Beelingo.com

English Audio Books

Blazed Trail, The

SPONSORED LINKS
<SPAN name="link2HCH0056" id="link2HCH0056"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Chapter LVI </h2> <p> They stood and watched them go. </p> <p> "Oh, the great man! Oh, the great man!" murmured the writer, fascinated. </p> <p> The grandeur of the sacrifice had struck them dumb. They did not understand the motives beneath it all; but the fact was patent. Big Junko broke down and sobbed. </p> <p> After a time the stream of logs through the gap slackened. In a moment more, save for the inevitably stranded few, the booms were empty. A deep sigh went up from the attentive multitude. </p> <p> "She's GONE!" said one man, with the emphasis of a novel discovery; and groaned. </p> <p> Then the awe broke from about their minds, and they spoke many opinions and speculations. Thorpe had disappeared. They respected his emotion and did not follow him. </p> <p> "It was just plain damn foolishness;&mdash;but it was great!" said Shearer. "That no-account jackass of a Big Junko ain't worth as much per thousand feet as good white pine." </p> <p> Then they noticed a group of men gathering about the office steps, and on it someone talking. Collins, the bookkeeper, was making a speech. </p> <p> Collins was a little hatchet-faced man, with straight, lank hair, nearsighted eyes, a timid, order-loving disposition, and a great suitability for his profession. He was accurate, unemotional, and valuable. All his actions were as dry as the saw-dust in the burner. No one had ever seen him excited. But he was human; and now his knowledge of the Company's affairs showed him the dramatic contrast. HE KNEW! He knew that the property of the firm had been mortgaged to the last dollar in order to assist expansion, so that not another cent could be borrowed to tide over present difficulty. He knew that the notes for sixty thousand dollars covering the loan to Wallace Carpenter came due in three months; he knew from the long table of statistics which he was eternally preparing and comparing that the season's cut should have netted a profit of two hundred thousand dollars&mdash;enough to pay the interest on the mortgages, to take up the notes, and to furnish a working capital for the ensuing year. These things he knew in the strange concrete arithmetical manner of the routine bookkeeper. Other men saw a desperate phase of firm rivalry; he saw a struggle to the uttermost. Other men cheered a rescue: he thrilled over the magnificent gesture of the Gambler scattering his stake in largesse to Death. </p> <p> It was the simple turning of the hand from full breathed prosperity to lifeless failure. </p> <p> His view was the inverse of his master's. To Thorpe it had suddenly become a very little thing in contrast to the great, sweet elemental truth that the dream girl had enunciated. To Collins the affair was miles vaster than the widest scope of his own narrow life. </p> <p> The firm could not take up its notes when they came due; it could not pay the interest on the mortgages, which would now be foreclosed; it could not even pay in full the men who had worked for it&mdash;that would come under a court's adjudication. </p> <p> He had therefore watched Thorpe's desperate sally to mend the weakened chain, in all the suspense of a man whose entire universe is in the keeping of the chance moment. It must be remembered that at bottom, below the outer consciousness, Thorpe's final decision had already grown to maturity. On the other hand, no other thought than that of accomplishment had even entered the little bookkeeper's head. The rescue and all that it had meant had hit him like a stroke of apoplexy, and his thin emotions had curdled to hysteria. Full of the idea he appeared before the men. </p> <p> With rapid, almost incoherent speech he poured it out to them. Professional caution and secrecy were forgotten. Wallace Carpenter attempted to push through the ring for the purpose of stopping him. A gigantic riverman kindly but firmly held him back. </p> <p> "I guess it's just as well we hears this," said the latter. </p> <p> It all came out&mdash;the loan to Carpenter, with a hint at the motive: the machinations of the rival firm on the Board of Trade; the notes, the mortgages, the necessity of a big season's cut; the reasons the rival firm had for wishing to prevent that cut from arriving at the market; the desperate and varied means they had employed. The men listened silent. Hamilton, his eyes glowing like coals, drank in every word. Here was the master motive he had sought; here was the story great to his hand! </p> <p> "That's what we ought to get," cried Collins, almost weeping, "and now we've gone and bust, just because that infernal river-hog had to fall off a boom. By God, it's a shame! Those scalawags have done us after all!" </p> <p> Out from the shadows of the woods stole Injin Charley. The whole bearing and aspect of the man had changed. His eye gleamed with a distant farseeing fire of its own, which took no account of anything but some remote vision. He stole along almost furtively, but with a proud upright carriage of his neck, a backward tilt of his fine head, a distention of his nostrils that lent to his appearance a panther-like pride and stealthiness. No one saw him. Suddenly he broke through the group and mounted the steps beside Collins. </p> <p> "The enemy of my brother is gone," said he simply in his native tongue, and with a sudden gesture held out before them&mdash;a scalp. </p> <p> The medieval barbarity of the thing appalled them for a moment. The days of scalping were long since past, had been closed away between the pages of forgotten histories, and yet here again before them was the thing in all its living horror. Then a growl arose. The human animal had tasted blood. </p> <p> All at once like wine their wrongs mounted to their heads. They remembered their dead comrades. They remembered the heart-breaking days and nights of toil they had endured on account of this man and his associates. They remembered the words of Collins, the little bookkeeper. They hated. They shook their fists across the skies. They turned and with one accord struck back for the railroad right-of-way which led to Shingleville, the town controlled by Morrison &amp; Daly. </p> <p> The railroad lay for a mile straight through a thick tamarack swamp, then over a nearly treeless cranberry plain. The tamarack was a screen between the two towns. When half-way through the swamp, Red Jacket stopped, removed his coat, ripped the lining from it, and began to fashion a rude mask. </p> <p> "Just as well they don't recognize us," said he. </p> <p> "Somebody in town will give us away," suggested Shorty, the chore-boy. </p> <p> "No, they won't; they're all here," assured Kerlie. </p> <p> It was true. Except for the women and children, who were not yet about, the entire village had assembled. Even old Vanderhoof, the fire-watcher of the yard, hobbled along breathlessly on his rheumatic legs. In a moment the masks were fitted. In a moment more the little band had emerged from the shelter of the swamp, and so came into full view of its objective point. </p> <p> Shingleville consisted of a big mill; the yards, now nearly empty of lumber; the large frame boarding-house; the office; the stable; a store; two saloons; and a dozen dwellings. The party at once fixed its eyes on this collection of buildings, and trudged on down the right-of-way with unhastening grimness. </p> <p> Their approach was not unobserved. Daly saw them; and Baker, his foreman, saw them. The two at once went forth to organize opposition. When the attacking party reached the mill-yard, it found the boss and the foreman standing alone on the saw-dust, revolvers drawn. </p> <p> Daly traced a line with his toe. </p> <p> "The first man that crosses that line gets it," said he. </p> <p> They knew he meant what he said. An instant's pause ensued, while the big man and the little faced a mob. Daly's rivermen were still on drive. He knew the mill men too well to depend on them. Truth to tell, the possibility of such a raid as this had not occurred to him; for the simple reason that he did not anticipate the discovery of his complicity with the forces of nature. Skillfully carried out, the plan was a good one. No one need know of the weakened link, and it was the most natural thing in the world that Sadler &amp; Smith's drive should go out with the increase of water. </p> <p> The men grouped swiftly and silently on the other side of the sawdust line. The pause did not mean that Daly's defense was good. I have known of a crew of striking mill men being so bluffed down, but not such men as these. </p> <p> "Do you know what's going to happen to you?" said a voice from the group. The speaker was Radway, but the contractor kept himself well in the background. "We're going to burn your mill; we're going to burn your yards; we're going to burn your whole shooting match, you low-lived whelp!" </p> <p> "Yes, and we're going to string you to your own trestle!" growled another voice harshly. </p> <p> "Dyer!" said Injin Charley, simply, shaking the wet scalp arm's length towards the lumbermen. </p> <p> At this grim interruption a silence fell. The owner paled slightly; his foreman chewed a nonchalant straw. Down the still and deserted street crossed and recrossed the subtle occult influences of a half-hundred concealed watchers. Daly and his subordinate were very much alone, and very much in danger. Their last hour had come; and they knew it. </p> <p> With the recognition of the fact, they immediately raised their weapons in the resolve to do as much damage as possible before being overpowered. </p> <p> Then suddenly, full in the back, a heavy stream of water knocked them completely off their feet, rolled them over and over on the wet sawdust, and finally jammed them both against the trestle, where it held them, kicking and gasping for breath, in a choking cataract of water. The pistols flew harmlessly into the air. For an instant the Fighting Forty stared in paralyzed astonishment. Then a tremendous roar of laughter saluted this easy vanquishment of a formidable enemy. </p> <p> Daly and Baker were pounced upon and captured. There was no resistance. They were too nearly strangled for that. Little Solly and old Vanderhoof turned off the water in the fire hydrant and disconnected the hose they had so effectively employed. </p> <p> "There, damn you!" said Rollway Charley, jerking the millman to his feet. "How do YOU like too much water? hey?" </p> <p> The unexpected comedy changed the party's mood. </p> <p> It was no longer a question of killing. A number broke into the store, and shortly emerged, bearing pails of kerosene with which they deluged the slabs on the windward side of the mill. The flames caught the structure instantly. A thousand sparks, borne by the off-shore breeze, fastened like so many stinging insects on the lumber in the yard. </p> <p> It burned as dried balsam thrown on a camp fire. The heat of it drove the onlookers far back in the village, where in silence they watched the destruction. From behind locked doors the inhabitants watched with them. </p> <p> The billow of white smoke filled the northern sky. A whirl of gray wood ashes, light as air, floated on and ever on over Superior. The site of the mill, the squares where the piles of lumber had stood, glowed incandescence over which already a white film was forming. </p> <p> Daly and his man were slapped and cuffed hither and thither at the men's will. Their faces bled, their bodies ached as one bruise. </p> <p> "That squares us," said the men. "If we can't cut this year, neither kin you. It's up to you now!" </p> <p> Then, like a destroying horde of locusts, they gutted the office and the store, smashing what they could not carry to the fire. The dwellings and saloons they did not disturb. Finally, about noon, they kicked their two prisoners into the river, and took their way stragglingly back along the right-of-way. </p> <p> "I surmise we took that town apart SOME!" remarked Shorty with satisfaction. </p> <p> "I should rise to remark," replied Kerlie. Big Junko said nothing, but his cavernous little animal eyes glowed with satisfaction. He had been the first to lay hands on Daly; he had helped to carry the petroleum; he had struck the first match; he had even administered the final kick. </p> <p> At the boarding-house they found Wallace Carpenter and Hamilton seated on the veranda. It was now afternoon. The wind had abated somewhat, and the sun was struggling with the still flying scuds. </p> <p> "Hello, boys," said Wallace, "been for a little walk in the woods?" </p> <p> "Yes, sir," replied Jack Hyland, "we&mdash;" </p> <p> "I'd rather not hear," interrupted Wallace. "There's quite a fire over east. I suppose you haven't noticed it." </p> <p> Hyland looked gravely eastward. </p> <p> "Sure 'nough!" said he. </p> <p> "Better get some grub," suggested Wallace. </p> <p> After the men had gone in, he turned to the journalist. </p> <p> "Hamilton," he began, "write all you know about the drive, and the break, and the rescue, but as to the burning of the mill&mdash;" </p> <p> The other held out his hand. </p> <p> "Good," said Wallace offering his own. </p> <p> And that was as far as the famous Shingleville raid ever got. Daly did his best to collect even circumstantial evidence against the participants, but in vain. He could not even get anyone to say that a single member of the village of Carpenter had absented himself from town that morning. This might have been from loyalty, or it might have been from fear of the vengeance the Fighting Forty would surely visit on a traitor. Probably it was a combination of both. The fact remains, however, that Daly never knew surely of but one man implicated in the destruction of his plant. That man was Injin Charley, but Injin Charley promptly disappeared. </p> <p> After an interval, Tim Shearer, Radway and Kerlie came out again. </p> <p> "Where's the boss?" asked Shearer. </p> <p> "I don't know, Tim," replied Wallace seriously. </p> <p> "I've looked everywhere. He's gone. He must have been all cut up. I think he went out in the woods to get over it. I am not worrying. Harry has lots of sense. He'll come in about dark." </p> <p> "Sure!" said Tim. </p> <p> "How about the boy's stakes?" queried Radway. "I hear this is a bad smash for the firm." </p> <p> "We'll see that the men get their wages all right," replied Carpenter, a little disappointed that such a question should be asked at such a time. </p> <p> "All right," rejoined the contractor. "We're all going to need our money this summer." </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2HCH0057" id="link2HCH0057"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Chapter LVII </h2> <p> Thorpe walked through the silent group of men without seeing them. He had no thought for what he had done, but for the triumphant discovery he had made in spite of himself. This he saw at once as something to glory in and as a duty to be fulfilled. </p> <p> It was then about six o'clock in the morning. Thorpe passed the boarding-house, the store, and the office, to take himself as far as the little open shed that served the primitive town as a railway station. There he set the semaphore to flag the east-bound train from Duluth. At six thirty-two, the train happening on time, he climbed aboard. He dropped heavily into a seat and stared straight in front of him until the conductor had spoken to him twice. </p> <p> "Where to, Mr. Thorpe?" he asked. </p> <p> The latter gazed at him uncomprehendingly. </p> <p> "Oh! Mackinaw City," he replied at last. </p> <p> "How're things going up your way?" inquired the conductor by way of conversation while he made out the pay-slip. </p> <p> "Good!" responded Thorpe mechanically. </p> <p> The act of paying for his fare brought to his consciousness that he had but a little over ten dollars with him. He thrust the change back into his pocket, and took up his contemplation of nothing. The river water dripped slowly from his "cork" boots to form a pool on the car floor. The heavy wool of his short driving trousers steamed in the car's warmth. His shoulders dried in a little cloud of vapor. He noticed none of these things, but stared ahead, his gaze vacant, the bronze of his face set in the lines of a brown study, his strong capable hands hanging purposeless between his knees. The ride to Mackinaw City was six hours long, and the train in addition lost some ninety minutes; but in all this distance Thorpe never altered his pose nor his fixed attitude of attention to some inner voice. </p> <p> The car-ferry finally landed them on the southern peninsula. Thorpe descended at Mackinaw City to find that the noon train had gone. He ate lunch at the hotel,&mdash;borrowed a hundred dollars from the agent of Louis Sands, a lumberman of his acquaintance; and seated himself rigidly in the little waiting room, there to remain until the nine-twenty that night. When the cars were backed down from the siding, he boarded the sleeper. In the doorway stood a disapproving colored porter. </p> <p> "Yo'll fin' the smokin' cab up fo'wu'd, suh," said the latter, firmly barring the way. </p> <p> "It's generally forward," answered Thorpe. </p> <p> "This yeah's th' sleepah," protested the functionary. "You pays extry." </p> <p> "I am aware of it," replied Thorpe curtly. "Give me a lower." </p> <p> "Yessah!" acquiesced the darkey, giving way, but still in doubt. He followed Thorpe curiously, peering into the smoking room on him from time to time. A little after twelve his patience gave out. The stolid gloomy man of lower six seemed to intend sitting up all night. </p> <p> "Yo' berth is ready, sah," he delicately suggested. </p> <p> Thorpe arose obediently, walked to lower six, and, without undressing, threw himself on the bed. Afterwards the porter, in conscientious discharge of his duty, looked diligently beneath the seat for boots to polish. Happening to glance up, after fruitless search he discovered the boots still adorning the feet of their owner. </p> <p> "Well, for th' LANDS sake!" ejaculated the scandalized negro, beating a hasty retreat. </p> <p> He was still more scandalized when, the following noon, his strange fare brushed by him without bestowing the expected tip. </p> <p> Thorpe descended at Twelfth Street in Chicago without any very clear notion of where he was going. For a moment he faced the long park-like expanse of the lake front, then turned sharp to his left and picked his way south up the interminable reaches of Michigan Avenue. He did this without any conscious motive&mdash;mainly because the reaches seemed interminable, and he proved the need of walking. Block after block he clicked along, the caulks of his boots striking fire from the pavement. Some people stared at him a little curiously. Others merely glanced in his direction, attracted more by the expression of his face than the peculiarity of his dress. At that time rivermen were not an uncommon sight along the water front. </p> <p> After an interval he seemed to have left the smoke and dirt behind. The street became quieter. Boarding-houses and tailors' shops ceased. Here and there appeared a bit of lawn, shrubbery, flowers. The residences established an uptown crescendo of magnificence. Policemen seemed trimmer, better-gloved. Occasionally he might have noticed in front of one of the sandstone piles, a besilvered pair champing before a stylish vehicle. By and by he came to himself to find that he was staring at the deep-carved lettering in a stone horse-block before a large dwelling. </p> <p> His mind took the letters in one after the other, perceiving them plainly before it accorded them recognition. Finally he had completed the word "Farrad." He whirled sharp on his heel, mounted the broad white stone steps, and rang the bell. </p> <p> It was answered almost immediately by a cleanshaven, portly and dignified man with the most impassive countenance in the world. This man looked upon Thorpe with lofty disapproval. </p> <p> "Is Miss Hilda Farrand at home?" he asked. </p> <p> "I cannot say," replied the man. "If you will step to the back door, I will ascertain." </p> <p> "The flowers will do. Now see that the south room is ready, Annie," floated a voice from within. </p> <p> Without a word, but with a deadly earnestness, Thorpe reached forward, seized the astonished servant by the collar, yanked him bodily outside the door, stepped inside, and strode across the hall toward a closed portiere whence had come the voice. The riverman's long spikes cut little triangular pieces from the hardwood floor. Thorpe did not notice that. He thrust aside the portiere. </p> <p> Before him he saw a young and beautiful girl. She was seated, and her lap was filled with flowers. At his sudden apparition, her hands flew to her heart, and her lips slightly parted. For a second the two stood looking at each other, just as nearly a year before their eyes had crossed over the old pole trail. </p> <p> To Thorpe the girl seemed more beautiful than ever. She exceeded even his retrospective dreams of her, for the dream had persistently retained something of the quality of idealism which made the vision unreal, while the woman before him had become human flesh and blood, adorable, to be desired. The red of this violent unexpected encounter rushed to her face, her bosom rose and fell in a fluttering catch for breath; but her eyes were steady and inquiring. </p> <p> Then the butter pounced on Thorpe from behind with the intent to do great bodily harm. </p> <p> "Morris!" commanded Hilda sharply, "what are you doing?" </p> <p> The man cut short his heroism in confusion. </p> <p> "You may go," concluded Hilda. </p> <p> Thorpe stood straight and unwinking by the straight portiere. After a moment he spoke. </p> <p> "I have come to tell you that you were right and I was wrong," said he steadily. "You told me there could be nothing better than love. In the pride of my strength I told you this was not so. I was wrong." </p> <p> He stood for another instant, looking directly at her, then turned sharply, and head erect walked from the room. </p> <p> Before he had reached the outer door the girl was at his side. </p> <p> "Why are you going?" she asked. </p> <p> "I have nothing more to say." </p> <p> "NOTHING?" </p> <p> "Nothing at all." </p> <p> She laughed happily to herself. </p> <p> "But I have&mdash;much. Come back." </p> <p> They returned to the little morning room, Thorpe's caulked boots gouging out the little triangular furrows in the hardwood floor. Neither noticed that. Morris, the butler, emerged from his hiding and held up the hands of horror. </p> <p> "What are you going to do now?" she catechised, facing him in the middle of the room. A long tendril of her beautiful corn-silk hair fell across her eyes; her red lips parted in a faint wistful smile; beneath the draperies of her loose gown the pure slender lines of her figure leaned toward him. </p> <p> "I am going back," he replied patiently. </p> <p> "I knew you would come," said she. "I have been expecting you." </p> <p> She raised one hand to brush back the tendril of hair, but it was a mechanical gesture, one that did not stir even the surface consciousness of the strange half-smiling, half-wistful, starry gaze with which she watched his face. </p> <p> "Oh, Harry," she breathed, with a sudden flash of insight, "you are a man born to be much misunderstood." </p> <p> He held himself rigid, but in his veins was creeping a molten fire, and the fire was beginning to glow dully in his eye. Her whole being called him. His heart leaped, his breath came fast, his eyes swam. With almost hypnotic fascination the idea obsessed him&mdash;to kiss her lips, to press the soft body of the young girl, to tumble her hair down about her flower face. He had not come for this. He tried to steady himself, and by an effort that left him weak he succeeded. Then a new flood of passion overcame him. In the later desire was nothing of the old humble adoration. It was elemental, real, almost a little savage. He wanted to seize her so fiercely as to hurt her. Something caught his throat, filled his lungs, weakened his knees. For a moment it seemed to him that he was going to faint. </p> <p> And still she stood there before him, saying nothing, leaning slightly towards him, her red lips half parted, her eyes fixed almost wistfully on his face. </p> <p> "Go away!" he whispered hoarsely at last. The voice was not his own. "Go away! Go away!" </p> <p> Suddenly she swayed to him. </p> <p> "Oh, Harry, Harry," she whispered, "must I TELL you? Don't you SEE?" </p> <p> The flood broke through him. He seized her hungrily. He crushed her to him until she gasped; he pressed his lips against hers until she all but cried out with the pain of it, he ran his great brown hands blindly through her hair until it came down about them both in a cloud of spun light. </p> <p> "Tell me!" he whispered. "Tell me!" </p> <p> "Oh! Oh!" she cried. "Please! What is it?" </p> <p> "I do not believe it," he murmured savagely. </p> <p> She drew herself from him with gentle dignity. </p> <p> "I am not worthy to say it," she said soberly, "but I love you with all my heart and soul!" </p> <p> Then for the first and only time in his life Thorpe fell to weeping, while she, understanding, stood by and comforted him. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2HCH0058" id="link2HCH0058"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Chapter LVIII </h2> <p> The few moments of Thorpe's tears eased the emotional strain under which, perhaps unconsciously, he had been laboring for nearly a year past. The tenseness of his nerves relaxed. He was able to look on the things about him from a broader standpoint than that of the specialist, to front life with saving humor. The deep breath after striving could at last be taken. </p> <p> In this new attitude there was nothing strenuous, nothing demanding haste; only a deep glow of content and happiness. He savored deliberately the joy of a luxurious couch, rich hangings, polished floor, subdued light, warmed atmosphere. He watched with soul-deep gratitude the soft girlish curves of Hilda's body, the poise of her flower head, the piquant, half-wistful, half-childish set of her red lips, the clear starlike glimmer of her dusky eyes. It was all near to him; his. </p> <p> "Kiss me, dear," he said. </p> <p> She swayed to him again, deliciously graceful, deliciously unselfconscious, trusting, adorable. Already in the little nothingnesses of manner, the trifles of mental and bodily attitude, she had assumed that faint trace of the maternal which to the observant tells so plainly that a woman has given herself to a man. </p> <p> She leaned her cheek against her hand, and her hand against his shoulder. </p> <p> "I have been reading a story lately," said she, "that has interested me very much. It was about a man who renounced all he held most dear to shield a friend." </p> <p> "Yes," said Thorpe. </p> <p> "Then he renounced all his most valuable possessions because a poor common man needed the sacrifice." </p> <p> "Sounds like a medieval story," said he with unconscious humor. </p> <p> "It happened recently," rejoined Hilda. "I read it in the papers." </p> <p> "Well, he blazed a good trail," was Thorpe's sighing comment. "Probably he had his chance. We don't all of us get that. Things go crooked and get tangled up, so we have to do the best we can. I don't believe I'd have done it." </p> <p> "Oh, you are delicious!" she cried. </p> <p> After a time she said very humbly: "I want to beg your pardon for misunderstanding you and causing you so much suffering. I was very stupid, and didn't see why you could not do as I wanted you to." </p> <p> "That is nothing to forgive. I acted like a fool." </p> <p> "I have known about you," she went on. "It has all come out in the Telegram. It has been very exciting. Poor boy, you look tired." </p> <p> He straightened himself suddenly. "I have forgotten,&mdash;actually forgotten," he cried a little bitterly. "Why, I am a pauper, a bankrupt, I&mdash;" </p> <p> "Harry," she interrupted gently, but very firmly, "you must not say what you were going to say. I cannot allow it. Money came between us before. It must not do so again. Am I not right, dear?" </p> <p> She smiled at him with the lips of a child and the eyes of a woman. </p> <p> "Yes," he agreed after a struggle, "you are right. But now I must begin all over again. It will be a long time before I shall be able to claim you. I have my way to make." </p> <p> "Yes," said she diplomatically. </p> <p> "But you!" he cried suddenly. "The papers remind me. How about that Morton?" </p> <p> "What about him?" asked the girl, astonished. "He is very happily engaged." </p> <p> Thorpe's face slowly filled with blood. </p> <p> "You'll break the engagement at once," he commanded a little harshly. </p> <p> "Why should I break the engagement?" demanded Hilda, eying him with some alarm. </p> <p> "I should think it was obvious enough." </p> <p> "But it isn't," she insisted. "Why?" </p> <p> Thorpe was silent&mdash;as he always had been in emergencies, and as he was destined always to be. His was not a nature of expression, but of action. A crisis always brought him, like a bull-dog, silently to the grip. </p> <p> Hilda watched him puzzled, with bright eyes, like a squirrel. Her quick brain glanced here and there among the possibilities, seeking the explanation. Already she knew better than to demand it of him. </p> <p> "You actually don't think he's engaged to ME!" she burst out finally. </p> <p> "Isn't he?" asked Thorpe. </p> <p> "Why no, stupid! He's engaged to Elizabeth Carpenter, Wallace's sister. Now WHERE did you get that silly idea?" </p> <p> "I saw it in the paper." </p> <p> "And you believe all you see! Why didn't you ask Wallace&mdash;but of course you wouldn't! Harry, you are the most incoherent dumb old brute I ever saw! I could shake you! Why don't you say something occasionally when it's needed, instead of sitting dumb as a sphinx and getting into all sorts of trouble? But you never will. I know you. You dear old bear! You NEED a wife to interpret things for you. You speak a different language from most people." She said this between laughing and crying; between a sense of the ridiculous uselessness of withholding a single timely word, and a tender pathetic intuition of the suffering such a nature must endure. In the prospect of the future she saw her use. It gladdened her and filled her with a serene happiness possible only to those who feel themselves a necessary and integral part in the lives of the ones they love. Dimly she perceived this truth. Dimly beyond it she glimpsed that other great truth of nature, that the human being is rarely completely efficient alone, that in obedience to his greater use he must take to himself a mate before he can succeed. </p> <p> Suddenly she jumped to her feet with an exclamation. </p> <p> "Oh, Harry! I'd forgotten utterly!" she cried in laughing consternation. "I have a luncheon here at half-past one! It's almost that now. I must run and dress. Just look at me; just LOOK! YOU did that!" </p> <p> "I'll wait here until the confounded thing is over," said Thorpe. </p> <p> "Oh, no, you won't," replied Hilda decidedly. "You are going down town right now and get something to put on. Then you are coming back here to stay." </p> <p> Thorpe glanced in surprise at his driver's clothes, and his spiked boots. </p> <p> "Heavens and earth!" he exclaimed, "I should think so! How am I to get out without ruining the floor?" </p> <p> Hilda laughed and drew aside the portiere. </p> <p> "Don't you think you have done that pretty well already?" she asked. "There, don't look so solemn. We're not going to be sorry for a single thing we've done today, are we?" She stood close to him holding the lapels of his jacket in either hand, searching his face wistfully with her fathomless dusky eyes. </p> <p> "No, sweetheart, we are not," replied Thorpe soberly. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2HCH0059" id="link2HCH0059"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Chapter LIX </h2> <p> Surely it is useless to follow the sequel in detail, to tell how Hilda persuaded Thorpe to take her money. She aroused skillfully his fighting blood, induced him to use one fortune to rescue another. To a woman such as she this was not a very difficult task in the long run. A few scruples of pride; that was all. </p> <p> "Do not consider its being mine," she answered to his objections. "Remember the lesson we learned so bitterly. Nothing can be greater than love, not even our poor ideals. You have my love; do not disappoint me by refusing so little a thing as my money." </p> <p> "I hate to do it," he replied; "it doesn't look right." </p> <p> "You must," she insisted. "I will not take the position of rich wife to a poor man; it is humiliating to both. I will not marry you until you have made your success." </p> <p> "That is right," said Thorpe heartily. </p> <p> "Well, then, are you going to be so selfish as to keep me waiting while you make an entirely new start, when a little help on my part will bring your plans to completion?" </p> <p> She saw the shadow of assent in his eyes. </p> <p> "How much do you need?" she asked swiftly. </p> <p> "I must take up the notes," he explained. "I must pay the men. I may need something on the stock market. If I go in on this thing, I'm going in for keeps. I'll get after those fellows who have been swindling Wallace. Say a hundred thousand dollars." </p> <p> "Why, it's nothing," she cried. </p> <p> "I'm glad you think so," he replied grimly. </p> <p> She ran to her dainty escritoire, where she scribbled eagerly for a few moments. </p> <p> "There," she cried, her eyes shining, "there is my check book all signed in blank. I'll see that the money is there." </p> <p> Thorpe took the book, staring at it with sightless eyes. Hilda, perched on the arm of his chair, watched his face closely, as later became her habit of interpretation. </p> <p> "What is it?" she asked. </p> <p> Thorpe looked up with a pitiful little smile that seemed to beg indulgence for what he was about to say. </p> <p> "I was just thinking, dear. I used to imagine I was a strong man, yet see how little my best efforts amount to. I have put myself into seven years of the hardest labor, working like ten men in order to succeed. I have foreseen all that mortal could foresee. I have always thought, and think now, that a man is no man unless he works out the sort of success for which he is fitted. I have done fairly well until the crises came. Then I have been absolutely powerless, and if left to myself, I would have failed. At the times when a really strong man would have used effectively the strength he had been training, I have fallen back miserably on outer aid. Three times my affairs have become critical. In the crises I have been saved, first by a mere boy; then by an old illiterate man; now by a weak woman!" </p> <p> She heard him through in silence. </p> <p> "Harry," she said soberly when he had quite finished, "I agree with you that God meant the strong man to succeed; that without success the man hasn't fulfilled his reason for being. But, Harry, ARE YOU QUITE SURE GOD MEANT HIM TO SUCCEED ALONE?" </p> <p> The dusk fell through the little room. Out in the hallway a tall clock ticked solemnly. A noiseless servant appeared in the doorway to light the lamps, but was silently motioned away. </p> <p> "I had not thought of that," said Thorpe at last. </p> <p> "You men are so selfish," went on Hilda. "You would take everything from us. Why can't you leave us the poor little privilege of the occasional deciding touch, the privilege of succor. It is all that weakness can do for strength." </p> <p> "And why," she went on after a moment, "why is not that, too, a part of a man's success&mdash;the gathering about him of people who can and will supplement his efforts. Who was it inspired Wallace Carpenter with confidence in an unknown man? You. What did it? Those very qualities by which you were building your success. Why did John Radway join forces with you? How does it happen that your men are of so high a standard of efficiency? Why am I willing to give you everything, EVERYTHING, to my heart and soul? Because it is you who ask it. Because you, Harry Thorpe, have woven us into your fortune, so that we have no choice. Depend upon us in the crises of your work! Why, so are you dependent on your ten fingers, your eyes, the fiber of your brain! Do you think the less of your fulfillment for that?" </p> <p> So it was that Hilda Farrand gave her lover confidence, brought him out from his fanaticism, launched him afresh into the current of events. He remained in Chicago all that summer, giving orders that all work at the village of Carpenter should cease. With his affairs that summer we have little to do. His common-sense treatment of the stock market, by which a policy of quiescence following an outright buying of the stock which he had previously held on margins, retrieved the losses already sustained, and finally put both partners on a firm financial footing. That is another story. So too is his reconciliation with and understanding of his sister. It came about through Hilda, of course. Perhaps in the inscrutable way of Providence the estrangement was of benefit,&mdash;even necessary, for it had thrown him entirely within himself during his militant years. </p> <p> Let us rather look to the end of the summer. It now became a question of re-opening the camps. Thorpe wrote to Shearer and Radway, whom he had retained, that he would arrive on Saturday noon, and suggested that the two begin to look about for men. Friday, himself, Wallace Carpenter, Elizabeth Carpenter, Morton, Helen Thorpe, and Hilda Farrand boarded the north-bound train. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2HCH0060" id="link2HCH0060"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Chapter LX </h2> <p> The train of the South Shore Railroad shot its way across the broad reaches of the northern peninsula. On either side of the right-of-way lay mystery in the shape of thickets so dense and overgrown that the eye could penetrate them but a few feet at most. Beyond them stood the forests. Thus Nature screened her intimacies from the impertinent eye of a new order of things. </p> <p> Thorpe welcomed the smell of the northland. He became almost eager, explaining, indicating to the girl at his side. </p> <p> "There is the Canada balsam," he cried. "Do you remember how I showed it to you first? And yonder the spruce. How stuck up your teeth were when you tried to chew the gum before it had been heated. Do you remember? Look! Look there! It's a white pine! Isn't it a grand tree? It's the finest tree in the forest, by my way of thinking, so tall, so straight, so feathery, and so dignified. See, Hilda, look quick! There's an old logging road all filled with raspberry vines. We'd find lots of partridges there, and perhaps a bear. Wouldn't you just like to walk down it about sunset?" </p> <p> "Yes, Harry." </p> <p> "I wonder what we're stopping for. Seems to me they are stopping at every squirrel's trail. Oh, this must be Seney. Yes, it is. Queer little place, isn't it? but sort of attractive. Good deal like our town. You have never seen Carpenter, have you? Location's fine, anyway; and to me it's sort of picturesque. You'll like Mrs. Hathaway. She's a buxom, motherly woman who runs the boarding-house for eighty men, and still finds time to mend my clothes for me. And you'll like Solly. Solly's the tug captain, a mighty good fellow, true as a gun barrel. We'll have him take us out, some still day. We'll be there in a few minutes now. See the cranberry marshes. Sometimes there's a good deal of pine on little islands scattered over it, but it's very hard to log, unless you get a good winter. We had just such a proposition when I worked for Radway. Oh, you'll like Radway, he's as good as gold. Helen!" </p> <p> "Yes," replied his sister. </p> <p> "I want you to know Radway. He's the man who gave me my start." </p> <p> "All right, Harry," laughed Helen. "I'll meet anybody or anything from bears to Indians." </p> <p> "I know an Indian too&mdash;Geezigut, an Ojibwa&mdash;we called him Injin Charley. He was my first friend in the north woods. He helped me get my timber. This spring he killed a man&mdash;a good job, too&mdash;and is hiding now. I wish I knew where he is. But we'll see him some day. He'll come back when the thing blows over. See! See!" </p> <p> "What?" they all asked, breathless. </p> <p> "It's gone. Over beyond the hills there I caught a glimpse of Superior." </p> <p> "You are ridiculous, Harry," protested Helen Thorpe laughingly. "I never saw you so. You are a regular boy!" </p> <p> "Do you like boys?" he asked gravely of Hilda. </p> <p> "Adore them!" she cried. </p> <p> "All right, I don't care," he answered his sister in triumph. </p> <p> The air brakes began to make themselves felt, and shortly the train came to a grinding stop. </p> <p> "What station is this?" Thorpe asked the colored porter. </p> <p> "Shingleville, sah," the latter replied. </p> <p> "I thought so. Wallace, when did their mill burn, anyway? I haven't heard about it." </p> <p> "Last spring, about the time you went down." </p> <p> "Is THAT so? How did it happen?" </p> <p> "They claim incendiarism," parried Wallace cautiously. </p> <p> Thorpe pondered a moment, then laughed. "I am in the mixed attitude of the small boy," he observed, "who isn't mean enough to wish anybody's property destroyed, but who wishes that if there is a fire, to be where he can see it. I am sorry those fellows had to lose their mill, but it was a good thing for us. The man who set that fire did us a good turn. If it hadn't been for the burning of their mill, they would have made a stronger fight against us in the stock market." </p> <p> Wallace and Hilda exchanged glances. The girl was long since aware of the inside history of those days. </p> <p> "You'll have to tell them that," she whispered over the back of her seat. "It will please them." </p> <p> "Our station is next!" cried Thorpe, "and it's only a little ways. Come, get ready!" </p> <p> They all crowded into the narrow passage-way near the door, for the train barely paused. </p> <p> "All right, sah," said the porter, swinging down his little step. </p> <p> Thorpe ran down to help the ladies. He was nearly taken from his feet by a wild-cat yell, and a moment later that result was actually accomplished by a rush of men that tossed him bodily onto its shoulders. At the same moment, the mill and tug whistles began to screech, miscellaneous fire-arms exploded. Even the locomotive engineer, in the spirit of the occasion, leaned down heartily on his whistle rope. The saw-dust street was filled with screaming, jostling men. The homes of the town were brilliantly draped with cheesecloth, flags and bunting. </p> <p> For a moment Thorpe could not make out what had happened. This turmoil was so different from the dead quiet of desertion he had expected, that he was unable to gather his faculties. All about him were familiar faces upturned to his own. He distinguished the broad, square shoulders of Scotty Parsons, Jack Hyland, Kerlie, Bryan Moloney; Ellis grinned at him from the press; Billy Camp, the fat and shiny drive cook; Mason, the foreman of the mill; over beyond howled Solly, the tug captain, Rollway Charley, Shorty, the chore-boy; everywhere were features that he knew. As his dimming eyes travelled here and there, one by one the Fighting Forty, the best crew of men ever gathered in the northland, impressed themselves on his consciousness. Saginaw birlers, Flat River drivers, woodsmen from the forests of Lower Canada, bully boys out of the Muskegon waters, peavey men from Au Sable, white-water dare-devils from the rapids of the Menominee&mdash;all were there to do him honor, him in whom they had learned to see the supreme qualities of their calling. On the outskirts sauntered the tall form of Tim Shearer, a straw peeping from beneath his flax-white mustache, his eyes glimmering under his flax-white eyebrows. He did not evidence as much excitement as the others, but the very bearing of the man expressed the deepest satisfaction. Perhaps he remembered that zero morning so many years before when he had watched the thinly-clad, shivering chore-boy set his face for the first time towards the dark forest. </p> <p> Big Junko and Anderson deposited their burden on the raised platform of the office steps. Thorpe turned and fronted the crowd. </p> <p> At once pandemonium broke loose, as though the previous performance had been nothing but a low-voiced rehearsal. </p> <p> The men looked upon their leader and gave voice to the enthusiasm that was in them. He stood alone there, straight and tall, the muscles of his brown face set to hide his emotion, his head thrust back proudly, the lines of his strong figure tense with power,&mdash;the glorification in finer matter of the hardy, reliant men who did him honor. </p> <p> "Oh, aren't you PROUD of him?" gasped Hilda, squeezing Helen's arm with a little sob. </p> <p> In a moment Wallace Carpenter, his countenance glowing with pride and pleasure, mounted the platform and stood beside his friend, while Morton and the two young ladies stopped half way up the steps. </p> <p> At once the racket ceased. Everyone stood at attention. </p> <p> "Mr. Thorpe," Wallace began, "at the request of your friends here, I have a most pleasant duty to fulfill. They have asked me to tell you how glad they are to see you; that is surely unnecessary. They have also asked me to congratulate you on having won the fight with our rivals." </p> <p> "You done 'em good." "Can't down the Old Fellow," muttered joyous voices. </p> <p> "But," said Wallace, "I think that I first have a story to tell on my own account. </p> <p> "At the time the jam broke this spring, we owed the men here for a year's work. At that time I considered their demand for wages ill-timed and grasping. I wish to apologize. After the money was paid them, instead of scattering, they set to work under Jack Radway and Tim Shearer to salvage your logs. They have worked long hours all summer. They have invested every cent of their year's earnings in supplies and tools, and now they are prepared to show you in the Company's booms, three million feet of logs, rescued by their grit and hard labor from total loss." </p> <p> At this point the speaker was interrupted. "Saw off," "Shut up," "Give us a rest," growled the audience. "Three million feet ain't worth talkin' about," "You make me tired," "Say your little say the way you oughter," "Found purty nigh two millions pocketed on Mare's Island, or we wouldn't a had that much," "Damn-fool undertaking, anyhow." </p> <p> "Men," cried Thorpe, "I have been very fortunate. From failure success has come. But never have I been more fortunate than in my friends. The firm is now on its feet. It could afford to lose three times the logs it lost this year&mdash;" </p> <p> He paused and scanned their faces. </p> <p> "But," he continued suddenly, "it cannot now, nor ever can afford to lose what those three million feet represent,&mdash;the friends it has made. I can pay you back the money you have spent and the time you have put in&mdash;" Again he looked them over, and then for the first time since they have known him his face lighted up with a rare and tender smile of affection. "But, comrades, I shall not offer to do it: the gift is accepted in the spirit with which it was offered&mdash;" </p> <p> He got no further. The air was rent with sound. Even the members of his own party cheered. From every direction the crowd surged inward. The women and Morton were forced up the platform to Thorpe. The latter motioned for silence. </p> <p> "Now, boys, we have done it," said he, "and so will go back to work. From now on you are my comrades in the fight." </p> <p> His eyes were dim; his breast heaved; his voice shook. Hilda was weeping from excitement. Through the tears she saw them all looking at their leader, and in the worn, hard faces glowed the affection and admiration of a dog for its master. Something there was especially touching in this, for strong men rarely show it. She felt a great wave of excitement sweep over her. Instantly she was standing by Thorpe, her eyes streaming, her breast throbbing with emotion. </p> <p> "Oh!" she cried, stretching her arms out to them passionately, "Oh! I love you; I love you all!" </p> <p> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> End of Project Gutenberg's The Blazed Trail, by Stewart Edward White
SPONSORED LINKS