AN ADVENTURE IN THE FOG
Tom Chepstow set out for the dugout. Churchman
as he was his blood was stirred to fighting
heat, his lean, hard muscles were tingling with a
nervous desire for action. Nor did he attempt to
check his feelings, or compose them into a condition
compatible with his holy calling. Possibly,
when the time had passed for action, and the mantle
of peace and good-will toward all men had once
more fallen upon him, he would bitterly regret his
outbreak, but, for the moment, he was a man, human,
passionate, unreasoning, thrilling with the joy
of life, and the delight of a moral truancy from all
his accepted principles. No schoolboy could have
broken the bonds of discipline with a greater joy,
and his own subconscious knowledge of wrong-doing
was no mar to his pleasure.
The fog was thick, but it did not cause him great
inconvenience. He took to the woods for his
course, and, keeping close to the edge which encircled
the camp clearing, he had little difficulty in
striking the path to the dugout. This achieved he
had but to follow it carefully. The one possibility
that caused him any anxiety was lest he should
overshoot the hut in the fog.
But he need have had no fear of this. Dense as
the fog was, the lights of the dugout were plainly
visible when he came to it. Betty, with careful
forethought, had set the oil lamps in the two windows.
She quite understood the difficulties of that
forest land, and she had no desire for the men-folk
to spend the night roaming the wilderness.
The parson found her calmly alert. She did not
fly at him with a rush of questions. She was far
more composed than he, yet there was a sparkling
brilliancy in her brown eyes which told of feelings
strongly controlled; her eyelids were well parted,
and there was a shade of quickening in the dilation
of her nostrils as she breathed. She looked up into
his face as he turned after closing the door, and his
tongue answered the mute challenge.
"There's to be a great game to-night," he said,
rubbing the palms of his hands together. The
tone, the action, both served to point the state of
Knowing him as she did Betty needed no words
to tell her that the "game" was to be no sort of
"It's a 'strike,'" he went on. "A strike, and
a bad one. They intend to make a prisoner of
Mason, and, maybe, of us. We've got to outwit
them. Now, help me get some things together,
and I'll tell you while we get ready. We've got to
He picked up a gunny sack while he was speaking
and gave it to Betty to hold open. Then he
immediately began to deplete the lumberman's
larder of any eatables that could be easily
Ever since the men had left her this strike had
been in Betty's mind, so his announcement in no
way startled her.
"What of Dave?" she asked composedly.
"Has he any—idea of it?"
"That's just it. We've got to let him know.
He's quite in the dark. Communications cut.
Mason must get away at once to let him know.
He intends to 'jump' their buckboard and team—I
mean these strikers' buckboard." He laughed.
He felt ready to laugh at most things. It was not
that he did not care. His desire was inspired by
the thought that he was to play a part in the
"The one that came in to-night?" Betty asked,
taking up a fresh sack to receive some pots and
"And we are to bolt with him?" she went on in
a peculiar manner.
Her uncle paused in the act of putting firearms
and ammunition into the sack. Her tone checked
his enthusiasm. Then he laughed.
"We're not 'bolting' Betty, we're escaping so
that Dave may get the news. His fortune depends
on our success. Remember our communications
But his arguments fell upon deaf ears. Betty
smiled and shook her brown head.
"We're bolting, uncle. Listen. There's no
need for us to go. In fact, we can't go. Think
for a moment. Things depend on the speed with
which Dave learns of the trouble. We should
make two more in the buckboard of which the
horses are already tired. Mason, by himself, will
travel light. Besides, a girl is a deterrent when it
comes to—fighting. No, wait." She held up a
warning finger as he was about to interrupt.
"Then there are the sick here. We cannot leave
them. They—are our duty. Besides, Dave's interests
would be ill served if we left the fever to
continue its ravages unchecked."
In her last remark Betty displayed her woman's
practical instinct. Perhaps she was not fully aware
of her real motive. Perhaps she conscientiously
believed that it was their duty that claimed her.
Nevertheless her thought was for the man she
loved, and it guided her every word and action; it
inspired her. The threat of imprisonment up here
did not frighten her, did not even enter into her
considerations at all. Dave—her every nerve
vibrated with desire to help him, to save him.
Chepstow suddenly reached out and laid a hand
on her shoulder. His enthusiasm had passed, and,
for the moment, the churchman in him was uppermost
"You're right, Betty," he said with decision.
"We stay here."
The girl's eyes thanked him, but her words were
full of practical thought.
"Will Mason come here? Because, if so, we'll
get these things outside ready."
"No. We've got to carry them down the trail
and meet him there. There may be a rush. There
may be a scuffle. We don't know. I half think
you'd better stay here while I go and meet him."
Betty shook her head.
"I'm going to help," she exclaimed, with a flash
of battle in her eyes.
"Then come on." Her uncle shouldered the
heavier of the two sacks, and was about to tuck the
other under his arm, but Betty took it from him,
and lifted it to her shoulder in a twinkling.
"Halves," she cried, as she moved toward the
The man laughed light-heartedly and blew out
the lights. Then, as he reached the girl's side, a
distant report caused him to stop short.
"What's that?" he demanded.
"A pistol shot," cried Betty. "Come along!"
They ran out of the hut and down the trail, and,
in a moment, were swallowed up in the fog.
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Bob Mason intended to give Chepstow a fair
start. He knew, if he were to be successful, his
task would occupy far less time than the other's.
And a vital point in his scheme lay in meeting his
two friends at the appointed spot.
He was fully alive to the rank audacity of his
plan. It was desperate, and the chances were
heavily against him. But he was not a man to
shrink from an undertaking on such a score. He
had to warn Dave, and this was the only means
that suggested itself. If he were not a genius of
invention, he was at least full of courage and determination.
On his previous reconnoitre he had located the
buckboard at the tying-posts in front of the store.
Quite why it had been left there he could not understand,
unless the strike-leader intended leaving
camp that night. However, the point of interest
lay in the fact of the vehicle and horses being there
ready for his use if he could only safely possess
himself of them, so speculation as to the reason of
its being there was only of secondary interest.
When he made his first move Tom Chepstow had
been gone some ten minutes. He groped his way
carefully along the wall until the front angle of the
building was reached, and here he paused to ascertain
the position of things. The meeting was still
in progress inside, and, as yet, there seemed to be
no sign of its breaking up. The steady hum of
voices that reached him told him this.
About twenty yards directly in front of him was
the buckboard; while to the right, perhaps half
that distance away, was the open door of the store,
and adjacent to it a large glass window. Both were
lit up, and the glow from the oil lamps shone dully
on the fog bank. He was half inclined to reconnoitre
these latter to ascertain if any one were
about, but finally decided to go straight for his goal
and chance everything. With this intention he
moved straight out from the building and vanished
in the fog.
He walked quickly. Fortune favored him until he
was within a few yards of the tying-post, when suddenly
the clanging of an iron-handled bucket being
set roughly upon the ground brought him to a dead
standstill. Some one was tending the horses—probably
watering them. Evidently they were
being got ready for a journey. Almost unconsciously
his hand went to the pocket in which he
carried his revolver.
At that moment a roar of applause came from
the store, and he knew the meeting was drawing to
a close. Then came a prolonged cheering, followed
by the raucous singing of "He's a jolly good
fellow." It <i>was</i> the end.
He could delay no longer. Taking his bearings
as well as the fog would permit, he struck out for
the tail end of the buckboard. He intended reaching
the "near-side" of the horses, where he felt
that the reins would be looped up upon the harness,
and as the best means of avoiding the man with the
In this he had little difficulty, and when he
reached the vehicle he bent low, and, passing clear
of the wheels, drew up toward the horses' heads.
By this time the man with the bucket was moving
away, and he breathed more freely.
But his relief was short-lived. The men were already
pouring out of the store, and the fog-laden
air was filled with the muffled tones of many voices.
To add to his discomfiture he further became aware
of footsteps approaching. He could delay no
longer. He dared not wait to let them pass.
Then, they might be the owners of the buckboard.
His movements became charged with almost electrical
He reached out and assured himself that the bits
were in the horses' mouths. Then he groped for
the reins; as he expected, they were looped in the
harness. Possessing himself of them, he reached
for the collar-chain securing the horses to the posts.
He pressed the swivel open, and, releasing it,
lowered the chain noiselessly. And a moment
later two men loomed up out of the fog on the "off-side."
They were talking, and he listened.
"It's bad med'cine you leaving to-night," he
heard the voice of the strike-leader say in a grumbling
"I can't help that," came the response. It was
a voice he did not recognize.
"Well, we've got to secure this man Mason to-night.
You can't trust these fellows a heap. Give
'em time, and some one will blow the game. Then
he'll be off like a rabbit."
"Well, it's up to you to get him," the strange
voice retorted sharply. "I'm paying you heavily.
You've undertaken the job. Besides, there's that
cursed parson and his niece up here. I daren't take
a chance of their seeing me. I oughtn't to have
come up here at all. If Lieberstein hadn't been
such a grasping pig of a Jew there would have been
no need for my coming. You've just got to put
everything through on your own, Walford. I'm
Mason waited for no more. The buckboard belonged
to the stranger, and he was about to use it.
He laughed inwardly, and his spirits rose. Everything
was ready. He dropped back to the full extent
of the reins as stealthily and as swiftly as possible.
This cleared him of the buckboard and hid
him from the view of the men. Then with a rein
in each hand he slapped them as sharply as he
could on the quarters of the cold and restless
horses. They jumped at the neck-yoke, and with
a "yank" he swung them clear of the tying-posts.
He shouted at them and slapped the reins again,
and the only too willing beasts plunged into a
He heard an exclamation from one of the men as
the buckboard shot past them, and the other made
a futile grab for the off-side rein. For himself he
seized the rail of the carryall with one hand and
gave a wild leap. He dropped into the vehicle
safely but with some force, and his legs were left
hanging over the back.
But he had not cleared the danger yet. He was
in the act of drawing in his legs when they were
seized in an arm embrace, and the whole weight of
a man hung upon him in an effort to drag him off
the vehicle. There was no time to consider. He
felt himself sliding over the rail, which only checked
his progress for an instant. But that instant gave
him a winning chance. He drew his revolver, and
leveling it, aimed point-blank at where he thought
the man's shoulder must be. There was a loud report,
and the grip on his legs relaxed. The man
dropped to the ground, and he was left to scramble
to his feet and climb over into the driving-seat.
A blind, wild drive was that race from the store.
He drove like a fury in the fog, trusting to the instinct
of the horses and the luck of the reckless to
guide him into the comparative safety of the eastward
As the horses flew over the ground the cries of
the strikers filled the air. They seemed to come
from every direction, even ahead. The noise, the
rattle of the speeding wheels, fired his excitement.
The fog—the dense gray pall that hung over the
whole camp—was his salvation, and he shouted
It was a useless and dangerous thing to do, and
he realized his folly at once. A great cry instantly
went up from the strikers. He was recognized, and
his name was shouted in execration. He only
laughed. There was joy in the feel of the reins,
in the pulling of the mettlesome horses. They
were running strong and well within themselves.
It was only a matter of seconds from the time of
his start to the moment when he felt the vehicle
bump heavily over a series of ruts. He promptly
threw his weight on the near-side rein, and the
horses swung round. It was the trail he was looking
for. And as the horses settled down to it he
breathed more freely. It was only after this point
had been gained and passed that he realized the
extent of his previous risk. He knew that the
entrance to the trail on its far side was lined by
log shanties, and he had been driving straight for
In the midst of his freshly-acquired ease of
mind came a sudden and unpleasant recollection.
He remembered the path through the woods to the
dugout; it was shorter than the trail he was on by
nearly a mile. While he had over a mile and a
half to go, those in pursuit, if they took to the path,
had barely half.
He listened. But he knew beforehand that his
fears were only too well founded. Yes, he could
hear them. The voices of the pursuers sounded
away to the left. They were abreast of him.
They had taken to the woods. He snatched the
whip from its socket and laid it heavily across the
horses' backs, and the animals stretched out into
a race. The buckboard jumped, it rattled and
shrieked. The pace was terrific. But he was ready
to take every chance now, so long as he could
gain sufficient time to take up those he knew to
be waiting for him ahead.
In another few minutes he would know the
worst—or the best. Again and again he urged
his horses. But already they were straining at the
top of their speed. They galloped as though the
spirit of the race had entered their willing souls.
They could do no more than they were doing; it
was only cruelty to flog them. If their present
speed was insufficient then he could not hope to
outstrip the strikers. If he only could hear their
voices dropping behind.
The minutes slipped by. The fog worried him.
He was watching for the dugout, and he feared lest
he should pass it unseen. Nor could he estimate
the distance he had come. Hark! the shouts of
the pursuers were drawing nearer, and—they were
still abreast of him! He must be close on the dugout.
He peered into the fog, and suddenly a dark
shadow at the trail-side loomed up. There was
no mistaking it. It was the hut; and it was in
darkness. His friends must be on ahead. How
far! that was the question. On that depended
What was that? The hammering of heavy feet
on the hard trail sounded directly behind him. He
had gained nothing. Then he thought of that halt
that yet remained in front of him, and something like
panic seized him. He slashed viciously at his horses.
He felt like a man obsessed with the thought
of trailing bloodhounds. He must keep on, on.
There must be no pause, no rest, or the ravening
pack would fall on him and rend him. Yet he
knew that halt must come. He was gaining
rapidly enough now. Without that halt they could
never come up with him. But—his ears were
straining for Chepstow's summons. Every second
it was withheld was something gained. He possessed
a frantic hope that some guiding spirit
might have induced the churchman to take up a
position very much further on than he had suggested.
The call had come. Chepstow was at the edge
of the trail. Mason's hopes dropped to zero. He
abandoned himself to the inevitable, flung his
weight on the reins, and brought his horses to a
stand with a jolt.
"Where's Miss Betty?" he demanded. But his
ears caught the sound of the men behind him, and
he hurried on without waiting for a reply. "Quick,
parson! The bags! fling 'em in, and jump for it!
They're close behind!"
"Betty's gone back," cried Chepstow, flinging
the sacks into the carryall. "I'm going back too.
You go on alone. We've got the sick to see to.
Tell Dave we're all right. So long! Drive on!
Good luck! Eh?"
A horrified cry from Mason had caused the final
He was pointing at the off-side horse standing
out at right angles to the pole.
"For God's sake, fix that trace," he cried.
"Quick, man! It's unhooked! Gee! What
Chepstow sprang to secure the loosened trace.
He, too, could hear the pursuers close behind. He
fumbled the iron links in his anxiety, and it took
some moments to adjust.
"Right," he cried at last, after what seemed an
interminable time. Mason whipped up his horses,
and they sprang to their traces. But as they did
so there was a sudden rush from behind, and a
figure leapt on to the carryall. The buckboard
rocked and the driver, in the act of shouting at his
horses, felt himself seized by the throat from behind.
Fortunately the churchman saw it all. His
blood rushed to his brain. As the buckboard was
sweeping past him he caught the iron rail and
leapt. In an instant he was on his feet and had
closed with Mason's assailant. He, too, went for
the throat, with all the ferocity of a bulldog. The
mantle of the church was cast to the winds. He
was panting with the lust for fight, and he crushed
his fingers deep into the man's windpipe. They
dropped together on the sacks.
Mason, released, dared not turn. He plied his
whip furiously. He had the legs of his pursuers
and he meant to add to his distance. He heard
the struggle going on behind him. He heard
the gasp of a choking man. And, listening, he
reveled in it as men of his stamp will revel in such
"Choke him, parson! Choke the swine!" he
hurled viciously over his shoulder.
He got no answer. The struggle went on in
silence, and presently Mason began to fear for the
result. He slackened his horses down and glanced
back. Tom Chepstow's working features looked up
"I've got him," he said: then of a sudden he
looked anxiously down at the man he was kneeling
on. "He's—he's unconscious. I hope——
You'd better pull up."
"I wish you'd choke the life out of him," cried
"I did my best, I'm afraid," the parson replied
ruefully. "You'd better pull up."
But the lumberman kept on.
"Half a minute. Get these matches, and have a
look at him. I'll slow down."
The churchman seized the matches, and, in his
anxiety at what he had done, struck several before
he got one burning long enough to see the unconscious
man's face. Finally he succeeded, and an
ejaculation of surprise broke from him.
"Heavens! It's Jim Truscott!" he cried.
He pressed his hand over the man's heart.
"Thank God! he's alive," he added.
Mason drew up sharply. A sudden change had
come over his whole manner. He sprang to the
"Here, help me secure him," he said almost
fiercely. "I'll take him down to Dave."
They lashed their prisoner by his hands and feet.
Then Mason seized the churchman excitedly by the
"Get back, parson!" he cried. "Get back to
the dugout quick as hell'll let you! There's Miss
"God! I'd forgotten! And there's those—strikers!"