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The Lady of Big Shanty   By: (1869-1931)

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The Lady of Big Shanty

By

F. BERKELEY SMITH

1909

TO THE READER

This story, written by a man who has passed many years of his life in the Adirondack woods, strikes a note not often sounded the power of the primeval over the human mind.

Once abandoned in the wilderness, wholly dependent upon what can be wrested from its clutch to prolong existence, all the ordinary standards and ambitions of life become as naught: for neither love, hatred, revenge, honour, money, jewels, or social success will bring a cup of water, a handful of corn or a coal of fire. Under this torture Nature once more becomes king and man again an atom; his judgment clarified, his heart stripped naked, his soul turned inside out. The untamed, mighty, irresistible primitive is now to be reckoned with, and a lie will no longer serve.

Such is the power of the primeval, and for the unique way in which it has been treated between these covers, the father takes off his hat to the son.

F. HOPKINSON SMITH.

September , 1909.

THE LADY OF BIG SHANTY

CHAPTER ONE

It was the luncheon hour, and The Players was crowded with its members; not only actors, but men of every profession, from the tall, robust architect to the quiet surgeon tucked away among the cushions of the corner divan. In the hall giving sound advice, perhaps, to a newly fledged tragedian sat some dear, gray haired old gentleman in white socks who puffed silently at a long cigar, while from out the low ceiled, black oak dining room, resplendent in pewter and hazy with tobacco smoke, came intermittent outbursts of laughter. It was the hour when idlers and workers alike throw off the labours of the day for a quiet chat with their fellows.

Only one man in the group was restless. This was a young fellow who kept watch at the window overlooking the Park. That he was greatly worried was evident from the two tense furrows in his brow, and from the way his eyes scanned the street below.

"The devil!" he grumbled. "I wonder if Billy's missed his train another Adirondack express late, I suppose." He flicked the ashes from his cigarette and, wheeling sharply, touched a bell.

"John," he said, as the noiseless old steward entered.

"Yes, Mr. Randall."

"Find out at the desk if a Mr. William Holcomb from Moose River has called or telephoned."

"Very good, sir."

"He's a tall, sun burned young man, John and he may be waiting below. You understand."

"I'll go and see, sir," and the steward turned.

"And, John tell August we shall be five at luncheon."

The next moment two hands gripped him from behind by both shoulders.

"Well! I'm glad you're here, Keene, at any rate!" cried Randall as he smashed the bell hard. "Two dry Martinis" this to the yellow waistcoated steward now at his elbow. "It's Billy Holcomb you've come to meet. He wrote me he was coming to New York on business and I made him promise to come here first. He and I hunted together last fall and I wanted you and Brompton to know him. What I'm afraid of is that he has missed the night express. Moose River's a long ways from the railway, and you know what an Adirondack road is this time of year. I hope The Players won't scare him."

"Oh! we'll take care of him," laughed Keene good humouredly. "Thank God he's not a celebrity; I'm sick of celebrities. It'll be a treat to meet a plain human being. Hello! here comes Brompton!"

Randall rose to his feet.

"Glad you could come, old man. There's only five of us you, and Keene, Sam Thayor, and a friend of mine from the woods. Touch the bell and give your order."

Again the noiseless John appeared.

"Any news, John?"

"Yes, sir; Mr. Holcomb is waiting for you below, and Mr. Thayor has telephoned he will be here in a moment."

Jack started for the stairs.

"Good!" he cried. "I'll be back in a second."

If the actor and Keene had expected to see a raw boned country boy, reticent and ill at ease, they got over it at the first glance. What they saw approaching with his arm in their host's was a young man of twenty three, straight as an arrow, with the eyes of an eagle; whose clean cut features were so full of human understanding that both the actor and Keene fell to wondering if Randall was not joking when he labeled him as hailing from so primitive a settlement as Moose River... Continue reading book >>




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