Stewart Edward White
Part 6 out of 7
cold. The leaves, after their blaze and riot of colour, turned
crisp and crackly and brown. Some of the little, still puddles were
filmed with what was almost, but not quite ice. A sheen of frost
whitened the house roofs and silvered each separate blade of grass
on the lawns. But by noon the sun, rising red in the veil of smoke
that hung low in the snappy air, had mellowed the atmosphere until
it lay on the cheek like a caress. No breath of wind stirred.
Sounds came clearly from a distance. Long V-shaped flights of geese
swept athwart the sky, very high up, but their honking came faintly
to the ear. And yet, when the sun, swollen to the great dimensions
of the rising moon, dipped blood-red through the haze; the first
premonitory tingle of cold warned one that the grateful warmth of
the day had been but an illusion of a season that had gone. This
was not summer, but, in the quaint old phrase, Indian summer, and
its end would be as though the necromancer had waved his wand.
To Newmark, sitting at his desk, reported Captain Floyd of the steam
barge NORTH STAR.
"All loaded by noon, sir," he said.
Newmark looked up in surprise.
"Well, why do you tell me?" he inquired.
"I want your orders."
"My orders? Why?"
"This is a bad time of year," explained Captain Floyd, "and the
storm signal's up. All the signs are right for a blow."
Newmark whirled in his chair.
"A blow!" he cried. "What of it? You don't come in every time it
blows, do you?"
"You don't know the lakes, sir, at this time of year," insisted
"Are you afraid?" sneered Newmark.
Captain Floyd's countenance burned a dark red.
"I only want your orders," was all he said. "I thought we might
wait to see."
"Then go," snapped Newmark. "That lumber must get to the market.
You heard Mr. Orde's orders to sail as soon as you were loaded."
Captain Floyd nodded curtly and went out without further comment.
Newmark arose and looked out of the window. The sun shone as
balmily soft as ever. English sparrows twittered and fought
outside. The warm smell of pine shingles rose from the street.
Only close down to the horizon lurked cold, flat, greasy-looking
clouds; and in the direction of the Government flag-pole he caught
the flash of red from the lazily floating signal. He was little
weatherwise, and he shook his head sceptically. Nevertheless it was
a chance, and he took it, as he had taken a great many others.
To Carroll's delight, Orde returned unexpectedly from the woods late
that night. He was so busy these days that she welcomed any chance
to see him. Much to his disappointment, Bobby had been taken duck-
hunting by his old friend, Mr. Kincaid. Next morning, however, Orde
told Carroll his stay would be short and that his day would be
"I'd take old Prince and get some air," he advised. "You're too
much indoors. Get some friend and drive around. It's fine and
blowy out, and you'll get some colour in your cheeks."
After breakfast Carroll accompanied her husband to the front door.
When they opened it a blast of air rushed in, whirling some dead
leaves with it.
"I guess the fine weather's over," said Orde, looking up at the sky.
A dull lead colour had succeeded the soft gray of the preceding
balmy days. The heavens seemed to have settled down closer to the
earth. A rising wind whistled through the branches of the big maple
trees, snatching the remaining leaves in handfuls and tossing them
into the air. The tops swayed like whips. Whirlwinds scurried
among the piles of dead leaves on the lawns, scattering them,
chasing them madly around and around in circles.
"B-r-r-r!" shivered Carroll. "Winter's coming."
She kept herself busy about the house all the morning; ate her lunch
in solitude. Outside, the fierce wind, rising in a crescendo
shriek, howled around the eaves. The day darkened, but no rain
fell. At last Carroll resolved to take her husband's advice. She
stopped for Mina Heinzman, and the two walked around to the stable,
where the men harnessed old Prince into the phaeton.
They drove, the wind at their backs, across the drawbridge, past the
ship-yards, and out beyond the mills to the Marsh Road. There, on
either side the causeway, miles and miles of cat-tails and reeds
bent and recovered under the snatches of the wind. Here and there
showed glimpses of ponds or little inlets, the surface of the water
ruffled and dark blue. Occasionally one of these bayous swung in
across the road. Then the two girls could see plainly the fan-like
cat's-paws skittering here and there as though panic-stricken by the
swooping, invisible monster that pursued them.
Carroll and Mina Heinzman had a good time. They liked each other
very much, and always saw a great deal to laugh at in the things
about them and in the subjects about which they talked. When,
however, they turned toward home, they were forced silent by the
mighty power of the wind against them. The tears ran from their
eyes as though they were crying; they had to lower their heads.
Hardly could Carroll command vision clear enough to see the road
along which she was driving. This was really unnecessary, for
Prince was buffeted to a walk. Thus they crawled along until they
reached the turn-bridge, where the right-angled change in direction
gave them relief. The river was full of choppy waves, considerable
in size. As they crossed, the SPRITE darted beneath them, lowering
her smokestack as she went under the bridge.
They entered Main Street, where was a great banging and clanging of
swinging signs and a few loose shutters. All the sidewalk displays
of vegetables and other goods had been taken in, and the doors,
customarily wide open, were now shut fast. This alone lent to the
street quite a deserted air, which was emphasised by the fact that
actually not a rig of any sort stood at the curbs. Up the empty
roadway whirled one after the other clouds of dust hurried by the
"I wonder where all the farmers' wagons are?" marvelled the
practical Mina. "Surely they would not stay home Saturday afternoon
just for this wind!"
Opposite Randall's hardware store her curiosity quite mastered her.
"Do stop!" she urged Carroll. "I want to run in and see what's the
She was gone but a moment, and returned, her eyes shining with
"Oh, Carroll!" she cried, "there are three vessels gone ashore off
the piers. Everybody's gone to see."
"Jump in!" said Carroll. "We'll drive out. Perhaps they'll get out
the life-saving crew."
They drove up the plank road over the sand-hill, through the beech
woods, to the bluff above the shore. In the woods they were
somewhat sheltered from the wind, although even there the crash of
falling branches and the whirl of twigs and dead leaves advertised
that the powers of the air were abroad; but when they topped the
last rise, the unobstructed blast from the open Lake hit them square
between the eyes.
Probably a hundred vehicles of all descriptions were hitched to
trees just within the fringe of woods. Carroll, however, drove
straight ahead until Prince stood at the top of the plank road that
led down to the bath houses. Here she pulled up.
Carroll saw the lake, slate blue and angry, with white-capped
billows to the limit of vision. Along the shore were rows and rows
of breakers, leaping, breaking, and gathering again, until they were
lost in a tumble of white foam that rushed and receded on the sands.
These did not look to be very large until she noticed the twin piers
reaching out from the river's mouth. Each billow, as it came in,
rose sullenly above them, broke tempestuously to overwhelm the
entire structure of their ends, and ripped inshore along their
lengths, the crest submerging as it ran every foot of the massive
structures. The piers and the light-houses at their ends looked
like little toys, and the compact black crowd of people on the shore
below were as small as Bobby's tin soldiers.
"Look there--out farther!" pointed Mina.
Carroll looked, and rose to her feet in excitement.
Three little toy ships--or so they seemed compared to the mountains
of water--lay broadside-to, just inside the farthest line of
breakers. Two were sailing schooners. These had been thrown on
their beam ends, their masts pointing at an angle toward the beach.
Each wave, as it reached, stirred them a trifle, then broke in a
deluge of water that for a moment covered their hulls completely
from sight. With a mighty suction the billow drained away, carrying
with it wreckage. The third vessel was a steam barge. She, too,
was broadside to the seas, but had caught in some hole in the bar so
that she lay far down by the head. The shoreward side of her upper
works had, for some freakish reason, given away first, so now the
interior of her staterooms and saloons was exposed to view as in the
cross-section of a model ship. Over her, too, the great waves
hurled themselves, each carrying away its spoil. To Carroll it
seemed fantastically as though the barge were made of sugar, and
that each sea melted her precisely as Bobby loved to melt the lump
in his chocolate by raising and lowering it in a spoon.
And the queer part of it all was that these waves, so mighty in
their effects, appeared to the woman no different from those she had
often watched in the light summer blows that for a few hours raise
the "white caps" on the lake. They came in from the open in the
same swift yet deliberate ranks; they gathered with the same
leisurely pauses; they broke with the same rush and roar. They
seemed no larger, but everything else had been struck small--the
tiny ships, the toy piers, the ant-like swarm of people on the
shore. She looked on it as a spectacle. It had as yet no human
"Poor fellows!" cried Mina.
"What?" asked Carroll.
"Don't you see them?" queried the other.
Carroll looked, and in the rigging of the schooner she made out a
number of black objects.
"Are those men?--up the masts?" she cried.
She set Prince in motion toward the beach.
At the foot of the bluff the plank road ran out into the deep sand.
Through this the phaeton made its way heavily. The fine particles
were blown in the air like a spray, mingling with the spume from the
lake, stinging Carroll's face like so many needles. Already the
beach was strewn with pieces of wreckage, some of it cast high above
the wash, others still thrown up and sucked back by each wave,
others again rising and falling in the billows. This wreckage
constituted a miscellaneous jumble, although most of it was lumber
from the deck-loads of the vessels. Intermingled with the split and
broken yellow boards were bits of carving and of painted wood.
Carroll saw one piece half buried in the sand which bore in gilt two
huge letters, A R. A little farther, bent and twisted, projected
the ornamental spear which had pointed the way before the steamer's
bow. Portions of the usual miscellaneous freight cargo carried on
every voyage were scattered along the shore--boxes, barrels, and
crates. Five or six men had rolled a whisky barrel beyond the reach
of the water, had broached it, and now were drinking in turn from a
broken and dingy fragment of a beer-schooner. They were very dirty;
their hair had fallen over their eyes, which were bloodshot; the
expression of their faces was imbecile. As the phaeton passed, they
hailed its occupants in thick voices, shouting against the wind
maudlin invitations to drink.
The crowd gathered at the pier comprised fully half the population
of Monrovia. It centred about the life saving crew, whose mortar
was being loaded. A stove-in lifeboat mutely attested the failure
of other efforts. The men worked busily, ramming home the powder
sack, placing the projectile with the light line attached, attending
that the reel ran freely. Their chief watched the seas and winds
through his glasses. When the preparations were finished, he
adjusted the mortar, and pulled the string. Carroll had seen this
done in practice. Now, with the recollection of that experience in
mind, she was astonished at the feeble report of the piece, and its
freedom from the dense white clouds of smoke that should have
enveloped it. The wind snatched both noise and vapour away almost
as soon as they were born. The dart with its trailer of line rose
on a long graceful curve. The reel sang. Every member of the crowd
unconsciously leaned forward in attention. But the resistance of
the wind and the line early made itself felt. Slower and slower
hummed the reel. There came a time when the missile seemed to
hesitate, then fairly to stand in equilibrium. Finally, in an
increasingly abrupt curve, it descended into the sea. By a good
three hundred yards the shot had failed to carry the line over the
"There's Mr. Bradford," said Carroll, waving her hand. "I wish he'd
come and tell us something about it."
The banjo-playing village Brummell saw the signal and came, his face
"Couldn't they get the lifeboats out to them?" asked Carroll as he
"You see that one," said Bradford, pointing. "Well, the other's in
kindling wood farther up the beach."
"Anybody drowned?" asked Mina quickly.
"No, we got 'em out. Mr. Cam's shoulder is broken." He glanced
down at himself comically, and the girls for the first time noticed
that beneath the heavy overcoat his garments were dripping.
"But surely they'll never get a line over with the mortar!" said
Carroll. "That last shot fell so far short!"
"They know it. They've shot a dozen times. Might as well do
"I should think," said Mina, "that they'd shoot from the end of the
pier. They'd be ever so much nearer."
"Tried it," replied Bradford succintly. "Nearly lost the whole
Nobody said anything for some time, but all looked helplessly to
where the vessels--from this elevation insignificant among the
tumbling waters--were pounding to pieces.
At this moment from the river a trail of black smoke became visible
over the point of sand-hill that ran down to the pier. A smokestack
darted into view, slowed down, and came to rest well inside the
river-channel. There it rose and fell regularly under the influence
of the swell that swung in from the lake. The crowd uttered a
cheer, and streamed in the direction of the smokestack.
"Come and see what's up," suggested Bradford.
He hitched Prince to a log sticking up at an angle from the sand,
and led the way to the pier.
There they had difficulty in getting close enough to see; but
Bradford, preceding the two women, succeeded by patience and
diplomacy in forcing a way. The SPRITE was lying close under the
pier, the top of her pilot-house just about level with the feet of
the people watching her. She rose and fell with the restless
waters. Fat rope-yarn bumpers interposed between her sides and the
piling. The pilot-house was empty, but Harvey, the negro engineer,
leaned, elbows crossed against the sill of his little square door,
smoking his pipe.
"I wouldn't go out there for a million dollars!" cried a man
excitedly to Carroll and Bradford. "Nothing on earth could live in
that sea! Nothing! I've run a tug myself in my time, and I know
what I'm talking about!"
"What are they going to do?" asked Carroll.
"Haven't you heard!" cried the other, turning to her. "Where you
been? This is one of Orde's tugs, and she's going to try to get a
line to them vessels. But I wouldn't--"
Bradford did not wait for him to finish. He turned abruptly, and
with an air of authority brushed toward the tug, followed closely by
Carroll and Mina. At the edge of the pier was the tug's captain,
Marsh, listening to earnest expostulation by a half-dozen of the
leading men of the town, among whom were both Newmark and Orde.
As the three came within earshot Captain Marsh spit forth the stump
of cigar he had been chewing.
"Gentlemen," said he crisply, "that isn't the question. I think I
can do it; and I'm entirely willing to take all personal risks. The
thing is hazardous and it's Mr. Orde's tug. It's for him to say
whether he wants to risk her."
"Good Lord, man, what's the tug in a case like this!" cried Orde,
who was standing near. Carroll looked at him proudly, but she did
not attempt to make her presence known.
"I thought so," replied Captain Marsh. "So it's settled. I'll take
her out, if I can get a crew. Harvey, step up here!"
The engineer slowly hoisted his long figure through the breast-high
doorway, dragged his legs under him, then with extraordinary agility
swung to the pier, his teeth shining like ivory in his black face.
"Yas, suh!" said he.
"Harvey," said Captain Marsh briskly, "we're going to try to get a
line aboard those vessels out there. It's dangerous. You don't
have to go if you don't want to. Will you go?"
Harvey removed his cap and scratched his wool. The grin faded from
his good-natured countenance.
"You-all goin', suh?" he asked.
"I reckon I'll done haif to go, too," said Harvey simply. Without
further word he swung lightly back to the uneasy craft below him,
and began to toss the slabs from the deck into the hold.
"I want a man with me at the wheel, two to handle the lines, and one
to fire for Harvey," said Captain Marsh to the crowd in general.
"That's our job," announced the life-saving captain.
"Well, come on then. No use in delay," said Captain Marsh.
The four men from the life-saving service dropped aboard. The five
then went over the tug from stem to stern, tossing aside all
movables, and lashing tight all essentials. From the pilot-house
Captain Marsh distributed life preservers. Harvey declined his.
"Whaf-for I want dat?" he inquired. "Lots of good he gwine do me
Then all hatches were battened down. Captain Marsh reached up to
shake the hand which Orde, stooping, offered him.
"I'll try to bring her back all right, sir," said he.
"To hell with the tug!" cried Orde, impatient at this insistence on
the mere property aspect. "Bring yourself back."
Captain Marsh deliberately lit another cigar and entered the pilot-
house with the other men.
"Cast off!" he cried; and the silent crowd heard clearly the single
sharp bell ringing for attention, and then the "jangler" that called
for full speed ahead. Awed, they watched the tiny sturdy craft move
out into the stream and point to the fury of the open lake.
"Brave chaps! Brave chaps!" said Dr. McMullen to Carroll as they
turned away. The physician drew his tall slender figure to its
height. "Brave chaps, every one of them. But, do you know, to my
mind, the bravest of them all are that nigger--and his fireman--
nailed down in the hold where they can't see nor know what's going
on, and if--if--" the good doctor blew his nose vigorously five or
six times--"well, it's just like a rat in a hole." He shook his
head vigorously and looked out to sea. "I read last evening, sir,"
said he to Bradford, "in a blasted fool medical journal I take, that
the race is degenerating. Good God!"
The tug had rounded the end of the pier. The first of her thousand
enemies, sweeping in from the open, had struck her fair. A great
sheet of white water, slanting back and up, shot with terrific
impact against the house and beyond. For an instant the little
craft seemed buried; but almost immediately the gleam of her black
hull showed her plunging forward dauntlessly.
"That's nothin'!" said the tug captain who had first spoken. "Wait
'til she gets outside!" The watchers streamed down from the pier
for a better view. Carroll and Miss Heinzman followed. They saw
the staunch little craft drive into three big seas, each of which
appeared to bury her completely, save for her upper works. She
managed, however, to keep her headway.
"She can stand that, all right," said one of the life-saving crew
who had been watching her critically. "The trouble will come when
she drops down to the vessels."
In spite of the heavy smashing of head-on seas the SPRITE held her
course straight out.
"Where's she going, anyway?" marvelled little Mr. Smith, the
stationer. "She's away beyond the wrecks already."
"Probably Marsh has found the seas heavier than he thought and is
afraid to turn her broadside," guessed his companion.
"Afraid, hell!" snorted a riverman who overheard.
Nevertheless the SPRITE was now so distant that the loom of the
great seas on the horizon swallowed her from view, save when she
rose on the crest of some mighty billow.
"Well, what is he doing 'way out there then?" challenged Mr. Smith's
friend with some asperity.
"Do'no," replied the riverman, "but whatever it is, it's all right
as long as Buck Marsh is at the wheel."
"There, she's turned now," Mr. Smith interposed.
Beneath the trail of black smoke she had shifted direction. And
then with startling swiftness the SPRITE darted out of the horizon
into full view. For the first time the spectators realised the size
and weight of the seas. Not even the sullen pounding to pieces of
the vessels on the bar had so impressed them as the sight of the tug
coasting with railroad speed down the rush of a comber like a
child's toy-boat in the surf. One moment the whole of her deck was
visible as she was borne with the wave; the next her bow alone
showed high as the back suction caught her and dragged her from the
crest into the hollow. A sea rose behind. Nothing of the tug was
to be seen. It seemed that no power or skill could prevent her
feeling overwhelmed. Yet somehow always she staggered out of the
gulf until she caught the force of the billow and was again cast
forward like a chip.
"Maybe they ain't catchin' p'ticular hell at that wheel to hold her
from yawing!" muttered the tug captain to his neighbour, who
happened to be Mr. Duncan, the minister.
Almost before Carroll had time to see that the little craft was
coming in, she had arrived at the outer line of breakers. Here the
combers, dragged by the bar underneath, crested, curled over, and
fell with a roar, just as in milder weather the surf breaks on the
beach. When the SPRITE rushed at this outer line of white-water, a
woman in the crowd screamed.
But at the edge of destruction the SPRITE came to a shuddering stop.
Her powerful propellers had been set to the reverse. They could not
hold her against the forward fling of the water, but what she lost
thus she regained on the seaward slopes of the waves and in their
hollows. Thus she hovered on the edge of the breakers, awaiting her
As long as the seas rolled in steadily, and nothing broke, she was
safe. But if one of the waves should happen to crest and break, as
many of them did, the weight of water catching the tug on her flat,
broad stern deck would indubitably bury her. The situation was
awful in its extreme simplicity. Would Captain Marsh see his
opportunity before the law of chances would bring along the wave
that would overwhelm him?
A realisation of the crisis came to the crowd on the beach. At once
the terrible strain of suspense tugged at their souls. Each
conducted himself according to his nature. The hardy men of the
river and the woods set their teeth until the cheek muscles turned
white, and blasphemed softly and steadily. Two or three of the
townsmen walked up and down the space of a dozen feet. One, the
woman who had screamed, prayed aloud in short hysterical sentences.
"O God! Save them, O Lord! O Lord!"
Orde stood on top of a half-buried log, his hat in his hand, his
entire being concentrated on the manoeuvre being executed. Only
Newmark apparently remained as calm as ever, leaning against an
upright timber, his arms folded, and an unlighted cigar as usual
between his lips.
Methodically every few moments he removed his eyeglasses and wiped
the lenses free of spray.
Suddenly, without warning, occurred one of those inexplicable lulls
that interpose often amid the wildest uproars. For the briefest
instant other sounds than the roar of the wind and surf were
permitted the multitude on the beach. They heard the grinding of
timbers from the stricken ships, and the draining away of waters.
And distinctly they heard the faint, far tinkle of the jangler
calling again for "full speed ahead."
Between two waves the SPRITE darted forward directly for the nearest
of the wrecks. Straight as an arrow's flight she held until from
the crowd went up a groan.
"She'll collide!" some one put it into words.
But at the latest moment the tug swerved, raced past, and turned on
a long diagonal across the end of the bar toward the piers.
Captain Marsh had chosen his moment with exactitude. To the utmost
he had taken advantage of the brief lull of jumbled seas after the
"three largest waves" had swept by. Yet in shallow water and with
the strong inshore set, even that lull was all too short. The
SPRITE was staggered by the buffets of the smaller breakers; her
speed was checked, her stern was dragged around. For an instant it
seemed that the back suction would hold her in its grip. She tore
herself from the grasp of the current. Enveloped in a blinding hail
of spray she struggled desperately to extricate herself from the
maelstrom in which she was involved before the resumption of the
larger seas should roll her over and over to destruction.
Already these larger seas were racing in from the open. To Carroll,
watching breathless and wide-eyed in that strange passive and
receptive state peculiar to imaginative natures, they seemed alive.
And the SPRITE, too, appeared to be, not a fabric and a mechanism
controlled by men, but a sentient creature struggling gallantly on
her own volition.
Far out in the lake against the tumbling horizon she saw heave up
for a second the shoulder of a mighty wave. And instinctively she
perceived this wave as a deadly enemy of the little tug, and saw it
bending all its great energies to hurrying in on time to catch the
victim before it could escape. To this wave she gave all her
attention, watching for it after it had sunk momentarily below its
fellows, recognising it instantly as it rose again. The spasms of
dismay and relief among the crowd about her she did not share at
all. The crises they indicated did not exist for her. Until the
wave came in, Carroll knew, the SPRITE, no matter how battered and
tossed, would be safe. Her whole being was concentrated in a
continually shifting calculation of the respective distances between
the tug and the piers, the tug and the relentlessly advancing wave.
"Oh, go!" she exhorted the SPRITE under her breath.
Then the crowd, too, caught with its slower perceptions the import
of the wave. Carroll felt the electric thrill of apprehension
shiver through it. Huge and towering, green and flecked with foam
the wave came on now calmly and deliberately as though sure. The
SPRITE was off the end of the pier when the wave lifted her, just in
the position her enemy would have selected to crush her life out
against the cribs. Slowly the tug rose against its shoulder, was
lifted onward, poised; and then with a swift forward thrust the wave
broke, smothering the pier and lighthouse beneath tons of water.
A low, agonised wail broke from the crowd. And then--and then--over
beyond the pier down which the wave, broken and spent but formidable
still, was ripping its way, they saw gliding a battered black stack
from which still poured defiantly clouds of gray smoke.
For ten seconds the spectators could not believe their eyes. They
had distinctly seen the SPRITE caught between a resistless wall of
water and the pier; where she should have been crushed like the
proverbial egg-shell. Yet there she was--or her ghost.
Then a great cheer rose up against the wind. The crowd went crazy.
Mere acquaintances hugged each other and danced around and around
through the heavy sands. Several women had hysterics. The riverman
next to Mr. Duncan opened his mouth and swore so picturesquely that,
as he afterward told his chum, "I must've been plumb inspired for
the occasion." Yet it never entered Mr. Duncan's ministerial head
to reprove the blasphemy. Orde jumped down from his half-buried log
and clapped his hat on his head. Newmark did not alter his attitude
nor his expression.
The SPRITE was safe. For the few moments before she glided the
length of the long pier to stiller water this fact sufficed.
"I wonder if she got the line aboard," speculated the tug-boat
captain at last.
The crowd surged over to the piers again. Below them rose and fell
the SPRITE. All the fancy scroll-work of her upper works, the
cornice of her deck house, the light rigging of her cabin had
disappeared, leaving raw and splintered wood to mark their
attachments. The tall smokestack was bent awry, but its supports
had held, which was fortunate since otherwise the fires would have
been drowned out. At the moment, Captain Marsh was bending over
examining a bad break in the overhang--the only material damage the
tug had sustained.
At sight of him the crowd set up a yell. He paid no attention. One
of the life-saving men tossed a mooring line ashore. It was seized
by a dozen men. Then for the first time somebody noticed that
although the tug had come to a standstill, her screw was still
turning slowly over and over, holding her against the erratic strong
jerking of a slender rope that ran through her stern chocks and into
"He got it aboard!" yelled the man, pointing.
Another cheer broke out. The life-saving crew leaped to the deck.
They were immediately followed by a crowd of enthusiasts eager to
congratulate and question. But Captain Marsh would have none of
"Get off my tug!" he shouted. "Do you want to swamp her? What do
you suppose we put that line aboard for? Fun? Get busy and use it!
Rescue that crew now!"
Abashed, the enthusiasts scrambled back. The life-saving crew took
charge. It was necessary to pass the line around the end of the
pier and back to the beach. This was a dangerous job, and one
requiring considerable power and ingenuity, for the strain on the
line imposed by the waters was terrific; and the breaking seas
rendered work on the piers extremely hazardous. However, the life-
saving captain took charge confidently enough. His crew began to
struggle out the pier, while volunteers, under his personal
direction, manipulated the reel.
A number of the curious lingered about the SPRITE. Marsh and Orde
were in consultation over the smashed stern, and did not look as
though they cared to be disturbed. Harvey leaned out his little
"Don' know nuffin 'bout it," said he, "'ceptin' she done rolled 'way
over 'bout foh times. Yass she did, suh! I know. I felt her doin'
"No," he answered a query. "I wasn't what you-all would call
scairt, that is, not really SCAIRT--jess a little ne'vous. All I
had to do was to feed her slabs and listen foh my bell. You see,
Cap'n Ma'sh, he was in cha'ge."
"No, sir," Captain Marsh was saying emphatically to his employer.
"I can't figure it out except on one thing. You see it's stove from
UNDERNEATH. A sea would have smashed it from above."
"Perhaps you grounded in between seas out there," suggested Orde.
Marsh smiled grimly.
"I reckon I'd have known it," said he. "No, sir! It sounds wild,
but it's the only possible guess. That last sea must've lifted us
bodily right over the corner of the pier."
"Well--maybe," assented Orde doubtfully.
"Sure thing," repeated Marsh with conviction.
"Well, you'd better not tell 'em so unless you want to rank in with
Old Man Ananias," ended Orde. "It was a good job. Pretty dusty out
there, wasn't it?"
"Pretty dusty," grinned Marsh.
They turned away together and were at once pounced on by Leopold
Lincoln Bunn, the local reporter, a callow youth aflame with the
chance for a big story of more than local interest.
"Oh, Captain Marsh!" he cried. "How did you get around the pier?
It looked as though the wave had you caught."
Orde glanced at his companion in curiosity.
"On roller skates," replied Marsh.
Leopold tittered nervously.
"Could you tell me how you felt when you were out there in the worst
of it?" he inquired.
"Oh, hell!" said Marsh grumpily, stalking away.
"Don't interview for a cent, does he?" grinned Orde.
"Oh, Mr. Orde! Perhaps you--"
"Don't you think we'd better lend a hand below?" suggested Orde,
pointing to the beach.
The wild and picturesque work of rescue was under way. The line had
been successfully brought to the left of the lighthouse. To it had
been attached the rope, and to that the heavy cable. These the crew
of the schooner had dragged out and made fast to a mast. The shore
end passed over a tall scissors. When the cable was tightened the
breeches buoy was put into commission, and before long the first
member of the crew was hauled ashore, plunging in and out of the
waves as the rope tightened or slackened. He was a flaxen-haired
Norwegian, who stamped his feet, shook his body and grinned
comically at those about him. He accepted with equanimity a dozen
drinks of whisky thrust at him from all sides, swigged a mug of the
coffee a few practical women were making over an open fire, and
opposed to Leopold Lincoln Bunn's frantic efforts a stolid and
baffling density. Of none of these attentions did he seem to stand
in especial need.
The crew and its volunteers worked quickly. When the last man had
come ashore, the captain of the life-saving service entered the
breeches buoy and caused himself to be hauled through the smother to
the wreck. After an interval, a signal jerked back. The buoy was
pulled in empty and the surf car substituted. In it were piled
various utensils of equipment. One man went with it, and several
more on its next trip, until nearly the whole crew were aboard the
Carroll and Mina stayed until dusk and after, watching the long
heavy labour of rescue. Lines had to be rocketed from the schooner
to the other vessels. Then by their means cable communication had
to be established with the shore. After this it was really a matter
of routine to run the crew to the beach, though cruel, hard work,
and dangerous. The wrecks were continually swept by the great seas;
and at any moment the tortured fabrics might give way, might
dissolve completely in the elements that so battered them. The
women making the hot coffee found their services becoming valuable.
Big fires of driftwood were ignited. They were useful for light as
well as warmth.
By their illumination finally Orde discovered the two girls
standing, and paused long enough in his own heavy labour of
assistance to draw Carroll one side.
"You'd better go home now, sweetheart," said he. "Bobby'll be
waiting for you, and the girls may be here in the crowd somewhere.
There'll be nobody to take care of him."
"I suppose so," she assented. "But hasn't it been exciting? Whose
vessels were they; do you know?"
Orde glanced at her strangely.
"They were ours," said he.
She looked up at him, catching quickly the wrinkles of his brow and
the harassed anxiety in his eyes. Impulsively she pulled him down
to her and kissed him.
"Never mind, dear," said she. "I care only if you do."
She patted his great shoulders lightly and smiled up at him.
"Run, help!" she cried. "And come home as soon as you can. I'll
have something nice and hot all ready for you."
She turned away, the smile still on her lips; but as soon as she was
out of sight, her face fell grave.
"Come, Mina!" she said to the younger girl. "Time to go."
They toiled through the heavy sand to where, hours ago, they had
left Prince. That faithful animal dozed in his tracks and awoke
Carroll looked back. The fires leaped red and yellow. Against them
were the silhouettes of people, and in the farther circle of their
illumination were more people cast in bronze that flickered red. In
contrast to their glow the night was very dark. Only from the lake
there disengaged a faint gray light where the waters broke. The
strength of the failing wind still lifted the finer particles of
sand. The organ of the pounding surf filled the night with the
grandeur of its music.
Orde mounted the office stairs next day with a very heavy step. The
loss of the NORTH STAR and of the two schooners meant a great deal
to him at that time.
"It kicks us into somewhat of a hole," he grumbled to Newmark.
"A loss is never pleasant," replied the latter, "and it puts us out
of the carrying business for awhile. But we're insured."
"I can't understand why Floyd started," said Orde. "He ought to
know better than to face sure prospects of a fall blow. I'll tan
his soul for that, all right!"
"I'm afraid I'm partly responsible for his going," put in Newmark.
"You!" cried Orde.
"Yes. You see that Smith and Mabley shipment was important enough
to strain a point for--and it's only twenty-four hours or so--and it
certainly didn't look to see me as if it were going to blow very
soon. Poor Floyd feels bad enough. He's about sick."
Orde for the first time began to appreciate the pressure of his
circumstances. The loss on the cargo of "uppers" reached about
8,000,000 feet; which represented $20,000 in money. As for the
NORTH STAR and her consorts, save for the insurance, they were
simply eliminated. They had represented property. Now they were
gone. The loss of $60,000 or so on them, however, did not mean a
diminution of the company's present cash resources to that amount;
and so did not immediately affect Orde's calculations as to the
payment of the notes which were now soon to come due.
At this time the woods work increasingly demanded his attention. He
disappeared for a week, his organising abilities claimed for the
distribution of the road crews. When he returned to the office,
Newmark, with an air of small triumph, showed him contracts for the
construction of three new vessels.
"I get them for $55,000," said he, "with $30,000 of it on long
"Without consulting me!" cried Orde.
Newmark explained carefully that the action, seemingly so abrupt,
had really been taking advantage of a lucky opportunity.
"Otherwise," he finished, "we shouldn't have been able to get the
job done for another year, at least. If that big Cronin contract
goes through--well, you know what that would mean in the shipyards--
nobody would get even a look-in. And McLeod is willing, in the
meantime, to give us a price to keep his men busy. So you see I had
to close at once. You can see what a short chance it was."
"It's a good chance, all right," admitted Orde; "but--why--that is,
I thought perhaps we'd job our own freighting for awhile--it never
occurred to me we'd build any more vessels until we'd recovered a
"Recovered," Newmark repeated coldly. "I don't see what 'recovered'
has to do with it. If the mill burned down, we'd rebuild, wouldn't
we? Even if we were embarrassed--which we're not--we'd hardly care
to acknowledge publicly that we couldn't keep up our equipment. And
as we're making twelve or fifteen thousand a year out of our
freighting, it seems to me too good a business to let slip into
"I suppose so," agreed Orde, a trifle helplessly.
"Therefore I had to act without you," Newmark finished. "I knew
you'd agree. That's right: isn't it?" he insisted.
"Yes, that's right," agreed Orde drearily.
"You'll find copies of the contract on your desk," Newmark closed
the matter. "And there's the tax lists. I wish you'd run them
"Joe," replied Orde, "I--I don't think I'll stay down town this
Newmark glanced up keenly.
"You don't look a bit well," said he; "kind of pale around the
gills. Bilious. Don't believe that camp grub quite agrees with you
for a steady diet."
"Yes, that must be it," assented Orde.
He closed his desk and went out. Newmark turned back to his papers.
His face was expressionless. From an inner pocket he produced a
cigar which he thrust between his teeth. The corners of his mouth
slowly curved in a grim smile.
Orde did not go home. Instead, he walked down Main Street to the
docks where he jumped into a rowboat lying in a slip, and with a few
rapid strokes shot out on the stream. In his younger days he had
belonged to a boat club, and had rowed in the "four." He still
loved the oar, and though his racing days were past, he maintained a
clean-lined, rather unstable little craft which it was his delight
to propel rapidly with long spoon-oars whenever he needed exercise.
To-day, however, he was content to drift.
The morning was still and golden. The crispness of late fall had
infused a wine into the air. The sky was a soft, blue-gray; the
sand-hills were a dazzling yellow. Orde did not try to think; he
merely faced the situation, staring it in the face until it should
shrink to its true significance.
One thing he felt distinctly; yet could not without a struggle bring
himself to see. The California lands must be mortgaged. If he
could raise a reasonable sum of money on them, he would still be
perfectly able to meet his notes. He hated fiercely to raise that
It was entirely a matter of sentiment. Orde realised the fact
clearly, and browbeat his other self with a savage contempt.
Nevertheless his dream had been to keep the western timber free and
unencumbered--for Bobby. Dreams are harder to give up than
He fell into the deepest reflections which were broken only when the
pounding of surf warned him he had drifted almost to the open lake.
After all, there was no essential difference between owing money to
a man in Michigan and to a man in California. That was the net
result of his struggle.
"When the time comes, we'll just borrow that money on a long-time
mortgage, like sensible people," he said aloud, "and quit this
Back to town he pulled with long vigorous strokes, skittering his
feathered spoon-oars lightly over the tops of the wavelets. At the
slip he made fast the boat, and a few minutes later re-entered the
office, his step springy, his face glowing. Newmark glanced up.
"Hullo!" said he. "Back again? You look better."
"Exercise," said Orde, in his hearty manner. "Exercise, old boy!
You ought to try it. Greatest thing in the world. Just took a row
to the end of the piers and back, and I'm as fit as a fiddle!"
Orde immediately set into motion the machinery of banking to borrow
on the California timber. Taylor took charge of this, as the only
man in Monrovia who had Orde's confidence. At the end of a
necessary delay Orde received notice that the West had been heard
from. He stepped across the hall to the lawyer's office.
"Well, Frank," said he, "glad we managed to push it through with so
Taylor arose, shut carefully the door into his outer office, walked
to the window, looked contemplatively out upon the hotel backyard,
and returned to his desk.
"But there is trouble," said he curtly.
"What's the matter?" asked Orde.
"The banks refuse the loan."
Orde stared at him in blank astonishment.
"Refuse!" he echoed.
"What grounds can they possibly have for that?"
"I can't make out exactly from these advices. It's something about
"But I thought you went over the title."
"I did," stated Taylor emphatically; "and I'll stake my reputation
as a lawyer that everything is straight and clear from the Land
Office itself. I've wired for an explanation; and we ought surely
to know something definite by tomorrow."
With this uncertainty Orde was forced to be content. For the first
time in his business career a real anxiety gnawed at his vitals. He
had been in many tight places; but somehow heretofore success or
failure had seemed to him about immaterial, like points gained or
conceded in the game; a fresh start was always so easy, and what had
been already won as yet unreal. Now the game itself was at issue.
Property, reputation, and the family's future were at stake. When
the three had lived in the tiny house by the church, it had seemed
that no adversity could touch them. But now that long use had
accustomed them to larger quarters, servants, luxuries, Orde could
not conceive the possibility of Carroll's ever returning to that
simplest existence. Carroll could have told him otherwise; but of
course he did not as yet bring the possibility before her. She had
economised closely, these last few years. Orde was proud of her.
He was also fiercely resentful that his own foolishness, or untoward
circumstances, or a combination of both should jeopardise her
future. Therefore he awaited further news with the greatest
The message came the following day, as Taylor had predicted. Taylor
handed it to him without comment.
"Land Office under investigation," Orde read. "Fraudulent entries
suspected. All titles clouded until decision is reached."
"What do you suppose that means?" asked Orde, although he knew well
Taylor glanced up at his dull eyes with commiseration.
"They simply won't lend good money on an uncertainty," said he.
"Frank," said Orde, rousing himself with an effort, "I've got to be
here. I couldn't get away this winter if my life depended on it.
And I won't even have time to pay much attention to it from here. I
want you to go to California and look after those interests for me.
Never mind your practice, man," as Taylor tried to interrupt him.
"Make what arrangements you please; but go. It'll be like a sort of
vacation to you. You need one. And I'll make it worth your while.
Take Clara with you. She'll like California. Now don't say no.
It's important. Straighten it out as quick as you can: and the
minute it IS straight borrow that money on it, and send it on p.d.q."
Taylor thoughtfully tapped his palm with the edge of his eye-
"All right," he said at last.
"Good!" cried Orde, rising and holding out his hand.
He descended the dark stairs to the street, where he turned down
toward the river. There he sat on a pile for nearly an hour, quite
oblivious to the keen wind of latter November which swept up over
the scum ice from the Lake. At length he hopped down and made his
way to the office of the Welton Lumber Co.
"Look here, Welton," he demanded abruptly when he had reached that
operator's private office, "how much of a cut are you going to make
"About twenty million," replied Welton. "Why?"
"Just figuring on the drive," said Orde, nodding a farewell.
He had the team harnessed, and, assuming his buffalo-fur coat, drove
to the offices of all the men owning timber up and down the river.
When he had collected his statistics, he returned to his desk, where
he filled the backs of several envelopes with his characteristically
minute figures. At the close of his calculations he nodded his head
vigorously several times.
"Joe," he called across to his partner, "I'm going to cut that whole
forty million we have left."
Newmark did not turn. After a moment his dry expressionless voice
"I thought that we figured that as a two-years' job."
"We did, but I'm going to clean up the whole thing this year."
"Do you think you can do it?"
"Sure thing," replied Orde. Then under his breath, and quite to
himself, he added: "I've got to!"
The duel had now come to grapples. Orde was fighting for his very
life. The notes given by Newmark and Orde would come due by the
beginning of the following summer. Before that time Orde must be
able to meet them personally, or, as by the agreement with Newmark,
his stock in the Boom Company would be turned in to the firm. This
would, of course, spell nearly a total loss of it, as far as Orde
The chief anxiety under which the riverman laboured, however, was
the imminent prospect of losing under the mortgage all the Northern
Peninsula timber. He had thought that the firm would be able to
step in for its redemption, even if he personally found himself
unable to meet the obligation. Three hundred million feet would
seem to be too important a matter to let go under so small a
mortgage. Now as the time approached, he realised that if he could
not pay the notes, the firm would certainly be unable to do so.
What with the second mortgage, due two years later, and to be met by
Newmark; with the outstanding obligations; with the new enterprise
of the vessels ordered from Duncan McLeod, Newmark and Orde would be
unable to raise anything like the necessary amount. To his personal
anxieties Orde added a deep and bitter self-reproach at having
involved his partner in what amounted to a total loss.
Spurred doubly by these considerations, then, he fell upon the woods
work with unparalleled ferocity. A cut and sale of the forty
million feet remaining of the firm's up-river holdings, together
with the tolls to be collected for driving the river that spring
would, if everything went right and no change in the situation took
place, bring Orde through the venture almost literally by "the skin
of his teeth." To cut forty million feet, even in these latter days
of improvements then unknown, would be a task to strain to the
utmost every resource of energy, pluck, equipment and organisation.
In 1880-81 the operators on the river laughed good-humouredly over
an evident madness.
Nevertheless Orde accomplished the task. To be sure he was largely
helped by a favourable winter. The cold weather came early and
continued late. Freezing preceded the snow, which was deep enough
for good travoying and to assure abundant freshet water in the
spring, but not too deep to interfere with the work. Orde increased
his woods force; and, contrary to his custom, he drove them
mercilessly. He was that winter his own walking-boss, and lived
constantly in the woods. The Rough Red had charge of the banking,
where his aggressive, brutal personality kept the rollways free from
congestion. For congestion there means delay in unloading the
sleighs; and that in turn means a drag in the woods work near the
skidways at the other end of the line. Tom North and Tim Nolan and
Johnny Sims and Jim Denning were foremen back in the forest. Every
one had an idea, more or less vague, that the Old Fellow had his
back to the wall. Late into the night the rude torches, made quite
simply from brown stone jugs full of oil and with wicks in their
necks, cast their flickering glare over the ice of the haul-roads.
And though generally in that part of Michigan the thaws begin by the
first or second week in March, this year zero weather continued even
to the eighth of April. When the drive started, far up toward
headwaters, the cut was banked for miles along the stream, forty
million feet of it to the last timber.
The strain over, Orde slept the clock around and awoke to the
further but familiar task of driving the river. He was very tired;
but his spirit was at peace. As always after the event, he looked
back on his anxieties with a faint amusement over their futility.
From Taylor he had several communications. The lawyer confessed
himself baffled as to the purpose and basis of the Land Office
investigation. The whole affair appeared to be tangled in a maze of
technicalities and a snarl of red-tape which it would take some time
to unravel. In the meantime Taylor was enjoying himself; and was
almost extravagant in his delight over the climate and attractions
of Southern California.
Orde did not much care for this delay. He saw his way clear to
meeting his obligations without the necessity of hypothecating the
California timber; and was the better pleased for it. With the
break-up of spring he started confidently with the largest drive in
the history of the river, a matter of over two hundred million feet.
This tremendous mass of timber moved practically in three sections.
The first, and smallest, comprised probably thirty millions. It
started from the lowermost rollways on the river, drove rapidly
through the more unobstructed reaches, and was early pocketed above
Monrovia in the Company's distributing booms. The second and
largest section of a hundred million came from the main river and
its largest tributaries. It too made a safe drive; and was brought
to rest in the main booms and in a series of temporary or emergency
booms built along the right bank and upstream from the main works.
The third section containing a remainder of about seventy million
had by the twenty-sixth of June reached the slack water above the
city of Redding.
The morning of June twenty-sixth dawned clear. Orde was early on
the road before the heat of the day. He drove his buckboard rapidly
over the twelve miles that separated his home from the distributing
booms, for he wanted at once to avoid the heat of the first sun and
to arrive at the commencement of the day's work. After a glance at
the river, he entered the tiny office and set about the examination
of the tally sheets left by the foreman. While he was engaged in
this checking, the foreman, Tom North, entered.
"The river's rising a little"? he remarked conversationally as he
reached for the second set of tally boards.
"You're crazy," muttered Orde, without looking up. "It's clear as a
bell; and there have been no rains reported from anywhere."
"It's rising a little, just the same," insisted North, going out.
An hour later Orde, having finished his clerical work, walked out
over the booms. The water certainly had risen; and considerably at
that. A decided current sucked through the interstices in the
piling. The penned logs moved uneasily.
"I should think it was rising!" said Orde to himself, as he watched
the slowly moving water. "I wonder what's up. It can't be merely
those rains three days ago."
He called one of the younger boys to him, Jimmy Powers by name.
"Here, Jimmy," said he, "mark one of these piles and keep track of
how fast the water rises."
For some time the river remained stationary, then resumed its slow
increase. Orde shook his head.
"I don't like June floods," he told Tom North. "A fellow can
understand an ordinary spring freshet, and knows about how far it
will go; but these summer floods are so confounded mysterious. I
can't figure out what's struck the old stream, unless they're having
almighty heavy rains up near headwaters."
By three o'clock in the afternoon Jimmy Powers reported a rise since
morning of six inches. The current had proportionately increased in
"Tom," said Orde to the old riverman, "I'm going to send Marsh down
for the pile-drivers and some cable. The barge company has some
fifteen inch manilla."
"What in blazes do you expect to do with that?" he inquired.
"We may need them," Orde stated with conviction. "Everything's safe
enough now; and probably will continue so; but I can't afford to
take chances. If those logs ever break through they'll go on out to
Lake Michigan and there they wouldn't be worth the salvage."
Tom North stared at his principal in surprise.
"That's a mighty long chance," he commented. "Never knew you to
come so near croaking before, Jack."
"If this drive goes out, it surely busts me," replied Orde, "and I'm
not taking even long chances."
Captain Marsh, returning with the SPRITE, brought an evening paper
and news from the telegraph offices. A cloudburst in the China
Creek district followed by continued heavy rains was responsible for
the increased water. The papers mentioned this only incidentally,
and in explanation. Their columns were filled with an account of
the big log jam that had formed above the iron railroad bridge. The
planing mill's booms had given way under pressure and the contents
had piled down stream against the buttresses. Before steps could be
taken to clear the way, the head of the drive, hurried by the excess
water, had piled in on top. Immediately a jam formed, increasing in
weight each moment, until practically the entire third section had
piled up back of the bridge.
The papers occupied themselves with the picturesque side of the
affair. None expressed any anxiety as to the bridge. It was a new
structure, each of whose bents weighed over a hundred tons. A fall
of a few inches only would suffice to lock the jam solidly, thus
relieving whatever pressure the mass exerted against the iron
bridge. That the water would shortly go down was of course
inevitable at this time of year. It would be a big jam for the
rivermen to break, however.
"Do you think you'll go up there?" asked North.
Orde shook his head.
"They're in a nice pickle," he acknowledged; "but Nolan's in charge
and will do his best. I think we may have troubles of our own right
here at home."
He slept that night at the booms. The water, contrary to all
expectation, rose steadily. By morning it had crept so far up the
piles that there began to be danger that it would overflow their
tops. In that case, of course, the logs in the booms would also run
"Guess it's time we did a little work," remarked Orde.
He set a crew of men to raising the height of the piling by tying
logs firmly to the bolted timbers atop. This would take care of an
extra two feet of water; a two feet beyond all previous records.
Another crew stretched the fifteen inch manilla cables across the
field of logs in order to segregate them into several units of mass,
and so prevent them from piling up at the down-stream end of the
enclosure. The pile-driver began to drop its hammer at spots of
weakness. In spite of the accelerated current and the increased
volume of the river, everything was soon shipshape and safe.
"We're all right now," said Orde. "The only thing I'm a little
uneasy about is those confounded temporary booms upstream. Still
they're all right unless they get to piling up. Then we'll have to
see what we can do to hold them. I think as soon as the driver is
through down at the sorting end, she'd better drive a few clumps of
piles to strengthen the swing when it is shut. Then if the logs
pile down on us from above, we can hold them there."
About two hours later the pile-driver moved up. The swing was
opened; and the men began to drive clumps of piles in such a
position as to strengthen the swing when the latter should be shut.
It was a slow job. Each pile had to be taken from the raft at the
stern of the scow, erected in the "carrier," and pounded into place
by the heavy hammer raised and let drop in the derrick at the bow.
Long before the task was finished, the logs in the temporary booms
had begun to slide atop one another, to cross and tangle, until at
last the river bed inside the booms was filled with a jam of
formidable dimensions. From beneath it the water boiled in eddies.
Orde, looking at it, roused himself to sudden activity.
"Get a move on," he advised Captain Aspinwall of the driver. "If
that jam breaks on us, we want to be ready; and if it don't break
before you get this swing strengthened, maybe we can hold her where
she is. There's no earthly doubt that those boom piles will never
stand up when they get the full pressure of the freshet."
He departed up river on a tour of inspection from which he returned
"Hurry up! Hurry up!" he cried. "She can't last much longer!"
Indeed even to the men on the pile-driver, evidences of the pressure
sustained by the slender boom piles were not wanting. Above the
steady gurgle of the water and the intermittent puffing and other
noises of the work, they could hear a creaking and groaning of
timbers full of portent to those who could read the signs.
The driver's crew laboured desperately, hoisting the piles into the
carriage, tripping the heavy hammer, sending it aloft again, binding
feverishly the clumps of piles together by means of cables. Each
man worked with an eye over his shoulder, fearful of the power that
Two of the clumps had been placed and bound; a third was nearly
finished, when suddenly, with a crack and a roar the upper booms
gave way, projecting their logs upon the opening and the driver.
The half dozen members of the crew, caught utterly unaware in spite
of the half warning they had been receiving for an hour past, were
scattered by the winds of a panic. Two or three flung themselves on
their faces; several ran from one end of the scow to the other; one
leaped into the river! Imminent destruction seemed upon them.
Tom North, at the winch that operated the arm of the swing, however,
retained his presence of mind. At the first sag outward of the boom
piles he set in operation the machinery that closed the gate.
Clumsy and slow as was his mechanism, he nevertheless succeeded in
getting the long arm started. The logs, rushing in back of it,
hurried it shut. Immediately they jammed again, and heaped up in a
formidable tangle behind the barrier. Tom North, his little black
pipe between his teeth, stood calm, the lever of his winch in his
hand. A short three feet from the spot on which he stood, the first
saw log of the many that might have overwhelmed him thrust forward
its ugly head. The wash of the water lifted the huge pile-driver
bodily and deposited it with a crash half on the bank and half in
Instantly after the first break Orde had commenced running out over
the booms from the shore.
"Good boy, Tom!" he shot at North as he passed.
Across the breast of the jam he hurried, and to the other bank where
the pile-driver lay. The crew had recovered from their panic, and
were ashore gazing curiously underneath the scow. Captain Aspinwall
examined the supports of the derrick on deck.
"That was lucky," said Orde briefly to Aspinwall. "How's the
damage? Stove you in?"
"I--I don't think so," replied the captain, turning a rather
perturbed face to Orde.
"That's good. I'll send over the tug to help get her afloat. We've
got our work cut out for us now. As soon as you're afloat, blow
your whistle and I'll come over to tell you what to do."
"You don't expect me to work my driver under the face of that jam!"
cried the captain.
"Certainly," snapped Orde, wheeling.
"Not me!" said Aspinwall positively. "I know when I've got enough!"
"What's the matter?" asked Orde.
"It isn't safe," replied the captain; "and I don't intend to risk my
men or my driver."
Orde stood for a moment stock-still; then with a snort of anger he
leaped to the deck, seized the man by the neck and thrust him bodily
over the side to the bank.
"Safe, you white-livered skunk!" he roared. "Safe! Go over in the
middle of that ten-acre lot and lie down on your face and see if you
feel safe there! Get out; the whole pack of you! I'm in charge
Captain Aspinwall picked himself up, his face red with anger.
"Get off my driver," he snarled. "Put that man off."
Orde seized a short heavy bar.
"This driver is requisitioned," said he. "Get out! I haven't time
to fool with you. I've got to save my logs."
They hesitated; and while they did so Tom North and some others of
the crew came running across the jam.
"Get a cable to the winch," Orde shouted at these as soon as they
were within hearing. "And get Marsh up here with the SPRITE. We've
got to get afloat."
He paid no more attention to the ejected crew. The latter, overawed
by the rivermen, who now gathered in full force, took the part of
A few minutes' hard work put the driver afloat. Fortunately its
raft of piles had not become detached in the upheaval.
"Tom," said Orde briskly to North, "you know the pile-driver
business. Pick out your crew, and take charge."
In ten seconds of time the situation had changed from one of
comparative safety to one of extreme gravity. The logs, broken
loose from the upper temporary booms, now jammed against the swing
and against the other logs already filling the main booms. Already
the pressure was beginning to tell, as the water banked up behind
the mass. The fifteen-inch cables tightened slowly but mightily;
some of the piles began to groan and rub one against the other; here
and there a log deliberately up-ended above the level.
Orde took charge of the situation in its entirety, as a general
might. He set North immediately to driving clumps each of sixteen
piles, bound to solidity by chains, and so arranged in angles and
slants as to direct the enormous pressure toward either bank, thus
splitting the enemy's power. The small driver owned by the Boom
Company drove similar clumps here, there and everywhere that need
arose or weakness developed. Seventy-five men opposed, to the
weight of twenty million tons of logs and a river of water, the
expedients invented by determination and desperation.
As in a virulent disease, the symptoms developed rapidly when once
the course of the malady was assured. After the first rush, when
the upper booms broke, nothing spectacular occurred. Steadily and
relentlessly the logs, packed close together down to the very bed of
the stream, pressed outward against the frail defences. Orde soon
found himself forced from the consideration of definite plans of
campaign. He gave over formal defences, and threw his energies to
saving the weak places which rapidly developed. By the most
tremendous exertions he seemed but just able to keep even. So
closely balanced was the equilibrium between the improvisation of
defence and the increase of pressure behind the jam that it seemed
as if even a moment's breathing spell would bring the deluge. Piles
quivered, bent slowly outward--immediately, before the logs behind
them could stir, the pile-driver must do its work. Back and forth
darted the SPRITE and her sister-tug the SPRAY towing the pile-
drivers or the strings of piles. Under the frowning destruction
that a breath might loosen, the crews had to do their work. And if
ever that breath should come, there would be no chance for escape.
Crushed and buried, the men and their craft alike would be borne
with the breaking jam to an unknown grave in the Lake. Every man
Darkness came. No one stopped for food. By the light of lanterns
the struggle went on, doubly terrifying in the mystery of night. By
day the men, practised in such matters, could at least judge of the
probabilities of a break. At night they had to work blindly,
uncertain at what moment the forces they could not see would cut
loose to overwhelm them.
Morning found no change in the situation. The water rose steadily;
the logs grew more and more restive; the defences weaker and more
inadequate. Orde brought out steaming pails of coffee which the men
gulped down between moments. No one thought of quitting. They were
afire with the flame of combat, and were set obstinately on winning
even in the face of odds. About ten o'clock they were reinforced by
men from the mills downstream. The Owners of those mills had no
mind to lose their logs. Another pile-driver was also sent up from
the Government work. Without this assistance the jam must surely
have gone out. Spectators marvelled how it held as it did. The
mass seemed constantly to quiver on the edge of motion. Here and
there over the surface of the jam single logs could be seen popping
suddenly into the air, propelled as an apple seed is projected from
between a boy's thumb and forefinger. Some of the fifteen-inch
cables stretched to the shore parted. One, which passed once around
an oak tree before reaching its shore anchorage, actually buried
itself out of sight in the hard wood. Bunches of piles bent,
twisted, or were cut off as though they had been but shocks of
Indian corn. The current had become so swift that the tugs could
not hold the drivers against it; and as a consequence, before
commencing operations, special mooring piles had to be driven. Each
minute threatened to bring an end to the jam, yet it held; and
without rest the dogged little insects under its face toiled to gain
an inch on the waters.
All that day and the next night the fight was hand to hand, without
the opportunity of a breathing space. Then Orde, bareheaded and
dishevelled, strung to a high excitement, but cool as a veteran
under fire, began to be harassed by annoyances. The piles provided
for the drivers gave out. Newmark left, ostensibly to purchase
more. He did not return. Tom North and Jim Denning, their eyes
burning deep in their heads for lack of sleep, came to Orde holding
to him symbolically their empty hands.
"No more piles," they said briefly.
"Get 'em," said Orde with equal brevity. "Newmark will have enough
here shortly. In the meantime, get them."
North and his friend disappeared, taking with them the crews of the
drivers and the two tugs. After an interval they returned towing
small rafts of the long timbers. Orde did not make any inquiries;
nor until days later did he see a copy of the newspaper telling how
a lawless gang of rivermen had driven away the railroad men and
stolen the railroad's property. These piles lasted five or six
hours. Tom North placed and drove them accurately and deliberately,
quite unmindful of the constant danger. A cold fire seemed to
consume the man, inflaming his courage and his dogged obstinacy.
Once a wing of the jam broke suddenly just as his crew had placed a
pile in the carrier. The scow was picked up, whirled around,
carried bodily a hundred feet, and deposited finally with a crash.
The instant the craft steadied and even before any one could tell
whether or no the danger was past, Tom cut loose the hammer and
drove that pile!
"I put you in that carrier to be DROVE!" he shouted viciously, "and
drove you'll be, if we ARE goin' to hell!"
When the SPRAY shouldered the scow back to position that one pile
was left standing upright in the channel, a monument to the blind
determination of the man.
Fortunately the wing break carried with it but a few logs; but it
sufficed to show, if demonstration were needed, what would happen if
any more serious break should occur.
Orde was everywhere. Long since he had lost his hat; and over his
forehead and into his eyes the strands of his hair whipped tousled
and unkempt. Miles and miles he travelled; running along the tops
of the booms, over the surface of the jam, spying the weakening
places, and hurrying to them a rescue. He seemed tireless,
omnipresent, alive to every need. It was as though his personality
alone held in correlation these struggling forces; as though were he
to relax for an instant his effort they would burst forth with the
explosion of long-pent energies.
Toward noon the piles gave out again.
"Where in HELL is Newmark!" exploded Orde, and immediately was
himself again, controlled and resourceful. He sent North and a crew
of men to cut piles from standing timber in farm wood lots near the
"Haul them out with your winch," said he. "If the owners object,
stand them off with your peavies. Get them anyway."
About three of the afternoon the LUCY BELLE splattered up stream
from the village, carrying an excursion to see the jam. Captain
Simpson brought her as close in as possible. The waves raised by
her awkward paddle-wheel and her clumsy lines surged among the logs
and piles. Orde looked on this with distrust.
"Go tell him to pull out of that," he instructed Jimmy Powers "The
confounded old fool ought to know better than that. Tell him it's
dangerous. If the jam goes out, it'll carry him to Kingdom Come."
Jimmy Powers returned red-faced from his interview.
"He told me to go to hell," he said shortly.
"Oh, he did," snapped Orde. "I should think we had enough without
that old idiot!"
With the short nervous leaps of a suppressed anger he ran down to
where the SPRITE had just towed the Number One driver into a new
"Lay me alongside the LUCY BELLE," he told Marsh.
But Simpson, in a position of importance at last, was disinclined to
listen. He had worn his blue clothes and brass buttons for a good
many years in charge only of boxes and barrels. Now at a stroke he
found himself commander over tenscore people. Likewise, at fifty
cents a head, he foresaw a good thing as long as high water should
last. He had risen nobly to the occasion; for he had even hoisted
his bunting and brought with him the local brass band. Orde,
brusque in his desire to hurry through an affair of minor
importance, rubbed the man the wrong way.
"I reckon I've some rights on this river," Captain Simpson concluded
the argument, "and I ain't agoin' to be bulldozed out of them."
The excursionists, typical "trippers" from Redding, Holland,
Monrovia and Muskegon, cheered this sentiment and jeered at Orde.
Orde nodded briefly.
"Marsh," said he to his captain in a low voice, "get a crew and take
them in charge. Run 'em off."
As soon as the tug touched the piling, he was off and away, paying
no further attention to a matter already settled. Captain Marsh
called a dozen rivermen to him; laid the SPRITE alongside the LUCY
BELLE, and in spite of Simpson's scandalised protests and an
incipient panic among the passengers, thrust aside the regular crew
of the steamship and took charge. Quite calmly he surveyed the
scene. From the height of the steamer's bridge he could see abroad
over the country. A warm June sun flooded the landscape which was
filled with the peace of early summer. The river seemed to flow
smoothly and quietly enough, in spite of the swiftness of its
current and the swollen volume of its waters. Only up stream where
the big jam shrugged and groaned did any element jar on the peace of
the scene; and even that, in contrast to the rest of the landscape,
afforded small hint to the inexperienced eye of the imminence of a
Captain Marsh paid little attention to all this. His eye swept
rapidly up and down where the banks used to be until he saw a cross
current deeper than the rest sweeping in athwart the inundated
fields. He swung over the wheel and rang to the engine-room for
half speed ahead. Slowly the LUCY BELLE answered. Quite calmly
Captain Marsh rammed her through the opening and out over the
cornfields. The LUCY BELLE was a typical river steamboat, built
light in the draught in order to slide over the numerous shifting
bars to be encountered in her customary business. When Captain
Marsh saw that he had hit the opening, he rang for full speed, and
rammed the poor old LUCY BELLE hard aground in about a foot of water
through which a few mournful dried cornstalks were showing their
heads. Then, his hands in his pockets, he sauntered out of the
pilot-house to the deck.
"Now if you want to picnic," he told the astonished and frightened
excursionists, "go to it!"
With entire indifference to the water, he vaulted over the low rail
and splashed away. The rivermen and the engineer who had
accompanied him lingered only long enough to start up the band.
"Now you're safe as a cow tied to a brick wall," said the Rough Red,
whose appearance alone had gone far toward overawing the passengers.
"Be joyful. Start up the music. Start her up, I tell you!"
The band hastily began to squawk, very much out of time, and
somewhat out of tune.
"That's right," grinned the Rough Red savagely, "keep her up. If
you quit before I get back to work, I'll come back and take you
They waded through the shallow water in the cornfield. After them
wafted the rather disorganised strains of WHOA, EMMA. Captain
Simpson was indulging in what resembled heat apoplexy. After a time
the LUCY BELLE'S crew recovered their scattered wits sufficiently to
transport the passengers in small boats to a point near the county
road, whence all trudged to town. The LUCY BELLE grew in the
cornfield until several weeks later, when time was found to pull her
off on rollers.
Arrived at the booms Captain Marsh shook the loose water from his
"All right, sir," he reported to Orde. "I ran 'em ashore yonder."
Orde looked up, brushing the hair from his eyes. He glanced in the
direction of the cornfield, and a quick grin flickered across the
absorbed expression of his face.
"I should think you did," said he briefly. "I guess that'll end the
excursion business. Now take Number Two up below the swing; and
then run down and see if you can discover Tom. He went somewhere
after piles about an hour ago."
Down river the various mill owners were busy with what men they had
left in stringing defences across the river in case Orde's works
should go out. When Orde heard this he swore vigourously.
"Crazy fools," he spat out. "They'd be a lot better off helping
here. If this goes out, their little booms won't amount to a whiff
He sent word to that effect; but, lacking the enforcement of his
personal presence his messages did not carry conviction, and the
panic-stricken owners continued to labour, each according to his
ideas, on what Orde's clearer vision saw to be a series of almost
comical futilities. However, Welton answered the summons. Orde
hailed his coming with a shout.
"I want a dredge," he yelled, as soon as the lumberman was within
distance. "I believe we can relieve the pressure somewhat by a
channel into Steam's bayou. Get that Government dredge up and
through the bayou as soon as you can."
"All right," said Welton briefly. "Can you hold her?"
"I've got to hold her," replied Orde between his clenched teeth.
"Have you seen Newmark? Where in HELL is Newmark? I need him for
fifty things, and he's disappeared off the face of the earth!
Purdy! that second cable! She's snapped a strand! Get a
reinforcing line on her!" He ran in the direction of the new danger
without another thought of Welton.
By the late afternoon casual spectators from the countryside had
gathered in some number. The bolder or more curious of these added
a further touch of anxiety to the situation by clambering out over
the jam for a better view. Orde issued instructions that these
should keep off the logs; but in spite of that, with the impertinent
perseverance of the sight-seer, many persisted from time to time,
when the rivermen were too busily engaged to attend to them, in
venturing out where they were not only in danger but also in the
way. Tom North would have none of this on his pile-driver. If a
man was not actually working, he had no business on Number One.
"But," protested a spectator mildly, "I OWN this driver. I haven't
any objections to your grabbing her in this emergency, even if you
did manhandle my captain; but surely you are not going to keep me
off my own property?"
"I don't give a tinker's damn who you are," replied North sturdily.
"If you're not working, you get off."
And get off he did.
The broad deck of the pile-driver scow was a tempting point from
which to survey the work, and the ugly jam, and the water boiling
angrily, and the hollow-eyed, dishevelled maniacs who worked
doggedly with set teeth as though they had not already gone without
two nights' sleep. North had often to order ashore intruders, until
his temper shortened to the vanishing point. One big hulking
countryman attempted to argue the point. North promptly knocked him
overboard into the shallow water between the driver and the bank.
He did not rise; so North fished for him in the most matter-of-fact
way with a boat hook, threw him on the bank unconscious, and went on
driving piles! The incident raised a laugh among the men.
But flesh and blood has its limit of endurance; and that limit was
almost reached. Orde heard the first premonitions of reaction in
the mild grumblings that arose. He knew these men well from his
long experience with them. Although the need for struggle against
the tireless dynamics of the river was as insistent as ever;
although it seemed certain that a moment's cessation of effort would
permit the enemy an irretrievable gain, he called a halt on the
"Boys," said he, irrelevantly, "let's have a smoke?"
He set the example by throwing himself full length against a
slanting pile and most leisurely filling his pipe. The men stared a
moment; then followed his example. A great peace of evening filled
the sky. The horizon lay low and black against the afterglow.
Beneath it the river shone like silver. Only the groaning, the
heave and shrugging of the jam, and the low threatening gurgle of
hurrying waters reminded the toil-weary men of the enemy's continued
activity. Over beyond the rise of land that lay between the river
and Stearn's Bayou could be seen the cloud of mingled smoke and
steam that marked the activities of the dredge. For ten minutes
they rested in the solace of tobacco. Orde was apparently more at
ease than any of the rest, but each instant he expected to hear the
premonitory CRACK that would sound the end of everything. Finally
he yawned, knocked the ashes from his pipe, and got to his feet.
"Now," said he, a new ring in his voice, "come on and let's get
They responded to a man.
By midnight the water seemed to have gone down slightly. Half the
crew snatched a little sleep. For several hours more the issue hung
aggravatingly in equilibrium. Then, with the opening of the channel
into Stearn's Bayou the heaviest pressure was relieved. For the
moment the acute danger point was passed.
Orde spent the next two days in strengthening the defences. The men
were able to take their quota of meals and of sleep. Merely the
working hours were longer than usual. Orde himself slept little,
and was still possessed by a feverish activity. The flood continued
at about the same volume. Until the water should subside, the
danger could not be considered completely over with.
In these few days of comparative leisure Orde had time to look about
him and to receive news. The jam had been successfully held at the
iron railroad bridge above Redding; but only by the most strenuous
efforts. Braces of oak beams had been slanted where they would do
the most good; chains strengthened the weaker spots; and on top of
all ton after ton of railroad iron held the whole immovably. Nolan
had enjoyed the advantage of a "floating" jam; of convenient
facilities incident to a large city; and of an aroused public
sentiment that proffered him all the help he could use. Monrovia,
little village that it was, had not grasped the situation. Redding
saw it clearly. The loss of the timber alone--representing some
millions of dollars' worth of the sawed product--would mean failure
of mill companies, of banks holding their paper, and so of firms in
other lines of business; and besides would throw thousands of men
out of employment. Furthermore, what was quite as serious, should
the iron bridge give way, the wooden bridges below could hardly fail
to go out. Railroad communication between eastern and western
Michigan would be entirely cut off. For a season industry of every
description would be practically paralysed. Therefore Nolan had all
the help he required. Every device known was employed to strengthen
the jam. For only a few hours was the result in doubt. Then as the
CLARION jubilantly expressed it, "It's a hundred dollars to an old
hat she holds!"
Orde received all this with satisfaction, but with a slight
"It's a floating jam; and it gets a push from underneath," he
pointed out. "It's probably safe; but another flood might send it
"The floods are going down," said North.
"Good Lord; I hope so!" said Orde.
Newmark sent word that a sudden fit of sickness had confined him to
"Didn't think of a little thing like piles," said Orde to himself.
"Well, that's hardly fair. Joe couldn't have realised when he left
here just how bad things were."
For two days, as has been said, nothing happened. Then Orde decided
to break out a channel through the jam itself. This was a necessary
preliminary to getting the logs in shape for distribution. An
opening was made in the piles, and the rivermen, with pike-pole and
peavy, began cautiously to dig their way through the tangled
timbers. The Government pile-driver, which had finally been sent up
from below, began placing five extra booms at intervals down stream
to capture the drift as fast as it was turned loose. From the mills
and private booms crews came to assist in the labour. The troubles
appeared to be quite over, when word came from Redding that the
waters were again rising. Ten minutes later Leopold Lincoln Bunn,
the local reporter, came flapping in on Randall's old white horse,
like a second Paul Revere, crying that the iron bridge had gone, and
the logs were racing down river toward the booms.
"It just went out!" he answered the eager exclamations of the men
who crowded around him. "That's all I know. It went out! And the
other bridges! Sure! All but the Lake Shore! Don't know why that
didn't go out. No; the logs didn't jam there; just slid right
"That settles it," said Welton, turning away.
"You aren't going to quit!" cried Orde.
"Certainly. You're crazy!" said Welton with some asperity. "If
they can't stop a little jam with iron, what are your wooden
defences going to amount to against the whole accumulation? When
those logs hit the tail of this jam, she'll go out before you can
He refused to listen to argument.
"It's sure death," said he, "and I'm not going to sacrifice my men
for nothing, even if they'd stay."
Other owners among the bystanders said the same thing. An air of
profound discouragement had fallen on them all. The strain of the
fight was now telling. The utmost that human flesh and blood was
capable of had been accomplished; a hard-won victory had been gained
by the narrowest of narrow margins. In this new struggle the old
odds were still against them, and in addition the strength that had
pushed aside Redding's best effort, augmented by the momentum of a
powerful current. It was small wonder they gave up.
Already the news was spreading among the workers on the jams. As
man shouted to man, each shouldered his peavy and came running
ashore, eager question on his lips. Orde saw the Government driver
below casting loose from her moorings. A moment later her tug towed
her away to some side bayou of safety out of the expected rush to
"But we can hold her!" cried Orde in desperation. "Have a little
nerve with you. You aren't going to quit like that!"
He swept them with his eye; then turned away from them with a
gesture of despair. They watched him gravely and silently.
"It's no use, boy," said old Carlin; "it's sure death."
"Sure death!" Orde laughed bitterly. "All right; sure death, then.
Isn't there a man in this crowd that will tackle this sort of sure
death with me?"
"I'm with you."
"And me," said North and the Rough Red in a breath.
"Good!" cried Orde. "You, too, Johnny Sims? and Purdy? and Jimmy
Powers? Bully boys!"
"I reckon you'll need the tug," said Marsh.
A dozen more of Orde's personal following volunteered. At once his
good humour returned; and his easy leisurely confidence in himself.
"We've got to close that opening, first thing," said he. "Marsh,
tow the pile-driver up there."
He caused a heavy line to be run from a tree, situated around the
bend down stream, to the stern of the driver.
"Now if you have to," he told North, who had charge, "let go all
holds, and the line will probably swing you around out of danger.
We on the tug will get out as best we can."
The opening was to be closed by piles driven in groups of sixteen
bound together by chains. The clumps were connected one to the
other by a system of boom logs and ropes to interpose a continuous
barrier. The pile-driver placed the clumps; while the tug attended
to the connecting defences.
"Now, boys," said Orde as his last word, "if she starts to go, save
yourselves the best way you can. Never mind the driver. STAY ON
Slowly the tug and her consort nosed up through the boiling water.
"She's rising already," said Orde to Marsh, watching the water
around the piles.
"Yes, and that jam's going out before many minutes," supplemented
the tugboat captain grimly.
Both these statements were only too true. Although not fifteen
minutes before, the jam had lain locked in perfect safety, now the
slight rise of the waters had lifted and loosened the mass until it
rose fairly on the quiver.
"Work fast!" Orde called to the men on the pile-driver. "If we can
close the opening before those Redding logs hit us, we may be able
to turn them into our new channel."
He did not add that if the opening were not closed before the jam
broke, as break it would in a very few moments, the probabilities
were that both pile-driver and tug would be destroyed. Every man
knew that already.
Tom North ordered a pile placed in the carriage; the hammer
descended. At once, like battering rams logs began to shoot up from
the depths of the river end foremost all about them. These timbers
were projected with tremendous force, leaping sometimes half their
length above the surface of the water. If any of them had hit
either the tug or the pile-driver squarely, it would have stove and
sunk the craft. Fortunately this did not happen; but Marsh hastily
towed the scow back to a better position. The pile had evidently
been driven into the foot of the jam itself, thus loosening timbers
lying at the bottom of the river.
The work went forward as rapidly as possible. Four times the jam
shrugged and settled; but four times it paused on the brink of
discharge. Three of the clumps had been placed and bound; and
fifteen piles of the last clump had been driven.
"One more pile!" breathed Orde, his breath quickening a trifle as he
glanced up stream.
The hammer in the high derrick ran smoothly to the top, paused, and
fell. A half dozen times more it ripped. Then without delay the
heavy chains were thrown around the winch, and the steam power began
to draw the clumps together.
"Done!" cried Tom North, straightening his back.
"And a job in time, too," said Johnny Sims, indicating the creaking
and tottering jam.
North unmoored, and the driver dropped back with the current and
around the bend where she was snubbed by the safety line already
Immediately the tug churned forward to accomplish the last duty,
that of binding the defences together by means of chains and cables.
Two men leaped to the floating booms and moved her fore and aft.
Orde and the Rough Red set about the task. Methodically they worked
from either end toward the middle. When they met finally, Orde
directed his assistant to get aboard the tug.
"I'll tie this one, Jimmy," said he.
Aboard the tug all was tense preparation. Marsh grasped alertly the
spokes of the wheel. In the engine-room Harvey, his hand on the
throttle, stood ready to throw her wide open at the signal. Armed
with sharp axes two men prepared to cut the mooring lines on a sign
from the Rough Red. They watched his upraised hand. When it should
descend, their axes must fall.
"Look out," the Rough Red warned Orde, who was methodically tying
the last cumbersome knot, "she's getting ready!"
Orde folded the knot over without reply. Up stream the jam creaked,
groaned, settled deliberately forward, cutting a clump of piles like
"She's coming!" cried the Rough Red.
"Give me every second you can," said Orde, without looking up. He
was just making the last turns.
The mass toppled slowly, fell into the swift current, and leaped
with a roar. The Rough Red watched with cat-like attention.
Back to Full Books