"Guess it was the clothes again," said Kinney, as he began to wash his tins and dishes after the dinner was over, and the men had gone back to their work. "I could see 'em eyin' you over when they first came in, and I could see that they didn't exactly like the looks of 'em. It would wear off in time, but it takes time for it to wear off; and it had to go pretty rusty for a start-off. Well, I don't know as it makes much difference to you, does it?"
"Oh, I thought we got along very well," said Bartley, with a careless yawn. "There wasn't much chance to get acquainted." Some of the loggers were as handsome and well-made as he, and were of as good origin and traditions, though he had some advantages of training. But his two-button cutaway, his well-fitting trousers, his scarf with a pin in it, had been too much for these young fellows in their long 'stoga boots and flannel shirts. They looked at him askance, and despatched their meal with more than their wonted swiftness, and were off again into the woods without any demonstrations of satisfaction in Bartley's presence.
He had perceived their grudge, for he had felt it in his time. But it did not displease him; he had none of the pain with which Kinney, who had so long bragged of him to the loggers, saw that his guest was a failure.
"I guess they'll come out all right in the end," he said. In this warm atmosphere, after the gross and heavy dinner he had eaten, he yawned again and again. He folded his overcoat into a pillow for his bench and lay down, and lazily watched Kinney about his work. Presently he saw Kinney seated on a block of wood beside the stove, with his elbow propped in one hand, and holding a magazine, out of which he was reading; he wore spectacles, which gave him a fresh and interesting touch of grotesqueness. Bartley found that an empty barrel had been placed on each side of him, evidently to keep him from rolling off his bench.
"Hello!" he said. "Much obliged to you, Kinney. I haven't been taken such good care of since I can remember. Been asleep, haven't I?"
"About an hour," said Kinney, with a glance at the clock, and ignoring his agency in Bartley's comfort.
"Food for the brain!" said Bartley, sitting up. "I should think so. I've dreamt a perfect New American Cyclopaedia, and a pronouncing gazetteer thrown in."
"Is that so?" said Kinney, as if pleased with the suggestive character of his cookery, now established by eminent experiment.
Bartley yawned a yawn of satisfied sleepiness, and rubbed his hand over his face. "I suppose," he said, "if I'm going to write anything about Camp Kinney, I had better see all there is to see."
"Well, yes, I presume you had," said Kinney. "We'll go over to where they're cuttin', pretty soon, and you can see all there is in an hour. But I presume you'll want to see it so as to ring in some description, hey? Well, that's all right. But what you going to do with it, when you've done it, now you're out of the Free Press?"
"Oh, I shouldn't have printed it in the Free Press, anyway Coals to Newcastle, you know. I'll tell you what I think I'll do, Kinney: I'll get my outlines, and then you post me with a lot of facts,—queer characters, accidents, romantic incidents, snowings-up, threatened starvation, adventures with wild animals,—and I can make something worth while; get out two or three columns, so they can print it in their Sunday edition. And then I'll take it up to Boston with me, and seek my fortune with it."
"Well, sir, I'll do it," said Kinney, fired with the poetry of the idea. "I'll post you! Dumn 'f I don't wish I could write! Well, I did use to scribble once for an agricultural paper; but I don't call that writin'. I've set down, well, I guess as much as sixty times, to try to write out what I know about loggin'—"
"Hold on!" cried Bartley, whipping out his notebook. "That's first-rate.
That'll do for the first line in the head,—What I Know About
Logging,—large caps. Well!"
Kinney shut his magazine, and took his knee between his hands, closing one of his eyes in order to sharpen his recollection. He poured forth a stream of reminiscence, mingled observation, and personal experience. Bartley followed him with his pencil, jotting down points, striking in sub-head lines, and now and then interrupting him with cries of "Good!" "Capital!" "It's a perfect mine,—it's a mint! By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I'll make six columns of this! I'll offer it to one of the magazines, and it'll come out illustrated! Go on, Kinney."
"Hark!" said Kinney, craning his neck forward to listen. "I thought I heard sleigh-bells. But I guess it wa'n't. Well, sir, as I was sayin', they fetched that fellow into camp with both feet frozen to the knees—Dumn 'f it wa'n't bells!"
He unlimbered himself, and hurried to the door at the other end of the cabin, which he opened, letting in a clear block of the afternoon sunshine, and a gush of sleigh-bell music, shot with men's voices, and the cries and laughter of women.
"Well, sir," said Kinney, coming back and making haste to roll down his sleeves and put on his coat. "Here's a nuisance! A whole party of folks—two sleigh-loads—right on us. I don't know who they be, or where they're from. But I know where I wish they was. Well, of course, it's natural they should want to see a loggin'-camp," added Kinney, taking himself to task for his inhospitable mind, "and there ain't any harm in it. But I wish they'd give a fellow a little notice!"
The voices and bells drew nearer, but Kinney seemed resolved to observe the decorum of not going to the door till some one knocked.
"Kinney! Kinney! Hello, Kinney!" shouted a man's voice, as the bells hushed before the door, and broke into a musical clash when one of the horses tossed his head.
"Well, sir," said Kinney, rising, "I guess it's old Willett himself. He's the owner; lives up to Portland, and been threatening to come down here all winter, with a party of friends. You just stay still," he added; and he paid himself the deference which every true American owes himself in his dealings with his employer: he went to the door very deliberately, and made no haste on account of the repeated cries of "Kinney! Kinney!" in which others of the party outside now joined.
When he opened the door again, the first voice saluted him with a roar of laughter. "Why, Kinney, I began to think you were dead!"
"No, sir," Bartley heard Kinney reply, "it takes more to kill me than you suppose." But now he stepped outside, and the talk became unintelligible.
Finally Bartley heard what was imaginably Mr. Willett's voice saying, "Well, let's go in and have a look at it now"; and with much outcry and laughter the ladies were invisibly helped to dismount, and presently the whole party came stamping and rustling in.
Bartley's blood tingled. He liked this, and he stood quite self-possessed, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets and his elbows dropped, while Mr. Willett advanced in a friendly way.
"Ah, Mr. Hubbard! Kinney told us you were in here, and asked me to introduce myself while he looked after the horses. My name's Willett. These are my daughters; this is Mrs. Macallister, of Montreal; Mrs. Witherby, of Boston; Miss Witherby, and Mr. Witherby. You ought to know each other; Mr. Hubbard is the editor of the Equity Free Press. Mr. Witherby, of The Boston Events, Mr. Hubbard. Oh, and Mr. Macallister."
Bartley bowed to the Willett and Witherby ladies, and shook hands with Mr. Witherby, a large, solemn man, with a purse-mouth and tight rings of white hair, who treated him with the pomp inevitable to the owner of a city newspaper in meeting a country editor.
At the mention of his name, Mr. Macallister, a slight little straight man, in a long ulster and a sealskin cap, tiddled farcically forward on his toes, and, giving Bartley his hand, said, "Ah, haow d'e-do, haow d'e-do!"
Mrs. Macallister fixed upon him the eye of the flirt who knows her man. She was of the dark-eyed English type; her eyes were very large and full, and her smooth black hair was drawn flatly backward, and fastened in a knot just under her dashing fur cap. She wore a fur sack, and she was equipped against the cold as exquisitely as her Southern sisters defend themselves from the summer. Bits of warm color, in ribbon and scarf, flashed out here and there; when she flung open her sack, she showed herself much more lavishly buttoned and bugled and bangled than the Americans. She sat clown on the movable bench which Bartley had vacated, and crossed her feet, very small and saucy, even in their arctics, on a stick of fire-wood, and cast up her neat profile, and rapidly made eyes at every part of the interior. "Why, it's delicious, you know. I never saw anything so comfortable. I want to spend the rest of me life here, you know." She spoke very far down in her throat, and with a rising inflection in each sentence. "I'm going to have a quarrel with you, Mr. Willett, for not telling me what a delightful surprise you had for us here. Oh, but I'd no idea of it, I assure you!"
"Well, I'm glad you like it, Mrs. Macallister," said Mr. Willett, with the clumsiness of American middle-age when summoned to say something gallant. "If I'd told you what a surprise I had for you, it wouldn't have been one."
"Oh, it's no good your trying to get out of it that way," retorted the beauty. "There he comes now! I'm really in love with him, you know," she said, as Kinney opened the door and came hulking forward.
Nobody said anything at once, but Bartley laughed finally, and ventured,
"Well, I'll propose for you to Kinney."
"Oh, I dare say!" cried the beauty, with a lively effort of wit. "Mr.
Kinney, I have fallen in love with your camp, d' ye know?" she added, as
Kinney drew near, "and I'm beggin' Mr. Willett to let me come and live here
"Well, ma'am," said Kinney, a little abashed at this proposition, "you couldn't do a better thing for your health, I guess."
The proprietor of The Boston Events turned about, and began to look over the arrangements of the interior; the other ladies went with him, conversing, in low tones. "These must be the places where the men sleep," they said, gazing at the bunks.
"We must get Kinney to explain things to us," said Mr. Willett a little restlessly.
Mrs. Macallister jumped briskly to her feet. "Oh, yes, do, Mr. Willett, make him explain everything! I've been tryin' to coax it out of him, but he's such a tease!"
Kinney looked very sheepish in this character, and Mrs. Macallister hooked Bartley to her side for the tour of the interior. "I can't let you away from me, Mr. Hubbard; your friend's so satirical, I'm afraid of him. Only fancy, Mr. Willett! He's been talkin' to me about brain foods! I know he's makin' fun of me; and it isn't kind, is it, Mr. Hubbard?"
She did not give the least notice to the things that the others looked at, or to Kinney's modest lecture upon the manners and customs of the loggers. She kept a little apart with Bartley, and plied him with bravadoes, with pouts, with little cries of suspense. In the midst of this he heard Mr. Willett saying, "You ought to get some one to come and write about this for your paper, Witherby." But Mrs. Macallister was also saying something, with a significant turn of her floating eyes, and the thing that concerned Bartley, if he were to make his way among the newspapers in Boston, slipped from his grasp like the idea which we try to seize in a dream. She made sure of him for the drive to the place which they visited to see the men felling the trees, by inviting him to a seat at her side in the sleigh; this crowded the others, but she insisted, and they all gave way, as people must, to the caprices of a pretty woman. Her coquetries united British wilfulness to American nonchalance, and seemed to have been graduated to the appreciation of garrison and St. Lawrence River steamboat and watering-place society. The Willett ladies had already found it necessary to explain to the Witherby ladies that they had met her the summer before at the sea-side, and that she had stopped at Portland on her way to England; they did not know her very well, but some friends of theirs did; and their father had asked her to come with them to the camp. They added that the Canadian ladies seemed to expect the gentlemen to be a great deal more attentive than ours were. They had known as little what to do with Mr. Macallister's small-talk and compliments as his wife's audacities, but they did not view Bartley's responsiveness with pleasure. If Mrs. Macallister's arts were not subtle, as Bartley even in the intoxication of her preference could not keep from seeing, still, in his mood, it was consoling to be singled out by her; it meant that even in a logging-camp he was recognizable by any person of fashion as a good-looking, well-dressed man of the world. It embittered him the more against Marcia, while, in some sort, it vindicated him to himself.
The early winter sunset was beginning to tinge the snow with crimson, when the party started back to camp, where Kinney was to give them supper; he had it greatly on his conscience that they should have a good time, and he promoted it as far as hot mince-pie and newly fried doughnuts would go. He also opened a few canned goods, as he called some very exclusive sardines and peaches, and he made an entirely fresh pot of tea, and a pan of soda-biscuit. Mrs. Macallister made remarks across her plate which were for Bartley alone; and Kinney, who was seriously waiting upon his guests, refused to respond to Bartley's joking reference to himself of some questions and comments of hers.
After supper, when the loggers had withdrawn to the other end of the long hut, she called out to Kinney, "Oh, do tell them to smoke: we shall not mind it at all, I assure you. Can't some of them do something? Sing or dance?"
Kinney unbent a little at this. "There's a first-class clog-dancer among them; but he's a little stuck up, and I don't know as you could get him to dance," he said in a low tone.
"What a bloated aristocrat!" cried the lady. "Then the only thing is for us to dance first. Can they play?"
"One of 'em can whistle like a bird,—he can whistle like a whole band," answered Kinney, warming. "And of course the Kanucks can fiddle."
"And what are Kanucks? Is that what you call us Canadians?"
"Well, ma'am, it aint quite the thing to do," said Kinney, penitently.
"It isn't at all the thing to do! Which are the Kanucks?"
She rose, and went forward with Kinney, in her spoiled way, and addressed a swarthy, gleaming-eyed young logger in French. He answered with a smile that showed all his white teeth, and turned to one of his comrades; then the two rose, and got violins out of the bunks, and came forward. Others of their race joined them, but the Yankees hung gloomily back; they clearly did not like these liberties, this patronage.
"I shall have your clog-dancer on his feet yet, Mr. Kinney," said Mrs.
Macallister, as she came back to her place.
The Canadians began to play and sing those gay, gay airs of old France which they have kept unsaddened through all the dark events that have changed the popular mood of the mother country; they have matched words to them in celebration of their life on the great rivers and in the vast forests of the North, and in these blithe barcaroles and hunting-songs breathes the joyous spirit of a France that knows neither doubt nor care,—France untouched by Revolution or Napoleonic wars; some of the airs still keep the very words that came over seas with them two hundred years ago. The transition to the dance was quick and inevitable; a dozen slim young fellows were gliding about behind the players, pounding the hard earthen floor, and singing in time.
"Oh, come, come!" cried the beauty, rising and stamping impatiently with her little foot, "suppose we dance, too."
She pulled Bartley forward by the hand; her husband followed with the taller Miss Willett; two of the Canadians, at the instance of Mrs. Macallister, came forward and politely asked the honor of the other young ladies' hands in the dance; their temper was infectious, and the cotillon was in full life before their partners had time to wonder at their consent. Mrs. Macallister could sing some of the Canadian songs; her voice, clear and fresh, rang through those of the men, while in at the window, thrown open for air, came the wild cries of the forest,—the wail of a catamount, and the solemn hooting of a distant owl.
"Isn't it jolly good fun?" she demanded, when the figure was finished; and now Kinney went up to the first-class clog-dancer, and prevailed with him to show his skill. He seemed to comply on condition that the whistler should furnish the music; he came forward with a bashful hauteur, bridling stiffly like a girl, and struck into the laborious and monotonous jig which is, perhaps, our national dance. He was exquisitely shaped, and as he danced he suppled more and more, while the whistler warbled a wilder and swifter strain, and kept time with his hands. There was something that stirred the blood in the fury of the strain and dance. When it was done, Mrs. Macallister caught off her cap and ran round among the spectators to make them pay; she excused no one, and she gave the money to Kinney, telling him to get his loggers something to keep the cold out.
"I should say whiskey, if I were in the Canadian bush," she suggested.
"Well, I guess we sha'n't say anything of that sort in this camp," said
She turned upon Bartley, "I know Mr. Hubbard is dying to do something. Do something, Mr. Hubbard!" Bartley looked up in surprise at this interpretation of his tacit wish to distinguish himself before her. "Come, sing us some of your student songs."
Bartley's vanity had confided the fact of his college training to her, and he was really thinking just then that he would like to give them a serio-comic song, for which he had been famous with his class. He borrowed the violin of a Kanuck, and, sitting down, strummed upon it banjo-wise. The song was one of those which is partly spoken and acted; he really did it very well; but the Willett and Witherby ladies did not seem to understand it quite; and the gentlemen looked as if they thought this very undignified business for an educated American.
Mrs. Macallister feigned a yawn, and put up her hand to hide it. "Oh, what a styupid song!" she said. She sprang to her feet, and began to put on her wraps. The others were glad of this signal to go, and followed her example. "Good by!" she cried, giving her hand to Kinney. "I don't think your ideas are ridiculous. I think there's no end of good sense in them, I assure you. I hope you won't leave off that regard for the brain in your cooking. Good by!" She waved her hand to the Americans, and then to the Kanucks, as she passed out between their respectfully parted ranks. "Adieu, messieurs!" She merely nodded to Bartley; the others parted from him coldly, as he fancied, and it seemed to him that he had been made responsible for that woman's coquetries, when he was conscious, all the time, of having forborne even to meet them half-way. But this was not so much to his credit as he imagined. The flirt can only practise her audacities safely by grace of those upon whom she uses them, and if men really met them half-way there could be no such tiling as flirting.
Sorry, no summary available yet.