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There'll be a lot to do, and I want to
get back to Chicago by the 1st of February."

"This is an experience! Isn't it still? When is our train due?"

"Due now; I think that is our headlight up the track."

As he spoke, an engine added its voice to the growing noise of the
station, and drew solemnly down the frosty steel.

An eruption of shapeless forms of men from the depot filled the one
general coach of the train. They nearly all were dressed in some sort of
fur coat, and all had the look of men accustomed to outdoor
life--powerful, loud-voiced, unrefined. They were, in fact, traveling
men, business men, the owners of mills or timber. The stolid or patient
oxlike faces of some Norwegian workmen, dressed in gay Mackinac jackets,
were sprinkled about.

The young wife was a fine type of woman anywhere, but these surroundings
made her seem very dainty and startlingly beautiful. Her husband had the
fair skin of a city man, but his powerful shoulders and firm step
denoted health and wholesome living. They were good to see as man and
wife.

They soon felt the reaction to sleepiness which comes to those not
accustomed to early rising, and the wife, soothed by the clank of the
train, leaned her head on her husband's shoulder and dozed. He looked
out upon the landscape, glad that his wife was not observing it. He did
not know such desolation existed in Wisconsin.

On every side were the evidences of a ruined forest land. A landscape of
flat wastes, of thinned and burned and uprooted trees. A desolate and
apparently useless land.

Here and there a sawmill stood gray and sagging, surrounded by little
cabins of unpainted wood, to testify to the time when great pines stood
all about, and the ring of the swamper's axe was heard in the intervals
of silence between the howls of a saw.

To the north the swells grew larger. Birch and tamarack swamps
alternated with dry ridges on which an inferior pine still grew. The
swamps were dense tangles of broken and uprooted trees. Slender pikelike
stumps of fire-devastated firs rose here and there, black and grim
skeletons of trees.

It was a land that had been sheared by the axe, torn by the winds, and
blasted by fire.

Off to the west low blue ridges rose, marking the boundaries of the
valley which had been washed out ages ago by water. After the floods it
had sprung up to pine forests, and these in their turn had been sheared
away by man. It lay now awaiting the plow and seeder of the intrepid
pioneer.

Suddenly the wife roused up. "Why, we haven't had any breakfast!"

He smiled at her childish look of bewilderment. "I've been painfully
aware of it for some time back. I've been suffering for food while you
slept."

"Why didn't you get into the basket?"

"How could I, with you on my manly bosom?"

She colored up a little. They had not been married long, evidently.

They were soon eating a breakfast with the spirit of picnickers.
Occasionally she looked out of the window.

"What a wild country!" she said. He did not emphasize its qualities to
her; rather, he distracted her attention from the desolation.

The train roared round its curves, conforming with the general course of
the river. On every hand were thickening signs of active lumber
industry. They flashed by freight trains loaded with logs or lumber or
ties. Mills in operation grew thicker.

The car echoed with the talk of lumber. A brisk man with a red mustache
was exhibiting a model of a machine to cut certain parts of machinery
out of "two by fours." Another was describing a new shingle mill he had
just built.

A couple of elderly men, one a German, were discussing the tariff on
lumber. The workmen mainly sat silent.

"It's all so strange!" the young wife said again and again.

"Yes, it isn't exactly the Lake Shore drive."

"I like it. I wish I could smell the pines."

"You'll have all the pines you can stand before we get back to Chicago."

"No, sir; I'm going to enjoy every moment of it; and you're going to let
me help, you know--look over papers and all that. I'm the heiress, you
must remember," she said wickedly.

"Well, we won't quarrel about that until we see how it all turns out. It
may not be worth my time up here. I shall charge you roundly as your
lawyer; depend on that."

The outlook grew more attractive as the train sped on. Old Mosinee rose,
a fine rounded blue shape, on the left.

"Why, there's a mountain! I didn't know Wisconsin had such a mountain as
that."

"Neither did I. This valley is fine. Now, if your uncle's estates only
included that hill!"

The valley made off to the northwest with a bold, large, and dignified
movement. The coloring, blue and silver, purple-brown and bronze-green,
was suitable to the grouping of lines. It was all fresh and vital,
wholesome and very impressive.

From this point the land grew wilder--that is, more primeval: There was
more of Nature and less of man. The scar of the axe was here and there,
but the forest predominated. The ridges of pine foliages broke against
the sky miles and miles in splendid sweep.

"This must be lovely in summer," the wife said, again and again, as they
flashed by some lake set among the hills.

"It's fine now," he replied, feeling the thrill of the sportsman. "I'd
like to shoulder a rifle and plunge into those snowy vistas. How it
brings the wild spirit out in a man! Women never feel that delight."

"Oh, yes, we do," she replied, glad that something remained yet
unexplained between them. "We feel just like men, only we haven't the
strength of mind to demand a share of it with you."

"Yes, you feel it at this distance. You'd come back mighty quick the
second night out."

She did not relish his laughter, and so looked away out of the window.
"Just think of it--Uncle Edwin lived here thirty years!"

He forbore to notice her inconsistency. "Yes, the wilderness is all
right for a vacation, but I prefer Chicago for the year round."

When they came upon Ridgeley, both cried out with delight.

"Oh, what a dear, picturesque little town!" she said.

"Well, well! I wonder how they came to build a town without a row of
battlemented stores?"

It lay among and upon the sharp, low, stumpy pine ridges in haphazard
fashion, like a Swiss village. A small brook ran through it, smothered
here and there in snow. A sawmill was the largest figure of the town,
and the railway station was the center. There was not an inch of painted
board in the village. Everywhere the clear yellow of the pine flamed
unstained by time. Lumber piles filled all the lower levels near the
creek. Evidently the town had been built along logging roads, and there
was something grateful and admirable in its irregular arrangement. The
houses, moreover, were all modifications of the logging camps; even the
drug store stood with its side to the street. All about were stumps and
fringes of pines, which the lumbermen, for some good reason, had passed
by. Charred boles stood purple-black out of the snow.

It was all green and gray and blue and yellow-white and wild. The sky
was not more illimitable than the rugged forest which extended on every
hand.

"Oh, this is glorious--glorious!" said the wife. "Do I own some of this
town?" she asked, as they rose to go out.

"I reckon you do."

"Oh, I'm so glad!"

As they stepped out on the platform, a large man in corduroy and
wolf-skin faced them like a bandit.

"Hello, Ed!"

"Hello, Jack! Well, we've found you. My wife, Mr. Ridgeley. We've come
up to find out how much you've embezzled," he said, as Ridgeley pulled
off an immense glove to shake hands all round.

"Well, come right over to the hotel. It ain't the Auditorium, but then,
again, it ain't like sleeping outdoors."

As they moved along they heard the train go off, and then the sound of
the saw resumed its domination of the village noises.

"Was the town named after you, or you after the town?" asked Field.

"Named after me. Old man didn't want it named after him; would kill it,"
he said.

Mr. and Mrs. Field found the hotel quite comfortable and the dinner
wholesome. They beamed upon each other.

"It's going to be delightful," they said.

Ridgeley was a bachelor, and found his home at the hotel also. That
night he said: "Now we'll go over the papers and records of your uncle's
property, and then we'll go out and see if the property is all there. I
imagine this is to be a searching investigation."

"You may well think it. My wife is inexorable."

As night fell, the wife did not feel so safe and well pleased. The loud
talking in the office below and the occasional whooping of a crowd of
mill hands going by made her draw her chair nearer and lay her fingers
in her husband's palm.

He smiled indulgently. "Don't be frightened, my dear. These men are not
half so bad as they sound."


II.

Mrs. Field sat in the inner room of Ridgeley's office, waiting for the
return of her husband with the team. They were going out for a drive.

Ridgeley was working at his books, and he had forgotten her presence.

She could not but feel a deep admiration for his powerful frame and his
quick, absorbed action as he moved about from his safe to his desk. He
was a man of great force and ready decision.

Suddenly the door opened and a man entered. He had a sullen and bitter
look on his thin, dark face. Ridgeley's quick eyes measured him, and his
hand softly turned the key in his money drawer, and as he faced about he
swung shut the door of the safe.

The stranger saw all this with eyes as keen as Ridgeley's. A cheerless
and strange smile came upon his face.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. "I'm low, but I ain't as low as that."

"Well, sir, what can I do for you?" asked Ridgeley. Mrs. Field half
rose, and her heart beat terribly. She felt something tense and strange
in the attitude of the two men.

But the man only said, "You can give me a job if you want to."

Ridgeley remained alert. He ran his eyes over the man's tall frame. He
looked strong and intelligent, although his eyes were fevered and dull.

"What kind of a job?"

"Any kind that will take me out into the woods and keep me there," the
man replied.

There was a self-accusing tone in his voice that Ridgeley felt.

"What's your object?



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