The silence of the night was unbroken. The
valley of the Red Sand River was wrapped in a
peace such as it had never known since Dave had
first brought into it the restless activity of his American
spirit. But it was a depressing peace to the
dwellers in the valley, for it portended disaster.
No word had reached them of the prospects at the
mill, only a vague rumor had spread of the doings
at the lumber camp. Dave knew the value of
silence in such matters, and he had taken care to
enforce silence on all who were in a position to
enlighten the minds which thirsted for such information.
The people of Malkern were waiting, waiting for
something definite on the part of the master of the
mills. On him depended their future movements.
The mill was silent, even though the work of repairing
had been completed. But, as yet, they had
not lost faith in the man who had piloted them
through all the shoals of early struggles to the
haven of comparative prosperity. However, the
calm, the unwonted silence of the valley depressed
and worried them. They longed for the drone,
however monotonous, of the mill. They loved it,
for it meant that their wheels of life were well oiled,
and that they were driving pleasantly along their
set track to the terminal of success.
Yet while the village slept all was intense activity
at the mills. The men had been gathered
together again, late that night, and the army of
workers was once more complete. The sawyers
were at their saws, oiling and fitting, and generally
making ready for work. The engineers were at
their engines, the firemen at their furnaces, the
lumber-jacks were at the shoots, and in the yards.
The boom was manned by men who sat around
smoking, peavey in hand, ready to handle the
mightiest "ninety-footers" that the mountain forests
could send them. The checkers were at their posts,
and the tally boys were "shooting craps" at the
foot of the shoots. The mill, like a resting giant
lying prone upon his back, was bursting with a
latent strength and activity that only needed the
controlling will to set in motion, to drive it to an
effort such as Malkern had never seen before, such
as, perhaps, Malkern would never see again. And
inside Dave's office, that Will lay watching and
It was a curious scene inside the office. The
place had been largely converted since the master
of the mills had returned. It was half sick room,
half office, and the feminine touch about the place
was quite incongruous in the office of such a man
as Dave. But then just now Dave's control was
only of the mill outside. In this room he yielded
to another authority. He was in the hands of
womenfolk; that is, his body was. He had no
word to say in the arrangement of the room, and
he was only permitted to think his control outside.
It was eleven o'clock, and his mother was preparing
to take her departure. Since his return
from the camp she was her son's almost constant
attendant. Betty's chief concern was for the mill
outside, and the careful execution of the man's
orders to his foremen. She took a share of the
nursing, but only in moments of leisure, and these
were very few. Now she had just returned from
a final inspection and consultation with Dawson.
And the glow of satisfaction on her face was good
"Now, mother dear," she said, after having made
her report to Dave, "you've got to be off home,
and to bed. You've had a long, hard day, and I'm
going to relieve you. Dave is all right, and," she
added with a smile, "maybe he'll be better still before
morning. We expect the logs down by daylight,
and then—I guess their arrival in the boom
will do more to mend his poor broken shoulder
than all our quacks and nostrums. So be off with
you. I shall be here all night. I don't intend to
rest till the first log enters the boom."
The old woman rose wearily from her rocking-chair
at her boy's bedside. Her worn face was
tired. At her age the strain of nursing was very
heavy. But whatever weakness there was in her
body, her spirit was as strong as the younger
woman's. Her boy was sick, and nothing else
could compare with a disaster of that nature. But
now she was ready to go, for so it had been
arranged between them earlier.
She crossed to Betty's side, and, placing her hands
upon the girl's shoulders, kissed her tenderly on both
"God bless and keep you, dearie," she said, with
deep emotion. "I'd like to tell you all I feel, but
I can't. You're our guardian angel—Dave's and
"Good-night, mother dear," said the girl, her
eyes brightening with a suspicion of tears. Then,
with an assumption of lightness which helped to
disguise her real feelings, "Now don't you stay
awake. Go right off to sleep, and—in the morning
you shall hear—the mills!"
The old woman nodded and smiled. Next to
her boy she loved this motherless girl best in the
world. She gathered up her few belongings and
went to the bedside. Bending over the sick man
she kissed his rugged face tenderly. For a moment
one great arm held her in its tremendous
embrace, then she toddled out of the room.
Betty took her rocking-chair. She sat back and
rocked herself in silence for some moments. Her
eyes wandered over the curious little room, noting
the details of it as though hugging to herself the
memory of the smallest trifle that concerned this
wonderful time that was hers.
There was Dave's desk before the window. It
was hers now. There were the vast tomes that
recorded his output of lumber. She had spent
hours over them calculating figures for the man
beside her. There were the flowers his mother had
brought, and which she had found time to arrange
so that he could see and enjoy them. There were
the bandages it was her duty to adjust. There
were the remains of the food of which they had
It was all real, yet so strange. So strange to her
who had spent her life surrounded by all those duties
so essentially feminine, so closely allied to her
uncle's spiritual calling. She felt that she had
moved out into a new world, a world in which there
was room for her to expand, in which she could
bring into play all those faculties which she had always
known herself to possess, but which had so
long lain dormant that she had almost come to regard
her belief in their existence as a mere dream,
a mere vanity.
It was a wonderful thing this, that had happened
to her, and the happiness of it was so overwhelming
that it almost made her afraid. Yet the fact remained.
She was working for him, she was working
with her muscles and brain extended. She
sighed, and, placing her hands behind her head,
stretched luxuriously. It was good to feel the
muscles straining, it was good to contemplate the
progress of things in his interests, it was good to
love, and to feel that that love was something more
practical than the mere sentimentality of awakened
Her wandering attention was recalled by a movement
of her patient. She glanced round at him,
and his face was turned toward her. Her smiling
eyes responded to his steady, contemplative gaze.
"Well?" he said, in a grave, subdued voice, "it
ought to be getting near now?"
The girl nodded.
"I don't see how we can tell exactly, but—unless
anything goes wrong the first logs should get
through before daylight. It's good to think of,
Dave." Her eyes sparkled with delight at the
The man eyed her for a few silent moments, and
his eyes deepened to a passionate warmth.
"You're a great little woman, Betty," he said at
last. "When I think of all you have done for me—well,
I just feel that my life can never be long
enough to repay you in. Throughout this business
you have been my second self, with all the freshness
and enthusiasm of a mind and heart thrilling
with youthful strength. I can never forget the
journey down from the camp. When I think of
the awful physical strain you must have gone
through, driving day and night, with a prisoner beside
you, and a useless hulk of a man lying behind,
I marvel. When I think that you had to do everything,
feed us, camp for us, see to the horses for us,
it all seems like some fantastic dream. How did
you do it? How did I come to let you? It makes
me smile to think that I, in my manly superiority,
simply lolled about with a revolver handy to enforce
our prisoner's obedience to your orders. Ah,
little Betty, I can only thank Almighty God that I
have been blest with such a little—friend."
The girl laid the tips of her fingers over his
"You mustn't say these things," she said, in a
thrilling voice. "We—you and I—are just here
together to work out your—your plans. God has
been very, very good to me that He has given me
the power, in however small a degree, to help you.
Now let us put these things from our minds for a
time and be—be practical. Talking of our prisoner,
what are you going to do with—poor Jim?"
It was some moments before Dave answered her.
It was not that he had no answer to her question,
but her words had sent his mind wandering off
among long past days. He was thinking of the
young lad he had so ardently tried to befriend.
He was thinking of the "poor Jim" of then and
now. He was recalling that day when those two
had come to him with their secret, with their
youthful hope of the future, and of all that day had
meant to him. They had planned, he had planned,
and now it was all so—different. His inclination
was to show this man leniency, but his inclination
had no power to alter his resolve.
When he spoke there was no resentment in his
tone against the man who had so cruelly tried to
ruin him, only a quiet decision.
"I want you to tell Simon Odd to bring him
here," he said. Then he smiled. "I intend him to
spend the night with me. That is, until the first
log comes down the river."
"What are you going to do?"
The man's smile increased in tenderness.
"Don't worry your little head about that, Betty,"
he said. "There are things which must be said between
us. Things which only men can say to men.
I promise you he will be free to go when the mill
starts work—but not until then." His eyes grew
stern. "I owe you so much, Betty," he went on,
"that I must be frank with you. So much depends
upon our starting work again that I cannot let him
go until that happens."
"And if—just supposing—that does not happen—I
mean, supposing, through his agency, the mill
"I cannot answer you. I have only one thing to
add." Dave had raised himself upon his elbow,
and his face was hard and set. "No man may
bring ruin upon a community to satisfy his own
mean desires, his revenge, however that revenge
may be justified. If we fail, if Malkern is to be
made to suffer through that man—God help him!"
The girl was facing him now. Her two hands
were outstretched appealingly.
"But, Dave, should you judge him? Have you
the right? Surely there is but one judge, and His
alone is the right to condemn weak, erring human
nature. Surely it is not for you—us."
Dave dropped back upon his pillow. There was
no relenting in his eyes.
"His own work shall judge him," he said in a
hard voice. "What I may do is between him and
Betty looked at him long and earnestly. Then
she rose from her chair.
"So be it, Dave. I ask you but one thing.
Deal with him as your heart prompts you, and not
as your head dictates. I will send him to you, and
will come back again—when the mill is at work."
Their eyes met in one long ardent gaze. The
man nodded, and the smile in his eyes was very,
"Yes, Betty. Don't leave me too long—I can't
do without you now."
The girl's eyes dropped before the light she beheld
"I don't want you to—do without me," she murmured.
And she hurried out of the room.