A Mountain Woman and Other Stories
clattering over the noisy streets behind two spirited horses. They drew after them a troop
of noisy, jeering boys, who danced about the wagon like a swirl of autumn leaves. Then
came a halt, and Luther was dragged up the steps of a square brick building with a belfry
on the top. They entered a large bare room with benches ranged about the walls, and
brought him before a man at a desk.
"What is your name?" asked the man at the desk.
"Hi yi halloo!" said Luther.
"He's drunk, sergeant," said one of the men in blue, and the axe-man was led into the
basement. He was conscious of an involuntary resistance, a short struggle, and a final
shock of pain, -- then oblivion.
The chopper awoke to the realization of three stone walls and an iron grating in front.
Through this he looked out upon a stone flooring across which was a row of similar
apartments. He neither knew nor cared where he was. The feeling of imprisonment was
no greater than he had felt on the endless, cheerless streets. He laid himself on the bench
that ran along a side wall, and, closing his eyes, listened to the babble of the clear stream
and the thunder of the "drive" on its journey. How the logs hurried and jostled! crushing,
whirling, ducking, with the merry lads leaping about them with shouts and laughter.
Suddenly he was recalled by a voice. Some one handed a narrow tin cup full of coffee
and a thick slice of bread through the grating. Across the way he dimly saw a man eating
a similar slice of bread. Men in other compartments were swearing and singing. He knew
these now for the voices he had heard in his dreams. He tried to force some of the bread
down his parched and swollen throat, but failed; the coffee strangled him, and he threw
himself upon the bench.
The forest again, the night-wind, the whistle of the axe through the air. Once when he
opened his eyes he found it dark. It would soon be time to go to work. He fancied there
would be hoar-frost on the trees in the morning. How close the cabin seemed! Ha! -- here
came his little sister. Her voice sounded like the wind on a spring morning. How loud it
swelled now! "Lu! Lu!" she cried.
The next morning the lock-up keeper opened the cell door. Luther lay with his head in a
pool of blood. His soul had escaped from the thrall of the forest.
"Well, well!" said the little fat policejustice, when he was told of it. "We ought to have a
doctor around to look after such cases."