Two nights later Dave was waiting in the tally
room for his guests to arrive. The place was just a
corner partitioned off from the milling floor. It
was here the foreman kept account of the day's
work—a bare room, small, and hardly worth the
name of "office." Yet there was work enough
done in it to satisfy the most exacting master.
The master of the mills had taken up a position
in the narrow doorway, in full view of the whole
floor, and was watching the sawyer on No. 1. It
was Mansell. He beheld with delight the wonderful
skill with which the man handled the giant logs
as they creaked and groaned along over the rollers.
He appeared to be sober, too. His deliberate
movements, timed to the fraction of a second, were
sufficient evidence of this. He felt glad that he
had taken him on his time-sheet. Every really
skilful sawyer was of inestimable value at the
moment, and, after all, this man's failing was one
pretty common to all good lumbermen.
Dawson came up, and Dave nodded in the
"Working good," he observed with satisfaction.
"Too good to last, if I know anything," grumbled
the foreman. "He'll get breakin' out, an
then—— I've a mind to set him on a 'buzz-saw'.
These big saws won't stand for tricks if he happens
to git around with a 'jag' on."
"You can't put a first-class sawyer on to a
'buzzer,'" said Dave decisively. "It's tantamount
to telling him he doesn't know his work. No,
keep him where he is. If he 'signs' in with a
souse on, push him out till he's sober. But so long
as he's right let him work where he is."
"Guess you're 'boss' o' this lay-out," grumbled
Then, as though the matter had no further concern
for him, Dawson changed the subject.
"There's twenty 'jacks' scheduled by to-night's
mail," he said, as though speaking of some dry-goods
instead of a human freight.
"They're for the hills to-night. Mr. Chepstow's
promised to go up and dose the boys for their fever.
I'm putting it to him to-night. He'll take 'em with
him. By the way, I'm expecting the parson and
Miss Betty along directly. They want to get a
look at this." He waved an arm in the direction
of the grinding rollers. "They want to see it—busy."
Dawson was less interested in the visitors.
"I see 'em as I come up," he said indifferently.
"Looked like they'd been around your office."
Dave turned on him sharply.
"Go down and bring 'em along up. And say—get
things ready for sending up to the camps to-night.
Parson'll have my buckboard and the black
team. He's got to travel quick. They can come
right away back when he's got there. See he's got
plenty of bedding and rations. Load it down good.
There's a case of medical supplies in my office.
That goes with him. Then you'll get three
'democrats' from Mulloc's livery barn for the boys.
See they've got plenty of grub too."
When Dave gave sharp orders, Dawson simply
listened and obeyed. He understood his employer,
and never ventured criticism at such times. He
hurried away now to give the necessary orders, and
then went on to find the visitors.
Directly he had gone the master of the mills
moved over to the sawyer on No. 1.
"You haven't forgotten your craft, Mansell," he
said pleasantly, his deep voice carrying, clarion-like,
distinctly over the din of the sawing-floor.
"Would you fergit how t' eat, boss?" the man
inquired surlily, measuring an oncoming log keenly
with his eye. He bore down on a "jolting" lever
and turned the log into a fresh position. Then he
leant forward and tipped the end of it with chalk.
Hand and eye worked mechanically together. He
knew to a hairsbreadth just where the trimming blade
should strike the log to get the maximum square
Dave shook his head.
"It would take some forgetting," he said, with a
smile. "You see there's always a stomach to
The log was passing, and the man had a moment's
breathing space while it traveled to the
fangs of the rushing saw. He looked up with a
pair of dark, brooding eyes in which shone a
peculiarly offensive light.
"Jest so," he vouchsafed. "I learned this when
I learned t' eat, an' it's filled my belly that long, fi'
year ain't like to set me fergittin'."
He turned to the rollers and watched the log. He
saw it hit the teeth of the saw plumb on his chalk
"An awful waste out of a lumberman's life, that
five years," Dave went on, when the crucial moment
had passed. "That mill would have been doing
well now, and—and you were foreman."
He was looking straight into the fellow's mean
face. He noted the terrible inroads drink had made
upon it, the sunken eyes, the pendulous lip, the
lines of dissipation in deep furrows round his mouth.
He pitied him from the bottom of his heart, but
allowed no softness of expression.
"Say," exclaimed the sawyer, with a vicious snap,
"when I'm lumberin' I ain't got time fer rememberin'
anything else—which is a heap good. I
don't guess it's good for any one buttin' in when the
logs are rollin'. Guess that log's comin' right back."
The man's unnecessary insolence was a little
staggering. Yet Dave rather liked him for it. The
independence of the sawyer's spirit appealed to him.
He really had no right to criticize Mansell's past, to
stir up an unpleasant memory for him.
He knew his men, and he realized that he had
overstepped his rights in the matter. He was
simply their employer. It was for him to give
orders, and for them to obey. In all else he must
take them as man and man. He felt now that there
was nothing more for him to say, so while the
sawyer clambered over to the return rollers, ready
for the second journey of the log, he walked
thoughtfully back to his office.
At that moment his visitors appeared, escorted
by Dawson. The foreman was piloting them with
all the air of a guide and the pride of his association
with the mills. Betty was walking beside him, and
while taking in the wonderful scene that opened out
before her, she was listening to the conversation of
the two men.
The foreman had taken upon himself to tell the
parson of the orders he had received for the night
journey, and the details of the preparations being
made for it. The news came to Chepstow unpleasantly,
yet he understood that its urgency must
be great, or Dave would never have decided upon so
sudden a journey. He was a little put out, but
quite ready to help his friend.
It was the first Betty had heard of it. She was
astonished and resentful. She had heard that there
was fever up in the hills, but her uncle had told her
nothing of Dave's request to him. Therefore, before
greetings had been exchanged, and almost before the
door of the tally room had closed upon the departing
foreman, she opened a volley of questions upon him.
"What's this about uncle going up to the hills
to-night, Dave?" she demanded. "Why has it
been kept secret? Why so sudden? Why to-night?"
Her inquiring glance turned from one to the
Dave made no hurry to reply. He was watching
the play of the strong, eager young face. The girl's
directness appealed to him even more than her
beauty. To-night she looked very pretty in a
black clinging gown which made her look almost
fragile. She seemed so slight, so delicate, yet her
whole manner had such reserve of virile force. He
thought now, as he had often thought before, she
possessed a brain much too big and keen for her
body, yet withal so essentially womanly as to be
something to marvel at.
The girl became impatient.
"Why wasn't I told? For goodness' sake don't
stand there staring, Dave."
"There's no secrecy exactly, Betty," the lumberman
said, "that is, except from the folks in the
village. You see, anything likely to check our
work, such as fever up in the camps, is liable to set
them worrying and talking. We didn't mean to
keep it from you——"
"Yes, yes," the girl broke in. "But why this
hurry? Why to-night?"
And so she forced Dave into a full explanation,
which alone would satisfy her. At the end of it
she turned to her uncle, who had stood quietly by
enjoying the manner in which she dictated her will
upon the master of the mills.
"It's an awful shame you've got to go, uncle,
especially while you've got all the new church
affairs upon your hands. But I quite see Dave's
right, and we must get the boys well as quickly as
possible. We've got to remember that these mills
are not only Dave's. They also belong to Malkern—one
might almost say to the people of this valley.
It is the ship, and—and we are its freight. So we
start at midnight. Does auntie know?"
Instantly two pairs of questioning eyes were
turned upon her. That coupling of herself with her
uncle in the matter had not escaped them.
"Your Aunt Mary knows I am going some time.
But she hasn't heard the latest development, my
dear," her uncle said. "But—but you said 'we'
Dave understood. He knew what was coming.
But then he understood Betty as did no one else.
"Of course I said 'we,'" Betty exclaimed, with a
laugh which only served to cloak the resolve that
lay behind it. "You are not going alone. Besides,
you can physic people well enough, uncle
dear, but you can't nurse them worth—worth a
cent. School's all right, and can get on without
me for a while. Well?" She smiled quickly from
one to the other. "Well, we're ready, aren't we?
We can't let this interfere with our view of the mill."
Her uncle shook his head.
"You can't go up there, Betty," he said seriously.
"You can't go about amongst those men. They're
good fellows. They're men. But——" he looked
over at Dave as though seeking support, a thing he
rarely needed. But he was dealing with Betty
now, and where she was concerned, there were times
when he felt that a little support might be welcome.
Dave promptly added his voice in support of his
"You can't go, little Betty," he said. "You can't,
little girl," he reiterated, shaking his shaggy head.
"You think you know the lumber-jacks, and I'll
allow you know them a lot. But you don't know
'em up in those camps. They're wild men.
They're just as savage as wolves, and foolish as
babes. They're just great big baby men, and as
irresponsible as half-witted schoolboys. I give
you my word I can't let you go up. I know how
you want to help us out. I know your big heart.
And I know still more what a help you'd be——"
"And that's just why I'm going," Betty snapped
him up. That one unfortunate remark undid all
the impression his appeal might otherwise have
made. And as the two men realized the finality of
her tone, they understood the hopelessness of turning
her from her purpose.
"Uncle dear," she went on, "please say 'yes.'
Because I'm going, and I'd feel happier with your
sanction. Dave," she turned with a smile upon the
lumberman, "you've just got to say 'yes,' or I'll
never—never let you subscribe to any charity or—or
anything I ever get up in Malkern again. Now
you two dears, mind, I'm going anyway. I'll just
count three, and you both say 'yes' together."
She counted deliberately, solemnly, but there was
a twinkle in her brown eyes.
And a simultaneous "Yes" came as surely as
though neither had any objection to the whole proceeding.
And furthermore, both men joined in the
girl's laugh when they realized how they had been
cajoled. To them she was quite irresistible.
"I don't know whatever your aunt will say," her
uncle said lugubriously.
"It's not so much what she'll say as—as what
may happen up there," protested Dave, his conscience
still pricking him.
But the girl would have no more of it.
"You are two dear old—yes, 'old'—sillies.
Now, Dave, the mills!"
Betty carried all before her with these men who
were little better than her slaves. They obeyed
her lightest command hardly knowing they obeyed
it. Her uncle's authority, whilst fully acknowledged
by her, was practically non-existent. Her loyalty
to him and her love for both her guardians left no
room for the exercise of authority. And Dave—well,
he was her adviser in all things, and like most
people who have an adviser, Betty went her own
sweet way, but in such a manner that made the
master of the mills believe that his help and advice
were practically indispensable to her.