In Bill Hurst’s Shack
A Different Code for the Man who Travels in Hendrick’s Class
A BITTER-COLD unfriendly wind beat slant-wise through a thick fog as though trying to erush it back to earth; it thrashed against the young saplings and shrubs in its endeavor to strip them of their branches as well as their leaves; it spit in the face of the North Wind as though challenging it to send down ice and snow on this last day of September, when not even the bark of a rifle broke the shrouded stillness of the Big Tongue Lake region, in Northern Ontario.
The hunters retreated before the fierce storm and sought out shack and fire; the hunted crept into what shelter they could find, bowing themselves to the gale.
A man pushed his Peterborough through the creaming waters of the Big Tongue River with difficulty. Although he knelt in the centre of the canoe and paddled with the steady stroke of the expert, a gust of wind frequently flung him broadside to the advance of a frotheapped wave, which beat him back as many yards as he had gained in several moments. The fog was so dense he could hardly see the load of provisions tied in oil-clotb heaped both fore and aft. The bank might have been ten yards, or ten miles away.
The man’s figure looked like the torso of a giant, rising from his frail barque. He was bronzed and grizzled, water dripped from bis bare head; he was dressed in the rough garb of the northern trapper, even on such a day show-
À story taken from the pigeonholes of personal reminiscences and recast in story form in collaboration with a friend, into this pleasing bit of fiction, will be found intensely entertaining. As interest always attaches to real occurrences in life, so the many grains of truth in this story, will furnish a bright background for the characters of the plot. Much of the cant and fallacy characteristic of everyday lives of North America's splendid race of people, is here exhibited. Yet the whole truth would be stranger than the fiction.—Editor.
ing an open throat and uncovered forearm. Close inspection would have revealed the fact that his right hand lacked three fingers, none but the thumb and little finger remaining, but his handling of the paddle and the oar was a source of unfailing admiration to the settlers.
The fog closed in until he felt that he was swallowing great chunks of cloth; a sudden gust of wind lifted him high on a wave, then turned him completely round toward Merion which he had left nearly an hour before. Righting the boat at length, he leaned forward straining to pierce the fog for some land or water mark.
“This is the worst ever!’’ he mut-
tered, yet with the joy of battle in his face. “How I would love to alioot the rapids in such a gale! But if I should capsize—’’ he glanced over his shoulder at the bundle in the stern,’’ we would lose all tiie papers and the mail!”
Two strong strokes drove him toward the left bank.
“Bill Hurst’s shack ought to be along here, somewhere,’’ he continued. “Suppose I’d better take possession for the night. I’ll have a chance to go over the mail, then, any way.’’
Working along a slanting course, the man reached the shore, beached his canoe, and after a few false leads, found the shack. Although deserted a year or more, it was water-tight and fairly clean; it contained a few pans and by good fortune several dry logs. The drenched paddler built a roaring fire before transferring his load from the boat to the shack and gathering more fire wood. Then he spread his outer garments to the blaze and settled himself in scant clothing to dry pieeemeal, while he read the week-old papers.
The contents from the glaring headlines “DISAPPEARANCE OF YOUNG WOOD,’’ to “continued on page 12,’’ were absorbing. He smiled grimly as his eyes devoured the closely printed lines— once he laughed outright and the sound was eerie in the rain-beaten cabin. It echoed against the rough beams and ßltered through the chinks until it mingled with a fast descending night--
a night which seemed to sit heavily on the lap of the fog. And before it had really died away, another sound burst chokingly through the loneliness above the shrieking of the wind and the clatter of the rain.
The man in the cabin started to his feet. In another moment he was tearing, still half clad, toward his canoe and the river. Arrived there he paused uncertainly, once more straining every faculty to rend the veil which hung between him and the world beyond.
“For God’s sake—save me!”
The scream came from the throat of an abandoned soul, staring into the water}’ eyes of death. It echoed back from the north.
“Rapids!” cursed the man shoving off.
“Hold on,” he bellowed, the muscles of his great throat swelling, “Hold on and keep shouting; I’ll get you!”
He struck furiously, recklessly into the churning waves . They washed clear over the thwarts and rolled at the bottom of the boat over his bare legs. The rain felt like tiny balls of burning lead, but he pushed on.
“Where are yout” he called. “Shout!”
A wild scream answered him. Another, and yet another ending in a horrible gurgle. Then no more.
By the eddy, the frequent scrape and jar, and the lashing of the canoe, the man knew he had reached the rapids. He could not see the point of the boat; he had no idea where to turn to find the drowning man. He allowed himself to he whirled this way and that, shouting ceaselessly, with no result. Then, something dashed against the canoe in the bow, bumped along the side and finally was flung with stunning force across the
The man loosed his hold of the paddle and fell backwards, clutching blindly. As his fingers closed on the body, he felt the icy water rise above his head and the boat slip away.
His struggles to reach the shore with his limp and heavy burden would fill many pages; his scant-clad body was cut and bruised in dozen places. Blood from a gash on his head spread over his face and disfigured him, horribly. And he sank exhausted on the shore beside the man he bad dragged there at the risk of his own life.
As soon as bis breath came back, the huge man picked up his burden, and, guided by the red glow of the fire which showed through the open door, he reached Bill Hurst's si.uck.
He looked long and curiously at the little man writhing in the agony of seasickness; at his neat pepper and salt clothing of latest cut ; at bis unostentatious but expensive stick pin and his mauve madras shirt. He looked a long time at the small delicate face, ghastly and blotched by turns as spasms of illness gripped him. And he smiled again the grim smile he had worn while reading the newspapers.
Presently, the little man sat up.
“Where am IT” he asked feebly.
“In Bill Hurst’s shack,” answered the other, turning away and setting about preparing a meal.
“Ah, yes—I remember! The w’ater —ice-cold and deep; the head wind—the rapids—the rocks!” He shuddered. “You must have saved me from that churning hell. Saved me at the risk of your own life. Words are poor mediums of gratitude, Hurst. Believe, however, that Joshua Woods is always your
He rose shakily and extended a soft, blistered hand. The other man had bound his right forearm with a piece of his shirt and he held out his left with a sort of apology.
“You make too much of the service,” he said. “I am a powerful swimmer, and I know every inch of the rapids.”
“It was a hero’s act, just the same, man—a hero's! Had I met you sooner, the accident would never have happened.
Together we could have pushed through to Hendrick’s place.”
“Hendrick’s place? Were you going there?”
“Yes. But for my urgent necessity to see him, I would not have been so foolhardy as to disregard their advice at the station. Although I used to be an expert with the paddle. But you are hurt, man, your face is cut and bleeding!”
“Nothing! Nothing but scratches! If you can collect enough rain water for me to wash in, while I go on with supper, I will be a more presentable object. Smoke?”
“Do you live here, Hurst?” asked Woods presently when they were eating bacon and beans with their fingers and drinking coffee from the tins out of which the beans had been taken.
“Oh no! At least I haven’t been here—just here—” he waved a comprehensive hand around—“for many a month. I only came in to-day. But the North country is my home.”
“You are a trapper?”
“Oh, I just do whatever comes to hand. Have some more coffee?”
After a short silence, Woods asked, “You know Hendricks, I suppose?” “Oh yes.”
“Pretty well liked around here?” “I’ve got nothing against him.” There was another long pause daring which Hurst turned his guest’s garments and rolled himself a cigarette. Woods fidgetted and began again.
“His wife and daughters don’t live with him, do they?”
“They’re here part of every year; then they go off to Europe or the watering places or somewhere.”
“I wonder if he still cares so much,” the stranger mused as though oblivions to the other man’s presence. Horst looked at him curiously and chose to consider the remark addressed to him.
“Cares for them?” he repeated. “I should say he cares more for them than his life, or his soul. # Why shouldn’t
he?” “Well, 1 don’t know—they’re just girls, you see. Now if he had a son —But what’s the uset llave you a sont Not 1 thought not! Then what does any one know about the way a father cares for his son—unless be has one t He 11 never understand ! He ’ll laugh at tne—maybe he’ll curse me—Here, give me another drop of that bottle! My teeth are beginning to chatter!” “It's getting late and there’s a train out in the morning, but I haven't seen John Hendricks. Well, “he broke off suddenly,” why don’t you talk f The silence is awful! Yet it is better than that screech of the wind—I tell you, 1 '11
Ei mad, sitting here doing nothing!” is voice rose to a shrill scream. “What do you want to dot” asked the other, without emotion.
“I want to see John Hendricks, I tell you! Didn’t I come all the way up here a3 fast as steam would carry me just for thatf Didn’t 1 wave them asid-3 at Merion when they told me I couldn’t make his place on the River a day like this—and start out just the samet Hurst.” his voice broke again, into a kind of hysterical sob,” I’ve got to see him and I’ve got to see him quick!” Bill Hurst lighted another cigarette dispassionately. After he had it going to bis satisfaction, he remarked.
“We could probably make it in a day through the bush if the fog lifts!”
“A day! My God man—in another day my son—may be—”
“Deadf” asked the other, calmly.
The father covered his face with his hands and groaned.
“Can’t you talk?” he asked presently. “Haven’t you a spark of interest in the man you risked your life to save or a germ of curiosity as to what hell has in store for him by keeping him here these awful hours? Haven’t you anything to say?”
“We’re not much to chatter, in the woods.” answered Hurst. “But if you want to talk—go on. Say what’s on your mind; I’ll listen.”
“Did you know that John Hendricks was a criminal. Hurst?”
“Pshaw! We’re all that, mostly. Have you lived straight, according to what you think is a Christian Ufe, Mr. Woods ? ’ ’
The little man bit into his pipe stem. “We all make mistakes,'’ he muttered. “Sure, and we’re all criminals, too.” “You are right—in a way, Hurst — you are right. But at least 1 can say that I did not deliberately commit u crime, knowing that 1 was liable to—” “Oh, I see what you mean!” The man ’s eyes were closed at the corners, his lips were drawn down and his voice had an insolent ring. “You mean that you lived ‘within tbe law’ so that its tentacles could not reach you; you were probably ‘our respected citizen,' and a Church-warden; you underpaid your servants and your workers; you overlooked the proper housing and feeding of them; you squeezed your best friend when it came time to foreclose the mortgage and you likely stinted your family when they might have had plenty. But you would put a costly monument on their graves or found something or even put a window in a church. Sure, you’re no criminal, Mr. Woods. You live a Christian life.”
“I wasn’t introspective—I never looked inside, to see how wrong I was; I just went on,” said Woods. “But Hendricks—”
“Well, what of Hendricks?”
“Why, he robbed our bank!”
“And got away with it—or have you come here to arrest him and take him back to justice?”
The irony of the tone jarred, but Woods answered simply,
“This was twenty years ago. I had known him since he was a little barefoot shaver running around town. He got a job in one of my mills when he was about ten years old. but had some of the fingers of his right hand cut off, then he wasn’t much use to us anymore. Later—he was sixteen or so, he came into my office asking for a position in the Bank. We happened to need a boy and took on Hendricks. I was elected to the Senate and did not see him
lor ten years. He came into my office again and asked for a raise.
“I've been with the First National ten years, Senator,” he said. “Ten monotonous, life-sapping years. I am now teller at a salary of sixty-five dollars a month. 1 am married and have two little girls who, many a time, have not enough to eat and wear. My wife is an invalid and it costs money to be ill, Senator. The doctors are good; they do not press me very hard, but 1 need more money. ’ ’
* ‘ I answered him then as I would now. Men have no right to marry until they have sufficient incomes. I did not.” “Avoiding his mistakes—and crimin ality, I judge,” suggested Hurst.
“I merely mentioned that to show you that I did not preach what I could not or would not practice.”
“So you refused him more money?” “Yes. And things went on as before for several months. Occasionally, 1 made a half resolution to institute a salary limit as to marriage in the Bank, such as you have in your Canadian institutions, but other matters drove it from my mind until one morning when I found a letter addressed to the Directors on the Board table. It was from Hendricks asking for a raise. He wanted one hundred dollars a month.
“Some were not adverse to giving it to bim. I opposed them. My business training first and foremost urged me to get the best results for the least expenditure of money. I was pretty certain that Hendricks would not leave the Bank if we refused him, and if he did, well, there were other tellers. We sent for him and I told him of our refusal to consider his request. I also told him, he was at liberty to sever his connection with us, if he thought he could do better, and that we wished him well. I remember that he staggered from the room.
“One of his children is not expected to live,” said the Vice-President.
“Had I known that I would have offered to help him,” I said. “Perhaps even now—”
(Continued on page 142.)
(Continued from page 9.)
“You would have dispensed charity, Mr. Woods?” Hurst broke in. “You would not raise his salary, but would saddle him with an extra burden—that of obligation. But I interrupted you.”
“That was on Friday. On Saturday, Hendricks left town returning earlier than usual to the Bank on Monday morning. He called up the cashier and asked him to come straight down.
“Mr. Thorne hurried to the Bank and was told that the vaults had been robbed. There was only about three thousand dollars remaining from the three hundred thousand which was placed there at noon on Saturday.
“Who could have taken it?” gasped Thorne.
“I did,” said Hendricks, coolly.
“The cashier thought him mad until he urged him to telephone the Directors to come at once to the Bank. We assembled excitedly and somewhat like bewildered children, did what we were told. Hendricks was locked in his cage paying out money as though nothing had happened. Our personal cheques tided us over the day.
“At noon we sent for Hendricks. I remember thinking what a difference between this man and the beaten crea-, ture who staggered out of our presence some days ago He took up his position before the fire-place and addressed us.
“Gentlemen,’ he said, “I see that you are thirsting for my blood. As. -you please, of course. But 1 ask you to consider our respective positions first. On Saturday at noon, 1 took from the vaults approximately three hundred thousand dollars. It is now put of the country; you may believe me implicitly when I tell you that you will never see it again. The rational thing is, naturally, to have me arrested and brought to trial, in which case the whole affair will be made public. I will be sentenced to about ten years in the penitentiary, counting off three for good conduct. Dreadful disgrace, you may think, but no sort of punishment, I assure you, when I will have the ever-present consolation of knowing that my family lives in comfort, even luxury.
“In the meantime, what of the First National? During my trial, I shall not scruple to place the blame of my crime where it belongs—had I been given a decent living wage I should have asked nothing further. I shall bring out several penurious methods of the Bank as an institution and you will not find trustworthy men as plentiful as formerly at the same meagre salaries you have paid. Added to that, the publicity of the affair will have the effect of making people somewhat suspicious of a Bank which cannot safeguard public interests any better than to allow the entire capital, one might say, to be stolen and carried into Canada. Depositors will come to the conclusion that the First National is not the place for their money, and you
will have to close your doors. Now, gentlemen, I have a proposition to offer you—I agree to restore to. you one half of that tliree hundred thousand dollars if you will all sign a paper promising not to prosecute me, and I will say fi'othing about the transaction.
“I will give you twenty minutes in which to arrive at a decision. At the end of that time, if you have not come to a unanimous conclusion, I will hand myself over to the police!”
“Swayed by the advice of our VicePresident who had been impressed by Hendricks’ argument, we again sent for him and said we were prepared to sign. He had an agreement all ready, one copy for himself and one for us. Óur hands shook a little as we affixed our signature, but he j?as never steadier.
“Now, gentlemen,” he remarked as he folded his paper and put it into his pocket, “by signing this agreement, you have, one and all, made yourselves liable to fifteen years imprisonment—for condoning a felony. P>ut have no fear from me—” he hurriedly assured us. “I think we may consider the incident closed. Good morning. ’ ’
That was the last we saw of him for ten years.
“You got your half?” asked Bill Hurst.
“We got the whole amount—with interest,” Woods said. “John is a wealthy man to-day. He bought about a third of one of your most promising Western towns, besides striking it rich in Larose and Nipissing and a dozen other deals.”
“Well, what has all this to do with you, now?” asked Hurst interested at last. “You have your money. Are you going after your pound of flesh as well?”
Woods allowed the sneer to pass.
“It has to do with my son—my only son,” he lingered over the words.
“I tried to bring Horace up in the fear of God, to make him see the wickedness consequent upon a lavish and unwise expenditure of money. I kept him on a small allowance, so that he would not feel richer than other young men about the town. But his mother could not see it that way. She spoiled him and taught him luxurious habits. She used to help him out of debt without my knowledge until the allowance I provided for her would not cover Horace’s needs. He spent a great deal of money going about after a girl,” faltered the father.
“A girl—what girl?” asked Hurst, sharply.
“His daughter—Hendrick’s daughter. He followed her all over Europe, trying to live as the Hendricks lived. I don’t know whether she cares for him or not.
.....Horace was in the Bank.....
he was teller and had a large salary... .more than sufficiënt for his needs and moderate pleasures, but .... when he travelled in the Hendrick’s class—well, Hurst, he robbed us—my son robbed the Bank....”
“So you called him into the Board Room and cried for his blood as you did the other, I suppose, before clapping him in irons,” suggested the man.
“My son—in irons—my son?” shrieked Woods, starting to his feet.
“Why not?” asked Hurst calmly. “Didn’t he steal, when by your own admission he had plenty for his needs? Wasn’t his crime greater than the other
“He was lured, I tell you,” groaned Woods, between his hands. “He never would have done it—”
“How much did he steal?” The ugly word was brought out with brutal harshness and Woods winced.
“All told he has taken three quarters of a million. This has been going on for years. No one knows it but me, yet. ’ ’
“Where is he?”
The father shook his head.
“Heaven knows. He’s hiding, or else —Hendricks found out and has him cornered somewhere, torturing him. I must find my boy—I must protect *him—I must see Hendricks and grovel in the dust asking his mercy—”
“Why should Hendricks care?” “Didn’t I just tell you that he and his cursed capital control the First National to-day? It is he who will send my boy to the penitentiary.”
Woods broke into long gasping sobs. “He has no one to help him,” he choked. “Nowhere to go—my boy! He was afraid of me—he was afraid of every one but Hendricks. Oh, the irony of it all—the bitterness!”
Hurst smoked on without speaking and presently a heavy silence settled in the little shack, when from utter exhaustion, the stranger slept. Then the huge man lifted Woods gently and laid him on the rough bed, covering him with his own clothing and watching the play of the fire on his drawn features all through the night. Again and again the silence would be broken by cries for mercy, by pleading with a harsh and revengeful Hendricks, or by an appeal to Horace himself.
Early in the morning, there was a sound of crashing through the sodden bush, and through the fog which still clung over the world, a man’s figure burst into the shaek.
“Thank God you are here! I thought you were lost—I sat up all night watching for you—the river was impossible, and I was afraid, sir—” he broke off abruptly. “I’ve had a hell of a night,” he said passing his hand over his head.
The little man in the bunk stirred and moaned. -nowhere to go,” he mut-
A look of stupefaction came into the young man ’s eyes as he crossed the room and looked down at the sleeping figure. “Mr. Hendricks,” he whispered,” tell me, in God’s name, how did Dad get here?”
A rough, rude, coarse manner creates an instantaneous prejudice, closes hearts, and bars doors against us.
You can not hope to accomplish much in the world without that compelling enthusiasm which stirs your whole being into action.