The Blazed Trail
Stewart Edward White
Part 3 out of 7
of trim "wood-lots."
Thorpe knew little of this, and cared less. These feathered trees,
standing close-ranked and yet each isolate in the dignity and
gravity of a sphinx of stone set to dancing his blood of the
frontiersman. He spread out his map to make sure that so valuable
a clump of timber remained still unclaimed. A few sections lying
near the headwaters were all he found marked as sold. He resumed
his tramp light-heartedly.
At the ten-mile point he came upon a dam. It was a crude dam,--built
of logs,--whose face consisted of strong buttresses slanted up-
stream, and whose sheer was made of unbarked timbers laid smoothly
side by side at the required angle. At present its gate was open.
Thorpe could see that it was an unusually large gate, with a powerful
apparatus for the raising and the lowering of it.
The purpose of the dam in this new country did not puzzle him in
the least, but its presence bewildered him. Such constructions are
often thrown across logging streams at proper intervals in order
that the operator may be independent of the spring freshets. When
he wishes to "drive" his logs to the mouth of the stream, he
first accumulates a head of water behind his dams, and then, by
lifting the gates, creates an artificial freshet sufficient to
float his timber to the pool formed by the next dam below. The
device is common enough; but it is expensive. People do not build
dams except in the certainty of some years of logging, and quite
extensive logging at that. If the stream happens to be navigable,
the promoter must first get an Improvement Charter from a board of
control appointed by the State. So Thorpe knew that he had to deal,
not with a hand-to-mouth-timber-thief, but with a great company
preparing to log the country on a big scale.
He continued his journey. At noon he came to another and similar
structure. The pine forest had yielded to knolls of hardwood
separated by swamp-holes of blackthorn. Here he left his pack and
pushed ahead in light marching order. About eight miles above the
first dam, and eighteen from the bend of the river, he ran into a
"slashing" of the year before. The decapitated stumps were already
beginning to turn brown with weather, the tangle of tops and limbs
was partially concealed by poplar growths and wild raspberry vines.
Parenthetically, it may be remarked that the promptitude with which
these growths succeed the cutting of the pine is an inexplicable
marvel. Clear forty acres at random in the very center of a pine
forest, without a tract of poplar within an hundred miles; the next
season will bring up the fresh shoots. Some claim that blue jays
bring the seeds in their crops. Others incline to the theory that
the creative elements lie dormant in the soil, needing only the sun
to start them to life. Final speculation is impossible, but the
To Thorpe this particular clearing became at once of the greatest
interest. He scrambled over and through the ugly debris which for a
year or two after logging operations cumbers the ground. By a rather
prolonged search he found what he sought,--the "section corners" of
the tract, on which the government surveyor had long ago marked the
"descriptions." A glance at the map confirmed his suspicions. The
slashing lay some two miles north of the sections designated as
belonging to private parties. It was Government land.
Thorpe sat down, lit a pipe, and did a little thinking.
As an axiom it may be premised that the shorter the distance logs
have to be transported, the less it costs to get them in. Now
Thorpe had that very morning passed through beautiful timber lying
much nearer the mouth of the river than either this, or the sections
further south. Why had these men deliberately ascended the stream?
Why had they stolen timber eighteen miles from the bend, when they
could equally well have stolen just as good fourteen miles nearer
the terminus of their drive?
Thorpe ruminated for some time without hitting upon a solution.
Then suddenly he remembered the two dams, and his idea that the men
in charge of the river must be wealthy and must intend operating on
a large scale. He thought he glimpsed it. After another pipe, he
The Unknowns were indeed going in on a large scale. They intended
eventually to log the whole of the Ossawinamakee basin. For this
reason they had made their first purchase, planted their first
foot-hold, near the headwaters. Furthermore, located as they were
far from a present or an immediately future civilization, they had
felt safe in leaving for the moment their holdings represented by
the three sections already described. Some day they would buy all
the standing Government pine in the basin; but in the meantime they
would steal all they could at a sufficient distance from the lake to
minimize the danger of discovery. They had not dared to appropriate
the three mile tract Thorpe had passed through, because in that
locality the theft would probably be remarked, so they intended
eventually to buy it. Until that should become necessary, however,
every stick cut meant so much less to purchase.
"They're going to cut, and keep on cutting, working down river as
fast as they can," argued Thorpe. "If anything happens so they
have to, they'll buy in the pine that is left; but if things go
well with them, they'll take what they can for nothing. They're
getting this stuff out up-river first, because they can steal safer
while the country is still unsettled; and even when it does fill up,
there will not be much likelihood of an investigation so far in-
country,--at least until after they have folded their tents."
It seems to us who are accustomed to the accurate policing of our
twentieth century, almost incredible that such wholesale robberies
should have gone on with so little danger of detection. Certainly
detection was a matter of sufficient simplicity. Someone happens
along, like Thorpe, carrying a Government map in his pocket. He
runs across a parcel of unclaimed land already cut over. It would
seem easy to lodge a complaint, institute a prosecution against the
men known to have put in the timber. BUT IT IS ALMOST NEVER DONE.
Thorpe knew that men occupied in so precarious a business would be
keenly on the watch. At the first hint of rivalry, they would buy
in the timber they had selected. But the situation had set his
fighting blood to racing. The very fact that these men were thieves
on so big a scale made him the more obstinately determined to thwart
them. They undoubtedly wanted the tract down river. Well, so did he!
He purposed to look it over carefully, to ascertain its exact
boundaries and what sections it would be necessary to buy in order
to include it, and perhaps even to estimate it in a rough way. In
the accomplishment of this he would have to spend the summer, and
perhaps part of the fall, in that district. He could hardly expect
to escape notice. By the indications on the river, he judged that a
crew of men had shortly before taken out a drive of logs. After the
timber had been rafted and towed to Marquette, they would return.
He might be able to hide in the forest, but sooner or later, he was
sure, one of the company's landlookers or hunters would stumble on
his camp. Then his very concealment would tell them what he was
after. The risk was too great. For above all things Thorpe needed
time. He had, as has been said, to ascertain what he could offer.
Then he had to offer it. He would be forced to interest capital,
and that is a matter of persuasion and leisure.
Finally his shrewd, intuitive good-sense flashed the solution on him.
He returned rapidly to his pack, assumed the straps, and arrived at
the first dam about dark of the long summer day.
There he looked carefully about him. Some fifty feet from the
water's edge a birch knoll supported, besides the birches, a single
big hemlock. With his belt ax, Thorpe cleared away the little white
trees. He stuck the sharpened end of one of them in the bark of the
shaggy hemlock, fastened the other end in a crotch eight or ten feet
distant, slanted the rest of the saplings along one side of this
ridge pole, and turned in, after a hasty supper, leaving the
completion of his permanent camp to the morrow.
In the morning he thatched smooth the roof of the shelter, using
for the purpose the thick branches of hemlocks; placed two green
spruce logs side by side as cooking range; slung his pot on a rod
across two forked sticks; cut and split a quantity of wood; spread
his blankets; and called himself established. His beard was already
well grown, and his clothes had become worn by the brush and faded
by the sun and rain. In the course of the morning he lay in wait
very patiently near a spot overflowed by the river, where, the day
before, he had noticed lily-pads growing. After a time a doe and a
spotted fawn came and stood ankle-deep in the water, and ate of the
lily-pads. Thorpe lurked motionless behind his screen of leaves;
and as he had taken the precaution so to station himself that his
hiding-place lay downwind, the beautiful animals were unaware of
By and by a prong-buck joined them. He was a two-year-old, young,
tender, with the velvet just off his antlers. Thorpe aimed at his
shoulder, six inches above the belly-line, and pressed the trigger.
As though by enchantment the three woods creatures disappeared. But
the hunter had noticed that, whereas the doe and fawn flourished
bravely the broad white flags of their tails, the buck had seemed
but a streak of brown. By this he knew he had hit.
Sure enough, after two hundred yards of following the prints of
sharp hoofs and occasional gobbets of blood on the leaves, he came
upon his prey dead. It became necessary to transport the animal to
camp. Thorpe stuck his hunting knife deep into the front of the
deer's chest, where the neck joins, which allowed most of the blood
to drain away. Then he fastened wild grape vines about the antlers,
and, with a little exertion drew the body after him as though it had
been a toboggan.
It slid more easily than one would imagine, along the grain; but not
as easily as by some other methods with which Thorpe was unfamiliar.
At camp he skinned the deer, cut most of the meat into thin strips
which he salted and placed in the sun to dry, and hung the remainder
in a cool arbor of boughs. The hide he suspended over a pole.
All these things he did hastily, as though he might be in a hurry;
as indeed he was.
At noon he cooked himself a venison steak and some tea. Then with
his hatchet he cut several small pine poles, which he fashioned
roughly in a number of shapes and put aside for the future. The
brains of the deer, saved for the purpose, he boiled with water in
his tin pail, wishing it were larger. With the liquor thus obtained
he intended later to remove the hair and grain from the deer hide.
Toward evening he caught a dozen trout in the pool below the dam.
These he ate for supper.
Next day he spread the buck's hide out on the ground and drenched
it liberally with the product of deer-brains. Later the hide was
soaked in the river, after which, by means of a rough two-handled
spatula, Thorpe was enabled after much labor to scrape away
entirely the hair and grain. He cut from the edge of the hide a
number of long strips of raw-hide, but anointed the body of the
skin liberally with the brain liquor.
"Glad I don't have to do that every day!" he commented, wiping his
brow with the back of his wrist.
As the skin dried he worked and kneaded it to softness. The result
was a fair quality of white buckskin, the first Thorpe had ever
made. If wetted, it would harden dry and stiff. Thorough smoking
in the fumes of punk maple would obviate this, but that detail Thorpe
left until later.
"I don't know whether it's all necessary," he said to himself
doubtfully, "but if you're going to assume a disguise, let it
be a good one."
In the meantime, he had bound together with his rawhide thongs
several of the oddly shaped pine timbers to form a species of
dead-fall trap. It was slow work, for Thorpe's knowledge of such
things was theoretical. He had learned his theory well, however,
and in the end arrived.
All this time he had made no effort to look over the pine, nor did
he intend to begin until he could be sure of doing so in safety.
His object now was to give his knoll the appearances of a trapper's
Towards the end of the week he received his first visit. Evening
was drawing on, and Thorpe was busily engaged in cooking a panful
of trout, resting the frying pan across the two green spruce logs
between which glowed the coals. Suddenly he became aware of a
presence at his side. How it had reached the spot he could not
imagine, for he had heard no approach. He looked up quickly.
"How do," greeted the newcomer gravely.
The man was an Indian, silent, solemn, with the straight, unwinking
gaze of his race.
"How do," replied Thorpe.
The Indian without further ceremony threw his pack to the ground,
and, squatting on his heels, watched the white man's preparations.
When the meal was cooked, he coolly produced a knife, selected a
clean bit of hemlock bark, and helped himself. Then he lit a pipe,
and gazed keenly about him. The buckskin interested him.
"No good," said he, feeling of its texture.
Thorpe laughed. "Not very," he confessed.
"Good," continued the Indian, touching lightly his own moccasins.
"What you do?" he inquired after a long silence, punctuated by
the puffs of tobacco.
"Hunt; trap; fish," replied Thorpe with equal sententiousness.
"Good," concluded the Indian, after a ruminative pause.
That night he slept on the ground. Next day he made a better
shelter than Thorpe's in less than half the time; and was off
hunting before the sun was an hour high. He was armed with an
old-fashioned smooth-bore muzzle-loader; and Thorpe was astonished,
after he had become better acquainted with his new companion's
methods, to find that he hunted deer with fine bird shot. The
Indian never expected to kill or even mortally wound his game;
but he would follow for miles the blood drops caused by his little
wounds, until the animals in sheer exhaustion allowed him to
approach close enough for a dispatching blow. At two o'clock he
returned with a small buck, tied scientifically together for
toting, with the waste parts cut away, but every ounce of utility
"I show," said the Indian:--and he did. Thorpe learned the Indian
tan; of what use are the hollow shank bones; how the spinal cord is
the toughest, softest, and most pliable sewing-thread known.
The Indian appeared to intend making the birch-knoll his permanent
headquarters. Thorpe was at first a little suspicious of his new
companion, but the man appeared scrupulously honest, was never
intrusive, and even seemed genuinely desirous of teaching the white
little tricks of the woods brought to their perfection by the Indian
alone. He ended by liking him. The two rarely spoke. They merely
sat near each other, and smoked. One evening the Indian suddenly
"You look 'um tree."
"What's that?" cried Thorpe, startled.
"You no hunter, no trapper. You look 'um tree, for make 'um lumber."
The white had not begun as yet his explorations. He did not dare
until the return of the logging crew or the passing of someone in
authority at the up-river camp, for he wished first to establish
in their minds the innocence of his intentions.
"What makes you think that, Charley?" he asked.
"You good man in woods," replied Injin Charley sententiously, "I
tell by way you look at him pine."
"Charley," said he, "why are you staying here with me?"
"Big frien'," replied the Indian promptly.
"Why are you my friend? What have I ever done for you?"
"You gottum chief's eye," replied his companion with simplicity.
Thorpe looked at the Indian again. There seemed to be only one
"Yes, I'm a lumberman," he confessed, "and I'm looking for pine.
But, Charley, the men up the river must not know what I'm after."
"They gettum pine," interjected the Indian like a flash.
"Exactly," replied Thorpe, surprised afresh at the other's
"Good!" ejaculated Injin Charley, and fell silent.
With this, the longest conversation the two had attempted in their
peculiar acquaintance, Thorpe was forced to be content. He was,
however, ill at ease over the incident. It added an element of
uncertainty to an already precarious position.
Three days later he was intensely thankful the conversation had
After the noon meal he lay on his blanket under the hemlock shelter,
smoking and lazily watching Injin Charley busy at the side of the
trail. The Indian had terminated a long two days' search by toting
from the forest a number of strips of the outer bark of white birch,
in its green state pliable as cotton, thick as leather, and light as
air. These he had cut into arbitrary patterns known only to himself,
and was now sewing as a long shapeless sort of bag or sac to a slender
beech-wood oval. Later it was to become a birch-bark canoe, and the
beech-wood oval would be the gunwale.
So idly intent was Thorpe on this piece of construction that he did
not notice the approach of two men from the down-stream side. They
were short, alert men, plodding along with the knee-bent persistency
of the woods-walker, dressed in broad hats, flannel shirts, coarse
trousers tucked in high laced "cruisers "; and carrying each a
bulging meal sack looped by a cord across the shoulders and chest.
Both were armed with long slender scaler's rules. The first
intimation Thorpe received of the presence of these two men was
the sound of their voices addressing Injin Charley.
"Hullo Charley," said one of them, "what you doing here? Ain't
seen you since th' Sturgeon district."
"Mak' 'um canoe," replied Charley rather obviously.
"So I see. But what you expect to get in this Godforsaken country?"
"Beaver, muskrat, mink, otter."
"Trapping, eh?" The man gazed keenly at Thorpe's recumbent figure.
"Who's the other fellow?"
Thorpe held his breath; then exhaled it in a long sigh of relief.
"Him white man," Injin Charley was replying, "him hunt too. He
mak' 'um buckskin."
The landlooker arose lazily and sauntered toward the group. It was
part of his plan to be well recognized so that in the future he
might arouse no suspicions.
"Howdy," he drawled, "got any smokin'?"
"How are you," replied one of the scalers, eying him sharply, and
tendering his pouch. Thorpe filled his pipe deliberately, and
returned it with a heavy-lidded glance of thanks. To all appearances
he was one of the lazy, shiftless white hunters of the backwoods.
Seized with an inspiration, he said, "What sort of chances is they
at your camp for a little flour? Me and Charley's about out. I'll
bring you meat; or I'll make you boys moccasins. I got some good
It was the usual proposition.
"Pretty good, I guess. Come up and see," advised the scaler. "The
crew's right behind us."
"I'll send up Charley," drawled Thorpe, "I'm busy now makin' traps,"
he waved his pipe, calling attention to the pine and rawhide dead-
They chatted a few moments, practically and with an eye to the
strict utility of things about them, as became woodsmen. Then two
wagons creaked lurching by, followed by fifteen or twenty men. The
last of these, evidently the foreman, was joined by the two scalers.
"What's that outfit?" he inquired with the sharpness of suspicion.
"Old Injin Charley--you remember, the old boy that tanned that buck
for you down on Cedar Creek."
"Yes, but the other fellow."
"Oh, a hunter," replied the scaler carelessly.
The man laughed. "Couldn't be nothin' else," he asserted with
confidence. "Regular old backwoods mossback."
At the same time Injin Charley was setting about the splitting of
a cedar log.
"You see," he remarked, "I big frien'."
In the days that followed, Thorpe cruised about the great woods. It
was slow business, but fascinating. He knew that when he should
embark on his attempt to enlist considerable capital in an "unsight
unseen" investment, he would have to be well supplied with statistics.
True, he was not much of a timber estimator, nor did he know the
methods usually employed, but his experience, observation, and reading
had developed a latent sixth sense by which he could appreciate
quality, difficulties of logging, and such kindred practical matters.
First of all he walked over the country at large, to find where the
best timber lay. This was a matter of tramping; though often on an
elevation he succeeded in climbing a tall tree whence he caught
bird's-eye views of the country at large. He always carried his gun
with him, and was prepared at a moment's notice to seem engaged in
hunting,--either for game or for spots in which later to set his
traps. The expedient was, however, unnecessary.
Next he ascertained the geographical location of the different
clumps and forests, entering the sections, the quarter-sections,
even the separate forties in his note-book; taking in only the
"descriptions" containing the best pine.
Finally he wrote accurate notes concerning the topography of each
and every pine district,--the lay of the land; the hills, ravines,
swamps, and valleys; the distance from the river; the character of
the soil. In short, he accumulated all the information he could by
which the cost of logging might be estimated.
The work went much quicker than he had anticipated, mainly because
he could give his entire attention to it. Injin Charley attended to
the commissary, with a delight in the process that removed it from
the category of work. When it rained, an infrequent occurrence, the
two hung Thorpe's rubber blankets before the opening of the driest
shelter, and waited philosophically for the weather to clear. Injin
Charley had finished the first canoe, and was now leisurely at work
on another. Thorpe had filled his note-book with the class of
statistics just described. He decided now to attempt an estimate
of the timber.
For this he had really too little experience. He knew it, but
determined to do his best. The weak point of his whole scheme
lay in that it was going to be impossible for him to allow the
prospective purchaser a chance of examining the pine. That
difficulty Thorpe hoped to overcome by inspiring personal confidence
in himself. If he failed to do so, he might return with a landlooker
whom the investor trusted, and the two could re-enact the comedy
of this summer. Thorpe hoped, however, to avoid the necessity.
It would be too dangerous. He set about a rough estimate of the
Injin Charley intended evidently to work up a trade in buckskin
during the coming winter. Although the skins were in poor condition
at this time of the year, he tanned three more, and smoked them. In
the day-time he looked the country over as carefully as did Thorpe.
But he ignored the pines, and paid attention only to the hardwood
and the beds of little creeks. Injin Charley was in reality a
trapper, and he intended to get many fine skins in this promising
district. He worked on his tanning and his canoe-making late in
One evening just at sunset Thorpe was helping the Indian shape his
craft. The loose sac of birch-bark sewed to the long beech oval was
slung between two tripods. Injin Charley had fashioned a number of
thin, flexible cedar strips of certain arbitrary lengths and widths.
Beginning with the smallest of these, Thorpe and his companion were
catching one end under the beech oval, bending the strip bow-shape
inside the sac, and catching again the other side of the oval. Thus
the spring of the bent cedar, pressing against the inside of the
birch-bark sac, distended it tightly. The cut of the sac and the
length of the cedar strips gave to the canoe its graceful shape.
The two men bent there at their task, the dull glow of evening
falling upon them. Behind them the knoll stood out in picturesque
relief against the darker pine, the little shelters, the fire-places
of green spruce, the blankets, the guns, a deer's carcass suspended
by the feet from a cross pole, the drying buckskin on either side.
The river rushed by with a never-ending roar and turmoil. Through
its shouting one perceived, as through a mist, the still lofty peace
A young fellow, hardly more than a boy, exclaimed with keen delight
of the picturesque as his canoe shot around the bend into sight of it.
The canoe was large and powerful, but well filled. An Indian knelt
in the stern; amidships was well laden with duffle of all
then the young fellow sat in the bow. He was a bright-faced, eager-
eyed, curly-haired young fellow, all enthusiasm and fire. His figure
was trim and clean, but rather slender; and his movements were quick
but nervous. When he stepped carefully out on the flat rock to which
his guide brought the canoe with a swirl of the paddle, one initiated
would have seen that his clothes, while strong and serviceable, had
been bought from a sporting catalogue. There was a trimness, a
neatness, about them.
"This is a good place," he said to the guide, "we'll camp here."
Then he turned up the steep bank without looking back.
"Hullo!" he called in a cheerful, unembarrassed fashion to Thorpe
and Charley. "How are you? Care if I camp here? What you making?
By Jove! I never saw a canoe made before. I'm going to watch you.
Keep right at it."
He sat on one of the outcropping boulders and took off his hat.
"Say! you've got a great place here! You here all summer? Hullo!
you've got a deer hanging up. Are there many of 'em around here?
I'd like to kill a deer first rate. I never have. It's sort of
out of season now, isn't it?"
"We only kill the bucks," replied Thorpe.
"I like fishing, too," went on the boy; "are there any here? In
the pool? John," he called to his guide, "bring me my fishing
In a few moments he was whipping the pool with long, graceful drops
of the fly. He proved to be adept. Thorpe and Injin Charley stopped
work to watch him. At first the Indian's stolid countenance seemed
a trifle doubtful. After a time it cleared.
"Good! he grunted.
"You do that well," Thorpe remarked. "Is it difficult?"
"It takes practice," replied the boy. "See that riffle?" He whipped
the fly lightly within six inches of a little suction hole; a fish at
once rose and struck.
The others had been little fellows and easily handled. At the end
of fifteen minutes the newcomer landed a fine two-pounder.
"That must be fun," commented Thorpe. "I never happened to get in
with fly-fishing. I'd like to try it sometime."
"Try it now!" urged the boy, enchanted that he could teach a woodsman
"No," Thorpe declined, "not to-night, to-morrow perhaps."
The other Indian had by now finished the erection of a tent, and
had begun to cook supper over a little sheet-iron camp stove.
Thorpe and Charley could smell ham.
"You've got quite a pantry," remarked Thorpe.
"Won't you eat with me?" proffered the boy hospitably.
But Thorpe declined. He could, however, see canned goods, hard
tack, and condensed milk.
In the course of the evening the boy approached the older man's
camp, and, with a charming diffidence, asked permission to sit
awhile at their fire.
He was full of delight over everything that savored of the woods,
or woodscraft. The most trivial and everyday affairs of the life
interested him. His eager questions, so frankly proffered, aroused
even the taciturn Charley to eloquence. The construction of the
shelter, the cut of a deer's hide, the simple process of "jerking"
venison,--all these awakened his enthusiasm.
"It must be good to live in the woods," he said with a sigh, "to do
all things for yourself. It's so free!"
The men's moccasins interested him. He asked a dozen questions
about them,--how they were cut, whether they did not hurt the feet,
how long they would wear. He seemed surprised to learn that they
are excellent in cold weather.
"I thought ANY leather would wet through in the snow!" he cried.
"I wish I could get a pair somewhere!" he exclaimed. "You don't
know where I could buy any, do you?" he asked of Thorpe.
"I don't know," answered he, "perhaps Charley here will make you
"WILL you, Charley?" cried the boy.
"I mak' him," replied the Indian stolidly.
The many-voiced night of the woods descended close about the little
camp fire, and its soft breezes wafted stray sparks here and there
like errant stars. The newcomer, with shining eyes, breathed deep
in satisfaction. He was keenly alive to the romance, the grandeur,
the mystery, the beauty of the littlest things, seeming to derive a
deep and solid contentment from the mere contemplation of the woods
and its ways and creatures.
"I just DO love this!" he cried again and again. "Oh, it's great,
after all that fuss down there!" and he cried it so fervently that
the other men present smiled; but so genuinely that the smile had
in it nothing but kindliness.
"I came out for a month," said he suddenly, "and I guess I'll stay
the rest of it right here. You'll let me go with you sometimes
hunting, won't you?" he appealed to them with the sudden open-
heartedness of a child. "I'd like first rate to kill a deer."
"Sure," said Thorpe, "glad to have you."
"My name is Wallace Carpenter," said the boy with a sudden
unmistakable air of good-breeding.
"Well," laughed Thorpe, "two old woods loafers like us haven't got
much use for names. Charley here is called Geezigut, and mine's
nearly as bad; but I guess plain Charley and Harry will do."
"All right, Harry," replied Wallace.
After the young fellow had crawled into the sleeping bag which his
guide had spread for him over a fragrant layer of hemlock and
balsam, Thorpe and his companion smoked one more pipe. The whip-
poor-wills called back and forth across the river. Down in the
thicket, fine, clear, beautiful, like the silver thread of a dream,
came the notes of the white-throat--the nightingale of the North.
Injin Charley knocked the last ashes from his pipe.
"Him nice boy!" said he.
The young fellow stayed three weeks, and was a constant joy to Thorpe.
His enthusiasms were so whole-souled; his delight so perpetual; his
interest so fresh! The most trivial expedients of woods lore seemed
to him wonderful. A dozen times a day he exclaimed in admiration or
surprise over some bit of woodcraft practiced by Thorpe or one of the
"Do you mean to say you have lived here six weeks and only brought
in what you could carry on your backs!" he cried.
"Sure," Thorpe replied.
"Harry, you're wonderful! I've got a whole canoe load, and imagined
I was travelling light and roughing it. You beat Robinson Crusoe!
He had a whole ship to draw from."
"My man Friday helps me out," answered Thorpe, laughingly indicating
Nearly a week passed before Wallace managed to kill a deer. The
animals were plenty enough; but the young man's volatile and eager
attention stole his patience. And what few running shots offered,
he missed, mainly because of buck fever. Finally, by a lucky chance,
he broke a four-year-old's neck, dropping him in his tracks. The
hunter was delighted. He insisted on doing everything for himself--
cruel hard work it was too--including the toting and skinning. Even
the tanning he had a share in. At first he wanted the hide cured,
"with the hair on." Injin Charley explained that the fur would drop
out. It was the wrong season of the year for pelts.
"Then we'll have buckskin and I'll get a buckskin shirt out of
it," suggested Wallace.
Injin Charley agreed. One day Wallace returned from fishing in
the pool to find that the Indian had cut out the garment, and was
already sewing it together.
"Oh!" he cried, a little disappointed, "I wanted to see it done!"
Injin Charley merely grunted. To make a buckskin shirt requires the
hides of three deer. Charley had supplied the other two, and wished
to keep the young man from finding it out.
Wallace assumed the woods life as a man would assume an unaccustomed
garment. It sat him well, and he learned fast, but he was always
conscious of it. He liked to wear moccasins, and a deer knife; he
liked to cook his own supper, or pluck the fragrant hemlock browse
for his pillow. Always he seemed to be trying to realize and to
savor fully the charm, the picturesqueness, the romance of all that
he was doing and seeing. To Thorpe these things were a part of
everyday life; matters of expedient or necessity. He enjoyed them,
but subconsciously, as one enjoys an environment. Wallace trailed
the cloak of his glories in frank admiration of their splendor.
This double point of view brought the men very close together.
Thorpe liked the boy because he was open-hearted, free from
affectation, assumptive of no superiority,--in short, because he
was direct and sincere, although in a manner totally different from
Thorpe's own directness and sincerity. Wallace, on his part, adored
in Thorpe the free, open-air life, the adventurous quality, the
quiet hidden power, the resourcefulness and self-sufficiency of the
pioneer. He was too young as yet to go behind the picturesque or
romantic; so he never thought to inquire of himself what Thorpe
did there in the wilderness, or indeed if he did anything at all.
He accepted Thorpe for what he thought him to be, rather than for
what he might think him to be. Thus he reposed unbounded confidence
After a while, observing the absolute ingenuousness of the boy,
Thorpe used to take him from time to time on some of his daily
trips to the pines. Necessarily he explained partially his position
and the need of secrecy. Wallace was immensely excited and important
at learning a secret of such moment, and deeply flattered at being
entrusted with it.
Some may think that here, considering the magnitude of the
interests involved, Thorpe committed an indiscretion. It may be;
but if so, it was practically an inevitable indiscretion. Strong,
reticent characters like Thorpe's prove the need from time to time
of violating their own natures, of running counter to their ordinary
habits of mind and deed. It is a necessary relaxation of the
strenuous, a debauch of the soul. Its analogy in the lower plane
is to be found in the dissipations of men of genius; or still lower
in the orgies of fighters out of training. Sooner or later Thorpe
was sure to emerge for a brief space from that iron-bound silence
of the spirit, of which he himself was the least aware. It was
not so much a hunger for affection, as the desire of a strong man
temporarily to get away from his strength. Wallace Carpenter became
in his case the exception to prove the rule.
Little by little the eager questionings of the youth extracted a
full statement of the situation. He learned of the timber-thieves
up the river, of their present operations; and their probable
plans; of the valuable pine lying still unclaimed; of Thorpe's
stealthy raid into the enemy's country. It looked big to him,
epic!--These were tremendous forces in motion, here was intrigue,
here was direct practical application of the powers he had been
"Why, it's great! It's better than any book I ever read!"
He wanted to know what he could do to help.
"Nothing except keep quiet," replied Thorpe, already uneasy, not
lest the boy should prove unreliable, but lest his very eagerness
to seem unconcerned should arouse suspicion. "You mustn't try to
act any different. If the men from up-river come by, be just as
cordial to them as you can, and don't act mysterious and important."
"All right," agreed Wallace, bubbling with excitement. "And then
what do you do--after you get the timber estimated?"
"I'll go South and try, quietly, to raise some money. That will be
difficult, because, you see, people don't know me; and I am not in
a position to let them look over the timber. Of course it will be
merely a question of my judgment. They can go themselves to the
Land Office and pay their money. There won't be any chance of my
making way with that. The investors will become possessed of certain
'descriptions' lying in this country, all right enough. The rub is,
will they have enough confidence in me and my judgment to believe the
timber to be what I represent it?"
"I see," commented Wallace, suddenly grave.
That evening Injin Charley went on with his canoe building. He
melted together in a pot, resin and pitch. The proportion he
determined by experiment, for the mixture had to be neither hard
enough to crack nor soft enough to melt in the sun. Then he daubed
the mess over all the seams. Wallace superintended the operation
for a time in silence.
"Harry," he said suddenly with a crisp decision new to his voice,
"will you take a little walk with me down by the dam. I want to
talk with you."
They strolled to the edge of the bank and stood for a moment
looking at the swirling waters.
"I want you to tell me all about logging," began Wallace. "Start
from the beginning. Suppose, for instance, you had bought this pine
here we were talking about,--what would be your first move?"
They sat side by side on a log, and Thorpe explained. He told of
the building of the camps, the making of the roads; the cutting,
swamping, travoying, skidding; the banking and driving. Unconsciously
a little of the battle clang crept into his narrative. It became a
struggle, a gasping tug and heave for supremacy between the man and
the wilderness. The excitement of war was in it. When he had
finished, Wallace drew a deep breath.
"When I am home," said he simply, "I live in a big house on the
Lake Shore Drive. It is heated by steam and lighted by electricity.
I touch a button or turn a screw, and at once I am lighted and warmed.
At certain hours meals are served me. I don't know how they are
cooked, or where the materials come from. Since leaving college I
have spent a little time down town every day; and then I've played
golf or tennis or ridden a horse in the park. The only real thing
left is the sailing. The wind blows just as hard and the waves mount
just as high to-day as they did when Drake sailed. All the rest is
tame. We do little imitations of the real thing with blue ribbons
tied to them, and think we are camping or roughing it. This life
of yours is glorious, is vital, it means something in the march of
the world;--and I doubt whether ours does. You are subduing the
wilderness, extending the frontier. After you will come the backwoods
farmer to pull up the stumps, and after him the big farmer and the
The young follow spoke with unexpected swiftness and earnestness.
Thorpe looked at him in surprise.
"I know what you are thinking," said the boy, flushing. "You are
surprised that I can be in earnest about anything. I'm out of school
up here. Let me shout and play with the rest of the children."
Thorpe watched him with sympathetic eyes, but with lips that
obstinately refused to say one word. A woman would have felt
rebuffed. The boy's admiration, however, rested on the foundation
of the more manly qualities he had already seen in his friend.
Perhaps this very aloofness, this very silent, steady-eyed power
appealed to him.
"I left college at nineteen because my father died," said he. "I
am now just twenty-one. A large estate descended to me, and I have
had to care for its investments all alone. I have one sister,that
"So have I," cried Thorpe, and stopped.
"The estates have not suffered," went on the boy simply. "I have
done well with them. But," he cried fiercely, "I HATE it! It is
petty and mean and worrying and nagging! That's why I was so glad
to get out in the woods."
"Have some tobacco," said Thorpe.
Wallace accepted with a nod.
"Now, Harry, I have a proposal to make to you. It is this; you
need thirty thousand dollars to buy your land. Let me supply it,
and come in as half partner."
An expression of doubt crossed the landlooker's face.
"Oh PLEASE!" cried the boy, "I do want to get in something real!
It will be the making of me!"
"Now see here," interposed Thorpe suddenly, "you don't even know
"I know YOU," replied the boy.
"My name is Harry Thorpe," pursued the other. "My father was
Henry Thorpe, an embezzler."
"Harry," replied Wallace soberly, "I am sorry I made you say that.
I do not care for your name--except perhaps to put it in the articles
of partnership,--and I have no concern with your ancestry. I tell
you it is a favor to let me in on this deal. I don't know anything
about lumbering, but I've got eyes. I can see that big timber
standing up thick and tall, and I know people make profits in the
business. It isn't a question of the raw material surely, and you
"Not so much as you think," interposed Thorpe.
"There remains," went on Wallace without attention to Thorpe's
remark, "only the question of---"
"My honesty," interjected Thorpe grimly.
"No!" cried the boy hotly, "of your letting me in on a good thing!"
Thorpe considered a few moments in silence.
"Wallace," he said gravely at last, "I honestly do think that
whoever goes into this deal with me will make money. Of course
there's always chances against it. But I am going to do my best.
I've seen other men fail at it, and the reason they've failed is
because they did not demand success of others and of themselves.
That's it; success! When a general commanding troops receives a
report on something he's ordered done, he does not trouble himself
with excuses;--he merely asks whether or not the thing was
accomplished. Difficulties don't count. It is a soldier's duty
to perform the impossible. Well, that's the way it ought to be with
us. A man has no right to come to me and say, 'I failed because
such and such things happened.' Either he should succeed in spite
of it all; or he should step up and take his medicine without
whining. Well, I'm going to succeed!"
The man's accustomed aloofness had gone. His eye flashed, his brow
frowned, the muscles of his cheeks contracted under his beard. In
the bronze light of evening he looked like a fire-breathing statue
to that great ruthless god he had himself invoked,--Success.
Wallace gazed at him with fascinated admiration.
"Then you will?" he asked tremulously.
"Wallace," he replied again, "they'll say you have been the victim
of an adventurer, but the result will prove them wrong. If I weren't
perfectly sure of this, I wouldn't think of it, for I like you, and
I know you want to go into this more out of friendship for me and
because your imagination is touched, than from any business sense.
But I'll accept, gladly. And I'll do my best!"
"Hooray!" cried the boy, throwing his cap up in the air. "We'll do
'em up in the first round!"
At last when Wallace Carpenter reluctantly quitted his friends on
the Ossawinamakee, he insisted on leaving with them a variety of
the things he had brought.
"I'm through with them," said he. "Next time I come up here we'll
have a camp of our own, won't we, Harry? And I do feel that I am
awfully in you fellows' debt. You've given me the best time I have
ever had in my life, and you've refused payment for the moccasins
and things you've made for me. I'd feel much better if you'd accept
them,--just as keepsakes."
"All right, Wallace," replied Thorpe, "and much obliged."
"Don't forget to come straight to me when you get through estimating,
now, will you? Come to the house and stay. Our compact holds now,
honest Injin; doesn't it?" asked the boy anxiously.
"Honest Injin," laughed Thorpe. "Good-by."
The little canoe shot away down the current. The last Injin Charley
and Thorpe saw of the boy was as he turned the curve. His hat was
off and waving in his hand, his curls were blowing in the breeze,
his eyes sparkled with bright good-will, and his lips parted in a
cheery halloo of farewell.
"Him nice boy," repeated Injin CharIey, turning to his canoe.
Thus Thorpe and the Indian unexpectedly found themselves in the
possession of luxury. The outfit had not meant much to Wallace
Carpenter, for he had bought it in the city, where such things are
abundant and excite no remark; but to the woodsman each article
possessed a separate and particular value. The tent, an iron
kettle, a side of bacon, oatmeal, tea, matches, sugar, some canned
goods, a box of hard-tack,--these, in the woods, represented wealth.
Wallace's rifle chambered the .38 Winchester cartridge, which was
unfortunate, for Thorpe's .44 had barely a magazineful left.
The two men settled again into their customary ways of life. Things
went much as before, except that the flies and mosquitoes became
thick. To men as hardened as Thorpe and the Indian, these pests
were not as formidable as they would have been to anyone directly
from the city, but they were sufficiently annoying. Thorpe's old
tin pail was pressed into service as a smudge-kettle. Every evening
about dusk, when the insects first began to emerge from the dark
swamps, Charley would build a tiny smoky fire in the bottom of
the pail, feeding it with peat, damp moss, punk maple, and other
inflammable smoky fuel. This censer swung twice or thrice about the
tent, effectually cleared it. Besides, both men early established on
their cheeks an invulnerable glaze of a decoction of pine tar, oil,
and a pungent herb. Towards the close of July, however, the insects
began sensibly to diminish, both in numbers and persistency.
Up to the present Thorpe had enjoyed a clear field. Now two men
came down from above and established a temporary camp in the woods
half a mile below the dam. Thorpe soon satisfied himself that they
were picking out a route for the logging road. Plenty which could
be cut and travoyed directly to the banking ground lay exactly
along the bank of the stream; but every logger possessed of a tract
of timber tries each year to get in some that is easy to handle and
some that is difficult. Thus the average of expense is maintained.
The two men, of course, did not bother themselves with the timber
to be travoyed, but gave their entire attention to that lying
further back. Thorpe was enabled thus to avoid them entirely. He
simply transferred his estimating to the forest by the stream. Once
he met one of the men; but was fortunately in a country that lent
itself to his pose of hunter. The other he did not see at all.
But one day he heard him. The two up-river men were following
carefully but noisily the bed of a little creek. Thorpe happened to
be on the side-hill, so he seated himself quietly until they should
have moved on down. One of the men shouted to the other, who,
crashing through a thicket, did not hear. "Ho-o-o! DYER!" the
first repeated. "Here's that infernal comer; over here!"
"Yop!" assented the other. "Coming!"
Thorpe recognized the voice instantly as that of Radway's scaler.
His hand crisped in a gesture of disgust. The man had always been
obnoxious to him.
Two days later he stumbled on their camp. He paused in wonder at
what he saw.
The packs lay open, their contents scattered in every direction.
The fire had been hastily extinguished with a bucket of water,
and a frying pan lay where it had been overturned. If the thing
had been possible, Thorpe would have guessed at a hasty and
He was about to withdraw carefully lest he be discovered, when
he was startled by a touch on his elbow. It was Injin Charley.
"Dey go up river," he said. "I come see what de row."
The Indian examined rapidly the condition of the little camp.
"Dey look for somethin'," said he, making his hand revolve as
though rummaging, and indicating the packs.
"I t'ink dey see you in de woods," he concluded. "Dey go camp
gettum boss. Boss he gone on river trail two t'ree hour."
"You're right, Charley," replied Thorpe, who had been drawing his
own conclusions. "One of them knows me. They've been looking in
their packs for their note-books with the descriptions of these
sections in them. Then they piled out for the boss. If I know
anything at all, the boss'll make tracks for Detroit."
"W'ot you do?" asked Injin Charley curiously.
"I got to get to Detroit before they do; that's all."
Instantly the Indian became all action.
"You come," he ordered, and set out at a rapid pace for camp.
There, with incredible deftness, he packed together about twelve
pounds of the jerked venison and a pair of blankets, thrust Thorpe's
waterproof match safe in his pocket, and turned eagerly to the
"You come," he repeated.
Thorpe hastily unearthed his "descriptions" and wrapped them up.
The Indian, in silence, rearranged the displaced articles in such a
manner as to relieve the camp of its abandoned air.
It was nearly sundown. Without a word the two men struck off into
the forest, the Indian in the lead. Their course was southeast, but
Thorpe asked no questions. He followed blindly. Soon he found that
if he did even that adequately, he would have little attention left
for anything else. The Indian walked with long, swift strides, his
knees always slightly bent, even at the finish of the step, his back
hollowed, his shoulders and head thrust forward. His gait had a
queer sag in it, up and down in a long curve from one rise to the
other. After a time Thorpe became fascinated in watching before him
this easy, untiring lope, hour after hour, without the variation of
a second's fraction in speed nor an inch in length. It was as though
the Indian were made of steel springs. He never appeared to hurry;
but neither did he ever rest.
At first Thorpe followed him with comparative ease, but at the end
of three hours he was compelled to put forth decided efforts to
keep pace. His walking was no longer mechanical, but conscious.
When it becomes so, a man soon tires. Thorpe resented the
inequalities, the stones, the roots, the patches of soft ground
which lay in his way. He felt dully that they were not fair. He
could negotiate the distance; but anything else was a gratuitous
Then suddenly he gained his second wind. He felt better and stronger
and moved freer. For second wind is only to a very small degree a
question of the breathing power. It is rather the response of the
vital forces to a will that refuses to heed their first grumbling
protests. Like dogs by the fire they do their utmost to convince
their master that the limit of freshness is reached; but at last,
under the whip, spring to their work.
At midnight Injin Charley called a halt. He spread his blanket;
leaned on one elbow long enough to eat strip of dried meat, and fell
asleep. Thorpe imitated his example. Three hours later the Indian
roused his companion, and the two set out again.
Thorpe had walked a leisurely ten days through the woods far to
the north. In that journey he had encountered many difficulties.
Sometimes he had been tangled for hours at a time in a dense and
almost impenetrable thicket. Again he had spent a half day in
crossing a treacherous swamp. Or there had interposed in his trail
abattises of down timber a quarter of a mile wide over which it had
been necessary to pick a precarious way eight or ten feet from the
This journey was in comparison easy. Most of the time the travellers
walked along high beech ridges or through the hardwood forests.
Occasionally they were forced to pass into the lowlands, but always
little saving spits of highland reaching out towards each other
abridged the necessary wallowing. Twice they swam rivers.
At first Thorpe thought this was because the country was more open;
but as he gave better attention to their route, he learned to
ascribe it entirely to the skill of his companion. The Indian
seemed by a species of instinct to select the most practicable
routes. He seemed to know how the land ought to lie, so that he was
never deceived by appearances into entering a cul de sac. His beech
ridges always led to other beech ridges; his hardwood never petered
out into the terrible black swamps. Sometimes Thorpe became sensible
that they had commenced a long detour; but it was never an abrupt
detour, unforeseen and blind.
From three o'clock until eight they walked continually without a
pause, without an instant's breathing spell. Then they rested a
half hour, ate a little venison, and smoked a pipe.
An hour after noon they repeated the rest. Thorpe rose with a
certain physical reluctance. The Indian seemed as fresh--or as
tired--as when he started. At sunset they took an hour. Then
forward again by the dim intermittent light of the moon and stars
through the ghostly haunted forest, until Thorpe thought he would
drop with weariness, and was mentally incapable of contemplating
more than a hundred steps in advance.
"When I get to that square patch of light, I'll quit," he would
say to himself, and struggle painfully the required twenty rods.
"No, I won't quit here," he would continue, "I'll make it that
birch. Then I'll lie down and die."
And so on. To the actual physical exhaustion of Thorpe's muscles
was added that immense mental weariness which uncertainty of the
time and distance inflicts on a man. The journey might last a week,
for all he knew. In the presence of an emergency these men of action
had actually not exchanged a dozen words. The Indian led; Thorpe
When the halt was called, Thorpe fell into his blanket too weary
even to eat. Next morning sharp, shooting pains, like the stabs
of swords, ran through his groin.
"You come," repeated the Indian, stolid as ever.
When the sun was an hour high the travellers suddenly ran into a
trail, which as suddenly dived into a spruce thicket. On the other
side of it Thorpe unexpectedly found himself in an extensive
clearing, dotted with the blackened stumps of pines. Athwart the
distance he could perceive the wide blue horizon of Lake Michigan.
He had crossed the Upper Peninsula on foot!
"Boat come by to-day," said Injin Charley, indicating the tall stacks
of a mill. "Him no stop. You mak' him stop take you with him.
You get train Mackinaw City tonight. Dose men, dey on dat train."
Thorpe calculated rapidly. The enemy would require, even with their
teams, a day to cover the thirty miles to the fishing village of
Munising, whence the stage ran each morning to Seney, the present
terminal of the South Shore Railroad. He, Thorpe, on foot and three
hours behind, could never have caught the stage. But from Seney
only one train a day was despatched to connect at Mackinaw City with
the Michigan Central, and on that one train, due to leave this very
morning, the up-river man was just about pulling out. He would arrive
at Mackinaw City at four o'clock of the afternoon, where he would be
forced to wait until eight in the evening. By catching a boat at the
mill to which Injin Charley had led him, Thorpe could still make the
same train. Thus the start in the race for Detroit's Land Office
would be fair.
"All right," he cried, all his energy returning to him. "Here
goes! We'll beat him out yet!"
"You come back?" inquired the Indian, peering with a certain anxiety
into his companion's eyes.
"Come back!" cried Thorpe. "You bet your hat!"
"I wait," replied the Indian, and was gone.
"Oh, Charley!" shouted Thorpe in surprise. "Come on and get a square
But the Indian was already on his way back to the distant
Thorpe hesitated in two minds whether to follow and attempt further
persuasion, for he felt keenly the interest the other had displayed.
Then he saw, over the headland to the east, a dense trail of black
smoke. He set off on a stumbling run towards the mill.
He arrived out of breath in a typical little mill town consisting
of the usual unpainted houses, the saloons, mill, office, and
general store. To the latter he addressed himself for information.
The proprietor, still sleepy, was mopping out the place.
"Does that boat stop here?" shouted Thorpe across the suds.
"Sometimes," replied the man somnolently.
"Only when there's freight for her."
"Doesn't she stop for passengers?"
"How does she know when there's freight?"
"Oh, they signal her from the mill--" but Thorpe was gone.
At the mill Thorpe dove for the engine room. He knew that elsewhere
the clang of machinery and the hurry of business would leave scant
attention for him. And besides, from the engine room the signals
would be given. He found, as is often the case in north-country
sawmills, a Scotchman in charge.
"Does the boat stop here this morning?" he inquired.
"Weel," replied the engineer with fearful deliberation, "I canna
say. But I hae received na orders to that effect."
"Can't you whistle her in for me?" asked Thorpe.
"I canna," answered the engineer, promptly enough this time.
"Ye're na what a body might call freight."
"No other way out of it?"
Thorpe was seized with an idea.
"Here!" he cried. See that boulder over there? I want to ship that
to Mackinaw City by freight on this boat."
The Scotchman's eyes twinkled appreciatively.
"I'm dootin' ye hae th' freight-bill from the office," he objected
"See here," replied Thorpe, "I've just got to get that boat. It's
worth twenty dollars to me, and I'll square it with the captain.
There's your twenty."
The Scotchman deliberated, looking aslant at the ground and
thoughtfully oiling a cylinder with a greasy rag.
"It'll na be a matter of life and death?" he asked hopefully. "She
aye stops for life and death."
"No," replied Thorpe reluctantly. Then with an explosion, "Yes, by
God, it is! If I don't make that boat, I'll kill YOU."
The Scotchman chuckled and pocketed the money. "I'm dootin' that's
in order," he replied. "I'll no be party to any such proceedin's.
I'm goin' noo for a fresh pail of watter," he remarked, pausing at
the door, "but as a wee item of information: yander's th' wheestle
rope; and a mon wheestles one short and one long for th' boat."
He disappeared. Thorpe seized the cord and gave the signal. Then
he ran hastily to the end of the long lumber docks, and peered with
great eagerness in the direction of the black smoke.
The steamer was as yet concealed behind a low spit of land which
ran out from the west to form one side of the harbor. In a moment,
however, her bows appeared, headed directly down towards the Straits
of Mackinaw. When opposite the little bay Thorpe confidently looked
to see her turn in, but to his consternation she held her course.
He began to doubt whether his signal had been heard. Fresh black
smoke poured from the funnel; the craft seemed to gather speed as
she approached the eastern point. Thorpe saw his hopes sailing away.
He wanted to stand up absurdly and wave his arms to attract attention
at that impossible distance. He wanted to sink to the planks in
apathy. Finally he sat down, and with dull eyes watched the distance
widen between himself and his aims.
And then with a grand free sweep she turned and headed directly for
Other men might have wept or shouted. Thorpe merely became himself,
imperturbable, commanding, apparently cold. He negotiated briefly
with the captain, paid twenty dollars more for speed and the
privilege of landing at Mackinaw City. Then he slept for eight
hours on end and was awakened in time to drop into a small boat
which deposited him on the broad sand beach of the lower peninsula.
The train was just leisurely making up for departure. Thorpe,
dressed as he was in old "pepper and salt" garments patched with
buckskin, his hat a flopping travesty on headgear, his moccasins,
worn and dirty, his face bearded and bronzed, tried as much as
possible to avoid attention. He sent an instant telegram to
Wallace Carpenter conceived as follows:
"Wire thirty thousand my order care Land Office, Detroit, before
nine o'clock to-morrow morning. Do it if you have to rustle all
Then he took a seat in the baggage car on a pile of boxes and
philosophically waited for the train to start. He knew that sooner
or later the man, provided he were on the train, would stroll through
the car, and he wanted to be out of the way. The baggage man proved
friendly, so Thorpe chatted with him until after bedtime. Then he
entered the smoking car and waited patiently for morning.
So far the affair had gone very well. It had depended on personal
exertions, and he had made it go. Now he was forced to rely on
outward circumstances. He argued that the up-river man would have
first to make his financial arrangements before he could buy in the
land, and this would give the landlooker a chance to get in ahead at
the office. There would probably be no difficulty about that. The
man suspected nothing. But Thorpe had to confess himself fearfully
uneasy about his own financial arrangements. That was the rub.
Wallace Carpenter had been sincere enough in his informal striking
of partnership, but had he retained his enthusiasm? Had second
thought convicted him of folly? Had conservative business friends
dissuaded him? Had the glow faded in the reality of his accustomed
life? And even if his good-will remained unimpaired, would he be
able, at such short notice, to raise so large a sum? Would he
realize from Thorpe's telegram the absolute necessity of haste?
At the last thought, Thorpe decided to send a second message from
the next station. He did so. It read: "Another buyer of timber on
same train with me. Must have money at nine o'clock or lose land."
He paid day rates on it to insure immediate delivery. Suppose the
boy should be away from home!
Everything depended on Wallace Carpenter; and Thorpe could not but
confess the chance slender. One other thought made the night seem
long. Thorpe had but thirty dollars left.
Morning came at last, and the train drew in and stopped. Thorpe,
being in the smoking car, dropped off first and stationed himself
near the exit where he could look over the passengers without being
seen. They filed past. Two only he could accord the role of master
lumbermen--the rest were plainly drummers or hayseeds. And in
these two Thorpe recognized Daly and Morrison themselves. They
passed within ten feet of him, talking earnestly together. At the
curb they hailed a cab and drove away. Thorpe with satisfaction
heard them call the name of a hotel.
It was still two hours before the Land Office would be open. Thorpe
ate breakfast at the depot and wandered slowly up Jefferson Avenue
to Woodward, a strange piece of our country's medievalism in modern
surroundings. He was so occupied with his own thoughts that for some
time he remained unconscious of the attention he was attracting.
Then, with a start, he felt that everyone was staring at him. The
hour was early, so that few besides the working classes were abroad,
but he passed one lady driving leisurely to an early train whose
frank scrutiny brought him to himself. He became conscious that his
broad hat was weather-soiled and limp, that his flannel shirt was
faded, that his "pepper and salt" trousers were patched, that
moccasins must seem as anachronistic as chain mail. It abashed him.
He could not know that it was all wild and picturesque, that his
straight and muscular figure moved with a grace quite its own and
the woods', that the bronze of his skin contrasted splendidly with
the clearness of his eye, that his whole bearing expressed the
serene power that comes only from the confidence of battle. The
woman in the carriage saw it, however.
"He is magnificent!" she cried. "I thought such men had died
Thorpe whirled sharp on his heel and returned at once to a boarding-
house off Fort Street, where he had "outfitted" three months before.
There he reclaimed his valise, shaved, clothed himself in linen and
cheviot once more, and sauntered slowly over to the Land Office to
await its opening.
At nine o'clock neither of the partners had appeared. Thorpe entered
the office and approached the desk.
"Is there a telegram here for Harry Thorpe?" he inquired.
The clerk to whom he addressed himself merely motioned with his
head toward a young fellow behind the railing in a corner. The
latter, without awaiting the question, shifted comfortably and
At the same instant steps were heard in the corridor, the door opened,
and Mr. Morrison appeared on the sill. Then Thorpe showed the stuff
of which he was made.
"Is this the desk for buying Government lands?" he asked hurriedly.
"Yes," replied the clerk.
"I have some descriptions I wish to buy in."
"Very well," replied the clerk, "what township?"
Thorpe detailed the figures, which he knew by heart, the clerk took
from a cabinet the three books containing them, and spread them out
on the counter. At this moment the bland voice of Mr. Morrison made
itself heard at Thorpe's elbow.
"Good morning, Mr. Smithers," it said with the deliberation of the
consciously great man. "I have a few descriptions I would like to
buy in the northern peninsula."
"Good morning, Mr. Morrison. Archie there will attend to you.
Archie, see what Mr. Morrison wishes."
The lumberman and the other clerk consulted in a low voice, after
which the official turned to fumble among the records. Not finding
what he wanted, he approached Smithers. A whispered consultation
ensued between these two. Then Smithers called:
"Take a seat, Mr. Morrison. This gentleman is looking over these
townships, and will have finished in a few minutes."
Morrison's eye suddenly became uneasy.
"I am somewhat busy this morning," he objected with a shade of
command in his voice.
"If this gentleman---?" suggested the clerk delicately.
"I am sorry," put in Thorpe with brevity, "my time, too, is
Morrison looked at him sharply.
"My deal is a big one," he snapped. "I can probably arrange with
this gentleman to let him have his farm."
"I claim precedence," replied Thorpe calmly.
"Well," said Morrison swift as light, "I'll tell you, Smithers.
I'll leave my list of descriptions and a check with you. Give me
a receipt, and mark my lands off after you've finished with this
Now Government and State lands are the property of the man who pays
for them. Although the clerk's receipt might not give Morrison a
valid claim; nevertheless it would afford basis for a lawsuit.
Thorpe saw the trap, and interposed.
"Hold on," he interrupted, "I claim precedence. You can give no
receipt for any land in these townships until after my business is
transacted. I have reason to believe that this gentleman and myself
are both after the same descriptions."
"What!" shouted Morrison, assuming surprise.
"You will have to await your turn, Mr. Morrison," said the clerk,
virtuous before so many witnesses.
The business man was in a white rage of excitement.
"I insist on my application being filed at once!" he cried waving
his check. "I have the money right here to pay for every acre of
it; and if I know the law, the first man to pay takes the land."
He slapped the check down on the rail, and hit it a number of times
with the flat of his hand. Thorpe turned and faced him with a steel
look in his level eyes.
"Mr. Morrison," he said, "you are quite right. The first man who
pays gets the land; but I have won the first chance to pay. You
will kindly step one side until I finish my business with Mr.
"I suppose you have the amount actually with you," said the clerk,
quite respectfully, "because if you have not, Mr. Morrison's claim
will take precedence."
"I would hardly have any business in a land office, if I did not know
that," replied Thorpe, and began his dictation of the description as
calmly as though his inside pocket contained the required amount in
Thorpe's hopes had sunk to zero. After all, looking at the matter
dispassionately, why should he expect Carpenter to trust him, a
stranger, with so large a sum? It had been madness. Only the blind
confidence of the fighting man led him further into the struggle.
Another would have given up, would have stepped aside from the path
of this bona-fide purchaser with the money in his hand.
But Thorpe was of the kind that hangs on until the last possible
second, not so much in the expectation of winning, as in sheer
reluctance to yield. Such men shoot their last cartridge before
surrendering, swim the last ounce of strength from their arms
before throwing them up to sink, search coolly until the latest
moment for a way from the burning building,--and sometimes come
face to face with miracles.
Thorpe's descriptions were contained in the battered little note-
book he had carried with him in the woods. For each piece of land
first there came the township described by latitude and east-and-
west range. After this generic description followed another figure
representing the section of that particular district. So 49--17
W--8, meant section 8, of the township on range 49 north, 17 west.
If Thorpe wished to purchase the whole section, that description
would suffice. On the other hand, if he wished to buy only one
forty, he described its position in the quarter-section. Thus SW--
NW 49--17--8, meant the southwest forty of the northwest quarter of
section 8 in the township already described.
The clerk marked across each square of his map as Thorpe read them,
the date and the purchaser's name.
In his note-book Thorpe had, of course, entered the briefest
description possible. Now, in dictating to the clerk, he conceived
the idea of specifying each subdivision. This gained some time.
Instead of saying simply, "Northwest quarter of section 8," he made
of it four separate descriptions, as follows:--Northwest quarter of
northwest quarter; northeast of northwest quarter; southwest of
northwest quarter; and southeast of northwest quarter.
He was not so foolish as to read the descriptions in succession,
but so scattered them that the clerk, putting down the figures
mechanically, had no idea of the amount of unnecessary work he was
doing. The minute hands of the clock dragged around. Thorpe droned
down the long column. The clerk scratched industriously, repeating
in a half voice each description as it was transcribed.
At length the task was finished. It became necessary to type
duplicate lists of the descriptions. While the somnolent youth
finished this task, Thorpe listened for the messenger boy on the
A faint slam was heard outside the rickety old building. Hasty
steps sounded along the corridor. The landlooker merely stopped
the drumming of his fingers on the broad arm of the chair. The
door flew open, and Wallace Carpenter walked quickly to him.
Thorpe's face lighted up as he rose to greet his partner. The
boy had not forgotten their compact after all.
"Then it's all right?" queried the latter breathlessly.
"Sure," answered Thorpe heartily, "got 'em in good shape."
At the same time he was drawing the youth beyond the vigilant
watchfulness of Mr. Morrison.
"You're just in time," he said in an undertone. "Never had so
close a squeak. I suppose you have cash or a certified check:
that's all they'll take here."
"What do you mean?" asked Carpenter blankly.
"Haven't you that money?" returned Thorpe quick as a hawk.
"For Heaven's sake, isn't it here?" cried Wallace in consternation.
"I wired Duncan, my banker, here last night, and received a reply
from him. He answered that he'd see to it. Haven't you seen him?"
"No," repeated Thorpe in his turn.
"What can we do?"
"Can you get your check certified here near at hand?"
"Well, go do it. And get a move on you. You have precisely until
that boy there finishes clicking that machine. Not a second longer."
"Can't you get them to wait a few minutes?"
"Wallace," said Thorpe, "do you see that white whiskered old lynx in
the corner? That's Morrison, the man who wants to get our land. If
I fail to plank down the cash the very instant it is demanded, he gets
his chance. And he'll take it. Now, go. Don't hurry until you get
beyond the door: then FLY!"
Thorpe sat down again in his broad-armed chair and resumed his
drumming. The nearest bank was six blocks away. He counted over
in his mind the steps of Carpenter's progress; now to the door, now
in the next block, now so far beyond. He had just escorted him to
the door of the bank, when the clerk's voice broke in on him.
"Now," Smithers was saying, "I'll give you a receipt for the
amount, and later will send to your address the title deeds of
Carpenter had yet to find the proper official, to identify himself,
to certify the check, and to return. It was hopeless. Thorpe
dropped his hands in surrender.
Then he saw the boy lay the two typed lists before his principal,
and dimly he perceived that the youth, shamefacedly, was holding
something bulky toward himself.
"Wh--what is it?" he stammered, drawing his hand back as though from
a red-hot iron.
"You asked me for a telegram," said the boy stubbornly, as though
trying to excuse himself, "and I didn't just catch the name, anyway.
When I saw it on those lists I had to copy, I thought of this here."
"Where'd you get it?" asked Thorpe breathlessly.
"A fellow came here early and left it for you while I was sweeping
out," explained the boy. "Said he had to catch a train. It's yours
all right, ain't it?"
"Oh, yes," replied Thorpe.
He took the envelope and walked uncertainly to the tall window. He
looked out at the chimneys. After a moment he tore open the envelope.
"I hope there's no bad news, sir?" said the clerk, startled at the
paleness of the face Thorpe turned to the desk.
"No," replied the landlooker. "Give me a receipt. There's a
certified check for your money!"
Now that the strain was over, Thorpe experienced a great weariness.
The long journey through the forest, his sleepless night on the
train, the mental alertness of playing the game with shrewd foes
all these stretched his fibers out one by one and left them limp.
He accepted stupidly the clerk's congratulations on his success,
left the name of the little hotel off Fort Street as the address
to which to send the deeds, and dragged himself off with infinite
fatigue to his bed-room. There he fell at once into profound
He was awakened late in the afternoon by the sensation of a strong
pair of young arms around his shoulders, and the sound of Wallace
Carpenter's fresh voice crying in his ears:
"Wake up, wake up! you Indian! You've been asleep all day, and I've
been waiting here all that time. I want to hear about it. Wake up,
Thorpe rolled to a sitting posture on the edge of the bed, and
smiled uncertainly. Then as the sleep drained from his brain,
he reached out his hand.
"You bet we did 'em, Wallace," said he, "but it looked like a hard
proposition for a while."
"How was it? Tell me about it!" insisted the boy eagerly. "You
don't know how impatient I've been. The clerk at the Land Office
merely told me it was all right. How did you fix it?"
While Thorpe washed and shaved and leisurely freshened himself, he
detailed his experiences of the last week.
"And," he concluded gravely, "there's only one man I know or ever
heard of to whom I would have considered it worth while even to
think of sending that telegram, and you are he. Somehow I knew
you'd come to the scratch."
"It's the most exciting thing I ever heard of," sighed Wallace
drawing a full breath, "and I wasn't in it! It's the sort of thing
I long for. If I'd only waited another two weeks before coming
"In that case we couldn't have gotten hold of the money, remember,"
"That's so." Wallace brightened. "I did count, didn't I?"
"I thought so about ten o'clock this morning," Thorpe replied.
"Suppose you hadn't stumbled on their camp; suppose Injin Charley
hadn't seen them go up-river; suppose you hadn't struck that little
mill town JUST at the time you did!" marvelled Wallace.
"That's always the way," philosophized Thorpe in reply. "It's the
old story of 'if the horse-shoe nail hadn't been lost,' you know.
But we got there; and that's the important thing."
"We did!" cried the boy, his enthusiasm rekindling, "and to-night
we'll celebrate with the best dinner we ran buy in town!"
Thorpe was tempted, but remembered the thirty dollars in his pocket,
and looked doubtful.
Carpenter possessed, as part of his volatile enthusiastic temperament,
"Don't refuse!" he begged. "I've set my heart on giving my senior
partner a dinner. Surely you won't refuse to be my guest here, as I
was yours in the woods!"
"Wallace," said Thorpe, "I'll go you. I'd like to dine with you;
but moreover, I'll confess, I should like to eat a good dinner again.
It's been more than a year since I've seen a salad, or heard of
"Come on then," cried Wallace.
Together they sauntered through the lengthening shadows to a certain
small restaurant near Woodward Avenue, then much in vogue among
Detroit's epicures. It contained only a half dozen tables, but was
spotlessly clean, and its cuisine was unrivalled. A large fireplace
near the center of the room robbed it of half its restaurant air; and
a thick carpet on the floor took the rest. The walls were decorated
in dark colors after the German style. Several easy chairs grouped
before the fireplace, and a light wicker table heaped with magazines
and papers invited the guests to lounge while their orders were
Thorpe was not in the least Sybaritic in his tastes, but he could
not stifle a sigh of satisfaction at sinking so naturally into the
unobtrusive little comforts which the ornamental life offers to its
votaries. They rose up around him and pillowed him, and were grateful
to the tired fibers of his being. His remoter past had enjoyed these
things as a matter of course. They had framed the background to his
daily habit. Now that the background had again slid into place on
noiseless grooves, Thorpe for the first time became conscious that
his strenuous life had indeed been in the open air, and that the
winds of earnest endeavor, while bracing, had chilled. Wallace
Carpenter, with the poet's insight and sympathy, saw and understood
"I want you to order this dinner," said he, handing over to Thorpe
the card which an impossibly correct waiter presented him. "And I
want it a good one. I want you to begin at the beginning and skip
nothing. Pretend you are ordering just the dinner you would like
to offer your sister," he suggested on a sudden inspiration. "I
assure you I'll try to be just as critical and exigent as she would
Thorpe took up the card dreamily.
"There are no oysters and clams now," said he, "so we'll pass
right on to the soup. It seems to me a desecration to pretend to
replace them. We'll have a bisque," he told the waiter, "rich and
creamy. Then planked whitefish, and have them just a light crisp,
brown. You can bring some celery, too, if you have it fresh and
good. And for entree tell your cook to make some macaroni au gratin,
but the inside must be soft and very creamy, and the outside very
crisp. I know it's a queer dish for a formal dinner like ours," he
addressed Wallace with a little laugh, "but it's very, very good.
We'll have roast beef, rare and juicy;--if you bring it any way but
a cooked red, I'll send it back;--and potatoes roasted with the meat
and brown gravy. Then the breast of chicken with the salad, in the
French fashion. And I'll make the dressing. We'll have an ice and
some fruit for dessert. Black coffee."
"Yes, sir," replied the waiter, his pencil poised. "And the wines?"
Thorpe ruminated sleepily.
"A rich red Burgundy," he decided, "for all the dinner. If your
cellar contains a very good smooth Beaune, we'll have that."
"Yes, sir," answered the waiter, and departed.
Thorpe sat and gazed moodily into the wood fire, Wallace respected
his silence. It was yet too early for the fashionable world, so the
two friends had the place to themselves. Gradually the twilight
fell; strange shadows leaped and died on the wall. A boy dressed
all in white turned on the lights. By and by the waiter announced
that their repast awaited them.
Thorpe ate, his eyes half closed, in somnolent satisfaction.
Occasionally he smiled contentedly across at Wallace, who smiled
in response. After the coffee he had the waiter bring cigars.
They went back between the tables to a little upholstered smoking
room, where they sank into the depths of leather chairs, and blew
the gray clouds of smoke towards the ceiling. About nine o'clock
Thorpe spoke the first word.
"I'm stupid this evening, I'm afraid," said he, shaking himself.
"Don't think on that account I am not enjoying your dinner. I
believe," he asserted earnestly, "that I never had such an altogether
comfortable, happy evening before in my life."
"I know," replied Wallace sympathetically.
"It seems just now," went on Thorpe, sinking more luxuriously into
his armchair, "that this alone is living--to exist in an environment
exquisitely toned; to eat, to drink, to smoke the best, not like a
gormand, but delicately as an artist would. It is the flower of our
Wallace remembered the turmoil of the wilderness brook; the little
birch knoll, yellow in the evening glow; the mellow voice of the
summer night crooning through the pines. But he had the rare tact
to say nothing.
"Did it ever occur to you that what you needed, when sort of tired
out this way," he said abruptly after a moment, "is a woman to
understand and sympathize? Wouldn't it have made this evening
perfect to have seen opposite you a being whom you loved, who
understood your moments of weariness, as well as your moments of
"No," replied Thorpe, stretching his arms over his head, "a woman
would have talked. It takes a friend and a man, to know when to
keep silent for three straight hours."
The waiter brought the bill on a tray, and Carpenter paid it.
"Wallace," said Thorpe suddenly after a long interval, "we'll
borrow enough by mortgaging our land to supply the working
expenses. I suppose capital will have to investigate, and that'll
take time; but I can begin to pick up a crew and make arrangements
for transportation and supplies. You can let me have a thousand
dollars on the new Company's note for initial expenses. We'll
draw up articles of partnership to-morrow."
Next day the articles of partnership were drawn; and Carpenter gave
his note for the necessary expenses. Then in answer to a pencilled
card which Mr. Morrison had evidently left at Thorpe's hotel in
person, both young men called at the lumberman's place of business.
They were ushered immediately into the private office.
Mr. Morrison was a smart little man with an ingratiating manner and
a fishy eye. He greeted Thorpe with marked geniality.
"My opponent of yesterday!" he cried jocularly. "Sit down, Mr.
Although you did me out of some land I had made every preparation to
purchase, I can't but admire your grit and resourcefulness. How did
you get here ahead of us?"
"I walked across the upper peninsula, and caught a boat," replied
"Indeed, INDEED!" replied Mr. Morrison, placing the tips of his
fingers together. "Extraordinary! Well, Mr. Thorpe, you overreached
us nicely; and I suppose we must pay for our carelessness. We must
have that pine, even though we pay stumpage on it. Now what would
you consider a fair price for it?"
"It is not for sale," answered Thorpe.
"We'll waive all that. Of course it is to your interest to make
difficulties and run the price up as high as you can. But my time
is somewhat occupied just at present, so I would be very glad to
hear your top price--we will come to an agreement afterwards."
"You do not understand me, Mr. Morrison. I told you the pine is
not for sale, and I mean it."
"But surely--What did you buy it for, then?" cried Mr. Morrison,
with evidences of a growing excitement.
"We intend to manufacture it."
Mr. Morrison's fishy eyes nearly popped out of his head. He
controlled himself with an effort.
"Mr. Thorpe," said he, "let us try to be reasonable. Our case
stands this way. We have gone to a great deal of expense on
the Ossawinamakee in expectation of undertaking very extensive
operations there. To that end we have cleared the stream, built
three dams, and have laid the foundations of a harbor and boom.
This has been very expensive. Now your purchase includes most of
what we had meant to log. You have, roughly speaking, about three
hundred millions in your holding, in addition to which there are
several millions scattering near it, which would pay nobody but
yourself to get in. Our holdings are further up stream, and
comprise only about the equal of yours."
"Three hundred millions are not to be sneezed at," replied Thorpe.
"Certainly not," agreed Morrison, suavely, gaining confidence from
the sound of his own voice. "Not in this country. But you must
remember that a man goes into the northern peninsula only because
he can get something better there than here. When the firm of
Morrison & Daly establishes itself now, it must be for the last
time. We want enough timber to do us for the rest of the time we
are in business."
"In that case, you will have to hunt up another locality," replied
Morrison's eyes flashed. But he retained his appearance of geniality,
and appealed to Wallace Carpenter.
"Then you will retain the advantage of our dams and improvements,"
said he. "Is that fair?"
"No, not on the face of it," admitted Thorpe. "But you did your
work in a navigable stream for private purposes, without the consent
of the Board of Control. Your presence on the river is illegal.
You should have taken out a charter as an Improvement Company. Then
as long as you 'tended to business and kept the concern in repair,
we'd have paid you a toll per thousand feet. As soon as you let it
slide, however, the works would revert to the State. I won't hinder
your doing that yet; although I might. Take out your charter and
fix your rate of toll."
"In other words, you force us to stay there and run a little two-by-
four Improvement Company for your benefit, or else lose the value of
"Suit yourself," answered Thorpe carelessly. "You can always log
your present holdings."
"Very well," cried Morrison, so suddenly in a passion that Wallace
started back. "It's war! And let me tell you this, young man;
you're a new concern and we're an old one. We'll crush you like
THAT!" He crisped an envelope vindictively, and threw it in the
"Crush ahead," replied Thorpe with great good humor. "Good-day,
Mr. Morrison," and the two went out.
Wallace was sputtering and trembling with nervous excitement. His
was one of those temperaments which require action to relieve the
stress of a stormy interview. He was brave enough, but he would
always tremble in the presence of danger until the moment for
striking arrived. He wanted to do something at once.
"Hadn't we better see a lawyer?" he asked. "Oughtn't we to look
out that they don't take some of our pine? Oughtn't we---"
"You just leave all that to me," replied Thorpe. "The first thing
we want to do is to rustle some money."
"And you can leave THAT to ME," echoed Wallace. "I know a little
of such things, and I have business connections who know more. You
just get the camp running."
"I'll start for Bay City to-night," submitted Thorpe. "There
ought to be a good lot of lumber-jacks lying around idle at this
time of year; and it's a good place to outfit from because we can
probably get freight rates direct by boat. We'll be a little late
in starting, but we'll get in SOME logs this winter, anyway."
THE BLAZING OF THE TRAIL
A lumbering town after the drive is a fearful thing. Men just
off the river draw a deep breath, and plunge into the wildest
reactionary dissipation. In droves they invade the cities,--wild,
picturesque, lawless. As long as the money lasts, they blow it in.
"Hot money!" is the cry. "She's burnt holes in all my pockets
The saloons are full, the gambling houses overflow, all the places
of amusement or crime run full blast. A chip rests lightly on
everyone's shoulder. Fights are as common as raspberries in August.
Often one of these formidable men, his muscles toughened and
quickened by the active, strenuous river work, will set out to "take
the town apart." For a time he leaves rack and ruin, black eyes and
broken teeth behind him, until he meets a more redoubtable "knocker"
and is pounded and kicked into unconsciousness. Organized gangs go
from house to house forcing the peaceful inmates to drink from their
bottles. Others take possession of certain sections of the street
and resist "a l'outrance" the attempts of others to pass. Inoffensive
citizens are stood on their heads, or shaken upside down until the
contents of their pockets rattle on the street. Parenthetically,
these contents are invariably returned to their owners. The
riverman's object is fun, not robbery.
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