THE TIMBER PIRATE
CHARLES CHRISTOPHER JENKINS
CHAPTER VIII A Master Mind
ARTEMUS DUFF, president and general manager of the Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills, subsidiary to-be of the International Investment Corporation, was in a very much perturbed state of mind. Mr. Duff was an excitable person though otherwise a normal, hard-headed type of business man, quite inured to the ordinary run of difficulties that beset new undertakings. But since his recent arrival in Kam City from Toronto a tremendous responsibility had been shifted to his shoulders, and though construction and installation at the mill had been progressing well up on schedule time, there were other incidentals that worried him exceedingly.
A plump little man, with a round, clock-like face and rather small pale blue eyes, he sat chewing at an unlighted cigar and tilting back in a swivel office chair across the desk from Martin Winch,
K. C., senior member of the legal firm of Winch, Stanton and Reid, solicitors for the Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills Company. Martin Winch was known to have been a confidential adviser of Norman T. Gildersleeve, head of the parent company that financed the paper manufacturing concern.
The interview had been at Duff’s earnest solicitation, the latter having an obsession that “something ought to be done” without a clear conception of what the “something ” should be. The lawyer’s calm, unruffled manner of viewing the situation irritated Duff, who declared that “nobody seemed to see the crisis ahead except himself.”
“Mr. Gildersleeve’s disappearance has, as you state, occurred at a very critical period,” Winch agreed. “But on the other hand, Mr. Duff, all the machinery is complete in the way of contracts and agreements protecting us, and I cannot see that there is anything more that we can do than sit tight and see that the North Star Towing and Contracting Company’s order from the government for delivery of the raw product to us is carried out expeditiously.”
“I am quite well aware of all that,” the president of the Kam City Pulp and Paper Mills said somewhat sharply, “and if Norman Giluersleeve were in the offing somewhere, or even if I knew exactly the plans he had in the back of his head when he approved of our agreement with the Ontario government and thereby agreed to the cutting and delivering contract on the part of the North Star Company, I shouldn’t waste a moment’s worry over matters.
way of thinking, outside of the unfortunate disappearance of Mr. Gildersleeve, everything looks exceedingly rosy.” “That’s just it,” stormed Duff. “Everything looks
W HAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR—Louis Hammond, an ex newspaper man, meets Norman T. Gildersleeve, a capitalist, who engages him to take over an unexplained assignment on the pulpwood limits of the North Star Towing and Contracting Company on the North Shore of Lake Superior. At the Port of Kam City, Hammond on presenting Gildersleeve's credentials is given transportation to the pulp limits. At the limits he is taken on by the superintendent, a man known as Acey Smith, who, it is rumored, is mc'-e in the confidence of the unknown heads of the company than the president. himself. Smith is a mystery even to his closest associates, with a reputation for being cold and cunning and cruel. Hammond, to his amazement, meets, near the door of Acey Smith's office, the fascinating young woman whose suspicious movements attracted his attention whih in company with Gildersleeve, and he later learns that she is living on Amethyst Island near the limits, where Acey Smith has various times been seen in her company. Hammond learns that Norman T. Gildersleeve has disappeared.
rosy —too damned rosy!” He slammed his badly mangled cigar into a nearby waste-basket. “Everything looks too damned rosy to be of good omen where such notorious pirates as the North Star Towing and Contracting Company are concerned. Winch, are you conscious of the fact that the North Star has smashed and utterly ruined every commercial enterprise that has attempted to enter into competition with them in the North?”
“Oh, well—circumstances alter cases,” hedged the lawyer. “Things are different—”
OF COURSE they’re different,” derided Duff. “The North Star never tackles two swindling campaigns with the same methods or their victims would learn to plan successful counter-attacks. Look you, Winch, I’ve been delving a bit into local history just for the very purpose of studying these people and their methods. Through political manipulation, bribery, legal trickery and downright commercial theft and robbery, when they could get away with it, they have utterly destroyed every enterprise that has threatened to interfere with their
“I wouldn’t mind the responsibility of takingfull charge of affairs,” he emphasized, “if I had a notion of Gildersleeve’s preconceived plans for meeting possible trickery on the part of the North Star; but Gildersleeve, apparently, took nobody into his confidence on that score.”
“But so far the North Star Company have not shown any tendency to violate the terms of the government fiat .imposed on them,” argued the lawyer.
“In fact, I understand they have now almost the required amount of poles boomed in Nannabijou Bay ready for delivery to the mill. To my
exclusive exploitation of the resources of this northern country. They have stopped at no obstacle, recognized no law of God or man, so that what they did might minister to their own interests.”
“I’ll admit they’ve been unscrupulous—brazenly unscrupulous and aggressive,” quietly returned the man of the law, “but I think you exaggerate somewhat, Mr. Duff. I could name you a'dozen concerns that are competitors of the North Star Company that have thrived for many years without interference.”
“All small-fry concerns,” pointed out the other. “The North Star’s apparent policy has been to let the little fellows alone—even to nurse them financially at times, with an end in view; it finds them useful allies when there’s government lobbying afoot or a big political coup to be executed.
“But tell me,” he went on, “what's been the Tate cf every enterprise of dimensions that has attempted to exist within the zone of the North Star’s activities? Wasn’t the Upper Lakes Towing and Salvaging Company at one time the most flourishing marine concern on Lake Superior? What did the North Star do to them? Swept them from the North Shore until they hadn’t a propeller turning between here and the Soo. What happened the Independent Fur Trading Company that once held exclusive trading treaties with the Indians all the way north to the Bay Company's boundariest The North Star weaned their business away from
them by selling the Indians alleged cough medicine that was twenty-five per cent, pure alcohol and drove them out paupers. Where is the Oliphant Transfer Ship Company that enjoyed practically all the marine switching business in northern harbors? They’ve been supplanted by the Kam City Leg-boat Corporation, subsidiary to the North Star. Who’s behind the All-West Trading -and Storage Limited that ousted the Dominion Grain Dealers and grabbed off all their elevators between here and The Hat? It’s the North Star—everybody knows that.
YES, Ï could go on enumerating until it sounded like reciting a book of epitaphs from a commercial graveyard,” continued Duff. “The North Star did put pay thirty cents on the dollar of value for the business of anyone of the unfortunate concerns it squelched opt and absorbed. It was all accomplished by business buccaneering methods unparalleled on this, continent for audacity and cunning. In every case, so far as I can learn, it was a totally unexpected coup, swift and certam as lightning, that crumpled up the North Star’s rivals.
“These things are whpt you’d call precedent illegal parlance, Winch,” opined Duff, “and therefore, what have to figure on meeting from the North Star ia.tpi unexpected—like a bolt from a dear sky.”
MA RTIN Winch fussed
with a clipped typewritten sheets before him. “They cannot very well get away with any trickery in the face of this government order,” he persisted laconically.
“Just a scrap of paper so far as the North Star is concerned,” asserted Duff. “Legally it may be water-tight from forty-nine different angles; but there's bound to be a fiftieth with a loop-hole in it that nobody ever thought of but the North Star Company. You knew, of course, that Gil-
dersleeve sensed this very thing;'that he left New York this last time with the express purpose of thwarting some nefarious plot the North Star were hatching up.”
“No, I didn’t know that.” Winch appeared to be evincing a mild interest now. “Mr. Gildersleeve never even hinted at such a thing in his correspondence.”
“That’s just the trouble,” complained the paper mill president. “Norman Gildersleeve didn’t take any of us into his confidence with regard to his inside information and his definite plans, and when he dropped out of sight at this critical period he left us all helpless and in the dark.”
“You are sure Mr. Gildersleeve had reason to suspect treachery on the part of the North Star?”
“I know this much: He employed two of the cleverest detectives in the country to run down something crooked afoot on the Nannabijou Limits. One of the detectives returned a broken-down wreck of a man; the other just dropped out of sight. His hat was found floating on a creek at the limits and that’s all they ever heard of him afterwards. I do know that Gildersleeve had an inkling of something that means disaster for the Kam City Paper Mills if it is not thwarted in time.”
Martin Winch drummed his fingers on the glass top of his desk and stared at the ceiling. “Yet I cannot see that anything short of hiring someone to blow up the mill would accomplish such an end for the North Star,” he observed skeptically.
“Which would be a crude, bolshevik method altogether lacking the finesse of the North Star. No, Winch, they’re figuring on getting the machinery that’s going into that mill of ours away from us for just what they’ll care to pay when they have us with our backs to the wall. I’m becoming positive that’s the objective of their plot.”
“TrOU must have deeper reasons for your suspicions * than appear on the surface, Mr. Duff.”
“I have. But, good Lord, man, aren’t the surface indications sufficient? Here’s the North Star Company that once held exclusive cutting rights on all the available northern limits, docilely, tamely, allowing their initiative to pass into the hands of outside capital without even a murmur of protest. Tell me, does that look natural? It’s all the more ominous because, up to the eleventh hour of our securing permanent rights on the Nannabijou limits, they have fulfilled their part of the contract to the letter.
“Doesn’t it strike you as passing strange that the North Star, which owned or controlled all the tugs and loading machinery on the upper end of the lake, accepted, without even the slightest protest, the government’s proposal that they cut and deliver the required poles that would make our acquisition of the limits complete?”
“It did seem odd at the time,” admitted the lawyer, “but then, they no doubt feared that obstruction of the government’s policy might have meant another order ousting them from the limits at once.”
“Nonsense! And you must know that’s nonsense!” Mr. Duff arose and paced the floor, jammed another unlighted cigar between his teeth and sat down again. “Winch,” he suggested, “just let us take the whole situation as it obtains to date, stand it on end, so to speak, and take a square look at it. Then tell me if you still think the present lamblike attitude of the notorious North Star timber pirates looks natural.
“In the first place, the North Star at one time owned outright or held cutting rights on practically all the pulpwood contingent to water-haul from the North Shore, with the exception of the crown lands known as the Nannabijou limits, didn’t they? Well, back in those days the Ontario government had very little notion of the immense forest wealth of the North. The North Star secured most of the concessions for a song, through political pull, graft, intimidation and downright theft in some cases. They bribed government officials right and left, moved survey lines overnight, had cruisers make false estimates, took out falce mining patents, and, on the pretence of cutting trails and tote roads in to mine sites that never existed, skinned the territory of all its best timber. They left such a trail of commercial iniquity behind them that it became a by-word that the North Star would rather win out by putting the law in contempt than accept a gift where everything was above board.
*”T'HE huge block of crown lands known as the Nannabijou limits was the only territory held sacred from their nefarious exploitation. Government after government remained firm to the pledge of the late Sir John Whitson, when he was prime minister, that not a stick
would be cut on the Nannabijou that was not manufactured into paper in Kam City.
“The North Star long had their covetous eyes on the Nannabijou limits. They wanted them worse than any other concession in the North, because they knew the Nannabijou, bisected as it is by a great river with tributaries extending for miles and miles inland, meant the domination of the pulp and paper industry once, it was
secured, and they meant to secure it at any cost.
“But the North Star Company were exporters,” continued Duff. “It is pretty well established that the North Star, controlled by Canadians whom no one has ever seemed able to name, owns two big paper mills in eastern Ontario. They tried by every black artifice at their command to fleece the government for the Nannabijou and to get the embargo on export to the East in the raw state removed. But the government stood firm by the Whitson pledge and they failed in their attempts.
“Matters came swiftly to a head when we came on the scene and started to build a paper mill. The acute paper shortage had most to do with it. The government, tired of bickering and of the North Star’s professional lobbyists, suddenly announced that it was going to throw the Nannabijou limits open for tender, and that the limits would be leased to the highest bidder simultaneously contracting to manufacture exclusively in Kam City and have a paper mill with a capacity of three hundred and fifty tons of paper a day in full operation by October the twenty-third of this present year.
“It was a drastic contract, so drastic that only the serious paper famine threatening would excuse any government for creating it.
“ A LONG with other Canadian associates holding stock in the International Investment Corporation, I went down to New York to consult Norman Gildersleeve, the president, about it. Gildersleeve went thoroughly into the cruisers’ reports and the terms of the government agreement, and, to our surprise, almost immediately decided we should make a bid for the limits under all the terms laid down. We had part of the machinery on order for some time which would equip just such a modern mill as was required, he pointed out, and the * only problem that confronted us was the securing of tugs and loading machinery for handling the poles between the limits and the mill.
“Just what I expected took place. Immediately afterwards the North Star got busy building a paper mill on a site in Kam City, and they put in a tender for the limits simultaneously with the submission of ours.
“The North Star Company were the successful tenderers. They were granted a year’s cutting rights with the privilege of renewing at the same figures provided they had commenced installing their machinery by June and were in full operation by October. Gildersleeve was not the least taken back. He said he expected it, but he told us to wait and see. You remember what happened. The North Star had no machinery to install in their mill by June. Gildersleeve and his associates put the skids under them by manipulating the market so that the United States plant manufacturing the North Star’s paper-making machinery went into bankruptcy, and our people gaining control of it, held the machinery. That left the North Star nicely in the air. There wasn’t another manufacturer who could guarantee the construction
of the machinery required in less than twenty-seven months’ time, partially on account of the scarcity of steel at that time.
“The Hon. J. J. Slack and his bevy of lawyers moved Heaven and earth to get the time extended to two years and six months, but the government stood pat. Our original tender was accepted to date from the expiration of the North Star’s on October the twenty-third, and we were to be given possession of all wood cut by the North Star this season on the Nannabijou. To appease the powerful North Star Company, however, the government inserted a rider in the agreement that should we fail in any particular of our contract, even through unforeseen accident, our lease on the limits would be automatically cancelled, and that of the North Star would be immediately reinstated with an extension of time for the installation of their machinery.
“Then followed our fight against the eleventh hour inclusion of that drastic rider. It was all to no avail. The government, having satisfied the public that they meant business in getting the limits developed and a paper mill built, were prepared to wash their hands of the whole affair. We were as much as told we could either take it or leave it, as we pleased.
‘J^JOW then, Winch,,’
concluded Duff, “in the face of the North Star’s immediate willingness to act as contractor for us in getting out the poles on time, when they could otherwise have left us in a mighty awkward fix for tugs, can’t you see that they have but one aim in this whole business?”
“You mean that—?”
“They have some definite plan for blocking our operations so that we can’t live up to the terms of our agreement with the government.”
“But my dear Duff—”
“Hold on, I’m not crazy or drunk either,” insisted Duff. “I have definite information that it was just this very possibility that Norman Gildersleevewas on his way here to thwart when he dropped out of sight. To be candid with you, old man, I came up here to-day just to mull this whole thing over aloud to see if I could get a slant on what Gildersleeve suspected or if you could supply a clue. I confess I’m just as much in the dark as ever as to what move the North Star could make between now and the twenty-third of October to upset our plans. However, I have put a squad of guards on the booms in Nannabijou Bay to see that no trickery—”
THE telephone bell interrupted Duff with an insistent jangling. Winch answered the call. “It’s Slack,” he said, placing a hand over the receiver. “He wants to talk to you.”
He passed the desk instrument to Duff. “Hello—yes, Duff speaking, Slack,” answered the latter. “Oh, I’ve been back in town since yesterday—Yes, it is unfortunate about Gildersleeve— No, nothing concerning him except what I’ve read in the papers—What’s that?—Yes, pretty busy—You are going out of town for a few days?—Well, right after you come back—Let me know and I’ll drop over—1Thanks.”
Duff put up the phone. “Now, how the devil did he find out I was here?” he asked. “I left no word at the hotel nor at the plant as to where I was going. Wants to have a talk with me about something important right after he gets back from a trip to Ottawa.”
Duff rose and picked up his hat.
“Slack’s an oily customer,” commented Martin Winch, stifling a sigh of relief that the interview with this fussy little man was over.
“Oily is the word, but I’m pretty well convinced he's nothing more than a straw-boss at that,” returned Duff. “I’d give a mint of money, and so would a number of other people, to know who does Slack’s thinking for him."
Duff departed in a finicky mood. A nasty doubt was growing within him as to the degree of loyal co-operation he might expect from the Kam City Tulpand Taper Mill’s lawyer, a doubt engendered by Winch’s apathetic attitude. No doubt Martin Winch, K. C., in common with many others, entertained a wholesome respect for the uncanny power of the North Star Company and its penchant for sooner or later squaring accounts with those who became over-zealous in meddling with its affairs. The disappearance of Norman T. Gildersleeve, head of
the parent company controlling the Kam City Company, at this critical moment had more than likely shattered the initiative of Winch, who seemed to have small confidence in Duff’s ability to cope single-handed with the cunning of the North Star. It might he, grimly speculated Duff, that Winch was seriously considering the matter of throwing up his retainer and allowing some other legal firm to appropriate the fee and the hazards that went with it.
CHAPTER IX The Wonder Girl
THE first of the two surprises Louis Hammond experienced that evening he returned from the woods intending to take the tug to Kam City to interview Eulas Daly was that he was as good as marooned on the Nannabijou limits. He sought out Mooney, the assistant superintendent, mentioning that he would like to secure a pass over to the city and hack. Mooney issued most of the passes to the men traveling hack and forward.
The assistant superintendent grinned wryly and shook his head. “You will have to see the Big Boss about it,” he said and resumed his cursory inspection of pole counters’ returns.
This was exceedingly aggravating,for the tug was almost ready to pull out and Acey Smith was not to be found. He did not show up at his office until long after the tug had gone out. Hammond followed him, determined to secure a pass for the morning boat.
“I’d like to run over to the city on the tug in the morning,” he announced. “Mooney told me I’d have to see you about getting a pass.”
“I am very sorry to deny you your little holiday,” returned the other, “but for the present I can do no more for you than Mooney.”
“Then you are virtually making a prisoner of me?”
“I wouldn’t say that; you voluntarily made a prisoner of yourself,” reminded the superintendent. “You brought me a letter from J. J. Slack, president of the North Star Company, instructing me to keep you hidden here—at least that is what I gathered from its contents—and until I receive other instructions I must abide by that request.”
Acey Smith spoke quietly, without trace of malice. The usual half-sneer on his lips was lacking. Hammond could not safely justify a denial that he was the protege of Slack; his promise to Gildersleeve precluded that. There was nothing he could say.
The pulp camp superintendent seemed anxious to pass over the embarrassing situation, for he said almost immediately: “It’s a pity we have to work at cross-purposes,
Hammond. Believe me, I hate to deny you such a small favor as a pass over to the city—but that, just now, is not exactly a possibility.”
“Thank you, Mr. Smith.” Hammond turned on a heel and strode out.
Acey Smith’s new mood baffled him.
Undoubtedly, he reflected as he strolled down to the river before returning to his quarters, the superintendent was the creature of Slack or others of the company over him; but Gildersleeve must have realized this sort of thing would happen when he placed him on the limits through the agency of Slack. Was it all a sham of some sort— or was Gildersleeve actually in the first stages of madness when he concocted this seemingly crazy plan for Hammond to play the part of a fugitive from justice on the limits? Meanwhile, if Gildersleeve did not sooner or later turn up in his right mind where would it all end?
He must get to Kam City, even if he had to hide on one of the tugs, he decided.
There would he little use in keeping up the present farce if Gildersleeve were unable to fulfil the part he planned, and in the face of the fact that no trace of him had yet been discovered, that seemed to be the situation. There could he nothing wrong in disregarding an agreement with a man who was no longer able to carry out his side of the contract, and Eulas Daly, the United States consul, who had brought him into contact with Gildersleeve, should be able to let in a little light on the mystery. Then, if there appeared to be any use in so doing, he hoped he would be able to get back on one of the tugs, without getting into undue complications, to resume his old rôle at the limits.
Hammond’s cogitation was startlingly interrupted by the faint-spoken warning as a figure leaned forward from the shadow cf a clump of willows, and, seizing his nearest hand, squeezed something small and square into the palm of it. “Don’t look—walk on someone might see,” came a low, hoarse whisper, then the other seemed to melt into the darkness.
Hammond took the cue from the unknown messenger and pursued his way to his quarters with an assumption of unconcern that he by no means possessed. The sudde~ -ness of it had considerably startled him. Sandy Macdougal was not yet in when Hammond arrived, and the latter, sitting close to the wall where his actions could not be observed from the outside through the window, examined the folded bit of paper which the stranger had pressed into his hand. It bore no address on the outside, and the faint scrawl in backhand on the inner side was unfamiliar:—
The young lady stopping on Amethyst Island, west of the camp, may need a friend. Why not stroll out that way to-morrow morning?
That was all. What the devil did it all mean?
The young lady referred to could be none other than the Girl with the high-arched eyebrows—. Hammond’s
fingers gripping the note trembled. He had several times started out for the vicinity of Amethyst Island, and each time had desisted at thought of actually meeting her. Now—now, armed with this note, there would be a legitimate exruse—
At the sound of foot-steps outside he hurriedly folded the note and secreted it in an inner pocket.
Sandy Macdougal plunged in and tossed a newspaper to Hammond. “One of the scalers brought it in when he came over n" the government launch to-night,” he explained. “Sec this paper says that millionaire chap,
Gildersleeve, that disappeared off a train has been seen in Montreal. Guess the gink must’ve been celebrating with a crock of bootleg hootch and passed his station,
Hammond hastily read the headlines and the story which told of a man of Norman T. Gildersleeve’s appearance being seen boarding a train west at the Windsor street station, Montreal. That was about all there was to it. He tossed the paper down in disgust. As an exnewspaper man he could thoroughly appreciate the avidity with which correspondents and telegraph editors seized upon every tittle of rumor while a big unsolved mystery gripped the public’s mind.
“Sandy,” he said, speaking his thoughts, ‘Tm beginning to think there’s something after all in what you were telling me this morning.”
The cook paused in the act of lighting his pipe. “Anything happened to make you believe that?” he asked
“No,” replied Hammond, “but I have had proof that I am being shadowed around here, though by whom I haven’t a faint idea.”
Macdougal with ready generosity produced the revolver and a box of cartridges. “You’d better pack these,” he advised.
But Hammond had all a journalist’s contempt for firearms. “Thanks, Sandy,” he declined. "I’d rather win through without it. I haven’t carried a gun since—”
“You left the army,” supplied the cook when Hammond paused cautiously. “I knew you’d been over there too. Why don’t you wear your service button on the outside of your coat same as I do? The Big Boss, for all he don’t let on, has got a weakness for returned men.”
“I’m sleepy, let’s turn in,” said Hammond.
He wasn’t really sleepy, but he wanted a chance to think quietly. The truth of the matter was the young man viewed that note that had been poked into his hand with considerable suspicion. He did not ktibW whether to conceive that the intent wes to lead him into some sort of a trap or make a laughing-stock of him. In any case, he was going to see the matter through.
Next morning he dressed with more than usual care, and when he had breakfasted sauntered out on one of the inland tote roads. Out of sight of the camp, he cut down through the solid woods until he reached the lakeshore trail,where he crossed the Nannabijou River by way of the wooden suspension bridge built there by the Indian workers.
It was a laughing autumn morning, crisp, with that mellow sunlit stillness that characterizes the period in the fatter part erf September and tbe earlier weeks in October before the first great “blow” comes hurtling down along Superior’s north shore oft-times taking its grisly toll of men and boats., There was an invigorating tang of spruee in the air, and the mighty lake to Hammond's left lay like a great shimmering sea of giles. Afar out on it grain carriers rode lazily, trailing their long, black plumes north and south. In the brush to either side of the trail partridge strutted noisily or drummed up into the tops of the evergreens. In the soft blue of the skies and the thin haze of the horizons hung that infinite serenity mid-autumn in the majestic North.
Hammond forgot about the ruses he had planned to discover if he were shadowed. The very gladness of Nature round and about him made him whistle and sing like a boy, for all that a certain shy nervousness was upon him. Such a morning breeds recklessness in vigorous youth—a quest for adventure and old romance.
He topped a long slope, from which the trail dipped suddenly to the very edge of the lake at the foot of a wide ravine gashed up the side of the mountain to his right "to the plateau below the forbidding black granite battlements of the Cup of Nannabijou. Almost on his immediate left lay the tiny island of Amethyst with its soft wooded groves and grotesque, old-fashioned bungalows.
Hammond’s eyes swept from the island to the shoreline opposite—then he stopped dead in his tracks with a sharp intaking of breath.
Seated upon a fallen tree-trunk near the water’s edge, where her canoe was drawn up, with the lake and the dense foliage above and around her for a background, was a young woman whose charm of face and figure helf* kirn for the moment in spellbound admiration.
Continued on page 43
Continued from page 28
It was the girl with the high-arched eyebrows; she whom he had now twice met under unusual circumstances, once in the parlor car of a transcontinental train and again just below the doorway of Acey Smith’s office at the pulp camp. She was obviously waiting for someone. So -so could it have been that she had actually sent for him?
She was looking straight at him, expectancy, wonder in her great blue eyes. With an effort he regained part of his composure and plunged precipitately down the trail against a wild impulse to turn on his heel and flee.
Somehow, he finally stood before her with bared head and wildly-beating pulse.
“I—I came in response to your note.” He did not stammer it so awkwardly as he feared he would.
“My note?” The finely-pencilled brows were elevated in bewitching perplexity. “My note?”
“Yes—the note you—I have it here
somewhere.” Hammond at first searched vainly through his pockets for the tiny bit of paper. He felt he was somehow making a confounded ass of himself.
“But I—I wrote you no note. There must be some mistake.” There was the faintest trace of amused curiosity in her tones.
Hammond suddenly felt like one who drops from the clouds into a pit of gloom. Eitner he had been humbugged or he had accosted the wrong woman.
* * * ♦
AT LAST his fingersencountered the little folded square. He opened it out and passed it to her. “You see it wras unsigned,” he explained. “I was not in a position to know who it was from—”
He was cut short by a soft peal of silvery laughter. “Someone with an odd sense of humor is behind this,” she said passing the note back to him. “But the joke is on both of us.”
“Ori Loth of us?”
“Yes. Last night I too found a note pushed under the door of my cottage. It stated that a young man who was stopping at the pulp camp would like to meet me here this morning, and that if I honored the appointment it might be to our mutual interests. So you see I obeyed the mysterious summons.”
“The notes then were most likely written by the same party.”
“Most likely. Mine was in a faint, back-hand scrawl.”
“Some outside party,” he suggested, “must have been seriously interested in our becoming acquainted.”
“One would fancy so.” There came a mischievous light into her blue eyes. “But we are not ve acquainted, are we,
Mr.---?” ‘ llf ,
“Hammond—Louis Hammond, he supplied.
“Mr. Hammond, I am pleased to meet you.” She rose and extended her little hand. “I am Miss Josephine Stone—or, perhaps you already knew?”
“No—but I confess I have been curious to know, ever since that night our eyes met on the train, or do you remember that?”
“Oh, yes—I do. You must have thought my actions strange that night. But there were so many odd things happened in that coach during the space of a few minutes I have become quite perplexed.”
“That brings us to a point where you might do me a great service, Miss Stone,” Hammond suggested eagerly. “Have you any idea what happened Mr. Gildersleeve?
“Mr. Gildersleeve?” There was blank perplexity in her face.
“Then do you not know him?”
“No, I do not remember ever having met a man of that name.”
Hammond was dumbfounded. “Pardon me, then,” he offered. “I had thought you were a relative—or his secretary.” “Was he one of the men you were talking to on the coach?”
“Yes. Mr. Gildersleeve, so the papers say, disappeared after leaving the train at Moose Horn Station that night.”
“Oh—I remember reading something about that in some of the papers brought over to the Island. Was he the tall, sternfaced man who left his stateroom and got off at a little station shortly after you left him?”
“That was Mr. Gildersleeve.”
“I thought there was something mysterious about it all,” she said seriously. “I had been travelling with a friend, Mrs. Johnson, from Calgary. From Winnipeg east we were occupying a section in one of the other coaches, but I had gone back to the observation car alone to read for awhile before I went to bed. Shortly afterwards, a dark, striking-looking woman came in and took a chair near me. We were alone at the time and I noticed she seemed to be keeping a keen watch on the stateroom of the man you say was Mr. Gildersleeve. First, there was a little grey-haired man went in.”
“That was Eulas Daly, an American consul,” explained Hammond.
“After he came out you later came up from the forward part of the coach and entered Mr. Gildersleeve’s stateroom,” continued Miss Stone. “When the door closed behind you the dark woman leaned over and asked: ‘Do you know that man?’ I replied that I did not. Then she said: ‘His appearance fits the description of a notorious western bandit. I am one of a number of detectives who are shadowing him, so please don’t tell anybody what you see me doing.’
“Before I could recover from my surprise she tip-toed to the stateroom door and stood with her back to it and her hands behind her. At first I thought she was simply waiting for you to come out. But when some little time later the porter came up the aisle she hastily withdrew her hands and I saw she had been holding against the door’s key-hole a small black boxlike instrument.”
“A dictaphone!” Hammond gasped. “That’s what I took it to be. She kept it hidden from the porter and walked forward and out of the coach. When you came out of Mr. Gildersleeve’s room I wanted to tell you about the woman’s strange actions, but you took one startled look at me and fled.”
"Thus confirming the allegation that I was a highwayman,” Hammond laughed.
“I did not know what to think,” asserted Miss Stone. “After Mr.Gildersleeve left the train I saw you come out of
the smoker and walk out to the platform. I summoned all my courage and followed as far as the platform door. It was some time before I succeeded in catching your eye. Then when I did I lost my nerve and ran away without warning you.”
“And you would have warned me— even when there was a possibility that I was a real desperado?”
Her eyes dropped before his ardent ones. “Sometimes,” she replied deliberately, “one’s sympathies will go out to— a desperado.”
For the moment Hammond almost wished himself a highwayman, but whatever his reply might have been it was stilled on his lips.
From out of the heart of the hills came a melodious, gong-like alarum, softly reverberating like the tone when exquisite cut-glass is struck.
The man looked at the girl. In her eyes he read as great bewilderment as his own.
The White Monster of Nannabijou
AGAIN, after a short interval, the strange gong sounded while the pair stood speechless at the water’s edge. There w'as something terrifying in its low note as it vibrated out of the early morning stillness of the wilderness. It had seemed to cry out a protest against intrusion in some fastness sanctuary—a warning of ominous things.
“Now where do you suppose that bell is located?” Hammond was first to speak.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Josephine Stone answered. He could see she was suppressing apprehension under her light laughter. “I have heard it before, and it has startled—puzzled me.”
“Perhaps there is an Indian mission of some sort back in those hills,” he suggested, though it struck him it sounded more like a huge gong than a church bell.
The girl shook her head dubiously. “I don’t believe there’s a soul living up there,” she asserted. “Back of here is all barren lands.”
“But there seems to be a well-worn trail running up from here,” Hammond indicated. “Have you ever explored it?” “No, but I’ve wanted to just to find out where that bell is. Mrs. Johnson is afraid we’d get lost in the bush and wouldn’t consent to going unless one of our Indians went with us. The Indians get excited even at the mention of it; they say they are afraid of an evil spirit that has its abode in those cliffs they call the Cup of Nannabijou. I’d never have the courage to go alone.”
To Hammond there came a thrilling possibility. “Would you care to go up there—with me?”
She looked out over the expanse of lake anxiously and glanced at her wrist-watch. “No, not to-day. I find I must be returning to the island.” Then as she rose she looked up at him with a smile that dissipated his twinge of disappointment: “But you will come again, Mr Hammond? Perhaps some morning we can arrange it.”
* * * *
Hammond did come again—almost every morning when the weather was clear. They spent most of the time in her launch or one of the canoes, trolling for lake trout and coasters or exploring the many fantastic inlets along the North Shore. On some occasions Mrs. Johnson, Miss Stone’s companion, accompanied them, but most of the time they went alone, the elder woman not caring for the water. Of her past or her reasonfor staying at Amethyst Island at this season of the year the girl never spoke. Twice Hammond mentioned Acey Smith, the superintendent of the pulp camps, and the latter’s strange behaviour, but each time Miss Stone adroitly changed the subject. But these aspects did not weigh heavily upon Louis Hammond; he was too happy in her company. What he most dreaded was an announcement that she would be leaving.
In the thrall of his new adventure he ceased to worry over the mystery of his mission to the limits or as to what had become of Norman T. Gildersleeve. Of Acey Smith he saw as little as possible. If Smith objected to his visits to Josephine Stone at the island he said no word about it; but once when Hämmond was striking off along the lakeshorè trail he turned to glimpse the Big Boss of the Nannabijou camps staring after him, a black scowl on his face that spoke volumes.
There came the morning when they were to make the ascent to the Cup of Nannabijou. He found her waiting for him by the fallen tree-trunk attired in a blue riding coat, fawn riding bloomers and high, laced tan walking boots, a costume that set off to advantage the indescribable charm of her.
She greeted him with a quaint shyness. ‘They told me it would be impossible to get through the woods in skirts,” she said.
“Why of course it would.” His frank, boyish admiration was reassuring. “I should have told you that myself.”
For all her fragile, girlish form he found her agile and strong as a young deer and in her close-fitting costume and firm soled boots she seemed quite as tireless as he. They spoke but little, for the ascent was fairly steep, and a few hundred yards from the lakeshore it became almost precipitous in places. At times the trail went up anglewise in a series of steps across the face of cliffs; then for a space they would travel over gentle slopes of heavily wooded territory. Always she kept to his side with a companionable nearness that made him utterly forget the toil of the climb. Over the very steep places she accepted his arm.
The trail took them to the summit of a bald hump of age-cooled lava rock shaped like the top of a huge bee-hive. From there the view in the crystal northern sunlight was magnificent. Before them stretched the valley of Solomon Creek, and along the base of the cliffs a translucent ribbon of mist disclosed the tortuous course of the stream down to where the vapor expanded into a great spade-shaped cloud above fhe lake formed by a beaverdam near the creek’s confluence with the Nannabijou River. Close-packed along the leaden thread of the stream the evergreen forests stood like spell-struck hosts in a mystic communion of silence. Beyond the creek the frowning black cliffs of the Cup of Nannabijou rose into dizzy space like impregnable walls and battlements of a giant’s castle. Nowhere in the semi-circle of those cliffs could Hammond discern sign of a draw or even a path that a goat could climb.
The pair traversed the valley and crossed the creek over a bridge built of unbarked cedar logs. At the base of the cliffs the trail turned sharply to the left and followed the course of the creek upwards for about an eighth of a mile. There it again swung through the thick-grown green stuff, this time to the right, disclosing a hidden draw in the cliffs. They could no longer see the creek, but they could hear its murmur somewhere to their left.
Suddenly out of the sunlit upper air there came a sullen rumble of thunder that died away in the most sinister of echoes. The girl clutched Hammond’s arm, “I am really getting frightened,” she whispered.
“Oh, that’s only an echo of sound waves caught from dear knows where in this chasm,” he assured her. “This no doubt is the entrance to the Cup.”
They pushed on, up and up. Though fairly steep, the trail was well-worn and clean-going. Soon they found themselves out of the woods but shut in by high rock walls. The aisle through the living rock finally ended abruptly, but to their left yawned the opening of a man-high tunnel along which the trail apparently continued. From out of this came the low thunder of water-falls and the swishing purl and splash of rapids.
Then, above them this time, it seemed, they heard the melodious alarum of the mysterious gong. The rumble of rapids grew fainter and fainter and finally almost died away.
“Do you think we should go on?” the girl asked anxiously.
“Let’s go to the edge of the creek anyway,” he suggested. “It must be at the Other end of this tunnel.”
Josephine Stone looked up the towering black walls that hemmed them in like a prison. “It makes one think,” she said, "that there might be something in the Indian superstition that an awful spint presides in these cliffs.”
"Nothing to that,” laughed Hammond, "but the fruit of poor Ltí’suntutored mind and his over-active imagination.”
But this carefree young man little dreamed of the grim guardian of the way to the cup which kept inviolable the secíets beyond the cliffs—=-a white monster, Which, once unleashed, could not be recalled by its masters until it had wreaked its will to destroy.
i They were both soon to learn someJ thing of it in a manner most startling.
THE tunnel, as Hammond had conceived. was short. Its sepulchral gloom ended on open air at the very edge of what seemed to have been the bed of a mountain torrent, and, though only the tiniest of streams trickled down the center of it, its sides were glistening with moisI ture as though swept very recently by rushing waters. On the further side rose j an unbroken wall of rock.
“Oh, please don’t venture any further, Mr. Hammond,” pleaded Josephine Stone tremulously.
“Not to-day,” agreed Hammond, "but I just want to drop down and have a look up this stream-bed. Unless I miss my guess, it is the pass that leads into the Cup.”
Suiting action to his words, he let himself down to the first of a series of natural stone steps on the side of the stream-bed.
His foot had no sooner touched the step than the tunnel back of them was flooded with a wicked green flash, blinding in its intensity. Simultaneously, from above, in the towering cliffs of Nannabijou, came a single reverberating, gonglike note. Followed a low, vibrating rumble which merged into a thunderous roaring and crashing sound increasing every second in volume as if the whole mountainside were tumbling down upon them.
Hammond felt the girl grip convulsively at his coat sleeve as she cried out. He drew back into the tunnel.
There was a hiss and whine of flying rock particles; then a raging, white-foaming flood, filling the stream-bed almost to its brim, swept by like a monster thing of life. The empty, silent channel was transformed in the twinkling of an eye into a mountain torrent, absolutely impassable, ready to hurl to death any living thing in its path!
The way to the Çup of Nannabijou had been effectually sealed. K8B !
“Come,” cried the girViet us leave this terrible place.”
Hammond sprang to her side and they hurried out through the tunnel and down through the pass in the rock to the trail in the woods. Not until they had crossed the bridge over the creek did Josephine Stone pause to speak. Her face was pale and Hammond noted with alarm she was all a-tremble.
“Oh, that rushing water!” She gasped. “The lightning—and that man!”
“Yes. You didn’t see him. But I did —his face at the other end of the tunnel— in the lightning flash.”
“What did he look like? Where did he go?”
“He was an Indian—he seemed to fade out of sight like a spirit.”
There flashed on Hammond’s memory what Sandy Macdougal had told him about an Indian shadowing him, but he said lightly: “Likely some idle Indian following us out of curiosity.” _ «LTY Ü3 Josephine Stone shook her head. “There is something wicked and mysterious about the Cup of Nannabijou,” she contended. “They say men have gone up there and never been seen again. I should not have let you attempt to get down into that stream-bed.”
“I might have had a narrow squeak if I had attempted it a minute or so later,” he reflected. Then—“By the way, if I may ask, how long do you expect to remain at Amethyst Island?”
“That I can hardly say—it all depends.” She hesitated. “It may be a couple of weeks and it may be more, but I hope to get away before the bitter weather sets in.”
Her face had suddenly become grave. He could sense that allusion to her business in this wild part of Canada, whatever it might be, distressed her, so he dropped the subject for less personal matters.
When they finally came out upon the lakeshore at the foot of the trail the girl paused beside him with a hand upon his arm. “This is where we must part today,” she said looking anxiously along the beach.
He did not question her evident haste to leave him. “When may I come again?” he asked.
“Any time.” Softly. “To-morrow, if it’s nice.”
She was standing with her little white hand extended. He looked down into those wondrous blue orbs with their warm
light—and was lost. His right hand closed over her fingers and his left went about her little shoulders and swept her to him.
She gasped frightenedly, suppressing a startled cry. “Not yet—not here,” she pleaded.
“That was unfair of me,” he started to say, but he did not release her. “I—”
“Not if you—you hurry.” The significance of her low whisper was tantalizing.
His arms closed her to him. This time her face rose to his, the long, silky lashes drooping under those divinely arched brows. His lips found the warm, velvety caress of hers. He felt her tremble like a prisoned bird in his arms.
There came to them the sound of footfalls and a rasping of steel boot-hobs on the rock up the trail. The girl pressed him from her, wide, genuine alarm in her eyes. “You must go—quickly,” she urged.
“Then till we meet again—Josephine— good-bye,” he whispered.
He flung off along the lakeshore trail. But at a sound he stopped in the screen of evergreens.
The low-hanging branches of the balsams parted at the mouth of the other trail and a great figure of a man, immaculate, faultless in his tartan mackinaw, corduroy riding breeches and knee-high white elk bush boots, stepped out upon the sands of the beach.
The newcomer doffed his soft narrowbrimmed stetson hat with the grace and courtliness of a knight of old.
* * * *
THE deviltry that invariably lurked about the lumberman’s pale, handsome face was masked in the blandest of smiles.
“Good-morning, Miss Stone.” His greeting had a low, rich quality of music in it that bespoke the cultured gentleman Hammond conceived him not to be. The magical effect of his presence on the young woman gave Hammond his first poignant twinge of jealousy.
“I hope I did not keep you waiting
long,” she offered, going forward to meet him. “I was away for a long walk this morning.”
“Up the hill?”
His face grew grave. “I thought I told you you must not go up the hill alone,” he chided. “It’s dangerous country.”
“Oh, but I wasn’t alone.” She paused, but his face gave no inkling of surprise. “Only I over-stayed my time and I was afraid I kept you waiting.”
“I wasn’t in the least inconvenienced,” he replied. “Shall we go down to your favorite seat now?”
She tripped to his side and they sauntered along the beach toward Amethyst Island.
It was quite beneath Louis Hammond to play the part of eavesdropper, though a curiosity akin to jealousy as to what the Big Boss of the Nannabijou Camps and Josephine Stone could have in common was fairly burning him up. He swung resolutely away in the opposite direction —for the camp.
His thoughts were in a mighty whirl. But withal they were pleasant thoughts— deliriously pleasant.
He had held in his arms Josephine Stone, she whom he had dreamed of so long as the girl with the high-arched eyebrows—had kissed her—yes, had been kissed by her in return. Hammond was astounded over his own enterprise as a lover.
When such a woman suffered a man to kiss her on the mouth, he swore to himself, she must—must hold him in a regard higher than any other man. It therefore did not matter about Acey Smith.
Such a woman he could trust!
But had Hammond been a witness to what took place on the beach after he left he assuredly would not have been so easy of mind. He might have been turned w hite-hot with jealousy.
Or, being the sound philosopher that he was, in spite of his youth, he might have reasoned that under stress of certain circumstances the best of women will do strange things.
To be Continued