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by Harold Titus
Author of "An Event."

IT WAS no fight. Neither—knowing "Baldy" Brown—was it the sickening triumph of a bully. It was just a natural reaction, only the inevitable boiling-over of that spirit which was once so typical but which is now ebbing so rapidly from Michigan lumbercamps: the popping of a safety-valve, which resulted in bruised faces and battered bodies, minor results compared to what might have happened had there been no outlet before the emotion gained that strength at which it would burst all bonds.

He went from one end of the bunk-house to the other, roaring as a storm, flinging his thick arms with the vigor of drive-rods, demolishing with a final swing the crude chair that had put three of them flat; kicking, clutching, striking, swearing. And they scurried from him, those Slavs. Not one of them wanted to stand, so those who were bruised and beaten were only the ones who tarried too long in his path.

Such men could give no battle to Baldy Brown, with his six foot three and his two hundred ten—all lithe, pliable muscle on sturdy bone—and his woods training. A blow, sometimes two, at the most three, sufficed; they were whipped in a breath. And he roared his way onward, daring them to stand.

So, I repeat, it was no fight.

They were foreigners, and the first of their kind with whom Baldy Brown had ever been forced to work. Up there on the south shore European labor was making its initial appearance in lumber-camps, marking the final passing of that swashbuckling clan which lent romance to the devastation of forests. And Baldy, one of the last of his kind, could not bear it.

He had stood much in his time; stood the coming of a milder breed of bosses, the going on of scores of companions, the arrival of a less stanch army of native stock. But when they put him to bunk and eat and work with foreigners who would not do a man's work and who could not make a man's fight—well, something had to break! For in the woods a man's capacity for manual accomplishment and blow-for-blow conflict is the measure of his value to the race; and wo to him who shirks!

These men shirked and on them Baldy Brown, accepted over a hundred-mile radius as a true woodsman, had breathed his damning judgment.

"Th' furriners!" he'd mutter under his breath. "Th' low-down furriners!" Failing in his classification to remember that he had toiled and brawled side by side with French and Scotch in his hey-days. "They ain't a man among 'em! Furriners!"

Then the limit; and unprovoked by word or look he bellowed his warning and charged through them, vision red, finding relief in the way he knew. From the tortured soul of one man comes a great symphony; from another, a master poem or picture; when Baldy Brown's innermost being writhed there could be no relief other then his knotted fists meeting flesh.

Knowing him, then, the affair could not be characterized by the spirit of the bully.

And when he had gone from the farthest shadow clear down to the door at the other end of the building, Brown turned and looked back. From their bunks the half-dozen other old-timers laughed indulgently at the astounded men of another race-strain who cowered from the storm turned on them.

"Furriners!" yelled Baldy Brown in a voice choked with honest rage. "Furriners! Ain't they a man among yez? Won't one o' yez please stand up an' hit me, so I can kill him?"

He took a half-dozen steps toward them again and those nearest him stirred, as if to retreat.

"Yeah!" he scoffed, and stopped. "Furriners!"

Then he wheeled, opened the door and slammed it behind him, going into the night.

IT WAS a haggard, bruised Baldy Brown who three weeks later awoke sober in Cheboygan. He had warped memories of a dozen fights in as many towns; of nights passed in different camps where the presence of alien labor always drove him on to another trip by rail or rutted road until he came to himself, broke, shaken, in the lower peninsula, with Winter at its worst.

But Winter at its worst really meant at its best, for logging was on and men like Baldy Brown—known by the set of their jaws and the swing of their shoulders to every camp-boss in the Great Lakes country—are always in demand. He hired out in a saloon, got a drink and a ticket, and climbed into the smoker of the dingy accommodation-train which was to worry its way westward through the drifts.

Of the man who bought his services Brown asked but one question, and asked it seriously, weightily, confidentially. And the other, sizing the big chap up, laughed and said hurriedly:

"Furriners? Aw, th' crew's all white."

That much settled, Baldy was content to sleep and wait until the conductor ordered him off.

It was noon and thawing a bit when he stepped out into the snow and struck up the road to which he was directed. His heart was light, for behind he was leaving bad memories. He had little idea of what might await him in this camp on Loon Lake, but camps are all much alike and he reveled in the memory of the assurance given him that the crew was white. Such was sufficient to warm his soul.

"Here comes a jack," growled the cook to the cookee as he saw Brown swing into camp just before dusk. "You can tell 'em far's you can see," he added a bit grimly. For he was an old cook and, too, cherished memories of the men who were worthy of the grub he set out.

Baldy sniffed deeply the tainted air of the bunks as he shoved open the door and stepped into the room. A bit of a sentimentalist was this big-chested son of the timber lands, and the odors were good to his nostrils. He was glad to be back. He had had his drunk; work was before him and in the facts he took the joy of the lumberjack. Also, the crew was of white men, his breed. It was like a home-coming.

And the disappointment was doubled when the crew came in. He heard and detected a difference in their voices before the door opened. He knew they spoke a foreign tongue and for the instant before rage came, the men felt sick at heart.

But he held his peace and kept the disgust to himself. Something of a fatalist, perhaps, was in him. Anyhow, he held his gaze to his plate at supper, went to his bunk from the table and, putting his face close to the log wall, muttered contemptuously as sleep came:

"Furriners! They ain't—white!"

BALDY, for reasons unknown to himself, tried to forget the situation. The boss put him top-loading and he labored lustily throughout the day, thinking of the near future when his muscles would be right again and he could hit the old killing pace. It was good to be at work, handling tackle, seeing things move, in spite of the fact that the old energy which used to accomplish the big things in loggingcamps was not in evidence.

At night he was silent again, and again under blankets before the whole crew had finished eating. He was facing the inevitable, he began to understand. Foreigners had come to stay, were penetrating every corner of the woods. It made him restless, with a species of homesickness, and the realization took from him for the moment that lust to break and maim, made him gentler in a morose sort of way. Incentive to fight comes only with having men to whip.

Baldy followed the bent of old customs, established when bosses did not drive men in lumber-camps but busied themselves in search of tasks for the work-gluttons who toiled in the crews. The same condition that had made him revolt up there in the Superior country prevailed here. The crew lagged, had to be pushed from start to quitting time. Not a man of them took pride in his work; not a stroke was made in healthy competition; their final object was to remain on the pay-roll.

But Brown's example went for nothing. A handful of younger natives saw and admitted his prowess in a listless sort of way. That hurt him, but not with the sting engendered by the utter indifference of the Poles who made up the bulk of the crew.

Worse than the failure to inspire effort in those about him was the fact that their slovenly progress made it impossible for the big fellow to maintain his regular pace. Teamsters were slow, others bungled. He could work like the furies for thirty minutes, perhaps, then wait for something to do. It was exasperating, indeed!

"They won't fight; they won't work! They ain't men!" he muttered over and over.

He'd have laughed, then, had any one told him that perhaps down in those men was the spark waiting to be touched and bring out their vigor. That would have been beyond his comprehension. He could see things only in his way—which is a fault of many big men.

One little Pole, a teamster, was a particular irritant to Baldy Brown. He was small, he was quiet, he was timid and slow, and could not stand the cold.

"Yez can't even raise hair on yer face!" Brown cried the first time his temper rose above control, and flung a scornful gesture at the diminutive teamster whose thin, blood mustache held two tiny icicles.

And so malevolent was his glaring that the Slav winced as from a blow and looked over his shoulder with concern as he drove away.

From then on Baldy's outbursts were frequent, and with each tirade the evident fear of the Poles mounted. The situation became almost like that of a wolf threatening sheep—the way they drew together and listened mutely while he swore and threatened.

"Yez ain't men!" he would chant. "They ain't a day's work or a fight in yez! Yez ain't men!"

The little teamster with the puny mustache was a particular mark for Brown's abuse. They laced one another at table and the big top-loader glared such hate that the other was frightened out of eating: they met in the bunk-house and Baldy raided both hands slowly as if to crush the Pole with his bodily weight, but stopped the movement with a taunting laugh as the little chap slunk away.

Yes, it was bullying then. Not the bullying of one man, not the singling out of him because he was small. But because he typified, to Brown, all that was disgusting about his kind and because the spleen which grew in the lumber-jack there among the men from across salt water must find a vent. "Furriners, yez!" he shouted from his bunk one night and shut a sudden silence on the room. "No grit an' no work in yez! Yez can't learn nothin'—can't learn to work! Furriners!"

Then he flopped back into the shadows and tossed through a short night.

THEY awoke to a forty-below morning, with the buildings and trees and very dry air snapping and booming in complaint, while the long, ripping screeches of the frozen lake gave stronger effect to the symphony of extreme temperature. But Baldy Brown's temper was not chilled. It glared at white heat and as he hung low over his plate at breakfast a malicious gaze roved up and down the row of faces before him, while his fingers clenched with a vicious grip the handle of his knife.

Just the sounds of feeding. Not a spoken word, as is the rule at camp meals. So it was more than astonishing when he sprang to his feet, rested both hands on the edge of the table, leaned far forward and, measuring the words to let them sink in, bellowed:

"Yez can't work, yez can't fight, yez can't learn! Ain't they a furriner among yez who'll fight me—wit' five more to help him?" He shook his fist at the little teamster. "Ain't they twenty? I'll bust yer heads for yez, I'll do that! An' I'll thank yez fer tryin' to kill me!

"Naw—they ain't furriners enough in th world to jump a white man! Yez don't know how—an' yez can't lean—nothin!

And of course, after that outburst there was only one thing to do. With his check in his pocket Baldy sat by the bunk-house stove and waited for daylight, muttering to himself and moving his big feet restlessly.

"It's hard," he told the cook as he buttoned his mackinaw and started for the door. "A man can't find a camp where he can do a day's work. I don't want to quit but what you goin' to do? Huh? Furriners!

"A man can't find a camp where it's fit to live!" he flung over his shoulder as he set out into the tingling morning, off through the strip of timber to the edge of the lake where the road crossed a mile-wide arm on fifteen inches of ice.

Baldy's heart was heavy as he went along, swinging his arms now and then to keep the blood going. He did not mind forty below; that was a part of his life. But for the first time in his experience he was knowing sorrow; not because he was out of a job and headed nowhere, for that, too, was part of his life, but because, for all he knew, there was not a camp between him and Superior where he could find a crew of natives. And if he could not find a camp, where was he to go? He felt evicted.

The sensations he experienced kept his eyes on the snow before him so he did not see the gray team approaching across the level lake surface when he stepped out of the timber. He was wondering what he would do when he had covered the dozen miles to the railroad station. And after arriving at the conclusion that he had not a plan to his name, his gaze went up, out across the white lake canopied by the fog of frost particles through which the sunlight struggled. He saw the grays, then; and saw the driver walking beside them to keep from freezing. His step faltered and the fingers within the thick mitten clenched. For it was the one gray team of the camp and the teamster was the little Pole!

"Th' furriner!" he said aloud and quickened his pace—just to take one good parting paste at the little man.

It was much too cold for riding, so the Pole had dropped from his load and trudged beside the sleigh. The grays strained against the friction that frost makes when two thousand feet of hardwood bear down on the runners, and their progress was slow. Still, in his heavy clothing, it was an effort for the walker to keep up.

The team gave him no concern. They would obey at a word. But after every few steps his eyes sought a rope which was flung over the top of the load and ran down to the pole. That was the trip-rope to his gooseneck. A gooseneck is a contrivance to which the eveners are attached; a jerk from the rope will release it and set the horses free. It is an essential where heavy hauls are made across ice, for even the best ice will fail at times, logs settle deep into the water and unless the horses are freed they will be dragged to a drowning with a rapidity that is horrible.

THE Pole had felt uncomfortable about that trip-rope ever since the grays settled to the pull across the lake; perhaps it was premonition. But even had the hemp been in his hands it might have availed no tiling, because the load went through without so much as a crackle of warning, his footing tilted sharply and he was flung heavily to his side, then doused as water sloshed over the broken ice cakes.

The horses grunted and scrambled for footing, but all the power they could bring to bear was as a whiff of nothing against the tug from behind and they went backward and down, snorting with fear.

From afar Baldy Brown saw the load settle and knew what it meant. His malicious motive was forgotten with the same abruptness that his feet took up the motions of running. For horses were through the ice and it needed a man to get them out! As he ran he felt the hot scorn for foreigners well up. A man should be with that team!

But his scornful expletives ceased and he muttered astonishment at what he saw. He could not hear the Pole's cry of fright as the ice gave and put him off his balance. But he did see the little fellow roll over, drag a leg from the grip two blocks of ice had clamped on it, stumble to his feet and pitch forward again as the settling load careened and set his footing heaving. That time he went into water! Water that smoked when the shriveling air met it! And Baldy Brown felt a shiver shoot through him as he ran, thinking not of the teamster, but of how water would feel on human flesh—at forty below!

Again the little Pole found footing and, clothing already beginning to stiffen, sought his balance. The team was down, struggling vainly to keep noses above the broken ice which floated, ready to congeal, about them. To trip that gooseneck! Such was the only way out.

And lo, as he poised to spring for the submerged load and grasp the rope which still dangled over the topmost log, he saw the line snatched from sight and jerked below the surface as a threshing horse's leg tangled with it below. His team was fast and the trip-rope gone; his hands were already freezing in their soaked gloves.

He cried out in his native tongue and looked wildly about. A man was running toward him, but the man was two hundred yards away, in heavy clothing and making it over snow dry as salt, where feet could get no fair hold. The horses would perish before that help came.

The man shook his numbed hands free from the stiff gloves and tore open his jacket. Then, stooped over on his insecure footing, he hesitated an instant before jumping.

Breath whistled from him as his body plunged into that water, but he did not falter. With one senseless hand stuck stiffly into the crevice between two logs he thrust the other deep down and groped for that rope; he worked his legs about in the hope they might catch a loop of the line; he twisted and turned, fighting off the killing chill as the seconds sped, sobbing to himself. His head went under water and ice formed in his hair when it came above the face. He cried aloud—and the arm that had tried to keep him safe lost its hold. He sank down, close to the churning heels of the grays; then came up battling. In the crook of an elbow he clutched the trip-rope!

"Hold on, yez!" he heard a man cry and saw a figure flounder over the ice to the load. "Hold yer rope — an' I'll get yez all!"

Fingers fastened in the neck of his sweater and his body was jerked to the submerged logs with a vigor of lift that was almost superhuman. Then the exquisite torture of frost began.

Big Baldy Brown got the little chap to solid ice somehow—he never quite remembered—and dropped him there. Then he yanked lustily at the rope for which the Slav had gone into that ice water.

The horses renewed their threshing as the tugs went slack and chunks of ice slid from their hind quarters as they came close to the surface.

"Choke heem, choke heem!" a thin voice begged in his ear as Baldy reached for the grays' heads from firm footing, and he roared back—

"Choke th' off one if yez con; I'm gettin' this one!"

He tore a line free, breaking the stout leather with what seemed like a half motion, looped the strap about the animal's throat and shut down on his windpipe. He held the throttling bond there with one hand and turned on his side to help with the other, heedless even of the strain the frenzied horse put against him.

The Pole moved stiffly, as if his parts were of lead. He dragged himself close to Baldy and reached out frightened hands for the head of the free horse.

"Look out, yez—you'll fall in agin!" the woodsman growled.

Then together, the one arm of Brown working with the two all-but-useless ones of the little Pole—they brought another rein to bear about that other animal's throat. Baldy put die power of his body on the straps.

They did not know the physics of the operation. But they knew that to cut off the breathing of the animals would set their bodies floating high and that they could be easily pulled to solid ice. Slowly the animals choked down and their bodies rose to the surface.

When the other team came up with horses on a run and driver swearing his encouragement from afar Baldy was speechless from the cold and the Pole lay motionless, encased in ice. And by the time the second horse had been pulled from die hole, he had helped make, to lie breathing in sobs after the choking that had saved his life, Baldy could utter words only at the cost of an immense effort. He finally said—

"Get this—furriner to—camp—quick!"

They took them both on the same sleigh, ministering as they made the short trip. The cook, who was wise in the ways of frost, turned Baldy over to others hurriedly. When he looked at the Pole he told the camp-boss to telephone for a doctor.

And the cook was looking on late that afternoon when Baldy got out of his bunk and made his way to where the little teamster moaned.

"'S all right, Jack!" he heard the big chap say. "'S all right! Nine men out o' six 'uld 'a' quit them horses. But you didn't; an' you'll get well an' you 'n' me'll show these——furriners what men is!"