“Dinna fire me, lad,” he pleaded. “I’ll gae back on the job an’ leave whusky alone.”
“Nothing doing, Mac. Leave whiskey alone for a year and I’ll discharge your successor to give you back your job. For the present however, my verdict stands. You’re discharged.”
“Who kens the Cardigan woods as I ken them?” McTavish blubbered. “Who’ll swamp a road into timber sixty per cent. clear when the mill’s runnin’ on foreign orders an’ the owd man’s calling for clear logs? Who’ll fell trees wi’ the least amount o’ breakage? Who’ll get the work out o’ the men? Who’ll—”
“Don’t plead, Mac,” Bryce interrupted gently. “You’re quite through, and I can’t waste any more time on you.”
“Ye dinna mean it, lad. Ye canna mean it.”
“On your way, Mac. I loathe arguments. And don’t forget your check.”
“I maun see yer faither aboot this. He’ll nae stand for sic treatment o’ an auld employee.”
Bryce’s temper flared up. “You keep away from my father. You’ve worried him enough in the past, you drunkard. If you go up to the house to annoy my father with your pleadings, McTavish, I’ll manhandle you.” He glanced at his watch. “The next train leaves for the woods in twenty minutes. If you do not go back on it and behave yourself, you can never go back to Cardigan woods.”
“I will nae take charity from any man,” McTavish thundered. “I’ll nae bother the owd man, an’ I’ll nae go back to yon woods to live on yer bounty.”
“Well, go somewhere, Mac, and be quick about it. Only—when you’ve reformed, please come back. You’ll be mighty welcome. Until then, however, you’re as popular with me—that is, in a business way—as a wet dog.”
“Ye’re nae the man yer faither was,” the woods-boss half sobbed. “Ye hae a heart o’ stone.”
“You’ve been drunk for fifteen days—and I’m paying you for it, Mac,” Bryce reminded him gently. “Don’t leave your check behind. You’ll need it.”
With a fine show of contempt and rage, McTavish tore the check into strips and threw them at Bryce. “I was never a mon to take charity,” he roared furiously, and left the office. Bryce called after him a cheerful good-bye, but he did not answer. And he did not remain in town; neither did he return to his shanty in the woods. For a month his whereabouts remained a mystery; then one day Moira received a letter from him informing her that he had a job knee-bolting in a shingle mill in Mendocino County.
In the interim Bryce had not been idle. From his woods-crew he picked an old, experienced hand—one Jabez Curtis—to take the place of the vanished McTavish. Colonel Pennington, having repaired in three days the gap in his railroad, wrote a letter to the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company, informing Bryce that until more equipment could be purchased and delivered to take the place of the rolling-stock destroyed in the wreck, the latter would have to be content with half-deliveries; whereupon Bryce irritated the Colonel profoundly by purchasing a lot of second-hand trucks from a bankrupt sugar-pine mill in Lassen County and delivering them to the Colonel’s road via the deck of a steam schooner.