TO THE LUMBER CAMP
The gray morning mist rolled slowly up the hillsides
from the bosom of the warming valley below.
Great billows mounted, swelling in volume till,
overweighted, they toppled, surging like the breaking
rollers of a wind-swept ocean. Here and there
the rosy sunlight brushed the swirling sea with a
tenderness of color no painter's brush could ever
hope to produce. A precocious sunbeam shot
athwart the leaden prospect. It bored its way
through the churning fog searching the depths of
some benighted wood-lined hollow, as though to
rouse its slumbering world.
Dense spruce and hemlock forests grew out of the
mists. The spires of gigantic pines rose, piercing the
gray as though gasping for the warming radiance
above. A perching eagle, newly roused from its
slumbers, shrieked its morning song till the rebounding
cries, echoing from a thousand directions,
suggested the reveille of the entire feathered
world. The mournful whistle of a solitary marmot
swelled the song from many new directions, and the
raucous chorus had for its accompaniment the thundering
chords of hidden waters, seething and boiling
in the mighty canons below.
The long-drawn, sibilant hush of night was gone;
the leaden mountain dawn had passed; day, glorious
in its waking splendor, had routed the grim shadows
from the mystic depths of ca�on, from the
leaden-hued forest-laden valleys. The sunlight was
upon the dazzling mountain-tops, groping, searching
the very heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Dave's buckboard, no more conspicuous than
some wandering ant in the vast mountain world,
crawled from the depths of a wide valley and
slowly mounted the shoulders of a forest-clad ridge.
It vanished into the twilight of giant woods, only
to be seen again, some hours later, at a greater
altitude, climbing, climbing the great slopes, or
descending to gaping hollows, but always attaining
the higher lands.
But his speed was by no means a crawl in
reality, only did it appear so by reason of the vastness
of the world about him. His horses were
traveling as fresh, mettlesome beasts can travel
when urged by such a man as Dave, with his
nerves strung to a terrific tension by the emergency
of his journey. The willing beasts raced down the
hills over the uneven trail with all the sure-footed
carelessness of the prairie-bred broncho. They
took the inclines with scarcely perceptible slackening
of their gait. And only the sharp hills served
them for breathing space.
Dave occupied the driving-seat while Mason sat
guard over Jim Truscott in the carryall behind.
Those two days on the trail had been unusually
silent, even for men such as they were, and even
taking into consideration the object of their journey.
Truscott and Mason were almost "dead beat" with
all that had gone before, and Dave—he was wrapped
in his own thoughts.
His thoughts carried him far away from his companions
into a world where love and strife were
curiously blended. Every thread of such thought
sent him blundering into mires of trouble, the
possibilities of which set his nerves jangling with
apprehension. But their contemplation only stiffened
his stern resolve to fight the coming battle
with a courage and resource such as never yet had
he brought to bear in his bid for success. He
knew that before him lay the culminating battle of
his long and ardent sieging of Fortune's stronghold.
He knew that now, at last, he was face to
face with the great test of his fitness. He knew
that this battle had always been bound to come
before the goal of his success was reached;
although, perhaps, its method and its cause may
have taken a thousand other forms. It is not in
the nature of things that a man may march untested
straight to the golden pastures of his
ambitions. He must fight every foot of his way,
and the final battle must ever be the sternest, the
crudest. God help the man if he has not the
fitness, for Fate and Fortune are remorseless foes.
But besides his native courage, Dave was stirred
to even greater efforts by man's strongest motive,
be his cause for good or evil. Love was the main-spring
of his inspiration. He had desired success
with a passionate longing all his life, and his
success was not all selfishness. But now, before all
things, he saw the sweetly gentle face of Betty
Somers gazing with a heartful appeal, beckoning
him, calling him to help her. Every moment of
that long journey the vision remained with him;
every moment he felt might be the moment of dire
tragedy for her. He dared not trust himself to
consider the nature of that tragedy, or he must
have turned and rended the man who was its cause.
Only he blessed each moment that passed, bringing
him nearer to her side. He loved her as he loved
nothing and no one else on earth, and somehow
there had crept into his mind the thought of a
possibility he had never yet dared to consider. It
was a vague ray of hope that the impossibility of
his love was not so great as he had always believed.
How it had stolen in upon him he hardly knew.
Perhaps it was his mother's persistent references to
Betty. Perhaps it was the result of his talk with
the man who had brought her to the straits she was
now placed in. Perhaps it was one of these things,
or both, coupled with the memory of trifling
incidents in the past, which had seemed to mean
nothing at the time of their happening.
Whatever it was, his love for the girl swept
through him now in a way that drove him headlong
to her rescue. His own affairs of the mills,
the fate of his friends in Malkern, of the village
itself; all these things were driven into the background
of his thoughts. Betty needed him. The
thought set his brain whirling with a wild thrilling
happiness, mazed, every alternate moment, with a
horrible fear that drove him to the depths of
It was high noon when smoke ahead warned
him that the journey was nearly over. The buckboard
was on the ridge shouldering a wide valley,
and below it was the rushing torrent of the Red
Sand River. From his position Dave had a full
view of the dull green forest world rolling away,
east and west, in vast, undulating waves as far as
the eye could reach. Only to the south, beyond
the valley, was there a break in the dense, verdant
carpet. And here it was he beheld the telltale
smoke of the lumber camp.
"That's the camp," he said, looking straight
ahead, watching the slowly rising haze with longing
eyes. "Guess we haven't to cross the river.
Mason was looking out over his shoulder.
"No," he said after a moment's pause, while he
tried to read the signs he beheld. "We don't cross
the river. Keep to the trail. It takes us right past
"Where Parson Tom and——?"
"Yes, where they're living."
In another quarter of a mile they would be
descending the hollow of a small valley diverging
from the valley of the Red Sand River. As they
drew near the decline, Dave spoke again.
"Can you make anything out, Mason?" he
asked. "Seems to me that smoke is thick for—for
stovepipes. There's two lots; one of 'em nearer
Mason stared out for some moments, shielding
his eyes from the dazzling sun.
"I can't be sure," he said at last. "The nearest
smoke should be my shack."
A grave anxiety crept into Dave's eyes.
"It isn't thick there," he said, as though trying
to reassure himself. "That's your stovepipe?"
Mason's reply expressed doubt.
Suddenly Dave leant over and his whip fell
sharply across the horses' backs. They sprang at
their neck-yoke and raced down into the final dip.