THE SUMMER RAINS
Truscott looked up from his paper and watched
the rain as it hissed against the window. It was
falling in a deluge, driven by a gale of wind which
swept the woodlands as though bent on crushing
out the last dignity of the proud forest giants.
The sky was leaden, and held out no promise of
relenting. It was a dreary prospect, yet to the
man watching it was a matter of small moment.
It was nearly midday, and as yet he had not
broken his fast. In fact his day was only just
beginning. His appearance told plainly the story
of his previous night's dissipation. Still, his mood
was in no way depressed—he was too well seasoned
to the vicious life he had adopted for that. Besides,
the prosperity of Malkern brought much grist
to his mill, and its quality more than made up for
the after effects of his excesses.
He turned to his paper again. It was a day old.
A large head-line faced him announcing the spreading
of the railway strike. Below it was a column
describing how business was already affected, and
how, shortly, if a settlement were not soon arrived
at, it was feared that the trans-continental traffic
could only be kept open with the aid of military
engineers. The rest of the paper held no interests
for him; he had only read this column, and it
seemed to afford him food for much thought. He
had read it over twice, and was now reading it for
a third time.
At last he threw the paper aside and walked
across to the table to pour himself out a drink.
The thought of food sickened him. The only
thing possible was a whiskey-and-milk, and he
mixed the beverage and held it to his lips. But
the smell of it sickened him, and he set it down
and moved away to the window.
There was little enough to attract him thither,
but he preferred the prospect to the sight and smell
of whiskey at that hour of the day. After some
moments he made another attempt on his liquid
breakfast. He knew he must get it down somehow.
He turned and looked at it, shuddered, and
turned again to the window. And at that instant
he recognized the great figure of Dave, clad from
head to foot in oilskins, making his way back from
the depot to the mill.
The sight fixed his attention, and all the venom
in his distorted nature shone in the wicked gleam
that sprang into his eyes. His blood was fired
"Betty for you? Never in your life," he muttered
at the passing figure. "Never in mine, Dave,
my boy. It's you and me for it, and by God I'll
never let up on you!"
All unconscious of the venomous thoughts the
sight of him had inspired, Dave strode on through
the rain. He was deep in his own concerns, and at
that moment they were none too pleasant. The
deluge of rain damped his spirits enough, but the
mail he had just received had brought him news
that depressed him still more. The Engineers'
Union had called for a general cessation of work
east of Winnipeg, and he was wondering how it
was likely to affect him. Should his engineers go
out, would it be possible to replace them? And if
he could, how would he be able to cope with the
trouble likely to ensue? He could certainly fall in
with the Union's demands, but—well, he would
wait. It was no use anticipating trouble.
But more bad news was awaiting him when he
reached his office. Dawson, in his absence, had
opened a letter which had arrived by runner from
Bob Mason, the foreman of the camps up in the
Dawson was no alarmist. He always looked to
Dave for everything when a crisis confronted them.
He felt that if not a crisis, something very like it
was before them now, and so he calmly handed
Mason's letter to his boss, confident in the latter's
capacity to deal with the situation.
"This come along by hand," he said easily.
"Guess, seein' it's wrote 'important' on it, I
Dave nodded while he threw off his oilskins.
He made no particular haste, and deposited his
mail on his desk before he took the letter from his
foreman. At last, however, he unfolded the sheet of
foolscap on which it was written, and read the
ominous contents. It was a long letter dealing
with the business of the camps, but the one paragraph
which had made the letter important threw
all the rest into insignificance. It ran—
"I regret to have to report that an epidemic of
mountain fever has broken out in two of our camps—the
new No. 8 and No. 1. We have already
nearly eighty cases on the sick list, chiefly amongst
the new hands from Ottawa who are not yet
acclimatized. The summer rains have been exceedingly
heavy, which in a large measure accounts
for the trouble. I shall be glad if you will send up
medical aid, and a supply of drugs, at once.
Dysentery is likely to follow, and you know what
"We are necessarily short-handed now, but, by
increasing hours and offering inducements, and by
engaging any stray hands that filter up to the
camps, I hope to keep the work going satisfactorily.
I am isolating the sick, of course, but it
is most important that you send me the medical
aid at once," etc., etc.
Dave was silent for a while after reading the letter,
and the gravity of his expression was enhanced
by the extreme plainness of his features. His
steady eyes were looking out through the open
doorway at the mill beyond, as though it were
some living creature to whom he was bound by ties
of the deepest affection, and for whom he saw the
foreshadowing of disaster. At last he turned.
"Damn the rain," he said impatiently. Then he
added, "I'll see to it."
Dawson glanced quickly at his chief.
"Nothin' I ken do, boss?" he inquired casually.
A grim smile played over Dave's rugged features.
"Nothing, I guess," he said, "unless you can fix
a nozzle on to heaven's water-main and turn it on
to the strikers down east."
The other shook his head seriously.
"I ain't worth a cent in the plumbin' line, boss,"
Dawson left the office. The mill claimed him at
all times. He never neglected his charge, and
rarely allowed himself long absences beyond the
range of its strident music. The pressure of work
seemed to increase every day. He knew that the
strain on his employer was enormous, and somehow
he would have been glad if he could have shared
this new responsibility.
Dave had just taken his slicker from the wall
again when Dawson came back to the door.
"Say, ther's that feller Mansell been around this
mornin' lookin' fer a job. I sed he'd best come
around to-morrer. I didn't guess I'd take him on
till I see you. He's a drunken bum anyway."
"He used to be a dandy sawyer," he said, "and
we need 'em. Is he drinking now?"
"I've heard tell. He stank o' whiskey's mornin'.
That's why I passed him on. Yes, he's a dandy
sawyer, sure. He was on the 'water wagon' 'fore
he went off up north with young Truscott. Mebbe
he'll sober up agin—if we put him to work."
Dave clenched the matter in his decided way.
"Put him on the 'time sheet' to-morrow, and set
him on the No. 1 rollers, beside our night office.
You can keep a sharp eye on him there. He's a
bit of a backslider, but if giving him a job'll pull
him up and help him, why, give it him. We've no
right to refuse."
He struggled into his slicker again as Dawson
went off. He inspected the weather outside with
no very friendly eye. It meant so much to him.
At the moment the deluge was like a bursting
waterspout, and the yards were like a lake dotted
with islands of lumber. But he plunged out into it
without a moment's hesitation. His work must go
on, no matter what came.
He hurried off in the direction of Chepstow's
house. It was some time since he had seen his
friend, and though the cause of his present visit was
so serious, he was glad of the opportunity of making it.
Tom Chepstow saw him coming, and met him on
the veranda. He was always a man of cheery
spirits, and just now, in spite of the weather, he was
well enough satisfied with the world. Matters between
Betty and Jim Truscott had been settled just
as he could wish, so there was little to bother him.
"I was really considering the advisability of a
telephone from here to your office, Dave," he said,
with a smiling welcome. "But joking apart, I
never seem to see you now. How's things down
there? If report says truly, you're doing a great
Dave shook his head.
"The mills are," he said modestly.
Chepstow laughed heartily.
"That's your way of putting it. You and the
mills are one. Nobody ever speaks of one without
including the other. You'll never marry, my
boy. You are wedded to the shriek of your beloved
buzz-saws. Here, take off those things and
come in. We've got a drop of Mary's sloe gin
They went into the parlor, and Dave removed his
oilskins. While he hung them to drain on a nail
outside, the parson poured him out a wineglass of
his wife's renowned sloe gin. He drank it down
quickly, not because he cared particularly about it,
but out of compliment to his friend's wife. Then
he set his glass down, and began to explain his
"This isn't just a friendly visit, Tom," he said.
"It's business. Bad business. You've got to help
The parson opened his eyes. It was something
quite new to have Dave demanding help.
"Go ahead," he said, his keen eyes lighting with
Dave drew a bunch of letters from his coat
pocket. He glanced over them hastily, and picked
out Mason's and handed it to the other. In picking
it out he had discovered another letter he had
"Read that," he said, while he glanced at the
address on the unopened envelope.
The handwriting was strange to him, and while
Tom Chepstow was reading Mason's letter he tore
the other open. As he read, the gravity of his face
slowly relaxed. At last an exclamation from the
parson made him look up.
"This is terrible, Dave!"
"It's a bit fierce," the other agreed. "Have you
read it all?" he inquired.
"Then you've got my meaning in coming to
"I see. I hadn't thought of it."
Dave smiled into the other's face.
"You're going to do it for me? It may mean
weeks. It may even mean months. You see, it's
an epidemic. At the best it might be only a couple
of weeks. They're tough, those boys. On the
other hand it might mean—anything to me."
Chepstow nodded. He understood well enough
what an epidemic of mountain fever in his lumber
camps must mean to Dave. He understood the
conditions under which he stood with regard to his
contract. A catastrophe like that might mean
ruin. And ruin for Dave would mean ruin for
nearly all connected with Malkern.
"Yes, I'll do it, Dave. Putting all friendship on
one side, it is clearly my duty. Certainly. I'll go
up there and lend all the aid I possibly can. You
must outfit me with drugs and help."
Dave held out his hand, and the two men gripped.
"Thanks, Tom," he said simply, although he
experienced a world of relief and gratitude. "I
wouldn't insult you with a bribe before you consented,
but when you come back there's a thumping
check for your charities lying somewhere
around my office."
The parson laughed in his whole-hearted fashion,
while his friend once more donned his oilskins.
"I'm always open to that sort of bribery, old
boy," he said, and was promptly answered by one
of Dave's slow smiles.
"That's good," he said. Then he held up his
other letter, but he did not offer it to be read.
"Betty told you what happened at my office the
other day—I mean, what happened to Jim Truscott?"
The parson's face clouded with swift
"Just so. Yes, we had some bother; but he's
just sent me this. A most apologetic letter. He
offers to sell me his mill now. I wanted to buy it,
you know. He wants twenty thousand dollars
cash for it. I shall close the deal at once." He
"Hard up, I s'pose?"
Dave shook his head.
"I don't think so. His change of front is
curious, though," he went on thoughtfully. "However,
that don't matter. I want the mill, and—I'm
going to buy. So long. I've got to go and look
at that piece of new track I'm getting laid down.
My single line to the depot isn't sufficient. I'll let
you know about starting up to the camps. I've
got a small gang of lumber-jacks coming up from
Ottawa. Maybe I'll get you to go up with them
later. Thanks, Tom."
The two men shook hands again, and Dave departed.
He battled his way through the driving rain to
his railroad construction, and on the road he
thought a good deal of Truscott's neglected letter.
There was something in its tone he could not convince
himself about. Why, he asked himself,
should he, so closely following on the events which
had happened in his office, deliberately turn round
and display such a Christian-like spirit? Somehow
it didn't seem to suit him. It didn't carry conviction.
Then there was the letter; its wording
was too careful. It was so deliberately careful that
it suggested a suppression of real feeling. This
was his impression, and though Dave was usually
an unsuspicious man, he could not shake it off.
He thought of little else but that letter all the
way to his works, and after reviewing the man's
attitude from what, in his own simple honesty, he
considered to be every possible standpoint, he
finally, with a quaint, even quixotic, kindliness
assured himself that there could after all be but one
interpretation to it. The man was penitent at his
painful exhibition before Betty, and his vile accusations
against himself. That his moral strength
was not equal to standing the strain of a personal
interview. That his training up at the Yukon,
where he had learned the sordid methods of a
professional gambler, had suggested the selling of
his mill to him as a sort of peace-offering. And
the careful, stilted tone of the letter itself was due
to the difficulty of its composition. Further, he
decided to accept his offer, and do so in a cordial,
friendly spirit, and, when opportunity offered, to
endeavor, by his own moral influence, to drag him
back to the paths of honest citizenship. This was
the decision to which his generous nature prompted
him. But his head protested.