When Walter parted from Hal at Speckled Brook he quickened his pace to make up for lost time. Presently he came in sight of the Durant camp. Pat Malone, whose official capacity at the camp was that of " chore boy," was on his way to the spring with a couple of empty pails. His usual good-natured grin lighted his face at Walter's approach.
" Oi'd begun t' think ye was afther fergit-tin' ye had an ingagement wid yer frind av th' woods," he called.
" Hello, Pat! Sorry I'm late," replied Walter, offering to carry one of the pails.
Pat waved him aside. " Shure, wud ye be takin' th' bread an' butter out av the mouth av a poor worrkin' man ?" he demanded. " Tis me job fer which Oi draws me pay, an' now Oi've lost me market fer fish Oi'm thinkin' Oi'd best be shure av me shtupend-ous sal'ry."
He picked up the pails brimming with cold spring water and started for the rear of the main cabin, whence the voice of " Cookie " could be heard commanding him to hurry, and heaping anathemas upon him for a lazy, good-for-nothing ne'er-do-well.
Pat winked. " Dogs that bark be afther havin' poor teeth," said he. " Oi'll be wid ye in a minute."
He was as good as his word, and was soon ready to play the host. Walter found the camp similar in arrangement to Wroodcraft. It lacked the refinements of the latter, but was snug and comfortable, exactly adapted to the needs of the rough men to whom it was " home " the greater part of the year. When they had thoroughly inspected the cabins, stable and shop Pat suggested that they visit the present " cutting." This Walter was most anxious to do, for he had never witnessed actual logging operations.
The trail was rough but well built, for upon the character of the trail depends much of the lumberman's success in getting his logs to the water. A poorly built trail means costly waste of time, energy and strength of man and beast when the time comes for getting the cut down to the driving point. Wherever the trail dipped to low or swampy ground logs had been laid with their sides touching one another. This is called a corduroy road, and is the only practical and effective method of preventing horses and wagons miring in low, swampy ground. Such a trail is rough traveling in dry weather, but when the heavy snows of winter have covered it and have been packed down and iced it forms an ideal slide for the lumber bobs with their huge loads of logs.
The trail gradually led up the lower slopes of Old Scraggy, and some two miles from the camp the boys came upon one of the crews at work. The crash of falling trees, the rasp of saws, the sharp ringing blows of axes biting into hard wood, the shouting of rough voices and now and then a snatch of rude song proclaimed that the work of destruction was in full blast.
The scene was one of intense interest to the city boy, and quite upset his preconceived ideas of how trees are felled. " Why, I thought they chopped trees down !" he exclaimed.
" Not whin they've a good saw an' two good byes fer th' inds av it," said Pat.
They walked over to where a couple of saw men were preparing to cut a great pine. There was a fascination in watching the huge cross-cut saw with its double hand grasp at each end eat its way into the trunk of the great tree, the two men swaying back and forth in perfect rhythm, broken only when it became necessary to drive in the wedges that kept the saw from binding and that would eventually send the tree crashing down on the exact spot that they had picked out for it.
Soon there came the warning snap of breaking fibers, the great tree swayed slightly, leaned ever so little and then, as with a shout for all hands to stand clear the saw men sprang back, it slowly and majestically swung forward until, gathering speed, it fell with a mighty crash, carrying down several small trees that stood in its path, and shivering its upper branches as it struck the earth.
It seemed to Walter as if it had hardly struck before the axemen were upon it, their great double edged axes flashing in the sun as they stripped off branch and stub until in an incredibly short time it lay shorn of its glory, a huge bare pole fit to be the mast of one of the Yankee clippers that were once the pride of ,the American marine.
But no such honor awaited it. Another team of sawyers attacked it at once, cutting it into mill lengths. Then came " Jim." Jim, so Pat proudly claimed, was " some boss." Clanking at his heels was a stout chain ending in a sharp heavy hook. This was driven into one end of one of the logs and then at a word from his master—one could hardly say driver, for there were no reins—the big horse set his neck into his collar and guided solely by the " gee " and " haw " of shouted command dragged his burden down to the skid way where the logs were piled to await the coming of snow. It was wonderful to see with what intelligence the horse picked his way through the tangled brush, and it was equally wonderful to see the lumber-jacks at the skidway catch the great log with their peaveys and roll it up to the very top of the huge pile already on the skids.
A rough lot, these lumbermen, of many nationalities, English, Irish, Scotch, French "canucks," a half-breed or two, and some who boasted that they were pure 4i Yank." They were rough in looks and rough of speech, ready to fight at the drop of a hat, but warmhearted, loyal to a fault to their employers, ever ready for work or frolic. Rough indeed, but theirs is a rough life. They took a kindly interest in Walter, explaining the many things he found so strange, and it was with real regret that he finally took the back trail.
And it was with something of sadness too, for he was a true lover of nature and there was something tragic in the crashing of those great trees and the despoiling of the great forest.
But Pat left him little time for thoughts of this kind. Producing a bag of the famous cookies of which Walter had once had a sample through the agency of Chip Harley, Pat kept up a running fire of comment on his camp mates, while they munched the crisp brown wafers.