The jam kind o' melted an' crumbled up, an' in a second Pretty Quick
was whirlin' in the white water. He never riz,--at least where we could
see him,--an' we didn't find him for a week. That's the whole story, an'
I guess Steve takes it as a warnin'. Any way, he ain't no friend to rum
nor swearin', Steve ain't. He knows Pretty Quick's ways shortened his
mother's life, an' you notice what a sharp lookout he keeps on Rufus."
"He needs it," Ike Billings commented tersely.
"Some men seem to lose their wits when they're workin' on logs,"
observed Mr. Wiley, who had deeply resented Long Dennett's telling of a
story which he knew fully as well and could have told much better. "Now,
nat'rally, I've seen things on the Kennebec "--
"Three cheers for the Saco! Hats off, boys!" shouted Jed Towle, and his
directions were followed with a will.
"As I was sayin'," continued the old man, peacefully, "I've seen things
on the Kennebec that wouldn't happen on a small river, an' I've be'n in
turrible places an' taken turrible resks--resks that would 'a' turned a
Saco River man's hair white; but them is the times when my wits work the
quickest. I remember once I was smokin' my pipe when a jam broke under
me. 'T was a small jam, or what we call a small jam on the
Kennebec,--only about three hundred thousand pine logs. The first thing
I knowed, I was shootin' back an' forth in the b'ilin' foam, hangin' on
t' the end of a log like a spider. My hands was clasped round the log,
and I never lost control o' my pipe. They said I smoked right along,
jest as cool an' placid as a pond-lily."
"Why'd you quit drivin'?" inquired Ivory.
"My strength wa'n't ekal to it," Mr. Wiley responded sadly. "I was all
skin, bones, an' nerve. The Comp'ny wouldn't part with me altogether,
so they give me a place in the office down on the wharves."
"That wa'n't so bad," said Jed Towle; "why didn't you hang on to it,
so's to keep in sight o' the Kennebec?"
"I found I couldn't be confined under cover. My liver give all out, my
appetite failed me, an' I wa'n't wuth a day's wages. I'd learned
engineerin' when I was a boy, an' I thought I'd try runnin' on the road
a spell, but it didn't suit my constitution. My kidneys ain't turrible
strong, an' the doctors said I'd have Bright's disease if I didn't git
some kind o' work where there wa'n't no vibrations."
"Hard to find, Mr. Wiley; hard to find!" said Jed Towle.
"You're right," responded the old man feelingly. "I've tried all kinds
o' labor. Some of 'em don't suit my liver, some disagrees with my
stomach, and the rest of 'em has vibrations; so here I set, high an'
dry on the banks of life, you might say, like a stranded log."
As this well-known simile fell upon the ear, there was a general stir in
the group, for Turrible Wiley, when rhetorical, sometimes grew tearful,
and this was a mood not to be encouraged.
"All right, boss," called Ike Billings, winking to the boys; "we'll beDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>