Dave was thirty-two, but looked forty; for, in
moulding his great, strong, ugly face, Nature had
been less than kind to him. It is probable, from
his earliest, Dave had never looked less than ten
years older than he really was.
Observing him closely, one had the impression
that Nature had set herself the task of equipping
him for a tremendous struggle in the battle of life;
as though she had determined to make him invincible.
Presuming this to have been her purpose,
she set to work with a liberal hand. She gave him
a big heart, doubtless wishing him to be strong to
fight and of a great courage, yet with a wonderful
sympathy for the beaten foe. She gave him the
thews and sinews of a Hercules, probably arguing
that a man must possess a mighty strength with
which to carry himself to victory. To give him
such physical strength it was necessary to provide
a body in keeping. Thus, his shoulders were abnormally
wide, his chest was of a mighty girth, his
arms were of phenomenal length, and his legs were
gnarled and knotted with muscles which could
never be satisfactorily disguised by the class of
"store" clothes it was his frugal custom to wear.
For his head Nature gave him a fine, keen brain;
strong, practical, subtly far-seeing in matters commercial,
bluntly honest and temperate, yet withal
matching his big heart in kindly sympathy. It
was thrilling with a vast energy and capacity for
work, but so pronounced was its dominating force,
that in the development of his physical features it
completely destroyed all delicacy of mould and
gentleness of expression. He displayed to the
world the hard, rugged face of the fighter, without
any softening, unless, perhaps, one paused to look
into the depths of his deep-set gray eyes.
Nature undoubtedly fulfilled her purpose. Dave
was equipped as few men are equipped, and if it
were to be regretted that his architect had forgotten
that even a fighting man has his gentler moments,
and that there are certain requirements in
his construction to suit him to such moments, in
all other respects he had been treated lavishly.
Summed up briefly, Dave was a tower of physical
might, with a face of striking plainness.
It was twelve years since he came to the Red
Sand Valley. He was then fresh from the lumber
regions of Puget Sound, on the western coast of
the United States. He came to Western Canada
in search of a country to make his own, with a
small capital and a large faith in himself, supported
by a courage that did not know the meaning of defeat.
He found the Red Sand Valley nestling in the
foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. He saw the
wonders of the magnificent pine woods which covered
the mountain slopes in an endless sea of deep,
sombre green. And he knew that these wonderful
primordial wastes were only waiting for the axe of
the woodsman to yield a building lumber second to
none in the world.
The valley offered him everything he needed.
A river that flowed in full tide all the open season,
with possibilities of almost limitless "timber booms"
in its backwaters, a delicious setting for a village,
with the pick of a dozen adequate sites for the
building of lumber mills. He could hope to find
nothing better, so he stayed.
His beginning was humble. He started with a
horse-power saw-pit, and a few men up in the hills
cutting for him. But he had begun his great
struggle with fortune, and, in a man such as Nature
had made him, it was a struggle that could only
end with his life. The battle was tremendous, but
he never hesitated, he never flinched.
Small as was his beginning, six years later his
present great mills and the village of Malkern had
begun to take shape. Then, a year later, the result
of his own persistent representation, the Canadian
Northwestern Railroad built a branch line to his
valley. And so, in seven years, his success was
Now he was comfortably prosperous. The village
was prosperous. But none knew better than
he how much still remained to be achieved before
the foundations of his little world were adequate to
support the weight of the vast edifice of commercial
enterprise, which, with his own two hands, his
own keen brain, he hoped to erect.
He was an American business man raised in the
commercial faith of his country. He understood
the value of "monopoly," and he made for it.
Thus, when he could ill spare capital, by dint of
heavy borrowings he purchased all the land he required,
and the "lumbering" rights of that vast
Then it was that he extended operations. He
abandoned his first mill and began the building of
his larger enterprise further down the valley, at a
point where he had decided that the village of
Malkern should also begin its growth.
Once the new mill was safely established he sold
his old one to a man who had worked with him
from the start. The transaction was more in the
nature of a gift to an old friend and comrade. The
price was nominal, but the agreement was binding
that the mill should only be used for the production
of small building material, and under no circumstances
to be used in the production of rough
"baulks." This was to protect his own monopoly
in that class of manufacture.
George Truscott, the lumberman with whom he
made the transaction, worked the old mills with
qualified success for two years. Then he died suddenly
of blood-poisoning, supervening upon a badly
mutilated arm torn by one of his own saws. The
mill automatically became the property of his only
son Jim, a youth of eighteen, curly-headed, bright,
lovable, but wholly irresponsible for such an up-hill
fight as the conduct of the business his father had
The master of the Malkern mills, as might be expected,
was a man of simple habits and frugal
tastes. In his early struggles he had had neither
time nor money with which to indulge himself, and
the habit of simple living had grown upon him.
He required so very little. He had no luxurious
home; a mere cottage of four rooms and a kitchen,
over which an aged and doting mother ruled, her
establishment consisting of one small maid. His
office was a shack of two rooms, bare but useful,
containing one chair and one desk, and anything he
desired to find a temporary safe resting-place for
strewn about the floor, or hung upon nails driven into
the walls. It was all he needed, a roof to shade him
from the blazing summer sun when he was making
up his books, and four walls to shut out the cruel blasts
of the Canadian winter.
He was sitting at his desk now, poring over a heap
of letters which had just arrived by the Eastern
mail. This was the sort of thing he detested.
Correspondence entailed a lot of writing, and he
hated writing. Figures he could cope with, he had
no grudge against them, but composing letters was
a task for which he did not feel himself adequately
equipped; words did not flow easily from his pen.
His education was rather the education of a man
who goes through the world with ears and eyes wide
open. He had a wide knowledge of men and
things, but the inside of books was a realm into
which he had not deeply delved.
At last he pushed his letters aside and sat back,
his complaining chair protesting loudly at the burden
imposed upon it. He drew an impatient sigh,
and began to fill his pipe, gazing through the rain-stained
window under which his untidy desk stood.
He had made up his mind to leave the answering of
his letters until later in the day, and the decision
brought him some relief.
He reached for the matches. But suddenly he altered
his mind and removed his pipe from his
mouth. A smile shone in his deep-set eyes at the
sight of a dainty, white figure which had just
emerged from behind a big stack of milled timber
out in the yard and was hurrying toward the office.
He needed no second glance to tell him who the
figure belonged to. It was Betty—little Betty
Somers, as he loved to call her—who taught the extreme
youth of Malkern out of her twenty-two years
of erudition and worldly wisdom.
He sprang from his chair and went to the door to
meet her, and as he walked his great bulk and vast
muscle gave his gait something of the roll of a sailor.
He had no lightness, no grace in his movements;
just the ponderous slowness of monumental strength.
He stood awaiting her in the doorway, which he almost
Betty was not short, but he towered above her as
she came up, his six feet five inches making nothing
of her five feet six.
"This is bully," he cried delightedly, as she stood
before him. "I hadn't a notion you were getting
around this morning, Betty."
His voice was as unwieldy as his figure; it was
husky too, in the manner of powerful voices when
their owners attempt to moderate them. The girl
laughed frankly up into his face.
"I'm playing truant," she explained. Then her
pretty lips twisted wryly, and she pointed at the
lintel of the door. "Please sit down there," she
commanded. Then she laughed again. "I want to
talk to you, and—and I have no desire to dislocate
He made her feel so absurdly small; she was
never comfortable unless he was sitting down.
The man grinned humorously at her imperious
tone, and sat down. They were great friends, these
two. Betty looked upon him as a very dear, big,
ugly brother to whom she could always carry all
her little worries and troubles, and ever be sure of a
sympathetic adviser. It never occurred to her that
Dave could be anything dearer to anybody. He
was just Dave—dear old Dave, an appellation which
seemed to fit him exactly.
The thought of him as a lover was quite impossible.
It never entered her head. Probably the
only people in Malkern who ever considered the
possibility of Dave as a lover were his own mother,
and perhaps Mrs. Tom Chepstow. But then they
were wiser than most of the women of the village.
Besides, doubtless his mother was prejudiced, and
Mrs. Tom, in her capacity as the wife of the Rev.
Tom Chepstow, made it her business to study the
members of her husband's parish more carefully
than the other women did. But to the ordinary observer
he certainly did not suggest the lover. He
was so strong, so cumbersome, so unromantic. Then
his ways were so deliberate, so machine-like. It
almost seemed as though he had taken to himself
something of the harsh precision of his own
On the other hand, his regard for Betty was a
matter of less certainty. Good comradeship was
the note he always struck in their intercourse, but
oftentimes there would creep into his gray eyes a
look which spoke of a warmth of feeling only held
under because his good sense warned him of the
utter hopelessness of it. He was too painfully aware
of the quality of Betty's regard for him to permit
himself any false hopes.
Betty's brown eyes took on a smiling look of reproach
as she held up a warning finger.
"Dave," she said, with mock severity, "I always
have to remind you of our compact. I insist that
you sit down when I am talking to you. I refuse
to be made to feel—and look—small. Now light
your pipe and listen to me."
"Go ahead," he grinned, striking a match. His
plain features literally shone with delight at her
presence there. Her small oval, sun-tanned face
was so bright, so full of animation, so healthy looking.
There was such a delightful frankness about
her. Her figure, perfectly rounded, was slim and
athletic, and her every movement suggested the
open air and perfect health.
"Well, it's this way," she began, seating herself
on the corner of a pile of timber: "I'm out on the
war-path. I want scalps. My pocketbook is
empty and needs filling, and when that's done I'll
get back to my school children, on whose behalf I
am out hunting."
"It's your picnic?" suggested Dave.
"Not mine. The kiddies'. So now, old boy,
put up your hands! It's your money or your life."
And she sat threatening him with her pocketbook,
pointing it at him as though it were a pistol.
Dave removed his pipe.
"Guess you'd best have 'em both," he smiled.
But Betty shook her head with a joyous laugh.
"I only want your money," she said, extending
an open hand toward him.
Dave thrust deep into his hip-pocket, and produced
a roll of bills.
"It's mostly that way," he murmured, counting
But his words had reached the girl, and her laugh
"Oh, Dave!" she said reproachfully.
And the man's contrition set him blundering.
"Say, Betty, I'm a fool man anyway. Don't
take any sort of notice. I didn't mean a thing.
Now here's fifty, and you can have any more you
He looked straight into her eyes, which at once
responded to his anxious smile. But she did not
attempt to take the money. She shook her head.
But he pushed the bills into her hand.
"You can't refuse," he said. "You see, it's for
the kiddies. It isn't just for you."
When Dave insisted refusal was useless. Betty
had long since learned that. Besides, as he said, it
was for the "kiddies." She took the money, and
he sat and watched her as she folded the bills into
her pocketbook. The girl looked up at the sound
of a short laugh.
"What's that for?" she demanded, her brown
eyes seriously inquiring.
"Oh, just nothing. I was thinking."
The man glanced slowly about him. He looked
up at the brilliant summer sun. Then his eyes
rested upon the rough exterior of his unpretentious
"It meant something," asserted Betty. "I hate
people to laugh—in that way."
"I was thinking of this shack of mine. I was
just thinking, Betty, what a heap of difference an
elegant coat of paint makes to things. You see,
they're just the same underneath, but they—kind of
look different with paint on 'em, kind of please the
"Just so," the girl nodded wisely. "And so you
laughed—in that way."
Dave's eyes twinkled.
"You're too sharp," he said. Then he abruptly
changed the subject.
"Now about this picnic. You're expecting all
the grown folk?"
The girl's eyes opened to their fullest extent.
"Of course I do. Don't you always come? It's
only once a year." The last was very like a reproach.
The man avoided her eyes. He was looking out
across the sea of stacked timber at the great sheds
beyond, where the saws were shrieking out their
"I was thinking," he began awkwardly, "that
I'm not much good at those things. Of course I
guess I can hand pie round to the folks; any fellow
can do that. But——"
"But what?" The girl had risen from her seat
and was trying to compel his gaze.
"Well, you see, we're busy here—desperately
busy. Dawson's always grumbling that we're
Betty came up close to him, and he suddenly felt
a gentle squeeze on his shoulder.
"You don't want to come," she said.
"'Tisn't that—not exactly."
He kept his eyes turned from her.
"You see," he went on, "you'll have such a heap
of folk there. They mostly all get around—for
you. Then there'll be Jim Truscott, and Jim's
worth a dozen of me when it comes to picnics and
'sociables' and such-like."
The girl's hand suddenly dropped from his
shoulder, and she turned away. A flush slowly
mounted to her sun-tanned cheeks, and she was
angry at it. She stood looking out at the mills
beyond, but she wasn't thinking of them.
At last she turned back to her friend and her
soft eyes searched his.
"If—if you don't come to the picnic to-morrow,
I'll never forgive you, Dave—never!"
And she was gone before his slow tongue could
frame a further excuse.