American lawyer and writer, Arthur Train, was a prolific author of legal thrillers. His most popular work featured recurring fictional lawyer Mr. Ephraim Tutt. In “Mr. Tutt Fights a Draw” Mr. Tutt is disturbed when he learns about the burning of land nearby, and he immediately takes legal action against the arsonist.
Published August 8, 1936
The Santapedia, which flows into the Bay of Chaleur at Ste. Marie des Isles, is one of the most celebrated salmon streams in Canada. On it is located the Wanic Club, which owns, perhaps, the best fishing water in the world and is composed of six eminent men — Sewell T. Warburton, president of the Utopia Trust Company of New York; Sidney Arbuthnot, president of British Columbian Railways; George R. Norton, president of the British Colonial Trust Company; Chester L. Ives, president of the Royal British Bank of Canada; the Right Reverend Lionel Charteris, Bishop of St. Albans; and last, but not least, Mr. Ephraim Tutt, honorary member. How the latter achieved his place in this Olympian body of sportsmen may be read in a piscatorial chronicle entitled Mr. Tutt’s Revenge. But a lot of water has flowed over the rapids of “Push-and-be-damned” and through the Oxbow since that happened.
Mr. Tutt had had the happiest three weeks of his life in outdoor companionship with the most congenial men he knew. Regretfully, surrounded by his old friends, he left the clubhouse veranda and walked down to the little beach, where his seventy-nine-year old guide, Donald McKay, was waiting in the canoe to paddle him back to civilization. Clad in khaki breeches and high-laced boots, he, nevertheless, wore his ancient stovepipe hat tilted on the back of his head — the only way to carry it, as he explained. “Well, Eph,” said Bishop Charteris, taking both the gnarled old hands in his, “goodbye until next year, and God bless you.”
“Thanks, My Lord,” smiled the old lawyer. “Sorry I can’t bestow my episcopal benediction in return, but you’re a swell guy and I wish you luck.” “Goodbye! Goodbye, old man!”
“Here’s your lunch, Mr. Tutt,” interrupted Charles, the decrepit Negro functionary who had served as the Wanic’s butler, valet, cook, waiter, barkeep and private orchestra for the past thirty-five years. “I done slip in a bottle of the Bishop’s Madeira,” he added in a whisper.
“You old thief!” Mr. Tutt slapped him on the back… “Well, boys, so long! Leave a few fish!”
“If anyone hooks Leviathan again, send me a wire!” He stepped into the canoe, settled himself comfortably against a gunny sack and lighted a stogy.
“Do you expect to make Ste. Marie des Isles tonight?” asked Charteris. “Easily! Donald and I will ‘boil,’ as he calls it, at Portage Brook, reach the Nipsi by four o’clock and be at The George in Ste. Marie in time for supper. I’ll get a good night’s sleep and catch the Whooper when it comes through at five tomorrow morning.”
“I’ve got a better idea than that,” said the president of the British Colonial Trust Company. “You know where the Canadian Seaboard and Gaspe crosses the river below the Stillwater Pool, twenty miles above Ste. Marie? Old man Micklejohn, of Montreal, has a camp there. He’s leased most of the land on that part of the river — enough to give him a practical monopoly of the fishing rights, although I believe there’s a farmer owns a short strip on the other side. I’ll call up Micklejohn and tell him you’re coming, and you can spend the night with him. That will give you time to fish the Stillwater before dark.”
“But I’d have to get up by three o’clock tomorrow morning and paddle the twenty miles downriver to Ste. Marie or miss my train,” protested Mr. Tutt. “You forget I’m getting old.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” retorted Norton. “That’s the point. Micklejohn’s camp is just above the railroad and, under the law, the train has to stop there for three minutes because it’s a drawbridge.”
“You’re wrong about that,” said Sidney Arbuthnot, president of British Columbian Railways. “The train doesn’t have to stop unless the draw is open, which it hasn’t been in fifteen years. The reason it stops is that Micklejohn, who is president of the company, orders it to. He gets all his mail, ice, milk and eggs, everything he needs, that way fresh every morning, just as conveniently as if he was at home.”
“What a cinch you railroad men have!” laughed Sewell Warburton, shaking his head. “Imagine what would happen if the president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford ordered the Yankee Clipper stopped at his country place to deliver his groceries!” “Yes, but there’s some difference between the Whooper and the Yankee Clipper,” commented Chester Ives.
“A difference of about fifty-five miles an hour,” nodded the Bishop.” Well, anyhow,” continued Norton, “the point is that, whatever the reason, the Whooper stops at the bridge and that, by taking it there, you can save the trip by river to Ste. Marie, besides having a chance to fish the best pool in the province besides.”
“Sounds good to me,” declared Mr. Tutt. “I’ve always wanted to throw a fly over the Stillwater.” “I’ll call up Micklejohn at once,” said Norton, “and tell him to be sure to have the train stop for you. I know he’s there.” “Sure, he’s there!” grunted Donald McKay, and spat over the side of the canoe. “But will he want me to spend the night with him? Suppose he should be full,” said Mr. Tutt. “There’ll be plenty of room,” Norton assured him. “Micklejohn never has any guests.” “Well, goodbye!” Mr. Tutt waved. “Goodbye and tight lines to all! …Let her go, Donald!”
They pushed out into the stream. Against the high bank below the clubhouse stood his five friends waving their farewells. A lump came into his throat. God bless ‘em They were the best — the top! Fishermen always were!
For the first hour, with his long legs stretched comfortably before him, Mr. Tutt cast lazily with his trout rod, first right, then left, while Donald McKay paddled him swiftly down the Santapedia; then, as the sun grew hotter, he unjointed the rod, put it with the others in his leather case and abandoned himself to admiring the passing scenery and to ruminating upon the river’s history. To the north, as far as the St. Lawrence, stretched an unbroken wilderness, penetrated only by rough logging roads. At rare intervals the eye caught broken patches, thick with birch and maple, which had once been clearings, but the few pioneer settlers had vanished long ago, and now one could paddle half a day without encountering another human being. It had always been a great salmon river, the water closely held under individual leases, ever since a sporting governor general of the Dominion had discovered its possibilities half a century before; although, owing to the lumbering of its watersheds, it had steadily dwindled in size throughout that period and many former fishing camps had been abandoned.
Twenty miles below the Wanic, they passed a pine-covered bluff above a sand spit. “Joe Jefferson had a camp in those trees,” said Donald, pointing to a pile of rotting timber. “I poled him and Grover Cleveland upriver first time they come. Must ha’ been forty years ago. Boy! They was hell on fishin’.”
“And on telling stories?” suggested Mr. Tutt.
“And tellin’ stories!” agreed Donald. “Say, the loggers are tellin’ those same yarns up in the back country yet.”
At noon they beached the canoe to ‘boil’ at a bend beside a foaming stream where the woods had been cut back for, perhaps, a third of a mile, and while Donald built the fire and put on the teapot, Mr. Tutt followed the brook through the alders and undergrowth. All was still under the noonday heat except for the chitter of squirrels or the plash of a kingfisher, dipping in syncopated flight ahead of him. A hundred yards or so from the river, he came upon some overgrown depressions, their bottoms half filled with stones, and farther back, upon some elevated oblong mounds. Poking among the bushes, he stumbled upon a piece of rusted iron half eaten away.
“Must have been some houses in there once,” he remarked to Donald, exhibiting his find.
“Sure,” answered the old guide from where he squatted with the frying pan of bacon in his hand. “This is where the old French village used ‘to be. There’s treasure buried there, if you can find it. I’ve hunted for it many a time when I was a boy.”
“What kind of treasure?”
“Gold, money. A hundred and seventy years ago this was all French country. Ste. Marie des Isles was one of their big towns. When the war with the English come, the inhabitants all got scairt and moved upriver to where they thought they’d be safe. Three hundred came here with their children and everything they had. They settled along that stream and built their houses. Nobody came after ’em and they stayed here for twenty years or so. Then the smallpox killed ’em all off — nary one was left. There’s a pile of money buried in there somewhere.”
“How far are we from Ste. Marie?”
“About eighty miles.”
“And to the Stillwater?”
“Sixty. We’ll get there easy by six o’clock.”
They devoured Charles’ excellent lunch, carefully extinguished the tiny fire, drank a tin cup each of the Bishop’s Madeira, and pushed off again. Each of the old men had a stogy between his lips, while the bottle, with its remaining contents, stood embedded between Mr. Tutt’s legs. He was very happy, peaceful and satisfied. He had killed his limit, he was full of fresh air and good food, the sunlight flecked the ripples on the river, a soft breeze laden with the scent of balsam drew down the gullies — God was in his heaven, all was right with the world. Mr. Tutt unbuttoned his waistcoat, extended himself longitudinally as far as possible and took another drink. This was the life! Those French fleeing from their enemies had selected a good place. A bit cold in winter, perhaps. But what the fishing must have been in those old days! And yet they were all gone!
The sun lowered towards the pine tops in a cloudless sky; the breeze died; amid a silence unbroken save for the gurgle of the river against the sides of the canoe, they were swept swiftly downstream by the current. The shadows of the trees were lengthening across the river as, about five o’clock, they passed the Oxbow — the pool next above the Stillwater, ten miles farther on. A couple of sportsmen were just getting into their canoes for the evening fishing. Then the forest closed about them again, and they entered a long stretch of rapids, where Donald let the canoe run, steering it with his paddle.
“Another twenty minutes and we’ll be at the Stillwater,” he said. “Better set up your rod. There’s half a dozen drops and it’ll take us over an hour to fish it before we get to Micklejohn’s.”
By the time Mr. Tutt had put his rod together and selected his gear, they had shot the rapids and emerged into a smiling farmland, the river broadening to lush meadows high with grass. A mile ahead, below a series of sparkling reaches, lay the railroad bridge. They had reached the famous Stillwater.
Donald shoved the canoe into a shady backwater sheltered by tall trees while Mr. Tutt adjusted his leader.
“There was a town here once too,” he remarked. “Although you’d never guess it. There’s only one family left — Jim Ferguson’s.”
Mr. Tutt looked across the river. “Isn’t that the remains of an old wharf?”
“Yes, but it’s all fallen to pieces. This is a great place for hay. In the old days they used to barge it down to Ste. Marie des Isles. Jim made good money until he was burned out…. The first drop’s over there. It’ll be dark soon. I’d try a Black Gnat.”
While the old gentleman was tying on his fly, there rose from the woods beside them a series of birdcalls more melodious than anything he had ever heard. The notes rose and fell in chirpings, now like scattered drops of crystal, now in silver trills and quavers, followed by the mellow arpeggio of the Canadian thrush, until Mr. Tutt found himself, like Siegfried, staring entranced into the boughs above his head. “Exquisite,” he murmured. “The mellow ousel fluting in the elm!’ What sort of bird is it?”
“Burrd! That ain’t no burrd! It’s a woman! “Thrusting his paddle into the water, he silently shoved the canoe around a boulder that cut off the view of the bank fifty yards beyond.
The song ceased suddenly in the midst of a cadenza. A young girl, her black curls tied gypsy-like in a red handkerchief, was sitting on a log with her head thrown back against a rock, her open khaki shirt exposing her white throat. Her brown eyes, startled at their unheralded approach, quickly regained their confidence.
“Hello, Mr. McKay!” she called, in a voice as sweet as the notes she had been uttering.
“Please don’t stop!” begged Mr. Tutt. “I’d rather listen to you than fish.”
“He thought you was a burrd!” laughed Donald. “I don’t blame him neither. Many’s the time you’ve fooled me with your veery calls and your warblers.”
“They often answer me at this time of day,” she said. “The thrushes at twilight especially from the grove behind them echoed a golden canzonet. Hark! Do you hear that one?”
“Sure!” declared Donald. “Your mate’s a-callin’ you. Is your dad to home?”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m sure he’d like to see you.”
“Tell him I’ll be over after supper, or maybe before,” answered Donald, with a grimace.
“Are you going to fish the Stillwater? There’s a run on. I saw a lot of big ones on their way up the river from the bridge last evening. Mr. Micklejohn killed a forty-pounder this morning.”
“Who is that lucky child?” asked Mr. Tutt, as, the Black Gnat having been properly fastened, he told Donald to shove off.
“Jim Ferguson’s girl. Clochette,’ they call her. Her mother’s French.”
“A charming creature. She has a wonderful voice.”
“You bet she has. Some folks say she could sing in grand opry.”
“Is she getting proper instruction?”
“Jim’s been sendin’ her to Boston every winter for the last three years. He’s mighty proud of her, I tell ye! We all are, for that matter. But she’s got to give it up.”
“Her dad lost everything he had in the fire. Ain’t even got a house no more. They’re campin’ out in tents this summer.”
The canoe slid out into midstream and floated toward the head of a wide sun-flecked stretch alive with ripples. Donald dropped the killick overboard into the translucent water, here only from three to six feet deep, dug in his paddle to steady the canoe, and Mr. Tutt, lifting his rod, cast at right angles across the stream. The fly settled lightly on the current and was sucked rapidly along and under. Gradually the arc of the line straightened out and he was just about to make another cast when the tip of the rod was drawn heavily downward, the water boiled as from the turn of a propeller, and the line began to run through the guides.
Mr. Tutt struck lightly against a dead weight. Next instant the reel was screaming, the line melting away, humming like a telegraph wire in a sixty-mile gale. He anchored the butt in his belt socket, braced his feet and held tight. It was as if he were connected with a plunging race horse. Far downstream, there was a silver gleam as the salmon broke. The strain slackened momentarily, and the old man reeled in as fast as he could. Then the reel began to scream again, and once more the spool melted away. “He’s headed for salt water!” shouted Donald, pulling the killick.” We got to follow him!” “Hurry!” gasped the old man, pressing down the drag of the reel with all his force. “I haven’t got more than thirty yards left!” Donald dropped the killick into the canoe with a thud, yanked free his paddle, threw his whole weight against it, and the canoe shot downstream. The reel stopped screaming and Mr. Tutt, heaving the rod against his ancient belly, began, foot by foot, to regain his line. But this did not disconcert the salmon, which had evidently made up its mind that it had important business in Ste. Marie des Isles and intended to get there immediately. Aided by Donald’s strenuous paddling and the strength of the current, the big fish towed them along at fifteen miles an hour. The shores slid by. The railroad bridge drew nearer and nearer. The half dozen buildings of Micklejohn’s camp, with the Canadian flag flapping above them, swept into view.
Suddenly the salmon broke again, hurling itself, end over end, high into the air in a rainbow of silver and dropping flat with a crash that churned the surface into foam. Mr. Tutt reeled furiously. The line came in slack, then gradually tightened, running out toward the riffle at the outlet of the pool just above the bridge. The salmon had decided that he needed a rest and that, for the moment at least, he had gone far enough. Swiftly the current carried them toward where the great fish lay skulking in mid channel, until they were almost directly above him. Mr. Tutt had regained most of his line and was ready for another dash — to Anticosti, if need be.
“Keep your line tight, or he may work free,” warned Donald. “He’s anchored there. Got his head agin’ a rock prob’ly.”
It was too deep to reach the salmon with a gaff or otherwise to dislodge him. Neither was it possible, in the face of the current, to maintain their position. So, while Mr. Tutt continued a steady strain upon the line, Donald swung the canoe inshore and held it firmly with the paddle.
“He’ll get sick of it ‘fore long,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready to start whenever he does.”
Mr. Tutt sat there, the butt of the rod against his diaphragm, his eyes upon the point where his taut line entered the water seventy feet distant, waiting for something to happen. It did.
There was a scattering of gravel from the bank behind them, the sound of heavy breathing and, before the old man could turn his head, a hunting knife held by a brawny hand descended and severed his line: “Ping!” Mr. Tutt, thus unexpectedly released from frontal strain, was only saved from falling backward into the canoe by the gunny sack behind him.
“Jumping Jehosaphat!” he ejaculated, grabbing at his stovepipe. “What’s happened!”
The owner of the knife, a huge bearded man in waders, stood lowering at him beneath shaggy black eyebrows.
“Get off my land!” he ordered. Donald drove the canoe back into the river.
“And off my water!” yelled their assailant.” Get off — and stay off!”
Mr. Tutt was trembling with outraged indignation. The line attached to the salmon had vanished into oblivion. No doubt, it was already on its way to Ste. Marie des Isles.
“Micklejohn,” muttered Donald shortly, squirting a thin brown stream in the direction of the shore.
“The man we expected to spend the night with?”
“We didn’t. Maybe you did. I’ve known him longer than Mr. Norton has.”
“That fellow the president of a railroad!”
“He owns it,” explained Donald. Micklejohn, having sheathed his hunting knife, was seated cross-legged upon the bank, watching them. “Get along!” he shouted. “Beat it!”
“Mr. Micklejohn” said Mr. Tutt raising his voice so that it would carry across the intervening distance, “You have made me lose a brand-new twelve-foot double leader and a hundred and fifty yards of line. I shall expect you to pay for them.”
“Like hell! They were forfeit under the statutes!” shouted Micklejohn. “I could have kept your rod too. I’m going to telephone the warden and lodge a complaint against you for trespass. I’ll teach you that we have laws in Canada.”
Then Mr. Tutt, eminent member of the New York Bar that he was, lost all his dignity. They were drifting rapidly downstream toward the bridge, and maybe his old voice was tired. Perhaps he believed that action spoke louder than words. At any rate, with or without excuse, the distinguished Mr. Tutt placed his antique thumb to the end of his long nose, wiggled his bony fingers at Mr. Micklejohn and gave vent to an inelegant sound known as “the raspberry,” or “Bronx cheer.”
By this time, it was nearly dark and a cold wind was blowing up the river.
“Want to go on to Ste. Marie?” asked Donald.
“It’s twenty miles. Supper would be over before we got there. And I’d rather meet the sheriff by daylight,” answered Mr. Tutt. “Where else can we go?”
“Jim Ferguson would put us up.”
“Okay. Let’s go there.”
A campfire in front of a small group of tents threw a cheerful gleam across the river, and it took Donald but a few moments to reach the opposite shore, where the genial Ferguson, his pleasant- faced French wife and Clochette welcomed them on the beach. A full moon was rising above the pines as they finished their modest but savory meal of potato soup, broiled salmon steak and peas, fresh strawberries and black coffee. Mr. Tutt produced what was left of the Bishop’s bottle of Madeira, and Clochette, without a trace of self- consciousness, her voice rising high and clear, sang for them while they smoked — boating songs of the voyageurs, Scottish border ballads, and chansons of old France, handed down in her mother’s family.
“Do you know Nanette?” she asked. “Nanette went down to bathe. That is what I’d been doing when you saw me this afternoon.”
“And Mr. Tutt thought she was a burrd, Jim!” chuckled old Donald; so Clochette laughed and sang A in Claire Fontaine, because it was about a bird.
“That’s what she should be called’ Nightingale’!” averred the old man. “And, as the song says, I shall never forget her either!”
While the women washed the dishes on the shore, Jim Ferguson told the story of Stillwater and the loss of his home. Years ago, it had been a thriving town of lumbermen and farmers, surrounded by cleared fields for a quarter mile back on either side of the river. Five generations of Fergusons had lived where the tents were now pitched. There had been a school, post office, a couple of stores, and daily a small river steamer had come up from Ste. Marie des Isles, bringing mail and supplies and keeping the settlement in touch with the outside world. Then the small- pox had ravaged the community, the logging industry had declined, the young folks had moved away, until at last the Fergusons were the only ones left.
As a partial compensation, Jim had been able to acquire a large tract of abandoned land for almost nothing. There was a good market for his hay, which he at first had barged down to the coast, and then, after the railroad had come through, had shipped by freight. He prospered, saving enough to add each year to his machinery tedders, mowers and sweep rakes, building barns in which to store his crop until he could sell to best advantage, and installing his own press to bale the hay for transportation.
He had married a girl of French descent and Clochette was their only child. During the winters they moved down river to Ste. Marie des Isles, so that she could go to school. When they discovered that she had a voice, they had sent her to Boston for training. Then the preceding summer, just at harvest time, when two of the barns had been filled and the rest of the crop was in cocks ready to be carried, a fire had started near the railroad track and, sweeping across the fields, had destroyed everything, including their dwelling house. Not a building had been left, and the insurance had been only sufficient to re-equip them with tents, canoes and a few tools, and keep them going through the winter.
The fire had probably been started by a spark from the Whooper, and the company was clearly responsible. Jim had brought suit for $25,000 through a firm in Ste. Marie des Isles, but his lawyers advised him that the evidence, though morally convincing, might be held insufficient to sustain a judgment, since there was nothing, from a legal point of view, to exclude the possibility that the fire had started through the carelessness of some fisherman, hunter or river driver. So they were going to have to start all over again, and Clochette would have to give up her musical career.
“Doesn’t Micklejohn know that a spark from one of his engines destroyed your property?” demanded Mr. Tutt.
“Sure he does. Everyone knows it. It’s true that the fire started over fifty yards from the track, but there was wind enough to carry a spark even farther than that. Besides, there weren’t no fishermen anywheres round here except Micklejohn. The skunk wouldn’t ha’ been above setting it himself!”
“You mean that he might have burned you out purposely?”
“Just what I mean. He’s wanted to get rid of me for years, so as to have all the fishing on both sides for himself. Y’see I was here first and had my quarter mile of shorefront before he located his camp over there and bought up all the land there was left.” Mr. Tutt had a momentary vision of a black-bearded man with the hunting knife in his hand.
“He’s not a good neighbor?”
“We don’t speak.”
The old lawyer sat smoking by the dying embers of the fire long after all but Donald had gone to bed. “Is everything Jim said true?” he asked.
“Honest to God!”
“How long has Micklejohn been here?”
“Eleven years. He bought soon as he got to be president of the road.”
“When was the bridge built?”
“Nineteen nineteen — sixteen years ago.”
“Was the town here then — Stillwater, I mean?”
“Sure! Quite a settlement. My sister lived here with her husband. The smallpox come in 1920. They didn’t discontinue the post office until a couple of years later.”
“How long since the steamer stopped running?”
“Just about.” Donald got up, stretched, and spat into the fire. “If we’re to take the Whooper at five tomorrow mornin’, what time shall I wake you?”
Mr. Tutt stared across at the bead of light that marked the presence of Local Public Enemy No. 1.
“You needn’t wake me,” he said. “We’re not taking the Whooper. If we go to Ste. Marie tomorrow, it will be by canoe.”
“I reckon I’ll turn in anyhow,” answered Donald. “You mayn’t be tired, but I be!”
The moon rode higher and higher, a silver dime in a starless sky, azure as by day. Mr. Tutt could see every stone upon the beach, the patches on the bottom of the overturned canoe, the gunny sack containing his personal belongings; could even read the label on a near-by tomato can. Opening the sack, he removed a bug light, put it in his pocket and, lighting a fresh stogy, he lay flat upon his stomach and peered down through the ties.
“H’m!” he said to himself, observing that the keys swung clear of the buttress by about six inches where it emerged from the surface. Getting to his feet, he untied the string and repeated the process at the other end of the draw.
“H’m!” he repeated in a tone of satisfaction.
Bug light in hand, having returned the string and key ring to his pocket, he examined the joints of the antiquated machinery, rusted and eaten away by the wind and rain of thirty years. The bolts in one counterweight had disappeared; the lever operating the trunnion was immovable, frozen, as if welded.
“H’m!” he ejaculated a third time.
“If I haven’t got that so-and-so, I’ll eat my tall hat.”
He was aroused by the crackling of a fire outside his tent and the pungent smell of bacon. From the beach below came the warble and trill of Clochette’s limpid coloratura:
“Au beau Blair de la tun’ m’en allant promener — ”
“How the devil did you know that?” he demanded as she ascended the bank, a pail of water in her hand.
“Oh, never mind,” he answered. “What time is it?”
“Six o’clock. Didn’t you hear the Whooper go by an hour ago?”
“Whooper! It would have taken Big Bertha to wake me up. I slept the sleep of a just man. Tell Donald to get the canoe ready. I’m going to Ste. Marie as soon as I’ve had my breakfast.”
“Are you leaving us for good?” she asked regretfully. “I hoped you’d spend the day with us.”
“Oh, I’ll be back, Nightingale! Never you fear!”
“I’m sorry for Mr. Micklejohn, I’m sorry to give him pain, but a hell of a spree there’s going to be When Tutt comes back again!”
The president of the Canadian Seaboard & Gaspe, smoking his after breakfast cigar on the veranda of his camp, saw the canoe with its tall hatted occupant skirt the opposite shore and disappear under the bridge.
“I taught that silly old ass a lesson, all right!” he gloated, for he had feared that the trespasser might stay on and fish the quarter mile of water he did not control. His worst nightmare was that Ferguson might build a sporting camp and thus destroy the practical monopoly of the Stillwater which he now enjoyed. But the farmer was too busy haymaking to do any fishing, hence Micklejohn, week in and week out, had the whole ten miles to himself.
It was another sparkling day and the president of the C. S. & G., having killed a couple of thirty pounders, was paddling back for lunch when the noonday silence was unexpectedly broken by an untoward sound — a sound that President Micklejohn had never before heard in that locality — the unmistakable whistle of a steamer just below the bridge.
“Toot, toot, toot! Toot, toot, toot!” “Damn his eyes!” he cried.” That fool will drive every salmon ten miles upriver!”
“Toot, toot, toot! Toot, toot; toot!” snorted the unseen visitor impatiently. “What in hell can that fellow want?” exclaimed the railroad man, for never once in the entire eleven years of his occupancy had he seen a steamboat on the Santapedia.
Then, as if with the deliberate intention of demonstrating its nuisance value, the whistle broke into a shrill, continuous and never-ending scream.
“I’ll fix that!” shouted Micklejohn in wrath, climbing the embankment.
A stubby little tug was holding herself in the channel, nosing the draw, tooting her head off.
“What are you making such a noise about?” he yelled above the racket. Then, to his amazement and disgust, he observed that the Silly Old Ass in the tall hat was sitting cross-legged on the roof of the pilothouse, puffing a curious looking, rat-tailed cigar, while on the deck below stood the sheriff of the county and a tall man in a gray felt hat whom Mr. Micklejohn did not recognize. Behind them were a group of strangers in mufti. Since the embankment was but twenty feet above the river, the entire party, including Mr. Micklejohn and Mr. Tutt, were in fairly close juxtaposition.
“Open your draw!” called the captain of the tug from the pilothouse window.
“What are you talking about?” answered the president of the C. S. & G.
The tug suddenly stopped tooting. “Let us through!”
“I’m no draw tender!” replied Micklejohn furiously.
“If you ain’t, where is he, then?” asked the captain.
“There isn’t any. This draw hasn’t been used in the last fifteen years.” The tug had laid alongside the bridge, and a deck hand now made it fast to the abutment. The tall man stepped forward.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I’m Sir Douglas Hartley, judge in Admiralty of the Exchequer Court for this district. This gentleman, through his local counsel, has made an informal application before me, in chambers, for a mandatory injunction to abate a nuisance and to compel the Canadian Seaboard & Gaspe Railroad to maintain its draw in this bridge in accordance with its license. He offered — very fairly, I must admit — since he does not wish to take the railroad company by surprise or to put you to any greater inconvenience than is necessary, to facilitate the proceeding by bringing the court here to see for itself — ”
“Birnam wood be come to Duns inane’!” chirped Mr. Tutt.” — what the actual conditions may be,” continued Sir Douglas, faintly smiling.” I take it that I am addressing Mr. Cyrus Micklejohn, president of the railroad?”
“You are,” snapped Micklejohn. “But I’m not here in my official capacity.”
“It would appear then that there was nobody here in an official capacity?” suggested Sir Douglas mildly.
“There has never been any reason why there should be.”
“Your Honor,” said Mr. Tutt from the roof, “this is a navigable stream and I have hired this steamer to take me to Stillwater. I want to go there. I insist on going there!”
“Well, you can’t go there!” roared Micklejohn.
“You’ve got a draw; open it!”
Mr. Micklejohn stared haughtily at the rusty levers and trunnions and the dilapidated counterweights.
“Nonsense!” he remarked.
“Won’t it work?” blandly inquired the sheriff.
“I — I don’t know! And I don’t care!” retorted Micklejohn.
A businesslike-looking young man stepped forward from the group behind the judge.
“My name’s McAvoy,” he said. “I’m Provincial Bridge Engineer. I have two of my assistants here. Suppose we take a look at it.”
They climbed up the abutment and examined the draw.
“You’re going to have a hard time opening that thing,” declared Mr. McAvoy. “The machinery’s all rotted to pieces, the iron has frozen, and, besides, the piers have sagged so far out of plumb that I don’t believe it would work anyway.”
Micklejohn took out his handkerchief and rubbed his forehead.
“Well,” he growled, “this is something I shall have to turn over to our law department.”
“I took the liberty of having my clerk telephone to your attorney, Mr. Cameron Hall, in Cardogan,” interjected Sir Douglas. “He said he’d order a special and come down.”
“Meanwhile, how am I going to get to Stillwater?” pressed Mr. Tutt. “Stillwater! There isn’t any Stillwater!” snorted Micklejohn.
“Oh, yes, there is!” replied the old lawyer.” Stillwater continues to be a geographical and legal entity, even if it is functus officio.”
“There aren’t any people living there!”
“I know of at least four,” answered Mr. Tutt. “Yourself, Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson and their daughter.” “This is all hocus-pocus!” hotly protested Micklejohn. “Ferguson doesn’t want to use the draw! And I’m sure I don’t!”
“Yes, I do!” shouted Ferguson, sticking his head out of the pilothouse window.” I want to go right up the river.”
Mr. Tutt descended from the roof of the pilothouse, Micklejohn glaring at him the while. The president of the C.S. & G. had begun to wish he hadn’t adopted such strenuous tactics with the Silly Old Ass.
“Your Honor,” said Mr. Tutt, landing on the deck, “I appreciate that this isn’t either the time or place for a legal argument, but since you’ve been so amiable as to lend your presence to an attempt at an adjustment of what might otherwise prove a long-drawn out and expensive litigation, I beg to assure you most emphatically that there is no hocus-pocus about it whatsoever. Under the Canadian Railway Act of 1919, no railroad company may build a bridge over any water, river, stream or canal so as to impede navigation, no matter how slight, except with the approval and subject to the directions of the Board of Railway Commissioners and the Department of Public Works. That authority, under the powers delegated to it by Parliament, approved the plans submitted in the year 1919 by the Canadian Seaboard & Gaspe for a drawbridge over the Santapedia at this point, on condition that it be operated as such. The condition having been violated, the authorization is void and the bridge becomes a public nuisance, which can be abated.”
“Rot!” bellowed President Micklejohn. “We don’t have to keep a man sitting here if the draw is never used.”
“You’re obliged to keep your draw in operation or your license lapses. The law says, ‘It is not the use which has been made of the water, but the use which may be made of it, without a change of conditions, that determines its navigability.”
“There has been a change,” declared Micklejohn sullenly. “There was a town here when the bridge was built, and it isn’t here now.”
“The phrase ‘change of condition’ in the law refers not to the number of inhabitants but to the navigability of the stream. So long as there is a single landowner upstream beyond the bridge, he has a right to insist on the railroad complying with the conditions under which it received its authority to build. It is a riparian right inherent in his ownership of the land.”
At that moment a distant whistle echoed through the forest, the rails began to hum, and presently an engine dragging a single day coach came thundering down the track and stopped at the other end of the bridge. Half a dozen men piled out, among them Cameron Hall, K. C., the railroad’s chief legal adviser, from Cardogan, the capital of the province. With him were two of the company engineers. By this time everyone from the tug, including Sir Douglas, Mr. Tutt and the sheriff, had ascended the embankment.
“Of course, I’m here purely ex officio,” said Sir Douglas. “Don’t bother about me. I’m enjoying this little excursion immensely. Suppose I take a walk and give you gentlemen a chance to get together?”
While the company engineers looked over the bridge, Cameron Hall, K. C., conferred with Micklejohn, after which they all went into a huddle at the other end of the bridge.
“May I speak to you a moment, sir?” at length said the lawyer, a dignified but kindly looking man, advancing toward the draw.
“With pleasure, so long as your client doesn’t share in our conversation,” answered Mr. Tutt. “How about a stroll down the tracks?”
They picked their way along the ties until they reached the opposite shore, where they sat down in the hot sunlight at the same spot where Mr. Tutt had climbed up the night before “au beau Blair de la lun’.”
“I’ve often heard of you, Mr. Tutt,” said Hall, K. C. as he accepted a stogy, “but somehow I never supposed you really existed. Certainly it’s a great surprise to meet you under circumstances such as these. What do you want us to do?”
“How much do your engineers say it will cost to install proper piers and rebuild the draw?”
Hall squinted at him over the end of his stogy.
“Do you trust me?”
“I know an honest man when I see one.”
“That compliment will probably cost me about fifty thousand dollars!” chuckled Hall.
“I could have found it out for myself. In fact, I have, rather roughly — only my estimate is thirty-five thousand.”
“I, too, know an honest man when he tells me a thing like that.”
“And that will probably cost me about ten thousand,” said Mr. Tutt significantly. “How shall we work it?” Hall, K. C., looked across at the ruined barns by the little group of tents.
“How much damage does Ferguson claim against the company on account of his fire?”
“Twenty-five thousand dollars.”
“Our engine didn’t set it, you know.” Mr. Tutt shrugged. “If not, I know who did.”
“I see that we agree — in principle. All right, but, as Eden said to Hitler, this isn’t an ultimatum. Suppose we settle the damage suit for twenty thousand and give Ferguson five thousand more for all his riparian rights, including his fishing. In that case, naturally, he’ll have to sign a special release waiving the discontinuance of the draw.”
Mr. Tutt shook his head. “There will be no surrender of any fishing rights whatever. That is an ultimatum!”
“Very good. I was instructed to ask for them, that’s all. Now I’ve done it. How about twenty-four thousand for the fire and a thousand for the bridge release?”
Hall, K.C., looked pained. “There is one more condition which I make as a sine qua non,” said Mr. Tutt sternly.
“Go easy on us!” begged Hall. “What is it?”
“Upon the signing of the papers, Micklejohn is to deliver to me one new twelve-foot, mist-colored double leader, two hundred yards of the best salmon line you can buy in Cardogan and — ”
Hall’s eyebrows had drawn together. “What the devil!” he seemed to be saying.
“Yes, and — ?”
“And his hunting knife.”
“That’s a queer one!” ejaculated the K.C.
“Otherwise the C.S.&G. can rebuild the bridge!”
Just then from the neighboring grove came a high, sweet song like that of a bird.
“What a beautiful voice!” exclaimed Hall in admiration.” It’s like what I’ve always supposed a nightingale’s would be!”
“Yes” Nodded Mr. Tutt. “The C.S.&G. isn’t paying for a fire, but for a girl’s career… well! Is it a deal?”
“It is” answered Hall, and shook hands.” Now I’ll go and give my most unpleasant client the glad tidings.”
“And be sure to tell him that I’ve discovered that they have laws in Canada.” Said Mr. Tutt
The old man climbed down the embankment and walked over to the grove. He hated to return to the city. New York was all right, but the woods were better. He’d spend all winter planning how to get back to them. His old house on 23rd Street, with its comfortable library and sea-coal fire — even with Miranda’s cooking — would be very lonely. It was hard to say goodbye.
Clochette was sitting against a tree, singing her heart out. “Hello, Mr. Tutt!” she cried. “What are all those people doing on the bridge? And why is that tug there?”
“It’s taking me back to New York,” answered the old man, looking down at her tenderly.” Would you like to go with me, Nightingale?”
Featured image: Arthur William Brown
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