Thayor had repeated Leveridge’s words to Alice, and she had replied:
“Well, if you are fool enough to believe in Leveridge I wash my hands of the whole affair.”
Margaret, as Thayor had expected, was radiantly happy over the idea of the camp. She and her father talked of nothing else, Margaret taking an absorbed interest in every detail concerning the new home. Every letter from Holcomb was eagerly scanned by her. She even treasured in her bureau drawer a duplicate set of the plans, as well as memoranda of the progress of the work, and so knew everything that the young woodsman was doing. Furthermore, the frank simplicity of his letters to her father appealed to her—showing, as they did, a manliness sadly lacking in the fashionable young men about her. Thus it was not strange that she began to take a personal interest in Holcomb himself, whom she dimly remembered at Long Lake. With this there developed in her mind a certain feeling of respect and admiration for the young superintendent, due more to her democratic spirit than to anything personal about the man. Then, again, those who were natural appealed to her. As to men of Dr. Sperry’s stamp and the idle youths who chattered to her in the world which her mother had forced her into, these she detested.
* * * * *
During the long winter months Big Shanty lay buried under tons of snow and ice. The broad bed of the stream became unrecognizable; its roar muffled. Along its wild course the boulders showed above the heavy drifts, capped with a sea of white domes, like some straggling city of sunken mosques. Along the bed of the brook open wounds gaped here and there, while at the bottom of these crevasses the treacherous black water chuckled and grumbled through a maze of passages, breaking out at rare intervals into angry pools, their jagged edges piled with floe ice. For days at a time the big trees moaned ceaselessly; often the snow fell silently all through the day, all through the bitter cold of the night, until the knotted arms of the hemlock were cruelly laden to the cracking point, and the moose hopple and scrub pines lay smothered up to their tops. Always the crying wind and the driving snow.
As the winter wore itself out the sun began to assert its warmth. All things now steamed at midday, dripping and oozing in sheer gratefulness; the snow became so soft that even the tail of a wood mouse slushed a gash in it, the dripping hemlocks perforating the snow beneath them with myriads of holes. Soon the woods were oozing in earnest, the warm sun swelling the young buds. Day by day the roar of Big Shanty Brook grew mightier, its waters sweeping over the boulders with the speed of a mill race, tearing away its crumbling banks.
With the opening of spring Holcomb started work in earnest. The woods reverberated with the shouts of teamsters. Soon the deserted clearing became the main centre of activity, echoing with the whacking strokes of axes and the crash of falling trees. Horses strained and slipped in their trace chains, snaking the big logs out to the now widened clearing—slewing around stumps—tearing and ripping right and left.