Dave's buckboard swept up the slope of the last
valley. It reached the dead level of the old travoy
trail, which passed in front of Mason's dugout on
its way to the lumber camp. He was looking ahead
for signs which he feared to discover; he wanted
the reason of the smoke he had seen from afar off.
But now a perfect screen of towering pine forest
lined the way, and all that lay beyond was hidden
from his anxious eyes.
He flogged his horses faster. The perfect mountain
calm was unbroken; even the speeding horses
and the rattle of his buckboard were powerless to
disturb that stupendous quiet. It was a mere circumstance
in a world too vast to take color from a
detail so insignificant. It was that wondrous peace,
that thrilling silence that aggravated his fears. His
apprehension grew with each passing moment, and,
though he made no display, his clutch upon the
reins, the sharpness with which he plied his whip,
the very immobility of his face, all told their tale of
feelings strung to a high pitch.
Mason was standing directly behind him in the
carryall. He steadied himself with a grip upon
the back of the driving-seat. Beside him the
wretched Truscott was sitting on the jolting slats of
the body of the vehicle, mercilessly thrown about
by the bumping over the broken trail. Mason, too,
was staring out ahead.
"Seems quiet enough," he murmured, half to
Dave caught at his words.
"That's how it seems," he said, in a tone of doubt.
"It's less than half a mile now," Mason went on
a moment later. "We're coming to the big bend."
Dave nodded. His whip fell across his horses'
quarters. "Best get ready," he said significantly.
Then he laughed mirthlessly and tried to excuse
himself. "I don't guess there'll be a heap of
Mason's reply carried no conviction. Both men
were in doubt. Neither knew what to expect.
Neither knew in what way to prepare for the meeting
that was now so near.
Now the trail began to swing out to the right.
It was the beginning of the big bend. The walls
of forest about them receded slightly, opening out
where logs had been felled beside the trail in years
past. The middle of the curve was a small clearing.
Then, further on, as it inclined again to the
left, it narrowed down to the bare breadth of the
"Just beyond this——"
Mason broke off. His words were cut short by a
loud shout just ahead of them. It was a shout of
triumph and gleeful enjoyment. Dave's whip fell
again, and the horses laid on to their traces. From
that moment to the moment when the horses were
almost flung upon their haunches by the sudden
jolt with which Dave pulled them up was a matter
of seconds only. He was out of the buckboard,
too, having flung the reins to Mason, and was
standing facing a small group of a dozen men whom
it was almost impossible to recognize as lumberjacks.
In truth, there were only three of them who
were, the others were some of those Mason had
been forced to engage in his extremity.
At the sight of Dave's enormous figure a cry
broke from the crowd. Then they looked at the
buckboard with its panting horses, and Mason
standing in the carryall, one hand on the reins and
one resting on the revolver on his hip. Their cry
died out. But as it did so another broke from their
midst. It was Betty's voice, and her uncle's.
There was a scuffle and a rush. Gripping the girl
by the arm Tom Chepstow burst from their midst
and ran to Dave's side, dragging Betty with him.
"Thank God!" he cried.
But there was no answering joy from Dave. He
scarcely even seemed to see them. A livid, frozen
rage glared out of his eyes. His face was terrible
to behold. He moved forward. His gait was cat-like,
his head was thrust forward, it was almost as
if he tiptoed and was about to spring upon the
mob. As he came within a yard of the foremost
of the men he halted, and one great arm shot out
with its fist clenching.
"Back!" he roared; "back to your camp, every
man of you! Back, you cowardly hounds!"
There were twelve of them; fierce, savage, half-drunken
men. They cared for no one, they feared
no one. They were ready to follow whithersoever
their passions led them. There was not a
man among them that would not fight with the last
breath in his body. Yet they hesitated at the
sound of that voice. They almost shrank before
that passion-lit face. The man's enormous stature
was not without awe for them. And in that
moment of hesitation the battle was won for Dave.
Chepstow's repeating-rifle was at his shoulder, and
Mason's revolver had been whipped out of its holster
and was held covering them.
Suddenly there was a movement in the crowd,
somewhere behind. If Dave saw it he gave no
sign. But Mason saw it, and, sharply incisive, his
voice rang out—
"The first man that moves this way I'll shoot
him like a dog!"
Instantly every eye among the strikers was
turned upon the two men with their ready weapons,
and to a man they understood that the game
"Get out! Get out—quick!" Dave's great
voice split the air with another deep roar. And
the retreat began on the instant with those in the
rear. Some one started to run, and in a moment
the rest had joined in a rush for the camp, vanishing
into the forest like a pack of timber wolves,
flinging back fierce, vengeful glances over their
shoulders at those who had so easily routed
No one stirred till the last man had disappeared.
Then Dave turned.
"Quick!" he cried, in an utterly changed voice,
"get into the buckboard!"
But Betty turned to him in a half-hysterical
"Oh, Dave, Dave!" she cried helplessly.
But Dave was just now a man whom none of
them had ever seen before. He had words for no
one—not even for Betty. He suddenly caught her
in his arms and lifted her bodily into the buckboard.
He scrambled in after her, while Chepstow
jumped up behind. In a moment, it seemed, they
were racing headlong for the camp.
<P CLASS="noindent" ALIGN="center">
<SPAN STYLE="letter-spacing: 4em">*****</SPAN><BR>
The camp was in a ruinous condition. The
destructive demon in men temporarily demented
was abroad and his ruthless hand had fallen
heavily. The whole atmosphere suggested the red
tide of anarchy. The charred remains of the
sutler's store was the centre of a net of ruin spread
out in every direction, and from this radiated the
wreckage of at least a dozen shanties, which had,
like the store, been burned to the ground.
In the circumstances it would be impossible to
guess at the reasons for such destruction: maybe it
was the result of carelessness, maybe a mischievous
delight in sweeping away that which reminded
these men of their obligations to their employer,
maybe it was merely a consequence of the settlement
of their own drunken feuds. Whatever the
cause, the hideous effect of the strike was apparent
in every direction.
In the centre of the clearing was a great gathering
of the lumbermen. Their seared faces expressed
every variety of mental attitude, from fierce
jocularity down to the blackest hatred of interference
from those whose authority had become
anathema to them.
They were gathered at the call of those who had
fled from the dugout, spurred to a defense of what
they believed to be their rights by a hurried,
garbled account of the summary treatment just
meted out to them. They were ready for more
than the mere assertion of their demands. They
were ready to enforce them, they were ready for
any mischief which the circumstances prompted.
It was a deadly array. Many were sober, many
were sobering, many were still drunk. The latter
were those whose cunning had prompted them, at
the outset of the strike, to secrete a sufficient
supply of liquor from their fellows. And the
majority of these were not the real lumber-jacks,
those great simple children of the forest, but the
riffraff that had drifted into the camp, or had been
sent thither by those who promoted the strike.
The real lumber-jacks were more or less incapable
of such foresight and cunning. They were slow-thinking
creatures of vast muscle, only swift and
keen as the axes they used when engaged in the
work which was theirs.
Through the rank animal growth of their bodies
their minds had remained too stunted to display
the low cunning of the scallywags whose unscrupulous
wits alone must supply their idle bodies
with a livelihood. But simple as babes, simple and
silly as sheep, and as dependent upon their
shepherd, as these men were, they were at all times
dangerous, the more dangerous for their very
simplicity. Just now, with their unthinking brains
sick with the poison of labor's impossible
argument, and the execrable liquor of the camp, they
were a hundred times more deadly.
Men had come in for the orgy from all the
outlying camps. They had been carefully shepherded
by those whose business it was to make the
strike successful. Discontent had been preached
into every ear, and the seed had fallen upon
fruitful, virgin soil. Thus it was that a great
concourse had foregathered now.
There was an atmosphere of restrained excitement
abroad among them. For them the news of
Dave's arrival had tremendous possibilities. A
babel of harsh voices debated the situation in loud
tones, each man forcing home his argument with a
mighty power of lung, a never-failing method of
supporting doubtful argument. The general attitude
was threatening, yet it hardly seemed to be
unanimous. There was too much argument. There
seemed to be an undercurrent of uncertainty with
no single, capable voice to check or guide it.
As the moments sped the crowd became more
and more threatening, but whether against the
master of the mills, or whether the result of hot
blood and hot words, it would have been difficult
to say. Then, just as the climax seemed to be
approaching, a magical change swept over the
throng. It was wrought by the sudden appearance
of Dave's buckboard, which seemed to leap upon
the scene from the depth of the forest. And as it
came into view a hoarse, fierce shout went up.
Then, in a moment, an expectant hush fell.
Dave's eyes were fixed upon the crowd before
him. He gave no sign. His face, like a mask,
was cold, hard, unyielding. No word was spoken
by those in the buckboard. Every one, with nerves
straining and pulses throbbing, was waiting for
what was to happen; every one except the prisoner,
The master of the mills read the meaning of
what he beheld with the sureness of a man bred to
the calling of these men. He knew. And knowing,
he had little blame for them. How could it be
otherwise with these unthinking souls? The blame
must lie elsewhere. But his sympathy left his determination
unaltered. He knew, no one better,
that here the iron heel alone could prevail, and for
the time his heel was shod for the purpose.
He drew near. Some one shouted a furious
epithet at him, and the cry was taken up by others.
The horses shied. He swung them back with a
heavy hand, and forced them to face the crowd, his
whip falling viciously at the same time. But, for a
moment, his face relaxed its cold expression. His
quick ears had detected a lack of unanimity in the
execration. Suddenly he pulled the horses up.
He passed the reins to Mason and leaped to the
It was a stirring moment. The mob advanced,
but the movement seemed almost reluctant. It
was not the rush of blind fury one might have
expected, but rather as though it were due to pressure
from behind by those under cover of their comrades
Dave moved on to meet them, and those in the
buckboard remained deathly still. Mason was the
first to move. He had just become aware that
Dave had left his revolver on the seat of the vehicle.
Instantly he lifted the reins and walked the horses
closer to the crowd.
"He's unarmed," he said, in explanation to the
Chepstow nodded. He moved his repeating-rifle
to a handier position. Betty looked up.
"He left that gun purposely," she said. "I saw
Her face was ghastly pale, but a light shone in
her eyes which nobody could have failed to interpret.
Mason saw it and no longer hesitated.
"Will you take these reins?" he said. "And—give
me your revolver."
The girl understood and obeyed in silence.
"I think there'll be trouble," Mason went on
a moment later, as he saw Dave halt within a few
yards of the front rank of the strikers.
He watched the men close about his chief in a
semicircle, but the buckboard in rear always held
open a road for retreat. Now the crowd pressed up
from behind. The semicircle became dense.
Those in the buckboard saw that many of the men
were carrying the tools of their calling, prominent
among them being the deadly peavey, than which,
in case of trouble, no weapon could be more dangerous
at close quarters.
As he halted Dave surveyed the sea of rough,
hard faces glowering upon him. He heard the
mutterings. He saw the great bared arms and the
knotty hands grasping the hafts of their tools. He
saw all this and understood, but the sight in no way
disturbed him. His great body was erect, his cold
eyes unwavering. It was the unconscious pose of a
man who feels the power to control within him.
"Well?" he inquired, with an easy drawl.
Instantly there was silence everywhere. It was
the critical moment. It was the moment when,
before all things, he must convince these lawless
creatures of his power, his reserve of commanding
"Well?" he demanded again. "Where's your
leader? Where's the gopher running this layout?
I've come right along to talk to you boys to see if
we can't straighten this trouble out. Where's your
leader, the man who was hired to make you think I
wasn't treating you right; where is he? Speak up,
boys, I can't rightly hear all you're saying. I want
to parley with your leaders."
Mason listening to the great voice of the lumberman
chuckled inaudibly. He realized something
of Dave's method, and the shrewdness of it.
The mutterings had begun afresh. Some of the
front rank men drew nearer. Dave did not move.
He wanted an answer. He wanted an indication of
their actual mood. Somebody laughed in the
crowd. It was promptly shouted down. It was
the indication the master of the mills sought. They
wanted to hear what he had to say. He allowed
the ghost of a smile to play round the corners of
his stern mouth for a moment. But his attitude
remained uncompromising. His back stiffened, his
great shoulders squared, he stood out a giant
amongst those giants of the forest.
"Where's your man?" he cried, in a voice that
could be heard by everybody. "Is he backing
down? That's not like a lumber-jack. P'r'aps he's
not a lumber-jack. P'r'aps he's got no clear argument
I can't answer. P'r'aps he hasn't got the grit
to get out in the open and talk straight as man to
man. Well, let it go at that. Guess you'd best set
one of you up as spokesman. I've got all the time
you need to listen."
"Your blasted skunk of a foreman shot him
down!" cried a voice in the crowd, and it was supported
by ominous murmurs from the rest.
"By God, and Mason was right!" cried Dave, in
a voice so fierce that it promptly silenced the murmurs.
His dilating eyes rested on several familiar
faces. The faces of men who had worked for him
for years, men whose hair was graying in the service
of the woods. He also flashed his lightning glance
upon faces unfamiliar, strangers to his craft. "By
God, he was right!" he repeated, as though to force
the violence of his opinion upon them. "I could
have done it myself. And why? Because he has
come here and told you you are badly treated.
He's told you the tale that the profits of this work
of yours belong to you. He's told you I am an
oppressor, who lives by the sweat of your labors.
He tells you this because he is paid to tell you.
Because he is paid by those who wish to ruin my
mills, and put me out of business, and so rob you
all of the living I have made it possible for you to
earn. You refuse to work at his bidding; what is
the result? My mill is closed down. I am ruined.
These forests are my right to cut. There is no
more cutting to be done. You starve. Yes, you
starve like wolves in winter. You'll say you can
get work elsewhere. Go and get it, and you'll
starve till you get it at half the wage I pay you. I
am telling you what is right. I am talking to you
with the knowledge of my own ruin staring me in
the face. You have been told you can squeeze me,
you can squeeze a fraction more of pay out of me.
But you can't, not one cent, any man of you; and
if you go to work again to keep our ship afloat
you'll have to work harder than ever before—for
the same pay. Now pass up your spokesman, and
I'll talk to him. I can't bellow for all the world to
It was a daring beginning, so daring that those in
the buckboard gasped in amazement. But Dave
knew his men, or, at least, he knew the real lumber-jack.
Straight, biting talk must serve him, or
Now followed a buzz of excited talk. There
were those among the crowd who from the beginning
had had doubts, and to these Dave's words
appealed. He had voiced something of what they
had hazily thought. Others there were who were
furious at his biting words. Others again, and
these were not real lumber-jacks, who were for
turning upon him the savage brutality of their
An altercation arose. It was the dispute of factions
suddenly inflamed. It was somewhere in rear
of the crowd. Those in front turned to learn the
cause. Dave watched and listened. He understood.
It was the result of his demand for a
spokesman. Opinions were divided, and a dozen
different men were urged forward. He knew he
must check the dispute. Suddenly his voice rang
out above the din.
"It's no use snarling about it like a lot of coyotes,"
he roared. "Pass them all through, and
I'll listen to 'em all. Now, boys, pass 'em through
One of the men in front of him supported him.
"Aye, aye," he shouted. "That's fair, boys,
bring 'em along. The boss'll talk 'em straight."
The man beside him hit him sharply in the ribs,
and the broad-shouldered "jack" swung round.
"Ther' ain't no 'boss' to this layout, Peter," objected
the man who had dealt the blow. "Yonder
feller ain't no better'n us."
The man scowled threateningly as he spoke. He
was an enormous brute with a sallow, ill-tempered
face, and black hair. Dave heard the words and
his eyes surveyed him closely. He saw at a glance
there was nothing of the lumberman about him.
He set him down at once as a French Canadian
bully, probably one of the men instrumental in the
However, his attention was now drawn to the
commotion caused by six of the lumbermen being
pushed to the front as spokesmen. They joined
the front rank, and stood sheepishly waiting for
their employer. Custom and habit were strong upon
them, and a certain awe of the master of the mills
"Now we'll get doing," Dave said, noting with
satisfaction that four of the six were old hands who
had worked beside him in his early days. "Well,
boys, let's have it. What's your trouble? Give us
the whole story."
But as spokesmen these fellows were not brilliant.
They hesitated, and, finally, with something
approaching a shamefaced grin, one of them spoke up.
"It's—it's jest wages, boss."
"Leave it at 'wages,' Bob!" shouted a voice at
the back of the crowd.
"Yes," snarled the sallow-faced giant near by.
"We're jest man to man. Ther' ain't no 'bosses'
"Hah!" Dave breathed the ejaculation. Then
he turned his eyes, steely hard, upon the last
speaker, and his words came in an unmistakable
tone. "It seems there are men here who aren't
satisfied with their spokesmen. Maybe they'll
speak out good and plenty, instead of interrupting."
His challenge seemed to appeal to the original
spokesman, for he laughed roughly.
"Say, boss," he cried, "he don't cut no ice, anyways.
He's jest a bum roadmaker. He ain't bin
in camp more'n six weeks. We don't pay no 'tention
to him. Y'see, boss," he went on, emphasizing
the last word purposely, "it's jest wages.
We're workin' a sight longer hours than is right,
an' we ain't gettin' nuthin' extry 'cep' the rise you
give us three months back. Wal, we're wantin'
more. That's how."
He finished up his clumsy speech with evident relief,
and mopped his forehead with his ham-like hand.
"And since when, Bob Nicholson, have you
come to this conclusion?" demanded Dave, with
His tone produced instant effect upon the man.
He became easier at once, and his manner changed
to one of distinct friendliness.
"Wal, boss, I can't rightly say jest when, fer
sure. Guess it must ha' bin when that orator-feller
"Shut up!" roared some one in the crowd, and
the demand was followed up by distinct cursing in
several directions. The sallow-faced roadmaker
seized his opportunity.
"It's wages we want an' wages we're goin' to
git!" he shouted so that the crowd could hear.
"You're sweatin' us. That's wot you're doin',
sweatin' us, to make your pile a sight bigger.
We're honest men up here; we ain't skunks what
wants wot isn't our lawful rights. Ef you're
yearnin' fer extry work you got to pay fer it. Wot
"Aye! That's it. Extry wages," cried a number
of voices in the background. But again the
chorus was not unanimous. There were those, too,
in the front whose scowling faces, turned on the
speaker, showed their resentment at this interference
by a man they did not recognize as a lumber-jack.
Dave seized his opportunity.
"You're wanting extra wages for overtime," he
cried, in a voice that carried like a steam siren.
"Well, why didn't you ask for them? Why did
you go out on strike first, and then ask? Why?
I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why you chose this
damned gopher racket instead of acting like the
honest men you boast yourselves to be. I can tell
you why you wanted to lock up your camp-boss,
and so prevent your wishes reaching me. I can
tell you why you had men on the road between
here and Malkern to stop letters going through. I
can tell you why you honest men set fire to the
store here, and stole all the liquor and goods in it.
I can tell you why you did these things. Because
you've just listened like silly sheep to the skunks
who've come along since the fever broke out. Because
you've listened to the men who've set out to
ruin us both, you and me. Because you've listened
to these scallywags, who aren't lumbermen, who've
come among you. They're not 'jacks' and they
don't understand the work, but they've been drawing
the same wages as you, and they're trying to
rob you of your living, they're trying to take your
jobs from you and leave you nothing. That's why
you've done these things, you boys who've worked
with me for years and years, and had all you
needed. Are you going to let 'em rob you?
They <i>are</i> robbing you, for, I swear before God, my
mills are closed down, and they'll remain closed,
and every one of you can get out and look for new
work unless you turn to at once."
A murmur again arose as he finished speaking,
but this time there was a note of alarm in it, a note
of anger that was not against their employer.
Faces looked puzzled, and ended by frowning into
the faces of neighbors. Dave understood the effect
he had made. He was waiting for a bigger effect.
He was fighting for something that was dearer to
him than life, and all his courage and resource were
out to the limit. He glanced at the sallow-faced
giant. Their eyes met, and in his was a fierce challenge.
He drew the fellow as easily as any expert
swordsman. The man had been shrewd enough to
detect the change in his comrades, and he promptly
hurled himself into the fray to try and recover the
lost ground. He stepped forward, towering over
his fellows. He meant mischief.
"See, mates," he shouted, trying to put a jeer in
his angry voice, "look at 'im! He's come here to
call us a pack o' skunks an' gophers. Him wot's
makin' thousands o' dollars a day out of us. He's
come here to kick us like a lot o' lousy curs. His
own man shot up our leader, him as was trying to
fit things right fer us. I tell you it was murder—bloody
murder! We're dirt to him. He can kick
us—shoot us up. We're dogs—lousy yeller dogs—we
are. You'll listen to his slobbery talk an'
you'll go to work—and he'll cut your wages lower,
so he can make thousan's more out o' you." Then
he suddenly swung round on Dave with a fierce
oath. "God blast you, it's wages we want—d'ye
hear—wages! An' we're goin' to have 'em! You
ain't goin' to grind us no longer, mister! You're
goin' to sign a 'greement fer a rise o' wages of a
quarter all round. That's wot you're goin' to
Dave was watching, watching. His opportunity
"I came to talk to honest 'jacks,'" he said icily,
"not to blacklegs. I'll trouble you to get right
back into the crowd, and hide your ugly head, and
keep your foul tongue quiet. The boys have got
His voice was sharp, but the man failed to apprehend
the danger that lay behind it. He was a
bigger man than Dave, and, maybe, he thought to
cow him. Perhaps he didn't realize that the master
of the mills was now fighting for his existence.
There was an instant's pause, and Dave took a
step toward him.
"Get back!" he roared.
His furious demand precipitated things, as he
intended it should. Like lightning the giant
whipped out a gun.
"I'll show you!" he cried.
There was a sharp report. But before he could
pull the trigger a second time Dave's right fist shot
out, and a smashing blow on the chin felled him to
the ground like a pole-axed ox.
As the man fell Dave turned again to the
strikers, and no one noticed that his left arm was
hanging helpless at his side.