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You look like a man who could do something else.
What brings you here?"

The man turned with a sudden resolution to punish himself. His voice
expressed a terrible loathing.

"Whisky, that's what. It's a hell of a thing to say, but I can't let
liquor alone when I can smell it. I'm no common hand, or I wouldn't be
if I--But let that go. I can swing an axe, and I'm ready to work. That's
enough. Now the question is, can you find a place for me?"

Ridgeley mused a little. The young fellow stood there, statuesque,
rebellious.

Then Ridgeley said, "I guess I can help you out that much." He picked up
a card and a pencil. "What shall I call you?"

"Oh, call me Williams; that ain't my name, but it'll do."

"What you been doing?"

"Everything part of the time, drinking the rest. Was in a livery stable
down at Wausau last week. It came over me, when I woke yesterday, that I
was gone to hell if I stayed in town. So I struck out; and I don't care
for myself, but I've got a woman to look out for--" He stopped abruptly.
His recklessness of mood had its limits, after all.

Ridgeley penciled on a card. "Give this to the foreman of No. 6. The men
over at the mill will show you the teams."

The man started toward the door with the card in his hand. He turned
suddenly.

"One thing more. I want you to send ten dollars of my pay every two
weeks to this address." He took an envelope out of his pocket. "It don't
matter what I say or do after this, I want that money sent. The rest
will keep me in tobacco and clothing. You understand?"

Ridgeley nodded. "Perfectly. I've seen such cases before."

The man went out and down the walk with a hurried, determined air, as if
afraid of his own resolution.

As Ridgeley turned toward his desk he met Mrs. Field, who faced him with
tears of fervent sympathy in her eyes.

"Isn't it awful?" she said, in a half whisper. "Poor fellow, what will
become of him?"

"Oh, I don't know. He'll get along some way. Such fellows do. I've had
'em before. They try it a while here; then they move. I can't worry
about them."

Mrs. Field was not listening to his shifty words. "And then, think of
his wife--how she must worry."

Ridgeley smiled. "Perhaps it's his mother or a sister."

"Anyway it's awful. Can't something be done for him?"

"I guess we've done about all that can be done."

"Oh, I wish I could help him! I'll tell Ed about him."

"Don't worry about him, Mrs. Field; he ain't worth it."

"Oh yes, he is. I feel he's been a good boy once, and then he's so
self-accusing."

Her own happiness was so complete, she could not bear to think of
others' misery. She told her husband about Williams, and ended by
asking, "Can't we do anything to help the poor fellow?"

Field was not deeply concerned. "No; he's probably past help. Such men
are so set in their habits, nothing but a miracle or hypnotism can save
them. He'll end up as a 'lumber Jack,' as the townsmen call the hands in
the camps."

"But he isn't that, Edward. He's finer some way. You feel he is. Ask Mr.
Ridgeley."

Ridgeley merely said: "Yes, he seemed to me to be more than a common
hand. But, all the same, it won't be two weeks before he'll be in here
as drunk as a wild cat, wanting to shoot me for holding back his money."

In this way Williams came to be to Mrs. Field a very important figure in
the landscape of that region. She often spoke of him, and on the
following Saturday night, when Field came home, she anxiously asked, "Is
Williams in town?"

"No, he hasn't shown up yet."

She clapped her hands in delight. "Good! good! He's going to win his
fight."

Field laughed. "Don't bet on Williams too soon. We'll hear from him
before the week is out."

"When are we going to visit the camp?" she asked, changing the subject.

"As soon as it warms up a little. It is too cold for you."

She had a laugh at him. "You were the one who wanted to 'plunge into the
snowy vistas.'"

He evaded her joke on him by assuming a careless tone. "I'm not plunging
as much as I was; the snow is too deep."

"When you go I want to go with you--I want to see Williams."

"Ha!" he snorted melodramatically. "She scorns me faithful heart. She
turns----"

Mrs. Field smiled faintly. "Don't joke about it Ed. I can't get that
wife out of my mind."


III.

A few very cold gray days followed, and then the north wind cleared the
sky; and, though it was still cold, it was pleasant. The sky had only a
small white cloud here and there to make its blueness the more profound.

Ridgeley dashed up to the door with a hardy little pair of bronchos
hitched to a light pair of bobs, and Mrs. Field was tucked in like a
babe in a cradle.

Almost the first thing she asked was, "How is Williams?"

"Oh, he's getting on nicely. He refused to sleep with his bunk mate, and
finally had to lick him, I understand, to shut him up. Challenged the
whole camp then to let him alone or take a licking. They let him alone,
Lawson says.--G'lang there, you rats!"

Mrs. Field said no more, for the air was whizzing by her ears, and she
hardly dared look out, so keen was the wind, but as soon as they entered
the deeps of the forest it was profoundly still.

The ride that afternoon was a glory she never forgot. Everywhere
yellow-greens and purple shadows. The sun in a burnished blue sky
flooded the forests with light, striking down through even the thickest
pines to lay in fleckings of radiant white and gold upon the snow.

The trail (it was not a road) ran like a graceful furrow over the
hills, around little lakes covered deep with snow, through tamarack
swamps where the tracks of wild things thickened, over ridges of tall
pine clear of brush, and curving everywhere amid stumps, where
dismantled old shanties marked the site of the older logging camps.
Sometimes they met teams going to the store. Sometimes they crossed
logging roads--wide, smooth tracks artificially iced, down which
mountainous loads of logs were slipping, creaking and groaning.
Sometimes they heard the dry click-clock of the woodsmen's axes, or the
crash of falling trees deep in the wood. When they reached the first
camp, Ridgeley pulled up the steaming horses at the door and shouted,
"Hello, the camp!"

A tall old man with a long red beard came out. He held one bare red arm
above his eyes. He wore an apron.

"Hello, Sandy!"

"Hello, Mr. Ridgeley!"

"Ready for company?"

"Am always ready for company," he said, with a Scotch accent.

"Well, we're coming in to get warm."

"Vera wal."

As they went in, under the roofed shed between the cook's shanty and the
other and larger shanty, Mrs. Field sniffed. Sandy led them past a large
pyramid composed of the scraps of beef bones, eggshells, cans, and tea
grounds left over during the winter. In the shed itself hung great
slabs of beef.

It was as untidy and suggestive of slaughter as the nest of a brood of
eagles.

Sandy was beginning dinner on a huge stove spotted with rust and pancake
batter. All about was the litter of his preparation. Beef--beef on all
sides, and tin dishes and bare benches and huge iron cooking pans.

Mrs. Field was glad to get out into the sunlight again.

"What a horrible place! Are they all like that?"

"No, my camps are not like that--or, I should say, _our_ camps,"
Ridgeley added, with a smile.

"Not a gay place at all," said Field, in exaggerated reserve.

But Mrs. Field found her own camps not much better. True, the refuse was
not raised in pyramidal shape before the front door, and the beef was a
little more orderly, but the low log huts, the dim cold light, the dingy
walls and floors, the lack of any womanly or home touch, the tin dishes,
the wholesale cooking, all struck upon her with terrible force.

"Do human beings live here?" she asked Ridgeley, when he opened the door
of the main shanty of No. 6.

"Forty creatures of the men kind sleep and house here," he replied.

"To which the socks and things give evidence," said Field promptly,
pointing toward the huge stove which sat like a rusty-red cheese in the
center of the room. Above it hung scores of ragged gray and red socks
and Mackinac boots and jackets which had been washed by the men
themselves.

Around were the grimy bunks where the forty men slept like tramps in a
steamer's hold. The quilts were grimy, and the posts greasy and shining
with the touch of hands. There were no chairs--only a kind of rude stool
made of boards. There were benches near the stove nailed to the rough
floor. In each bunk, hanging to a peg, was the poor little
imitation-leather hand-bag which contained the whole wardrobe of each
man, exclusive of the tattered socks and shirts hanging over the stove.

The room was chill and cold and gray. It had only two small windows. Its
doors were low. Even Mrs. Field was forced to stoop in entering. This
made it seem more like a den. There were roller towels in the corner,
and washbasins, and a grindstone, which made it seem like a barn. It
was, in fact, more cheerless than the barn, and less wholesome.

"Doesn't that hay in the bunks get a--a--sometimes?" asked Field.

"Well, yes, I shouldn't wonder, though the men are pretty strict about
that. They keep pretty free from that, I think. However, I shouldn't
want to run no river chances on the thing myself." Ridgeley smiled at
Mrs. Field's shudder of horror.

"Is this the place?" The men laughed. She had asked that question so
many times before.

"Yes, _this_ is where Mr. Williams hangs out.--Say, Field, you'll need
to make some new move to hold your end up against Williams."

Mrs. Field felt hurt and angry at his rough joke. In the dim corner a
cough was heard, and a yellow head raised itself over the bunk board
ghastily. His big blue eyes fixed themselves on the lovely woman and he
wore a look of childish wonder.

"Hello, Gus--didn't see you. What's the matter--sick?"

"Yah, ai baen hwick two days. Ai tank ai lack to hav doketer."

"All right, I'll send him up. What seems the matter?"

As they talked, Mrs. Field again chilled with the cold gray
comfortlessness of it all; to be sick in such a place!



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