The Rapids
by Alan Sullivan
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse







Copyright, Canada, 1922, by



The Copp Clark Press






Amongst the few who knew Robert Fisher Clark at all well, for there were not many of them, there was no question as to his beliefs. It was too obvious that his primary faith was in himself. Nor is it known whether, at any time, he gave any thought or study to the character of those with whom, in the course of his remarkably active life, he came into association. Always it appeared that there was laid upon him the responsibility of doing things which did not occur to the ordinary man, and he went about them with such supreme confidence and unremitting enthusiasm that he infused into his followers much of his communicable zeal. It appears now that Clark weighed a man by appraising the degree to which he contributed to the work in hand, and automatically set aside those whom he considered contributed nothing to his object. He was the most unattached personality it is possible to imagine. Whatever passion or reaction he may have experienced was always a matter for him alone, and something that he underwent in the remoteness of an astonishingly exclusive brain. That he experienced them is without doubt, but they were revealed in the intensity of action and the quick resiliency of renewed effort.

It was not known, either, whether he believed in chance, or in those tiny eventualities which so often impress a definite color on subsequent years. The trend of his mind was to move forward rather than back, and it is questionable if he gave much thought to second causes. The fruit dangled before his eye even as he planted the vine, and if this induced in him a certain ruthlessness it could only be because those who are caught up in high endeavor to reach the mountain tops must perforce trample many a lowland flower beneath their eager feet.

And yet it was chance that brought Clark to St. Marys, chance that he should be in a certain train at a given time, and above all it was chance that he should overhear a certain conversation, but it was not by any means chance that he should interpret the latter as he did.

The train was lurching over an uneven track that wound through the woods of western Ontario when, staring thoughtfully out of the window at the tangled bush, he caught from across the aisle the drift of talk that was going on between two strangers.

"And so," said one of them, "the thing went smash for lack of just two things."

"And what were they?"

"Some more money and a good deal more experience."

Clark raised his head ever so slightly. Money and experience—the lack of them had, to his personal knowledge, worked disaster in a wider circle than that of St. Marys. He had heard of the place before, but that was years ago. Presently one of the strangers continued.

"It was after the railway came that the people in St. Marys seemed to wake up. They got in touch with the outside world and began to talk about water power. You see, they had been staring at the rapids for years, but what was the value of power if there was no use to which to put it? Then a contractor dropped in who had horses and tools but no job."

"So that's what started it?"

"Exactly. The idea was small enough to begin with and the town just wanted power for light and water works, so they gave the contractor the job, borrowed a hundred and thirty thousand dollars, and got the necessary land from the Ottawa government. I've an idea that if those rights ever get into experienced hands you'll hear a good deal more of St. Marys than you ever heard before."

"And then?"

"The town went broke on the job. Mind you, they had a corking agreement with the government and a block of land alongside the rapids big enough for a young city. The mistake was they hadn't secured any factory. Also they needed about five times as much money."

The other man smiled reflectively. "The old story over again."

"That's about it. Credit ran out and the work stopped and things began to rust, and now St. Marys has gone to sleep again and does a little farming and trade with the Indians."

"In fact, it's a sort of rural tragedy?"

"Yes. You'll see the half-finished ditch just before we cross the bridge. I'm afraid St. Marys has that kind of a sick feeling that generally knocks the stuffing out of a municipality. Come on, let's have some lunch."

The two disappeared toward the dining car, but Clark did not stir. His eyes, which were gray and keen, still fixed themselves contemplatively on the ragged wilderness. His lips were pressed tight, his jaw slightly thrust out. Water rights—industries—unlimited power—land for an industrial city; all this and much more seemed to hurl itself through his brain. Presently he took a railway folder out of his bag and examined one of those maps which invariably indicate that the railway which has published the folder owns the only direct route between important points and that all other lines meander aimlessly in comparison. He noted, although he already knew it, that St. Marys, Ontario, was just across the river from St. Marys, Michigan; that Lake Superior flung itself down the rapids that roared between, and that to the south the country was fairly well settled—but to the north the wilderness stretched almost unbroken to the sub-arctics.

A quarter of an hour passed when a long whistle announced the approach to the town. At the sound a new light came into the gray eyes, the traveler closed his bag with a snap and began to put on his coat. Just at that moment the porter hurried up.

"This isn't Minneapolis, sir."

Clark drew a long breath. "I know it—have changed my mind. I'm for St. Mary's now."

He stepped off almost before the train came to a halt and looked curiously about.

"Good day," he said to the nearest man. "Will you please tell me who is mayor and where I will find him?"

Now it happened that the individual to whom this query was addressed was none other than Bowers, the town solicitor, for Bowers had a habit of deserting his office about train time and surveying new arrivals from a corner of the platform with the lurking hope of unearthing something which might relieve the monotony of days which were not only wearisome but unprofitable. When the stranger spoke to him, the lawyer noticed that he was of medium height with a strong barrel-like body and rather sloping shoulders. His face was smooth, his jaw somewhat heavy, his eyes exceedingly keen, and he carried with him an indefinable air of authority. He observed, also, that the voice had in it something peculiarly clear and incisive. With a little thrill and a sudden flicker of the flame of hope, he pointed down the street that led to the river.

"Filmer is the mayor and his store is at the second corner down. His office is just behind."

The stranger nodded and strode briskly off. Presently Bowers heard another voice.

"Who's that, do you suppose, commercial?"

The lawyer wrinkled his brows. "In a way, yes, but in another way, no. That fellow isn't selling anything, he's a buyer."

As the stranger approached Filmer's store, he noted that it was the largest building in sight, as well it might be. It was the local emporium, and so successfully had Filmer managed his business that the Hudson Bay Company saw nothing inviting in competition. From a plow to a needle, from an ax to a kettle, from ammunition to sugar, Filmer had all things, and what he had not he secured with surprising promptness. He had been mayor so long that his first term was now almost forgotten. By ability, courage, and fairness he was easily the leader in the community. Broad and strong, with a ruddy, good natured face, a fine tenor voice, a keen sense of humor and repartee, he was universally popular. No one had known Filmer to complain or repine, though there must have been moments when he longed for touch with those of his own caliber. His was the case of a big man who though bigger than his surroundings accepted them cheerfully. Thus, when Filmer looked up and saw the stranger standing at his office door he was conscious of a curious feeling of anticipation.

It was noted in the store that when the murmur of voices, a mingling of the stranger's penetrating tones and Filmer's fuller, richer note, had lasted for a moment, the mayor got up and banged the door shut, after which there drifted out only a suggestion of conversation. It was not until an hour later that the door opened and the two came slowly out, the stranger as brisk as ever. Filmer was pulling thoughtfully at his glossy black whiskers. Both paused on the wide front step.

"Then at eight this evening, Mr. Clark?" said Filmer.

"At eight," answered the stranger, staring keenly at the river.

"Won't you come and stay with me while you are here, it's just as comfortable as the hotel?" Filmer laughed softly.

Clark shook his head. "Thanks, I'll have too much to do while I am here. I'd better be alone." And with that he set off walking smartly up the long rambling street that led to the abandoned power canal.

He progressed steadily with quick energetic steps, an alert and suggestive figure amidst a scene of placidity. Up the uneven plank walk he went, noting with a swift, sidelong glance the neat white house of Dibbott, the Indian agent, a house that thrust its snowy, wooden walls and luxuriant little garden close up to the street. On his left, still further west, was the home of Worden, the local magistrate. This was a comfortable old place by the river, with a neglected field between it and the highway. Scattered here and there were stores, small buildings with high, wooden fronts, in the upper part of which lived the proprietor and his family. On the right, street after street started intermittently northward and died, houseless, at the railway line, beyond which lay the unbroken bush. Still further up was the County jail, set four square in a large lot that had been shorn of trees. It was of gray stone, massive and forbidding and iron barred. Clark stopped here for a moment and looked back at St. Marys with its flaming maples and its scattered roofs from which rose plumes of light, gray smoke. His eyes half closed as though in some sudden introspection, till, turning abruptly, he struck off over a road that led across a mile of level land and came presently to the grave of the industrial hopes of the town. It was an ugly scar in the face of the helpless earth.

Climbing the half completed embankment, he looked west, where through the clearing he could see the waters of Superior, then down stream to the tail of the rapids that roared half a mile further on. It came to him that nothing is so ugly as a well meant effort which has been left unfinished. Where he stood there had, a year or so before, been little rivulets which, escaping from the mighty flood of the rapids, lost themselves in thickets of birch, hemlock, and cedar, and tinkled and leaped musically to the lower stretches of the river, whilst great trout lay winnowing their currents of white water. But of this beauty there was now but a disordered gash, a hundred feet wide and a thousand feet long, where rusting tools were scattered amongst mounds of splintered rock that lay in piles just as the blast of dynamite had left them. An untidy ruin, thought Clark, who had his own ideas of how things should be put away.

But he was, nevertheless, intensely interested, scanning it all shrewdly. He picked up fragments of stone, and, breaking them, examined their texture with the utmost care. Once or twice he walked along the top of the unfinished embankment throughout its entire length, running a keen eye over the outlines of the excavation. After half an hour which concluded with one long concentrated stare, he pushed on deliberately through the soaked and tangled undergrowth till he came to the edge of the rapids themselves. Here he sat on a rock and looked long and earnestly, and so motionless was he that, after a little while, he seemed to blend completely with earth, sky, and water.

Immediately at his feet the rush of the river grasped at the rough shore as though to pluck it into the deeps, and here were eddies in which he could see the polished stones at the bottom. But further out, where the full weight of water began to be felt, were the first of the great, white horses that stretched to the other shore, a tossing, leaping, irresistible herd. Under the great bridge at his right, the river took its first dip, a smooth and shining slope, streaked with tiny furrows of speed that wrinkled like waving metallic lines. Below that came the rapids in their first fury, with scattered cellars into which the flood swept to uprear itself in a second into pyramids of force and foam. This seemed to fascinate Clark, and he peered with unwinking eyes till a sharp clatter just over his head caused him to look up. Still he did not move his body, and a kingfisher on a branch, after regarding him for an instant with bright suspicious eyes, flung himself into the air and hovered over a nearby eddy with an irregular flapping of quick, blue wings. Then, like a bullet, he dived into the flashing stream immediately at Clark's feet, and emerged with diamond drops flying from his brilliant plumage and a small, silver fish curving in his sharp, serrated beak, till, a second later, he darted into the covert with his prey. The bird had dared the rapids and found that which he sought. Clark's gray eyes had seen it all, and he smiled understandingly.

The mayor, after the departure of his visitor, stood thoughtfully in front of the store, while his eye followed the stranger's figure dreamily up the street, and stood like one who has that whereof to ponder. It is true that he had offered to accompany the new comer on his pilgrimage, but equally true that Clark had politely but definitely declined, and it was something new for the mayor to have his suggestion thus put aside. In this case, however, he felt no resentment, and presently strolled to the house of Worden, the magistrate, where he found Worden, a large man with a small, kindly face, sitting in his study which immediately faced the lawn. On the other side was the river. Worden was apparently dividing his time between an unfinished judgment, for which there seemed no pressing demand, and a satisfying contemplation of the great stream which here was flecked with foam from the tumult above.

The mayor sat for some time talking to him, surrounded by tiers of homemade shelves packed with law books, along whose tattered, leather backs Worden had a habit of running a tobacco-stained forefinger while he relighted a pipe which seemed in continual need of attention. The talk was long and earnest. The mayor's cigar went out with a smell of varnish where it lay on the edge of the judge's desk, but the two were so interested that they did not notice it.

Presently Filmer got up and Worden followed him to the porch expressing entire approval of all that had been discussed, and, as Filmer struck across to the street, he returned to his study and gazed at the judgment with apparent contempt.

From Worden's, the mayor walked across to the jail and sought out Manson. The latter was in his small office which seemed crowded with its single occupant's bulk, and adjoined the high forbidding walls of the jail itself. In St. Marys the chief constable was a man of place, and the jail an edifice that at times took on a singular interest, and if such a capacious establishment as it actually was might seem superfluous in Arcadia it must be remembered that in seasons of the year the lumberjacks rolled in from the northern parts with six months' wages and a great thirst that demanded to be quenched, and a perfectly natural and well meaning desire to offer combat at sight, which they generally did. Then, too, there were fugitives from justice who slipped across the river by night in canoes, and miners from the silver country far to the west, and sometimes crime was also the product of isolation.

Manson, a tall man, broad, dark, and heavy voiced, seemed by nature designed to meet just such contingencies. Outwardly he was the epitome of authority and inwardly he had a mind as stiff as his back. In his own domain he was as Jove on Olympus, and when he moved abroad he was a perambulating reminder of the strong arm of the law. The jail was conveniently arranged to hold the court room on an upper story, so that Manson could pop a prisoner up out of his cell to be tried and sentenced, and pop him back forthwith, and all the time the unfortunate was, so to speak, one of the family and continually under the paternal eye.

Had a listener been outside the door, he would have gleaned that the mayor's visit was, in this case, not as amicable as that just made to Worden. He talked long and arduously, but every now and then Manson's deep bass boomed out heavy with argument, and his massive fist crashed ponderously on the table. Presently Filmer drew a long breath and, stepping out on the trim gravel path, glanced up quizzically at the chief constable who looked as though enthroned on his own doorstep.

"Mr. Mayor," came the deep voice, "I don't take any stock in your scheme. It's no good and there's a nigger in the fence somewhere. I was right before, and I am right this time."

Filmer laughed softly. "Well, John, you're a hell of a good jailer, we all admit that, but I don't put you down as any permanent prophet. However, you will come, won't you?"

Manson nodded, a nod which said that though he would come it could not affect his fixed opinion, whereupon the mayor laughed again, and set off to finish his afternoon pilgrimage, and it is but fair to follow him a little further since he was a shrewd man, active and courageous, and though he did not know it, the result of the various visits he made that day was to be imprinted indelibly on the history of St. Marys.

Banishing Manson from a mind which was already busy with his next move, he retraced his steps as far as the cottage of Dibbott, the Indian agent, who at this hour of the day, might have been found moving mountainously in his long garden and pottering amongst his perennials, smoking an enormous pipe which he regretfully laid aside only in order that he might eat.

Now, since the citizens of St. Marys were, without their knowledge, about to enter upon a period of great importance, glance at Dibbott, not the least of them, as his small, blue eyes caught the approaching figure of the mayor. Six feet when he straightened, his shoulders were bent, but still broad and strong. His face was fiery, not only from his full blooded habit but also from long canoe voyages. He was a placid man—placid yet at times suddenly choleric, and he regarded St. Marys and his own particular plot of land with an undying and tranquil affection. Dibbott's position was, in a sense, enviable, for he stood as administrator between the government and the local Indian tribes, in whose eyes he was the representative of authority.

Year after year he made official visits of visible grandeur to the settlements of his wards, journeying in a great canoe in the middle of which he rested enthroned, the brim of his hat pulled far down over a scarlet, sunburnt nose, a steady wisp of smoke from his big pipe floating back into the face of the laboring Indian behind him. It may be that it was in the silence and mysterious appeal of these journeys that Dibbott got the dignity which sat so naturally on his great, gray head.

The mayor liked the old man, and Dibbott knew it, so they talked amicably while Dibbott, turning every now and then in surprise, pushed out his full red lips as though rising to a fly, and darted quick, little glances as Filmer unfolded his story beside a late phlox. And when the mayor concluded, Dibbott did not move but began to rumble in a deep, throaty, ruminative voice something that sounded like one hundred and thirty thousand dollars at six per cent.

On his way back to the office, Filmer saw Bowers' lean figure across the street. He crooked a masterful finger. "Come here!"

The lawyer came over very deliberately and the two went on together.

"There is a man up at the rapids who says he's ready at any time to take over the town canal debentures."

Bowers looked up startled. "Will you please repeat that very slowly."

"It's true," chuckled Filmer, "and I am calling a town meeting for to-night. I haven't time to give you the details now, but be on hand at eight o'clock. He's made a perfectly straight proposal and I don't see how we can lose on it. I never met a man just like him."

"Did he come in on the train this afternoon?"

The mayor nodded. "Yes—said he was going on to Minneapolis, but decided to stop over and make this offer."

"Then I saw him at the station," answered Bowers thoughtfully. "I thought he was a buyer. Do you reckon we can rope him in?"

Filmer drew a long breath. "Looks to me as if he would rope himself in the way he is going. He won't need any help from us."

"What did you make of him personally?"

"I didn't get very far," said Filmer deliberately, "except that he struck me as the sort of man who gets things done. Look here, I've seen Dibbott and Worden and Manson. Will you go and see the Bishop and ask him to come to-night?"

"The Bishop went away this morning."

"Damn!" said the mayor explosively. "I wanted to get his opinion about Clark, that's his name, Robert Fisher Clark. Well, so long."

He went on to his store where he was overtaken by Clark who had tramped back from the rapids. The visitor was muddy and no longer immaculate and there was a trace of fatigue on his face, but he looked as cheerful and determined as ever. At that moment the village crier passed up the street swinging a raucous bell and announcing in stentorian tones that a meeting would be held in the town hall that night at eight o'clock to consider matters of prime importance to the citizens at large. The crier tramped on, and Filmer glanced up inquiringly.

"Won't you change your mind and come to the house with me? It is a safe bet you'll be more comfortable."

Clark shook his head. "Thanks, but I've got to speak in two hours and there's a good deal to think of."

Meantime rumors of many things had begun to spread through St. Marys. The magistrate, as soon as the mayor left him, naturally told Mrs. Worden all about it and Bowers would not have dreamt of keeping such a thing from his wife, so had stuck a card on his office door saying he would be back in ten minutes and went home for the afternoon, after which Mrs. Worden and Mrs. Bowers strolled over to see Mrs. Dibbott and were in close conversation amongst the perennials, appealing now and then to Dibbott in order that there might be no mistake about it. Down in Blood's barber shop, Jim Blood had, as might be expected, the most detailed information, for Clark had gone in there on his way to the hotel and, sitting down, remarked "shave please" and at the end, without another word, gave Jim fifty cents and walked out. And if you add to all this the sound of the crier's bell mellowing softly up the long street, it will be understood that the excitement was considerably intensified. Even Filmer, as he ate supper, did not say much, but kept his gaze on the lid of the teapot as though it were a Pandora's box in which bubbled marvelous things that might be vomited any moment. But at heart Filmer was not anxious. It was not his habit. Of all men he knew best the folk of St. Marys, so he doubted not at all, and as a matter of fact St. Marys had for mayor a much bigger and wiser man than it ever suspected.

There may be communities now such as St. Marys was twenty-five years ago, but one goes far to find them. Electricity has altered their distinctive character. The traffic of half a continent glided majestically past these wooded shores, with the deep blast of whistles as the great vessels edged gingerly into the Government lock across the river to be lifted to Superior, and another farewell blast as they pushed slowly out, and lastly a trail of vanishing black smoke as they dwindled westward to the inland sea. For seven months this procession passed the town but never halted, till the people of St. Marys felt like the farmer who, in mid field, waves a friendly hand to a speeding train.

As a result folk knew each other to a degree which some would call insufferably well, and yet they did not weary. It was a curious condition in which life had few secrets and yet an ample privacy. There was, as it happened, little to secrete, and simultaneously there was no straining of hospitality. In these close quarters each was aware that the others knew what he or she could reasonably do, and, in natural consequence, did it with grace and simple ease. For years before the railway pushed up from Sudbury, the outer world was brought into touch when the bows of the bi-weekly steamer bumped softly against the big stringers of Filmer's dock, and papers and letters were thrown on a buckboard and galloped to the post office where presently the community gathered and talked.

There was no telephone to jangle, no electric light and no waterworks, but in the soil of St. Marys were springs of sweet water, and through the windows came the soft glow of lamplight as evening closed in, and the shuffle of feet on the porch announced the visitor. It was from the river and the close encircling forest that St. Marys took on its atmosphere. The maple bush was full of game, and the beaver built their curving dams in tamarac thickets within three miles of the village. It was a common thing to kill Sunday's dinner in a two hours stroll from Filmer's store, and, at the foot of the rapids where the Indians pushed their long canoes up to the edge of the white water, there were great, silver fish for the taking. The ducks halted for a rest on their way north and within a stone's throw of the Bishop's big, square house, the geese used to alight in a cornfield, sometimes on a Sunday morning. On such occasions the Bishop experienced keen embarrassment, for he was a good shot and a good sportsman. In springtime the Indians would come up from the settlement with mink and otter which they traded at Filmer's store for bags of brown sugar, and, these, being silently transported to the bush, would shortly reappear as quantities of genuine Indian maple sugar, which Filmer's clerks sold to Filmer's friends with absolute gravity, the nature of the thing being perfectly understood on both sides of the counter. As to local excitement, there was twice a year the County Court and, while it might be said that there was not in all this much for young people to do, they had, nevertheless, camping trips and cruises in big Mackinaw boats along the shores of Lake Huron, and snow shoeing expeditions in winter that took them straight into a fairyland where they built roaring fires of six foot logs and feasted royally in the ghostly recesses of the snow burdened woods. All this and much more had the folk of the village, and everything that went to make up a sweet, clean, uneventful life. And then into this Arcadia dropped one day a stranger, with an amazing experience of the outer world, a kaleidoscopic brain, an extraordinary personal magnetism and a unique combination of driving force and superlative ambition.

Is it surprising that even though ignorant of Clark's characteristics the people of St. Marys filled the town hall that night?


It was a large room with bare floor, painted walls and a flat sounding-board of a ceiling. Across the end was the platform, and immediately above the platform table hung a large brass lamp which could be lowered by a chain that ran along the ceiling and down the adjoining wall. Around the main walls and between the windows were smaller lamps in wire brackets, which burned with a steady, yellow light, and occasionally gave off a thin trickle of smoke that filled the room with the sharp odor of soot. On the platform sat Clark and Filmer on either side of the table, and on the table stood an enormous jug of water and one glass.

At five minutes past eight the hall was crowded. Manson was there, sitting in the front row, and leaning forward on his heavy oak stick which seemed a very bludgeon of authority. Beside him sat his wife, small, slight and gentle, the very antithesis of her dark and formidable husband. Manson's eyes roved from Filmer to Clark and back again to Filmer, but the two looked over his head and seemed no whit disconcerted. A little further back were the Dibbotts, the former turning his big gray-coated body, and every now and then surveying the growing audience with his small blue eyes, while his lips pushed in and out, which was in Dibbott a certain sign that he was thinking hard. Mrs. Dibbott, tall, slim, and square shouldered, turned her kindly capable face toward Clark, and felt the first intimation of that keen interest he always roused, especially in the women who met him. He seemed so alert, such a free agent and, it must be confessed, so disgracefully independent of the gentler sex. Then there was Belding, the young engineer who had had charge of the town's work at the canal. It was not Belding's fault that the money ran out, but he had ceased operations with an unshakable sense of personal blame that, of late, worked poisonously in his brain. There were also the Bowers, and Mrs. Bowers' ample and genial person was full of a pleasurable glow, for if the mayor's plan went through they would have at last a roof over the front porch on which she spent so many hospitable summer evenings. Bowers himself already saw in Clark a possible and important client, and his brain was full of half formulated propositions.

At seven minutes past eight the mayor began to speak. He had been somewhat at a loss just how he might introduce Clark, for, as a matter of fact, the only information he had about the visitor was what the visitor himself had volunteered. But here, as always, Clark's tremendous personality had expressed itself. Filmer glanced at his alert but motionless figure, and perceived that the other was a man of much greater experience and power than himself, and in this the mayor was subject to exactly that influence which Clark was in the habit of exerting without any effort whatever. So thus reinforced, and mindful as well that the half yearly interest and sinking fund payments would be due on the town debt in three months, he fastened an authoritative eye on Manson, the town pessimist, and commenced.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have asked you to come here to-night because it seems that there is now an unexpected opportunity to secure great benefit for the town. You are all aware that we tried to do something and failed, and that the result was an increase of one hundred and thirty thousand dollars in the debt of St. Marys." At this point Manson rammed his oak stick against the floor with disturbing effect. The mayor glanced at him with a smile and went on. "I do not wish to put before you the proposal Mr. Clark makes to the town, he will do that himself. I can only say that I have gone into it very carefully with him, and that I am satisfied that it is more than fair to us, and that I believe he is in control of the necessary money to carry out his plans. If he does not carry them out we are no worse off, and if he does it will put St. Marys definitely on the map. He will speak for himself and I hope you will give a careful hearing, for I don't believe such men get off the train every day."

Clark was on his feet at once and began to talk in a curt, incisive tone of great penetration. Behind it there moved a suggestion of something quite new to the folk of St. Marys. The moment offered no opportunity to analyze this, but it held them motionless with attention.

"I have come," he said, "to make you a proposal which has already been put before Mayor Filmer, and which I am glad to tell you meets with his approval. I appreciate the opportunity, and with your cooeperation great things will yet be done in St. Marys. Now I am going to ask that two windows be opened and that you listen with me for a moment."

There followed an instant of universal surprise shared by the mayor, after which Clark gathered Dawson and Belding with his magnetic eye, and the two pushed up the windows nearest them. The cool night air breathed in and set the big oil lamps flickering, but with it there came the dull monotone of the rapids. Clark leaned slightly forward, and, smiling, began to speak again.

"What you hear is a voice in the wilderness, and, ladies and gentlemen, you have heard it for years. I, too, have heard it, but for something less than eight hours, and there is a difference in our hearing and I want to make that difference clear to you. I listen with a stranger's ears, being a stranger, and therefore not accustomed to that voice, I detect in it something which possibly some of you may have recognized, but certainly none of you have fully appreciated."

There followed a little silence during which Mrs. Dibbott, her eyes twinkling with intense pleasure, nodded to Mrs. Worden. Her imagination was already at work, and, of them all, she first caught the subtle trend of Clark's address.

"It is hardly necessary for me to remind you that your town has made a certain brave attempt and failed completely in its venture." ("Hear! Hear!" from Manson.) "This attempt was from the outset bound to fail." At this point Manson stamped approvingly, and Clark's gray eyes rested on his big frame for a moment while the least suggestion of a smile traversed his lips. "The reason is very simple. You lacked experience in such undertakings. You partly heard the voice but only partly, for to answer it fully and successfully you must answer it in millions and not in thousands of dollars."

At this point he paused impressively, while there spread through the audience the dun colored reflection that the entire town, if obliterated, could be rebuilt for much less than a million, and so definite was the reaction that the speaker proceeded to intensify it in his next remarks.

"You have at present, as the result of this ill-fated enterprise, a liability of one hundred and thirty thousand dollars—I think it is." He turned inquiringly to Filmer who nodded, and with him the entire male section of the audience. There was no question about those figures.

"This liability imposes a heavy tax upon an unproductive community, although if you were producers it would be a bagatelle. As against this liability you have, as assets, a certain piece of property and certain water rights secured from the Dominion government, rights which though at present very limited, might be made the basis of further expansion. And that is all you have—a debt, and against it something that is of no use to you."

A chilled surprise trickled through the town hall and Filmer himself, who had been quite unaware how Clark would state his case, began to think that the thing had gone far enough, when the penetrating voice went on.

"Now as to the town itself. I have failed, after a careful survey, to find any evidence of growth. I have seen no new buildings, nor, under the conditions which at present exist and which there is nothing you can do to change, do I see any reason for growth. You do not manufacture or import anything. You have, so to speak, to live on each other, so why should any one come here to settle down?"

Although Clark had said several striking things, there had not been anything which went as straight home as this. All had watched the great procession which passed up and down the river, and wondered why the population of St. Marys remained so stationary, but never had the inescapable truth been thrown so blatantly in their faces as by this magnetic stranger whose clear voice announced those truths which each had been secreting in his heart year after year. They began to wonder why a man of his type should be interested in the town. But the fact that he was interested clothed him with a still more compelling attraction. Visions of a decaying and moss covered settlement were floating through their minds when the voice took on a new note.

"The condition I have touched on is due to lack of three things,—experience, money and imagination, and in such isolated points as this there is little opportunity to acquire any of the three. There is in the rapids unlimited power. It must be developed, and developed on this side of the river. The age of electricity has come. But let us ask ourselves what is the use of power unless there is some practical purpose to which to put it. There is but one answer. Large works—enormous works must be established at the rapids; works that will utilize all the power that is developed, and draw their raw material from the surrounding country. I have an idea that you may consider the district to the north and west a wilderness, but, gentlemen, you are mistaken. I firmly believe it to be a veritable reservoir of wealth."

Here Clark stopped, glanced thoughtfully at Filmer, and poured out a glass of water, while the entire audience took an imaginary journey into the bush to the north in an attempt to discover the reservoir of wealth. This resulted in numerous quiet smiles, each of which died out with a look at the intense earnestness on the speaker's face. There was a certain amount of fur, it was admitted, but the trapping was falling off. There were scattered patches of spruce for pulp wood, but so far as most of them knew the land was poor and rocky and there had been no discovery of valuable mineral. However, silently concluded Clark's hearers, the man might know, and probably did know a good deal more than he said, and just as this opinion was gaining ground, the speaker struck an inspiring note and came to his point.

"Now for my proposal. I believe in the future of this country, in its latent wealth and its possibilities, and I am prepared to take on the town's uncompleted enterprise and assume its one hundred and thirty thousand dollars of liability. Gentlemen, what I have in mind goes further than any of you have ever imagined, and it needs more millions than you have conceived. Millions will be forthcoming. In the financial markets of the world, capital must be assured of certain fundamentals. These fundamentals established, there is no difficulty whatever in securing as much money as may be required. That is my experience, and if you accept my proposition St. Marys will, within a year, begin to feel the influx of money which is seeking investment. Within that year you will hardly be able to recognize your town. Your property, your houses, your farm products will greatly increase in value, and local trade will experience a remarkable impetus. If you ask what are these basic industries which will mean so much, I need only point out that I am assured of an ample supply of pulp wood for very large mills which I propose to erect, and there is, without doubt, iron ore in these hills of yours. This is only a part of my plan."

Again Clark paused, playing with all his power on those who had already grasped something of his vision. Ore had never been found in that part of the country, though innumerable prospectors had toiled through the hills in search of it, but now it seemed that the folk of St. Marys had cast aside their difference and unbelief, and were becoming incorporated in the speaker's high assurance. A little murmur of enthusiasm arose, to be hushed instantly.

"I only want your cooeperation. I do not ask that you put in one dollar. There is ample money for the purpose, and I tell you frankly there is no room for yours. It is not my intention to bring in for the purposes of the work anything the town itself can supply, and the more you can organize to supply amongst yourselves, the better pleased I and my associates will be. All I hope is that you participate intelligently and profitably in that which will shortly take place. And first of all it will be my duty and pleasure to supply the town with water and light on terms to be arranged with your council. This will be the smallest and to me the least profitable of our undertakings, but I regard it as an obligation to the town. Ladies and gentlemen, a new era is dawning for St. Marys. Have I your support?"

Had he their support? There followed a moment of half dazed silence during which Filmer's blood flushed up to his temples, and Clark finished his glass of water and sat down with a swift glance of his gray eyes that seemed to take in the entire assembly. As though galvanized by an electric shock, the folk of St. Marys rose to their feet and began to cheer. The ladies' handkerchiefs were in the air, with a babel of voices both small and deep. Mrs. Dibbott, her eyes dancing, caught those of Mrs. Worden and nodded vigorously, her cheeks flushed, for to men and women alike the invigorating, magnetic appeal had gone home. Then above the clamor Manson's deep bass became gradually audible.

He was leaning forward, gazing straight out at the two on the platform and booming his utter unbelief in all he had heard. Clark, it struck him, did not know what he was talking about, and who was Clark anyway? Had a single man in the room ever heard of Clark before that afternoon? The town had made one blunder, and it would be wise to keep out of another.

Thus far he got when the astonishment of the audience became transformed into indignation and boiled over. Clark had not moved and indeed only smiled in an absolutely friendly way, but now there were shouts that Manson sit down. He was putting the town in an unfortunate and undesirable position. Finally, Belding and Worden dragged him expostulating into his chair, whereupon Dibbott and Bowers very earnestly, and with much applause, expressed what the meeting really felt. After which the resolution was put calling upon the town council to confirm the agreement, and without any delay whatever. And this being carried unanimously with cheering, the meeting broke up and streamed down the wooden stairs with much trampling of feet, while Mrs. Dibbott asked Mrs. Bowers if she had noticed that every one was so interested that the two windows which were opened had not been closed again in spite of the fact that three lamps had been blown out. All this time the visitor sat still, a satisfied light in his eyes, and when Dibbott and the rest asked to be introduced, the mayor exclaimed that the speaker of the evening was so occupied with momentous matters that he was obliged to postpone the pleasure of meeting them for a day or two. This, of course, added to the spell of fascination cast by the remarkable stranger.

A day or two later, he was to disappear as suddenly as he came, but in the meantime he avoided the people of St. Marys and was extremely busy. To his room at the hotel there had mounted a small procession of visitors, mostly lumbermen, who, being for a few moments admitted to the shrine of mystery, reappeared with their eyes more bright and their lips pressed tight. They had been discussing business matters, and this was for the present about all they would say. The town council, without a dissenting note, accepted Clark's proposal, and the latter became a legal debtor for one hundred and thirty thousand dollars and the owner of the abandoned works, and so simply and smoothly was the business carried out that to the council there seemed something magical and portentous in the transaction.

That afternoon Clark sent for Belding, and the young engineer came with an expectant thrill. By this time St. Marys was aware that the visitor went to no one, but every one came to him. It was typical of methods which he adopted from the very first, so that almost immediately his personality, which was entirely new to this remote community, began to suggest every phase of power and authority.

Belding had brought his plans and blue prints with him, and spread them on the small bedroom table. Followed a little silence, broken by a crisp interrogation.

"How much power have you figured on developing?"

"Five hundred horse power."

"Capable of any expansion?" Clark's lips took on a quizzical curve.

"Yes, to one thousand."

To this there was no comment. Belding himself rather liked the sound of a thousand horsepower. It seemed well rounded.

"Your water rights, I mean my water rights," went on Clark thoughtfully, "permit the use of water for such works as I may erect."

"Yes," the engineer hesitated a moment and added, "sir."

Clark smiled almost imperceptibly, that is his face expressed an inward amusement because a number of tiny lines wrinkled into being at the corners of his gray eyes, and his lips pushed out ever so slightly. Presently he forgot all about the plans, and stared out of the window where the first leap of the rapids was just visible.

"And your technical experience, Mr. Belding, tell me about that."

Belding told him, and did his best to dilate on work that now seemed of a minor character. There was that about Clark which curiously minimized the young man's accomplishments.

Clark nodded once or twice. "Do you owe any money?"

"No, sir." Belding's voice roughened a shade.

Came one of the stranger's rare and unmistakable smiles. "Forget all about these plans and start new ones. I have no use for a thousand horsepower, or five thousand, or ten. We will begin with twenty thousand. I say begin with that. Now listen. You are appointed my chief engineer. I said last night I did not wish to import that which the town can furnish, and I mean it. But being my engineer you are mine, and no one else's. The plans you will make are for me, and me alone, as is all information connected with them, and I may tell you that my engineers carry out my plans and not theirs. Your position will be highly confidential, more important than you can at present imagine. You will be the repository of much that many people would like to know, but I will do whatever talking is necessary."

There were a few added instructions after which Belding went downstairs in a somewhat dazed condition. Then, suddenly, he remembered that no mention had been made of salary. Turning back he rapped at Clark's door.

"There is one thing we did not discuss," he said a little awkwardly.

"What's that?"

"What are you willing to give me a month. I'm apparently engaged and I'd like to know where I stand."

Clark laughed shortly. "My invariable practice is to pay every cent my employees can earn; the more I pay the better I like it. Good evening."

Later that afternoon the engineer walked thoughtfully up to the power canal. It seemed incredible that it should no longer be abandoned. Staring at this uncompleted effort, he felt infused with a hot and overwhelming loyalty. Whatever was good in him he would put into the work. He did not dream of the magnitude of his coming trust, but had a sensation that the curtain was about to rise on a new scene. He was, perhaps, more than the rest impressed with the visitor's force and hypnotic power which seemed prophetic and almost mystical. Then his glance, wandering down stream, caught a trace of smoke where the afternoon steamer was disappearing round a bend.

Clark had gone off by the afternoon boat, explaining to Filmer that he desired to get a glimpse of some other parts of the country. Now he sat immovably in a corner of the deck, wrapped in a thick overcoat and speaking to none. In his hand was a copy of the town agreement. He ran over it musingly till he came to the clause which set forth his new obligations, and at this point his lips tightened a little. Had he at that moment been able to realize every worldly possession he had he might have cleared up twenty-five hundred dollars but certainly not five thousand. A glint came into his eyes as he read. The agreement set forth in Bowers' best phraseology that Robert Fisher Clark of Philadelphia, financier,—and at the sound of the last word Clark smiled a little,—hereby undertook to spend in various works not less than three million dollars in the next five years, failing which his title to the town's former holdings would automatically lapse.

The vessel moved smoothly on. Reviewing the last few days with perfect placidity, he sent his mind back to other notable occasions when success had been snatched from him, it seemed, at the very last moment. The review did not depress him. He was not of that kind, but was filled rather with a new and inflexible determination.

The dream and the vision broadened. As the vessel swung into the long turn that leads round the first big bend, he glanced back and caught the wide white line of foam below the spidery bridge. As he gazed the wooded ground to the north of the rapids seemed to be covered with great stone buildings whose walls lifted like mystic battlements in the green wilderness. He saw railways plunging into the forest and heard the rumble of trains that drew up to his phantom factories. He saw the river and the lakes furrowed with ships that came to St. Marys with foreign cargoes and, charged full with his products, turned their slim bows to distant lands. All this and much more passed in royal procession before his thoughtful eye. Then something seemed to leap through his brain and he stood erect, masterful and undaunted.

"And now," he said to himself with a touch of grim humor, "now perhaps I'd better find some money."


Follow Clark a little further, for he was making history. He did not think of this but had merely set a determined face toward his guiding star. The vision was still clear and sharp when he reached Philadelphia, reinspired by a series of swift calculations that were as swiftly stowed away for suitable use in his retentive brain. There were also three names—Wimperley, Riggs, and Stoughton.

The morning after he arrived he went to see the first of his prospects. Wimperley was the auditor of a great railway system, and when Clark's name was brought in he looked up from his desk and announced shortly: "Busy, can't see him," which was really what Clark expected.

Now the influence by which Clark forced and carried out this interview with Wimperley need not be succinctly described, nor the half amused, half resentful surrender with which Wimperley finally said, "Show him in," but it is indicative of that power of hypnosis which Clark could exert at will, and by means of which, time and time again, he dissolved antagonism into support and the murky solution of criticism into the clean precipitate of confident reassurance. Wimperley knew perfectly well that, once admitted, Clark would convert him to his own present belief, whatever that might be, and that under Clark's magnetic persuasion he would shortly find himself treading a totally unexpected path.

"Good morning. I'd like to have fifteen minutes." Clark was inwardly amused, but he spoke with perfect gravity.

Wimperley drew a long breath. He knew what could happen in fifteen minutes. "What's the scheme now?"

"Power and pulp," said Clark briefly, and, turning to a large railway map on the wall laid a finger on the point where Lake Superior falls into Lake Huron.

"Go ahead."

"I have acquired the right to develop any desired quantity of energy. This can be done for eighty dollars a horsepower. The country to the north is full of pulp wood, but the people up there don't know it."

Wimperley felt a throb of interest. The power question in Philadelphia was up at the moment, but it was power developed from coal and it came high.

"What else?" he said evenly, "and how do you know it?"

"Seven different lumbermen have offered to contract for ten thousand cords a year. That's all I had time to talk to. The point is that each has individual knowledge of good stands of timber in his own locality but the thing has never been collated. Now look here," went on Clark, with a new light in his gray eyes—"there's power and wood; excellent transportation; iron ore—without question—in the hills; limestone at hand; cheap labor; no local competition, and—"

"Wait a minute," struck in Wimperley hastily and pressed a bell.

"Telephone Mr. Riggs and Mr. Stoughton and see if they can come over for a moment," he said to his secretary, then, turning to Clark, "better wait for them."

Silence fell in the office. Both men were thinking hard. Wimperley, beginning to be resigned, had, in a burst of revolt, visualized Riggs and Stoughton as those most likely to help with the barricade which Clark was already beginning to shatter, and Clark, his face as imperturbable as ever, marveled not at all at his own influence, but was busy reviewing the strategic moves which were to convert the two for whom he waited. Presently they entered, shook hands with a certain stiffness and sat down. A glance at Clark revealed the reason for Wimperley's summons. They, too, had in former years come under the spell.

"Now," said Wimperley briefly.

Clark recapitulated, and the three listened, their faces devoid of expression save when their eyes involuntarily sought each other.

The voice went on vibrant and compelling. "We can turn out seventy-five thousand tons of pulp a year at a profit of six dollars a ton. There is an abundance of hard wood for veneer mills. I have five hundred acres of land adjoining the power canal; it is crossed by the Transcontinental Railway; I have been to Ottawa and am promised a bonus of ten thousand dollars a mile for such railways as we may build. The balance of the cost will be met by the sale of lands thus developed, and thus the railways will not mean any permanent investment on our part, but we will, nevertheless, own them. I am also authorized to divert from the rapids any water I may require for power. I have been to see the Provincial Government and am promised exclusive control of any mineral or lumber areas applied for. The market for pulp is very good and will shortly be better owing to the exhaustion of areas which have been cut over too long. I have virgin country which is practically inexhaustible. The town has transferred to me its entire rights and holdings. I have all the fundamentals for the making of a great industrial center. As to the money—"

"Yes," put in Riggs with a suggestion of breathlessness in his voice.

"Philadelphia has millions waiting for investment—you know it, I know it, and this is the opportunity. We will be dealing with natural products in a simple and natural way. The district supplies the power and the raw material; the outside and neighboring country, the market. We supply the brains."

"What does this cost you personally?" hazarded Stoughton a little uncertainly.

"A hundred dollars in traveling expenses, and I have assumed a hundred and thirty thousand of town debentures at six per cent. If you don't want it there are others who do."

Wimperley looked up. His face had taken on a new expression. He caught Riggs' eye and his lips formed the word "cheap."

The latter nodded. There was a slight flush in his otherwise sallow cheeks. Then he put a series of searching questions which were answered by Clark with a wealth of detailed information which it seemed was impossible to have been collected by one man in the course of a few days. After which the three went to the big map and, turning their backs on Clark, traced out railway lines and steamship routes and the general transportation situation, and all the while the latter sat quite motionless, while his eyes regarded the group across the room with a look at once hypnotic and profound. These were telling moments, during which unseen forces seemed to move and stretch themselves in hidden potency.

Presently came Wimperley's voice. "How much money would be necessary for the first year's operations?"

"About a million, possibly more."

"And how," demanded Stoughton, "do you propose to get it?"

"I am not going to get it," replied Clark with extreme placidity; "you are."

Came a joint laugh from the three at the map, not hearty or contagious, but burdened with that negative humor with which men sometimes accept a situation which holds them helpless and at the same time summons all their power to meet it.

Stoughton drew a long breath. "Well," he said slowly; "I suppose we are."

There followed an hour's conference. Clark did not display a trace of triumph but poured out the contents of his extraordinary brain. A million to start with and after that more millions as the occasion demanded. These were his requirements and the rest could be left to him. And it might be noted that the prospect did not cause the others much anxiety, for as the undertaking unfolded with communicable power, they perceived more fully than ever that he was in actuality dealing with fundamentals, and fundamentals were things they were not afraid to commend to financial circles. Thus was sown in this Philadelphia office the seed which was destined to propagate itself so amazingly.

When it was all over, Clark went back to his hotel, and wrote a short letter to a woman saying that he had interesting business on hand and hoped to see her soon. The letter was to his mother.


Snow was on the ground and the river crisping with tinkling sheets of spreading ice when Clark again reached St. Marys and with characteristic energy laid his first plans. These were to supply the town with water and light, and the fact that the well remembered public promise was thus to be redeemed reassured the citizens as nothing else could have done. It was true that heavy work was impossible before spring, but Belding, on instructions, deposited with the town council an imposing set of blue prints which showed water pipes and electric circuits radiating through every part of the town.

It was a week or so later that one day in the office Belding looked up as though he had been called and caught his chief's penetrating gaze.

"Are you engaged, Belding; I mean to be married?" There was a twinkle in the gray eyes.

"No, sir."

"Want to be?"

"No, sir."

"Anything to think of except the work?"

Belding shook his head. He had already learned never to show surprise.

"Then suppose I share your quarters for the rest of the winter. I can't stand that hotel any longer."

The engineer flushed. Already he had put Clark away in the corner of his mind as one not comparable to any man he had ever met. His directness, his versatility, the suggestion of power that lay behind power,—all these Belding had found in him. And this was a little like being asked to share quarters with the Pope.

"I'm afraid you won't be very comfortable, sir." Belding had the use of a big house, but it was hard to heat.

"I'll be better off than where I am," said Clark, and that settled it. He had apparently conceived for the young man as much liking as he cared to show for any one. Presently he laughed.

"You're wondering why I asked whether you were going to be married."

"I am—rather."

"Well, it's only because I feel a bit superfluous to any one in that condition."

"Then you're not married yourself?" said Belding involuntarily.

Clark's eyes hardened. "No," he answered with extreme deliberation, "I am not, I am too busy." Presently his mood changed and he added provocatively, "But you're doomed, I see it in your face."

Belding smiled. "I haven't met her yet."

"It isn't a case of your meeting her; it's the other way on. You may never know it, but she will."

Belding glanced at him, puzzled. This was not the Clark he knew ten minutes ago. And just then the other man pulled himself up.

"I think I'd move that mill about a hundred feet west," he went on, bending over a drawing. "It will shorten the head race and save money."

The engineer nodded and drew a long breath. He had expected to get a glimpse of the inner man, but the door was banged in his face.

That winter was, for him, an adventure in regions fascinating and remote. It is probable that at the time there was not on the North American continent a man more highly endowed than Clark with gifts of sheer psychological power. Belding, young in his world, could not recognize it as such, but he fell the more completely under the wizard-like spell of his companion's imagination. The days, shortened by late sun and long nights, passed with early journeys to the temporary office which Clark had built at the canal, where they compiled endless surveys and plans in which the scope of the future was graphically depicted. On these miniature spaces factory shouldered against factory and mill against mill. The canal doubled in size, and, stupendous as it all seemed, Belding could see no reason why these things should not shortly exist. It was vastly different from former days.

As the weeks passed, he began to get Clark in clearer prospective. It became forced on him that this hypnotic stranger had no desire except that of creation. It seemed that his supreme determination was to win from the earth that which he believed it offered, and express himself in steel and stone and concrete, in the construction of great buildings and in the impressive rumble of natural power under human control. There was talk of many things, colored by keen, incisive comments from this man of many parts, but never once did he put forward the subject of wealth or the means of its amassing. The possession, or at least the direction, of great sums was imperative to him, but he valued them only for what they could achieve, and Belding always got the sensation of his new approach to subjects hitherto deemed well worn, and that remarkable mixture of impatience and intuitive power which characterized his analysis. Again there were evenings when Clark did not want to talk, but slipped off to the piano. Then the engineer saw another man within the man, one who, plunged in profound meditation, sat for hours, while his strong yet delicate fingers explored the keys, interpreting the color of his mood and drawing, as it were, from some mystical source that on which the subtle brain was nourished. And these were periods which the other soon learned were not to be interrupted.

They were constantly asked out and entertained with old time hospitality, Clark being the object of supreme curiosity in St. Marys, and more often than not he slipped away early, leaving Belding on duty. It was on these occasions that the contrast between his chief and others stood out most prominently, there being nothing, it seemed, that any one could do for him. His principal desire was to be let alone.

It was one night at the Wordens' that Belding caught what he took to be evidence of a heart that was fastidiously concealed. Clark, in front of the fireplace, was listening to the judge dilate on the ancient history of St. Marys, and that of lost and silent tribes who once paddled along the shore and lifted their delicate bark canoes around the tumbling rapids. Worden was a wise, old man with a certain gentle dignity, and his wife, a dainty, middle-aged lady with slowly graying hair and kindly eyes.

"There was a good deal of bloodshed about," ruminated the judge. "Of course the Jesuit got here first and performed the mysteries of the Host in front of the natives. There were Indian wars and a good deal of torturing went on up on your property, Mr. Clark. Then the French and English traders shot each other from behind trees, where I understand you are going to build your pulp mill, and the survivors took the furs and struck off for Montreal in canoes, a matter of some six hundred miles. After that the Red River Company and the Hudson Bay got at loggerheads."

"In short," put in Clark, "I've picked out a veritable battle ground. By the way, who is this, if I may ask?" He lifted a photograph from the mantel.

Mrs. Worden smiled proudly. "Our daughter, Elsie. She's seventeen now and we won't see her for two years. She's in the West with her aunt."

"Oh!" said Clark. His brows pulled down and he scanned the print with close attention. "She has imagination I take it."

"Too much for her own comfort," remarked the judge.

Clark did not answer but dropped into one of those thoughtful silences which, while they did not seem to exclude, made it nevertheless appear presumptuous to rouse him.

"Too much imagination," he repeated presently. "Is that possible?" Then, after another long stare, "It's a very unusual face."

Mrs. Worden looked very happy. "We're going to take great care of Elsie when we get her back. She had this long, delightful invitation and we let her go because we thought she'd see more than she could in St. Marys, but she writes that it's even quieter."

"The old St. Marys is nearly at an end and your daughter will find food for her imagination when she gets back. May I show this to Mr. Belding?"

The young man took the photograph with a queer sense of participation in something he did not understand. He saw a broad, low forehead, masses of soft and slightly curly hair, eyes that looked beautifully and wistfully, out from beneath finely arched brows and a mouth that lacked nothing in humorous suggestion. Puzzling for an instant what it was that had attracted his impersonal chief, he heard the latter saying good night with customary abruptness.

"Come along, Belding; we've got a long day ahead of us. The directors will be here to-morrow."

The judge was vastly interested. "So St. Marys is in actual touch with Philadelphia?"

"Very much so, and in about two years St. Marys will loom very large in Philadelphia. Good night and thank you."

The wind was stinging and they drove home rather silently. Arriving at the big house, Clark went to the piano and played for a moment. The music ceased as suddenly as it began and, warming himself at the great stove in the hall, Belding heard a short laugh and an exclamation. "Too much imagination," exploded Clark. The tone was one of utter incredulity. At that the young man felt curiously truculent. Elsie was only seventeen, while Clark was certainly not less than thirty-five. Then the latter reappeared, rubbing his chilled fingers.

"The piano is too stiff with cold to talk. By the way, Worden was talking about the bishop. What bishop?"

Belding told him what he knew. "He's an Irishman and a fine man. He works this part of his diocese from St. Marys in the summer. One hears all kinds of stories about him from the woods and the islands. He's got a sense of humor and is a good sportsman, but I've only met him once or twice. Just now he's over in England raising money to buy a small yacht to navigate himself when he's traveling on duty, and weather won't stop him if he gets it. You'll see him next spring."

Clark seemed interested. "I don't know many parsons but that doesn't describe them to me. A sportsman and a sense of humor, eh? It sounds like a hunting parson. I thought they were all dead."

"This one isn't."

"St. Marys begins to offer more than I expected," smiled his chief. "Are you going to bed, or will you sit here and freeze to death?"

Riggs, Stoughton, and Wimperley came up next day. Clark met them at the station, where a bitter wind was droning down from the north, and Belding, by engineering of a high order, made room for them at his quarters. Then they drove out to the canal, and with Clark climbed the icy embankment while the latter expounded the situation.

"There," he said cheerfully, "will be the first power house, and there mill number one."

Riggs, a small thin-blooded man, peered at the glassy landscape. "Splendid," he chattered, while Stoughton pulled his fur collar over his ears and set his back to the wind.

"Up at the north end,—you can see it better if you step a little this way—will be the head gates. That railway trestle—you see that trestle don't you, Wimperley?—"

Wimperley pulled himself together, but his feet had lost all feeling. "Yes, any one could see that."

"Well, that will be replaced by a steel bridge at the railway's expense. We propose to widen the canal at that point to one hundred feet at the bottom, and now—" here he seized the unfortunate Stoughton and swung him so that he faced into the chilling blast—"I want to point out the booming ground for logs."

Stoughton muttered something that sounded like strong condemnation of all logs, but Clark did not seem to hear him.

"They'll come round that point, swing into the bay and feed down this way to the mill. You get that, don't you?"

They all got it, at least so they earnestly assured the speaker who stood with his overcoat half unbuttoned, his cap on the back of his head and apparently oblivious of the temperature. This frigid and desolate scene had no terrors for him. Beneath the icy skin he discovered its promise.

"There'll be two booms—one for pulp wood and the other for hard wood for the veneer mills. You make hard wood float by driving plugs of lighter wood into both ends of the log. And now, if you'll step down this way, I'll show you where the dredges will start work."

"Look here," said Riggs in a quavering voice, "what's the matter with my cheek? I can't feel it."

Clark glanced at him and shook with sudden laughter. "Only a bit of frost bite,—perhaps we'd better go back to the office. It's a pity, though,"—here he hesitated a little—"there's quite a lot more to see."

Whereupon Riggs and the other two at once assured him that unless they sought shelter forthwith they would flatly refuse to authorize the expenditure of any more money whatever in a country as blasted as this. After which they repaired to the office, where Belding waited with his blue prints and Clark outlined the possible future. As he put it, these developments were only possible and depended on what that future might bring forth. But as he talked, Belding, for one, knew that the whole magnificent program had been definitely determined in that astonishing brain.

They drove back in the open sleigh and the horses, chilled in the cold, sent the snow flying about their ears. There was but little talk and it was not until they drew abreast of a stone building that Stoughton spoke.

"Nice jail you've got here," he remarked with a grin. "Looks as if they had been expecting our crowd."

Clark laughed. "It's the home of the only pessimist I have found in St. Marys."

"Then let's drop in and convert him." Stoughton was feeling warmer, and the keen, dry air and brilliant sun affected him like wine.

There was an instantaneous shout of approval, and three school boys in the shape of the three most influential men of Philadelphia rolled happily out of the sleigh. Riggs turned with mischief in his eye and a bright red patch on his cheek.

"Come on, Clark; we need something like this after the dose you have given us."

At the trampling of feet, Manson looked out of the window, then stepped deliberately to the door. The next minute Clark was busy introducing. "Mr. Manson, this is Mr. Wimperley, auditor of the Columbian Railway Company; Mr. Riggs, president of the Philadelphia Bank, and Mr. Stoughton, of the American Iron Works. We're all cold and cast ourselves on your mercy. They've had enough power canal for to-day."

Manson waved them in with just the gesture with which he motioned a prisoner into the dock. It was the only gesture he knew. His brain was working with unwonted rapidity, and he glanced questioningly at Clark, but the face of the latter was impassive. The visitors grouped themselves round the big box stove that was stuffed with blazing hardwood.

"Lived here long, Mr. Manson?" hazarded Riggs, stretching his thin fingers to the heat.

"All my life, gentlemen, and I don't want anything else."

"You haven't been in jail for that time?" put in the irrepressible Stoughton.

The big man relaxed to a smile. "I've been in charge here for the last twenty-five years, and I like it."

The three glanced at him with a sudden and genuine interest. The man was so massive; his hair so black, and, at the age of fifty, still unstreaked with gray. His face was large and strong, with a certain Jovian quality in cheek, ear, and chin. He suggested latent physical powers that, if aroused, would be tremendous.

"Find it pretty quiet?" went on Stoughton.

"Yes, but that's what I like."

"Then you don't entirely approve of our plans up at the rapids? At least, so Mr. Clark tells me."

Manson's glance lifted and went straight into Clark's gray eyes.

"No, I don't believe in them, if," he added, "I can say so without offense."

Riggs stripped off his heavy fur coat, and turned his back to the stove.

"Just why, may I ask?"

"Well, I have a feeling you'll spoil St. Marys. It's just right as it is. We haven't much excitement and I reckon we don't want it. We're comfortable, so why can't you let us alone? I like the life as it is."

"You'll live faster after we get going," chuckled Wimperley.

"Perhaps, but we won't live so long. I've had a lot of men through my hands who tried to live faster, and it didn't agree with them—not that I'm meaning—" The rest was lost in a riot of laughter, out of which Wimperley's voice became audible.

"If things go as we propose and expect, the people of St. Marys will profit very considerably,—there will be remarkable opportunities."

"Meaning that,—" a new light flickered in Manson's black eyes for a fraction of a second and disappeared.

"Meaning that during the transformation of a village into a city a number of interesting changes take place."

"Maybe, but such things can't affect me very much."

"Well, possibly not, but I've an idea they will. I'm afraid we can't let St. Marys alone, Mr. Manson, and a little later on you'll understand why. This land, for instance, between us and the river, is vacant."

Manson's eye slowly traversed the two hundred yard width of the open field that lay just south of the road. It was perhaps half way between the rapids and the center of the village.

"Yes, I think Worden owns it, but I know that no one wants it."

"Ah!" said Stoughton with a little laugh; "and now we must be getting on. Good-by, and thank you for saving our lives, even if you have had a crack at our project."

There was a sound of laughing voices on the porch and a jangle of sleigh bells that dwindled toward the village, but Manson did not seem to hear them. He stood blocking up the window, his hands thrust deep in his pockets, staring at the vacant lot across the street.

Dinner that night cost Belding much searching of soul. "There'll be three more," Clark had said, and forgotten all about it, but when the Philadelphians sat down Belding's heart sank. On the table was a leg of mutton, placed hastily by an agitated servant lest it freeze between kitchen and dining room. Even while Belding carved it the gravy began to stiffen. Behind Clark was a glowing fireplace, ineffectual against the outside temperature, the windows were white with frost and the whole house seemed to creak.

"Have some mutton," said the young man desperately.

Riggs rubbed his thin hands. "Thanks, I'm very fond of mutton. Do you mind if I put on my overcoat? The floor seems a little cold." He disappeared and returned muffled to the ears.

"You'd better hurry up with your food," said Clark soberly. "The human stomach cannot digest frozen sheep." He glanced at Wimperley and Stoughton. "What's the matter with you fellows?"

The two visitors coughed and apologized and went in search of their overcoats. Clark began to laugh. "And to think that you three are going back to furnaces and steam heat. Do you realize what Belding and I are going through on your behalf?"

They got through the meal somehow, but Belding was utterly abashed. The visitors played with the congealing mutton, poked at forbidding potatoes, absorbed large quantities of scalding tea and then hastened back to the big stove. Belding felt a hand on his shoulder.

"It's my fault. We should have let them go to the hotel. I suppose we're used to it, they're not."

Presently, Wimperley began to yawn. "I'm going to bed."

Riggs glanced apprehensively upstairs, where it was even colder than below. "I'm going to sleep in my clothes. My God! pajamas on a night like this. Clark, what are you made of?"

In ten minutes the big stove was deserted, and Clark went from room to room tucking in his shivering visitors.


It was not till spring came and the earth relaxed her stiff and reappearing bones that Clark really got to work, and then arrived the first battalions of that great influx which was soon to follow. Up at the rapids men and machinery became visible as though by magic. Belding had a curious sensation as he saw the product of his former plans well nigh obliterated in the larger excavation which now began to take shape. His earlier efforts took on their due proportion, and he smiled at the contrast, reveling in his opportunity for the full exercise of his ability. But it is probable that neither Belding nor any others amongst the leading men who, in time, were gathered into the works, realized to what a degree they were animated by the mesmeric influence of Clark.

By this time Bowers, another local appointment, was the legal representative of the Company, and the repository of great intentions which he guarded with scrupulous fidelity. Clark was redeeming his promise not to import that which the town could provide. And then he met the bishop.

He saw the broad-shouldered, black-coated figure contemplating a steam shovel that was gnawing at the rocky soil beside the rapids. The bishop was a big man with a handsome head, well shaped legs adorned with episcopal gaiters, and a broad, deep chest. It was universally admitted that a less ample breast could not have contained so great a heart.

"Good day, sir." Clark involuntarily lifted his hat. The bishop held out a firm white hand. "I've heard of you, Mr. Clark, and am glad to see that Mahomet has come to his mountain. It's a little like a fairy tale to me."

"I hope it may prove as attractive."

"But I believe in fairies, we need them nowadays."

Clark smiled. "I'm afraid that St. Marys doesn't believe in them as yet, but I'll do what I can."

"I suppose you've met every one here in the course of the winter?"

"Most I think. As a matter of fact one hasn't much time."

"That's a new thing in winter in the North. Now show me what's going on, I'm vastly interested."

There was nothing that could have suited Clark better, and the two tramped about for an hour. At the end of it they stood near the head of the rapids and watched a coughing dredge tear into the soft bottom.

"I used to come up here to fish," said the bishop thoughtfully, "and once killed a six pound trout on a six ounce rod, but now you're doing the fishing, and so it goes. Do you expect to begin operations in the woods next winter?"


"Then I'll need some more missionaries. You're making a lot of work for me, but I like it."

His companion glanced up with sudden interest. They both liked work. It had been evident for an hour past in the prelate's keen questions. It occurred to Clark that the influence of his own passion for creation promised to affect a large number of people. But he had never dreamed of missionaries, and now the thought amused him.

"I see young Belding over there," said the bishop as the engineer passed with a transit over his shoulder. "Yes, my chief engineer."

"A good chap and I'm glad he has the opening. I don't know that he's got much imagination, but a valuable man as I see him. I have an idea," he added quizzically, "that you will supply all the imagination that is necessary."

Clark laughed. "I hope to."

"Had I not gone into the church I would have been a writer or an engineer," said the bishop slowly. "They have always seemed kindred pursuits, and I should have liked to be able to point to something physical and concrete and say 'I made it.'"

Clark was a little puzzled. He had it in mind that the bishop's achievements would be, perhaps, more enduring than his own. He tried to put this into words.

The big man shook his head. "I hope I am making my mark, but who can say? You affect the color of men's lives and I try to reach the complexion of their spirits." He paused for a moment, then added, "But between us we ought to do something. Good-by, and I hope you'll come to one of my garden parties. I hear you don't care for society, but you'll like my strawberries, and in the meantime I trust that all will prosper. Even if St. Marys does not realize all this, does it matter?"

"Not in the slightest."

The bishop strode off. A few paces away he halted. "I'm no Moslem but I'm very glad to meet Mahomet," he called back; "good-by."

In June the general manager, for as such Clark was now known, gave a luncheon at the works, which was to remain long in the mind of at least one of the participants. By this time he himself was beginning to withdraw to that seclusion which added much to the fascination of his personality. When his guests arrived they were turned over to Belding for a tour of inspection, and then, filled with interest and surprise, sat down to the meal Clark had had prepared in the small marquee. Now he appeared himself, the genius of the place, and sat at the head of the table.

Looking back at the curious relationship in which this man stood to the people of St. Marys, it seems that he liked them more than he cared to express, for the expression of any sentiment was strange to his lips. He could do much for them, and did it, while, at the same time, he asked nothing for himself. When not in action, Clark was particularly silent, but when really in action he approached his subject with obvious joy and interest, and coupled with this was his natural instinct for impressive and dramatic situations. Something of this had been recognized by Filmer and the others who came to lunch, so that, afterwards, when he threw out a hint, the only one on record, it met with immediate attention. He was talking to Worden when his eye drew Filmer into the conversation.

"I have been wondering whether any of you gentlemen have bought any land?"

The effect was that of a stone thrown into a pool, and one could see the ripples of interest spreading. But it was so unexpected that there followed a little silence, broken presently by a laugh from Filmer.

"What land?"

Clark waved a casual hand north and east. "Any land over there."

He got no immediate reply. The minds of his guests were traversing the flat fields in which cattle grazed, that lay between the rapids and the town.

"You have seen to-day something of what we propose to do, but only some of it," he went on. "What's the present population of St. Marys?"

"About sixteen hundred," said Filmer thoughtfully.

"Well, gentlemen, assume that what you have seen is but the beginning, only the breaking of the ground. You may take it from me, you are safe in that. The population of St. Marys, five years from to-day, should be,—" here he paused for an impressive moment—"sixteen thousand, and in ten years, twenty-six thousand. Now where are those people going to live? Mr. Manson, here, doesn't take me quite seriously, but you, Judge, can you answer me; or you, Mr. Filmer? A good deal of it will fall on your shoulders."

"I don't doubt you," answered the mayor, "but I can use all my money in my business."

"As for me, I'm a government official and haven't any," added Worden, with a tinge of regret.

"Money has been borrowed before this"—Clark's tones were distinctly impersonal—"the bank is good and so is the future of the town, as I see it."

"Why don't you buy some yourself?"

"I don't want any more money," said Clark very simply, "but, gentlemen, I don't assume that every one feels that way. From this window I can see farm lands that can be bought for forty dollars an acre on easy terms, and how would you feel if, after two or three years, it changed hands at a thousand? I merely mention this because I've seen it take place elsewhere. Now I'm not going to say that it's going to be worth a thousand, and I'm not persuading you. I never persuade any one, at least," he added with a little smile, "not in St. Marys. I only draw your attention to the circumstances and leave the rest of it, of course, to your own judgment."

"Then you suggest that we buy?" came in Dibbott.

"Nothing of the kind. It's a matter of indifference to me whether you gentlemen do the buying or some one else. All I can prophesy is, that it's going to be done, but not by me or my associates. We have enough to occupy our attention for some time to come."

Manson edged a bit nearer. "The idea is that while you're investing millions, we take no risk in investing hundreds, eh?"

"I made no such inference. You will remember that so far as St. Marys is concerned I have depended on the town for nothing since my first proposal was accepted."

Dibbott nodded. "That's right. I reckon we're going to be a residential suburb to the works."

Clark smiled a little. "I lean on just four things, and St. Marys supplied none of them."

"What are they?"

"Natural laws, physical geography, ample financial backing, and the need of the world for certain manufactured products. And," he concluded quizzically, "you'd better forget that I said anything about land."

There was something suggestively final about this, and presently the group moved off, loitering across the flat, untenanted fields. Manson was in the rear, decapitating daisies with his heavy oak stick. A few minutes later Clark looked up and saw the chief constable's bulk filling the doorway. He waited placidly.

"Did you mean just what you said about that land?" Manson's voice sounded a little sheepish, "because I've got a bit saved up, and—"

"Mr. Manson," struck in Clark, "you may approve of me personally, but I know that you don't believe in my project. You've been at no pains to conceal that and I respect you for it, but that being the case why should you, of all men, be interested in land? No, no, don't protest. I don't mind what you think and you've a perfect right to your own opinion. What did I say about land? Did I advise you to buy?"

"No, but you evidently wondered why we didn't."

Clark laughed outright. "I wonder at many things, that's my privilege, and anything I said just now is in contradiction to your judgment. You strike me as being a man of strong views, so by all means hold on to them."

But Manson's eyes were turned fixedly on the main chance and he could not look away. "Of course, I may be wrong," he began awkwardly, "but—"

"And, of course, I may be too, and now you'll excuse me, I've a good deal to attend to."

Very slowly the chief constable took his way to town. Like many who came in contact with Clark he had conceived the impression of a strong and piercing intelligence that, while it gave out much, withheld more; and it was what he imagined was withheld that now piqued and stimulated the austerely masked project he had had in view ever since Clark's directors had so breezily invaded his office months before. Manson was, in truth, an example of those who, externally impassive and unemotional, harbor at times a secret and consuming thought at variance with all outward semblance, and, keeping this remotely hidden, feed it with all the concentrated fire of an otherwise inactive imagination. That afternoon he quietly secured an option on a portion of the fields across which he walked so stolidly, and, with this as a beginning, turned his thoughts to the acquisition of more and more land. Simultaneously his expressed views on the outcome of Clark's activities became more pessimistic than ever.

Early that summer the streets of St. Marys were torn with trenches and the glass fronts of the wooden stores trembled with the vibration of blasting. The pipe lines followed exactly the route laid out by the blue prints Belding had long since deposited with the town council, and so well known was this route that the slightest variation would have been pounced upon instantly. Clark, it appeared, did not take much interest in the work, but turned it over entirely to the engineer, his own imagination having moved to other things.

New faces in the town ceased to create comment, and, what was more to the point, mention of St. Marys began to appear in metropolitan papers. These were read with the peculiar thoroughness of those who, for the first time, found themselves of definite interest to the outside world. Simultaneously the air became full of prophecy, rambling and inchoate. The citizens had not yet come to regard developments as being in any particular their own. They had—for the best reasons—put no money in, but now began to profit by changed conditions. The works were still a thing apart, a new and somewhat romantic area from which anything, however startling, might any day materialize. Sometimes a few Indians paddled up to trade and, leaving Filmer's store, would slip silently up stream, and edging into the backwater at the foot of the rapids, lay their paddles across the thwarts and stare silently at the great structures that began to arise. And this, in a way, was the attitude of most of the folk of St. Marys. They were in it but not of it, and the long somnolence of the past was too tranquil to be easily dispelled. But in spite of their indifference the masterful hand of Clark had set the town definitely on the industrial map. A little later, the water was turned on and rows and rows of electric lights glittered down the streets. It was just about this time that Clark summoned Belding and told him that he desired a house.

This command was, in a way, so intimate that Belding looked foolish. "What kind of a house?" he said awkwardly.

Clark leaned back in his chair. "You know how, years ago, the Hudson Bay Company built block houses for their factors? Well, I want one such as the company used to build, and I expect to be ready to occupy it within six weeks."

Belding had learned not to ask too many questions, so, for a moment thought hard. "Where?" he ventured.

"You remember where the old Hudson Bay lock is,—just a hundred feet beyond that. By the way, do you know how to build a block house?"

Belding got a little red. He had designed power houses and pulp mills and canals and head gates, but a block house baffled him.

"In those days," began Clark ruminatively, "they were places of defense. Two stories, the bottom one of stone so that the Indians couldn't set fire to it. That part is eight feet high and had loopholes. On top is the other story built of logs, and, by the way, I want my logs peeled and varnished, and with a pitched roof. That part overhangs the other by about five feet all round, and that was to make it possible to drop things on the Indians if they did get up to the loopholes. Got the idea? And, by the way, I want the Hudson Bay lock cleaned out and rebuilt just as it was before. No cement—but random masonry and gates of hewn timber—they hewed everything a hundred years ago—grass around it and a sign saying what it was and when. Fix it up and make a job of it—that's all, and make that block house basement of field stone—you can see why."

Whereupon Clark turned to a pile of letters and telegrams and promptly forgot all about Belding.

In six weeks, to a day, he moved in, and it is a question whether any of his subsequent achievements occasioned such interest in St. Marys. Old inhabitants were there who had memories of the Hudson Bay Company and the thirty foot bark canoes that once voyaged from Lake Superior, and, treading the upper reaches of a branch of the rapids, slid into the old lock and were let gingerly down while the crew held their paddles against the rough stone walls of the tiny but ancient chamber.

Now the thing in its entirety had been recreated. The block house sat squat beside the lock, with its mushroom top projecting just as in years before. Clark, it seemed, was, after all traditional, and not one who lived entirely in the future, and with this touch of romance he took new attributes. His Japanese cook inhabited the lower story through which one entered to mount to the main floor. Inside the place revealed the taste of the man of the world. It looked pigmy beside the enormous structures which began to rise hard by, but was all the more diminutively impressive. One passed it on the way to the works, and often by night drifted out the sound of Clark's piano mingling with the dull boom of the rapids. For it would seem that these were the two voices to which the brain of this extraordinary man took most heed.


A year passed and the folk of St. Marys had not yet accustomed themselves to drawing water from a tap and turning on the light with a switch ere Clark began a frontal attack on the resources of the country to the north. It was typical of his methods that he invariably used new agencies by which to approach affairs which, in the main, differed from those already existing. Thus he called on many and widely separated individuals, who, answering his imperious summons, fell straightway under the spell of his remarkable personality, and found themselves shortly in positions of increasing responsibility. They became the heads of various activities, but, in a way, the secondary heads, for Clark retained all kingship for himself. So it came that as months passed he was surrounded by a constantly increasing band of active and loyal retainers.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse