hyslop her sister liked adventures in the
dark. Anyhow, the thing's done with. We have got to let it go."
They went off and Winter pondered. Harry had got something of a knock.
Perhaps he was taking the proper line; anyhow, it was the line Harry
would take, but Bob doubted. The girl was very young and the man who met
her in the dark was obviously a wastrel.
When they returned for breakfast Barbara had joined the others and wore
soft Indian moccasins. Bob looked at Harry and understood his frown.
Harry had played up when he helped her home, but he, no doubt, thought
the game ought to stop. Bob wondered whether Barbara knew, because she
turned her head when Harry advanced.
After breakfast, Mrs. Vernon, carrying a small bottle, joined Mrs.
Cartwright's party under the pines outside the tent. The dew was drying
and the water shone like a mirror, but it was cool in the shade. Barbara
occupied a camp-chair and rested her foot on a stone, Mrs. Cartwright
knitted, and Grace studied a philosophical book. Her rule was to
cultivate her mind for a fixed time every day. Harry Vernon strolled up
to the group and Mrs. Cartwright put down her knitting.
"You're kind, but the child's obstinate and won't let me see her foot,"
she said to Mrs. Vernon.
"It's comfortable now," Barbara remarked. "When something that hurt you
stops hurting I think it's better to leave it alone. Besides, one
doesn't want to bother people."
"You won't bother me, and I'll fix your foot in two or three minutes so
it won't hurt again," Mrs. Vernon declared. "The elixir's famous and I
haven't known it to miss. I always carry some when we camp in the
woods." She turned to her son. "Tell Barbara how soon I cured you when
you hurt your arm."
"You want to burn Miss Hyslop with the elixir?"
"It doesn't burn much. You said you hardly felt it, and soon after I
rubbed your arm the pain was gone."
Harry glanced at Barbara and saw she was embarrassed, although her mouth
was firm. Since she did not mean to let Mrs. Vernon examine her
supposititious injury, his business was to help, and he laughed.
"Miss Hyslop's skin is not like my tough hide. You certainly fixed my
arm, but it was a drastic cure, and I think Miss Hyslop ought to refuse.
I try to indulge you, like a dutiful son, but you are not her mother."
"I am her mother and she will not indulge me," Mrs. Cartwright remarked
with languid grievance, and Barbara gave Harry a quick, searching
glance. His face was inscrutable, but she wondered how much he knew. She
felt shabby and ashamed.
When Mrs. Vernon went off with the elixir, Harry sat down.
"If you could bring Mr. Cartwright out, I might persuade my father to
come along," he said. "The old man likes Cartwright; declares he's a
"He is a ship-owner." Grace remarked. "I think he used to shoot, but
it's some time since."
Harry looked at Barbara and his eyes twinkled. "American English isn't
Oxford English, but your people are beginning to use it and Miss Barbara
learns fast. All the same, running the Independent Freighters is quite a
sporting proposition, and I imagine Mr. Cartwright generally makes good.
The old man and I would back him to put over an awkward deal every
"My husband is a good business man," Mrs. Cartwright agreed. "But you
belong to Winnipeg and I understand his business is at Montreal."
"The steamship _Conference_ understood something like that, until
Cartwright put them wise. You see, we Western people grow the wheat that
goes down the lakes, and when the _Conference_ got to know an
Independent boat was coming out they went round and offered Montreal
shippers and brokers a drawback on the rates. That is, if the shippers
gave them all their stuff, they'd meet their bills for a rebate some
time afterwards. Bully for the shippers, but it left the Western men,
who raised the wheat, in the cold. Well, while the _Conference_ got
after him at Montreal, Cartwright came West and booked all the grain he
could load before it started off. When the _Conference_ got wise, the
cargo was in the Independent freighter's hold. Cartwright's surely a
Barbara laughed and Mrs. Cartwright languidly agreed, but Grace frowned.
Although she did not approve Cartwright, he was the head of her house,
and to know his clever tricks were something of a joke hurt her dignity.
Harry saw her frown.
"Anyhow, Cartwright's promise stands," he resumed. "If he ran his boat
across half empty, he'd make good. You can trust him."
He went off and Barbara mused unhappily. She thought Harry had talked to
help her over an awkward moment, and she was grateful but disturbed. It
looked as if he knew something and he might know much. All the same,
when he talked about her step-father she agreed. Cartwright was bold and
clever, and, although he was sometimes not very scrupulous, people did
trust him. Barbara wished she had his cleverness and his talent for
removing obstacles. There were obstacles in her path and the path was
dark. Yet she had promised to take it and must make good. She tried to
banish her doubts and began to talk.
After lunch she allowed one of the party to help her on board a canoe.
The afternoon was calm, and the light breeze that now and then sighed in
the pine-tops hardly ruffled the shining water. In the evening, when the
straight trunks cut against a blaze of gold and green, they sat by a
smudge fire that kept off the mosquitoes and sang to an accompaniment of
banjos and mandolins. Barbara sang with the others, but it cost her an
effort. The tranquil day was nearly done and she felt it was the last
tranquillity she might know for long. Her companions were frank and
kind, Canadians, but her sort, and she was going to make a bold plunge
with another who was not. Yet she knew one could not rebel for nothing,
and she had pluck. The light faded behind the trees, a loon's wild cry
rang across the dark water, and the party went to bed.
In the morning Grace awoke Mrs. Cartwright quietly.
"Barbara is gone," she said.
"Ridiculous!" said Mrs. Cartwright.
"She is gone. Her clothes are not about; but we must be calm and not
disturb the camp. Mrs. Vernon ought to know, but nobody else. You see,
Mrs. Cartwright saw, and a few minutes afterwards her hostess knew.
"It's plain I must give Harry my confidence, to some extent," Mrs.
Vernon said, and went to look for her son.
She found him going off for a swim, and when she told her tale he
"In a way, perhaps, I'm accountable, but we'll talk about this again,"
he said. "Get Mrs. Cartwright on board the launch and come along
yourself. As soon as Bob's inside his clothes we'll start."
"But Bob--" Mrs. Vernon began.
"Bob _knows_, and I'll need a partner. If Miss Hyslop didn't leave the
settlement on the night express, she'll be hitting the trail through the
woods for the United States. You must hustle."
Mrs. Vernon left him, and a few minutes afterwards the fast motor launch
swung out from the landing and sped down river with a white wave at her
bows. Grace watched the boat vanish behind a wooded point and then went
to her tent. She was horribly angry and shocked. Barbara had cheated her
and disgraced them all.
THE GIRL ON THE PLATFORM
The Vancouver express was running in the dark through the woods west of
Fort William. After the rain of early summer, wash-outs that undermine
the track are numerous and the express had been delayed. Now, however,
the road was good and the engineer drove his big locomotive with
throttle wide open. Black smoke blew about the rocking cars, cinders
rattled on the roofs, and showers of sparks sped past the windows. The
wheels roared on shaking trestles and now and then awoke an echoing
clang of steel, for the company was doubling the track and replacing the
wooden bridges by metal.
This was George Lister's business, and he lounged in a corner of a
smoking-compartment, and rather drowsily studied some calculations. He
was bound West from Montreal, and in the morning would resume his labors
at a construction camp. There was much to be done and the construction
bosses who had sent for him were getting impatient.
Lister's thoughts wandered from the figures. He liked his occupation and
admitted that he had been lucky, but began to see he had gone as far as
he could expect to go. The trouble was, he had not enjoyed the
scientific training that distinguished the men who got important posts.
His mechanical career began in the engine-room of a wheat-boat on the
lakes, and he had entered the railroad company's service when shipping
was bad and steamers were laid up. Although he had studied for a term or
two at McGill University, he knew his drawbacks. Sometimes promotion was
given for merit, but for the most part the men who made progress came
from technical colleges and famous engineering works.
An accident in the ranges on the Pacific slope, when a mountain
locomotive jumped the track and plunged down a precipitous hillside,
gave Lister his first chance. He got the locomotive back to the line,
and being rewarded by a better post, stubbornly pushed himself nearer
the front. Now, however, it looked as if he must stop. Rules were not
often relaxed in favor of men who had no highly-placed friends. Yet
Not long since, a gentleman whose word carried some weight at the
company's office had visited the construction camp with his indulged
daughter. The girl was clever, adventurous, and interested by pioneer
work, and Lister had helped her to some thrills she obviously enjoyed.
She had, with his guidance, driven a locomotive across a shaking,
half-braced bridge, fired a heavy blasting shot, and caught big gray
trout from his canoe. Although Lister used some reserve, their
friendship ripened, and when she left she hinted she had some power she
might be willing to use on his behalf.
All the same, Lister was proud. The girl belonged to a circle he could
not enter, and if he got promotion, it must be by his merits. He was not
the man to get forward by intrigue and the clever use of a woman's
influence; he had no talent for that kind of thing. He let it go, and
tried to concentrate on his calculations.
By and by the colored porter stopped to tell him his berth was fixed and
the passengers were going to bed. Lister nodded, put up his papers, and
then lighted a cigarette. The smoking-compartment was hot, the light the
rocking lamp threw about had hurt his eyes, and he thought he would go
out on the platform for a few minutes.
He went. The draught that swept the gap between the cars was bracing and
cool. There was a moon, he saw water shine and dark pines stream past.
The snorting of the locomotive broke in a measured beat through the roll
of wheels; the rocks threw back confused echoes about the clanging cars.
Then the gleam among the trees got wider and Lister knew they were
nearing a trestle that crossed an arm of a lake. In fact, he had
wondered whether he would be sent to pull down the bridge and rebuild it
He sat down on the little box-seat, with his back against the door. The
platform had not the new guards the company was then fitting; there was
an opening in the rails, and one could go down the steps when the train
was running. The moonlight touched the back of the car in front, but
Lister was in the gloom, and when the vestibule door opposite opened he
was annoyed. If somebody wanted to go through the train, he must get up.
A girl came out of the other car and seizing the rails looked down. She
was in the light, and Lister remarked that she did not wear traveling
clothes; he thought her small, knitted cap, short dress, and loose
jacket indicated that she had come from a summer camp. Then she turned
her head and he saw her face was rather white and her look was strained.
It was obvious that something had disturbed her.
The girl did not see him, and while he wondered whether he ought to get
up she put her foot on the step and leaned out, as if she weighed the
possibility of jumping off. She swung back when the cars lurched round a
curve, and the measured roll of wheels changed to a sharp, broken din.
The train was running on to the trestle and Lister saw the water shine
below the platform. He got up, and moving quietly, seized the girl's arm
and pulled her from the rails.
"A jolt might throw you off," he said.
She looked up with a start and the blood came to her skin, but she gave
him a quick, searching glance. Lister was athletic, his face was bronzed
by frost and sun, and his look was frank. She lowered her eyes and her
"Does the train stop soon?" she asked.
"If the engineer's lucky, we won't stop until he makes the next
water-tank, and it's some distance."
She turned with a quick, nervous movement and glanced at the door.
Lister imagined she was afraid somebody might come out.
"Could one persuade or bribe the conductor to pull up?"
Lister hesitated. He knew the train gang and was a railroad boss, but
the company was spending a large sum in order to cut down the
time-schedule and somebody must account for all delay.
"I think not. You see, unless there's a washout or the track is blocked,
nothing is allowed to stop the Vancouver express."
The girl glanced at the door again and then gave him an appealing look.
"But I must get off! I oughtn't to have come on board. I want to go
East, towards Montreal, and not to Winnipeg."
Although he was not romantic, Lister was moved. She was very young and
her distress was obvious. Somehow he felt her grounds for wanting to
leave the train were good. Indeed, he rather thought she had meant to
jump off had they not run on to the bridge. Yet for him to stop the
express would be ridiculous; the conductor and engineer would pay for
his meddling. With quiet firmness he pulled the girl farther from the
opening of the rails.
"We stop long before we get to Winnipeg," he said soothingly. "Then it's
possible we'll be held up by a blocked track. Wash-outs are pretty
numerous on this piece of line. However, if we do stop and you get down,
you'll be left in the woods."
"Oh!" she said, "that's not important! All I want is to get off."
"Very well," said Lister. "If we are held up, I'll look for you. But I
don't know if the jolting platform is very safe. Hadn't you better go
back to your car?"
She gave him a quick glance and he thought she braced herself.
"I'm not going back. I can't. It's impossible!"
Lister was curious, but hesitated about trying to satisfy his curiosity.
The girl was afraid of somebody, and, seeing no other help, she trusted
"Then, you had better come with me and I'll find you a berth where you
won't be disturbed," he said.
She followed him with a confidence he thought moving, and when they met
the conductor he took the man aside.
"That's all right," said the other. "Nobody's going to bother her while
Lister returned to the smoking-compartment, but the adventure had given
him a pleasant thrill and he did not feel sleepy. He got out his
calculations and tried to interest himself until a man entered the car.
The fellow was rather handsome and his clothes were good, but Lister
thought he looked perplexed. He gave Lister a keen glance and went on
through the car. Some minutes afterwards, he came back, frowning
savagely, stopped in front of Lister, as if he meant to speak,
hesitated, and went out by the vestibule.
It was plain the fellow had gone to look for the girl and had not found
her. The conductor had seen to that. Lister smiled, but admitted that
the thing was puzzling. The man was older than the girl, although he was
not old enough to be her father. If he were her husband, she would not
have run away from him, and it did not look as if he were her lover.
Lister saw no light, but since it was obvious she feared the man he
resolved, if possible, to help her to escape.
Some time afterwards, the whistle pierced the roll of wheels, and
Lister, going to the platform, saw a big electric head-lamp shine like a
star. The cars were slowing and he imagined the operator had tried to
run a construction train across the section before the express came up.
They would probably stop for a minute at the intersection of the main
and side tracks. Hurrying through the train, Lister found the conductor,
who look him to a curtained berth, and the girl got down. She was
dressed and wore her knitted cap.
"If you are resolved to go, I may be able to help you off," Lister said.
"I must go," she replied, and although Lister remarked that her hands
trembled as she smoothed her crumpled dress, her voice was steady.
"Very well," he said. "Come along."
When he opened the vestibule door the train was stopping and the beam
from a standing locomotive's head-lamp flooded the track with dazzling
light. For a moment the girl hesitated, but when Lister went down the
steps she gave him her hand and jumped. Lister felt her tremble and was
himself conscious of some excitement. He did not know if he was rash or
not, but since she meant to go, speed was important, because the man
from whom she wanted to escape might see them on the line. He went to
the waiting engine in front of a long row of ballast cars, on which a
big gravel plough loomed faintly in the dark.
"Who's on board?" he asked.
A man he knew looked out from the cab window.
"Hallo, Mr. Lister! I'm on board with Jake. We're going to Malcolm cut
for gravel. Washout's mixed things; operator reckoned he could rush us
"Then you'll stop and get water at the tank," Lister interrupted. "Will
you make it before the East-bound comes along?"
"We ought to make it half-an-hour ahead. Wires all right that way.
Nothing's on the road."
Lister turned to the girl. "If you're going East you must buy a new
ticket at Malcolm. Have you money?"
"I have some--" she said and stopped, and Lister imagined she had not
until then thought about money and had not much.
"You'll take this lady to Malcolm, Roberts, and put her down where she
can get to the station," he said to the engineer. "Nobody will see you
have a passenger, but if the agent's curious, I'll fix the thing with
It was breaking rules, but the man knew Lister, and Lister knew he could
be trusted. He took some bills from his wallet, and as he helped the
girl up the steps pushed the paper into her hand.
She turned to the cab door, and Lister imagined she was hardly conscious
of the money he had given her. Her color was high but her look indicated
"Oh!" she said, "I owe you much! You don't know all you have done. I
will not forget--"
Somebody waved a lantern, a whistle shrieked, and the locomotive bell
began to toll. Lister jumped back and seized the rails above the
platform steps as the car lurched forward. They moved faster, the beam
of the head-lamp faded, and the train rolled on into the dark.
SHILLITO GETS AWAY
When the train started Lister did not go to his berth. His curiosity was
excited and he wondered whether he had been rash. Now he came to think
about it, the girl was attractive, and perhaps this to some extent
accounted for his willingness to help. Moreover she was young, and it
was possible her relations had put her in the man's control. If so, his
meddling could not be justified.
After a time he heard the whistle, and imagined the train was going to
stop at a small station to which mails were brought from some mining
camps. The neighboring country was rugged and lonely, but a trail ran
south through the woods to the American frontier. When the cars stopped
he pushed down the window and looked out.
Small trees grew along the track and the light from the cars touched
their branches. The line was checkered by illuminated patches and belts
of gloom. Lister heard somebody open the baggage car and then saw a man
run along the line beside the train. Another jumped off a platform and
they met not far from Lister's window. The man who got down was the
fellow who had gone through the car looking for the girl. The locomotive
pump throbbed noisily and Lister could not hear their talk, but he
thought they argued.
The one who came up the line looked impatient and put his hand on his
companion's arm, as if to urge him away. The other stepped back, and his
gesture implied that he refused to go. The train was long, the
passengers were asleep, and the men, no doubt, imagined nobody saw them.
Lister thought the fellow who got down did not know the girl was gone
and did not mean to leave the train without her. The light touched the
men's faces, and it was obvious that one was angry and the other
disturbed. The scene intrigued Lister. It was like watching an act in a
cinema play of which one did not know the plot.
After a minute or two a lantern flashed up the track, the bell tolled,
and the nearer man jumped back on the step. Lister heard a vestibule
door shut and then the throb of wheels began. The fellow on the line
frowned and threw out his hands angrily. From the movement of his lips
Lister thought he swore, but the car rolled past him and he melted into
Lister went to his berth, but did not undress. Much of the night had
gone, he would reach his camp soon after daybreak, and the train would
only stop long enough for him to jump off. He could sleep in his clothes
for an hour or two. A slackening of the roll of wheels wakened him and
he got out of his berth, but the big lamps were burning and when he went
to the door he saw dawn had not come. It was obvious they had not
reached the construction camp. Lister shivered, and was returning to his
berth when the conductor opened the door.
"Our luck's surely not good to-night," he said. "They're pulling us up
at Maple. If it's not a washout, somebody will get fired."
He went off, grumbling, but when the train stopped came back with a
trooper of the North-West Mounted Police.
"Where's the guy you told me to watch out for?" he asked.
Lister said he did not know and offered to go with them and help find
the man. It looked as if he were going to see the end of the play.
When they opened a vestibule door a man came out of the car in front and
stopped, as if he were dazzled by the beam from the conductor's lifted
"That's the fellow," Lister shouted.
He thought the other saw the trooper's uniform, because he stepped back
quickly. The door, however, was shut. When he let go the handle the
spring-bolt had engaged.
"Nothing doing that way!" said the trooper. "My partner's coming along
behind you; you're corraled all right. I've a warrant for you, Louis
The North-West Police work in couples and the situation was plain. One
trooper had begun his search at the front of the train, the other at the
back, and Shillito, hearing the first turn the passengers out of their
berths, had tried to steal away and met the other. His face got
strangely white, but Lister thought it was rather with rage than fear.
His lips drew back in a snarl, and the veins swelled on his forehead. He
occupied the center of the illuminated circle thrown by the conductor's
lamp, and his savage gaze was fixed. Lister saw he was not looking at
the policeman but at him.
"Blast you!" Shillito shouted. "If you hadn't butted in--"
"Cut it out!" said the trooper. "Hands up; we've got you! Don't make
Shillito's hand went behind him. It was possible he felt for the door
knob, but the trooper meant to run no risks. Although he had put down
his rifle and taken out his handcuffs, he jumped forward, across the
platform, and Shillito bent sideways to avoid his spring. The fellow was
athletic and his quick side-movement indicated he was something of a
boxer; the policeman was embarrassed by his handcuffs and young.
Shillito seized him and threw him against the rails, close to the gap
where the steps went down. The trooper gasped, his grasp got slack, and
his body slipped along the rails. It looked as if Shillito would throw
him down the steps, and Lister jumped.
He saw Shillito's hand go up and next moment got a heavy blow. For all
that, he seized the man and held on, though blood ran into his eyes and
he felt dizzy. Shillito struggled like a savage animal and Lister
imagined the trooper did not help much. He got his arms round his
antagonist and tried to pull him down; Shillito was trying to reach the
opening in the rails. After a moment or two, Lister felt his muscles
getting slack, lurched forward, and saw nothing in front. He plunged out
from the gap, struck a step with his foot, and somebody fell on him.
Then he thought he heard a rifle-shot, and knew nothing more.
By and by somebody pulled him to his feet and he saw the conductor
holding his arm. A group of excited passengers stood round them in the
light that shone from the train and some others ran along the edge of
the woods. The trooper and Shillito were gone.
Lister's head hurt, he felt shaky, and when he wiped his face his hand
was wet with blood.
"My head's cut. S'pose I hit something when I fell," he said.
"Shillito socked it to you pretty good," the conductor replied, and
waved his lamp. "All aboard!" he shouted, and pushed Lister up the
When they reached the platform the car jolted and Lister sat down, with
his back against the door.
"My legs won't hold me," he said in an apologetic voice. "Did Shillito
"Knocked out the trooper and made the bush; the other fellow was way
back along the train," the conductor replied. "They want him for
embezzlement and will soon get on his trail, but the wash-out's broke
the wires and I reckon he'll cross the frontier ahead. Now you come
along and I'll try to fix your cut."
Lister went, and soon after a porter helped him into his berth. His head
hurt and he felt very dull and slack, but he slept and when he woke
bright sunshine streamed into the standing car and he saw the train had
stopped at Winnipeg. Soon afterwards the conductor and one of the
station officials put him into an automobile.
"If the reporters get after you, remember you're not to talk about the
girl," he said to the conductor.
The other nodded, and signed the driver to start. The car rolled off and
stopped at the house of a doctor who dressed the cut on Lister's head
and ordered him a week's rest. Lister went to a hotel, and in the
morning found a romantic narrative of Shillito's escape in the
newspaper, but was relieved to note that nothing was said about the
girl. The report, however, stated that a passenger who tried to help the
police had got badly hurt and Shillito had vanished in the woods. The
police had not found his trail and it was possible he would reach the
Lister thought the thing was done with, and when a letter arrived from
the construction office, telling him to stay until he felt able to
resume his work, resigned himself to rather dreary idleness. For some
days his head ached and he could not go out; the other guests were
engaged in the city and there was nobody to whom he could talk. He got
badly bored, and it was a relief when one afternoon the gentleman he had
met at the construction camp arrived with his daughter. For all that,
Lister was surprised. Duveen was a man of some importance, Miss Duveen
was a fashionable young lady, and Lister had imagined they had forgotten
him. He took his guests to a corner of the spacious rotunda where a
throbbing electric fan blew away the flies, and Duveen gave him a
"The _Record_ did not give your name, but we soon found out who was the
plucky passenger," he said with a friendly smile. "Ruth thought she'd
like to see you, and since I wasn't engaged this afternoon we came
"I did want to come, but I really think you proposed the visit," Ruth
"Oh, well," said Duveen, "I don't know if it's important, but perhaps we
oughtn't to make Mr. Lister talk."
Lister declared he wanted to talk, and Duveen said presently, "I don't
see why you butted in."
For a moment or two Lister hesitated. He was resolved to say nothing
about the girl; it was obvious she would not like her adventure known,
but he must be cautious. Duveen was clever, and he thought Miss Duveen
gave him a curious glance.
"The trooper was young and I sympathized with his keenness. Looked as if
it was his first important job and he meant to make good."
"A romantic impulse?" Duveen remarked, and laughed. "Well, when one is
young, I expect it's hard to stand off while a fight's going on. All the
same, it's strange you didn't sympathize with the fellow who was
corraled. That's youth's natural instinct, although I allow it's not
"The trooper was corraled. He'd put down his rifle and Shillito had a
gun; I reckon it was the sharp butt of a heavy automatic that cut my
head. Then I didn't like the fellow; he'd come through the train before
and looked a smart crook."
"He is a crook and got away with a big wad of the lumber firm's money.
However, you were rash to jump for a man with a pistol. You didn't know
he'd use the butt. All the same, you look brighter than we thought and
can take a rest. I expect the construction office won't rush you back
until you're fit."
"I want to get back. Loafing round the hotel is dreary and my job's not
getting on. Although I'm ordered to lie off, this won't count for much.
I'll be made accountable for getting behind."
Duveen said nothing for a moment or two, but he looked thoughtful, and
Lister imagined Miss Duveen studied him quietly. He did not belong to
the Duveens' circle; he was ruder. In fact, it was rather strange to see
these people sitting with him, engaged in friendly talk, although, now
he thought about it, Miss Duveen had not said much.
She was a pretty girl and Lister liked her fashionable dress. Somehow
Ruth Duveen harmonized with the tall pillars and rich ornamentation of
the rotunda. One felt she belonged to spacious rooms. Duveen's clothes
were in quiet taste, he wore a big diamond, and looked commanding. One
felt this was a man whose word carried weight.
"You're something of a hustler," he remarked with a smile. "For all
that, you got a nasty knock, and your quitting for a time is justified.
Well, if you feel lonesome, come along and dine at our hotel. Then we'll
go and see the American opera. I'm told the show is good."
Lister made some excuses, but Duveen would not be refused.
"When we stopped at your camp you made things smooth for us. You gave
Ruth some thrills, showed her the romance of track-grading, and
generally helped her to a good time. Anyhow, the thing is fixed. We'll
send the car for you."
They went off soon afterwards, and Lister mused and smoked. He had
hardly expected to meet the Duveens again and wondered whether he owed
the visit to Ruth or her father; he had remarked at the camp that she
was generally indulged. Well, it was plain Duveen could help him and
Lister was ambitious, but he frowned and pulled himself up. He was not
going to intrigue for promotion and use a girl's friendship in order to
force his chiefs to see his merits. Things like that were done, but not
by him; it demanded qualities he did not think were his. Moreover he did
not know if Ruth Duveen was his friend. She was attractive, but he
imagined she was clever. All the same, if he could get the doctor to fix
his bandage so as to make it inconspicuous he would dine with the
Lister went to the opera with his hosts and was moved by the music and
the feeling that he was one of a careless, pleasure-seeking crowd. For
the most part, his life had been strenuous and the crowds he knew were
rude. His home was a bare shack, sometimes built on the wind-swept
alkali plains, and sometimes in the tangled woods. From daybreak until
dusk fell, hoarse shouts, the clank of rails, the beat of heavy hammers
filled his ears, and often the uproar did not stop at dark. When a soft
muskeg swallowed the new track, he must watch, by the flaring
blast-lamps, noisy ploughs throw showers of gravel from the ballast
Labor and concentration had left their mark. Lister's muscles were hard,
but his body and face were thin. He looked fine-drawn and alert; his
talk was direct and quick. As a rule, his skin was brown, but now the
brown was gone, and the lines on his face were deeper. His injury
accounted for something and he felt the reaction from a strain he had
hardly noted while it must be borne. Although he had not altogether
hidden his bandage and his clothes were not the latest fashion, Ruth
Duveen was satisfied. Somehow he looked a finer type than the business
men in the neighboring stalls. One felt the man's clean virility and got
a hint of force.
Lister was highly strung. The music stirred his imagination, and when
the curtain went down the light and glitter, the perfume that drifted
about, the women's dress, and the society of his attractive companion
gave him a curious thrill. He began to see he had missed much; ambitions
that had forced him to struggle for scope to use fresh efforts took
another turn. Life was not all labor. Ruth Duveen had enlightened him.
He studied her. She had grace and charm; it was much to enjoy, for one
evening, the society of a girl like this. Duveen went off between the
acts to meet his friends, but Ruth stopped and talked. Her smile was
gracious and Lister let himself go. He told her about adventures on the
track and asked about her life in the cities. Perhaps it was strange,
but she did not look bored, and when the curtain went down for the last
time he felt a pang. The evening was gone and in a day or two he must
resume his labor in the wilds. Lister did not cheat himself; he knew the
strange, romantic excitement he had indulged would not be his again.
When they went down the passage Ruth gave him a smiling glance and saw
his mouth was firm.
"You look rather tired," she said. "Have we tired you?"
Lister turned and his eyes were thoughtful. She had stopped to fasten
her cloak, and the people pushing by forced her to his side. An electric
lamp burned overhead and her beauty moved him. He noted the heavy coils
of her dark hair, her delicate color, and the grace of her form.
"I'm not at all tired," he said. "I feel remarkably braced and keen, as
if I'd waked up from sleep. In fact, I think I have awakened."
Ruth laughed. She saw he was not smiling and his graveness gave her a
sense of power. He had owned, with typical frankness, that she had moved
"Sometimes to wake up suddenly gives one a jolt," she said. "However,
you will soon get calm again in the woods."
He sensed something provocative and challenging in her voice, but he
would not play up.
"I wonder--" he said quietly. "In a way, the proper line's to go to
"Sometimes one dreams! I expect you dream about locomotives breaking
through trestles and dump-cars plunging into muskegs?"
He laughed. "They're things I know, and safe to dream about. All the
same, I rather expect I'll be haunted by lights and music, pretty
dresses and faces--"
He stopped, and Ruth remarked: "If these have charm, there are no very
obvious grounds for your going without. You can command a locomotive and
Winnipeg's not very far from your camp. But we're stopping the people,
and I can't fix this clasp."
She moved, and the opera cloak fell back from her arm, which was
uncovered but for the filmy sleeve that reached a little below the
shoulder. He noted its fine curves and the silky smoothness of her skin.
Although he fastened the clasp with a workman's firm touch, he thrilled.
Then the crowd forced them on and they found Duveen waiting by the car.
When they stopped at Lister's hotel Ruth said, "We are going to Winnipeg
Beach, Saturday. Would you like to come?"
Duveen nodded. "A happy thought! I've got to talk to some business
people who make Ruth tired. If you come along, I needn't bother about
"That's how one's father argues!" Ruth exclaimed.
Lister hesitated. "I was told to lie off because I was hurt. If I'm fit
to enjoy an excursion, I'm fit to work."
"You're too scrupulous, young man. Have a good time when it's possible,
or you'll be sorry afterwards. I reckon you're justified to take all the
company will give."
"It was caution, not scruples. Suppose I meet one of the railroad
"I'll fix him," Duveen rejoined. "Your bosses won't get after you when
you belong to my party. Anyhow, we'll look out for you."
The car rolled off, and Lister, going to the rotunda, lighted a
cigarette and mused. Ruth Duveen had beauty, he liked her but must use
caution, since he imagined the friendship she had given him was
something of an indulged girl's caprice. Then he began to think about
the girl he had met on board the train. Now he was able, undisturbed, to
draw her picture, he saw she, too, had charm, but she was not at all
like Ruth. The strange thing was, one did not note if she were beautiful
or not. In a way, this did not matter; her pluck and firmness fixed
Lister threw away his cigarette. He was poor and not romantic. The girl
he had helped had vanished, and after their excursion he hardly expected
to see Ruth again. Ruth was kind, but she would soon forget him when he
was gone. He would go to Winnipeg Beach with her, and then return to the
woods and let his job absorb him. In the meantime, his head had begun to
ache and he went to bed.
The Saturday morning was typical of Winnipeg in summer. The fresh
northwest breeze that sweeps the Manitoba plains had dropped. Dark
thunder-clouds rolled about the sky, but the sun was hot and an
enervating humidity brooded over the town. The perspiring crowd in Main
Street moved slackly, the saloon bars were full, and the groups of
holiday-makers flocking to the station wore a languid look.
Lister met his hosts in the marble waiting hall where a gold-framed
panorama of Canadian scenery closes the view between the rows of stately
pillars. Duveen had brought three or four keen-eyed, nervous business
men, a rather imposing lady, and Ruth, and they got on board a local
train soon after Lister arrived. Winnipeg Beach was then beginning to
attract holiday-makers from the prairie town. One could row and fish in
sheltered bays, and adventure on board a gasoline launch into the
northern wilds. Boating, however, had no charm for Duveen's friends. The
excursion was an opportunity for friendly business talk, and when lunch
was over Ruth and Lister went out on the lawn in front of the hotel.
There was no wind. A few dark clouds floated motionless overhead, but
outside their shadow the lake shone like glass, running back until it
melted into faint reflections on the horizon. A varnished launch flashed
in the sun and trailed a long white wake across the water.
"Do you want to stay and talk to Mrs. Knapp?" Ruth asked.
"I do not," said Lister. "Anyhow, I imagine Mrs. Knapp doesn't want to
talk to me. I'm not a big-business man."
Ruth laughed. "Oh, well, when you speculate at the Board of Trade, a
railroad engineer is not a useful friend. I suppose I ought to stay, but
the things one ought to do are tiresome. Let's go on the lake."
Lister got a canoe, and fixing a cushion for Ruth, picked up the paddle.
"Where shall we go?"
"North, as far as you can. Let's get away from the boats and trippers
and imagine we're back in the woods where you helped me catch the big
"Then you liked it at the construction camp?" Lister remarked. "It was a
pretty rude spot."
"For an indulged city girl?" Ruth said, smiling. "Well, perhaps I'd got
all the satisfaction dinner parties and dances and the society at hotels
can give. I knew the men who handle finance and work the wires behind
the scenes, but I wanted to know the others who do the strenuous things
and keep the country going. I came, and you helped me to understand the
romance of the lakes and woods."
Lister did not remember if he had tried to do so and thought he had not.
All the same, the girl was keen and interested. In summer, it was not
hard to feel the lonely sheets of water and tangled bush were touched by
romance. Then, perhaps, everybody felt at times a vague longing for the
rude and primitive. But he was not a philosopher, and dipping the
paddle, he drove the canoe across the tranquil lake.
In the meantime, he imagined Ruth studied him with quiet amusement, and
wondered whether she thought he was not playing up. He did not mean to
play up; the game was intricate, and, if he were rash, might cost him
much. He had taken off his hat and jacket and effort had brought back
the color to his skin. His thin face had the clean bronze tint of an
Indian's; the soft shirt showed the fine-drawn lines of his athletic
figure; but Lister was not conscious of this. He knew his drawbacks, but
not all his advantages.
When he had gone some distance and the hotel and houses began to melt
into the background, he stopped and let the canoe drift.
"How far shall we go?" he asked.
Ruth indicated a rocky point, cut off by the glimmering reflection, that
seemed to float above the horizon.
"Let's see what is on the other side. Now and then one wants to know.
Exploration's intriguing. Don't you think so?"
"Sometimes; in a practical sense. When a height of land cuts the
landscape, I wonder whether one could find an easy down-grade for the
track across the summit. That's about as far as my imagination goes."
"Oh, well," said Ruth, "exploration like that is useful and one doesn't
run much risk. But risk and adventure appeal to some people."
Lister resumed paddling. The girl had charm and he was young; if he were
not cautious, there might be some risk for him. He was not a clever
philanderer, and Ruth and Duveen had been kind. By and by a puff of cool
wind touched his hot skin and he looked round. A black cloud had rolled
up and there were lines on the water.
"We may get a blow and some thunder," he remarked. "Shall we go back?"
"Not yet. We'll make the point first. If it does thunder, summer storms
He paddled harder and a small white wave lapped the canoe's bows. The
sky was getting dark, and now the lines that streaked the lake were
white, but the wind was astern and they were going fast. The glimmering
reflections had vanished and the rocks ahead rose sharply from the
leaden water. The point was some distance off, but Lister knew he must
reach it soon.
A flash of forked lightning leaped from the sky and touched the lake,
there was a long, rumbling peal, and then a humming noise began astern.
Angry white ripples splashed about the canoe and lumps of hail beat
Lister's head. Then, while the thunder rolled across the sky, the canoe
swerved. It was blowing hard, the high bow and stern caught the wind,
the strength was needed to hold her straight with the single paddle. If
he brought her round, he could not paddle to windward, and to steer
across the sea that would soon get up might be dangerous. They must make
the point and land. He threw Ruth his jacket, for spray had begun to fly
and the drops from the paddle blew on board.
"Put on the thing; I've got to work," he said.
In a few minutes his work was hard. Short, white waves rolled past, the
canoe lurched and swerved, and Lister knew if she swung off across wind
and sea she might capsize. He must keep her running and let the combers
split against her pointed stern. The combers were getting large and
their hissing tops surged by some height above the gunwale, but so long
as he could keep her before them they would not come on board. When her
bows went up she sheered, as if she meant to shoot across the hollow
left by the sea that rolled by. He stopped her with a back-stroke and
then drove hard ahead, for he must have speed to steer when the next sea
came on. In the meantime, the lightning flickered about the lake and
between the flashes all was nearly dark. The tops of the waves tossed
against leaden cloud and he could hardly see the rocks for which he
By and by, however, the point stood out close ahead. The trees on the
summit bent in the wind; spray leaped about the bowlders where the white
foam rolled. He must go round and find a landing to lee, but to go round
he must cross the belt of breaking water, with the savage wind abeam.
The canoe shipped some water, and riding in on a comber's crest,
narrowly missed a rock that lifted its top for a moment out of the foam.
Then Lister drove her in behind the point and helped Ruth to land on a
gravel beach. Her eyes sparkled and he saw she had not been daunted.
"We're all right now, but we have got to stay until the storm blows
out," he said.
They found shelter in a hollow of the cliff and sat among the driftwood
while the rain that blotted out the lake drove overhead. The deluge did
not reach them and the cold was going.
"You go back on Monday?" Ruth said at length.
Lister smiled with humorous resignation. "I must. The strange thing is,
when I left my job before I was keen to get back. Now I'd rather stop
"Then you were not bored at Winnipeg?"
"Not at all," Lister declared. "If it would give me a holiday like this,
I'd get hurt again."
"I expect the woods get dreary. Then, perhaps, one doesn't make much
progress by sticking to the track? Don't you want to get into the office
where the big plans are made?"
"I don't know," said Lister thoughtfully. "On the track you're all right
if you know your job; at headquarters you need qualities I don't know
are mine. Anyhow, I'm not likely to get there, if I want or not."
Ruth gave him a curious glance. "Sometimes one's friends can help. Would
you really like a headquarters post?"
Lister moved abruptly and his mouth got firm. Perhaps Ruth exaggerated
her father's importance, but it was possible Duveen could get him
promotion. All the same, Lister saw what his taking the job implied; he
must give up his independence and be Duveen's man. Moreover, if the girl
meant to help, she had some grounds for doing so. He thrilled and was
tempted, but he thought hard. It looked as if she liked him and was
perhaps willing to embark upon a sentimental adventure, but he thought
this was all. She would not marry a poor man.
"No," he said, with a touch of awkwardness. "I reckon I had better stick
to the track. To know where you properly belong is something, and if I
took the other job, my chiefs would soon find me out."
"You're modest," Ruth remarked. "One likes modest people, but don't you
think you're obstinate?"
"When the trail you hit goes uphill, obstinacy's useful."
"If you won't take help, you may be long reaching the top, but we'll let
it go. The wind hasn't dropped much. How can we get back?"
"We must wait," Lister replied with a twinkle. "The trouble about an
adventure is, when you start you're often forced to stay with it and put
it over. That sometimes costs more than you reckon."
Ruth's eyes sparkled, but she forced a smile. "Logical people make me
tired. But why do you imagine I haven't the pluck to pay?"
"I don't," said Lister. "I've no grounds to imagine anything like that.
My business was to take care of you and I ought to have seen the storm
was coming. Now I'm mad because I didn't watch out."
"Sometimes you're rather nice," Ruth remarked. "You know I made you go
on. All the same, we must start as soon as possible."
Lister got up presently and launched the canoe. The thunder had gone,
but the breeze was strong and angry white waves rolled up the lake. To
drive the canoe to windward was heavy labor, and while she lurched
slowly across the combers the sun got low. Lister's wet hands blistered
and his arms ached, but he swung the paddle stubbornly, and at length
the houses and hotel stood out from the beach. When they got near the
landing Ruth looked ahead.
"The train's ready to pull out!" she exclaimed. "Can you make it?"
Lister tried. His face got dark with effort and his hands bled, but in a
few minutes he ran the canoe aground. Ruth jumped out and they reached
the station as the bell began to toll. Duveen waved to them from the
track by the front of the train and then jumped on board, and Lister
pushed Ruth up the steps of the last car. The car was second-class and
crowded by returning holiday-makers, but the conductor, who did not know
Lister and Miss Duveen, declared all the train was full and they must
stay where they were. When he went off and locked the vestibule Lister
All the seats and much of the central passage were occupied, for the
most part by young men and women. Some were frankly lovers and did not
look disturbed by the banter of their friends. Lister was embarrassed,
for Ruth's sake, until he saw with some surprise that she studied the
others with amused curiosity. Looking down he met her twinkling glance
and thought it something like a challenge. His embarrassment got worse.
One could not talk because of the noise and to shout was ridiculous. He
must stand in a cramped pose and try not to fall against Ruth when the
cars rocked. He admitted that his proper background was the rude
construction camp, and it was something of a relief when they rolled
Duveen's car was at the station, and Ruth stopped for a moment before
she got on board.
"You start on Monday and we will be out of town to-morrow. I wish you
Lister thanked her, and when she got into the car she gave him a curious
smile. "I think I liked you better in the woods," she said, and the car
Soon after his return from Winnipeg, Lister stood one evening by a
length of track planned to cut out an awkward curve. The new line ran
into a muskeg that sucked down brush and logs and the loads of numerous
gravel trains. Angry foremen declared one could not fill up the bog, and
Lister knew the heads of the construction office grumbled about the
delay. He was tired, for he had been strenuously occupied since morning,
but could not persuade himself that the work had made much progress.
Small trees lay in tangled rows about the fresh gravel; farther back,
the standing bush ran in a broken line against the fading light. In
front, thin mist drifted across the muskeg where slender trunks rose
from the quaking mud. Not far off a high, wooden trestle carried the
rails across a ravine. The bridge would presently be rebuilt with steel,
but in the meantime the frame was open and the gaps between the ties
It was getting dark and noisy blast-lamps threw up pillars of white
fire. The line had sunk in the afternoon and it was necessary to lift
the rails and fill up the subsidence before the next gravel train
arrived. Lister was angry and puzzled, for he had pushed the road-bed
across to near the other side, but the rails had not sunk in the new
belt but in ground over which the trains had run.
By and by a man joined him and remarked: "The boys have got the ties up,
but I reckon they won't fix the track for three or four hours. Looks as
if the blamed muskeg was going to beat us."
"She can't beat us," Lister rejoined impatiently. "The trouble is,
hauling the stuff she swallows runs up construction costs, and that
counts against us. Did you leave Willis with the gang?"
The other laughed. "I did not. He was tired. Wanted something at the
office and allowed he'd stop and take a smoke."
"Hustle him out when you go along, Kemp. I'd sooner our chiefs down East
had kept that young man. The job's not soft enough for him. However, I
s'pose he lighted the lamp across the bridge?"
"Willis has friends," Kemp remarked meaningly, and indicated a
reflection behind the trees. "The lamp's burning."
Lister glanced at the trembling light. "I expect it's good enough for
the engineer, but the flame's not steady. Willis hasn't bothered to get
the pressure right. It's possible he didn't wait until she warmed the
The powerful lamp had been carried across the bridge in order to warn
the engineer of the gravel train, who on his last journey had run to the
end of the line. The light could be seen for some distance up the track.
"I got after Hardie about making good time. We must dump his load in the
soft spot before we stop," Lister resumed.
"He's coming now; climbing the height of land," said Kemp. "He'll let
her go all out when he makes the top."
A measured throb rolled across the woods, and as the noise got louder
the beat of the exhaust marked the progress of the train. The explosive
snorts indicated that the locomotive labored up the last steep pitch,
and Lister sat down by the rails. He was tired and would not be needed
until the gravel plough threw the rattling ballast off the cars. After a
few moments he looked up, for a man came out of the gloom.
"Hello, Willis! I s'pose you've been taking a quiet smoke?"
"That's so," said the other. "I've hustled round since sun-up and
imagined the gang could get along for half an hour without my watching.
You want to leave something to your foremen."
Lister said nothing. He did not choose his helpers, but tried to make
the best use of those the bosses sent. Willis had some useful qualities,
but he was slack, and got sulky if one drove him hard. The young man had
come from the drawing-office of a famous bridge-building works.
In the meantime, the rumble of the gravel train grew to a pulsating
roar. The locomotive had crossed the divide and was running furiously
down grade. The roughly-ballasted track was uneven, but the engineer had
been on board since daybreak and no doubt wanted to finish his job.
"She's in the rock cut now," Kemp remarked. "Hardie ought to throttle
down when he runs out and sees the light."
Lister listened. The swelling note indicated that the train had left the
cut, but it did not look as if the engineer was pulling up.
"She's coming along pretty fast," said Willis. "If he doesn't snub her
soon, she'll jump the steel and take the muskeg."
Next moment Lister was on his feet. Hardie was driving too fast; Lister
doubted if he could stop before the heavy train plunged through the
broken track. The unsteady white flicker behind the trees had sunk and
changed to smoky red. If looked as if the oil was not vaporizing
properly and the lamp was going out. When the engineer saw the light it
would be too late.
"Get the boys off the track. I'll try to fix the lamp," Lister shouted,
and started for the bridge.
The errand was not his. Willis had lighted the lamp: moreover, one might
have sent a workman, but when a job was urgent Lister went himself. The
job was urgent and dangerous. Unless he made good speed, he would meet
the train on the bridge and the cylinders of the locomotive projected
beyond the edge.
The track was rough and fresh gravel rolled under his feet. Now and then
he struck a cross-tie and nearly fell. It had got dark and among the
trees the gloom was deep; one could not see the ties. Yet he must run,
and his breath got labored and his heart thumped. He did not know where
the train was, only that it was near. The woods throbbed with a savage
din; the big cars, loaded with rattling gravel, clanged and roared as
they plunged down grade.
Lister hardly thought he could stop the train. It looked as if he would
be caught on the trestle, but he meant to go on. He did not argue about
it; he was rather moved by instinctive stubbornness. At moments of
strain one does not argue and logic has no appeal. Character counts for
all, and Lister followed his bent. His job was urgent and must be
When he reached the bridge he saw white threads of water between the
timbers of the open frame. The spacing of the ties was not regular, and
if he stepped short, or too far, he would go through. Then, if he did
not strike a brace, he would fall upon the rocks in the stream. All the
same, he saw the blaze of the head-lamp pick out the trees across the
ravine and sprang on to the bridge.
Somehow he hit the ties; perhaps by subconscious judgment, and perhaps
by good luck. Then he felt loose gravel under his feet and thrilled with
a strange fierce satisfaction. His breath was labored and his body wet
by sweat, but the moving beam had not reached the lamp. He was going to
When the black front of a gravel car leaped out of the gloom he jumped
off the track. The locomotive pushed the cars, the train was long, and
the lamp was but a few yards off. It had not gone out, although the
flame had sunk to a faint red jet that would not be seen in the dust.
His hands shook, but he gave the pump a few strokes and turned the valve
wheel. The red jet got white and leaped higher and Lister, pumping hard,
looked up the track. Big cars, rocking and banging, rushed past in a
cloud of dust. Bits of gravel struck him and rattled against the lamp.
The blurred, dark figures of men who sat upon the load cut against the
fan-shaped beam, and in the background he saw a shower of leaping
But the other light was growing and Lister turned the wheel. Burning oil
splashed around him, a pillar of fire rushed up, and when a whistle
screamed he let go the valve and turned from the blinding dust. He was
shaking, but the heavy snorting stopped. The engineer had seen the light
and cut off steam.
When Lister looked round the train was gone. He had done what he had
undertaken, and after waiting for a few moments he started back. Now he
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