Only a trained river man could have won to him in such a brief space of time; only an athlete could have made the last flying leap across six feet of dark water to a four-foot log that was bearing gently down, butt first, on the figure clinging to the boom-stick. His caulks bit far up the side of the log and the force of his impact started it rolling; yet even as he clawed his way to the top of the log and got it under control the iron head of his long pike pole drove into the boom-stick and fended The Laird out of harm’s way; before the log the man rode could slip by, the iron had been released and the link of chain between the two boom-sticks had been snagged with the pike hook, and both men drifted side by side.
“Safe—o,” his rescuer warned Old Hector quietly. “Hang on. I’ll keep the logs away from you and when the field floats by I’ll get you ashore. We’re drifting gradually in toward the bank below the mill.”
The Laird was too chilled, too exhausted and too lacking in breath to do more than gasp a brief word of thanks. It seemed a long, long time that he clung there, and it was quite dark when his rescuer spoke again. “I think the last log has floated out of the booming ground. I’ll swim ashore with you now, as soon as I can shuck my boots and mackinaw.” A few minutes later he cried reassuringly, “All set, old-timer,” and slid into the water beside The Laird. “Relax yourself and do not struggle.” His hands came up around old Hector’s jaws from the rear. “Let go,” he commanded, and the hard tow commenced. It was all footwork and their progress was very slow, but eventually they won through. As soon as he could stand erect in the mud the rescuer unceremoniously seized The Laird by the nape and dragged him high and dry up the bank.
“Now, then,” he gasped, “I guess you can take care of yourself. Better go over to the mill and warm yourself in the furnace room. I’ve got to hurry away to ’phone the Tyee people to swing a dozen spare links of their log boom across the river and stop those runaways before they escape into the Bight and go to sea on the ebb.”
He was gone on the instant, clambering up the bank through the bushes that grew to the water’s edge; old Hector could hear his breath coming in great gasps as he ran.
“Must know that chap, whoever he is,” The Laird soliloquized. “Think he’s worked for me some time or other. His voice sounds mighty familiar. Well—I’ll look him up in the morning.”
He climbed after his rescuer and stumbled away through the murk toward Darrow’s mill. Arrived here he found the fireman banking the fires in the furnace room and while he warmed himself one of them summoned Bert Darrow from the mill office.
“Bert,” The Laird explained, “I’d be obliged if you’d run me home in more or less of a hurry in your closed car. I’ve been in the drink,” and he related the tale of his recent adventures. “Your raftsman saved my life,” he concluded. “Who is he? It was so dark before he got to me I couldn’t see his face distinctly, but I think he’s a young fellow who used to work for me. I know because his voice sounds so very familiar.”