The Sabbatical Year
In which the rising curtain reveals Peg, Lewis and Zeusie in the first act of a drama replete with stirring adventure
ROBERT E. PINKERTON
HIS feet were sore from the chafing of snowshoe thongs, his legs ached from the unaccustomed burden of the heavy webs, his entire body was stiff and weary from the exertion of dragging a loaded toboggan, and yet Lewis Barr was thoroughly contented and happy.
He had been traveling all day, taking his time, enjoying the cold and the emptiness, the white sweep of lake and the sepulchral hush of the forest, but most of all the emptiness. He had craved it as one craves a vital need. He had gloried in the unbroken sweep of snow. Not since leaving the railroad the previous morning had he seen the track of a human being. Inquiries, before he left the little settlement, had confirmed his hope that he would have seventy miles of bush to himself.
There was nothing unsocial about Lewis, and it was not solitude he sought so much as certain effects of solitude —the feeling that he had only himself to depend upon, that it was himself against the environment, what skill and courage he possessed against the forces of a northern
winter. He had not phrased it thus. To him it was only a longing that had persisted for several years, that at last he was able to gratify.
The longing differed only in
degree from the impulse that governed Daniel Boone and has governed many another.
Lewis’s destination was a deserted gold mine, and he wasn’t certain where it was. Yet even this uncertainty gave him pleasure. He had visited it once, but by canoe, and now in cutting overland from one lake to another he knew he might not find it before dark. But there was a thrill even in that; in the thought of making camp in the snow-enshrouded forest; in sleeping again under the diamond-bright stars.
As he made his way through a spruce swamp, already filled with shadows, he came to a small creek. It offered easy going, and probably the right direction, and he followed it eagerly. But, after a half mile, it merged with a larger stream down the middle of which ran a well beaten snowshoe trail.
Lewis stopped, disappointed and resentful, and instantly his mind turned to other places to which hemight go. Only he could not recall any. It was seven years since he had been in this part of northern Ontario.
And then as he stood there, suddenly tired and cold and depressed because the solitude he had expected did not exist, he saw, farther up the larger stream, that fresh snowshoe tracks led from the trail to a sloping bank. On the smooth surface of the bank he could discern something which appeared to be writing.
Lewis slipped the toboggan traces from his shoulders and strode forward to investigate. A moment later, he was staring in astonishment. Scratched in the snow with a stick, the letters a foot high, were the words:
‘On to the rescue!’
The frosted skin of Lewis’s face hurt when it wrinkled in a smile.
"On it is,” he said aloud, as if in answer.
Slipping a moccasined foot from the snowshoe thong, he felt of the tracks that led up to the bank. They were soft and at that temperature, he knew, they would have stiffened quickly. Whoever had made them was not far ahead
Lewis examined the tracks more closely. There was no doubt but that they had been made by snowshoes of native Ojibway manufacture. The shape and the lacey impressions of the mesh told that. Then he looked upstream, half expecting to see the wearer. Instead, he saw evidences of more writing. Smiling again, and curious, he went on to find, written in the snow on the ice.
'I love you!’
"Nothing to do but keep going,” Lewis grinned.
Around the next bend, he saw -where the writer had discarded snowshoes and, spread-eagling, had left a body impression in the snow.”
"Only a kid,” Lewis muttered. “Might have known it.’
His sense of disappointment surprised him for he did not realize that his anticipations had taken definite form. He glanced uncertainly up-stream and saw where more words had been written. But when he reached the spot he could not read them. They were Greek.
Lewis did not know Greek but there was no mistaking the characters. One or two had been on his fraternity pin at college. And then to his further amazement he saw the words, just beyond:
‘Make it snappy!’
"All right,” he laughed, and strode on along the trail.
He confidently expected more messages in the snow but there were none. He did find two cubbies on the bank in which traps had been set and there were evidences that they had been examined recently.
More curious than ever concerning this mixture of trapping, Greek and endearing messages, Lewis went on. The sun was close to the horizon, he still had to find the deserted mine, but he could not resist the mystery. And then, as he turned a sharp bend in the stream, he saw the object of his search only fifty feet away.
His first thought was that it was a boy. It looked like one, kneeling in the snow beside a cubby and wearing cap, mackinaw coat and woollen trousers. But the stranger’s sex became unimportant in contrast with what he was doing.
At the door of the cubby, a foot caught in a trap, was a mink. With typical, blazing courage, it was braced for a fight, sublimely defiant, its sharp little head weaving back and forth as its captor patiently poked at its nose with a stick on the end of which was a small wad of cotton.
T EWIS strode on, forgetting everything in a new curiosity. His webs crunched on the trail, announcing his presence, but the trapper did not turn to look. Lewis halted three feet away and still the catcher of fur continued to poke at the darting nose with the ball of cotton.
“Oh, darn him! Why can’t he hold still just a minute?”
The voice was a girl’s and with a final poke she looked around.
Lewis was no more amazed than she but their reactions were different. Obviously, she had expected someone else but after the first moment of surprise she accepted the fact of a stranger’s presence and left the next step to him.
But, for Lewis, the circumstances were altogether too complicated. The very fact that there was something impishly captivating about her made it difficult to adjust himself to the reality that she, a girl, should be there at all. Nothing he had ever heard or discovered in the bush could explain her or her messages. That attractive, rosy face, smiling up at him, contributed to a situation too tantalizing to be real. In the confusion of emotions he turned to the more concrete mystery.
“What on earth are you trying to do?” he demanded, pointing to the stick with the ball of cotton at one end.
“Chloroform him, of course,” she answered.
"I couldn’t bear to do anything else—hurt him.”
She was so in earnest, so concerned, Lewis tried hard to repress a smile.
“But the trap—” he began.
“I know! It’s terrible! I feel so sorry for them—”
She turned in compassion to the imprisoned mink. It had become a little groggy and she reached for the stick with the cotton.
“Let me show you,” Lewis offered.
He took the stick and laid it across the mink’s neck. Then with his mittened left hand he grasped the animal firmly behind the ears and with his bare right squeezed its body below the forelegs. Pressing firmly, his thumb and first finger slipped back toward the tail.
The mink glared with that unbeatable ferocity of its kind, struggled, and then suddenly its eyes became dull and it hung limply. Lewis continued to hold it for nearly a minute.
“That doesn’t injure the pelt,” he said at last as he
loosened the trap from the mink’s leg. “And it’s easy, and simple.
I took hold of his heart, pulled it back to his tail and held it there until it stopped beating.”
She was disturbed, and doubtful. Then she took a small bottle from a pocket, looked at it and laughed. It was only a quarter full.
“It does sort of knock the profits,” she said.
“You’re — you don’t mean you are trapping to make money? ’ ’
Again she laughed. Her expression of mirth was quick, boyish, frank.
‘‘That’s the third mink, and a dozen weasels.
They haven’t paid for the traps. But I’ve got to do something to help.
Only I can’t bring myself to—”
She turned suddenly, put one knee on the spring of the trap and set it. Carefully she covered it with dead grass and leaves she took from a pocket, then sprinkled a light layer of dry snow over all.
“There!” she exclaimed, as she arose to her feet.
“I’ll weep if I get one — but I weep when I don’t. And it is hard, coming twice a day.”
“Why twice?” Lewis demanded.
“I couldn’t bear it, having them suffer all night. Every morning I come out and set the traps, and then in the afternoon I look—and spring uhem.”
“But night is the best time—when all the animals are moving about.”
“I know. It must seem silly to a real trapper like you. And I’ve tried, only I couldn’t bring myself to it. It’s got to be a regular complex, and of all people a trapper shouldn’t have inhibitions.”
Lewis forgot to deny he was a trapper. His mind was too busy with many other things—Greek messages, billets-doux scratched on snow banks, very expressive brown eyes, an impulsive, engaging personality, casual use of psychological terms, a frank admission that she was driving herself to torturing animals that she might earn a little money.
And all this in the midst of a Canadian winter, in a great, empty stretch of Canadian forest in which no white man lived. Lewis forgot completely his resentment upon finding his solitude shattered, no longer considered some new place to which he might go. And because she had been so open and natural in her statements, he let his curiosity drive him to further questioning.
“If you feel sorry for what you catch, why do it at all?” he asked.
“I’ve worn furs, and enjoyed wearing them,” she answered readily. “I’ve been the direct cause of animals being caught in traps, suffering, dying by inches, and I never gave them a thought. Now, when I might earn a little money, help poor Zeusie, I just told myself that catching fur was not a bit worse than wearing it and if I didn’t catch these animals some Indian would.”
“But you couldn’t bring yourself to leaving the traps set all night,” Lewis laughed.
“No, but I’m going to.” she answered with determination. “Zeusie works so hard! I’ve got to do all I can.” “It’s very unusual,” Lewis remarked, and then added: “I never before heard of a trapper who knows Greek.” “Greek!” she repeated, and then she laughed outright,
boyishly, without a trace of embarrassment. “Of course! You came up the creek. It was late when I started and I knew it would be dark before I could get back. There’s a big swamp to go through—I just can’t get over having the shiveries there—and I asked dad to come and meet me.”
Again she laughed, and this time her eyes were dancing mischieviously as she watched him.
“But, of course, you would expect to find lpve notes in the snow.”
“Oh, yes,” Lewis said. “It’s quite common. Only never in Greek before. Once I found a bit of Sanscrit. Latin is not infrequent. Result of the presence of early Jesuit missionaries, I suppose.”
She laughed gaily and her eyes danced with amusement.
“I never did it before. But all winter we haven’t seen a soul and I never dreamed—”
She stopped and laughed again, then turned suddenly and slipped on her snowshoes.
“Could you come with me?” she asked doubtfully. “For the first time I have courage to leave these traps set all night. There are two more, farther up, and if you’re with me, to watch, I won’t dare be silly.”
“I’ll be glad to,” Lewis answered. “If you do that, you’ll pay for your traps in a few nights.”
“If I only could!” she exclaimed as she started on up the creek.
The girl did not talk as she strode along ahead of him. She set a rapid pace and her eagerness as she approached each trap became contagious.
The first was empty, had not been touched since she visited it that morning. Around the next bend she stopped.
“Adonis has been here again!” she exclaimed with a mixture of anger and despair.
Lewis looked in bewilderment until he saw the tracks of an otter in the snow.
“Is he so beautiful?” he asked.
“I never saw him. He’s the most exasperating thing 1 ever knew. And it isn’t because he’s beautiful. ï’ve
tempted him in every way I could think of but he has scorned all advances. He Won't go near my traps."
“He’s an old bachelor, and very wise. Seduction is useless, Aphrodite.”
“What would you do?” the girl laughed.
“It’s against the law to catch otter.”
She considered this seriously for a moment. “I wouldn’t care, so long as Zeusie didn’t know, and I got some money for the skin.”
“It’s too late to-night, and those traps—they’re hardly heavy enough,” Lewis said.
“I have some double-spring ones but nothing ever gets in them. Could you—to-morrow?”
“I’d be glad to, only to-night—you don’t happen to be living at the Princess, do you?” he demanded suddenly.
There was just the slightest hesitation before she answered, “Yes,” and then, watching him closely, she asked :
“Were you going there?”
“I’d hoped to reach it before dark. I knew there were several cabins and it’s more comfortable than sleeping out.”
“You’ve been there before?”
“Several years ago.”
“And you’re going to trap here?”
“No,” Lewis laughed, and he expected to see her expression of concern vanish.
But it did not. She studied him and then turned uncertainly.
“You—you’re interested in the Princess, own stock in the company?”
“No interest whatever except as a place to stay,” he laughed.
AT HIS answer her face brightened with such obvious 1 1 relief the enigma became greater. Greek and love messages written in the snow, and now this girl in vivid contrast to her surroundings, had attuned him to a mystery. There was nothing about her to be associated
with a worthless geld mine, abandoned years before, and yet he could not escape the sudden change of manner the admission of his destination had brought about.
“It is going to be dark long before we get there,” she said, as she turned back on the trail. “How I dread these swamps at night! The snowshoe rabbits shoot up like tall, white ghosts. Every time I see one I almost promise never to bait my traps with rabbit meat again.”
“Your temperamental equipment is quite marvelous, for a trapper,” Lewis laughed. “I hope you are as tenderhearted as a guide.”
“Zeusie and I would be glad to have you stay with us if we had room,” she said. “But there’s another cabin near ours and you can have supper with us. Zeusie is so uncomplaining I really need another victim to give me an incentive.”
“It’s very kind of you,” Lewis answered, “but I can take care of myself if there’s any sort of place for me.”
She started on ahead, walking rapidly. The sun had set and with its going the cold had struck down. It burned their faces, bit through to the bone for a time, and there was no chance for conversation. When they passed the first message in the snow the girl looked over her shoulder with a laugh, but that was all.
Lewis watched her as she strode on ahead of him. He found something very expressive of her personality, as he had glimpsed it, in the way she swung her snowshoes and carried her head; something alive, buoyant and courageous, but most of all mysterious, to which quality her frankness had only added.
The girl hardly paused when he stopped for his toboggan and, with the load, he had difficulty in overtaking her. They kept on down the creek for a mile and then, in the first darkness, turned off into a thick spruce swamp.
“See!” the girl exclaimed after a hundred yards. “It does give one the shiveries.” And then she stopped and turned.
“We couldn’t have passed Zeusie, could we?” she demanded.
“There have been no tracks.”
He could not see her face in the darkness but when she spoke again she betrayed her fear.
“He promised he’d come —before dark.”
“The sun sets so early,” Lewis suggested. “We’ll probably meet him."
She turned and went on. The trail twisted through the swamp and dragging the toboggan was difficult. The girl began to increase the distance between them. Lewis tried to keep up but when at last he left the swamp and started over a low, open ridge she was not in sight.
From the crest he saw the buildings of the abandoned Princess; stamp mill, engine house, hoist, store, office and several log cabins. The trail led to one of the last and as he stopped at the door the girl came out.
“He’s not here!” she cried. “Hasn t come home! Would you mind—helping me he never was so late before.” “Of course,” Lewis answered as he slipped off the toboggan traces. “Where would he be?”
“In the mine, the tunnel. You don’t think—?”
“Get a lantern!” Lewis interrupted. He went in with her, helped her light it.
“Now show me the way,” he commanded.
She ran out and down a well beaten trail past the stamp mill and across a cleared space to a small building, which she entered through an open door. By the light of the lantern, Lewis saw the yawning mouth of a shaft. The girl leaned over and looked down.
“Zeusie!” she called. “Zeusie!”
But there was no answer.
LEWIS looked into the black, silent J hole.
“How deep is this?” he asked. ’'Are you sure he’s down there?
“He never goes anywhere else, couldn’t be anywhere else,” she insisted. “And deep—I don’t know. I’ve never been down. I couldn t under the ground like that. You don t think—?”
Lewis did not answer. He swung the lantern around until he saw a coil of rope.
“Any chance of gas down there?” he demanded as he fastened an end of the^rope to the lantern. “Does he use explosives powder?
“No! No! I wouldn’t let him. He wouldn’t know how. But the tunnel! If it has caved in! Oh, Zeusie! Zeusie! she called again into the black pit.
Lewis was already lowering the lantern, measuring the rope roughly as he let it out. At thirty feet he heard the lantern strike. Its light showed that the ladder on one side reached the bottom.
He had been working rapidly and silently, the girl standing at his side. Not until he started down did she speak.
“If you hadn’t come!” she whispered.
At the bottom, Lewis discovered a tunnel and without hesitation he started into it. Planks were laid along the floor for a wheelbarrow but there was no timbering. He stopped, lifted the lantern, and found walls and ceiling were of the familiar granite. As he stood there, he heard a slight metallic noise.
He hurried on, the planks thumping under his feet, until, about twenty yards from the shaft, he was halted by a mass of broken rock across the tunnel. As he swung up his lantern, realizing instantly what had happened, he heard again the steady strokes of a pick on the other side of the barrier.
The lantern light revealed only that the tunnel had cut a stratum of softer rock at this place and that the roof had fallen, blocking the passage.
Lewis had never been underground. He had that not uncommon dread of it, that feeling of helplessness, a fear of being crushed, and he did not forget this now as he scrambled up the sloping side of the mass of broken rock. But he forgot it instantly when he saw a little flicker cf light through a crevice. The sound of the pick was nearer now and he heard the rumble of falling pieces of rock.
Setting the lantern on a flat surface, Lewis began lifting away loose pieces with his hands, rolling them back to the floor of the tunnel. After a few minutes, an opening appeared directly in front of his face and he saw a miner s candle set in a cap.
“Peg, please go back to the shaft,” came a voice in a gently reproving tone. “I’ll join you there directly.” “She’s safe above ground,” Lewis answered. “And you’re nearly through.” “So I have estimated. But I thought, or feared, you were Peg. It would be so like her.—Is it dark outside? I was to go up the creek for her this afternoon and then—I would prefer that you return to the shaft. Your position, if there should be another loosening of this softer sedimentary material, might prove dangerous.” “I’ll chance it,” Lewis grunted as he lifted a heavy piece of rock. “Pull away what you can there. You’ll need only a small hole.” “It was most disconcerting, having this happen,” commented the man whom the girl had called Zeusie. “It was just after the luncheon hour. For a moment I feared the slide would reach me. As it was, I had very little room in which to begin operations.” “I’ll shove this big piece through to you,” Lewis interrupted. “It’s too heavy for me up here.” “That’s fine!” the man exclaimed when the rock tumbled down behind him. “I believe I can get out now. It will be a relief. I have been exerting myself rather strenuously because Peg expected me to meet her and I dreaded to disappoint her.”
Lewis crawled backward to the tunnel floor and Zeusie, grunting and squirming, followed. “There!” he said, as he arose to his feet “I appreciate very much your efforts in my behalf, the more so because I recognize that you placed yourself in a position of considerable danger.” Lewis could stand the suspense, no longer. The cultured tone and choice of words of this grubber in the depths of a worthless, abandoned mine in the wilderness was even more of an enigma than Greek messages beside a muskeg creek. On the pretext of examining the lantern wick, he lifted the light so that he might see the man’s face. Against the black darkness of the tunnel, the dim glow outlined the features of a gentle, gray-haired dreamer. They were drawn now, and white, though there was a flash of vigor and animation in the eyes. But it was only a glimpse that Lewis caught, for the man turned quickly toward the shaft. “I am so afraid Peg has worried,” he said. The girl evidently had heard the noise of the loose planks under their feet. “Zeusie! Zeusie!” she called. “Yes, dear, I’m coming,” the man answered. Lewis followed him up the ladder, the shaft echoing with the girl’s excited comments and scolding. As he reached the surface, she was hugging and kissing him and sobbing as she spoke. “Don’t tell me you just forgot!” she exclaimed. “Something happened down there. You didn’t answer. And there was no light. You’re not going into that dreadful hole again. I don’t care what it means. Nothing’s worth the risk.” She stopped suddenly, held him tightly, then burst forth compassionately : “You’re cold! Shivering all over! Hurry up to the house. I’ll run ahead and start a fire.” She darted out of the door and disappeared in the darkness.
“It is cold,” Zeusie said. “It has been some hours now, with cessation, and I perspired rather freely. Very disconcerting thing to happen, and especially when I had promised Peg to—” He shivered, and his teeth chattered so violently he could not continue. Lewis took his arm and led him outside. “You must get warm immediately,” he said. “And you need a drink. I have some whisky. We’ll hurry.” There was a lamp in the cabin and the girl had a fire roaring in the heater. Lewis went outside immediately and unlashed his toboggan. When he returned with a bottle the man was warming his hands at the stove. “He’s shivering all over!” the girl exclaimed. “And see his face! It’s so white.” “We’ll heat a little water and give him some of this,” Lewis said. There was no doubt that the man needed whisky. Now that Lewis could see him in a good light it was easy to read the effects of those long hours of terrific exertion and what must have been mental agony. The man was slight, most evidently without much
physical strength. His hands, spread close to the stove, were long and slender. Though red and rough, they remained the hands of one who had seldom wielded anything heavier than a pern As when Lewis had caught a glimpse of it in the tunnel, his face was in most startling contrast with his environment and occupation. Even fatigue and the effects of a harrowing experience could not hide evidences of gentleness and culture. The girl had gone into an adjoining room, evidently the kitchen, and Lewis followed. “There’s nothing to worry about,” he said, when he saw that she was still concerned. “A hot drink and then a good meal will set him right.” “But what happened?” she demanded. “Why didn’t he come up hours ago? He would never make me worry.” Lewis hesitated. Everything was still a mystery to him but from the first there had developed an admiration for Zeusie. There had been courage of a high order, a remarkable coolness in the face of a real peril, and Lewis suspected, both from his manner and from his first remarks, that he would wish to keep the girl in ignorance. But Zeusie evidently had heard her question. “I became much interested,” he called from the other room. “A little problem developed. There was a sus-
picious weakening in the roof of the tunnel. It threatened to prove troublesome and I put in some supports.” Lewis felt the girl watching him as her father spoke. Then, without comment, she turned to the stove and put in some wood. “That water is boiling,” Lewis said. “I’ll fix him some of this.” He poured a generous portion of whisky into a tin cup, added water and took it into the other room. “After that, and a good meal, you’ll feel fine,” he said. Zeusie took the cup and sipped it. “A potation with which I am not at all familiar,” was his comment. “I imagine, however, that it will prove a temporary benefit.” Lewis put more wood into the fire and returned to the kitchen. He was no nearer an explanation of the presence of this puzzling couple but he felt that courtesy demanded at least a temporary withdrawal from the family circle. “I think everything is all right now,” he said. “If you
will tell me which is the best of the other cabins, I’ll run along.” “You just try to leave before supper!” the girl flared. • “After all you’ve—” She stopped, flashed a quick look and then rushed on. “You’re the first of the genus guest we’ve encountered and it would be a mortal affront for you not to stay. Go in and sit down with my father until I have supper ready.” “I’d like to help, but even as a cook I must insi t on certain conventions. My name is Lewis Barr and I live in Winnipeg.” “Winnipeg:” she repeated, rnd again that strange note of concern contradicted t'.e frankness of her manner. But Lewis’s sympatmes were now too wholly enlisted in their strange enterprise o him to withhold any assurance he might give. “You’ll probably think there is s.nething queer about me,” he continued, “but I’m really on a vacation. I passed the Princess several years ago in a canoe and I’ve always wanted to come back tj his particular bit of woods. I did, the first chance I had.” “We live in Winnipeg, too,” she said, ignoring his explanation. “Perhaps you’ve heard of Whetmore College. Zeusie’s professor of Greek there. And his name’s Melville Littleton and mine’s Margaret Littleton and we’re having our sabbatical year.” dhe made a mock bow, was again the gii i he had found on the trap line, and Lewis laughed.
“ft’s just seven years since I was here,’ he said. p.+ a coincidence! Then you won’t contir.se being formal, will you? It just can't be done up here, with only three rooms and tin plates and cups and steel forks and your trouser legs for napkins. Zeus e says he actually finds himself being tempted to indulge in a grammatical error at times.” “No, Peg, I’m conventional only in my cooking.” “You have the Princess spirit, Lewis,” she laughed gaily. “Now set the table in the other room. Here are the dishes. You spread the linen by wiping off the oilcloth.” Lewis found Professor Littleton reclining at ease in his chair. The color had returned to his face and he had placed the tin cup, empty, on the table. “Nectar,” he said. “The gods—how would Peg say it?—have nothing on me. I salute you, sir, from^Olympus’ crest.” “Glad you’re feeling better,’’^Lewis answered. “I thought that would set you up.” The Professor looked through the kitchen door, found that Peg could not see him, and began making elaborate gestures. Some of them were vague, all were exaggerated, but Lewis got the idea. He was not to speak to Peg of what had happened in the tunnel and he nodded assurance. “What next?” he asked, when he returned to the kitchen. “Keep those things on the stove from burning,” she commanded. “We haven’t much. Rabbit stew and fried potatoes and tea and—I don’t know what you’ll name it. There are no restrictions. Zeusie calls it ambrosia but he’s— Zeusie.” “You mean this?” and Lewis picked up something that, at one time, may have had the idea of bread behind it. “Isn’t it funny?” she laughed. “Don’t drop it on your toes. My cooking is worse than my trapping.”
“Only you have compassion in your trapping.” “That’s mean. I’ve tried awfully hard. You can carry this in.” But before Lewis could pick up the dish he was arrested by a loud cry from the other room. “Ho, helot! Wouldst hear Zeus roar? Bring on the ambrosia!” Peg looked at Lewis in amazement but before either could speak the professor continued in a loud, declamatory manner: “Now it is time their evening meal is set Before the Archaians, ere the sun goes down. And other entertainment shall come yet: Dance and the song, which are the banquet’s crown.” Lewis glanced involuntarily at the bottle of whisky, then turned, embarrassed, to Peg. “I never dreamed—” he began, to be stopped by the
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delighted sparkle in her beautiful eyes.
“Zeus ginnie!” she whispered. “Think of it! If the college trustees—”
She stopped to peek through the door, and the professor saw her, for he began at once:
“0 fickle-souled, deathless one, Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I pray thee,
Lady august, never with pangs and bitter
Hunger affray me!”
“All right, Zeus!” she called gaily. “We’ll be there soon. Don’t give up hope.”
As she and Lewis bore in the steaming dishes, Professor Littleton arose and beamed upon them.
“Give up hope!” he repeated.
“For human nature Hope remains alone
Of all the dieties; the rest are flown.”
“Young man,” and he bowed to Lewis, “I trust you are familiar with the Greek poets. Or, perhaps, they are sufficiently new to prove interesting. For to-night I feel peculiarly uplifted. Homer and Theognis, Sappho and Theocritus—I don’t know. Perhaps I should be more selective. Theognis of Megara, while
inclined at times to convivial outbursts, was essentially a moralist. And, to-night —morals interfere with gaiety.”
“Dad, I’m surprised, and shocked!” Peg exclaimed in what Lewis saw to be mock indignation.
“Then you had better leave the room,” the professor advised gravely, “for I feel actually ribald.”
“Oh, Zeusie No! You couldn’t! There’s nothing of that sort in you.” “Each of us has his unplumbed depths. And I—I have always had suspicions as to my real nature. To-night there seems to be an unaccountable impulse, a lightness, an—I know! I have always known. I am a satyr!”
He thrust back his chair and began capering awkwardly abou the table. After the second circling he stopped and faced his daughter.
“Think of it, Peg!” he exclaimed. “All of these years I have believed it was Zeus to whom I owed allegiance. But I have been wrong. It is Dionysus, god of revels, of wine, of the joy of living. Oh, for a maenad to join me in the dance!” and he started off again.
“The dear, ginnie, old innocent,” Peg whispered to Lewis. “I haven’t half appreciated Zeusie. Isn’t he great?”
She arose, caught her father and led him to his chair.
“Remember old Whetmore,” she cautioned.
“What’s a college more or less?” he demanded. “Musty holes! Life passes them by. No pep. What they need is a day each month devoted to the worship of Dionysus. Think of it! The students turned satyrs and maenads! Gamboling about the campus under a full moon! What a marvelous thing it would be!”
Peg was convulsed as she forced him into his chair. “As soon as you get back you must suggest that to the trustees,” she advised.
“Crabbed souls! Dreary lives they lead, manacled by their own righteousness.” He stopped and laughed heartily.
“Peg! Peg! If old Prexy Benton could see me now! It would be worth it, worth anything he might do, to give him one glimpse. And I would not care, if my friend here were at hand with his amphora of Nepenthe.
‘He who hath tasted the draught divine
Weeps not that day although his mother die.’
“Young man, twice you have—” He stopped in sudden confusion, glancing apprehensively at Peg.
“Not twice?” Lewis laughed quickly. “That one drink was plenty. What you want to do now is eat.”
“Yes, Zeusie, you’re getting too old to start this sort of thing,” his daughter added. “Let me help you to some of the stew.”
But Professor Littleton was not to be denied. He babbled ohdelightfully, beamed when he saw Peg and Lewis laughing, and managed somehow to stow away a large supper without interrupting his monologue.
But after the terrific ordeal of the afternoon, the cold and exhaustion, and then the whisky and the warm :oom and the food, he suddenly became very drowsy.
“Dionysus has forsaken me!” he wailed as he leaned back in his chair. “Morpheus has me in his toils. I’d like to help you with the dishes, Peg, but I cannot.”
“I’m glad of it!” she exclaimed. “You’ve disgraced yourself and Whetmore enough to-night.”
She spoke severely but winked at Lewis.
“I don’t care,” her father retorted. “I had a splendid time while it lasted. Did you notice there were occasions when I was positively brilliant?”
Peg went around the table, kissed him and helped him to his feet.
“The hay for you,” she said gently. “If you hadn’t started so late in life you might
last longer. But you did very well for a beginner.”
She helped him through the door to the third room of the cabin. Lewis, now that he was to be alone with Peg, had misgivings as to what she might say, but when she returned her eyes were bright and she laughed as she shut the door.
“Wasn’t he wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I only hope he doesn’t regret it too much in the morning.”
“I never imagined—I thought he needed it,” Lewis tried to explain.
“Nonsense! Nothing like that will ever hurt Zeusie. I’m glad you did. I think he was charming. If I could perform as well, I’d take to drink, too. But, listen! We mustn’t let him feel too badly tomorrow. Poor old dear! We’ll just pretend we didn’t notice a thing.”
A FTER he had established himself in another cabin and had gone to bed that night, Lewis came to the conclusion that the attitude Peg had suggested toward Professor Littleton’s mild Dionysiacal escapade might as well be his own toward this unaccountable pair.
Apparently he was not expected to find anything startling or mysterious in a classical scholar spending his sabbatical year grubbing in a worthless gold mine in the depths of the Northern Ontario wilderness. And he was expected to accept this equally astounding phenomena of a girl, city reared, driving herself to trapping even while she softened the cruelty of her chosen occupation with all the paindefeating devices of chloroform and snapped traps during the nocturnal hours.
Lewis had hoped, that, after the professor went to bed, there would be some sort of explanation but, while the girl was perfec ly natural, without embarrassment or subte fuge, she offered nothing which might explain the mystery.
“Let me help you with the dishes,” Lewis suggested.
“Hospitality should compel a refusal, I suppose,” Peg answered. “But after you’ve broken our bread, or, rather, chopped it up with us, there is no need for me to show unweaning pride. I’ll even turn old Blackie over to you.”
“Meaning which?” and Lewis’s glance swept the array of camp kettles and enamel ware.
“That!” pointing disdainfully at the iron frying pan. “He’s had so many names. A few I call him only when we’re alone together. He’s more loyal to food that’s cooked in him than any utensil I ever saw.”
“I have my methods of dealing with such virtues,” Lewis said as he carried the pan to the stove.
“What a wonderful man you are!” Peg laughed. “You can tame refractory kettles and assist me to ca ch Adonis.”
“And help you break out of jail if a game warden learns you’ve killed an otter,” he completed.
“Conceal my crime from Zeusie, too. He’s a dear but he fairly bristles with principles at times. I have them, too,” she added defensively, “only—Darn it! If Zeusie must do this thing we ought at eas to have—”
She had broken off suddenly and that, although they laughed and talked the remainder of the evening, was as far as Lewis got in discovering what might be this mysterious thing that Zeusie had to do. To make it the more baffling, he knew that the Princess, the Queen near by and several other enterprises in the district were worthless beyond a doubt. From a geologist he had encountered on his previous visit, he had learned that gold existed only in small pockets and that not a mine in the district had been successful. All had been abandoned ten years before.
It was inconceivable that this gentle Greek scholar was unaware of this. If Lewis had discovered him trying to make day wages with a hammer in scattered ledges he would have been only mildly surprised, although this uncertain form of
earning a livelihood had been given up by experts as hopeless. But to find him devoting his sabbatical year to boring through the stubborn Laurentian granite, trying single-handed to operate a mine in which skilled miners had thrown down their tools in disgust, defied any explanation he could devise.
There was, too, the scarcely concealed concern, almost terror, in Peg’s voice when he had announced his intention to visit the Princess. It was impossible to associate this pair with an unethical proceeding, and yet their failure to offer an explanation for a situation so unusual as to demand it was suspicious.
Peg had said her father bristled with principles, and Lewis believed it. The character displayed in that terrible experience underground was not compatible with moral laxity. After one evening, Lewis would have trusted him in anything.
It was as difficult to believe evil of the girl. Ingenuous, almost boyish in her trou ers and wool shirt, her cheeks rosy with the cold, her head a bobbed, fluffy mass of reddish brown, her spirit a happy, prevading radiance, she gave to that i olated cabin a charm, a suggestion of courage—infected it with her own gay buoyancy.
Lewis had encountered city-bred women whom life had marooned in the wilderness, and as he remembered their trying air of martyrdom he found himself warming anew at the thought of Peg and her gallant banter, of her half protective, half comradely manner with the professor. Even before he went to sleep that night he found his curiosity sinking into a new and co-operative interest in the strange mission of this pair.
It was nearly seven o’clock when he wakened the next morning. There was a light in the Littleton cabin, but when he went over he found the professor was still asleep.
“Those traps kept me awake,” Peg said when Lewis entered. “I’m going to look at them just as soon as it’s daylight.” “I suppose you want me to go along and help snare Adonis,” he suggested.
“No,” she replied instantly. “Adonis must wait. There’s something else I want you to do to-day—watch Zeusie.” “Watch him!” Lewis repeated in astonishment.
“Yes. Keep him out of that mine.”
“You must!” she insisted vehemently. “I know something happened. And if you had not come! I can’t bear to think— Zeusie down in that black hole!”
Lewis did not answer. It was the first indication she had given of the horrorfilled days the professor’s mining activities had given her. He suspected she knew more than she had indicated the previous evening but still he did not feel that he could betray Professor Littleton. He had virtually given his word in response to that gestural plea. As he stood there beside the kitchen stove, aware that Peg was watching him closely, they heard the Professor come out of his room. “Morning, Zeusie!” Peg called gaily.
He appeared at the kitchen door, smiling and with an exultant gleam in his eyes.
“Good morning,” he greeted them affably, and then, facing Peg, he continued with mock defiance: “Hold your tongue, young woman. I will not listen to you.”
“Why, dad! I haven’t a thing to say.” “That’s sensible, for I’m proud of it.” “Proud of what?”
“Do you mean,” he demanded incredulously, “that you did not perceive my— er, ah—my behavior last night?”
“You were just your own brilliant, delightful self.”
The professor, suddenly crestfallen, stared from his daughter to Lewis.
“I wakened with a distinct impression of having been particularly scintillating,” he said.
There was no mistaking his disappointment and impulsively Peg rushed forward and threw her arms around his neck.
“Poor old Zeusie!” she cried. “Wouldn’t anyone give him credit for being the champion rum hound of the Princess mine? Of course we noticed you. And I was so ashamed to have Lewis see you in that condition. I feel disgraced forever. There! That make you feel better?”
“Vastly,” he grinned. “It is amazing the misconceptions even a trained mind can gather. Of course, I had never given the matter serious thought, but I had always believed that drink was debasing, that it exposed bestial qualities.”
“It can’t expose something that isn’t there, old toper,” Peg laughed. “But if you’re trying to get on the good side of Lewis you’re wasting your time. He and I finished his only bottle after you went to sleep.”
“Margaret!” her father gasped, and then he saw the twinkle in her eyes. “All right, but, as we miners say, what are the chances for a'little provender?”
“You prove you’re an amateur, Zeusie,” she said. “You shouldn’t be able to look at food. Get ready and I’ll start the flapjacks.”
AS THEY ate breakfast, Lewis understood why Professor Littleton was so engaging the previous evening. There had been only an accentuation of a delightful personality, but most of all the young man was impressed by the relationship between father and daughter. He found it a beautiful thing, charming in its constant but subtle expression. Though of such diverse types, their understanding was as complete as their devotion and loyalty.
There was, too, a constant byplay between them, not frivolous but indicating a rare intimacy and an ability not only to add to the joy of life but to extract from trivial things their bits of enchantment.
Even when the meal was finished and Lewis suddenly became aware that a crisis impended, there was no change in the atmosphere. Peg began washing the dishes, with Lewis’s help, while Professor Littleton removed his house moccasins and put on a second pair of socks and leather-topped rubbers. When he had donned cap and mittens Peg gave Lewis a poke in the ribs with an elbow and nodded toward the door.
“I depend on you,” she whispered, and then called: “Oh, dad! Why don’t you show Lewis the mine?”
“I would be delighted to,” was the response. “There are—eh—several things I must do above ground this morning.”
Dawn had come and they went out together. It was very cold and their feet crunched harshly on the frozen snow.
“Have you ever been interested in mining?” Professor Littleton asked.
‘ No,” Lewis said; “though I stopped here seven years ago, and looked the place over. An abandoned mine is always interesting.”
“And often criminal,” the professor added with a touch of severity. “People invest their money and then are betrayed. This is a particularly glaring instance of it.”
In a flash Lewis understood. An unsuspecting professor in a small freshwater college had been induced years before to place his savings in the Princess. Now he was devoting his sabbatical year to a vain endeavor to recover what he had lost.
“It is most incomprehensible,” ProfessoLittleton continued. “An efficient plant was in operation. Then, without explanation, it was closed, abandoned. Tools were dropped wherever workmen happened to be. Nothing was cared for. No effort was made to safeguard the investment. Yet the gold íe here."
“You mean you have discovered a new vein, a pocket they overlooked?” Lewis asked incredulously.
“Not at all. The ore was there in the tunnel. They were in it when they ceased operations. I had only to resume where they left off.”
“But there must have been some reason.”
“What could it be when people have invested their money, often their life savings, with the expectation of getting at least a fair return? No, I have given that subject much thought and can find no excuse whatever for the men who conducted this enterprise.”
He spoke with such feeling Lewis forebore to press the matter. They were passing the mill and Professor Littleton stopped.
“Come in here,” he said, “and I will show you some of the things they did, and what it was necessary for me to do.”
He opened the door of the great, barnlike structure.
“See that!” he exclaimed. “Thousands of dollars’ worth of machinery and nothing done to preserve it. I was forced to spend weeks of valuable time on this alone.”
His indignation and excitement had increased and he led Lewis about the mill, pointing out various things he had done. The young man was astounded by the evidences of industry. The roof had been patched, broken windows boa ded over, machinery oiled and scraped and daubed with a coating of grease. In one place where the foundation had been undermined a rough job of masonry supported a corner of the building.
“Another year and there would have been nothing left,” the professor declared. “We arrived late in September and for two months I was forced to devote myself to salvage. It was only ten days ago that I could start work underground. I cannot understand why they did not leave someone to look after things.”
“There was a watchman here nine years ago,” Lewis told him. “I heard of his complaining that he was not getting his pay. He finally left.”
“Evidently. It is ten years now since the mine was abandoned.”
He led Lewis to other buildings, pointing out the work he had done. His pride in it was touching, for he was blind to the defects of his own accomplishment. His efforts at repair were those of a ten-yearold boy and many of the things he had attempted were unnecessary, or too late.
But most of all Lewis was impressed by his courage. Without any experience to prepare him for such a task, he had come into the wilderness and tackled a job before which an experienced miner might well have quailed. And evidently that courage was to be rewarded for, if he had the ore, the apparatus to treat it was at hand. It seemed that the long-lost savings were to be regained.
Here, however, Lewis had a misgiving. He remembered how Peg had asked if he owned stock in the mine and wondered if Professor Littleton, by some ethical legerdemain, had convinced himself that he was justified in taking what he could from the wreck of the Princess.
“And now,” the Greek scholar broke in upon his thoughts, “I will show you the proof of my contention that there was something criminal in the handling of this property.”
He opened the door of the building over the shaft, from which Lewis had led him the previous evening. Piled high on one side were broken pieces of rock.
“Look!” the professor exlaimed. “The result of one man’s effort in only ten days! And the quality of it! See for yourself! Pick out a piece at random and examine it.”
His excitement was intense now and as he talked he lifted a piece as big as his two mittened fists and handed it to Lewis. Then, as Lewis examined it, he stood watching, eager and delighted as a child.
With his first glance, Lewis’s heart sank. The rock glistened with particles of a brass-yellow color and a metallic lustre. Gold it seemed, quantities of it,
and gold this gentle, eager soul believed it to be. Yet Lewis knew instantly it was only iron pyrites—worthless, fools’ gold.
“Isn’t that marvelous?” the professor demanded excitedly. “And there is so much of it down there. Every bit I’ve brought up is exactly like that. The drift must run right with the vein.”
Lewis tossed the rock back to the pile. Somehow, he could not bring himself to dash the hopes of this gentle, delightful old man.
“Have you had it assayed?” he asked.
“Why should I? A tyro can see it.”
“But you could tell how much it will run to the ton.”
“Merely looking at that would convince one it would produce several hundred dollars. And to think they abandoned a thing like that! The only explanation of which I can conceive is that the superintendent, someone in authority, made false reports, hoped to have the mine abandoned and then intended to come back after it was forgotten.”
“But he would have come long before this,” Lewis protested, glad of any subject that would permit him to evade the real issue.
“Conjectures are useless, and beside the question,” the professor affirmed. “The point is, I have proved the existence of gold in paying quantities and I have the remainder of the winter in which to get out the ore. Then, in the spring, with warm weather, this can be run through the mill and the gold extracted.”
It was the chance for which Lewis had hoped when they left the cabin that morning.
“You surely do not intend to continue work in that drift?” he asked.
“But I must. The ore is there. It must come out.”
“You were very lucky yesterday. It is hardly fair to your daughter. If anything should happen. Besides, she knows there was an accident of some sort. You didn’t fool he'.”
“But I must go on. There is nothing else. No one understands that better than Peg. She would never think of asking me to stop. She knows I can’t. She—”
Professor Littleton hesitated. His distress was most evident and yet there was no doubting his determination. The last, a simóle, blind force, would have been unreasonable stubbornness in others. In this ingenuous old man it was only clear courage. Lewis recognized that but one thing would keep him above ground, and that the instrument lay in his hands. Yet he could not bring himself to use it, believed that he might ease the blow if he talked it over first with Peg.
“You had better stay on top to-day in any event,” he suggested. “That was quite an ordeal yesterday and a rest won’t do any harm.”
“I had intended to,” the Professor agreed readily. “And I’ll talk it over with Peg, too. She understands. There are some things that must be done.”
They started back to the cabin together, Professor Littleton turning again to the gold he believed he had found arid talking with growing excitement. Lewis, following -in the narrow trail, wondered if he had the strength to shatter the dream, to bring this eager, confident creature to a realization of how futile his eve'y effort had been.
“Hello!” Professor Littleton exclaimed as he stopped suddenly. “Another visitor. And for months we haven’t seen a white man.”
Lewis looked up to see a fi rcely bewhiskered little man standing in front of the cabin. Evidently he had just arrived, for he wore snowshoes and the traces of a small toboggan still hung from his shoulders.
Lewis believed he saw truculence in the set of the stranger’s shoulders and the way he held his head. At least there was an impression of resentment, but Professor Littleton was unaware of it.
“Perhaps he is a miner!” he whispered excitedly as he turned to Lewis. “A prospector! I can’t understand why there are not more of them in a district in which there is gold.”
He turned and hurried on, eager to greet the stranger.
To be Continued