Dave obediently led the way out of the tally
room to the great milling floor, and at once they
were in the heart of his world.
It was by no means new to Betty; she had seen
it all before, but never had the mills been driven at
such a pressure as now, and the sensation the
knowledge gave her was one which demanded the
satisfaction of optical demonstration. She was
thrilled with a sense of emergency. The roar of
the machinery carried with it a meaning it had
never held before. There was a current of excitement
in the swift, skilful movements of the sawyers
as they handled the mighty logs.
To her stirred imagination there was a suggestion
of superhuman agency, of some nether world,
in the yellow light of the flares which lit that vast
sea of moving rollers. As she gazed out across it
at the dim, distant corners she felt as though at any
moment the machinery might suddenly become
manned by hundreds of hideous gnomes, such as
she had read of in the fairy tales. Yet it was all
real, real and human, and Dave was the man who
controlled, whose brain and eyes watched over
every detail, whose wonderful skill and power were
carrying that colossal work to the goal of success.
As she looked, she sighed. She envied the man
whose genius had made all this possible.
Above the roar Dave's voice reached her.
"This is only part of it," he said; "come below."
And she followed him to the spiral iron staircase
which led to the floor below. Her uncle brought
up the rear.
At ordinary times the lower part of the mills was
given over to the shops for the manufacture of
smaller lumber, building stuff, doors and windows,
flooring, and tongue and groove. Betty knew this.
She knew every shop by heart, just as she knew
most of the workmen by sight. But now it was all
changed. The partitions had been torn down, and
the whole thrown into one floor. It was a replica
of the milling floor above.
Here again were the everlasting rollers; here
again were the tremendous logs traveling across
and across the floor; here again were the roar and
shriek of the gleaming saws. The girl's enthusiasm
rose. Her eyes wandered from the fascinating
spectacle to the giant at her side. She felt a lump
rise in her throat; she wanted to laugh, she wanted
to cry; but she did neither. Only her eyes shone
as she gazed at him; and his plainness seemed to
fall from him. She saw the man standing at her
side, but the great ungainly Dave had gone, leaving
in his place only such a hero as her glowing
heart could create.
They stood there watching, watching. None of
the three spoke. None of them had any words.
Dave saw and thought. His great unimaginative
head had no care for the picture side of it. His
eyes were on the sawyers, most of them stripped to
the waist in the heat of their labors in the summer
night. To him the interest of the scene lay in the
precision and regularity with which log followed
log over the rollers, and the skill with which they
Parson Tom, with a little more imagination, built
up in his mind the future prosperity of their beloved
valley, and thanked the Almighty Providence
that It had sent them such a man as Dave. But
Betty, in spite of her practical brain, lost sight of
all the practical side of the work. As she watched
she was living in such a dream as only comes once
in a lifetime to any woman. At that moment her
crown of glory was set upon Dave's rough head.
All she had hoped for, striven for all her life
seemed so small at the thought of him. And the
delight of those moments became almost painful.
She had always looked upon him as "her Dave,"
her beloved "chum," her adviser, her prop to lean
on at all times. But no. No, no; he was well and
truly named. He was no one's Dave. He was
just Dave of the Mills.
They moved on to a small doorway, and passing
along a protected gallery they worked their way
toward the "boom." The place was a vast backwater
of the river, enlarged to accommodate
millions of feet of logs. It was packed with a mass
of tumbled lumber, over which, in the dim light
thrown by waste fire, a hundred and more "jacks"
could be seen, clambering like a colony of
monkeys, pushing, prizing, easing, pulling with
their peaveys to get the logs freed, so that the
grappling tackle could seize and haul them up out
of the water to the milling floors above.
Here again they paused and silently gazed at the
stupendous work going on. There was no more
room for wonder either in the girl or her uncle.
The maximum had been reached. They could
only silently stare.
Dave was the first to move. His keen eyes had
closely watched the work. He had seen log after
log fly up in the grapple of the hydraulic cranes, he
had seen them shot into the gaping jaws of the
building, he had seen that not an idle hand was
down there in the boom, and he was satisfied.
Now he wanted to go on.
"There's the 'waste,'" he said casually. "But I
guess you've seen that heaps, only it's a bit bigger
now, and we've had to build two more 'feeders.'"
Betty answered him, and her tone was unusually
"Let's see it all, Dave," she said, almost humbly.
All her imperiousness had gone, and in its place
was an ecstatic desire to see all and anything that
owed its existence to this man.
Dave strode on. He was quite unconscious of
the change that had taken place in Betty's
thoughts of him. To him these things had become
every-day matters of his work. They meant
no more to him than the stepping-stones toward
success which every one who makes for achievement
has to tread.
Their way took them up another iron staircase
outside the main building. At the top of it was an
iron gallery, which passed round two angles of the
mill, and terminated at the three feeders, stretching
out from the mills to the great waste fire a hundred
yards away. From this gallery there was an
inspiring view of the "everlasting" fire. It had
been lit when the mill first started its operations
years ago, and had been burning steadily ever since;
and so it would go on burning as long as the saws
inside continued to rip the logs.
The feeders were three shafts, supported on iron
trestle work, each carrying an ever-moving, endless
bed on which the waste trimmings of the logs were
thrown. These were borne upward and outward
for a hundred yards till the shafts hung high above
the blazing mass. Here the endless band doubled
under, and its burden was precipitated below, where
it was promptly devoured by the insatiable flames.
For some moments they watched the great
timber pass on its way to the fire, and so appalling
appeared the waste that Parson Tom protested.
"This seems to me positively wanton," he said.
"Why, the stuff you're sending on to that fire is
perfect lumber. At the worst, what grand fuel it
would make for the villagers."
Dave nodded his great head. He often felt the
same about it.
"Makes you sicken some to see it go, doesn't
it?" he said regretfully. "It does me. But say,
we've got a waste yard full, and the folks in
Malkern are welcome to all they can haul away.
Even Mary uses it in her stoves, but they can't
haul or use it fast enough. If it wasn't for this fire
there wouldn't be room for a rat in Malkern inside
a year. Guess it's got to be, more's the pity."
There was no more to be said, and the three
watched the fire in silent awe. It was a marvelous
sight. The dull red-yellow light shone luridly over
everything. The mill on the one hand loomed
majestically out of the dark background of night.
The fire, over forty feet in height, lit the buildings
in a curious, uncanny fashion, throwing grotesque
and lurid shadows in every direction. Then all
around, on the farther sides, spread the distant dark
outline of ghostly pine woods, whose native gloom
resisted a light, which, by contrast, was so insignificantly
artificial. It gave a weird impression
that had a strong effect upon Betty's rapt imagination.
Dave again broke the spell. He could not spare
too much time, and, as they moved away, Betty
"It's all very, very wonderful," she said, moving
along at his side. "And to think even in winter,
no matter what the snowfall, that fire never goes
"If it rained like it's been raining to-day for six
months," he said, "I don't guess it could raise
more than a splutter." Then he turned to Tom
Chepstow. "Is there anything else you'd like to
see? You've got three hours to midnight."
But the parson had seen enough; and as he had
yet to overhaul the supplies he was to take up to
the hill camps, they made their way back to the
tally room. At the rollers on which Mansell was
working Dave paused with Betty, while her uncle
They watched a great log appear at the opening
over the boom. The chains of the hydraulic crane
creaked under their burden. Dave pointed at it
silhouetted against the light of the waste fire beyond.
"Watch him," he said. "That's Dick Mansell."
The pride in his tone was amply justified. Mansell
was at the opening, waiting, peavey in hand.
They saw the log dripping and swaying as it was
hauled up until its lower end cleared the rollers.
On the instant the sawyer leant forward and
plunged his hook into the soft pine bark. Then he
strained steadily and the log came slowly onward.
A whistle, and the crane was eased an inch at a
time. The man held his strain, and the end
lowered ever further over the rollers until it
touched. Two more whistles, and the log was
lowered faster until it lay exactly horizontal, and
then the rollers carried it in. Once its balance was
passed, the sawyer struck the grappling chains
loose with his peavey, and, with a rattle, they fell
clear, while the prostrate giant lumbered ponderously
into the mill.
It was all done so swiftly.
Now Mansell sprang to the foremost end and
chalked the log as it traveled. Then, like a cat, he
sprang to the rear of it and measured with his eye.
Dissatisfied, he ran to its side and prized it into a
fresh position, glancing down it, much as a rifleman
might glance over his sights. Satisfied at length,
he ran on ahead of the moving log to his saws.
Throwing over a lever, he quickened the pace of
the gleaming blade. On came the log. The
yielding wood met the merciless fangs of the saw
upon the chalk line, and passed hissing and shrieking
on its way as though it had met with no obstruction.
The girl took a deep breath.
"Splendid," she cried. Well as she knew this
work, to-night it appealed to her with a new force,
a deeper and more personal interest.
"Easy as pie," Dave laughed. Then more
seriously, "Yet it's dangerous as—as hell."
Betty nodded. She knew.
"But you don't have many accidents, thank
"Not many—considering. But you don't often
see a sawyer with perfectly sound hands. There's
generally something missing."
"I know. Look at Mansell's arm there." Betty
pointed at a deep furrow on the man's forearm.
"Yes, Mansell's been through it. I remember
when he got that. Like an Indian holds his first
scalp as a sign of his prowess, or the knights of old
wore golden spurs as an emblem of their knighthood,
the sawyer minus a finger or so has been literally
'through the mill,' and can claim proficiency in
his calling. But those are not the dangers I was
Betty waited for him to go on.
"Yes," he said solemnly. "It's the breaking
saw. That's the terror of a sawyer's life. And just
now of mine. It's always in the back of my head
like a black shadow. One breaking saw would do
more damage cutting up this big stuff than it would
take a fire to do in an hour. It would be the next
best thing to bursting a charge of dynamite. Take
this saw of Mansell's. A break, a bend out of the
truth, the log slips while it's being cut. Any of
these things. You wouldn't think a 'ninety-footer'
could be thrown far. If any of those things happened,
good-bye to anything or anybody with
whom it came into contact. But we needn't to
worry. Let's get in there to your uncle."