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 Tom felt singularly inclined to shoot up the camp himself, but he restrained himself and paddled down the lake, almost without knowing where he was going. He had, in fact, no plan in his mind. All his plans had fallen into ruin together. He thought of getting away from these woods; he thought of going back to the city. It seemed the only thing left to do. But first it occurred to him, he must see Charlie.  
Not merely to give him Harrison’s warning, though the boy would certainly have to be checked in his now unnecessary warfare. But he had no food nor supplies, not even enough for the trip back to Oakley, nothing but his rifle and a few cartridges. Moreover he had, after some hesitation, left all his money with Charlie rather than risk taking it over the trail. There must be about seventy dollars, and he would need it badly.
He had very little idea where the Indian boy was to be found, but he paddled down the lower lake to the mouth of the little river that led up to his old camping ground. In the moonlight and shadow he made his way up this almost to the point where he had shot the mink on that far-away spring morning. Here he disembarked and started into the woods by the way he used to take.
It was rather dark in the shade, but the way was familiar to him, and he went ahead easily. But he had gone no more than two hundred yards when he heard something like a queer, metallic click not far ahead. An instinct made him stop short; and the next moment there was a blaze and a bang, and a load of heavy shot crashed into the tree trunk right at his side.
By good luck, he was not touched. He sprang behind the tree, guessing at once who had fired that shot.
“Don’t shoot, Charlie!” he yelled. “It’s me. It’s Tom.”
Dead silence followed. Nothing seemed to stir in the undergrowth. Tom began to imagine that perhaps it was not Charlie who had fired. It might have been McLeod, come up from the lake to ambush him again. He listened and looked more keenly, but heard nothing, till a voice spoke quietly, almost at his elbow.
“You get back, Tom? You fin’ your cousin?”
Tom was so startled that he jumped. The Ojibway had crawled like a serpent through the brush to get a close look at the intruder before he spoke.
“Gracious, Charlie!” he exclaimed. “Is that you?”
The young Indian came out into the moonlight and surveyed Tom carefully.
“You come—camp this way,” he announced, and, turning, he started off through the woods.
Within a hundred yards or so Tom perceived the glimmer of a very small fire, almost hidden between two rocks. Charlie put on a few fresh sticks, and placed the kettle, and produced a lump of bacon.
“You eat,” he observed. “I wait for you long time. Other man come—git timber, like you say. I lay for ’em—shoot their camp—no good. I hope you come back. I hear noise down by lake to-night—then I hear you come. T’ink you somebody else—shoot you, pretty near.”
“Rather,” said Tom. “I’m glad you’re such a bad shot. You’ve done your best, Charlie, but it’s all up. I can’t have that timber. I’m going away.”
Charlie looked up quickly, with a somber flash in his black eyes.
“You come back, Tom?” he inquired.
“I don’t know. Maybe not.”
Charlie pondered, gazing into the fire. The tea-kettle boiled. Charlie poured out the hot strong stuff into tin cups and handed one to his friend.
“You stay here, Tom,” he proposed. “We git that timber. We lay for them fellows. We can kill them all—easy.”
“No, Charlie. That wouldn’t do,” said Tom, smiling at this too simple solution. “Those fellows have got a right to the timber, and I haven’t, and that settles it. You must stop your shooting at them. You’d better go away too.”
Charlie looked depressed. Probably he had been thoroughly enjoying the guerrilla warfare of the last few days. From his sparing remarks Tom gathered that he had been continually changing his camp, prowling, scouting, feeling himself thoroughly on the warpath. He had fired on Harrison’s party several times; Tom felt devoutly thankful that nobody had been killed. Charlie had most of his smaller possessions cunningly cached in hollow logs and trees, and, on Tom’s inquiry, he went off into the darkness and presently returned with the money—a roll of bills carefully wound in birch bark. Tom would have liked to share it with this faithful comrade, but he would sorely need it all himself. He presented to Charlie, however, all the rest of his outfit: the aluminum cooking utensils, the ax, the odds and ends that had been rescued from the burning barn, and a few worn articles of clothing.
“I stay round ’bout here, Tom,” said Charlie. “You come back.”
“You’d better go and get some work,” Tom suggested. “Go down to Oakley.”
Charles looked disdainful.
“Work hard all winter,” he said. “Trap—hunt—walk snow-shoes. Rest in summer. Say, Tom, you come with me next winter. We trap—hunt—ketch heap fur.”
“I don’t know, Charlie,” Tom answered, regretfully. He wondered where he would be next winter. He had little notion of what he ought to do. He might go to Uncle Phil’s farm, as he had at first intended; but this seemed now to promise nothing. Almost he regretted not having joined Dave in the gold hunt. On the whole it seemed better to go back to Toronto for the time. His clothes were torn; his shoes were almost worn out. He had a little money, however—more than he had started with. He could buy clothes, and then, perhaps, secure a job as before as a summer fire ranger. This might enable him to pay his way at the university, for he was determined to have no more of his former parasitic existence. He felt five years older, ten times as self-reliant as when he had left Toronto only a few months ago; and the thought of his college years of casual study, much foot-ball and hockey, and thoughtless scattering of money filled him with disgust.
“I’ve acted like a kid,” he reflected. “Time I was getting grown up a little. No wonder father wouldn’t have me around the business.”
Anyhow, he had to return the canoe to Oakley, and at dawn he bade Charlie farewell and started down the river again.
“You come back, Tom,” the Ojibway called after him. “I wait for you.”
He went straight down Little Coboconk without looking again at the lost treasure, and entered the river. A mile down he noticed the opening of a well-cut trail,—doubtless the road to Uncle Phil’s place,—and he wondered that he had never observed it before. He felt rather languid from the recent wearing days, and from short sleep for two nights; the river ran smoothly, and he drifted along without any great efforts at paddling, so that it was well into the afternoon when he came into Oakley.
He was late for the stage to the railway, which left only in the forenoon; and he had to spend the rest of the afternoon and the night at the hotel. But the rest was welcome. He managed to improve his wild and wilderness-worn appearance a little, and took the train next morning.
The city seemed strangely noisy, crowded, hot, and dirty when he came out from the station and boarded a street-car to go home. His own tattered and weather-beaten appearance seemed even stranger to the passengers on the car. He was carrying his rifle still, and he must have looked like a trapper from the utmost frontiers. The attention he attracted was so embarrassing that Tom was in haste to get home. He walked hurriedly for a block up Avenue Road after leaving the car and saw his house in the distance; but even then he perceived that the curtains were down everywhere and that the place had a vacant, deserted look.
The front door was locked. He rang the electric bell repeatedly, but in vain, and then tried the side door and the back door, with no more success. Not even a servant was at home. He peeped into the garage through a crack in the door. The car was gone. Evidently the whole family had gone away, though it was the first time he could remember that his father had taken a summer vacation.
Tom was much too familiar with the house to allow locks to keep him out. He knew a basement window that could be opened with a piece of wire, and without much trouble he got himself inside. From the interior of the house he judged that the family had been gone for several days, at least. He went to his own room, hunted out an outfit of fresh clothing more suited to the city, took a bath, and dressed himself. The feel of the stiff collar was strange and irritating. Investigating the kitchen, he could find nothing but some crackers, part of a pot of jam, and a tin of sardines; but these simple foods seemed delicious, and he greedily ate everything in sight.
He looked through the house to see if he could find any indication of where his family had gone. He could discover nothing, but the appearance of the rooms and of the covered furniture seemed to indicate that a long absence was intended. Tom began to grow a trifle uneasy. But they would know all about it at his father’s office, and he left the house and took a downtown car.
To his alarm he found no signs of life about the big lumber-yard at the foot of Bathurst Street. No teams were moving; no one was at work; the great gates were closed and padlocked, with a “No Admission” sign. But the office building was open, and Tom went in.
None of the usual clerks were in the outer office. But he thought he heard a sound from his father’s private room beyond, and he opened the door, and looked in.
Mr. Jackson was not there. But in his usual place at the desk sat a stout man with iron-gray hair, surrounded by an enormous mass of papers and ledgers. His back was to the door, but he wheeled sharply, with a look of annoyance, at hearing the door open.
Tom recognized Mr. Armstrong, his father’s lawyer. For many years Mr. Armstrong had been not only Mr. Jackson’s legal adviser, but his closest personal friend. He did not often come to the house, however, and Tom really knew him very slightly. He had always been somewhat repelled by the lawyer’s dry, ironical manner, and had always had a feeling that Mr. Armstrong did not approve of him.
“Mr. Tom Jackson. Really! The last person I expected to see,” said the lawyer with a chilly smile. Adjusting his eye-glasses, he examined Tom from head to foot. “You look as if you’d been roughing it. Your family has been very anxious about you, you know.”
“Where are they? I’ve just come down from the north woods, and the house is empty,” Tom cried. “What’s happened? Surely father hasn’t left town?”
“Your father has gone to Muskoka with his family, for a little rest—to the Royal Victoria Hotel, Muskoka Beaches,” replied the lawyer. “They were anxious to get in communication with you, but didn’t know how to reach you. I have the key of the house.”
And he produced it from a pigeonhole in the desk.
“But why did they go? Father isn’t ill?”
“Your father is an extremely sick man. To get him out of town, away from business, was his only chance for life, the doctors thought.”
“But what—what is the matter?” cried Tom, paralyzed by this news.
“Why, nothing; that is, nothing very physically serious, I think. And that’s the worse of it. The doctors don’t know what to get hold of. Has your father told you anything about his business affairs?”
“Not much—only that they were a little involved, some time ago. But I thought he had them straightened out all right.”
“So he might have done, with a little bit of luck. He had several large contracts pending. He had bought options of some pulp-wood tracts; he expected to close a deal with the railroad for a big lot of ties. Nothing went right, though. He even failed to get the tie contract. Everything seemed to go back on him at once. He couldn’t take up his options, and he’s been obliged to close out nearly all his holdings at a big loss. At last he broke down. He gave up, and when a man like your father gives up, at his age, it means something serious.”
Tom uttered a horrified exclamation. Armstrong looked at him coldly, but it was easy to see that the lawyer, under his frigid exterior, was deeply affected by the misfortunes of his old friend.
“So you didn’t know anything about it?” he resumed. “Well, the doctors forbade him to think of business for months, and they sent him up north. He put all his affairs into my hands—gave me power to go through the business, and act as I see fit—either to go into bankruptcy, or to try to fight it out.”
“Bankruptcy!” Tom exclaimed. The idea seemed preposterous to him, who had always regarded his father’s business as a source of wealth, varying, indeed, but inexhaustible. “Surely that’s impossible! What have you found?”
“I haven’t finished going through the books. But it looks about as bad as it can be. The lumber business has been slumping for the last year. Three months ago I advised your father to make an assignment and have the thing over. But he said that every dollar of his paper had always been worth a hundred cents, and always would be while he lived. I think he was speaking truth. For if the business goes under I don’t believe he will survive it long. Business was his whole life.”
Tom tried to collect his shocked mind.
“How long will it take you to come to a conclusion?” he asked.
“I don’t know. A considerable time. The accounts are very complicated.”
“How much money would it take to clear everything?”
“It’s hard to say, at this point. Perhaps thirty thousand. I think that twenty thousand might pull it through, in hard cash, at this minute. Are you thinking of furnishing it?” he added, with a return to his ironical manner.
Tom had really come nearer to being able to furnish it than the lawyer imagined; and if Mr. Armstrong had shown himself a little more sympathetic the boy might have told his story and sought advice. But, as it was, he turned away in silence, full of grief and distress.
“I suppose you’ll be going up to join your family in Muskoka,” the lawyer said. “Don’t let your father talk about business when you see him. Get him out in the open air, canoeing, fishing, if you can. Will you dine with me to-night?”
Tom would rather have gone hungry than spend the evening with what seemed to him Armstrong’s sneering and cynical personality. He muttered an excuse, took the key, and went home again. He dined by himself at a lunch-counter, spent the night in the empty house, and next morning took the early train for Muskoka Beaches. He felt that he could make no plans for the summer now until he knew how his father was, and whether his help could be of any avail.
The season was opening well at the summer resort, and the lake in front of the Royal Victoria Hotel was alive with canoes, motor-boats, and skiffs. The lawns were gay with tennis; automobiles roared and thudded, and the wide verandas of the big hotel were crowded with rocking-chairs. It struck Tom that this was anything but a quiet retreat for a man with nervous breakdown. He mounted the steps to the first veranda, looked about uncertainly, and was lucky enough to espy his youngest sister in a far corner, reclining in a camp-chair with a novel.
“Oh, Edith!” he exclaimed, hastening toward her. “How’s father? Where is he?”
The girl jumped up with a cry of astonishment.
“Why, Tom! When did you get here? We wanted to write to you, but we didn’t know where you were. Where have you been? You look like an Indian—all brown and thin.”
“Up in the woods. I’ve just been in town—saw Armstrong, and he told me about father. Do you think he’s dangerously sick?”
“I don’t know, Tom. He’s up all the time, but he can’t sleep and doesn’t eat. We can’t get him to do anything. I think he’s worrying about business, but he never says anything, not even to mamma. You’d better come and see him. He’s up-stairs.”
Tom followed his sister through the hallways of the great hotel, up a flight of stairs, and into the suite of rooms that his father had taken. No one was in them just then; for Mrs. Jackson had gone down-stairs, and her husband was on the private balcony outside, where he spent the sunny part of the days.
Here Tom found him, lying back in a long chair, wrapped closely in a steamer rug, looking pitifully old and broken. Tom could not remember having ever seen his father ill before; and a lump rose in his throat, and he could barely mutter something as he grasped the sick man’s hand. Mr. Jackson greeted him with some pleasure, but his manner was absent and almost indifferent. Tom had a heartbreaking sense that he had meant nothing to his father’s life; he had a conviction also that Armstrong was right, and Mr. Jackson would not long outlast the business he had created.
“This is a good place to come to, Father,” he said, with an effort to be cheerful. “It ought to set you up in no time.”
“The place is well enough,” said the lumberman slowly. “It’s too fashionable to suit me, but your mother likes it, and you can smell the pine woods here. That smell does me good; but I’m getting to be an old man, and there’s no medicine for that.”
“Nonsense! You’re just overworked. You’ll be a young man again after a month’s rest,” Tom remonstrated. “I’m going to take you out in a canoe, trolling for salmon trout.”
Mr. Jackson did not appear to welcome this suggestion.
“Where have you been all this time? What have you been doing with yourself?” he inquired, with no great interest.
“I’ve been up in the woods—on the Coboconk lakes—near Uncle Phil’s place,” Tom answered with some hesitation. “Looking for—for government land to take up. I saw Cousin Dave, just starting on a gold-rush.”
And to entertain his father he gave a humorous description of the hurrying prospectors.
“You’ve been in town. Did you see Armstrong there? What did he tell you?” Mr. Jackson inquired, after listening indifferently to Tom’s story.
“He told me—that you were on no account to talk about business,” Tom evaded, laughing.
“He’s an old fool. But it’ll not bear much talking about, maybe. He told you the shape it’s in, I’ve no doubt. I left it all in his hands. I was at the end of my rope. If the business goes down, Tom, you’ll have to start life a poor man, the same as your father did; and I’m afraid you haven’t got the training or the mind for it,” he added, ruthlessly. “It’s partly my own fault.”
“It wasn’t your fault a bit, Father!” Tom groaned. “It was all my own foolishness. It’s going to be different after this. I’ve learned a lot up there in the woods. I had a rough time and nearly starved. I thought things all over.” He hesitated, and then went on. “I did think once, too, that I was going to make a big strike.”
Mr. Jackson was looking at his son with a little more interest.
“Well, if you can get a bit more practical, Tom, it’ll be a good thing. In fact, it looks as if you’d have to do it. What kind of a strike were you trying to make? Gold? There’s no mineral around the Coboconk lakes. I’ve lumbered all through that district, years ago.”
“You have?” cried Tom. “I never knew that. Then very likely you’ve heard of the big raft of walnut logs that was lost on Coboconk a good many years ago?”
“Everybody’s heard of it up there. What about it?”
“Well—I found it.”
The old lumberman opened his eyes, and sat up briskly.
“You found it? Where? Why, it was sunk in the lake.”
“Don’t get stirred up, Father. There’s nothing in it, I’m afraid. But I did find it. It had been sunk, but close to the shore, near the place where the two lakes connect. The water has gone back a good deal: and, besides, the lake was very low this spring, so that the place where the raft had sunk is clean out of the water now. Some of the timber was sticking out of the sand, and most of it seemed to be only a foot or so down, so I had great hopes of getting it out. It seemed to be in first-rate condition.”
“Well, what did you do?” demanded Mr. Jackson, impatiently.
“Why, you see, the timber didn’t belong to me. I thought it was on Uncle Phil’s land, and that’s why I hunted up Dave. But it isn’t.”
“You ought to have sent word to me at once!” exclaimed Mr. Jackson. His eyes were alive now with interest, and he looked ten years younger all at once.
“Just what I was thinking of doing. But it wouldn’t have made any difference, I’m afraid. There was another man prospecting for it—a fellow named Harrison, who had been up there last summer too. He played me a nasty trick, but he had the rights to the raft.”
“The rights? How did he make that out?” cried Mr. Jackson.
“He had the papers. It seems old Daniel Wilson, who cut the raft, has a son living in Montreal, and Harrison had made some deal with him to get out the timber, if he could find it. He’s paying young Wilson a royalty, I believe.”
“No such thing! The fellow must be an impostor. You should have let me know of this at once, Tom. I can’t imagine what you were thinking of. Do you know the value of walnut now? Never mind! I guess it isn’t too late, if we act quick.”
And, to Tom’s astonishment and alarm, his father threw off the rug and stood up, his eyes bright, looking revitalized. Tom regretted that he had told the story, which he had meant merely to entertain his father.
“Sit down, Father,” he urged, taking his arm gently. “It’s no good. Harrison may be a villain; he certainly tried some rough work on me. But then he made me a cash offer first to leave the place. But, so far as the timber goes, he seems to have his title good. I saw the papers made out by Wilson’s son, all signed and witnessed in proper shape. I don’t see how we can do anything.”
“Papers? A pack of lies! Forgeries!” snorted Mr. Jackson. “Why, I knew old Dan Wilson well. He’s got no son living. Even if he had it would make no difference; for the Daniel Wilson Lumber Company failed five years before Dan’s death, and I bought out all the concern, all the assets, every stick and scrap of them. Paid fifteen hundred dollars, and lost about a thousand on it; but I only meant it to help Dan out. The raft was included in the assets; I’ll show you the papers. They’re in the safe. I never expected to see any of that walnut, but it’s mine—all of it. Why, I’m the Wilson Lumber Company myself, now!”

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