William Crooks, the old lumberman
who had been the friend of the elder Kent, was big
and broad and burly, and before the years had silvered
his mane it was as red as any danger flag that ever
wagged athwart steel rails. He held strong opinions,
he used strong language, he was swift to anger, he
feared no man on earth, and he knew the logging business
from stump to market.
He inhabited a huge, square, brick
structure that would have given an architect chronic
nightmare. Twenty odd years before he had called
to him one Dorsey, by trade a builder. “Dorsey,”
said Crooks, “I want you to build me a house.”
Dorsey, who was a practical man, removed
his pipe, scratched his head and asked: “What
“Red brick,” said Crooks.
He held out a sheet of foolscap. “Here’s
the number of rooms and the sizes of them.”
Dorsey scanned the paper. “What do you
want her to cost?”
“What she’s worth, and
a fair profit to you,” said Crooks. “Get
at her and finish her by frost. I’ll want
to move in by then.”
“All right,” said Dorsey. “She’ll
be ready for you.”
By frost “she” was finished,
and Crooks moved in. There he had lived ever
since; and there he intended to live as long as he
could. Kindly time had partially concealed the
weird creation of Dorsey’s brain by trees and
creepers; here and there an added veranda or bow window
was offered in mitigation of the original crime; but
its stark, ungraceful outline remained a continual
offence to the eye. That was outside. Inside
it was different. The rooms were big and airy
and well lighted. There was an abundance of open
fireplaces, as became the residence of a man whose
life had been spent in devastating forests, and the
furniture and furnishings were practical and comfortable,
for Bill Crooks hated “frills.”
In that house his children were born,
and there three of them and his wife died. There
Jean, his youngest girl, grew to womanhood, a straight,
lithe, slender, dark-haired young tyrant, with his
own fearlessness and directness of speech. She
was known to her intimates as “Jack,” and
she and Joe Kent had been friends all their young
Since coming home Kent had seen little
of her. He was very busy mastering details of
the business, and either went back to his office in
the evenings or spent them quietly at the club.
But on the day of his interview with Mr. Ackerman
it occurred to him that he should call upon Jack Crooks.
When he opened the gate that evening
he saw that the wide veranda was well occupied.
Four young men were making exceedingly light conversation
to two young women. William Crooks was nowhere
visible. Miss Crooks came down the walk to meet
him, and held out two slim hands in welcome.
“I’m so glad to see you,
Joe. I’ve been looking for you for days.”
“You see, I’ve been busy,”
said Kent. “And then, naturally, I haven’t
been going out much.”
She nodded sympathetic comprehension.
“I understand, of course. Come up and be
presented. I have a very charming visitor.”
“Any one I know?”
“Edith Garwood. She’s my guest for
a few weeks. Have you met her?”
Joe had never met Miss Garwood.
He decided as he shook hands with her that this was
his distinct loss. Edith Garwood was tall and
fair and blue eyed, with the dainty bloom and colouring
of a flower. Her smile was simply distracting.
Her voice was low and musical, and her laughter carried
a little trill that stuck in the memory like the first
bird notes of spring. She seemed to be one of
those rare girls who are made to be loved by everybody,
madly adored by several, and finally captured by some
undeservingly lucky man.
At that moment she was holding a little
court. Mallane, a young lawyer; Drew, of Drew
& Son; Leadly, whose chief occupation was the dissemination
of his father’s money, which he had almost accomplished;
and young Jolly, who honoured a bank with his presence
by day, clustered around her closely. Each was
quite positive that her glances and laughter held
a meaning for him which the others did not share.
The charmed circle, momentarily broken by the entrance
of Kent, closed again. They talked at Miss Garwood,
they postured at her, and when, now and then, they
remembered the existence of their young hostess and
included her in the conversation, it was evidently
as a matter of duty only. Just then Edith Garwood
was the only star in all the heavens.
Joe drew chairs for himself and Miss
Jack just outside the group.
“Well?” she asked.
“Quite, thank you.”
“I didn’t mean that. Is it love at
first sight with you, too?”
“No chance for me,” laughed
Joe. “Competition is too keen. Besides,
Jack, I’ve been in love with you for years.”
“Nonsense!” she said,
so sharply that he looked at her in surprise.
“I waive my prior claim,” she added, with
a laugh. “Confess, Joe! Isn’t
she the prettiest girl you ever saw?”
“She seems to be a good deal
of a peach,” Joe admitted. “Is she
related to Hugh Garwood, the president of the O. &
“Daughter,” said Jack briefly. “His
Joe grinned. “Which probably
accounts for the obvious devotion of Mallane and Leadly.”
“Don’t be so cynical;
it isn’t nice. She can’t help it,
“Of course not. I was speaking of the men.”
“Well, she’s very pretty
and charming. If I were a young man I’d
fall in love with her. It wouldn’t surprise
me a bit to see you smitten.”
Joe reddened a trifle, conscious that
while he had been talking to Jack his eyes had been
on Miss Garwood. Once or twice her glance had
met his and she had given him a friendly smile.
It seemed to hint at an understanding between them as
if she would have been very glad to have him change
places with one of the others. And yet it was
absolutely frank and open.
Kent, being an average young man,
did not analyze the quality of it. He merely
felt that he liked Edith Garwood, and she probably
did not dislike him. At the same time he began
to feel a slight aversion to the four men who monopolized
her; but he explained this to himself quite honestly
on the ground that it was boorish of them to neglect
Jack Crooks for a guest, no matter how charming the
latter might be. His reply to Jack’s prediction
was interrupted by William Crooks.
“Well, young people,”
said the old lumberman, emerging upon the veranda,
“why don’t you come into the house and
have some music?”
“It’s cooler out here,
dad,” said Jack. “Sit down and make
yourself at home and have a smoke. Here’s
Crooks laid a huge hand on Kent’s
shoulder. “I want to talk over some business
with you, Joe. You won’t mind if I take
him away for half an hour, Jack?”
“Not a bit, dad. Don’t keep him all
“I won’t,” he promised,
smiling at her fondly. “Come on, Joe.
We’ll go to the library.”
William Crooks’s library held
few books. Such as there were mainly dealt with
the breeding, training, and diseases of horses and
dogs. Stuffed birds and fish, guns and rods adorned
the walls. A huge table in the centre of the
room bore a mass of papers in which pipes, cartridge
cases, trout flies, and samples of various woods mingled
in gorgeous confusion. Crooks laid an open box
of cigars on top of the disarray.
“Well, Joe,” he asked, “how you
“I don’t quite know yet,”
Kent replied. “I’m just beginning
to learn the ropes around the office. So far
I like it.”
“You’ll like it better,”
said Crooks. “You come to me if you get
stuck; but work things out for yourself if you can.
Now, about those notes I’ve indorsed!”
“Yes,” said Kent.
“I don’t see how I’m to take them
up just yet.”
“Nobody wants you to,”
said Crooks. “Your father helped me out
often enough. I was doing the same for him, and
what I’d do for him I’ll do for you.
Don’t worry about the notes or renewals.
Only I may as well talk straight to you,
Joe I don’t want to increase my liabilities
without I have to. Understand, if it’s a
case of need I’ll back you up to any amount
in reason, but if you can worry along without more
accommodation I wish you would.”
“It’s very good of you,”
said Joe. “I’ll try to get along.
Anyway, I never thought of asking you for more endorsements.”
“Well, you think of it if you
need them,” said Crooks gruffly. “Come
to me as if I were your father, boy. I’ll
go with you as far as I would with him, and that’s
to the rim-ice of Hades.”
For acknowledgment Joe took his hand
and shook it, an action which embarrassed the old
lumber baron exceedingly.
“All right, all right,”
he growled. “Don’t be a blamed young
fool. I’m not going away anywhere.”
Joe laughed. “I’m
glad of that. I’ll ask your advice pretty
often, Mr. Crooks. By the way, what would you
think of turning my business into a joint stock company?
I don’t fancy the idea myself.”
“Who’s been talking to you?” demanded
“Well, Mr. Ackerman dropped in this morning.”
“What did he want?”
“I don’t suppose he wanted
anything in particular. He just happened in,
being in town. This came up in the course of conversation.”
“Son,” said Crooks, “Ackerman
doesn’t go anywhere or see anybody without he
wants something. You tie into that. What
did he talk about?”
Joe told him. Crooks listened
intently, chewing his cigar.
“He suggested the same thing
to your father, and your father refused to consider
it,” he said. “Now he comes to you.
Huh!” He smoked in silence for several moments.
“I wonder what his game is?” he concluded
“Why, I suppose if he organized
the company he’d get a block of stock for his
services,” said Joe, and he thought the comment
particularly shrewd. “That’s all
I see in it, Mr. Crooks.”
“You don’t know a thing
about it,” growled the lumberman bluntly.
“If you fell in with his proposition he’d
kick you out when he got ready.”
“No,” said Joe. “He
suggested that I retain a majority of the shares.”
Crooks eyed him pityingly. “In
about six months he’d issue more and cut your
“How could he do that unless I consented?”
“You would consent the
way they’d put it up to you. However, you
won’t deal with him if you have any sense.
Now, look here. You’re not twenty-five,
just starting business. You think all there is
to it is to cut your logs, bring down your drives,
cut them up into lumber, and the demand will take
care of the rest. That’s how it used to
be. It isn’t so now. Timber is getting
scarcer and prices are going up. There is a scramble
for what timber limits are left, and the men with the
pull get them. Same way with contracts.
You’ll find it out. The big concerns are
eating up the little ones in our line, just as in others.
That’s why you’d better keep clear of
any proposals of Ackerman’s.”
“I will,” Joe promised.
At the same time he thought Crooks unduly pessimistic.
“Now about timber,” the
old lumberman went on. “I’m starting
men to cruise all north of Rat Lake to the divide.
You’d better send a couple of cruisers into
Wind River and let them work east over that stuff,
so you will be in shape to bid for it. That was
what your father intended to do.”
“We have two men there now,” Joe told
“Do you know how this bidding works?”
“The government calls for tenders and accepts
the highest,” Joe replied.
Crooks. “Practically, if you’re not
a friend of their rotten outfit you might tender the
mint and not get a look in. They used to have
sales by public auction, and those were square enough;
though sometimes the boys pooled on ’em.
Now what happens is this: The government may
open any timber for sale on any man’s application,
and they are supposed to advertise for tenders.
If the applicant isn’t a friend they won’t
open it. If he is, they advertise in a couple
of issues of some backwoods paper that no one sees,
nobody else tenders, and he gets it for a song.
Of course some one high up gets a rake-off. Only
you can’t prove it.”
“How do you buy, then?”
Joe asked. “You’re not friendly to
the present government, and I’m not.”
Crooks hesitated for a moment.
“You’ll have to know sooner
or later,” he said. “I tender in the
name of another man, and I pay him from ten to twenty
per cent. of the amount I tender for the bare use
of his name if I get what I want. Oh,
I know it’s rotten, but I have to stand for
it or shut down. Your father did the same thing;
you’ll have to do it, too. I’m not
defending it. I’ll tell you more.
This infernal political graft is everywhere. You
can’t supply a foot of lumber to a contractor
on any public work unless you stand in.”
Joe whistled astonishment, not unmixed with disbelief.
“Sounds pretty stiff, hey?”
said Crooks. “Well, here’s something
else for you to digest. There’s a concern
called the Central Lumber Company, capitalized for
a hundred thousand, composed of a young lawyer, a
bookkeeper, a real estate man, and an insurance agent individuals,
mind you, who couldn’t raise ten thousand dollars
between them who have bought in timber
lands and acquired going lumber businesses worth several
millions. What do you think of that?”
Joe did not know what to think of
it, and said so. The suspicion that Crooks was
stringing him crossed his mind, but the old lumberman
was evidently in deadly earnest.
“And now I’ll tell you
one thing more,” said Crooks, instinctively
lowering his voice. “I had an offer for
my business some time ago, and I turned it down.
It came through a firm of lawyers for clients unnamed.
Since then I’ve had a run of bad luck. My
sales have fallen off, I have trouble in my mills,
and the railway can’t supply me with cars.
There isn’t a thing I can fasten on, either.”
“Oh, you must be mistaken,”
said Joe. It seemed to him that bad luck, which
often runs in grooves, had given rise to groundless
suspicions in Crooks’s mind.
“I’m not mistaken,”
the latter replied. “I’m playing with
a cold deck, and though I can’t see a blame
thing wrong with the deal I notice I draw rags every
time. That’s enough for me. I’m
going to find out why, because if I don’t I
may as well quit playing.” He banged his
big fist viciously on the table. “I’ll
know the reason why!” he thundered. “I
will, by the Glory Eternal! If any gang of blasted
high-bankers think they can run me out of my own business
without a fight they miss their guess.”
His white hair bristled and his cold
blue eyes blazed. Thirty years before he had
been a holy terror with fists and feet. Few men
then had cared to arouse Bill Crooks. Now the
old fighting spirit surged up and took possession
of him, and he was proceeding to stronger language
when Miss Jack tapped imperatively at the door and
“May I come in? Dad, this
isn’t playing fair. You’ve kept Joe
all evening. Edith and I have been waiting alone
for half an hour. Come in, Edith, and tell him
what you think of him.”
“Well, you girls had four young
fellows without Joe. How many do you want?”
She raised inquiring eyebrows at his
tone. “Anything the matter, daddy?
I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“You never do that, Jack,”
he smiled at her fondly. “Business bothers nothing
to worry about. It’ll be all right ’when
the drive comes down!’”
“That always means I mustn’t
ask questions. I won’t; but for being rude
to me you shall sing the song. Edith wants to
“Oh, do please, Mr. Crooks,” said Miss
“I’ve no more voice than
a crow, and Jack knows it,” said Crooks, but
followed his daughter meekly to the piano in the next
“‘When the Drive Comes
Down,’ as sung by Mr. William Crooks, Selected
Record,” Jack announced in a metallic voice.
She struck a chord, and Crooks, his face beaming and
his ill humour forgotten, with the preliminary whine
of the genuine shanty vocalist struck into an ancient
ballad of the river, which was his especial favourite:
“Come all ye gallant
shanty boys, an’ listen while I sing,
We’ve worked six months
in cruel frosts, but soon we’ll take our
The ice is black an’
rotten, an’ the rollways is piled high,
So boost upon yer peavey sticks
while I do tell ye why-y-y.
For it’s break the roll
ways out, me boys, an’ let the big stick
An’ file yer corks,
an’ grease yer boots, an’ start upon the
A hundred miles of water is
the nearest way to town,
So tie into the tail of her,
an’ keep her hustlin’ down-n-n.”
He roared it in a heavy bass, beating
time with a thunderous fist. Jack’s clear
alto and Joe’s strong baritone struck into the
“When the drive comes
dow-un, when the jam comes down,
Oh, it’s then we’re
paid our money, an’ it’s then we own the
All the gutters runs with
whiskey when the shanty boys so frisky
Sets their boot corks in the
sidewalks when the drive is
“Splendid!” cried Miss
Garwood. “More, Mr. Crooks!” He nodded
at her indulgently, and let his big voice go:
poor lads will never lift a peavey-hook again,
Nor hear the trees crack wid
the frost, nor feel a warm spring
timber, rowlin’ logs that handed them their time;
It was their luck to get it
so it may be yours or mine.
“But break the rollways
out, me lads, an’ let the big sticks
For one man killed within
the woods ten’s drownded on the drive.
So make yer sowls before ye
take the nearest way to town
While the lads that be’s
in Heaven watch the drive go down-n-n.
“When the drive starts
dow-un, when the drive starts down,
Oh, it’s every lad in
Heaven he wud swop his golden crown
For a peavey stick again,
an’ a soakin’ April rain,
An’ to birl a log beneath
him as he drives the river down-n-n.”
“Oh, I don’t like that
verse,” protested Miss Garwood. “It’s
sad, fatalistic, reckless anything and
everything it shouldn’t be. I thought shanty
songs were more cheerful.”
“Some of ’em are cheerful
enough,” said Crooks, winking at Joe, who had
the grace to blush.
“But most describe the lingering
deaths of true lovers,” said Jack. “A
shantyman requires sentiment or murder, and preferably
both, in his music. Dad, sing us ‘The Fate
of Lovely May.’”
“I will not,” Crooks refused.
“It has five hundred verses, more or less.
I’m going to bed. You can lose sleep if
you want to.”
“Don’t take that hint,
Joe,” laughed Jack. “You’re
“Hint nothing,” said Crooks. “Jack
knows it wasn’t.”
“I’m a business man now,”
said Joe. “I feel it my duty to set an example
to frivolous young people.”
“Come around often, the way you used to,”
Miss Garwood, obviously, could not
second the invitation in words: but much can
be expressed by a pair of blue eyes. Joe felt
that, unless he was an absolute dub at interpreting
such things, his visits would not be unwelcome to