The Lady of Big Shanty
Frank Berkeley Smith
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Daniel Watkins and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.
The Lady of Big Shanty
F. BERKELEY SMITH
TO THE READER
This story, written by a man who has passed many years of his life in
the Adirondack woods, strikes a note not often sounded--the power of
the primeval over the human mind.
Once abandoned in the wilderness, wholly dependent upon what can
be wrested from its clutch to prolong existence, all the ordinary
standards and ambitions of life become as naught: for neither love,
hatred, revenge, honour, money, jewels, or social success will bring a
cup of water, a handful of corn or a coal of fire. Under this torture
Nature once more becomes king and man again an atom; his judgment
clarified, his heart stripped naked, his soul turned inside out. The
untamed, mighty, irresistible primitive is now to be reckoned with,
and a lie will no longer serve.
Such is the power of the primeval, and for the unique way in which it
has been treated between these covers, the father takes off his hat to
F. HOPKINSON SMITH.
THE LADY OF BIG SHANTY
It was the luncheon hour, and The Players was crowded with its
members; not only actors, but men of every profession, from the tall,
robust architect to the quiet surgeon tucked away among the cushions
of the corner divan. In the hall--giving sound advice, perhaps, to a
newly fledged tragedian--sat some dear, gray-haired old gentleman in
white socks who puffed silently at a long cigar, while from out the
low-ceiled, black-oak dining room, resplendent in pewter and hazy with
tobacco smoke, came intermittent outbursts of laughter. It was the
hour when idlers and workers alike throw off the labours of the day
for a quiet chat with their fellows.
Only one man in the group was restless. This was a young fellow who
kept watch at the window overlooking the Park. That he was greatly
worried was evident from the two tense furrows in his brow, and from
the way his eyes scanned the street below.
"The devil!" he grumbled. "I wonder if Billy's missed his
train--another Adirondack express late, I suppose." He flicked the
ashes from his cigarette and, wheeling sharply, touched a bell.
"John," he said, as the noiseless old steward entered.
"Yes, Mr. Randall."
"Find out at the desk if a Mr. William Holcomb from Moose River has
called or telephoned."
"Very good, sir."
"He's a tall, sun-burned young man, John--and he may be waiting below.
"I'll go and see, sir," and the steward turned.
"And, John--tell August we shall be five at luncheon."
The next moment two hands gripped him from behind by both shoulders.
"Well! I'm glad _you're_ here, Keene, at any rate!" cried Randall
as he smashed the bell hard. "Two dry Martinis"--this to the
yellow-waistcoated steward now at his elbow. "It's Billy Holcomb
you've come to meet. He wrote me he was coming to New York on business
and I made him promise to come here first. He and I hunted together
last fall and I wanted you and Brompton to know him. What I'm afraid
of is that he has missed the night express. Moose River's a long ways
from the railway, and you know what an Adirondack road is this time of
year. I hope The Players won't scare him."
"Oh! we'll take care of him," laughed Keene good-humouredly. "Thank
God he's not a celebrity; I'm sick of celebrities. It'll be a treat to
meet a plain human being. Hello! here comes Brompton!"
Randall rose to his feet.
"Glad you could come, old man. There's only five of us--you, and
Keene, Sam Thayor, and a friend of mine from the woods. Touch the bell
and give your order."
Again the noiseless John appeared.
"Any news, John?"
"Yes, sir; Mr. Holcomb is waiting for you below, and Mr. Thayor has
telephoned he will be here in a moment."
Jack started for the stairs.
"Good!" he cried. "I'll be back in a second."
If the actor and Keene had expected to see a raw-boned country boy,
reticent and ill at ease, they got over it at the first glance. What
they saw approaching with his arm in their host's was a young man of
twenty-three, straight as an arrow, with the eyes of an eagle; whose
clean-cut features were so full of human understanding that both the
actor and Keene fell to wondering if Randall was not joking when he
labeled him as hailing from so primitive a settlement as Moose River.
To these qualities there was added the easy grace of a man of the
world in the pink of condition. Only his dark gray pepper-and-salt
clothes--they had been purchased in Utica the day before--confirmed
Randall's diagnosis, and even these fitted him in a way that showed
both his good taste and his common sense. The introductions over and
the party seated, Randall turned again to his friend.
"I worried about you, Billy; what happened?"
"Oh, we had a washout just this side of Utica, and the train was
nearly three hours late. But I had no trouble," he said with a quiet
smile. "I came down a-foot--let's see--Fourth Avenue, isn't it? As
soon as I saw the Park I knew I was on the right trail," he laughed,
his white teeth gleaming in contrast with his nut-brown skin.
"Oh, I'd trust you anywhere in the world, trail or no trail. That's
the way you got me out of Bog Eddy that night, and that's the way you
saved Sam Thayor. He's coming, you know. Wants to meet you the worst
kind. I'm keeping you for a surprise, but he'll hug himself all over
when he finds out it's you."
The young man raised his eyes in doubt.
"Thayor? I don't know as I--"
"Why, of course you remember the Thayors, Billy! They were at Long
Lake three or four summers ago."
"Oh! a short, thick-set man, with grayish hair?" replied Holcomb in
his low, well-modulated voice--the voice of a man used to the silence
of the big woods. "Let's see," he mused--"wasn't it he that cut
himself so badly with an axe over at Otter Pond? Yes, I remember."
"So does Thayor, Billy, and it'll be a good many years before he
forgets it," declared Jack. "You saved his life, he says. That's one
thing he wants to see you for, and another is that he's played out and
needs a rest."
"Bless me!" cried Brompton in the tragic tones of his profession. "You
saved his life, me boy?"
Holcomb, for the first time, appeared embarrassed.
"Well, that's mighty good of him to think so, but I didn't do much,"
he replied modestly. "Now I come to think of it, he was badly cut and
I helped him down to Doc' Rand's at Bog River. That was, as I figure
it, about three years ago--wasn't it, Randall?"
"You mean," returned Randall, "that you took him down on your back,
and if you hadn't Sam Thayor would have bled to death."
"Bless my soul!" cried the actor.
"Well, you see," continued Holcomb ignoring the interruption, "there
are some that can handle an axe just as easily as some fellows can
fiddle, and again there are some that can't. It's just a little knack,
that's all, gentlemen, and, of course, Mr. Thayor wasn't used to
"The only thing Sam Thayor can handle is money," interposed Keene.
"He's got millions, Billy--millions!"
"Millions," chuckled Randall; "I should think so. He owns about five
of 'em." As he spoke he half rose from his chair and waved his hand to
a well-dressed, gray-haired man whose eyes were searching the crowded
hall. "Thayor!" he shouted.
As the new-comer moved closer the whole group rose to greet him.
"I'm afraid, my dear Jack, I've kept you all waiting," the banker
began. "A special meeting of the Board detained me longer than I had
anticipated. I hope you will forgive me. I am not usually late, I
assure you, gentlemen. This for me?" and he picked up his waiting
Holcomb, although his eyes had not wavered from Thayor, had not yet
greeted him. That a man so quiet and unostentatious belonged to the
favoured rich was a new experience to him. He was also waiting for
some sign of recognition from the financial potentate, the democracy
of the woods being in his blood.
Randall waited an instant and seeing Thayor's lack of recognition
blurted out in his hearty way:
"Why, it's Holcomb, Sam; Billy Holcomb of Moose River."
Thayor turned and formally extended his hand.
"Oh, I beg your pardon! I--" then his whole manner changed. "Why,
_Holcomb_!" he exclaimed with delightful surprise. "Oh, I'm so glad to
see you! And--er--your dear father--how is he?"
"First rate, thank you, Mr. Thayor. It seems kind of natural to see
you again. Father was speaking about you the very day he left. He went
on Monday to Fort Ti' with my mother for a visit."
"Ah, indeed!" returned Thayor, drawing up a chair beside the boy,
and before even the glasses were entirely emptied the two had begun
talking of the woods and all it held in store for them, the banker
declaring, as he followed Randall into the dining room, that if he
could arrange his business he would make a quick trip to the Lake with
Holcomb as guide.
If the luncheon that followed was a surprise to the stranger from
Moose River, Holcomb's modest naturalness and innate good breeding
were a revelation to Randall's friends. This increased to positive
enthusiasm when one of the actor's massive turquoise rings struck the
rim of the stranger's wine glass, nearly spilling the contents
into Holcomb's lap, and which Holcomb's deft touch righted with
the quickness of a squirrel, before a drop left its edge, a feat of
dexterity which brought from the actor in his best stage voice:
"Zounds, sir! A little more and I should have deluged you"--Holcomb
answering with a smile:
"Don't mention it. I saw it coming my way."
Even those at the adjoining tables caught the dominating influence of
the man as they watched him sitting easily in his chair listening
to the stories of the Emperor of the First Empire--as Brompton was
called, he having played the part--the young woodsman joining in with
experiences of his own as refreshing in tone and as clear in statement
as a mountain spring.
Suddenly, and apparently without anything leading up to it, and as if
some haunting memory of his own had prompted it, Thayor leaned forward
and touched Billy's arm, and with a certain meaning in his voice
"There is something I have wanted to ask you ever since I came,
Holcomb. Tell me about that poor hide-out--the man your father fed in
the woods that night. Did he get away?"
Holcomb straightened up and his face became suddenly grave. The
subject was evidently a distasteful one.
"Whom do you mean, Mr. Thayor?"
"I don't know his name; I only remember the incident, but it has
haunted me ever since."
"You mean Dinsmore."
"What has become of him?"
"I haven't heard lately." He evidently did not want to discuss it
further--certainly not in a crowded room full of strangers.
"But you must have learned something of him. Tell me--I want to know.
I never felt so sorry for anyone in my life."
Holcomb looked Thayor squarely in the face, read its sincerity and
said slowly, lowering his voice:
"He is still in hiding--was the last time I saw him."
"When was that?" asked Thayor, his eyes boring into the young
"About a month ago--Ed Munsey and I were cutting a trail at the time."
"Would you mind telling me?" persisted Thayor. "I have always thought
that poor fellow was ill treated. Your father thought so too."
Holcomb dropped his eyes to the cloth, rolled a crumb of bread between
his fingers and said, as if he was thinking aloud:
"Ill treated! I should say so!" Then he lifted his head, drew his
chair closer to the group, ran his eyes around the room to be sure of
his audience, and said in still lower tones:
"What I'm going to tell you, gentlemen, is between us, remember. None
of you, I am sure, would want to get him into any more trouble, if you
knew the circumstances as I do. One night about nine o'clock, during a
pouring rain, Ed and I lay in a swamp under a lean-to. Ed was asleep,
and I was dozing off, when I heard something step in the brush on the
other side of the fire. I couldn't see anything, it was so dark, but
it sounded just like an animal slouching and stepping about as light
as it could. It would stop suddenly and then I'd hear the brush crack
again on the left."
Thayor was leaning now with his elbows on the table, as absorbed as a
child listening to a fairy tale. The others sat with their eyes fixed
on the speaker.
"Any unusual noise at night must be looked into, and I threw a handful
of birch bark on the fire and reached for Ed's Winchester. I had to
crawl over him to get it, and when I got my hand on it and turned
around a sandy-haired fellow was standing over me with a gun cocked
and pointed at my head.
"I knew him the minute I laid eyes on him. It was Bob Dinsmore, who
killed Jim Bailey over at Long Pond. He'd been hiding out for months.
He was not more than thirty years old, but he looked fifty; there was
a warrant out for him and a reward to take him dead or alive. He kept
the gun pointed, drawing a fine sight on a spot between my left eye
and my ear.
"'Hold on, Bob!' said I; 'sit down.' He didn't speak, but he lifted
the muzzle of his gun a little, and there was a look came into his
eyes, half crying, half like a dog cornered to fight.
"'S-s-h!' said I; 'you'll wake up Ed.'
"'I got to kill ye, Bill,' said he.
"'Sit down,' I said, for I saw he was so weak his thin legs were
trembling. 'Neither Ed nor I are going to give you away--sit down,'
and I shook Ed. He sat up blinking like an old toad in a hard shower.
'By whimey!' said Ed, staring at Bob as if he had seen a ghost.
"'I'm hongry, Bill,' said Bob. 'Bill, I'm hongry,' and he began to
stagger and cry like a baby. I got hold of his rifle and Ed caught him
just as he fainted.
"By and by he came to and Ed and I fixed up a stiff hooker of liquor
and some hot tea and gave him a mouthful at a time. Just before
daylight he rose on one elbow and lay there following us with his
eyes, for he was too weak to talk. It seemed as if he was clean beat
out and that his nerve was gone. What grit he had he had used up
keeping away from the law."
Again Holcomb paused--the round table was as silent as a court room
before a verdict.
"Neither Ed nor I liked the idea of being caught with Dinsmore," he
resumed, "with three counties after him harder than an old dog after a
five-pronged buck, so when it came daylight we shifted camp over back
of a fire-slash where I knew all hell couldn't find him. We had to
carry him most of the way. That was on a Wednesday. We never said
anything to him about his killing Bailey--he knew we knew. We fed him
the best we knew how. Saturday, 'long toward night, I killed a small
deer, and the broth did him good.
"In a couple of days--Hold on, I've got ahead of my story; it was
_Sunday_ night when Bob said: 'Boys' said he, as near as I can repeat
it in his dialect--'you've treated me like a humin, but I dassent stay
here. It ain't fair to you. What I done I done with a reason. You've
heard tell, most likely, that I been seen in Lower Saranac 'bout three
weeks ago, ain't ye?'
"'Yes,' said Ed, 'we heard something about it. That Jew horse-trader,
Bergstein, told us, but there warn't nobody that seen ye, that was
sure it was you.'
"'They lied then,' said Bob, 'for there was more'n a dozen in the
village that day that knowed me and warn't mistook 'bout who I was.
As to that red-nosed Jew, Bergstein, he'll quit talkin' 'bout me and
everythin' else if I kin ever draw a bead on him.'
"Then Bob began to tell us how he walked into the big hotel at Saranac
about noon and flung a hind-quarter of venison on the counter in front
of the clerk and said: 'What I come for is a decent meal; I ain't got
no money, but I guess that'll pay for it.' The clerk got white around
the gills, but he didn't say anything; he just took the venison and
showed Bob into the big dining hall. Bob says they gave him the meal,
and he kept eating everything around him with his Winchester across
his knees. There wasn't a soul that spoke to him except the hired girl
that waited on him, although the dining room was crowded with summer
"'Tea or coffee?' asked the hired girl when he had eaten his pie.
"'No, thank ye,' says Bob, 'but I won't never forgit ye if ye can git
me four boxes of matches.' Bob said she was gone a minute and when she
came back she had the matches for him under her apron. 'Good luck to
ye, Bob,' she says--her cheeks red, and her mouth trembling. It was
Myra Hathaway--he'd known her since she was a little girl. 'Bob,
for God's sake go,' she begged--'there's trouble coming from the
"It wasn't long before Bob crossed Alder Brook about forty rods this
side of the Gull Rock. They saw his tracks where he crossed the next
day, but Bob had the matches, and the sheriff and about forty that
went out to get him came back that night looking kind of down in the
mouth. There wasn't a sign of him after he crossed Alder Brook. He
knew those woods like a partridge. When he got through telling how he
got the square meal at Lower Saranac, Ed said to him:
"'Bob, you're welcome to what I've got,' and I told him, 'What I've
got is yours, and you know it.'
"He tried to say a little something, but he choked up, then he said:
'Boys, I'm sick of bein' hounded. There's been nights and days when
I've most died; if I can only get into Canady there won't none of 'em
"Ed and I had about eleven dollars between us. 'That will get you
there, Bob,' I said, 'if you look sharp and don't take risks and keep
to the timber.' We gave him the eleven dollars and what cartridges and
matches we could spare, and what was left of the deer. I never saw
a fellow so grateful; he didn't say anything, but I saw his old grit
come back to him. That was Monday night, and about nine o'clock we
turned in. Before daylight I woke up to attend to the fire and saw he
The men drew a deep breath. Keene and the actor looked blankly at each
other. Compared to the tale just ended, their own stories seemed but
a reflex of utterly selfish lives. Even the Emperor experienced a
strange thrill--possibly the first real sensation he had known since
he was a boy. As to Thayor--he had hung on every word that fell from
"And what motive had Dinsmore in killing Bailey?" asked Thayor,
nervously, when the others had gone to the hall for their coffee and
liqueurs. "I asked your father but he did not answer me, and yet he
must have known."
"Oh, yes, he knew, Mr. Thayor. Everybody knows, our way, but it's one
of those things we don't talk about--but I'll tell you. It was about
Thayor folded his napkin in an absent way, laid it carefully beside
his plate, unfolded it again and tossed it in a heap upon the table,
and said with a certain tenderness in his tone:
"And did he get away to Canada, Holcomb?"
"No, sir; his little girl fell ill, and he wouldn't leave her."
"And the woman, Holcomb--was she worth it?" continued Thayor. There
was a strange tremor in his voice now--so much so that the young man
fastened his eyes on the banker's, wondering at the cause.
"She was worth a lot to Bob, sir," replied Holcomb slowly. "They had
grown up together."
That same afternoon the banker passed through the polished steel
grille of his new home by means of a flat key attached to a plain gold
The house, like its owner, had a certain personality of its own,
although it lacked his simplicity; its square mass being so richly
carved that it seemed as if the faintest stroke of the architect's
soft pencil had made a dollar mark. So vast, too, was its baronial
hall and sweeping stairway in pale rose marble, that its owner might
have entered it unnoticed, had not Blakeman, the butler, busying
himself with the final touches to a dinner table of twenty covers,
heard his master's alert step in the hall and hurried to relieve him
of his coat and hat. Before, however, the man could reach him, Thayor
had thrown both aside, and had stepped to a carved oak table on which
were carefully arranged ten miniature envelopes. He bent over them for
a moment and then turning to the butler asked in an impatient tone:
"How many people are coming to dinner, Blakeman?"
"Twenty, sir," answered Blakeman, his face preserving its habitual
"Um!" muttered Thayor.
"Can, I get you anything, sir?"
"No, thank you, Blakeman. I have just left the Club."
"A dinner of twenty, eh?" continued Thayor, as Blakeman disappeared
with his coat and hat--"our fourth dinner party this week, and Alice
never said a word to me about it." Again he glanced at the names
of the men upon the ten diminutive envelopes, written in an angular
feminine hand; most of them those of men he rarely saw save at his own
dinners. Suddenly his eye caught the name upon the third envelope from
the end of the orderly row.
"Dr. Sperry again!" he exclaimed, half aloud. He opened it and his
lips closed tight. The crested card bore the name of his wife. As he
dropped it back in its place his ear caught the sound of a familiar
figure descending the stairway--the figure of a woman of perhaps
thirty-five, thoroughly conscious of her beauty, whose white arms
flashed as she moved from beneath the flowing sleeves of a silk
tea-gown that reached to her tiny satin slippers.
She had gained the hall now, and noticing her husband came slowly
"Where's Margaret?" Thayor asked, after a short pause during which
neither had spoken.
The shoulders beneath the rose tea-gown shrugged with a gesture of
"In the library, I suppose," she returned. Then, with a woman's
intuition, she noticed that the third envelope had been touched. Her
lips tightened. "Get dressed, Sam, or you will be late, as usual."
Thayor raised his head and looked at her.
"You never told me, Alice, that you were giving a dinner to-night--I
never knew, in fact, until I found these."
"And having found them you pawed them over." There was a subtle,
almost malicious defiance in her tone. "Go on--what else? Come--be
quick! I must look at my table." One of her hands, glittering with the
rings he had given her, was now on the portiere, screening the dining
room from out which came faintly the clink of silver. She stopped,
her slippered foot tapping the marble floor impatiently. "Well!" she
demanded, her impatience increasing, "what is it?"
"Nothing," he replied slowly--"nothing that you can understand," and
he strode past her up the sweeping stairs.
Margaret was in the biggest chair in the long library, sitting curled
up between its generous arms when he entered. At the moment she was
absorbed in following a hero through the pages of a small volume bound
in red morocco. Thayor watched her for a moment, all his love for her
in his eyes.
"Oh, daddy!" she cried. Her arms were about his neck now, the brown
eyes looking into his own. "Oh, daddy! Oh! I'm so glad you've come.
I've had such a dandy ride to-day!" She paused, and taking his two
hands into her own looked up at him saucily. "You know you promised me
a new pony. I really must have one. Ethel says my Brandy is really out
of fashion, and I've seen such a beauty with four ducky little white
"Where, Puss?" He stroked her soft hair as he spoke, his fingers
lingering among the tresses.
"Oh, at the new stable. Ethel and I have been looking him over; she
says he's cheap at seven hundred. May I have him daddy? It looks so
poverty-stricken to be dependent on one mount."
Suddenly she stopped. "Why, daddy! What's the matter? You look half
ill," she said faintly.
Thayor caught his breath and straightened.
"Nothing, Puss," he answered, regaining for the moment something of
his jaunty manner. "Nothing, dearie. I must go and dress, or I shall
be late for our guests."
"But my pony, daddy?" pleaded Margaret.
Thayor bent and kissed her fresh cheek.
"There--I knew you would!" she cried, clapping her hands in sheer
Half an hour later, when the two walked down the sweeping stairs, her
soft hand about his neck, the other firmly in his own, they found
the mother, now radiant in white lace and jewels, standing before the
white chimney piece, one slippered foot resting upon the low brass
fender. Only when the muffled slam of a coupe door awoke her to
consciousness did she turn and speak to them, and only then with one
of those perfunctory remarks indulged in by some hostesses when their
guests are within ear-shot.
In the midst of the comedy, to which neither made reply, the heavy
portieres were suddenly drawn aside and Blakeman's trained voice rang
A tall, wiry man with a dark complexion, alluring black eyes and black
moustache curled up at the ends, entered hastily, tucking the third
envelope in the pocket of his pique waistcoat.
A peculiar expression flashed subtly from Alice's dark eyes as she
smiled and put forth her hand. "I'm so glad you could come," she
murmured. "I was afraid you would be sent for by somebody at the last
"And I am more than happy, I assure you, dear lady," he laughed back,
as he bent and kissed the tips of her fingers.
"And yet I feel so guilty--so very guilty, when there is so much
sickness about town this wretched weather," she continued.
Again he smiled--this time in his best professional manner, in the
midst of which he shook hands with Margaret and Thayor. Then he added
in a voice as if he had not slept for months--
"Yes, there is a lot of grippe about."
Thayor looked at him from under lowered lids.
"I wonder you could have left these poor people," he said
Alice, scenting danger, stretched forth one white hand and touched the
"You came because I couldn't do without you, didn't you, dear doctor?"
Again the portiere opened.
"Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Van Rock--Mr. Kennedy Jones--Miss Trevor,"
announced Blakeman successively.
Mrs. Thayor's fourth dinner party that week had begun.
* * * * *
As the door closed at midnight upon the last guest, Margaret kissed
her father and mother good-night and hurried to her room, leaving the
two alone. The dinner had been an ordeal to her--never before had she
seen her father so absorbed.
"You were very brilliant to-night, were you not?" exclaimed Alice as
soon as she and Thayor were alone.
Thayor continued silent, gazing into the library fire, his hands
clenched deep in his trousers pockets, his shoulders squared.
"A beautiful dinner," she continued, her voice rising--"the best I
have had this season, and yet you sat there like a log."
The man turned sharply--so sharply that the woman at his side gave a
"Sit down!" he commanded--"over there where I can see you. I have
something to say."
She looked at him in amazement. The determined ring in his voice made
her half afraid. What had he to say?
"What do you mean?" she retorted.
"Just what I said. Sit down!"
The fair shoulders shrugged. She was accustomed to these outbursts,
but not to this ring in his voice.
"Go on--what is it?"
Thayor crossed the room, shut the door and turned the key in the lock.
She watched him in silence as he switched off the electric lights
along the bookcases, until naught illumined the still library but the
soft glow of the lamp and the desultory flare from the hearth.
Still he did not speak. Finally the storm broke.
"What I have to say to you is this: I'm sick of this wholesale giving
Alice let go her breath. After all, it was not what was uppermost in
"Ah! So that's it," she returned.
"That's a part of it," he cried, "but not all."
"And the other part?" she asked, her nervousness returning.
"I'll come to that later," said her husband, with an accent on the
last word. "It is necessary that I should begin at the beginning."
"Go on," she murmured nervously, gazing absently into the fire, her
mind at work, her fears suddenly aroused. For the first time its
wavering light seemed restful. "Go on--I'm listening."
"The first part is that I'm sick of these dinners. I've told you so
before, and yet you had the impertinence to-night to give another and
not say a word to me about it." The voice had a cold, incisive note in
it--the touch of steel to warm flesh.
"Impertinence! Your ideas of hospitality, Sam, are peculiar." Any
topic was better than the one she feared.
"Hospitality!" he retorted hotly. "Do you call it hospitality to
squander my money on the cheap spongers you are continually inviting
here? Do you call it hospitable to force me to sit up and entertain
this riff-raff night after night, and then be dragged off to the opera
or theatre when I am played out after a hard day's work down town for
the money you spend? And just look at Margaret! Do you suppose that
these people, this sort of life you daily surround her with, is a sane
atmosphere in which to bring up our daughter? That's the first thing
I've got to say to you, and I want to tell you right here that it's
got to stop."
She looked up at him in a half frightened way, wondering whether there
was not something back of this sudden tirade, something she could not
fathom--something she feared to fathom.
"The second thing that I have to tell you is this: I am at the end
of my rope, or will be if I keep on. A man can't keep up month in
and month out, living my life, and not break down. I saw Leveridge
yesterday and he wishes me to get some relief at once. Young Holcomb,
who did me a service once at Long Lake, is here, and I am going back
home with him. I intend to take a rest for a fortnight--possibly three
For an instant she could not speak--so quick came the joyful rebound.
Then there rushed over her what his absence might, or might not, mean
"When do you start?" she asked with assumed condescension--her old way
of concealing her thoughts.
"But Saturday night we are giving a dinner," she rejoined in a
positive tone. This was one at which she wanted him present.
"You can give it, but without me," he replied doggedly.
"I tell you you'll do nothing of the sort, Sam. I'm not going to
abide by the advice of that quack, Leveridge, nor shall you!" The old
dominating tone reasserted itself now that she had read his mind to
"Quack or not, you would not be alive to-day but for him, and it is
disgraceful for you to talk this way behind his back. And now I am
going to bed." With this he turned off the remaining light, leaving
only the flicker of the firelight behind, shot back the bolt and
strode from the room.
As he passed Margaret's door there came softly:
"Is that you, daddy?"
"Come in, daddy, dear." Her clear young voice was confident and
He stopped, pushed back the door and entered her dainty room. She lay
propped up among the snowy whiteness of the pillows, smiling at him.
Like her mother, Margaret in her womanhood--she was eighteen--was well
made; her figure being as firm and well knit as that of a boy. For an
instant his eyes wandered over her simple gown of white mull, tied at
the throat with the daintiest of pink ribbons, her well shaped ears
and the wealth of auburn hair that sprang from the nape of her shapely
neck and lay in an undulating mass of gold all over her pretty head.
Whatever sorrows life had for him were nothing compared to the joy of
All his anger was gone in an instant.
"Little girl, you know it's against orders, this reading in bed," he
said in his kindly tone. Never in all her life had he spoken a cross
word to her. "You'll ruin your eyes and you must be tired."
She closed her book. "Tired--yes, I am tired. Mother's dinners are
such dreadfully long ones, and, then, daddy, to-night I've been
worrying about you. You seemed so silent at dinner--it made my heart
ache. Are you ill, daddy? or has something happened? I tried to
sleep, but I couldn't. I've been waiting for you. Tell me what has
happened--you will tell me, won't you, daddy?" Her smooth, young arms
were about his neck now. "Tell me," she pleaded in his ear.
"There's nothing to tell, little girl," he said. "I'm tired too, I
suppose; that's all. Come--you must go to sleep. Pouf!" and he blew
out the flame of the reading candle at her bedside.
* * * * *
For a long time that night Thayor sat staring into the fire in his
room, his mind going over the events of the day--the luncheon--the
talk of those around the table--the tones of Holcomb's voice as
he said, "It was about his wife," and then the added refrain: "He
couldn't get away; his little girl fell ill." How did his case differ?
Suddenly he roused himself and sprang to his feet. No! he was wrong;
there was nothing in it. Couldn't be anything in it. Alice
was foolish--vain--illogical--but there was Margaret! Nothing
would--nothing could go wrong as long as she lived.
With these new thoughts filling his mind, his face brightened. Turning
up the reading lamp on his desk he opened his portfolio, covered half
a page and slipped it into an envelope.
This he addressed to Mr. William Holcomb, ready for Blakeman's hand in
Two days subsequent to these occurrences--and some hours after his
coupe loaded with his guns and traps had rumbled away to meet Holcomb,
in time for the Adirondack express--Thayor laid a note in his butler's
hands with special instructions not to place it among his lady's mail
until she awoke.
He could not have chosen a better messenger. While originally hailing
from Ireland, and while retaining some of the characteristics of his
race--his good humor being one of them--Blakeman yet possessed that
smoothness and deference so often found in an English servant. In his
earlier life he had served Lord Bromley in the Indian jungle during
the famine; had been second man at the country seat of the Duke of
Valmoncourt at the time of the baccarat scandal, and later on had
risen to the position of chief butler in the establishment of an
unpopular Roumanian general.
It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that he was at forty-five past
master in domestic diplomacy, knowing to a detail the private history
of more than a score of families, having studied them at his ease
behind their chairs, or that he knew infinitely more of the world at
large than did his master.
Blakeman had two absorbing passions--one was his love of shooting and
the other his reverent adoration of Margaret, whom he had seen develop
into womanhood, and who was his Madonna and good angel.
At high noon, then, when the silver bell on Alice's night table
broke the stillness of her bedroom, her French maid, Annette, entered
noiselessly and slid back the soft curtains screening the bay window.
She, like Blakeman, had seen much. She was, too, more self-contained
in many things than the woman she served, although she had been bred
in Montmartre and born in the Rue Lepic.
"Did madame ring?" Annette asked, bending over her mistress.
Alice roused herself lazily.
"Yes--my coffee and letters."
The girl crossed the room, opened a mirrored door, deftly extracted
from a hanging mass of frou-frous behind it a silk dressing jacket,
helped thrust the firm white arms within its dainty sleeves, tucked a
small lace pillow between Alice's shoulders and picking up the glossy
mass of black hair, lifted it skilfully until it lay in glistening
folds over the lace pillow. She then went into the boudoir and
returned with a dainty tray bearing a set of old Sevres, two buttered
wafers of toast and two notes.
Alice waited until her maid closed the bedroom door, then, with
the impatience of a child, she opened one of the two notes--the one
Annette had discreetly placed beneath the other. This she read and
re-read; it was brief, and written in a masculine hand. The woman was
thoroughly awake now--her eyes shining, her lips parted in a satisfied
smile. "You dear old friend," she murmured as she lay back upon the
lace pillow. Dr. Sperry was coming at five.
She tucked the letter beneath the coverlid and opened her husband's
note. Suddenly her lips grew tense; she raised herself erect and
stared at its contents:
I shall pass the summer in the woods if I can find suitable
place for you and Margaret. Make no arrangements which will
conflict with this. Will write later.
Again she read it, grasping little by little its whole import: all
that it meant--all that it would mean to her.
"Is he crazy?" she asked herself. "Does he suppose I intend to be
dragged up there?"
It was open defiance on his part; he had done this thing without
consulting her and without her consent. It was preposterous and
insulting in its brusqueness. He evidently intended to change her
life--she, who loathed camp life more than anything in the world was
to be forced to live in one all summer instead of reigning at Newport.
She understood now his open defiance in leaving for the woods with
Holcomb, and yet this last decision was far graver to her than his
taking a dozen vacations. Still deeper in her heart there lurked the
thought of being separated from the man who understood her. The young
doctor's summer practice in Newport would no longer be a labour of
love. It really meant exile to them both.
At one o'clock she lunched with Margaret, hardly opening her lips
through it all. She did not mention her husband's note--that she would
reserve for the doctor. Between them she felt sure there could be
arranged a way out of the situation. Again she devoured his note.
Yes--"at five." The intervening hours seemed interminable.
That these same hours were anything but irksome to Sperry would have
been apparent to anyone who watched his use of them. The day, like
other days during office hours, had seen a line of coupes waiting
outside his door. Within had assembled a score of rich patients
waiting their turn while they read the illustrated papers in strained
silence--papers they had already seen. There was, of course, no
conversation. A nervous cough now and then from some pretty widow,
overheated in her sables, would break the awkward silence, or perhaps
the voice of some wealthy little girl of five asking impossible
explanations of her maid. During these hours the mere opening of the
doctor's sanctum door was sufficient to instantly raise the hopes and
the eyes of the unfortunates.
For during these office hours Dr. Sperry had a habit of opening
the door of this private sanctum sharply, and standing there for an
instant, erect and faultlessly dressed, looking over the waiting ones;
then, with a friendly nod, he would recognize, perhaps the widow--and
the door closed again on the less fortunate.
It was, of course, more than possible that the young woman was ill
over her dressmaker's bill, rather than suffering from a weak heart or
an opera cold. Sperry's ear, however, generally detected the cold.
It was not his policy to say unpleasant things--especially to young
widows who had recently inherited the goods and chattels of their
"Ill!--nonsense, my dear lady; you look as fresh as a rose," he would
begin in his fascinating voice--"a slight cold, but nothing serious, I
assure you. You women are never blessed with prudence," etc., etc.
To another: "Nervous prostration, my dear madame! Fudge--all
imagination! Silly, really silly. You caught cold, of course, coming
out of the heated theatre. Get a good rest, my dear Mrs. Jack--I want
you to stay at least a month at Palm Beach, and no late suppers,
and no champagne. No--not a drop," he adds severely. Then softening,
"Well, then, half a glass. There, I've been generous, haven't I?"
etc., etc., and so the day passed.
On this particular day it was four o'clock before he had dismissed the
last of his patients. Then he turned to his nurse with an impatient
tone, as he searched hurriedly among the papers on his desk:
"Find out what day I set for young Mrs. Van Ripley's operation."
"Tuesday, sir," answered the nurse.
"Then make it Thursday, and tell James to pack up my big valise and
see that my golf things are in it and aboard the 9.18 in the morning."
"Yes, sir," answered the girl, dipping her plump hands in a pink
All this time Alice had been haunted by the crawling hands of the
clock. Luxurious as was her house of marble, it was a dreary domain
at best to-day, as she sat in the small square room that lay hidden
beyond the conservatory of cool palms and exotic plants screening one
end of the dining room--a room her very own, and one to which only
the chosen few were ever admitted; a jewel box of a room indeed, whose
walls, ceiling and furniture were in richly carved teak. A corner, by
the way, in which one could receive an old friend and be undisturbed.
There was about it, too, a certain feeling of snug secrecy which
appealed to her, particularly the low lounge before the Moorish
fireplace of carved alabaster, which was well provided with soft
pillows richly covered with rare embroideries. To-day none of these
luxuries appealed to the woman seated among the cushions, gazing
nervously at the fire. What absorbed her were the hands of the clock,
crawling slowly toward five.
* * * * *
He did not keep her waiting. He was ahead of time, in fact--Blakeman
leading him obsequiously through the fragrant conservatory.
"Ah--it is you, doctor!" she exclaimed in feigned surprise as the
butler started to withdraw.
"Yes," he laughed; "I do hope I'm not disturbing you, dear lady. I was
passing and dropped in."
Alice put forth her hand to him frankly and received the warm pressure
of his own. They waited until the sound of Blakeman's footsteps died
away in the conservatory.
"He's gone," she whispered nervously.
"What has happened?" asked the doctor with sudden apprehension.
"Everything," she replied womanlike, raising her eyes slowly to his
own. Impulsively he placed both hands on her shoulders.
"You are nervous," he said, his gaze riveted upon her parted lips. He
felt her arms grow tense--she threw back her head stiffly and for a
moment closed her eyes as if in pain.
"Don't!" she murmured--"we must be good friends--_good_ friends--do
"Forgive me," was his tactful reply. He led her to the corner of the
lounge and with fresh courage covered her hand firmly with his own.
"See--I am sensible," he smiled--"we understand each other, I think.
Tell me what has happened."
"Sam," she murmured faintly, freeing her hand--"Sam has dared to treat
me like--like a child."
"You! I don't believe it--you? Nonsense, dear friend."
"You must help me," she returned in a vain effort to keep back the
"Has he been brutal to you?--jealous?--impossible!" and a certain
query gleamed in his eyes.
"Yes, brutal enough. I never believed him capable of it."
"I believe you, but it seems strange--psychologically impossible.
Why, he's not that kind of a man."
Alice slipped her hand beneath a cushion, drew forth her husband's
note and gave it to him.
"Read that," she said, gazing doggedly into the fire, her chin in her
"'I may pass the summer in the woods'"--he read. "'Make no
arrangements--' Well, what of it?" This came with a breath of relief.
Alice raised her head wearily.
"It means that my life will be different--a country boarding house
or a camp up in those wretched woods, I suppose--an _existence_"--she
went on, her voice regaining its old dominant note--"not life!"
"And no more Newport for either of us," he muttered half audibly to
himself with a tone of regret.
Alice looked up at him, her white hands clenched.
"I won't have it!" she exclaimed hotly; "I simply won't have it. I
should die in a place like that. Buried," she went on bitterly, "among
a lot of country bumpkins! Sam's a fool!"
"And you believe him to be in earnest?" he asked at length. She made
no reply; her flushed cheeks again sunk in her jewelled hands. "Do
you, seriously?" he demanded with sudden fear.
"Yes--very much in earnest--that's the worst of it," she returned,
with set, trembling lips.
For some moments he watched her in silence, she breathing in nervous
gasps, her slippered feet pressed hard in the soft rug. A sudden
desire rushed through him to take her in his arms, yet he dared not
"Come," he said, at last, "let us reason this thing out. We're neither
of us fools. Besides, it does not seem possible he will dare carry out
anything in life without your consent."
"I don't know," she answered slowly. "I never believed him capable
of going to the woods--but he did. And I must say, frankly, I never
believed him capable of this."
"You and he have had a quarrel--am I not right?"
She shrugged her shoulders in reply.
"Perhaps," she confessed--"but he has never understood me--he is
incapable of understanding any woman."
"Quite true," he replied lightly, in his best worldly voice; "quite
true. Few men, my dear child, ever understand the women they marry.
You might have been free to-day--free, and happier, had you--"
He sprang to his feet, bending over her--clasping her hands clenched
in her lap. Slowly he sought her lips.
"Don't," she breathed--"don't--I beg of you. You must not--you _shall_
not! You know we have discussed all that before."
"Forgive me," said he, straightening and regaining his seat. The ice
had been thinner than he supposed, and he was too much of an expert
to risk breaking through. "But why are you so cold to me?" he asked
gloomily, with a sullen glance; "you, whose whole nature is the
reverse? Do you know you are gloriously beautiful--you, whom I
have always regarded as a woman of the world, seem to have suddenly
developed the conscience of a schoolgirl."
"You said you would help me," she replied, ignoring his outburst, her
eyes averted as if fearing to meet his gaze.
"Then tell me you trust me," he returned, leaning toward her.
She raised her eyes frankly to his own.
"I do--I do trust you, but I do not trust myself. Now keep your
promise--I insist on it. Believe me, it is better--wiser for us both."
"Come, then," he said, laying his hand tenderly on her shoulder--it
had grown dark in the teakwood room--"let me tell you a story--a fairy
She looked at him with a mute appeal in her eyes. Then with a half
moan she said: "I don't want any story; I want your help and never so
much as now. Think of something that will help me! Be quick! No more
dreams--our minutes are too valuable; I must send you away at six."
For some minutes he paced the room in silence. Then, as if a new
thought had entered his mind, he stopped and resumed his professional
"What about Margaret?" he asked quietly. "Is she fond of the woods?"
"Why--she adores them." She had regained her composure now. "The child
was quite mad about that wretched Long Lake. What a summer we had--I
shudder when I think of it!"
"Did it ever occur to you, my dear friend, that Margaret _needed_ the
woods?" His eyes were searching hers now as if he wanted to read her
"Needed them--in what way?"
"I mean--er--wouldn't it be better for her if she went to them? A
winter at Saranac--or better still, a longer summer at the camp--if
there is to be a camp. In that case her father would not leave her
alone; there would be less chance, too, of his insisting on your being
there--should you refuse. At least that would be a reason for his
spending as much time as possible in camp with Margaret, and you might
run up occasionally. I'm merely speaking in a purely professional way,
of course," he added.
A sudden pallor crept over her face.
"And you really believe Margaret to be delicate?" she asked in a
trembling voice full of sudden apprehension.
Sperry regained his seat, his manner lapsing into one that he assumed
at serious consultations.
"I am a pretty good diagnostician," he went on, satisfied with the
impression he had made. "Don't think me brutal in what I am going to
say, but I've watched that young daughter of yours lately. New York is
not the place for her."
"You don't mean her lungs?" she asked in a barely audible tone.
The doctor nodded.
"Not seriously, of course, my dear friend--really not that sort of
condition at present--only I deem it wisest to take precautions. I'm
afraid if we wait it will--er--be somewhat difficult later.
Margaret must be taken in time; she is just the sort of temperament
tuberculosis gets hold of with annoying rapidity--often sooner than
we who have had plenty of experience with the enemy suspect. I have
always said that the Fenwick child might have been saved had it not
been for the interference of Mrs. Fenwick after the consultation."
"And you are really telling me the truth?" Alice gasped--her lips set,
her breast heaving.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders.
"Unfortunately--yes," was his reply.
Alice straightened to her feet, crossed to the mantel and stood for
some moments with her forehead pressed against the cool edge of the
marble, Sperry watching her in silence.
"Poor Margie!" he heard her say--then she turned to him with a
strange, calm look in her eyes.
"You must go," she said with an effort; "it is late. Blakeman will be
here in a moment to turn on the lights." She stretched forth her hands
to him. For a second he held them warm and trembling in his own, then
Blakeman's rapid step in the conservatory was heard.
"Good-night," he said in a louder tone, as the butler appeared. "I
shall see you at the Van Renssalaer's Thursday--we are to dine at
eight, I believe."
She smiled wearily in assent.
"And remember me to your good husband," he added. "I hope he will have
the best of luck."
"They say hunting is a worse habit to break than bridge," she returned
with a forced little laugh.
Blakeman followed the doctor to the door. Reverently he handed him
his stick, coat and hat--a moment later the heavy steel grille closed
Blakeman stood grimly looking out of the front window, his jaw set,
his eyes following the doctor until he disappeared within his coupe
and slammed the door shut.
"Damn him!" he said. "If he tells that child that I'll strangle him!"
In a deserted lumber clearing up Big Shanty Brook a chipmunk skitted
along a fallen hemlock in the drizzle of an October rain. Suddenly he
stopped and listened, his heart, thumping against his sleek coat. He
could hear the muffled roar of the torrent below him at the bottom of
the ravine, talking and grumbling to itself, as it emptied its volume
of water swollen by the heavy rains and sent it swirling out into the
long green pool below.
"Was it the old brook that had frightened him?" he wondered. "Perhaps
it was only the hedge-hog waddling along back from the brook to his
hole in the ledge above, or it might be the kingfisher, who had tired
of the bend of the brook a week before and had changed his thieving
ground to the rapids above, where he terrorized daily a shy family
of trout, pouncing upon the little ones with a great splashing and
hysterical chattering as they darted about, panic-stricken, in the
"Perhaps, after all, it was only the creaking of a tree," he sighed,
with a feeling of relief. Before he could lower his tail he heard
the sound again--this time nearer--more alarming--the sound of human
voices coming straight toward him.
Then came the sharp bark of a dog. At this the chipmunk went scurrying
to safety along the great hemlock and over the sagging roof of the
deserted shanty lying at its farther end, where he hid himself in a
pile of rock.
There was no longer any doubt. Someone was approaching.
"If Billy Holcomb had only give us a leetle more time, Hite," came a
voice, "we'd had things fixed up slicker'n they be; but she won't
leak a drop, that's sartain, and if this here Mr. Thayor hain't too
"Billy allus spoke 'bout him as bein' humin, Freme," returned his
companion, "and seein' he's humin I presume likely he'll understand
we done our best. 'Twon't be long now," he added, "'fore they'll git
Two men now emerged into the clearing. The foremost, Hite Holt, as he
was known--was a veteran trapper from the valley--lean and wiry, and
wearing a coonskin cap. From under this peered a pair of keen gray
eyes, as alert as those of a fox. His straight, iron-gray hair reached
below the collar of his coat, curling in long wisps about his ears
after the fashion of the pioneer trapper. As he came on toward the
shanty the chipmunk noticed that he bent under the weight of a pack
basket loaded with provisions. He also noticed that his sixty years
carried him easily, for he kept up a swinging gait as he picked his
way over the fallen timber.
His companion, Freme Skinner, was a young lumberman of thirty, with
red hair and blue eyes; a giant in build; clad in a heavy woollen
lumber-man's jacket of variegated colours. One of his distinguishing
features--one which gained for him the soubriquet of the "Clown" the
country about, was the wearing of a girl's ring in his ear, the slit
having been made with his pocket knife in a moment of gallantry. At
the heels of the two men trotted silently a big, brindle hound.
They had reached the dilapidated shanty now and were taking a rapid
glance at their surroundings.
"Seems 'ough it warn't never goin' to clear up," remarked Hite Holt,
the trapper, slipping the well-worn straps from his great shoulders
and staggering with ninety pounds of dead weight until he deposited it
in the driest corner of the shanty. Then he added with a good-natured
smile: "Say, we come quite a piece, hain't we?"
During the conversation the dog stalked solemnly about, took a careful
look at the shanty and its surroundings and disappeared in the thick
timber in the direction of the brook. The trapper turned and looked
after him, and a wistful, almost apologetic expression came into his
"I presume likely the old dog is sore about something," he remarked,
when the hound was well out of hearing. "He's been kind er down in the
mouth all day."
"'Twarn't nothin' we said 'bout huntin' over to Lily Pond, was it?"
"No--guess not," replied the trapper thoughtfully. "But you know
you've got to handle him jest so. He's gettin' techier and older every
Imaginative as a child, with a subtle humour, often inventing stories
that were weird and impossible, this strange character had lived the
life of a hermit and a wanderer in the wilderness--a life compelling
him to seek his companions among the trees or the black sides of
the towering mountains. All nature, to him, was human--the dog was a
The Clown swung his double-bitted axe into a dry hemlock, the keen
blade sinking deeper and deeper into the tree with each successive
stroke, made with the precision and rapidity of a piston, until the
tree fell with a sweeping crash (it had been as smoothly severed as if
by a saw) and the two soon had its full length cut up and piled near
the shanty for night wood.
It was not much of a shelter. Its timbered door had sagged from its
hinges, its paneless square windows afforded but poor protection
from wind and rain, while a cook stove, not worth the carrying away,
supported itself upon two legs in one corner of the rotting interior.
Stout hands and willing hearts, however, did their work, and by the
next sundown a new roof had been put on the shanty, "The Pride of the
Home" wired more securely upon its two rusty legs and the long bunk
flanking one side of the shanty neatly thatched with a deep bed of
springy balsam. Thus had the tumble-down log-house been transformed
into a tight and comfortable camp.
* * * * *
The next morning (the rain over) dawned as bright as a diamond, its
light flashing on the brook below, across which darted the kingfisher,
a streak of azure through the green of the pines--while in a clump
of near-by firs two red squirrels played hide-and-seek among the
At the first sunbeam the Clown stretched his great arms above his
head, whistled a lively jig tune, reached for a fry pan, and soon had
a mess of pork hissing over the fire. Later on, from a bent sapling a
smoke-begrimed coffee pail bubbled, boiled over, and was lifted off to
"A grand morning ain't it, Hite?" he shouted in high glee, rubbing his
eyes as he squatted before the blaze. "Yes, sir--a grand mornin'. Them
deer won't hev' time to stop and make up their beds arter the old dog
gits to work on 'em to-day. I'm tellin' ye, Hite, we'll hev' ven'son
'fore night if Mr. Thayor and Billy takes a mind to go huntin'."
"Mebbe," replied the trapper guardedly, "and mebbe we won't. There
ain't no caountin' on luck, specially deer. But it's jest as well to
be ready"--and he squeezed another cartridge into the magazine of his
Winchester and laid the rifle tenderly on its side in a dry place as
if fearful of disturbing its fresh coat of oil.
Suddenly the old dog, who had been watching the frizzling bacon,
lifted his ears and peered down in the basin of the hemlocks.
"Halloo!" came faintly from below where the timber was thickest.
The Clown sprang to his feet.
"Thar they be, Hite!" he said briskly. "By whimey--thar they be!"
The trapper strode out into the tangled clearing and after a resonant
whoop in reply stood listening and smiling.
"Jest like Billy Holcomb," he remarked. "He's took 'bout as mean goin'
as a feller could find to git here." Then he added, "But you never
could lose him."
"Whoop," came in answer, as the tall, agile figure of Holcomb appeared
above the tangle of sumac, followed by a short, gray-haired man in
blue flannel, who was stepping over a refractory sapling that Holcomb
had bent down.
The trapper and the Clown strode clear of the brush and saw for the
first time the man whose home they had been preparing.
Not the Samuel Thayor that Holcomb had talked to during that memorable
luncheon at The Players, when he sat silent among Randall's guests;
nor the Samuel Thayor who had faced his wife; nor the Samuel Thayor,
the love of whose daughter put strength in his arms and courage in
his heart. But a man with cheeks ruddy from the sting and lift of the
morning air; all the worn, haggard look gone from his face.
"Wall, I swan!" shouted the trapper to Holcomb, as he came near enough
to shake his hand, "you warn't perticler 'bout the way you come,
Billy. If your friend ain't dead beat it ain't your fault."
"I hadn't any choice, Hite," laughed Holcomb. "You fellows must have
been drowned out last night; the log over the South Branch is gone
in the freshet; we had to get round the best way we could. Step
up, Freme," he said. "I want you to know Mr. Thayor. This is Freme
Skinner, Mr. Thayor, and this is Hite Holt, and there's no better
anywhere round here."
Thayor stretched out both hands and caught each extended palm in a
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Thayor," said the trapper, his
great freckled paw tight in the white hand of the stranger. "By goll,
you done well, friend. But what did ye let Billy lead you through
sich a hell-patch as he did, Mr. Thayor?" There was a certain silent
dignity about the trapper as he greeted the new-comer. As he spoke the
old dog sniffed at Thayor's knees, and with a satisfied air regained
his resting place once more.
"Well, it was about all I cared to do for one morning," answered
Thayor between his breaths, "but you see we found the old trail
impossible. And so you received our telegram in time," he said,
glancing in delight at the freshly thatched roof of the shanty.
"Oh, we got it," answered the trapper. "Joe Dubois's boy come in with
your telegram to the valley, and as soon as I got it I dug out
for Freme, and we come in here day 'fore yesterday to git things
"Breakfus, gentlemen!" announced the Clown, for the bacon was done
to a turn. "How do you like yourn, Mr. Thayor--leetle mite o' fat and
"Any way it happens to be," replied the millionaire, as he squeezed
into his place at the rough board table next the trapper. "But before
I touch a mouthful I want you all to understand that I don't wish to
be considered as a guest. I'm on a holiday and I'm going to take my
share of whatever comes."
"Thar, Freme!" exclaimed the trapper, "I told ye Mr. Thayor warn't
* * * * *
That night after supper the four sat chatting within the glow of the
stove, while the old dog lay asleep. Possibly it was the persuasion
latent in a bottle of Thayor's private reserve, that little by little
coaxed the trapper into an unusually talkative mood, for until far
into the night the man from the city lay on his back on the springy
boughs, listening and smoking, keenly alive to every word the old man
"Most times now," he went on, as he leaned forward and patted the dog,
"I let the old dog have his way--don't I, dog?--but then it warn't a
week ago that 'twas t'other way. Me and him was follerin' a buck on
Bald Mountin, and he got set on goin' by way of West Branch, 'stead of
travellin' a leetle mite to the south, what would have brung us aout,
as I figger it, jest this side o' Munsey's. Wall, sir, arter we'd been
a-travellin' steady, say, for more'n four hours the old feller give
in. Says he to me, 'I'm beat,' says he, julluk that, and he stopped
and throwed up this gray snout of his'n to the wind and then he says,
kinder 'shamed like, 'I led ye off consid'ble, hain't I?' says he. I
see he was feelin' bad 'bout it, and I says, says I, 'It warn't your
fault,' says I, 'we come such a piece; a dog's jest as liable to be
mistook as a humin'; and arter that it warn't more'n an hour 'fore
we was out to the big road and poundin' for home. Thar, now"--here he
pushed the old dog gently from him--"lie down and take another snooze;
ye're gittin' so blamed lazy ain't no comfort livin' with ye."
Thayor bent the closer to listen. Every moment brought some new
sensation to his jaded nerves. This making a companion of a dog and
endowing him with human qualities and speech was new to him.
The Clown now cut in: "And it beats all how ye kin understand him when
he talks," he laughed, too loyal to his friend to throw doubt on the
old trapper's veracity, "and yet it's kind o' cur'ous how a dog as old
as him and that's had as much experience as him kin git twisted julluk
some pusillanimous idjit that ain't never been off the poor-house
Thayor laughed softly to himself, not daring to bring the dialogue to
a close by an intervention of his own.
"Now, there's Sam Pitkin's woman," the Clown continued with increased
interest, "she's jest the same way; hain't never had no idee of whar a
p'int lays; takes sorter spells and forgits which way't is back to the
house. Doc' Rand see her last September when he come by with them
new colts o' his'n. 'You're beat aout,' said he, 'and there ain't no
science kin cure ye. Ye won't more'n pull aout till snow flies if ye
don't give aout 'fore that'--so he fixed up some physic for her and
she give him a dollar and arter he tucked up the collar o' that new
sealskin coat o' his'n and spoke kinder sharp to Sam's boy what was
holdin' the colts, he laid them new yaller lines 'cross their slick
backs and begun to talk to 'em: 'Come, Flo! Come, Maudie!' says he.
'Git, gals!' and he drawed the lines tight on 'em, and Sam's boy says
it jest seemed as if they sailed off in the air."
Thayor broke out into a roar of laughter, and was about to ask the
Clown whether the physic had killed the pneumonia or the woman, when
the trapper slanting his shoulders against the bunk broke in with:
"Ye ain't laid it on a bit too thick, Freme." "I knowed Sam's woman,
and I knowed her mother 'fore she married Bill Eldridge over to Cedar
"That's whar she was from--I seen her many a time. My old shanty
warn't more 'n forty rod from where Morrison's gang built the new
Thayor's delighted ears drank in every word. The perfunctory
discussion of a Board of Directors issuing a new mortgage was so many
dull words compared with this human kind of speech.
"And now ye are here whar I kin get at ye, Billy," continued the
trapper, "let me tell ye how bad I feel when I think ye never been
over to see me, or stopped even for a night. Why it actually sets my
blood a-bilin'--makes me mad, as the feller said--" Here he nodded
toward Thayor--"Some folks is that way, Mr. Thayor."
"I'd like to have come," pleaded Holcomb, "but somehow, Hite, I never
managed to get over your way. You see I live so far off now, and yet
when I come to think of it, I must have passed close by it when I was
gunning last fall over by Bear Pond."
"Yes--I knowed ye was gunnin', and we cal'lated ye'd come in with them
fellers what was workin' for Joe Dubois. Me and the old dog never give
up lookin' for ye. The dog said he seen ye once, but you was too fur
off to yell to."
"I want to know!" exclaimed the Clown, as he re-crossed his long legs.
"Goll--I felt sorry for the cuss; he took it so hard," Hite went on.
"Then he owned up--tellin' me that when he see I felt so lonesome and
disappointed at ye not comin', he'd be daddinged if he could hold out
any longer and see me so miserable; so he jest ris his ears and made
believe you was a-comin' and that he see ye, and that there warn't
time to let ye know."
"Say--don't that beat all!" roared the Clown as he slapped his leg at
the thought of the old dog's sagacity. Here the old dog cocked an ear
and looked wistfully up into his master's face. Thayor could hardly
believe the dog did not understand.
Hite paused in his narrative for breath. When these men of the woods,
living often for weeks and months with no fellow-being to talk to,
loosen up they run on as unceasingly as a brook.
"But dang yer old hide, Billy, what I got most again' ye is that ye
ain't writ afore," and he slapped his young friend Holcomb vigorously
on the back. "'Twarn't a night that passed when I was to hum in the
valley last winter, but what I'd kinder slink away from the store
arter they'd sorted out what mail thar was, feelin' ashamed, julluk
the old dog does when he's flambussled into a trout hole ahead of ye.
'Why, how you take it,' my old woman would say; 'like as not Billy's
been so busy he hain't had time to write ye and it hain't come,' says
she. 'No,' said I, 'if he's writ I'd had it 'fore this. United States
mail don't lie,' says I."
"But I did write you," declared Holcomb earnestly.
"Yes, so ye did, for I hadn't more'n said it 'fore down comes Dave
Brown and says: 'Eke says thar's a letter come for ye in to-night's
mail,' 'Why, haow you talk!' says I, and I reached for my tippet and
drawed on my boots and started for Munsey's. 'For the land's sakes!'
my old woman yelled arter me. 'Whar are ye a-goin' a night like this,
Hite Holt?' 'Don't stop me,' says I, 'the old cuss has writ--the old
cuss has writ--jest as I knowed he would. Most likely,' says I, 'he's
broke his leg or couldn't git out to the settlement 'count the snow,
or he'd writ 'fore this. Don't stop me,' says I, and aout I went
and tramped through four feet of snow to the store and there lay yer
welcome wad as neat as a piney in a little box over the caounter, and
the lamp throwin' a pinky glow over its side, and that scratchy old
handwritin' o' yourn I'd knowed three rod off. Thar it lay kinder
laughin' at me and slanted so's I could jest read it. Gosh! but I was
The trapper drew a sliver of wood from the stove, shielded its yellow
flame in the hollow of his hand and re-lit his pipe.
Back in the shadow of the bunk lay Thayor drinking in every word of
the strange talk so full of human kindness and so simple and genuine.
For some moments his gray eyes rested on the gentle face of the
old trapper, the wavering firelight lighting up the weather-beaten
Soon he straightened up, threw the white ash of his cigar toward the
stove and slid gingerly to the dirt floor, his muscles lame from the
morning's tramp, and calling to Billy to follow him, went out into the
The banker made his way carefully through the tangle until he reached
the edge of the ledge overhanging the boiling torrent below, white as
milk in the moonlight. He selected a dry log and for some minutes sat
smoking and gazing in silence at the torrent, whose hoarse roar was
the only sound coming up from the sleeping forest. So absorbed was
he with his own thoughts that he seemed unconscious that Holcomb was
beside him. His gaze wandered from the brook to the forest of hemlocks
bristling from the opposite bank, their shaggy tops touched with
silver. Beyond lay the wilderness--a rolling sea of soft hazy timber
hemmed in by the big mountains, flanked by wet granite slides that
shone like quicksilver.
"Billy," he began at length.
Holcomb started; it was the first time the banker had called him
Suddenly Thayor looked up, and Holcomb saw that the gray eyes were dim
"You're not sick, are you, Mr. Thayor?" asked Holcomb, starting toward
"No, my boy," replied Thayor huskily; "I've been happy for a whole
day, that is all. Happy for a whole day. Think of it!"
"I'm glad--and you haven't found it too rough; and the things were
comfortable, too?" ventured Holcomb.
"Too rough! Why, man, this is Paradise! Think of it, Billy--your
friends have been actually interested in _me_--in _my_ comfort--_me_,
"Why, of course," returned Holcomb. "They think a heap of your being
here--besides, there are not two better-hearted men in these whole
woods than Freme and the old man."
Again the gray eyes gazed down into the torrent.
"What I want to say to you is this: I want you to let me know what you
think would be right at the end of our stay, and I'll see that they
Holcomb straightened and looked up with surprise.
"But they're not here, Mr. Thayor, for money; neither of them would
accept a cent from you."
"What! Why, that isn't right, Billy. You mean to say that Holt and
Skinner have come up here and fixed up this shanty to hunt with us for
nothing!" stammered the financier. "I won't have it."
"Yes," answered Holcomb, his voice softening, "it's just as I'm
telling you. That's the kind of men the Clown and Hite are. You'd only
insult them if you tried to pay them. There are a lot of things the
old man has done in his life that he has never taken a cent for; and
as for the Clown, I've seen him many a time doing odd jobs for some
poor fellow that couldn't help himself. I've seen him, too, after a
hard month's chopping in the lumber woods working for Pat Morrison,
come into Pat's hotel and pay the whole of his month's wages out in
treat to a lot of lumber jacks he'd meet maybe Saturday night, and
knew maybe he'd never see again by Monday morning."
"And yet you tell me they are both poor."
"Poor isn't the word for it. Why, I've seen Freme when he's been broke
so he didn't have the price of a glass of beer at Pat's, build a dog
house for some of the children, or help the hired girl by stacking a
pile of wood handy for her."
It was a new doctrine for the banker--one he had never been accustomed
to; and yet when he thought it over, and recalled the look in the old
trapper's face and the hearty humour and independence of the Clown, he
felt instantly that Holcomb was right. Something else must be done
for them--but not money. For some moments he sat gazing into the weird
stillness, then he asked in one of his restful tones:
"Billy--who owns this place?"
"You mean the shanty?"
"I mean as far as we can see."
"Well," answered Holcomb, "as far as we can see is a good ways.
Morrison owns part of it--that is from the South Branch down to
the State Road, and--let's see--after that there's a couple of lots
belonging to some parties in Albany; then, as soon as you get across
above the big falls it is all state land clear to Bear Brook--yes,
clear to the old military road, in fact."
"Are there any ponds?" asked Thayer.
"Yes--four," replied Holcomb. "Lily Pond, and little Moose and Still
"I see," interrupted Thayor.
"Why do you ask?" inquired Holcomb, wondering at the drift of Thayor's
"Oh, nothing. That is, nothing now. How many acres do you think it all
"I should say about fifteen thousand," replied Holcomb.
"Only fifteen thousand, eh?"
For an instant he paused and looked out over the sweep of forest,
with the gaunt trees standing like sentinels. Then he raised his hands
above his head and in a half-audible voice murmured:
"My God, what freedom! I'll turn in now if you don't mind, Billy."
And so ended the banker's first day in the wilderness.
All through the night that followed Sam Thayor slept soundly on his
spring bed of fragrant balsam, oblivious to the Clown's snoring or the
snapping logs burning briskly in the stove, his head pillowed on his
boots wound in his blanket. Beneath the canopy of stars the torrent
roared and the great trees whined and creaked, their shaggy tops
whistling in the stiff breeze. Not until Hite laid his rough hand on
his shoulder and shook him gently did he wake to consciousness.
"Breakfus's most ready," announced the trapper cheerfully.
Thayor opened his eyes; then, with a start, he sat up, remembering
where he was. As he grew accustomed to the light he caught a glimpse
outside of Billy and the Clown busy over the frying pan, and the
steaming pail of coffee. Its fragrance and the pungent smoke from the
fire now brought him fully awake.
"How'd ye sleep, friend?" inquired Hite, his weather-beaten face
wrinkled in a kindly grin.
"How did I sleep?" returned the millionaire smiling; "like a
top--really I don't know; I don't remember anything after Holcomb
covered me up."
"Breakfast!" shouted the Clown from without.
"Wait'll I git ye some fresh water," said the trapper, tossing the
soapy contents of a tin basin into the sun and returning with it
re-filled. "Thar, dip yer head into that, friend--makes a man feel
good, I tell ye, on a frosty mornin'." Then lowering his voice to a
whisper he added: "The old dog's sot on gittin' an early start; he's
mighty pertickler 'bout it. The old feller's been up 'long 'fore
daylight. He told me he never seen no nicer mornin' for a hunt. If
we don't git a deer 'fore noon you kin have all that's on my plate."
There was a confident gleam in the old man's eyes--an enthusiasm that
The gray head of the millionaire went into the tin basin with a will.
Big Shanty Brook, that morning, was as cold as ice. He rubbed his
face and neck into a glow, combing his hair as best he could with
his hands. He was as hungry as a wolf. Thayor was now beginning to
understand their unwillingness to accept pay for their services.
Breakfast over, the four struck into the woods in single file, en
route for their runways, Hite taking the lead, the old dog trotting at
the Clown's heels in silence, Holcomb bringing up the rear.
"Now, friend," began Hite in a low tone to Thayor, "you'd better come
with me, I presume; and, Billy, we'll go slow so's you'll have time
to git down to whar that leetle brook comes into Big Shanty." And the
banker and the trapper, followed by the dog, struck off to the left,
up the densely wooded side of the mountain.
It was all a mystery to Thayor, this finding a blind trail in the
forest, but to the trapper it was as plain as a thoroughfare.
"'T won't be long 'fore the old dog'll git down to business this
mornin'," he muttered to Thayor in his low voice, as he steadied him
along a slippery log. "The dog says Freme's allys sot on keepin' up
too high. He thinks them deer is feedin' on what they kin git low down
in the green timber underneath them big slides. I ain't of course,
sayin' nothin' agin Freme. Thar ain't a better starter in these hull
maountins, only him and the old dog ain't allus of the same idee."
Presently Big Shanty Brook flashed ahead of them through the trees,
and the trapper led the way out to a broad pool, a roaring cauldron of
emerald green steaming in mist. Just above it lay a point of
boulders out of which a dense clump of hemlocks struggled for a rough
existence--the boulders about their gnarled roots splitting the course
of the mountain torrent right and left.
"Thar, Mr. Thayor!" shouted the trapper in a voice that could be heard
above the roar of water. "Guess you'll be better off here whar ye kin
see up and down--if the deer comes through here he's liable to cross
jest above whar ye see them cedars noddin' to us, or like's not he'll
take a notion to strike in a leetle mite higher up, and slosh down
till he kin git acrost by them big rocks. Take your time, friend, and
if ye see him comin' your way, let him come on and don't shoot till he
turns and ye kin see the hull bigness of him."
"I'll do my best," returned Thayor above the roar, as he settled
himself behind the pile of driftwood the trapper had indicated. "But
where are you going, Mr. Holt?"
"Me? Oh, further up. 'T ain't likely he'll come my way, but if ye was
to miss him I'll be whar he can't git by without my gittin' the gun
on him if he undertakes to back track up the brook. Let's see!" he
exclaimed, after a moment's hesitation, again casting his keen eyes
over Thayor's vantage point. "Guess ye'd be more comfortable, wouldn't
ye, if ye was to set over thar whar ye won't git sloppin' wet. Gosh!
how she's riz!" he remarked, as Thayor re-settled himself. "If you was
to hear me shoot," said the old man, as he took his leave, "come back
up to whar I be. 'T ain't more 'n half a mile."
Thayor watched the gaunt figure of the trapper as he went off to his
runway, leaping with his long legs from one slippery boulder to the
next, as sure-footed as a goat--watched until he disappeared beyond
the clump of torrent-scarred trees.
The man from the city was alone. He sat there listening and watching
as eager as a boy. An hour passed. Time and again since he had taken
up his vigil he had started up excitedly, glancing here and there,
confident he heard the baying notes of a hound above the roar of
Big Shanty. Voices, too, rang in his ears from out of that deceptive
torrent as it boiled and eddied past him in the sunlight. Again, it
seemed as if quarrelling had broken out among the boulders--quarrels
that changed to girlish laughter and distant choruses. Once his mind
reverted to the note he had sent by Blakeman; he wondered what effect
the news had had upon Alice. When he faced her again would he have to
go through what he had gone through before? or would she come to her
senses, and be once more the loyal, loving wife she had always been
until--No; he would not go into that. Then Margaret's eyes looked into
his. Again he felt her arms about his neck; the coo and gurgle of her
voice, and laughter in his ears. Here she, at least, would be happy,
and here, too, they could have those long days together which he
had always promised himself, and which his life in the Street made
He rose to stretch his legs. As he did so the strange fascination of
the mountain torrent--fascination that grew into a stranger feeling of
isolation, almost of fear, took possession of him. He knew the trapper
was somewhere, but half a mile above him. He was glad of this unseen
companionship, and yet he realized that he was helpless to find his
way back to the shanty. Big Shanty Brook had lost men before, and
Suddenly the hoarse bellowing of a hound brought him again to his
"Oo--oo--wah!" it rang over the roar; then the baying grew fainter
from far up under the black slides as the dog turned in his course.
At this instant he became conscious of a presence which he could not
at first make out--but something alive--something that moved--stood
still--still as the tree behind which it slunk--and moved again. He
grasped his Winchester and peered ahead, straining his eyes. Before
him, barely thirty yards away, stood a man, the like of whom he had
never seen before. Gaunt, hollow-eyed, unshorn, his matted beard and
hair covered by a ragged slouch hat. Resting in the hollow of his arm
was a rifle, and around his waist a belt of cartridges. That he had
not seen Thayor was evident from the way he stood listening to the
baying of the hound, his hand cupped to his ear.
Suddenly the figure crouched; sank to the ground and rolled behind a
fallen log. At the same instant the old dog bounded out of the bushes
and sprang straight at where the man lay concealed.
Thayor waited, not daring to breathe. The old dog had evidently lost
the deer tracks.
Thayor settled once more in his place, now that the mystery was
explained; looked his rifle over, laid it within instant reach of his
hand and gave a low cough in the direction of the concealed figure.
Should the deer charge this way it was just as well to let the man
know where he sat, or he might stop a stray bullet. Quick as the
answering flash of a mirror a line of light glinted along the barrel
of a rifle resting on the fallen log, its muzzle pointed straight at
Thayor shrank behind the drift and uttered a yell. Almost every year
someone had been mistaken for a deer and shot.
At this instant there rang through the forest the stamping splash of
hoofs in the rapids above him; a moment more and he saw the spray fly
back of a boulder. Then he gazed at something that obliterated all
A big buck was coming straight toward him. He came on, walking
briskly, his steel-blue coat wet and glistening, a superb dignity
about him, carrying his head and its branching horns with a certain
fearless pride, and now that he had struck water, wisely taking his
time to gain his second wind.
In a flash the buck saw him, turned broadside and leaped for the clump
of nodding hemlocks.
_Bang! Bang!_ Thayor was shooting now--shooting as if his life
depended upon it. His first shot went wild, the bullet striking
against a rock. The second sent the buck to his knees; in a second he
was up again. It was the fourth shot that reached home, just as
the deer gained the mass of boulders and hemlocks. The buck sprang
convulsively in the air--the old dog at his throat--turned a half
somersault and fell in a heap, stone dead, in a shallow pool. With a
cry of joy the trapper was beside him.
"By Goll! you done well!" Hite declared with enthusiasm. "By Goll!
friend, you done well! I knowed you had him soon's I heard the gun
crack. Thinks I, he ain't liable to git by ye if he comes in whar
I knowed he would. Well, he's consider'ble of a deer, I swan!" he
declared, running his hand over the branching prongs.
"He's a beauty!" cried Thayor.
"Yes, sir, and he'll dress clus to a hundred and seventy. Must have
made him think this perticler section was inhabited when ye was
lettin' drive at him. Fust shot I know ye shot too quick. I warn't
mor'n a hundred yards from him, then I knowed ye was gittin' stiddier
when I heard ye shoot again."
"Hurrah, boys!" shouted a voice from the bank. It was Holcomb.
"There's our saddle for Randall," he cried as he leaped toward them.
"But, Billy, I came pretty near not getting him after all," exclaimed
Thayor with a laugh. "I was trying to keep your friend in the runway
across the brook from shooting me, but I forgot all about him when I
heard the deer come crashing down stream. If he got a crack at him at
all I didn't hear it, I was so excited. You ought to have told me, Mr.
Holt, you had somebody else watching out across the brook, or I might
have let drive at him by mistake, or he at me." And Thayor laughed
heartily. He was very happy to-day.
The trapper looked at him in wonder.
"Freme warn't down this way was he, Billy?"
Holcomb shook his head--a curious expression on his face.
"Oh, it wasn't Freme," retorted Thayor. "This man was half the size of
Skinner, and a regular scarecrow. Looked as if he hadn't had anything
to eat for weeks--but he could handle a gun all right. That's what
worried me; I was afraid he would use it on me until the old dog lay
down beside him."
The trapper gazed at the hound long and earnestly as if to read his
mind, and then he answered thoughtfully:
"No--he warn't none of our folks, Mr. Thayor--one o' them gunners, I
guess. They all know the old dog. And now," continued the old man, "I
presume, likely, arter we've washed up a mite, we'd better be makin'
tracks for home. I'm gittin' hollerer 'n a gourd. How be you, friend;
"Hungry as a wolf," returned Thayor, still beaming over his good luck.
The Clown now appeared, and drawing his heavy knife, began dressing
"Here, Freme," cried the trapper, when the deer had been quartered,
"that's yourn," and he slung the forequarters over the Clown's neck.
"Ride nice?" asked the old man. "Kinder hefty, ain't it, Freme?"
"Wall, it ain't no ear-ring," laughed the Clown, shifting his burden
to a finer balance.
"I'll take the hind quarters," said Thayor, straddling them across
his neck, as the Clown had done, and with his own and Thayor's rifle
spliced to the buck's head, the Clown led the way back to camp.
* * * * *
Some mornings after the hunt, during which Thayor had become so
saturated with the life about him that the very thought of his work at
home was distasteful, the banker called Holcomb to one side, and the
two took their seats on a fallen tree, sections of which had warmed
their tired and rain-soaked bodies more than once during his stay in
The open-air life--the excitement of the hunt--the touch of the cool
woods, had removed from Thayor's mind every lingering doubt of his
future plans. With the same promptness which characterized all his
business transactions, he decided to return to New York the next day.
"Billy," began the banker, when he had settled himself comfortably,
and lighted his cigar, "do you suppose Skinner can get a despatch out
for me in the morning?"
"Yes, he might," replied Holcomb.
"Well, will you please see that he does then? And, Billy, one thing
more--how many acres did you tell me the other day there was as far as
we can see?" and he waved his hand to the stretch below him.
"About fifteen thousand, sir."
"Well, that will do for a beginning. I'm going to settle here, Billy,
permanently--all my life. I want you to start to-morrow and find out
who owns, not only this fifteen thousand acres, but what lies next to
it. I'm going to buy if I can, and you're the man to help me."
"But, Mr. Thayor," faltered the young woodsman.
"No--there are no buts. I am not buying timber land, you understand,
in the ordinary way, to destroy it. I want this beautiful country to
be my own. No," he added smiling, "_our_ own, Billy. That's the better
way to put it."
"I'll do my best," replied Holcomb simply, when he got his breath.
"It's a big purchase and I must go slowly."
"Then the sooner you begin on them, my boy, the better. I shall send
my lawyer, Mr. Griscom, up to you immediately; he will see that we get
fair play legally, but as to the question of what and what not to buy,
I leave that entirely to your judgment; what money you need you have
but to ask Mr. Griscom for."
"I'm afraid they will hold the tract at a high price, Mr. Thayor,"
"Whatever they hold it at within reason I'll pay," declared the
"Then you'll have it," replied the young woodsman in a positive tone,
"at the fairest figure I can get it for."
"I haven't a doubt of it, Billy. And now let me tell Holt and
Freme--they are just inside the shanty. Ah--Mr. Holt, I was just
telling Holcomb that I'm off in the morning, and before I go I want
to tell you and Freme that I shall miss you dreadfully--miss you more
than I can tell.
"Yes--so we mistrusted," answered Freme, in a regretful tone, "when we
overheard ye talkin' 'bout telegrams."
"Goll! I hate to have ye go," declared the trapper, clearing his
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