by Stewart Edward White
The time was the year 1872, and the place a bend in the river above a long pond terminating in a dam. Beyond this dam, and on a flat lower than it, stood a two-story mill structure. Save for a small, stump-dotted clearing, and the road that led from it, all else was forest. Here in the bottom-lands, following the course of the stream, the hardwoods grew dense, their uppermost branches just beginning to spray out in the first green of spring. Farther back, where the higher lands arose from the swamp, could be discerned the graceful frond of white pines and hemlock, and the sturdy tops of Norways and spruce.
A strong wind blew up the length of the pond. It ruffled the surface of the water, swooping down in fan-shaped, scurrying cat's-paws, turning the dark-blue surface as one turns the nap of velvet. At the upper end of the pond it even succeeded in raising quite respectable wavelets, which LAP LAP LAPPED eagerly against a barrier of floating logs that filled completely the mouth of the inlet river. And behind this barrier were other logs, and yet others, as far as the eye could see, so that the entire surface of the stream was carpeted by the brown timbers. A man could have walked down the middle of that river as down a highway.
On the bank, and in a small woods-opening, burned two fires, their smoke ducking and twisting under the buffeting of the wind. The first of these fires occupied a shallow trench dug for its accommodation, and was overarched by a rustic framework from which hung several pails, kettles, and pots. An injured-looking, chubby man in a battered brown derby hat moved here and there. He divided his time between the utensils and an indifferent youth—his "cookee." The other, and larger, fire centred a rectangle composed of tall racks, built of saplings and intended for the drying of clothes. Two large tents gleamed white among the trees.
About the drying-fire were gathered thirty-odd men. Some were half-reclining before the blaze; others sat in rows on logs drawn close for the purpose; still others squatted like Indians on their heels, their hands thrown forward to keep the balance. Nearly all were smoking pipes.
Every age was represented in this group, but young men predominated. All wore woollen trousers stuffed into leather boots reaching just to the knee. These boots were armed on the soles with rows of formidable sharp spikes or caulks, a half and sometimes even three quarters of an inch in length. The tight driver's shoe and "stagged" trousers had not then come into use. From the waist down these men wore all alike, as though in a uniform, the outward symbol of their calling. From the waist up was more latitude of personal taste. One young fellow sported a bright-coloured Mackinaw blanket jacket; another wore a red knit sash, with tasselled ends; a third's fancy ran to a bright bandana about his neck. Head-gear, too, covered wide variations of broader or narrower brim, of higher or lower crown; and the faces beneath those hats differed as everywhere the human countenance differs. Only when the inspection, passing the gradations of broad or narrow, thick or thin, bony or rounded, rested finally on the eyes, would the observer have caught again the caste-mark which stamped these men as belonging to a distinct order, and separated them essentially from other men in other occupations. Blue and brown and black and gray these eyes were, but all steady and clear with the steadiness and clarity that comes to those whose daily work compels them under penalty to pay close and undeviating attention to their surroundings. This is true of sailors, hunters, plainsmen, cowboys, and tugboat captains. It was especially true of the old-fashioned river-driver, for a misstep, a miscalculation, a moment's forgetfulness of the sullen forces shifting and changing about him could mean for him maiming or destruction. So, finally, to one of an imaginative bent, these eyes, like the "cork boots," grew to seem part of the uniform, one of the marks of their caste, the outward symbol of their calling.
"Blow, you son of a gun!" cried disgustedly one young fellow with a red bandana, apostrophising the wind. "I wonder if there's ANY side of this fire that ain't smoky!"
"Keep your hair on, bub," advised a calm and grizzled old-timer. "There's never no smoke on the OTHER side of the fire—whichever that happens to be. And as for wind—she just makes holiday for the river-hogs."
"Holiday, hell!" snorted the younger man. "We ought to be down to Bull's Dam before now—"
"And Bull's Dam is half-way to Redding," mocked a reptilian and red-headed giant on the log, "and Redding is the happy childhood home of—"
The young man leaped to his feet and seized from a pile of tools a peavy—a dangerous weapon, like a heavy cant-hook, but armed at the end with a sharp steel shoe.
"That's about enough!" he warned, raising his weapon, his face suffused and angry. The red-headed man, quite unafraid, rose slowly from the log and advanced, bare-handed, his small eyes narrowed and watchful.
But immediately a dozen men interfered.
"Dry up!" advised the grizzled old-timer—Tom North by name. "You, Purdy, set down; and you, young squirt, subside! If you're going to have ructions, why, have 'em, but not on drive. If you don't look out, I'll set you both to rustling wood for the doctor."
At this threat the belligerents dropped muttering to their places. The wind continued to blow, the fire continued to flare up and down, the men continued to smoke, exchanging from time to time desultory and aimless remarks. Only Tom North carried on a consecutive, low-voiced conversation with another of about his own age.
"Just the same, Jim," he was saying, "it is a little tough on the boys—this new sluice-gate business. They've been sort of expectin' a chance for a day or two at Redding, and now, if this son of a gun of a wind hangs out, I don't know when we'll make her. The shallows at Bull's was always bad enough, but this is worse."
"Yes, I expected to pick you up 'way below," admitted Jim, whose "turkey," or clothes-bag, at his side proclaimed him a newcomer. "Had quite a tramp to find you."
"This stretch of slack water was always a terror," went on North, "and we had fairly to pike-pole every stick through when the wind blew; but now that dam's backed the water up until there reely ain't no current at all. And this breeze has just stopped the drive dead as a smelt."
"Don't opening the sluice-gates give her a draw?" inquired the newcomer.
"Not against this wind—and not much of a draw, anyway, I should guess."
"How long you been hung?"
"Just to-day. I expect Jack will be down from the rear shortly. Ought to see something's wrong when he runs against the tail of this jam of ours."
At this moment the lugubrious, round-faced man in the derby hat stepped aside from the row of steaming utensils he had been arranging.
"Grub pile," he remarked in a conversational tone of voice.
The group arose as one man and moved upon the heap of cutlery and of tin plates and cups. From the open fifty-pound lard pails and kettles they helped themselves liberally; then retired to squat in little groups here and there near the sources of supply. Mere conversation yielded to an industrious silence. Sadly the cook surveyed the scene, his arms folded across the dirty white apron, an immense mental reservation accenting the melancholy of his countenance. After some moments of contemplation he mixed a fizzling concoction of vinegar and soda, which he drank. His rotundity to the contrary notwithstanding, he was ravaged by a gnawing dyspepsia, and the sight of six eggs eaten as a side dish to substantials carried consternation to his interior.
So busily engaged was each after his own fashion that nobody observed the approach of a solitary figure down the highway of the river. The man appeared tiny around the upper bend, momently growing larger as he approached. His progress was jerky and on an uneven zigzag, according as the logs lay, by leaps, short runs, brief pauses, as a riverman goes. Finally he stepped ashore just below the camp, stamped his feet vigorously free of water, and approached the group around the cooking-fire.
No one saw him save the cook, who vouchsafed him a stately and lugubrious inclination of the head.
The newcomer was a man somewhere about thirty years of age, squarely built, big of bone, compact in bulk. His face was burly, jolly, and reddened rather than tanned by long exposure. A pair of twinkling blue eyes and a humorously quirked mouth redeemed his countenance from commonplaceness.
He spread his feet apart and surveyed the scene.
"Well, boys," he remarked at last in a rollicking big voice, "I'm glad to see the situation hasn't spoiled your appetites."
At this they looked up with a spontaneous answering grin. Tom North laid aside his plate and started to arise.
"Sit still, Tom," interposed the newcomer. "Eat hearty. I'm going to feed yet myself. Then we'll see what's to be done. I think first thing you'd better see to having this wind turned off."
After the meal was finished, North and his principal sauntered to the water's edge, where they stood for a minute looking at the logs and the ruffled expanse of water below.
"Might as well have sails on them and be done with it," remarked Jack Orde reflectively. "Couldn't hold 'em any tighter. It's a pity that old mossback had to put in a mill. The water was slack enough before, but now there seems to be no current at all."
"Case of wait for the wind," agreed Tom North. "Old Daly will be red-headed. He must be about out of logs at the mill. The flood-water's going down every minute, and it'll make the riffles above Redding a holy fright. And I expect Johnson's drive will be down on our rear most any time."
"It's there already. Let's go take a look," suggested Orde.
They picked their way around the edge of the pond to the site of the new mill.
"Sluice open all right," commented Orde. "Thought she might be closed."
"I saw to that," rejoined North in an injured tone.
"'Course," agreed Orde, "but he might have dropped her shut on you between times, when you weren't looking."
He walked out on the structure and looked down on the smooth water rushing through.
"Ought to make a draw," he reflected. Then he laughed. "Tom, look here," he called. "Climb down and take a squint at this."
North clambered to a position below.
"The son of a gun!" he exclaimed.
The sluice, instead of bedding at the natural channel of the river, had been built a good six feet above that level; so that, even with the gates wide open, a "head" of six feet was retained in the slack water of the pond.
"No wonder we couldn't get a draw," said Orde. "Let's hunt up old What's-his-name and have a pow-wow."
"His name is plain Reed," explained North. "There he comes now."
"Sainted cats!" cried Orde, with one of his big, rollicking chuckles. "Where did you catch it?"
The owner of the dam flapped into view as a lank and lengthy individual dressed in loose, long clothes and wearing a-top a battered old "plug" hat, the nap of which seemed all to have been rubbed off the wrong way.
As he bore down on the intruders with tremendous, nervous strides, they perceived him to be an old man, white of hair, cadaverous of countenance, with thin, straight lips, and burning, fanatic eyes beneath stiff and bushy brows.
"Good-morning, Mr. Reed," shouted Orde above the noise of the water.
"Good-morning, gentlemen," replied the apparition.
"Nice dam you got here," went on Orde.
Reed nodded, his fiery eyes fixed unblinking on the riverman.
"But you haven't been quite square to us," said Orde. "You aren't giving us much show to get our logs out."
"How so?" snapped the owner, his thin lips tightening.
"Oh, I guess you know, all right," laughed Orde, clambering leisurely back to the top of the dam. "That sluice is a good six foot too high."
"Is that so!" cried the old man, plunging suddenly into a craze of excitement. "Well, let me tell you this, Mr. Man, I'm giving you all the law gives you, and that's the natural flow of the river, and not a thing more will you get! You that comes to waste and destroy, to arrogate unto yourselves the kingdoms of the yearth and all the fruits thereof, let me tell you you can't override Simeon Reed! I'm engaged here in a peaceful and fittin' operation, which is to feed the hungry by means of this grist-mill, not to rampage and bring destruction to the noble forests God has planted! I've give you what the law gives you, and nothin' more!"
Somewhat astonished at this outbreak, the two rivermen stood for a moment staring at the old man. Then a steely glint crept into Orde's frank blue eye and the corners of his mouth tightened.
"We want no trouble with you, Mr. Reed," said he, "and I'm no lawyer to know what the law requires you to do and what it requires you not to do. But I do know that this is the only dam on the river with sluices built up that way, and I do know that we'll never get those logs out if we don't get more draw on the water. Good-day."
Followed by the reluctant North he walked away, leaving the gaunt figure of the dam owner gazing after them, his black garments flapping about him, his hands clasped behind his back, his ruffled plug hat thrust from his forehead.
"Well!" burst out North, when they were out of hearing.
"Well!" mimicked Orde with a laugh.
"Are you going to let that old high-banker walk all over you?"
"What are you going to do about it, Tom? It's his dam."
"I don't know. But you ain't going to let him bang us up here all summer—"
"Sure not. But the wind's shifting. Let's see what the weather's like to-morrow. To-day's pretty late."
The next morning dawned clear and breathless. Before daylight the pessimistic cook was out, his fire winking bravely against the darkness. His only satisfaction of the long day came when he aroused the men from the heavy sleep into which daily toil plunged them. With the first light the entire crew were at the banks of the river.
As soon as the wind died the logs had begun to drift slowly out into the open water. The surface of the pond was covered with the scattered timbers floating idly. After a few moments the clank of the bars and ratchet was heard as two of the men raised the heavy sluice-gate on the dam. A roar of water, momently increasing, marked the slow rise of the barrier. A very imaginative man might then have made out a tendency forward on the part of those timbers floating nearest the centre of the pond. It was a very sluggish tendency, however, and the men watching critically shook their heads.
Four more had by this time joined the two men who had raised the gate, and all together, armed with long pike poles, walked out on the funnel-shaped booms that should concentrate the logs into the chute. Here they prodded forward the few timbers within reach, and waited for more.
These were a long time coming. Members of the driving crew leaped shouting from one log to another. Sometimes, when the space across was too wide to jump, they propelled a log over either by rolling it, paddling it, or projecting it by the shock of a leap on one end. In accomplishing these feats of tight-rope balance, they stood upright and graceful, quite unconscious of themselves, their bodies accustomed by long habit to nice and instant obedience to the almost unconscious impulses of the brain. Only their eyes, intent, preoccupied, blazed out by sheer will-power the unstable path their owners should follow. Once at the forefront of the drive, the men began vigorously to urge the logs forward. This they accomplished almost entirely by main strength, for the sluggish current gave them little aid. Under the pressure of their feet as they pushed against their implements, the logs dipped, rolled, and plunged. Nevertheless, they worked as surely from the decks of these unstable craft as from the solid earth itself.
In this manner the logs in the centre of the pond were urged forward until, above the chute, they caught the slightly accelerated current which should bring them down to the pike-pole men at the dam. Immediately, when this stronger influence was felt, the drivers zigzagged back up stream to start a fresh batch. In the meantime a great many logs drifted away to right and left into stagnant water, where they lay absolutely motionless. The moving of them was deferred for the "sacking crew," which would bring up the rear.
Jack Orde wandered back and forth over the work, his hands clasped behind his back, a short pipe clenched between his teeth. To the edge of the drive he rode the logs, then took to the bank and strolled down to the dam. There he stood for a moment gazing aimlessly at the water making over the apron, after which he returned to the work. No cloud obscured the serene good-nature of his face. Meeting Tom North's troubled glance, he grinned broadly.
"Told you we'd have Johnson on our necks," he remarked, jerking his thumb up river toward a rapidly approaching figure.
This soon defined itself as a tall, sun-reddened, very blond individual with a choleric blue eye.
"What in hell's the matter here?" he yelled, as soon as he came within hearing distance.
Orde made no reply, but stood contemplating the newcomer with a flicker of amusement.
"What in hell's the matter?" repeated the latter violently.
"Better go there and inquire," rejoined Orde drolly. "What ails you, Johnson?"
"We're right at your rear," cried the other, "and you ain't even made a start gettin' through this dam! We'll lose the water next! Why in hell ain't you through and gone?"
"Keep your shirt on," advised Orde. "We're getting through as fast as we can. If you want these logs pushed any faster, come down and do it yourself."
Johnson vouchsafed no reply, but splashed away over the logs, examining in detail the progress of the work. After a little he returned within hailing distance.
"If you can't get out logs, why do you take the job?" he roared, with a string of oaths. "If you hang my drive, damn you, you'll catch it for damages! It's gettin' to a purty pass when any old highbanker from anywheres can get out and play jackstraws holdin' up every drive in the river! I tell you our mills need logs, and what's more they're agoin' to GIT them!"
He departed in a rumble of vituperation.
Orde laughed humorously at his foreman.
"Johnson gets so mad sometimes, his skin cracks," he remarked. "However," he went on more seriously, "there's a heap in what he means, if there ain't so much in what he says. I'll go labour with our old friend below."
He regained the bank, stopped to light his pipe, and sauntered, with every appearance of leisure, down the bank, past the dam, to the mill structure below.
Here he found the owner occupying a chair tilted back against the wall of the building. His ruffled plug hat was thrust, as usual, well away from his high and narrow forehead; the long broadcloth coat fell back to reveal an unbuttoned waistcoat the flapping black trousers were hitched up far enough to display woollen socks wrinkled about bony shanks. He was whittling a pine stick, which he held pointing down between his spread knees, and conversing animatedly with a young fellow occupying another chair at his side.
"And there comes one of 'em now," declaimed the old man dramatically.
Orde nodded briefly to the stranger, and came at once to business.
"I want to talk this matter over with you," he began. "We aren't making much progress. We can't afford to hang up the drive, and the water is going down every day. We've got to have more water. I'll tell you what we'll do: If you'll let us cut down the new sill, we'll replace it in good shape when we get all our logs through."
"No, sir!" promptly vetoed the old man.
"Well, we'll give you something for the privilege. What do you think is fair?"
"I tell ye I'll give you your legal rights, and not a cent more," replied the old man, still quietly, but with quivering nostrils.
"What is your name?" asked Orde.
"My name is Reed, sir."
"Well, Mr. Reed, stop and think what this means. It's a more serious matter than you think. In a little while the water will be so low in the river that it will be impossible to take out the logs this year. That means a large loss, of course, as you know."
"I don't know nothin' about the pesky business, and I don't wan to," snorted Reed.
"Well, there's borers, for one thing, to spoil a good many of the logs. And think what it will mean to the mills. No logs means no lumber. That is bankruptcy for a good many who have contracts to fulfil. And no logs means the mills must close. Thousands of men will be thrown out of their jobs, and a good many of them will go hungry. And with the stream full of the old cutting, that means less to do next winter in the woods—more men thrown out. Getting out a season's cut with the flood-water is a pretty serious matter to a great many people, and if you insist on holding us up here in this slack water the situation will soon become alarming."
"Ye finished?" demanded Reed grimly.
"Yes," replied Orde.
The old man cast from him his half-whittled piece of pine. He closed his jack-knife with a snap and thrust it in his pocket. He brought to earth the front legs of his chair with a thump, and jammed his ruffled plug hat to its proper place.
"And if the whole kit and kaboodle of ye starved out-right," said he, "it would but be the fulfillin' of the word of the prophet who says, 'So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee, and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee. I the Lord have spoken it!'"
"That's your last word?" inquired Orde.
"That's my last word, and my first. Ye that make of God's smilin' land waste places and a wilderness, by your own folly shall ye perish."
"Good-day," said Orde, whirling on his heel without further argument.
The young man, who had during this colloquy sat an interested and silent spectator, arose and joined him. Orde looked at his new companion a little curiously. He was a very slender young man, taut-muscled, taut-nerved, but impassive in demeanour. He possessed a shrewd, thin face, steel-gray, inscrutable eyes behind glasses. His costume was quite simply an old gray suit of business clothes and a gray felt hat. At the moment he held in his mouth an unlighted and badly chewed cigar.
"Nice, amiable old party," volunteered Orde with a chuckle.
"Seems to be," agreed the young man drily.
"Well, I reckon we'll just have to worry along without him," remarked Orde, striking his steel caulks into the first log and preparing to cross out into the river where the work was going on.
"Wait a minute," said the young fellow. "Have you any objections to my hanging around a little to watch the work? My name is Newmark—Joseph Newmark. I'm out in this country a good deal for my health. This thing interests me."
"Sure," replied Orde, puzzled. "Look all you want to. The scenery's free."
"Yes. But can you put me up? Can I get a chance to stay with you a little while?"
"Oh, as far as I'm concerned," agreed Orde heartily. "But," he supplemented with one of his contagious chuckles, "I'm only river-boss. You'll have to fix it up with the doctor—the cook, I mean," he explained, as Newmark look puzzled. "You'll find him at camp up behind that brush. He's a slim, handsome fellow, with a jolly expression of countenance."
He leaped lightly out over the bobbing timbers, leaving Newmark to find his way.
In the centre of the stream the work had been gradually slowing down to a standstill with the subsidence of the first rush of water after the sluice-gate was opened. Tom North, leaning gracefully against the shaft of a peavy, looked up eagerly as his principal approached.
"Well, Jack," he inquired, "is it to be peace or war?"
"War," replied Orde briefly.
At this moment the cook stepped into view, and, making a trumpet of his two hands, sent across the water a long, weird, and not unmusical cry. The men at once began slowly to drift in the direction of the camp. There, when the tin plates had all been filled, and each had found a place to his liking, Orde addressed them. His manner was casual and conversational.
"Boys," said he, "the old mossback who owns that dam has come up here loaded to scatter. He's built up the sill of that gate until we can't get a draw on the water, and he refuses to give, lend, or sell us the right to cut her out. I've made him every reasonable proposition, but all I get back is quotations from the prophets. Now, we've got to get those logs out—that's what we're here for. A fine bunch of whitewater birlers we'd look if we got hung up by an old mossback in a plug hat. Johnny Sims, what's the answer?"
"Cut her out," grinned Johnny Sims briefly.
"Correct!" replied Orde with a chuckle. "Cut her out. But, my son, it's against the law to interfere with another man's property."
This was so obviously humourous in intent that its only reception consisted of more grins from everybody.
"But," went on Orde more seriously, "it's quite a job. We can't work more than six or eight men at it at a time. We got to work as fast as we can before the old man can interfere."
"The nearest sheriff's at Spruce Rapids," commented some one philosophically.
"We have sixty men, all told," said Orde. "We ought to be able to carry it through."
He filled his plate and walked across to a vacant place. Here he found himself next to Newmark.
"Hello!" he greeted that young man, "fixed it with the doctor all right?"
"Yes," replied Newmark, in his brief, dry manner, "thanks! I think I ought to tell you that the sheriff is not at Spruce Rapids, but at the village—expecting trouble."
Orde whistled, then broke into a roar of delight.
"Boys," he called, "old Plug Hat's got the sheriff right handy. I guess he sort of expected we'd be thinking of cutting through that dam. How'd you like to go to jail?"
"I'd like to see any sheriff take us to jail, unless he had an army with him," growled one of the river-jacks.
"Has he a posse?" inquired Orde of Newmark.
"I didn't see any; but I understood in the village that the governor had been advised to hold State troops in readiness for trouble."
Orde fell into a brown study, eating mechanically. The men began an eager and somewhat truculent discussion full of lawless and bloodthirsty suggestion. Some suggested the kidnapping and sequestration of Reed until the affair should be finished.
"How'd he get hold of his old sheriff, then?" they inquired with some pertinence.
Orde, however, paid no attention to all this talk, but continued to frown into space. At last his face cleared, and he slapped down his tin plate so violently that the knife and fork jumped off into the dirt.
"I have it!" he cried aloud.
But he would not tell what he had. After the noon hour he instructed a half-dozen men to provide themselves with saws, axes, picks, and shovels, and all marched in the direction of the mill.
When within a hundred yards or so of that structure the advancing riverman saw the lank, black figure of the mill owner flap into sight, astride a bony old horse, and clatter away, coat-tails flying, up the road and into the waiting forest.
"Now, boys!" cried Orde crisply. "He'll be back in an hour with the sheriff. Lively!" He rapidly designated ten men of his crew. "You boys get to work and make things hum. Get as much done as you can before the sheriff comes."
"He'll have to bring all of Spruce County to get me," commented one of those chosen, spitting on his hands.
"Me, too!" said others.
"Now, listen," said Orde, holding them with an impressive gesture. "When that sheriff comes, with or without a posse, I want you to go peaceably. Understand?"
"Cave in? Not much!" cried Purdy.
"See here," and Orde drew them aside to an earnest, low-voiced conversation that lasted several minutes. When he had finished he clapped each of them on the back, and all moved off, laughing, to the dam.
"Now, boys," he commanded the others, "no row without orders. Understand? If there's going to be a fight, I'll give you the word when."
The chopping crew descended to the bottom of the sluice, the gate of which had been shut, and began immediately to chop away at the apron. As the water in the pond above had been drawn low by the morning's work, none overflowed the gate, so the men were enabled to work dry. Below the apron, of course, had been filled in with earth and stones. As soon as the axe-men had effected an entry to this deposit, other men with shovels and picks began to remove the filling.
The work had continued nearly an hour when Orde commanded the fifty or more idlers back to camp.
"Get out, boys," he ordered. "The sheriff will be here pretty quick now, and I don't want any row. Get out of sight."
"And leave them to fight her out alone? Guess not!" grumbled a tall, burly individual with a red face.
Orde immediately walked directly to this man.
"Am I bossing this drive, or am I not?" he demanded.
The riverman growled something.
SMACK! SMACK! sounded Orde's fists. The man, taken by surprise, went down in a heap, but immediately rebounded to his feet as though made of rubber. But Orde had seized a peavy, and stood over against his antagonist, the murderous weapon upraised.
"Lie down, you hound, or I'll brain you!" he roared at the top strength of his great voice. "Want fight, do you? Well, you won't have to wait till the sheriff gets here! You make a move!"
For a full half minute the man crouched breathless, and Orde, his ruddy face congested, held his threatening attitude. Then he dropped his peavy and stepped aside.
"March!" he commanded. "Get your turkey and hit the hay trail. You'll get your time at Redding."
The man sullenly arose and slouched away, grumbling under his breath. Orde watched him from sight, then turned to the silent group, a new crispness in his manner.
"Well?" he demanded.
Hesitating, they turned to the river trail, leaving the ten still working at the sluice. When well within the fringe of the brush, Orde called a halt. His customary good-humour seemed quite restored.
"Now, boys," he commanded, "squat down and lay low. You give me an ache! Don't you suppose I got this thing all figured out? If fight would do any good, you know mighty well I'd fight. And the boys won't be in jail any longer than it takes to get a wire to Daly to bail them out. Smoke up, and don't bother."
They filled their pipes and settled down to an enjoyment of the situation. Ordinarily from very early in the morning until very late at night the riverman is busy every instant at his dangerous and absorbing work. Those affairs which do not immediately concern his task—as the swiftness of rapids, the state of flood, the curves of streams, the height of water, the obstructions of channels, the quantities of logs—pass by the outer fringe of his consciousness, if indeed they reach him at all. Thus, often he works all day up to his waist in a current bearing the rotten ice of the first break-up, or endures the drenching of an early spring rain, or battles the rigours of a belated snow with apparent indifference. You or I would be exceedingly uncomfortable; would require an effort of fortitude to make the plunge. Yet these men, absorbed in the mighty problems of their task, have little attention to spare to such things. The cold, the wet, the discomfort, the hunger, the weariness, all pass as shadows on the background. In like manner the softer moods of the spring rarely penetrate through the concentration of faculties on the work. The warm sun shines; the birds by thousands flutter and twitter and sing their way north; the delicate green of spring, showered from the hand of the passing Sower, sprinkles the tops of the trees, and gradually sifts down through the branches; the great, beautiful silver clouds sail down the horizon like ships of a statelier age, as totally without actual existence to these men. The logs, the river—those are enough to strain all the faculties a man possesses, and more.
So when, as now, a chance combination of circumstances brings them leisure to look about them, the forest and the world of out-of-doors comes to them with a freshness impossible for the city dweller to realise. The surroundings are accustomed, but they bring new messages. To most of them, these impressions never reach the point of coherency. They brood, and muse, and expand in the actual and figurative warmth, and proffer the general opinion that it is a damn fine day!
Another full half hour elapsed before the situation developed further. Then Tom North's friend Jim, who had gathered his long figure on the top of a stump, unclasped his knees and remarked that old Plug Hat was back.
The men arose to their feet and peered cautiously through the brush. They saw Reed, accompanied by a thick-set man whom some recognised as the sheriff of the county, approach the edge of the dam. A moment later the working crew mounted to the top, stacked their tools neatly, resumed their coats and jackets, and departed up the road in convoy of the sheriff.
A gasp of astonishment broke from the concealed rivermen.
"Well, I'll be damned!" ejaculated one. "What are we comin' to? That's the first time I ever see one lonesome sheriff gather in ten river-hogs without the aid of a gatlin' or an ambulance! What's the matter with that chicken-livered bunch, anyway?"
Orde watched them, his eyes expressionless, until they had disappeared in the fringe of the forest Then he turned to the astonished group.
"Jim," said he, "and you, Ellis, and you, and you, and you, and you, get to work on that dam. And remember this, if you are arrested, go peaceably. Any resistance will spoil the whole game."
The men broke into mingled cheers and laughter as the full significance of Orde's plan reached them. They streamed back to the dam, where they perched proffering advice and encouragement to those about to descend.
Immediately, however, Reed was out, his eyes blazing either side his hawk nose.
"Here!" he cried, "quit that! I'll have ye arrested!"
"Arrest ahead," replied Orde coldly.
Reed stormed back and forth for a moment, then departed at full speed up the road.
"Now, boys, get as much done as possible," urged Orde. "We better get back in the brush, or he may try to take in the whole b'iling of us on some sort of a blanket warrant."
"How about the other boys?" inquired North.
"I gave one of them a telegram to send to Daly," replied Orde. "Daly will be up to bail them out."
Once more they hid in the woods; and again, after a longer interval, the mill owner and the sheriff reappeared. Reed appeared to be expostulating violently, and a number of times pointed up river; but the sheriff went ahead stolidly to the dam, summoned those working below, and departed up the road as before. Reed stood uncertain until he saw the rivermen beginning to re-emerge from the brush, then followed the officer at top speed.
Without the necessity of command, a half-dozen men leaped down on the apron. The previous crews had made considerable progress in weakening the heavy supports. As soon as these should be cut out and the backing removed, the mere sawing through of the massive sill should carry away the whole obstruction.
"Next time will decide it," remarked Orde. "If the sheriff brings a posse and sits down to lay for us, of course we won't be able to get near to finish the job."
"I didn't think that of George Morris," commented Sims in an aggrieved way. "He was a riverman himself once before he was sheriff."
"He's got to obey orders, and serve a warrant when it's issued, of course," replied Orde to this. "What did you expect?"
At the end of another hour, which brought the time to four o'clock, the sheriff made his third appearance—this time in a side-bar buggy.
"I wish I dared join that confab," said Orde, "and hear what's going on, but I'm afraid he'd jug me sure."
"He wouldn't jug me," spoke up Newmark. "I'll go down."
"Bully for you!" agreed Orde.
The young man departed in his precise, methodical manner, picking his way rather mincingly among the inequalities of the trail. In spite of the worn and wrinkled condition of his garments, they retained something of a city hang and smartness that sharply differentiated their wearer from even the well-dressed citizens of a smaller town. They seemed to match the refined, shrewd, but cold intelligence of his lean and nervous face.
About sunset he returned from a scene which the distant spectators had watched with breathless interest. It was in essence only a repetition of the two that had preceded it, but Reed had evidently gone almost to the point of violence in his insistence, and the sheriff had shaken him off rudely. Finally, Morris and his six prisoners had trailed away. The sheriff and North's friend occupied the seat of the buggy, while the other five trudged peaceably alongside. Once again Reed clattered away on his bony steed, but this time ahead of the official party.
With a whoop the river crew, now reduced to a scant dozen, rushed down to meet the too deliberate Newmark.
"Well?" they demanded, crowding about him.
"Reed wanted the sheriff to stay and protect the dam," reported Newmark in his brief, dry manner. "Sheriff refused. Said his duty was simply to arrest on warrant, and as often as Reed got out warrants, he'd serve them. Reed said, then, he should get a posse and hunt up Orde and the rest of them. Sheriff replied that as far as he could see, the terms of his warrant were covered by the men he found working on the dam, Reed demanded protection, Sheriff said for him to get an injunction, and it would be enforced."
"Well, that's all right," interjected Orde with satisfaction. "We'll have her cut through before he gets that injunction, and I guess I've got men enough here and down river to get through before we're ALL arrested."
"Yes," said Newmark, "that's all very well. But now he's gone to telegraph the governor to send the troops."
Orde whistled a jig tune.
"Kind of expected that, boys," said he. "Let's see. The next train out from Redding—They'll be here by five in the morning at soonest. Hope it'll be later."
"What will you do?" asked Newmark.
"Take chances," replied Orde. "All you boys get to work. Zeke," he commanded one of the cookees, "go up road, and report if Morris comes back. I reckon this time we'll have to scatter if he comes after us. I hope we won't have to, though. Like to keep everything square on account of this State troop business."
The sun had dropped below the fringe of trees, which immediately etched their delicate outlines against a pale, translucent green sky. Two straight, thin columns of smoke rose from the neglected camp-fires. Orde, glancing around him, noticed these.
"Doctor," he commanded sharply, "get at your grub! Make some coffee right off, and bring it down. Get the lanterns from the wanigan, and bring them to the dam. Come on, boys!"
Over a score of men attacked the sluice-way, for by now part of the rear crew had come down river. The pond above had recovered its volume. Water was beginning to trickle over the top of the gate. In a short time progress became difficult, almost impossible, The men worked up to their knees in swift water. They could not see, and the strokes of axe or pick lost much of their force against the liquid. Dusk fell. The fringe of the forest became mysterious in its velvet dark. Silver streaks, of a supernal calm, suggested the reaches of the pond. Above, the sky's day surface unfolded and receded and dissolved and melted away until, through the pale afterglow, one saw beyond into the infinities. Down by the sluice a dozen lanterns flickered and blinked yellow against the blue-blackness of the night.
After some time Orde called his crew off and opened the sluice-gates. The water had become too deep for effective work, and a half hour's flow would reduce the pressure. The time was occupied in eating and in drying off about the huge fire the second cookee had built close at hand.
"Water cold, boys?" asked Orde.
"Some," was his reply.
"Want to quit?" he inquired, with mock solicitude.
Orde's shout of laughter broke the night silence of the whispering breeze and the rushing water.
"We'll stick to 'em like death to a dead nigger," was his comment.
Newmark, having extracted a kind of cardigan jacket from the bag he had brought with him as far as the mill, looked at the smooth, iron-black water and shivered.
When the meal was finished, the men lit their pipes and went back to work philosophically. With entire absorption in the task, they dug, chopped, and picked. The dull sound of blows, the gurgle and trickle of the water, the occasional grunt or brief comment of a riverman alone broke the calm of evening. Now that the sluice-gate was down and the water had ceased temporarily to flow over it, the work went faster. Orde, watching with the eye of an expert, vouchsafed to the taciturn Newmark that he thought they'd make it.
Near midnight, however, a swaying lantern was seen approaching. Orde, leaping to his feet with a curse at the boy on watch, heard the sound of wheels. A moment later, Daly's bulky form stepped into the illumination of the fire.
Orde wandered over to where his principal stood peering about him.
"Hullo!" said he.
"Oh, there you are!" cried Daly angrily. "What in hell you up to here?"
"Running logs," replied Orde coolly.
"Running logs!" shouted Daly, tugging at his overcoat pocket, and finally producing a much-folded newspaper. "How about this?"
Orde unfolded the paper and lowered it to the campfire. It was an extra, screaming with wood type. He read it deliberately over.
the headline ran.
RIOTING AND BLOODSHED IN THE WOODS
RIVERMEN AND DAM OWNERS CLASH!
There followed a vague and highly coloured statement to the effect that an initial skirmish had left the field in possession of the rivermen, in spite of the sheriff and a large posse, but that troops were being rushed to the spot, and that this "high-handed defiance of authority" would undoubtedly soon be suppressed. It concluded truthfully with the statement that the loss of life was as yet unknown.
Orde folded up the paper and handed it back.
"Don't you know any better than to get into that kind of a row down here?" Daly had been saying. "Do you want to bring us up for good here? Don't you realise that this isn't the northern peninsula? What are you trying to do, any way?"
"Sure I do," replied Orde placidly. "Come along here till I show you the situation."
Ten minutes later, Daly, relieved in his mind, was standing by the fire drinking hot coffee and laughing at Orde's description of Reed's plug hat.
To Orde's satisfaction, the sheriff did not reappear. Reed evidently now pinned his faith to the State troops.
All night the work went on, the men spelling each other at intervals of every few hours. By three o'clock the main abutments had been removed. The gate was then blocked to prevent its fall when its nether support should be withdrawn, and two men, leaning over cautiously, began at arm's-length to deliver their axe-strokes against the middle of the sill-timbers of the sluice itself, notching each heavy beam deeply that the force of the current might finally break it in two. The night was very dark, and very still. Even the night creatures had fallen into the quietude that precedes the first morning hours. The muffled, spaced blows of the axes, the low-voiced comments or directions of the workers, the crackle of the fire ashore were thrown by contrast into an undue importance. Men in blankets, awaiting their turn, slept close to the blaze.
Suddenly the vast silence of before dawn was broken by a loud and exultant yell from one of the axemen. At once the two scrambled to the top of the dam. The blanketed figures about the fire sprang to life. A brief instant later the snapping of wood fibres began like the rapid explosions of infantry fire; a crash and bang of timbers smote the air; and then the river, exultant, roaring with joy, rushed from its pent quietude into the new passage opened for it. At the same moment, as though at the signal, a single bird, premonitor of the yet distant day, lifted up his voice, clearly audible above the tumult.
Orde stormed into the camp up stream, his eyes bright, his big voice booming exultantly.
"Roll out, you river-hogs!" he shouted to those who had worked out their shifts earlier in the night. "Roll out, you web-footed sons of guns, and hear the little birds sing praise!"
Newmark, who had sat up the night through, and now shivered sleepily by the fire, began to hunt around for the bed-roll he had, earlier in the evening, dumped down somewhere in camp.
"I suppose that's all," said he. "Just a case of run logs now. I'll turn in for a little."
But Orde, a thick slice of bread half-way to his lips, had frozen in an attitude of attentive listening.
"Hark!" said he.
Faint, still in the depths of the forest, the wandering morning breeze bore to their ears a sound whose difference from the louder noises nearer at hand alone rendered it audible.
"The troops!" exclaimed Orde.
He seized a lantern and returned down the trail, followed eagerly by Newmark and every man in camp.
"Troops coming!" said Orde to Daly.
The men drew a little to one side, watching the dim line of the forest, dark against the paling sky. Shadows seemed to stir in its blackness. They heard quite distinctly the clink of metal against metal. A man rode out of the shadow and reined up by the fire. "Halt!" commanded a harsh voice. The rivermen could make out the troops—three or four score of them—standing rigid at attention. Reed, afoot now in favour of the commanding officer, pushed forward.
"Who is in charge here?" inquired the officer crisply.
"I am," replied Orde, stepping forward.
"I wish to inquire, sir, if you have gone mad to counsel your men to resist civil authority?"
"I have not resisted civil authority," replied Orde respectfully.
"It has been otherwise reported."
"The reports have been false. The sheriff of this county has arrested about twenty of my men single-handed and without the slightest trouble."
"Mr. Morris," cried the officer sharply.
"Yes?" replied the sheriff.
"Is what this man says true?"
"It sure is. Never had so little fuss arrestin' rivermen before in my life."
The officer's face turned a slow brick-red. For a moment he said nothing, then exploded with the utmost violence.
"Then why the devil am I dragged up here with my men in the night?" he cried. "Who's responsible for this insanity, anyway? Don't you know," he roared at Reed, who that moment swung within his range of vision, "that I have no standing in the presence of civil law? What do you mean getting me up here to your miserable little backwoods squabbles?"
Reed started to say something, but was immediately cut short by the irate captain.
"I've nothing to do with that; settle it in court. And what's more, you'll have something yourself to settle with the State! About, face! Forward, march!"
The men faded into the gray light as though dissolved by it.
A deep and respectful silence fell upon the men, which was broken by Orde's solemn and dramatic declamation.
"The King of France and twice ten thousand men Marched up the hill, and then marched down again,"
he recited; then burst into his deep roar of laughter.
"Now you see, boys," he said, digging his fists into his eyes, "if you'd put up a row, what we'd have got into. No blue-coats in mine, thank you. Well, push the grub pile, and then get at those logs. It's a case of flood-water now."
But Reed, having recovered from his astonishment, had still his say.
"I tell ye, I'm not done with ye yet," he threatened, shaking his bony forefinger in Orde's face. "I'll sue ye for damages, and I'll GIT 'em, too."
"See here, you old mossback," said Orde, thrusting his bulky form to the fore, "you sue just as soon as you want to. You can't get at it any too quick to suit us. But just now you get out of this camp, and you stay out. You're an old man, and we don't want to be rough with you, but you're biting off more than you can chew. Skedaddle!"
Reed hesitated, waving his long arms about, flail-like, as though to begin a new oration.
"Now, do hop along," urged Orde. "We'll pay you any legitimate damages, of course, but you can't expect to hang up a riverful of logs just on a notion. And we're sick of you. Oh, hell, then! See here, you two; just see that this man leaves camp."
Orde turned square on his heel. Reed, after a glance at the two huge rivermen approaching, beat a retreat to his mill, muttering and wrathful still.
"Well, good-bye, boys," said Daly, pulling on his overcoat; "I'll just get along and bail the boys out of that village calaboose. I reckon they've had a good night's rest. Be good!"
The fringe of trees to eastward showed clearly against the whitening sky. Hundreds of birds of all kinds sang in an ecstasy. Another day had begun. Already men with pike-poles were guiding the sullen timbers toward the sluice-way.
When Newmark awoke once more to interest in affairs, the morning was well spent. On the river the work was going forward with the precision of clockwork. The six-foot lowering of the sluice-way had produced a fine current, which sucked the logs down from above. Men were busily engaged in "sacking" them from the sides of the pond toward its centre, lest the lowering water should leave them stranded. Below the dam the jam crew was finding plenty to do in keeping them moving in the white-water and the shallows. A fine sun, tempered with a prophetic warmth of later spring, animated the scene. Reed had withdrawn to the interior of his mill, and appeared to have given up the contest.
Some of the logs shot away down the current, running freely. To these the crews were not required to pay any attention. With luck, a few of the individual timbers would float ten, even twenty, miles before some chance eddy or fortuitous obstruction would bring them to rest. Such eddies and obstructions, however, drew a constant toll from the ranks of the free-moving logs, so that always the volume of timbers floating with the current diminished, and always the number of logs caught and stranded along the sides of the river increased. To restore these to the faster water was the especial province of the last and most expert crew—the rear.
Orde discovered about noon that the jam crew was having its troubles. Immediately below Reed's dam ran a long chute strewn with boulders, which was alternately a shallow or a stretch of white-water according as the stream rose or fell. Ordinarily the logs were flushed over this declivity by opening the gate, behind which a head of water had been accumulated. Now, however, the efficiency of the gate had been destroyed. Orde early discovered that he was likely to have trouble in preventing the logs rushing through the chute from grounding into a bad jam on the rapids below.
For a time the jam crew succeeded in keeping the "wings" clear. In the centre of the stream, however, a small jam formed, like a pier. Along the banks logs grounded, and were rolled over by their own momentum into places so shallow as to discourage any hope of refloating them unless by main strength. As the sluicing of the nine or ten million feet that constituted this particular drive went forward, the situation rapidly became worse.
"Tom, we've got to get flood-water unless we want to run into an awful job there," said Orde to the foreman. "I wonder if we can't drop that gate 'way down to get something for a head."
The two men examined the chute and the sluice-gate attentively for some time.
"If we could clear out the splinters and rubbish, we might spike a couple of saplings on each side for the gate to slide down into," speculated North. "Might try her on."
The logs were held up in the pond, and a crew of men set to work to cut away, as well as they might in the rush of water, the splintered ends of the old sill and apron. It was hard work. Newmark, watching, thought it impracticable. The current rendered footing impossible, so all the work had to be done from above. Wet wood gripped the long saws vice-like, so that a man's utmost strength could scarcely budge them. The water deadened the force of axe-blows. Nevertheless, with the sure persistence of the riverman, they held to it. Orde, watching them a few moments, satisfied himself that they would succeed, and so departed up river to take charge of the rear.
This crew he found working busily among some overflowed woods. They were herding the laggards of the flock. The subsidence of the water consequent upon the opening of the sluice-gate had left stranded and in shallows many hundreds of the logs. These the men sometimes, waist deep in the icy water, owing to the extreme inequality of the bottom, were rolling over and over with their peavies until once more they floated. Some few the rivermen were forced to carry bodily, ten men to a side, the peavies clamped in as handles. When once they were afloat, the task became easier. From the advantage of deadwood, stumps, or other logs the "sackers" pushed the unwieldy timbers forward, leaping, splashing, heaving, shoving, until at last the steady current of the main river seized the logs and bore them away. With marvellous skill they topped the dripping, bobby, rolling timbers, treading them over and over, back and forth, in unconscious preservation of equilibrium.
There was a good deal of noise and fun at the rear. The crew had been divided, and a half worked on either side the river. A rivalry developed as to which side should advance fastest in the sacking. It became a race. Momentary success in getting ahead of the other fellow was occasion for exultant crowing, while a mishap called forth ironic cheers and catcalls from the rival camp. Just as Orde came tramping up the trail, one of the rivermen's caulks failed to "bite" on an unusually smooth, barked surface. His foot slipped; the log rolled; he tried in vain to regain his balance, and finally fell in with a heavy splash.
The entire river suspended work to send up a howl of delight. As the unfortunate crawled out, dripping from head to foot, he was greeted by a flood of sarcasm and profane inquiry that left no room for even his acknowledged talents of repartee. Cursing and ashamed, he made his way ashore over the logs, spirting water at every step. There he wrung out his woollen clothes as dry as he could, and resumed work.
Hardly had Orde the opportunity to look about at the progress making, however, before he heard his name shouted from the bank. Looking up, to his surprise he saw the solemn cook waving a frantic dish-towel at him. Nothing could induce the cook to attempt the logs.
"What is it, Charlie?" asked Orde, leaping ashore and stamping the loose water from his boots.
"It's all off," confided the cook pessimistically. "It's no good. He's stopped us now."
"What's off? Who's stopped what?"
"Reed. He's druv the men from the dam with a shotgun. We might as well quit."
"Shotgun, hey!" exclaimed Orde. "Well, the old son of a gun!" He thought a moment, his lips puckered as though to whistle; then, as usual, he laughed amusedly. "Let's go take a look at the army," said he.
He swung away at a round pace, followed rather breathlessly by the cook. The trail led through the brush across a little flat point, up over a high bluff where the river swung in, down to another point, and across a pole trail above a marsh to camp.
A pole trail consists of saplings laid end to end, and supported three or four feet above wet places by means of sawbuck-like structures at their extremities. To a river-man or a tight-rope dancer they are easy walks. All others must proceed cautiously in contrite memory of their sins.
Orde marched across the first two lengths confidently enough. Then he heard a splash and lamentations. Turning, he perceived Charlie, covered with mud, in the act of clambering up one of the small trestles.
"Ain't got no caulks!" ran the lamentations. "The —— of a —— of a pole-trail, anyways!"
He walked ahead gingerly, threw his hands aloft, bent forward, then suddenly protruded his stomach, held out one foot in front of him, spasmodically half turned, and then, realising the case hopeless, wilted like a wet rag, to clasp the pole trail both by arm and leg. This saved him from falling off altogether, but swung him underneath, where he hung like the sloths in the picture-books. A series of violent wriggles brought him, red-faced and panting, astride the pole, whence, his feelings beyond mere speech, he sadly eyed his precious derby, which lay, crown up, in the mud below.
Orde contemplated the spectacle seriously.
"Sorry I haven't got time to enjoy you just now, Charlie," he remarked. "I'd take it slower, if I were you."
He departed, catching fragments of vows anent never going on any more errands for nobody, and getting his time if ever again he went away from his wanigan.
Orde stopped short outside the fringe of brush to utter another irrepressible chuckle of amusement.
The centre of the dam was occupied by Reed. The old man was still in full regalia, his plug hat fuzzier than ever, and thrust even farther back on his head, his coat-tails and loose trousers flapping at his every movement as he paced back and forth with military precision. Over his shoulder he carried a long percussion-lock shotgun. Not thirty feet away, perched along the bank, for all the world like a row of cormorants, sat the rivermen, watching him solemnly and in silence.
"What's the matter?" inquired Orde, approaching.
The old man surveyed him with a snort of disgust.
"If the law of the land don't protect me, I'll protect myself, sir," he proclaimed. "I give ye fair warning! I ain't a-going to have my property interfered with no more."
"But surely," said Orde, "we have a right to run our logs through. It's an open river."
"And hev ye been running your logs through?" cried the old man excitedly. "Hev ye? First off ye begin to tear down my dam; and then, when the river begins a-roarin' and a-ragin' through, then you tamper with my improvements furthermore, a-lowerin' the gate and otherwise a-modifyin' my structure."
Orde stepped forward to say something further. Immediately Reed wheeled, his thumb on the hammer.
"All right, old Spirit of '76," replied Orde. "Don't shoot; I'll come down."
He walked back to the waiting row, smiling quizzically.
"Well, you calamity howlers, what do you think of it?"
Nobody answered, but everybody looked expectant.
"Think he'd shoot?" inquired Orde of Tom North.
"I know he would," replied North earnestly. "That crazy-headed kind are just the fellers to rip loose."
"I think myself he probably would," agreed Orde.
"Surely," spoke up Newmark, "whatever the status of the damage suits, you have the legal right to run your logs."
Orde rolled a quizzical eye in his direction.
"Per-fect-ly correct, son," he drawled, "but we're engaged in the happy occupation of getting out logs. By the time the law was all adjusted and a head of steam up, the water'd be down. In this game, you get out logs first, and think about law afterward."
"How about legal damages?" insisted Newmark.
"Legal damages!" scoffed Orde. "Legal damages! Why, we count legal damages as part of our regular expenses—like potatoes. It's lucky it's so," he added. "If anybody paid any attention to legal technicalities, there'd never be a log delivered. A man always has enemies.
"Well, what are you going to do?" persisted Newmark.
Orde thrust back his felt hat and ran his fingers through his short, crisp hair.
"There you've got me," he confessed, "but, if necessary, we'll pile the old warrior."
He walked to the edge of the dam and stood looking down current. For perhaps a full minute he remained there motionless, his hat clinging to one side, his hand in his hair. Then he returned to the grimly silent rivermen.
"Boys," he commanded briefly, "get your peavies and come along."
He led the way past the mill to the shallows below.
"There's a trifle of wading to do," he announced. "Bring down two logs—fairly big—and hold them by that old snag," he ordered. "Whoa-up! Easy! Hold them end on—no, pointing up stream—fix 'em about ten foot apart—that's it! George, drive a couple of stakes each side of them to hold 'em. Correct! Now, run down a couple dozen more and pile them across those two—side on to the stream, of course. Roll 'em up—that's the ticket!"
Orde had been splashing about in the shallow water, showing where each timber was to be placed. He drew back, eyeing the result with satisfaction. It looked rather like a small and bristly pier.
Next he cast his eye about and discovered a partially submerged boulder on a line with the newly completed structure. Against this he braced the ends of two more logs, on which he once more caused to be loaded at right angles many timbers. An old stub near shore furnished him the basis of a third pier. He staked a thirty-inch butt for a fourth; and so on, until the piers, in conjunction with the small centre jam already mentioned, extended quite across the river.
All this was accomplished in a very short time, and immediately below the mill, but beyond sight from the sluice-gate of the dam.
"Now, boys," commanded Orde, "shove off some shore logs, and let them come down."
"We'll have a jam sure," objected Purdy stupidly.
"No, my son, would we?" mocked Orde. "I surely hope not!"
The stray logs floating down with the current the rivermen caught and arranged to the best possible advantage about the improvised piers. A good riverman understands the correlation of forces represented by saw-logs and water-pressure. He knows how to look for the key-log in breaking jams; and by the inverse reasoning, when need arises he can form a jam as expertly as Koosy-oonek himself—that bad little god who brings about the disagreeable and undesired—"who hides our pipes, steals our last match, and brings rain on the just when they want to go fishing."
So in ten seconds after the shore logs began drifting down from above, the jam was taking shape. Slowly it formed, low and broad. Then, as the water gathered pressure, the logs began to slip over one another. The weight of the topmost sunk those beneath to the bed of the stream. This to a certain extent dammed back the water. Immediately the pressure increased. More logs were piled on top. The piers locked the structure. Below the improvised dam the water fell almost to nothing, and above it, swirling in eddies, grumbling fiercely, bubbling, gurgling, searching busily for an opening, the river, turned back on itself, gathered its swollen and angry forces.
"That will do, boys," said Orde with satisfaction.
He led the way to the bank and sat down. The men followed his example. Every moment the water rose, and each instant, as more logs came down the current, the jam became more formidable.
"Nothing can stand that pressure," breathed Newmark, fascinated.
"The bigger the pressure the tighter she locks," replied Orde, lighting his pipe.
The high bank where the men sat lay well above the reach of the water. Not so the flat on which stood Reed's mill. In order to take full advantage of the water-power developed by the dam, the old man had caused his structure to be built nearly at a level with the stream. Now the river, backing up, rapidly overflowed this flat. As the jam tightened by its own weight and the accumulation of logs, the water fairly jumped from the lowest floor of the mill to the one above.
Orde had not long to wait for Reed's appearance. In less than five minutes the old man descended on the group, somewhat of his martial air abated, and something of a vague anxiety manifest in his eye.
"What's the matter here?" he demanded.
"Matter?" inquired Orde easily. "Oh, nothing much, just a little jam."
"But it's flooding my mill!"
"So I perceive," replied Orde, striking a match.
"Well, why don't you break it?"
The old warrior ran up the bank to where he could get a good view of his property. The water was pouring into the first-floor windows.
"Here!" he cried, running back. "I've a lot of grain up-stairs. It'll be ruined!"
"Not interested," repeated Orde.
Reed was rapidly losing control of himself.
"But I've got a lot of money invested here!" he shouted. "You miserable blackguard, you're ruining me!"
Orde replaced his pipe.
Reed ran back and forth frantically, disappeared, returned bearing an antiquated pike-pole, and single-handed and alone attacked the jam!
Astonishment and delight held the rivermen breathless for a moment. Then a roar of laughter drowned even the noise of the waters. Men pounded each other on the back, rolled over and over, clutching handfuls of earth, struggled weak and red-faced for breath as they saw against the sky-line of the bristling jam the lank, flapping figure with the old plug hat pushing frantically against the immovable statics of a mighty power. The exasperation of delay, the anxiety lest success be lost through the mulish and narrow-minded obstinacy of one man, the resentment against another obstacle not to be foreseen and not to be expected in a task redundantly supplied with obstacles of its own—these found relief at last.
"By Jove!" breathed Newmark softly to himself. "Don Quixote and the windmills!" Then he added vindictively, "The old fool!" although, of course, the drive was not his personal concern.
Only Orde seemed to see the other side. And on Orde the responsibility, uncertainty, and vexation had borne most heavily, for the success of the undertaking was in his hands. With a few quick leaps he had gained the old man's side.
"Look here, Reed," he said kindly, "you can't break this jam. Come ashore now, and let up. You'll kill yourself."
Reed turned to him, a wild light in his eye.
"Break it!" he pleaded. "You're ruining me. I've got all my money in that mill."
"Well," said Orde, "we've got a lot of money in our logs too. You haven't treated us quite right."
Reed glanced frantically toward the flood up stream.
"Come," said Orde, taking him gently by the arm. "There's no reason you and I shouldn't get along together all right. Maybe we're both a little hard-headed. Let's talk it over."
He led the old man ashore, and out of earshot of the rivermen.
At the end of ten minutes he returned.
"War's over, boys!" he shouted cheerfully. "Get in and break that jam."
At once the crew swarmed across the log barrier to a point above the centre pier. This they attacked with their peavies, rolling the top logs off into the current below. In less than no time they had torn out quite a hole in the top layer. The river rushed through the opening. Immediately the logs in the wings were tumbled in from either side. At first the men had to do all of the work, but soon the river itself turned to their assistance. Timbers creaked and settled, or rose slightly buoyant as the water loosened the tangle. Men trod on the edge of expectation. Constantly the logs shifted, and as constantly the men shifted also, avoiding the upheavals and grindings together, wary eyes estimating the correlation of the forces into whose crushing reach a single misstep would bring them. The movement accelerated each instant, as the music of the play hastens to the climax. Wood fibres smashed. The whole mass seemed to sink down and forward into a boiling of waters. Then, with a creak and a groan, the jam moved, hesitated, moved again; finally, urged by the frantic river, went out in a majestic crashing and battering of logs.
At the first movement Newmark expected the rivermen to make their escape. Instead, they stood at attention, their peavies poised, watching cat-eyed the symptoms of the break. Twice or thrice several of the men, observing something not evident to Newmark's unpractised eye, ran forward, used their peavies vigorously for a moment or so, and stood back to watch the result. Only at the very last, when it would seem that some of them must surely he caught, did the river-jacks, using their peavy-shafts as balancing poles, zigzag calmly to shore across the plunging logs. Newmark seemed impressed.
"That was a close shave," said he to the last man ashore.
"What?" inquired the riverman. "Didn't see it. Somebody fall down?"
"Why, no," explained Newmark; "getting in off those logs without getting caught."
"Oh!" said the man indifferently, turning away.
The going out of the jam drained the water from the lower floors of the mill; the upper stories and the grain were still safe.
By evening the sluice-gate had been roughly provided with pole guides down which to slide to the bed of the river. The following morning saw the work going on as methodically as ever. During the night a very good head of water had gathered behind the lowered gate. The rear crew brought down the afterguard of logs to the pond. The sluicers with their long pike-poles thrust the logs into the chute. The jam crew, scattered for many miles along the lower stretches, kept the drive going; running out over the surface of the river like water-bugs to thrust apart logs threatening to lock; leaning for hours on the shafts of their peavies watching contemplatively the orderly ranks as they drifted by, sleepy, on the bosom of the river; occasionally gathering, as the filling of the river gave warning, to break a jam. By the end of the second day the pond was clear, and as Charlie's wanigan was drifting toward the chute, the first of Johnson's drive floated into the head of the pond.
Charlie's wanigan, in case you do not happen to know what such a thing may be, was a scow about twenty feet long by ten wide. It was very solidly constructed of hewn timbers, square at both ends, was inconceivably clumsy, and weighed an unbelievable number of pounds. When loaded, it carried all the bed-rolls, tents, provisions, cooking utensils, tools, and a chest of tobacco, clothes, and other minor supplies. It was managed by Charlie and his two cookees by means of pike-poles and a long sweep at either end. The pike-poles assured progress when the current slacked; the sweeps kept her head-on when drifting with the stream.
Charlie's temperament was pessimistic at best. When the wanigan was to be moved, he rose fairly to the heights of what might be called destructive prophecy.
The packing began before the men had finished breakfast. Shortly after daylight the wanigan, pushed strongly from shore by the pike-poles, was drifting toward the chute. When the heavy scow threatened to turn side-on, the sweeps at either end churned the water frantically in an endeavour to straighten her out. Sometimes, by a misunderstanding, they worked against each other. Then Charlie, raging from one to the other of his satellites, frothed and roared commands and vituperations. His voice rose to a shriek. The cookees, bewildered by so much violence, lost their heads completely. Then Charlie abruptly fell to an exaggerated calm. He sat down amidships on a pile of bags, and gazed with ostentatious indifference out over the pond. Finally, in a voice fallen almost to a whisper, and with an elaborate politeness, Charlie proffered a request that his assistants acquire the sense God gave a rooster. Newmark, who had elected to accompany the wanigan on its voyage, evidently found it vastly amusing, for his eyes twinkled behind his glasses. As the wanigan neared the sluice through which it must shoot the flood-water, the excitement mounted to fever pitch. The water boiled under the strokes of the long steering oars. The air swirled with the multitude and vigour of Charlie's commands. As many of the driving crew as were within distance gathered to watch. It was a supreme moment. As Newmark looked at the smooth rim of the water sucking into the chute, he began to wonder why he had come.
However, the noble ship was pointed right at last, and caught the faster water head-on. Even Charlie managed to look cheerful for an instant, and to grin at his passenger as he wiped his forehead with a very old, red handkerchief.
"All right now," he shouted.
Zeke and his mate took in the oars. The wanigan shot forward below the gate—
WHACK! BUMP! BANG! and the scow stopped so suddenly that its four men plunged forward in a miscellaneous heap, while Zeke narrowly escaped going overboard. Almost immediately the water, backed up behind the stern, began to overflow into the boat. Newmark, clearing his vision as well as he could for lack of his glasses, saw that the scow had evidently run her bow on an obstruction, and had been brought to a standstill square beneath the sluice-gate. Men seemed to be running toward them. The water was beginning to flow the entire length of the boat. Various lighter articles shot past him and disappeared over the side. Charlie had gone crazy and was grabbing at these, quite uselessly, for as fast as he had caught one thing he let it go in favour of another. The cookees, retaining some small degree of coolness, were pushing uselessly with pike-poles.
Newmark had an inspiration. The more important matters, such as the men's clothes-bags, the rolls of bedding, and the heavier supplies of provisions, had not yet cut loose from their moorings, although the rapid backing of the water threatened soon to convert the wanigan into a chute for nearly the full volume of the current. He seized one of the long oars, thrust the blade under the edge of a thwart astern laid the shaft of the oar across the cargo, and by resting his weight on the handle attempted to bring it down to bind the contents of the wanigan to their places. The cookees saw what he was about, and came to his assistance. Together they succeeded in bending the long hickory sweep far enough to catch its handle-end under another, forward, thwart. The second oar was quickly locked alongside the first, and not a moment too soon. A rush of water forced them all to cling for their lives. The poor old wanigan was almost buried by the river.
But now help was at hand. Two or three rivermen appeared at the edge of the chute. A moment later old man Reed ran up, carrying a rope. This, after some difficulty, was made fast to the bow of the wanigan. A dozen men ran with the end of it to a position of vantage from which they might be able to pull the bow away from the sunken obstruction, but Orde, appearing above, called a halt. After consultation with Reed, another rope was brought and the end of it tossed down to the shipwrecked crew. Orde pointed to the stern of the boat, revolving his hands in pantomime to show that the wanigan would be apt to upset if allowed to get side-on when freed. A short rope led to the top of the dam allowed the bow to be lifted free of the obstruction; a cable astern prevented the current from throwing her broadside to the rush of waters; another cable from the bow led her in the way she should go. Ten minutes later she was pulled ashore out of the eddy below, very much water-logged, and manned by a drenched and disgruntled crew.
But Orde allowed them little chance for lamentation.
"Hard luck!" he said briefly. "Hope you haven't lost much. Now get a move on you and bail out. You've got to get over the shallows while this head is on."
"That's all the thanks you get," grumbled Charlie to himself and the other three as Orde moved away. "Work, slave, get up in the night, drownd yourself—"
He happily discovered that the pails under the forward thwart had not been carried away, and all started in to bail. It was a back-breaking job, and consumed the greater part of two hours. Even at the end of that time the wanigan, though dry of loose water, floated but sluggishly.
"'Bout two ton of water in them bed-rolls and turkeys," grumbled Charlie. "Well, get at it!"
Newmark soon discovered that the progress of the wanigan was looked upon in the light of a side-show by the rivermen. Its appearance was signal for shouts of delighted and ironic encouragement; its tribulations—which at first, in the white-water, were many—the occasion for unsympathetic and unholy joy. Charlie looked on all spectators as enemies. Part of the time he merely glowered. Part of the time he tried to reply in kind. To his intense disgust, he was taken seriously in neither case.
In a couple of hours' run the wanigan had overtaken and left far behind the rear of the drive. All about floated the logs, caroming gently one against the other, shifting and changing the pattern of their brown against the blue of the water. The current flowed strongly and smoothly, but without obstruction. Everything went well. The banks slipped by silently and mysteriously, like the unrolling of a panorama—little strips of marshland, stretches of woodland where the great trees leaned out over the river, thickets of overflowed swampland with the water rising and draining among roots in a strange regularity of its own. The sun shone warm. There was no wind. Newmark wrung out his outer garments, and basked below the gunwale. Zeke and his companion pulled spasmodically on the sweeps. Charlie, having regained his equanimity together with his old brown derby, which he came upon floating sodden in an eddy, marched up and down the broad gunwale with his pike-pole, thrusting away such logs as threatened interference.
"Well," said he at last, "we better make camp. We'll be down in the jam pretty soon."
The cookees abandoned the sweeps in favour of more pike-poles. By pushing and pulling on the logs floating about them, they managed to work the wanigan in close to the bank.
Charlie, a coil of rope in his hand, surveyed the prospects.
"We'll stop right down there by that little knoll," he announced.
He leaped ashore, made a turn around a tree, and braced himself to snub the boat, but unfortunately he had not taken into consideration the "two ton" of water soaked up by the cargo. The weight of the craft relentlessly dragged him forward. In vain he braced and struggled. The end of the rope came to the tree; he clung for a moment, then let go, and ran around the tree to catch it before it should slip into the water.
By this time the wanigan had caught the stronger current at the bend and was gathering momentum. Charlie tried to snub at a sapling, and broke the sapling; on a stub, and uprooted the stub. Down the banks and through the brush he tore at the end of his rope, clinging desperately, trying at every solid tree to stop the career of his runaway, but in every instance being forced by the danger of jamming his hands to let go. Again he lost his derby. The landscape was a blur. Dimly he made out the howls of laughter as the outfit passed a group of rivermen. Then abruptly a ravine yawned before him, and he let go just in time to save himself a fall. The wanigan, trailing her rope, drifted away.
Nor did she stop until she had overtaken the jam. There, her momentum reduced by the closer crowding of the logs, she slowed down enough so that Newmark and the cookees managed to work her to the bank and make her fast.
That evening, after the wanigan's crew had accomplished a hard afternoon's work pitching camp and drying blankets, the first of the rear drifted in very late after a vain search for camp farther up stream.
"For God's sake, Charlie," growled one, "it's a wonder you wouldn't run through to Redding and be done with it."
Whereupon Charlie, who had been preternaturally calm all the afternoon, uttered a shriek of rage, and with a carving-knife chased that man out into the brush. Nor would he be appeased to the point of getting supper until Orde himself had intervened.
"Well," said Orde to Newmark later, around the campfire, "how does river-driving strike you?"
"It is extremely interesting," replied Newmark.
"Like to join the wanigan crew permanently?"
"No, thanks," returned Newmark drily.
"Well, stay with us as long as you're having a good time," invited Orde heartily, but turning away from his rather uncommunicative visitor.
"Thank you," Newmark acknowledged this, "I believe I will."
"Well, Tommy," called Orde across the fire to North, "I reckon we've got to rustle some more supplies. That shipwreck of ours to-day mighty near cleaned us out of some things. Lucky Charlie held his head and locked in the bedding with those sweeps, or we'd have been strapped."
"I didn't do it," grumbled Charlie. "It was him."
"Oh!" Orde congratulated Newmark. "Good work! I'm tickled to death you belonged to that crew."
"That old mossback Reed was right on deck with his rope," remarked Johnny Simms. "That was pretty decent of him."
"Old skunk!" growled North. "He lost us two days with his damn nonsense. You let him off too easy, Jack."
"Oh, he's a poor old devil," replied Orde easily. "He means well enough. That's the way the Lord made him. He can't help how he's made."
During the thirty-three days of the drive, Newmark, to the surprise of everybody, stayed with the work. Some of these days were very disagreeable. April rains are cold and persistent—the proverbs as to showers were made for another latitude. Drenched garments are bad enough when a man is moving about and has daylight; but when night falls, and the work is over, he likes a dry place and a change with which to comfort himself. Dry places there were none. Even the interior of the tents became sodden by continual exits and entrances of dripping men, while dry garments speedily dampened in the shiftings of camp which, in the broader reaches of the lower river, took place nearly every day. Men worked in soaked garments, slept in damp blankets. Charlie cooked only by virtue of persistence. The rivermen ate standing up, as close to the sputtering, roaring fires as they could get. Always the work went forward.
But there were other times when a golden sun rose each morning a little earlier on a green and joyous world. The river ran blue. Migratory birds fled busily northward—robins, flute-voiced blue-birds, warblers of many species, sparrows of different kinds, shore birds and ducks, the sweet-songed thrushes. Little tepid breezes wandered up and down, warm in contrast to the faint snow-chill that even yet lingered in the shadows. Sounds carried clearly, so that the shouts and banter of the rivermen were plainly audible up the reaches of the river. Ashore moist and aggressive green things were pushing up through the watery earth from which, in shade, the last frost had not yet departed. At camp the fires roared invitingly. Charlie's grub was hot and grateful. The fir beds gave dreamless sleep.
Newmark followed the work of the log-drive with great interest. All day long he tramped back and forth—on jam one day, on rear the next. He never said much, but watched keenly, and listened to the men's banter both on the work and about the evening's fire as though he enjoyed it. Gradually the men got used to him, and ceased to treat him as an outsider. His thin, eager face, his steel-blue, inquiring eyes behind the glasses, his gray felt hat, his lank, tense figure in its gray, became a familiar feature. They threw remarks to him, to which he replied briefly and drily. When anything interesting was going on, somebody told him about it. Then he hurried to the spot, no matter how distant it might be. He used always the river trail; he never attempted to ride the logs.
He seemed to depend most on observation, for he rarely asked any questions. What few queries he had to proffer, he made to Orde himself, waiting sometimes until evening to interview that busy and good-natured individual. Then his questions were direct and to the point. They related generally to the advisability of something he had seen done; only rarely did they ask for explanation of the work itself. That Newmark seemed capable of puzzling out for himself.
The drive, as has been said, went down as far as Redding in thirty-three days. It had its share of tribulation. The men worked fourteen and sixteen hours at times. Several bad jams relieved the monotony. Three dams had to be sluiced through. Problems of mechanics arose to be solved on the spot; problems that an older civilisation would have attacked deliberately and with due respect for the seriousness of the situation and the dignity of engineering. Orde solved them by a rough-and-ready but very effective rule of thumb. He built and abandoned structures which would have furnished opportunity for a winter's discussion to some committees; just as, earlier in the work, the loggers had built through a rough country some hundreds of miles of road better than railroad grade, solid in foundation, and smooth as a turnpike, the quarter of which would have occupied the average county board of supervisors for five years. And while he was at it, Orde kept his men busy and satisfied. Your white-water birler is not an easy citizen to handle. Yet never once did the boss appear hurried or flustered. Always he wandered about, his hands in his pockets, chewing a twig, his round, wind-reddened face puckered humorously, his blue eyes twinkling, his square, burly form lazily relaxed. He seemed to meet his men almost solely on the plane of good-natured chaffing. Yet the work was done, and done efficiently, and Orde was the man responsible.
The drive of which Orde had charge was to be delivered at the booms of Morrison and Daly, a mile or so above the city of Redding. Redding was a thriving place of about thirty thousand inhabitants, situated on a long rapids some forty miles from Lake Michigan. The water-power developed from the rapids explained Redding's existence. Most of the logs floated down the river were carried through to the village at the lake coast, where, strung up the river for eight or ten miles, stood a dozen or so big saw-mills, with concomitant booms, yards, and wharves. Morrison and Daly, however, had built a saw and planing mill at Redding, where they supplied most of the local trade and that of the surrounding country-side.
The drive, then, was due to break up as soon as the logs should be safely impounded.
The last camp was made some six or eight miles above the mill. From that point a good proportion of the rivermen, eager for a taste of the town, tramped away down the road, to return early in the morning, more or less drunk, but faithful to their job. One or two did not return.
Among the revellers was the cook, Charlie, commonly called The Doctor. The rivermen early worked off the effects of their rather wild spree, and turned up at noon chipper as larks. Not so the cook. He moped about disconsolately all day; and in the evening, after his work had been finished, he looked so much like a chicken with the pip that Orde's attention was attracted.
"Got that dark-brown taste, Charlie?" he inquired with mock solicitude.
The cook mournfully shook his head.
"Large head? Let's feel your pulse. Stick out your tongue, sonny."
"I ain't been drinking, I tell you!" growled Charlie.
"Drinking!" expostulated Orde, horrified. "Of course not! I hope none of MY boys ever take a drink! But that lemon-pop didn't agree with your stomach—now did it, Charlie?"
"I tell you I only had two glasses of beer!" cried Charlie, goaded, "and I can prove it by Johnny Challan."
Orde turned to survey the pink-cheeked, embarrassed young boy thus designated.
"How many glasses did Johnny Challan have?" he inquired.
"He didn't drink none to speak of," spoke up the boy.
"Then why this joyless demeanour?" begged Orde.
Charlie grumbled, fiercely inarticulate; but Johnny Challan interposed with a chuckle of enjoyment.
"He got 'bunked.'"
"Tell us!" cried Orde delightedly.
"It was down at McNeill's place," explained Johnny Challan; encouraged by the interest of his audience. "They was a couple of sports there who throwed out three cards on the table and bet you couldn't pick the jack. They showed you where the jack was before they throwed, and it surely looked like a picnic, but it wasn't."
"Three-card monte," said Newmark.
"How much?" asked Simms.
"About fifty dollars," replied the boy.
Orde turned on the disgruntled cook.
"And you had fifty in your turkey, camping with this outfit of hard citizens!" he cried. "You ought to lose it."
Johnny Challan was explaining to his companions exactly how the game was played.
"It's a case of keep your eye on the card, I should think," said big Tim Nolan. "If you got a quick enough eye to see him flip the card around, you ought to be able to pick her."
"That's what this sport said," agreed Challan. "'Your eye agin my hand,' says he."
"Well, I'd like to take a try at her," mused Tim.
But at this point Newmark broke into the discussion. "Have you a pack of cards?" he asked in his dry, incisive manner.
Somebody rummaged in a turkey and produced the remains of an old deck.
"I don't believe this is a full deck," said he, "and I think they's part of two decks in it."
"I only want three," assured Newmark, reaching his hand for the pack.
The men crowded around close, those in front squatting, those behind looking over their shoulders.
Newmark cleared a cracker-box of drying socks and drew it to him.
"These three are the cards," he said, speaking rapidly. "There is the jack of hearts. I pass my hands—so. Pick the jack, one of you," he challenged, leaning back from the cracker-box on which lay the three cards, back up. "Any of you," he urged. "You, North."
Thus directly singled out, the foreman leaned forward and rather hesitatingly laid a blunt forefinger on one of the bits of pasteboard.
Without a word, Newmark turned it over. It was the ten of spades.
"Let me try," interposed Tim Nolan, pressing his big shoulders forward. "I bet I know which it was that time; and I bet I can pick her next time."
"Oh, yes, you BET!" shrugged Newmark. "And that's where the card-sharps get you fellows every time. Well, pick it," said he, again deftly flipping the cards.
Nolan, who had watched keenly, indicated one without hesitation. Again it proved to be the ten of spades.
"Anybody else ambitious?" inquired Newmark. Everybody was ambitious; and the young man, with inexhaustible patience, threw out the cards, the corners of his mouth twitching sardonically at each wrong guess.
At length he called a halt.
"By this time I'd have had all your money," he pointed out. "Now, I'll pick the jack."
For the last time he made his swift passes and distributed the cards. Then quite calmly, without disturbing the three on the cracker-box, he held before their eyes the jack of hearts.
An exclamation broke from the interested group. Tim Nolan, who was the nearest, leaned forward and turned over the three on the board. They were the eight of diamonds and two tens of spades.
"That's how the thing is worked nine times out of ten," announced Newmark. "Once in a while you'll run against a straight game, but not often."