“But, my very dear sir,” the Colonel protested, “if the man will not listen to reason, the courts will make him. I can condemn a right of way, you know.”
“We-ll,” said old Bill, wagging his head sagely, “mebbe you can, an’ then again mebbe you can’t. It took me a long time to figger out just where I stood, but mebbe you’re quicker at figgers than I am. Anyhow, Colonel, good luck to you, whichever way the cat jumps.”
This illuminating conversation had one effect on Colonel Seth Pennington. It decided him to make haste slowly; so without taking the trouble to make the acquaintance of John Cardigan, he returned to Detroit, there to await the next move in this gigantic game of chess.
No man is infallible, and in planning his logging operations in the San Hedrin watershed, John Cardigan presently made the discovery that he had erred in judgment. That season, from May to November, his woods-crew put thirty million feet of logs into the San Hedrin River, while the mill sawed on a reserve supply of logs taken from the last of the old choppings adjacent to Squaw Creek. That year, however, the rainfall in the San Hedrin country was fifty per cent. less than normal, and by the first of May of the following year Cardigan’s woods-crew had succeeded in driving slightly less than half of the cut of the preceding year to the boom on tidewater at the mouth of the river.
“Unless the Lord’ll gi’ us a lot more water in the river,” the woods-boss McTavish complained, “I dinna see how I’m to keep the mill runnin’.” He was taking John Cardigan up the riverbank and explaining the situation. “The heavy butt-logs hae sunk to the bottom,” he continued. “Wie a normal head o’ water, the lads’ll move them, but wi’ the wee drappie we have the noo—” He threw up his hamlike hands despairingly.
Three days later a cloud-burst filled the river to the brim; it came at night and swept the river clean of Cardigan’s clear logs, An army of Juggernauts, they swept down on the boiling torrent to tidewater, reaching the bay shortly after the tide had commenced to ebb.
Now, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a log-boom is a chaplet of a small logs, linked end to end by means of short chains; hence when the vanguard of logs on the lip of that flood reached the log-boom, the impetus of the charge was too great to be resisted. Straight through the weakest link in this boom the huge saw-logs crashed and out over Humboldt Bar to the broad Pacific. With the ebb tide some of them came back, while others, caught in cross-currents, bobbed about the Bay all night and finally beached at widely scattered points. Out of the fifteen million feet of logs less than three million feet were salvaged, and this task in itself was an expensive operation.
John Cardigan received the news calmly. “Thank God we don’t have a cloud-burst more than once in ten years,” he remarked to his manager. “However, that is often enough, considering the high cost of this one. Those logs were worth eight dollars a thousand feet, board measure, in the millpond, and I suppose we’ve lost a hundred thousand dollars’ worth.”