IN THE DUGOUT
<SPAN STYLE="font-variant: small-caps">Three</SPAN> arduous and anxious days followed the
ending of the strike, and each of the occupants of
Mason's dugout felt the strain of them in his or her
own particular way. Next to the strike itself,
Dave's wound was the most serious consideration.
He was the leader, the rudder of his ship; his was
the controlling brain; and he was a most exasperating
patient. His wound was bad enough, though
not dangerous. It would be weeks before the use
of his left arm was restored to him; but he had a
way of forgetting this, of forgetting that he had lost
a great quantity of blood, until weakness prostrated
him and roused him to a peevish perversity.
Betty was his self-appointed nurse. Tom Chepstow
might examine his wound and consider his
condition, but it was Betty who dressed his wound,
Betty who prepared his food and ministered to his
lightest needs. From the moment of his return to
the dugout she took charge of him. She consulted
no one, she asked for no help. For the time, at
least, he was her possession, he was hers to lavish
all the fulness of her great love upon, a love that
had something almost maternal in its wonderful
Mason was busy with the work of reorganization.
His was the practical hand and head while Dave
was on his sick-bed. From daylight to long after
dark he took no rest. Dave's counsel guided him
to an extent, but much had to be done without any
consultation with the master of the mills. Provisioning
the camp was a problem not easily solved.
It was simple enough to order up food from Malkern,
but there would be at least a week's delay before
its arrival. Finally, he surmounted this difficulty,
through the return of Lieberstein, who had
fled to the woods with his cash-box and a supply of
provisions, at the first sign of trouble. Now he had
returned to save what he could from the wreck.
The Jew needed assistance to recover his looted
property—what remained of it. The overseer gave
him that assistance, and at the same time arranged
that all provisions so recovered should be redistributed
(at a price) as rations to the men. Thus the
delay in the arrival of supplies from Malkern was
tided over. But though he availed himself of this
means of getting over his difficulty he was fully determined
to rid the camp, at the earliest opportunity,
of so treacherous a rascal as Lieberstein.
In two days the work of restoration was in full
swing. The burned store and shanties were run up
with all a lumberman's rapidity and disregard for finish.
Time was the thing that mattered. And so
wonderfully did Mason drive and cajole his men, that
on the third day the gangs once more marched out
into the woods. Once again the forests echoed
with the hiss of saw, the ringing clang of smiting
axe, the crash of falling trees, the harsh voices of
the woodsmen, and the hundred and one sounds of
bustling activity which belong to a lumber camp in
That day was a pleasant one for the occupants of
the dugout. It was a wonderful work Mason had
done. They all knew and appreciated his devotion
to his wounded employer, and though none spoke
of it, whenever he appeared in their midst their appreciation
of him showed in their manner. Betty
was very gentle and kindly. She saw that he
wanted for nothing in the way of the comforts
which the dugout could provide.
Tom Chepstow was far too busy with his sick to
give attention to anything else. His hands were
very full, and his was a task that showed so little
result. Dave, for the most part, saw everything
that was going on about him, and had a full estimate
of all that was being done in his interests by
the devoted little band, and, absurdly enough, the
effect upon him was to stir him to greater irritability.
It was evening, and the slanting sunlight shone
in through one of the windows. It was a narrow
beam of light, but its effect was sufficiently cheering.
No dugout is a haven of brightness, and just now
this one needed all that could help to lift the shadow
of sickness and disaster that pervaded it.
Betty was preparing supper, and Dave, lying on
his stretcher, his vast bulk only half concealed by the
blanket thrown over him, was watching the girl with
eyes that fed hungrily upon the swift, graceful
movements of her pretty figure, the play of expression
upon her sweet, sun-tanned face, the intentness,
the whole-hearted concentration in her steady, serious
eyes as she went about her work.
Now and again she glanced over at his rough
bed, but he seemed to be asleep every time she
turned in his direction. The result was an additional
care in her work. She made no noise lest
she should waken him. Presently she stooped and
pushed a log into the fire-box of the cook-stove.
The cinders fell with a clatter, and she glanced
round apprehensively. Her movement was so
sudden that Dave's wide-open eyes had no time
to shut. In a moment she was all contrition at her
"I'm so sorry, Dave," she exclaimed. "I did so
hope you'd sleep on till supper. It's half an hour
"I haven't been sleeping at all."
He smiled and shook his head, and his smile delighted
the girl. It was the first she had seen in
him since his arrival in the camp. His impatience
at being kept to his bed was perhaps dying out.
She had always heard that the most active and impatient
always became reconciled to bed in the end.
"Yes, I did it on purpose," Dave said, still smiling.
"You see I wanted to think. You'd have
talked if I hadn't. I——"
Betty's reproach had something very like resentment
in it. She turned abruptly to the boiler of
stew and tasted its contents, while the man chuckled
But she turned round on him again almost immediately.
"Why are you laughing?" she demanded
But he did not seem inclined to enlighten her.
"Half an hour to supper?" he said musingly.
"Tom'll be in directly—and Mason."
Betty was still looking at him with her cooking
spoon poised as it had been when she tasted the
"Yes," she said, "they'll be in directly. I've
only just got to make the tea." She dropped the
spoon upon the table and replaced the lid of the
boiler. Then she came over to his bedside. "What
did you mean saying I should have talked?" she
asked, only now there was a smiling response to
the smile still lurking in the gray depths of the
man's eyes. Dave drew a long sigh of resignation.
"Well, y'see, Betty, if I'd laid here with my eyes
open, staring about the room, at you, at the roof, at
the window for a whole heap of time, you'd have
said to yourself, 'Dave's suffering sure. He can't
sleep. He's miserable, unhappy.' You'd have
said all those things, and with all your kind little
heart, you'd have set to work to cheer me up—same
as you'd no doubt have done for that strike-leader
fellow you shipped over to the sick camp to make
room for me. Well, I just didn't want that kind of
cheering. I was thinking—thinking mighty hard—figgering
how best to make a broken-winged—er—owl
fly without waiting for the wing to mend.
Y'see, thinking's mostly all I can do just now, and
I need to do such a mighty heap to keep me from
getting mad and breaking things. Y'see every
hour, as I lie here, I kind of seem to be storing up
steam like a locomotive, and sometimes I feel—feel
as if I was going to bust. Being sick makes
me hate things." His smiling protest was yet perfectly
serious. The girl understood. A moment
later he went on. "Half an hour to supper?" he
said, as though suddenly reaching a decision that
had cost him much thought. "Well, just sit right
down on this stretcher, and I'm going to talk you
tired. I'm sick, so you can't refuse."
The man's eyes still smiled, but the seriousness
of his manner had increased. Nor was Betty slow
to observe it. She gladly seated herself on the edge
of the stretcher, and without the least embarrassment,
without the least self-consciousness, her soft
eyes rested on the rugged face of her patient. She
was glad that he wanted to talk—and to her, and
she promptly took him up in his own tone.
"Well, I've got to listen, I s'pose," she said, with
a bright smile. "As you say, you're sick. You
might have added that I am your nurse."
"Yes, I s'pose you are. It seems funny me
needing a nurse. I s'pose I do need one?"
Betty nodded; her eyes were bright with an
emotion that the man's words had all unconsciously
stirred. This man, so strong for himself, so strong
to help others—this man, on whom all who came
into contact with him leaned as upon some staunch,
unfailing support—this man, so invincible, so masterful,
so eager in the battle where the odds were
against him, needed a nurse! A great pity, a great
sympathy, went out to him. Then a feeling of joy
and gratitude at the thought that she was his nurse
succeeded it. She—she alone had the right to wait
upon him. But her face expressed none of these
feelings when she replied. She nodded gravely.
"Yes, you need a nurse, you poor old Dave.
Just for once you're going to give others a chance
of being to you what you have always been to
them. It breaks my heart to see you on a sickbed;
but, Dave, you can never know the joy, the
happiness it gives me to be—your nurse. All my
life it has been the other way. All my life you
have been my wise counselor, my ever-ready loyal
friend; now, in ever so small a degree, you have to
lean on me. Don't be perverse, Dave. Let me
help you all I can. Don't begrudge me so small a
happiness. But you said you were going to talk
me tired, and I'm doing it all." She laughed lightly,
but it was a laugh to hide her real feelings.
The man's uninjured arm reached out, and his
great hand rested heavily on one of hers. The
pressure of his fingers, intended to be gentle, was
crushing. His action meant so much. No words
could have thanked her more truly than that hand
pressure. Betty's face grew warm with delight;
and she turned her eyes toward the stove as though
to see that all was well with her cooking.
"They're cutting to-day?" Dave's eyes were
turned upon the window. The sunlight was dying
out now, and the gray dusk was stealing upon the
room. Betty understood the longing in the man's
"Yes, they're cutting."
He stirred uneasily.
"My shoulder is mending fast," he said a moment
later. And the girl saw his drift.
She shook her head.
"It's mending, but it won't be well—for weeks,"
"It's got to be," he said, with tense emphasis,
after a long pause. His voice was low, but thrilling
with the purpose of a mind that would not
bend to the weakness of his body.
"You must be patient, Dave dear," the girl said,
with the persuasiveness of a mother for her child.
For a moment the man's brows drew together in
a frown and his lips compressed.
"Betty, Betty, I can't be patient," he suddenly
burst out. "I know I'm all wrong; but I can't be
patient. You know what all this means. I'm not
going to attempt to tell you. You understand it
all. I cannot lie here a day longer. Even now I
seem to hear the saws and axes at work. I seem
to see the men moving through the forests. I
seem to hear Mason's orders in the dead calm of
the woods. With the first logs that are travoyed
to the river I must leave here and get back to Malkern.
There is work to be done, and from now on
it will be man's work. It will be more than a fight
against time. It will be a battle against almost incalculable
odds, a battle in which all is against us.
Betty, you are my nurse, and as you hope to see
me through with this broken shoulder, so you must
not attempt to alter my decision. I know you.
You want to see me fit and well. Before all things
you desire that. You will understand me when I
say that, before all things, I must see the work
through. My bodily comfort must not be considered;
and as my friend, as my nurse, you must
not hinder me. I must leave here to-night."
The man had lifted himself to a half-sitting posture
in his excitement, and the girl watched him
with anxious eyes. Now she reached out, and one
hand gently pressed him back to his pillow. As
he had said, she understood; and when she spoke,
her words were the words he wished to hear.
They soothed him at once.
"Yes, Dave. If you must return, it shall be as
He caught her hand and held it, crushing its
small round flesh in the hollow of his great palm.
It was his gratitude, his gratitude for her understanding
and sympathy. His eyes met hers. And
in that moment something else stirred in him.
The pressure tightened upon her unresisting hand.
The blood mounted to her head. It seemed to intoxicate
her. It was a moment of such ecstasy as
she had dreamed of in a vague sort of way—a moment
when the pure woman spirit in her was exalted
to such a throne of spiritual light as is beyond
the dream of human imagination.
In the man, too, was a change. There was
something looking out of his eyes which seemed to
have banished his last thought of that lifelong desire
for the success of his labors, something which
left him no room for anything else, something
which had for its inception all the human passionate
desire of his tremendous soul. His gray eyes
glowed with a living fire; they deepened; a flush
of hot blood surged over his rugged features, lighting
them out of their plainness. His temples
throbbed visibly, and the vast sinews shivered with
the fire that swept through his body.
In a daze Betty understood the change. Her
heart leaped out to him, yielding all her love, all that
was hers to give. It cried aloud her joy in the
passion of those moments, but her lips were silent.
She had gazed into heaven for one brief instant,
then her eyes dropped before a vision she dared no
longer to look upon.
The man had lifted to his elbow again. A torrent
of passionate words rushed to his lips. But
they remained unspoken. His heavy tongue was
incapable of giving them expression. He halted.
That one feverish exclamation was all that came,
for his tongue clave in his mouth. But in that one
word was the avowal of such a love as rarely falls
to the lot of woman. It was the man's whole
being that spoke.
Betty's hand twisted from his grasp. She sprang
to her feet and turned to the door.
"It's Bob Mason," she said, in a voice that was
almost an awed whisper, as she rushed to the cook-stove.
The camp-boss strode heavily into the room.
There was a light in his eyes that usually would
have gladdened the master of the mills. Now,
however, Dave's thoughts were far from the matters
of the camp.
"We've travoyed a hundred to the river bank!"
the lumberman exclaimed in a tone of triumph.
"The work's begun!"
It was Betty who answered him. Hers was the
ready sympathy, the heart to understand for others
equally with herself. She turned with a smile of
welcome, of pride in his pride.
"Bob, you're a gem!" she cried, holding out a
hand of kindliness to him.
And Dave's tardy words followed immediately
with characteristic sincerity.
"Thanks, Bob," he said, in his deep tones.
"It's all right, boss, they're working by flare to-night,
an' they're going on till ten o'clock."
Dave nodded. His thoughts had once more
turned into the smooth channel of his affairs.
Betty was serving out supper.
A few moments later, weary and depressed, the
parson came in for his supper. His report was
much the same as usual. Progress—all his patients
were progressing, but it was slow work, for the
recent battle had added to the number of his patients.
There was very little talk until supper was over.
Then it began as Mason was preparing to depart
again to his work. Dave spoke of his decision
without any preamble.
"Say, folks, I'm going back to Malkern to-night,"
he said, with a smiling glance of humor at
his friends in anticipation of the storm of protest he
knew his announcement would bring upon himself.
Mason was on his feet in an instant.
"You can't do it, boss!" he exclaimed.
"No you don't, Dave, old friend," broke in
Chepstow, with a shake of his head. "You'll stay
right here till I say 'go.'"
Dave's smile broadened, and his eyes sought
"Well, Betty?" he demanded.
But Betty understood.
"I have nothing to say," she replied quietly.
Dave promptly turned again to the parson. His
smile had gone again.
"I've got to go, Tom," he said. "My work's
done here, but it hasn't begun yet in Malkern. Do
you get my meaning? Until the cutting began up
here I was not needed down there. Now it is
different. There is no one in Malkern to head
things. Dawson and Odd are good men, but they
are only my—foremen. It is imperative that I go,
"But look here, boss, it can't be done," cried
Mason, with a sort of hopeless earnestness. "You
aren't fit to move yet. The journey down—you'd
never stand it. Besides——"
"Yes, besides, who's to take you down? How
are you going?" Chepstow broke in sharply. He
meant to clinch the matter once for all.
Dave's manner returned to the peevishness of his
"There's the buckboard," he said sharply.
"Can you drive it?" demanded the parson with
equal sharpness. "I can't take you down. I can't
leave the sick. Mason is needed here. Well?"
"Don't worry. I'm driving myself," Dave said
Chepstow sprang to his feet and waved his pipe
in the air in his angry impatience.
"You're mad! You drive? Hang it, man, you
couldn't drive a team of fleas. Get up! Get up
from that stretcher now, and see how much driving
you could do. See here, Dave, I absolutely forbid
you to attempt any such thing."
Dave raised himself upon his elbow. His steady
eyes had something of an angry smile in them.
"See here, Tom," he said, imitating the other's
manner. "You can talk till you're black in the
face. I'm going down to-night. Mason's going to
hook the buckboard up for me and fetch Truscott
along. I'll have to take him down too. It's no
use in your kicking, Tom," he went on, as the
parson opened his lips for further protest, "I'm
going." He turned again to Mason. "I'll need
the buckboard and team in an hour. Guess you'll
see to it, boy. An' say, just set food for the two
of us in it, and half a sack of oats for the
"One moment, Bob," interrupted Betty. She
had been merely an interested listener to the discussion,
sitting at the far end of the supper table.
Now she came over to Dave's bedside. "You'd
best put in food for three." Then she looked down
at Dave, smiling reassurance. From him she
turned to her uncle with a laughing glance.
"Trust you men to argue and wrangle over
things that can be settled without the least difficulty.
Dave here must get down to Malkern. I
understand the importance of his presence there.
Very well, he must go. Therefore it's only a
question how he can get there with the least
possible danger to himself. It's plain Bob can't go
down. He must see the work through here. You,
uncle, must also stay. It is your duty to the sick.
We cannot send any of the men. They are all
needed. Well, I'm going to drive him down.
We'll make him comfortable in the carryall, and
Truscott can share the driving-seat with me—carefully
secured to prevent him getting away. There
you are. I will be responsible for Dave's welfare.
You need not be anxious."
She turned with such a look of confident affection
upon the sick man, that, for the moment, no one
had a word of protest to offer. It was Dave who
spoke first. He took her hand in his and nodded
his great head at her.
"Thanks, little Betty," he said. "I shall be
perfectly safe in your charge."
And his words were ample reward to the woman
who loved him. It was his acknowledgment of
his dependence upon her.
After that there was discussion, argument, protest
for nearly half an hour. But Dave and Betty
held to their decision, and, at last, Tom Chepstow
gave way to them. Then it was that Mason went
off to make preparations. The parson went to
assist him, and Betty and Dave were once more
Betty let her uncle go and then lit the lamp.
For some moments no word was spoken between
the sick man and his nurse. The girl cleared the
supper things and put a kettle on the stove. Then,
while watching for it to boil, she was about to pack
up her few belongings for the journey. But she
changed her mind. Instead she came back to the
table and faced the stretcher on which the sick
man was lying.
"Dave," she said, in a low voice, "will you
promise me something?"
Dave turned his face toward her.
"Anything," he said, in all seriousness.
The girl waited. She was gauging the meaning
of his reply. In anybody else that answer could
not have been taken seriously. In him it might be
"It's a big thing," she said doubtfully.
"It don't matter, little girl, I just mean it."
She came slowly over to his side.
"Do you remember, I once got you to teach me
the business of the mill? I wanted to learn then
so I could help some one. I want to help some
one now. But it's a different 'some one' this time.
Do you understand? I—I haven't forgotten a
single thing I learned from you. Will you let me
help you? You cannot do all now. Not until
your arm is better." She dropped upon her knees
at his bedside. "Dave, don't refuse me. You
shall just give your orders to me. I will see they
are carried out. We—you and I together—will
run your mills to the success that I know is going
to be yours. Don't say no, Dave—dear."
The man had turned to her. He was looking
into the depths of the fearless brown eyes before
him. He had no intention of refusing her, but he
was looking, looking deep down into the beautiful,
woman's heart that was beating within her bosom.
"I'll not refuse you, Betty. I only thank God
Almighty for such a little friend."