The Lady of Big Shanty
Frank Berkeley Smith
Part 4 out of 4
The sudden apparition of this pitiful outcast, worn by exposure and
untold suffering--coming as he did into the midst of the little band
of refugees struggling with their own misfortunes, and the confidence
of the trapper in those he was leading to safety, had brought a sudden
joy to the old man's heart. He vowed inwardly now that his son should
wander no longer--he would save him with the rest.
It had not been the first time the trapper had acknowledged the
hide-out as his son. A week after Bailey was shot he had told Holcomb
and Freme--with them he knew his son's secret was safe; they, too, had
helped the outcast more than once.
Years ago this strange old man had come out of the forest into the
valley below Big Shanty, settled there and, after some years, married.
No one knew where he came from, neither did they know he had been
married before. As to his son's name, "Bob Dinsmore," it could hardly
be called assumed, for he had never been known by any other. When
a boy of sixteen he had, like his father, appeared in the valley,
hailing, like so many others in that remote region, from nowhere
in particular. He gave out that he had worked for a man on Black
River--that was sufficient. The two built a cabin and the old man and
the boy became boon companions. There was nothing strange in this.
When Bob Dinsmore became twenty-two years of age he married--later he
killed Bailey. That was the whole story.
After that the old man had become a hermit from choice, helping his
son when he could--often at the risk of his own life. Finally this
became impossible and he was obliged for a time to let him save
During this enforced exile he had developed both the shyness and the
daring of an animal. With him it had become an instinct, when he moved
far, or in a dangerous locality, to travel by night--like the panther,
whose tracks though rarely seen by others, he often found in his
wanderings. When he was forced to take to the woods by day, he either
proceeded cautiously or slept. Both his hearing and his eyesight
having become acute, he saw and heard with the alertness of a fox,
and lived as free--a cruel freedom that became a mockery. He had no
clothes save the makeshifts he stood in. When it rained he remained
soaking wet, like the ground and the trees about him; he became one of
them, drying when they did; drenched, frozen or warmed at the will
of the weather. He no longer spoke; he became silent like the things
about him--when his own voice escaped him it startled him.
Yet even in his isolation he made friends: the cave that sheltered
him; the tree whose rotten core always burned for him under his flint
and steel; some pure, unfailing spring,--all these had for him a
certain dumb comradeship.
And now to be fed and warmed at the same time! To be eating no longer
alone, crouched in the dark like a hungry lynx, often in the drenching
rain, or hidden under the cold roof of some rock; but among human
beings whom he did not fear, men and women who spoke to him kindly
and gave him the best they had in their own misfortune. To meet again
Billy and Freme; to feel the friendly pressure of the old dog's head
upon his thin knees; to be within sight once more of a snug, dry
lean-to ready to rest his tired body. These were mercies he had never
thought to see again. Yet, thankful as he was for them, they were
secondary to his silent joy at seeing his father.
Occasionally the old man spoke to him in a low tone, as he piled the
freshly cut night wood beside the fire. In reply the outcast either
nodded or shook his head. When he had finished eating--and he ate
ravenously--he rose, went over to Thayor, and laying his hand timidly
on his arm, motioned him aside.
"I've got something to say to ye, Mr. Thayor," he whispered. "That's
what I come for; I'd like to talk to ye _now_."
Thayor nodded and, turning to the others, said:
"Mr. Dinsmore and I have a little matter to talk over."
At last the two had met face to face--this man who, try as he would
to banish him from his mind, always rose before him: in the dead of
night; before his fire in his own room at home, his wife out at some
social function or asleep on the floor below him; in his walks through
the woods when he would stop and listen, hoping he might again see the
same, worn, shambling figure he had watched from across the brook the
day he shot the buck. Why, he could not tell. Perhaps it was because
of their mutual loneliness. Perhaps it was because of a woman.
Whatever the cause there was something which seemed to link them
With a quick gesture he turned to Holcomb. "Will you keep up the fire,
Billy? I want all of you to get some sleep."
"What does it mean, Sam?" asked Alice nervously.
"News, I hope," replied Thayor. "Go to sleep, dear; you need it."
The hide-out stood gazing nervously at the ground. "Do you feel
better?" she asked, approaching him. "You are to sleep next to your
father, I believe."
"Yes, marm," he stammered awkwardly; "I'm warm. Thank ye for the
supper--I ain't hongry no more."
She nodded good night and went back to her blanket next to Margaret.
Bending over the girl she lifted the mass of fair hair and kissed her
on the forehead. Then she drew her own blanket about her.
Thayor and the hide-out seated themselves on a log lying on the other
side of the fire, out of hearing.
"Mr. Thayor," began Dinsmore, after a moment's silence, "they've
treated ye like a dog."
Thayor met the owl-like eyes grimly, a bitter smile playing about his
unshaven chin, but he did not confirm the statement.
"But there's one that'll never trouble ye no more," exclaimed
Dinsmore, looking queerly at the man beside him.
"Who?" asked Thayor.
"Bergstein, damn him!" returned Dinsmore slowly; "I seen him."
"But he left the camp days ago--the morning I discharged him."
"He's started on consid'ble of a trip _now_," replied the hide-out. "I
see what was left of him."
"Dead!" exclaimed Thayor.
"Burned blacker 'n a singed hog. They ain't much left of him, and what
they is ain't pleasant to look at. He ain't got but one arm left and
that's clutchin' a holt of a empty ker'sene can."
Thayor gave a short gasp.
"And it was that cheat, Bergstein!" he cried in amazement.
"More devil than cheat," replied Dinsmore--"and three-quarters snake.
The gang he trained agin ye done what he told 'em to--they burned ye
out with him a-leadin' 'em. I watched him and know--see him with the
can 'fore the fire began. It's as plain as day, Mr. Thayor. Father's
right--yer life ain't safe till ye git to the cars."
Thayor's grizzled, unshaven jaw closed hard. He sat staring into the
fire, every muscle in his haggard face tense.
"There's men me and you know in these woods now," continued Dinsmore,
"who ain't no more to blame in this ornery business 'n I be."
Again Thayor looked up in surprise.
"I had hoped as much," he said slowly, shaking his head. "There
was not one of them, however, that came forward to help us--I am
excepting, you understand, your father, Freme, and Holcomb. I owe
them a debt of gratitude which I can never repay. Why have _you_ come,
Dinsmore?" he added, turning abruptly, with something of the briskness
of his old business-like manner.
"Because ye've been good to me," replied the hide-out; "that's why I
come; I wanted to do ye a good turn--I ain't got nothin' else to give
"Good to you--I don't understand."
"I come to thank ye, Mr. Thayor. I see ye once the day ye got the
buck. Father told me your name after ye'd gone. He and me eat up what
ye left, and I got the money ye left fer me--Myra Hathaway's takin'
care of it--she's got my leetle gal. Yes--I seen ye more 'n once. You
ain't never seen me--folks don't see me as a rule; but I've seen you
many a time when ye've stepped by me and I've been layin' hid out;
times when I'd starved if it hadn't been for him"--and he nodded
across the fire to Blakeman.
"I caught a partridge once he'd winged," he went on, "and give it
to him, seein' he was a city man and wouldn't know me. He see I was
poor--thought I had run away from some gov'ment place and I let it go
at that. He used to give me what was left from the kitchen; he'd come
out and leave it hid for me 'long 'bout dark--your hired man asleep
over thar, I'm talkin' 'bout. He said you wouldn't mind--not if you
knowed how bad off I was for a snack to eat. I might hev stole it from
ye more'n once, but I ain't never stole nothin'--I ain't a thief, Mr.
"Why didn't you come to me?" asked Thayor, after a moment's pause.
He was strangely moved at the man's story. "I would have helped you,
Dinsmore. I have told Holcomb repeatedly I wanted to help you."
"So Billy told me, and so did my father--but I 'most give up bein'
"How long have you been in this misery of yours?"
"A long time," he replied nervously; "a long time. Thar's been days
and nights when I wished I was dead."
"After you killed Bailey?" asked Thayor quietly, meeting the eyes of
the outcast. The figure beside him began to tremble, clenching his
bony hands in an effort to steady them; then he looked up.
"You know?" he faltered huskily. "You know?" he repeated.
"You know what I done! God knows I had a right to! They say I ain't
fit to live among men."
Again Thayor stared into the fire.
"How they've hounded me," Dinsmore went on, clearing his thin voice as
best he could--a voice unaccustomed to conversation. "The winter's the
worst; you ain't never been hounded in winter. You ain't never knowed
what it is to go hongry and alone. It'll give ye a new idee consarnin'
folks. I used to think I knew the woods, but I tell ye I know 'em
_now_. I've got friends in 'em now," he went on, as if confiding a
secret; "sometimes a fox will leave me what he ain't ate--I've known a
wolverine git a dum sight more human than them that's been huntin'
me. Him and me shared the same cave--he got to know me--he was a great
fisher. I got him out of a trap twice--he see I warn't goin' to hurt
Thayor sat looking steadily into the hollow, tired eyes like a man in
a dream, forgetting even to question him further. Moreover, he knew he
was telling the truth, and that Dinsmore's frankness was proof enough
that he had much to say to him of importance. Somehow he felt that in
his disconnected narrative he would slowly lead to it. His character
in this respect was much like his father's.
"Winter's the worst," repeated Dinsmore, the effort of speaking
already perceptible in his drawn features--"nights when yer heart
seems froze and ye wait for mornin' and the sun to thaw in; the sun's
most as good as food when yer that way. I tried, twice, to git across
the line into Canady, but I come back. I hadn't no friends thar, and
somehow these here woods I knowed seemed kinder. Besides, I always
had the chance of seein' father and sometimes Billy and Freme; and
sometimes--my little gal." He paused, trying to proceed more directly
with the drift of what he wished to say. For some moments his mind
seemed vacant. At length he resumed:
"I knowed ye couldn't git clear of them fellers by way of Morrison's.
I was layin' hid when I see the fire start; I see some fellers from
whar I was run across the road; thar was more of 'em sneakin' off back
to the camp. They was someways off from me, but I could see 'em plain.
I'd hev got to ye then but I dassent run no risk; thar's a reward out
on me dead or alive. Bimeby I see ye all cross the brook and I knowed
ye was safe and that father'd do the best he knowed how fer ye. When
it come night I begun to travel, hopin' to strike yer tracks, but the
fire cut me off and I had to lay hid till the wind shifted. Soon's I
see it was safe to travel I come along huntin' for ye and father. 'T
warn't till I come through the swamp at Bear Pond that I struck yer
tracks--seen 'em plain then and the way ye was a-goin'. Long 'bout
four o'clock to-day I heared some fellers' voices ahead of me down in
a holler. Then I see smoke and knowed they was camped close by. Bimeby
I crawled out from whar I was hid and clum a tree. I see 'em plain
then--six of 'em; they was eatin' dinner--all of 'em lumber jacks from
the lower shanty; one was a Frenchy from his talk. Thar warn't none of
'em I knowed in perticlar 'cept Eph Edmunds, and he was layin'
drunk 'longside the fire. I heared one of 'em say thar warn't no use
follerin' ye further; that ye'd most likely got to the cars. Then
another feller says, says he, "I tell ye we've _got_ to find him; 't
won't do to let him git away--there'll be hell to pay."
Thayor shook his head gloomily.
"What have I done, Dinsmore, that I should be hunted even like you?"
he sighed. For some moments the hide-out did not speak. Finally he
"I had a reason for what I done," and a strange glitter came into his
eyes. "See here, Mr. Thayor, you're human and maybe you'll understand;
I'm goin' to tell ye the truth. I give Bailey all the chance in the
world; I even come to him like a friend and says to him what's
mine ain't yours; I ain't never troubled ye nor your woman--we was
happy--me and my wife, 'fore he begun to put notions in her head. 'T
warn't long 'fore she begun to think thar warn't nobody like Bailey.
He kep' store then close by whar we lived, and he give her most
anythin' she wanted. She called it 'credit'.
"One day Bailey went off to Montreal, where Bergstein had a place
fixed up for her. I'd been off trappin' up Big Shanty, and when I come
back home next night she was gone. She didn't come back for most a
week, and when she come I see she was drunk. Bailey come back the next
day. I sot waitin' for him on the store porch. When he see me he come
up to me uglier'n sin. 'Who in hell invited _you_? he says. He weighed
twice as much as me, and I see he was fightin' mad. He leapt like a
cat to one side of me and 'fore I knowed it he had me down. Them what
was in the store come out, but thar warn't one of 'em that darst lay
hands on Bailey. We wrastled some in the road--the dust blinded me.
Then he begun to kick me in the mouth and back; I couldn't see for the
blood. When I woke up I was to home and I seen she was gone. Bimeby
I crawled out of bed into the kitchen and I see Ed Sumner settin'
'longside the stove. 'Bob,' says he, 'he used ye awful, no use
talkin'--he liked to killed ye; I hauled him clear o' ye and carried
ye back home. Ye'd better git back into bed,' says he. 'Doc' Rand'll
be here 'fore long; I'll be back in an hour,' says he. 'Fore I knowed
it he was gone. That was 'bout three o'clock; the sun was shinin'
warm in the kitchen and I sot thar thinkin' and gittin' steadier and
madder. Bimeby I filled the magazine of my Winchester and started to
find Bailey. Thar was more'n a dozen on the store porch when I come
up. When they seen me they slunk back in the store and shut the door.
I stood thar waitin' in the road; then I see Bailey come out. 'Hain't
you got your satisfy?' he says, 'you--' and I see him jerk out a
revolver. He was jest steppin' off the porch when my first ball hit
him. He give a scream, tumbled in the road and started to git up on
his hands and knees; the second ball broke his neck. Then I walked
into the store. 'I'm through,' I says, 'but the first man that lays
hands on me I'll kill same's I killed him.' Thar warn't none of 'em
that spoke or moved. What I needed I took and paid for; a box of
ca'tridges, matches and a can of beef. I had a dollar bill and I laid
it on the counter and walked out the store and started into the woods.
That's the hull of it, Mr. Thayor. 'Sposin it had been your wife, or
your leetle gal. You'd hev done the same's I done, wouldn't ye?"
Thayor breathed heavily.
"Wouldn't ye?" insisted Dinsmore. "He ruined her, body and soul--he
stole her, I tell ye; he warn't satisfied with that--he got her to
drinkin'. Wouldn't ye a-killed him, Mr. Thayor?"
Thayor's eyes sought the shadows between the pines; for an instant
he did not reply. Suddenly Sperry's face loomed before him and as
instantly vanished, only to appear again as certain excuses hitherto
explainable became for the first time obscure and suggestive. Then the
words of Alice's song rang in his ears and a thrill of joy quivered
Again the hide-out repeated the question.
"Wouldn't ye, Mr. Thayor?"
Thayor turned his head and faced the hide-out.
"Yes," he said slowly, between his clenched teeth; "I would have
killed him too, Mr. Dinsmore."
"And yet they say I ain't fit to live 'mong men," murmured the thin
voice, grown fainter from speaking. "God knows they've made me suffer
for what I done."
"Where is she?" asked Thayor, a certain tenderness creeping into his
There was no reply.
"Have you no news of your wife?"
"I dunno; I ain't never laid eyes on her since," he answered wearily.
"I can't even ask no one; father said he heard she was in Montreal,
where Bergstein had some hold on her. I'd have took her back if I'd
been free. 'T won't never be no use now--I won't never be free, Mr.
Again silence fell upon the group; each one was occupied with his
own thoughts. The old man had slouched closer and had settled himself
beside his son, his hand on the outcast's knee. Thayor's voice broke
"Where are these men you ran across, Dinsmore?" he asked abruptly, a
ring of determination in his voice.
"'Bout eight mile from here, I figger it--in a holler southeast of
Alder Swamp," answered the hide-out, returning to a sense of his
"And you say they were camped?"
"Yes, I see them cut some timber for a lean-to. Like as not they
cal'lated to make it a kind of headquarters for a day or so, strikin'
off by twos to find ye. That's what I come to tell ye; I didn't want
ye to be took. I knowed I'd find ye if I kep' on--I'm more used than
most of 'em to travellin' in the dark."
"Could you find them again, Dinsmore?"
"Yes, but I'd hev to be twice as keerful. It'd be all up with me if
they was to see me."
"I will take care of that," replied Thayor briskly.
"What do ye mean?" stammered Dinsmore.
"I mean that you shall take me to them to-morrow."
"But I ain't goin' to let ye risk yer life if I--"
"I mean what I say, Dinsmore. I start at daylight."
Before sunrise the next morning two men were seen by a circling hawk
moving steadily southeast. The man leading stopped now and then
to glance carefully about him; in these pauses he studied the
ground--often a weed trodden down in dew turned their course abruptly.
After six miles of this careful back-tracing Dinsmore halted--this
time to listen. Both could now faintly distinguish voices ahead.
"Keep straight on over that thar hemlock ridge," whispered the
hide-out; "they're in the holler on t'other side." He held out his
hand to Thayor, pointed again in the direction he had indicated, and
disappeared as easily as a partridge.
Sam Thayor went on alone.
* * * * *
It was a day of dreary anxiety to those who awaited his return. The
trapper blamed himself for having allowed him to go. "It ain't right
for ye, friend, to risk yer life like this," he had declared. "Them
fellers won't stop at nothin' now--I've done my best to git ye clear
of 'em and I'll git ye clear and 'board the cars by to-morrow--all
of ye, if ye'll let me." To which Thayor, laying his hand on the old
man's shoulder, had replied:
"I refuse to expose any of you. It is a matter that concerns
myself alone. I hardly think they will attempt to molest a single,
defenceless man. As for your son, I'll take care that no one sees
As the day wore on and no tidings came from either Thayor or the
hide-out, Holcomb's and the Clown's uneasiness became more and more
apparent. The midday meal passed in comparative silence. By noon the
sky became overcast and it drizzled intermittently. This told sadly
upon Alice, who went back to her blanket. There she closed her eyes,
but sleep was impossible.
Again she reviewed the events not only of this summer but of the
winter preceding it. She thought of Sperry, slowly going over in her
mind their days together--all that had happened; all that he had
dared to ask her to do. With astonishing clearness she now weighed his
worth. Bit by bit she recalled their last hours together that night on
the veranda. Then the sturdy honesty of men like Holcomb, the trapper
and the Clown in contrast with Sperry, and many of her guests at home,
rose in her mind. Their kindness to her; their unselfishness, despite
the fact that she had once treated them like a pack of uncouth boors.
But for Billy Holcomb she would have burned to death. She knew his
worth now. Sam had been right.
Then her mind dwelt on the close friendship that had grown up between
Margaret and the young woodsman. Was it friendship, really? Again she
thought of Sperry and again her cheeks burned. He had not asked her to
seek a divorce and marry him--he had demanded briefly that she leave
all and follow him. With this thought her face paled with anger.
Instantly her husband rose clear in her mind; he who, never once in
all his life, had asked her, or anyone else, to do a dishonourable
thing. She wondered at his patience and his pluck, even when she
remembered their many quarrels in which he had lost control of
With a low moan she buried her face in her hands as little by little
her mind reverted to her own cruelty; to the days of her domination
over him; to her outbursts of temper: he, a man of strength, with the
courage of his convictions. This he had proved during their
forced march in a hundred different ways--was proving it to-day,
magnificently. One ray of comfort shone through it all--that, foolish
and vain as she had been, she could still look her husband in the
At length she rose shakily, and moving slowly crossed the small space
about the fire to where the trapper was chopping firewood for the
"And he is not back yet?" she said to the trapper in a hopeless tone.
"No, marm, not yet," he answered gloomily. "It'll be night 'fore long;
thar ain't much daylight left him to travel in."
Alice caught her breath. "But you think he'll come, don't you, Mr.
Holt?" "Yes, marm, I do," he answered, laying down his axe. "'T ain't
hardly possible he won't; I cal'late they'll both git in 'fore dark.
It won't do to borry trouble 'fore it comes. It was my fault, marm--I
shouldn't hev let him go--it warn't right--but he would hev his way."
"And you don't think they're lost?" she ventured timidly.
"Not so long as he stays by my son, marm--no, 't ain't likely they're
lost; it warn't _that_ I was thinkin' of." He saw the sudden terror in
"But you think he will be back, don't you? Oh! you do, Mr. Holt--don't
"Yes, marm, I tell ye I do. He had grit 'nough to go, and I cal'late
he'll hev grit 'nough to git back. He seemed to know what he was
She turned away that he might not see her tears. She could hear the
dull whack of the old man's axe as she retraced her steps to her place
by the crackling fire.
For another anxious hour she sat shivering before it, then the Clown
announced apologetically that supper was ready. Blakeman handed her
a cup of tea, but she did not taste it. Annette put to rights the few
comforts within the lean-to and re-folded the blankets. Margaret and
Holcomb whispered together. All moved as if in the shadow of a great
It was now pitch dark and raining. The camp sat in strained silence.
Finally Margaret came over to her mother and whispered something in
her ear. A weary smile crossed Alice's lips; then she beckoned to
Holcomb, laid her hand on his arm, and looking up into his face said
in a broken voice:
"You _will_ look after Margaret, Mr. Holcomb, won't you, if--if
anything has happened?"
"All my life, Mrs. Thayor."
Before she could speak the girl leaned over and hid her face on her
mother's shoulder. A light broke over the mother's face; then she
found her voice.
"And it is true, Margaret?" she said, smoothing the girl's cheek.
"What will your father say?"
"He knows I love Billy," she whispered, as she threw her arms around
her mother's neck and burst into tears.
A grave and ominous anxiety now took possession of the camp. That
something must be done, and at once, to find Thayor, had become
evident as the night began to settle. But no man in the camp lagged.
Billy and the trapper were busy tearing long strips of yellow bark
from a birch tree for torches, while the Clown, who had been hurriedly
cutting two forked sticks, stood fitting them with the twisted
bark. For some moments the three woodsmen held a low and earnest
conversation together, Alice watching them with startled eyes. She
caught also the figure of the trapper and the old dog standing at the
limit of the firelight waiting for Holcomb, and the flare of the two
bark torches that the old man held in his hands.
At that instant the old dog sprang into the darkness beyond the
trapper, barking sharply. Holcomb, followed by Margaret, who had never
left his side since he had determined to go in search of her father,
rushed forward, following the waning light from the torches now
glimmering far ahead as the trapper leaped on after the old dog.
Alice, now left alone with Blakeman and Annette, sat peering into the
void, her ears open to every sound. Every now and then she would rise,
walk to the edge of the firelight, stand listening for a few moments
and sink back again on her seat by the embers.
Suddenly Blakeman rose to his feet, his hand cupped to his ear, his
whole body tense. His knowledge of the woods had taught him their
unusual sounds. Stepping quickly over the surrounding logs, he moved
to the edge of the darkness and listened, then walked quickly into the
The dim flicker of approaching torches, like will-o'-the-wisps, now
flashed among the giant trees. Alice sprang up, caught the end of the
long overcoat in her fingers and, guided by the sound of Blakeman's
footsteps, calling to him at every step, dashed on into the darkness.
Then she tripped, and with a piercing shriek fell headlong.
A posse of men were approaching. The torches drew nearer and
nearer--voices could be heard. She strained her ears--but it was not
that of her husband. Again she staggered to her feet, reeled, and
would have fallen had not Blakeman caught her. He had seen the party
and turned back before he reached them.
"He's all right, madam--there he comes--they are all coming."
Thayor pushed his way ahead. He had heard the scream and recognized
"My God, Blakeman. What's the matter?" He was on his knees beside her
now, her head resting in the hollow of his elbow.
"Madam's only fainted, sir. We got worried at your being gone so
Margaret tried to throw herself down beside her mother, but Holcomb
held her back.
"No--let your father alone," he whispered--"and let us come away."
The trapper and the others, followed by Holcomb and Margaret, moved
toward the camp, the torches illumining their faces. No one saw the
hide-out. He was there--within touching distance, but he moved only in
Alice opened her eyes and clasped both her arms around her husband's
"Oh, Sam! tell me it is you--and you are safe, and nothing has
happened? Oh! Sam--I have been so wretched!"
"There, dear--compose yourself. It's all right--everything is all
right, and we have nothing to fear anywhere. Come, now--let me help
you to your feet and--"
"No, Sam--not yet--not yet! Please listen--I've been so wicked--so
foolish--Please forgive me--please tell me you love me. Don't let it
make any difference. I can stand everything but that. Sam, we once
loved each other--can't we again? I love you--I do--I _do_!"
For an instant he held her from him gazing into her eyes. The
revulsion was so great--the surprise so intense, he could hardly
believe his senses. Then a great uplift swept through him.
"Hush," he breathed. "Tell me again that you love me. Say it again,
Alice. Say it!" The vibrant trembling of her body, close held in his
arms, thrilled him; he could see dimly in the shadow the same old
look in her eyes--the eyes of the girl he loved. The hour of their
betrothal seemed to be his once more.
"I don't want to go home, Sam; I never want to see it again," she
swept on. "I want to live here. Will you rebuild Big Shanty for you
and me, dearest, and for Margaret and Billy? They love each other
He folded her in his arms.
"Kiss me again!" she pleaded.
Half supporting her, one arm about his neck, her hands clinging to his
as if she was afraid some unseen power would take him from her, the
two regained the camp, the blaze of freshly heaped-up logs having
lighted the way.
"Give Dinsmore something hot to drink at once," were Thayor's first
words on reaching the group. "He's been in water up to his neck. Had
it not been for him we should have had to lie out all night; he sees
in the dark like an owl. We've had a hard tramp." He stood steaming
before the fire as he spoke--drenched to the skin, the others crowding
round him, too happy for the moment to ply him with questions. He
himself was quivering with an inward joy. Alice's kisses were still on
The trapper edged nearer. "And what did them fellers say, Mr. Thayor,
when ye found 'em?" he asked. He had asked the question before, but
Thayor only waved his hand saying he would wait until they reached
camp so all could hear the story.
"What did they say to me, Hite? They told me for one thing that they
had done their best to find me, and I guess that was true," and he
smiled grimly. "And now, who do you think was leading them, Billy?"
"Shank Dollard, I guess," returned Holcomb.
"That Frenchman--and you kept the doctor a week to look after him!"
exclaimed Holcomb indignantly.
"Yes. That was the reason he hunted for me."
The men crowded about the speaker, the women drawing closer, the old
dog closest of all. Dinsmore, who was seated on a stump just outside
the firelight, listened eagerly. He had heard the story before, but
he wanted every detail of it again. His father had pulled the dripping
coat from his back when they reached the fire, and he was now wrapped
in one of the blankets that Margaret had placed about his thin
"Yes--Le Boeuf," continued Thayor. "His arm was still in a sling, but
he and his crowd--there were six of them in all--had done their best
to overtake us before we got to the railroad. He was more afraid of me
than I was of him. When I walked in among them he jumped to his feet
and came straight toward me. I was alone--with Mr. Dinsmore within
reach but out of sight--and, Hite, they never saw your son--just as I
"'I hear you men are looking for me,' I said. 'What can I do for you?'
They all stood around, their eyes on Le Boeuf, as if they wanted him
to speak. A more surprised and frightened lot of men I never saw.
"'Well, we didn't burn de house,' Le Boeuf began. 'We 'fraid you come
and 'rest us. We haf no money to fight reech man like you--we want
work for you again. We know who burn de house--it not us.'
"'That's all right, Le Boeuf,' I said. 'I know you didn't have
anything to do with the fire or you wouldn't be here. Now go back home
all of you, and if I rebuild Big Shanty I'll send for you to help.
Good-bye!' and I turned on my tracks, picked up Mr. Dinsmore where he
had hidden himself and started back. We really have been running away
from our shadows--" and Thayor laughed one of his hearty laughs that
showed how greatly his mind was relieved.
"And what kep' ye so long?" broke in the trapper.
"The fear of running across some of them who would know your son. You
see we had to go around the lake, and we didn't know which side of it
they would take. The rain, too, made the night settle the earlier.
We were almost within sight of the camp here when we saw the torches.
Holcomb and Margaret reached us first. I guess you carried her over
the rough places--didn't you, Billy? Well, I don't blame you, my
boy." There was a twinkle in his eye when he spoke. He was very happy
to-night! "And so you see we have had our scare for nothing."
"And now one thing more before I turn in," he added in his quick,
business-like way. "This has been on my mind all day, and as we have
no secrets now that we can't share with each other, I want you all to
hear what I am going to say. Will you come closer, Mr. Dinsmore"--it
was marvellous how he never omitted the prefix; "would you mind moving
up so that you can listen the better? I am going to do what I can to
end your sufferings." The hide-out shambled up and sat in a crouching
position, the blanket about his shoulders, his hollow eyes fixed on
"What I want to say to you all is this: I have had several conferences
with this poor fellow and he has my deepest sympathy. I believe every
word he has told me. What I intend to do now is to find a place for
him among the lumber gangs in the great Northwest. There he will
be safe; there, too, he can earn his living for he knows the woods
thoroughly, but he must get to Canada without a day's delay. I can
handle the matter better there than here. I have some friends in
Montreal who can help, and some others farther north--correspondents
The head of the hide-out dropped to his breast; then he muttered, half
"I dassent--ain't nobody to look arter her but me; 'taint much, but
it's all she's got."
Thayor turned quickly. "You mean your little girl? I've thought of
that; she shall join you whenever you're safe." Then he added in
a lower tone--so low that only Dinsmore heard: "Your wife was in
Montreal, remember, when you last heard from her, and now that
Bergstein's dead she may get free."
The owl-like eyes stared at the slowly dying fire; hot tears trickled
over the cavernous sockets and stopped in the unkempt beard. Before he
could answer there came a voice behind him:
"Didn't I tell ye so, son--didn't I tell ye ye could trust him?"
"I hope so, Hite," returned Thayor--"and you heard what I said about
his getting to Canada, didn't you?"
"Yes, I heard ye, Mr. Thayor." "And are you willing?"
Thayor paused a moment, then he said thoughtfully: "There is only one
thing that worries me and that is how to get him clear of the woods
and across the line. Somebody must help. The question is now whom can
"That needn't worry ye a mite," answered the old man in a decided
tone. "He's got all the help he wants."
Thayor looked up. "Who?" he asked in some surprise.
"Me and the old dog. We'll git him thar."
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