Nick’s father always assumed that this was what would happen and hired the Indians to come down from the camp and cut the logs up with the crosscut saw and split them with a wedge to make cord wood and chunks for the open fireplace. Dick Boulton walked around past the cottage down to the lake. There were four big beech logs lying almost buried in the sand. Eddy hung the saw up by one of its handles in the crotch of a tree. Dick put the three axes down on the little dock. Dick was a half-breed and many of the farmers around the lake believed he was really a white man. He was very lazy but a great worker once he was started. He took a plug of tobacco out of his pocket, bit off a chew and spoke in Ojibway to Eddy and Billy Tabeshaw.
They sunk the ends of their cant hooks into one of the logs and swung against it to loosen it in the sand. They swung their weight against the shafts of the cant hooks. The log moved in the sand. Dick Boulton turned to Nick’s father.
“Well, Doc,” he said, “that’s a nice lot of timber you’ve stolen.”
“Don’t talk that way, Dick,” the doctor said. “It’s driftwood.”
Eddy and Billy Tabeshaw had rocked the log out of the wet sand and rolled it toward the water.
“Put it right in,” Dick Boulton shouted.
“What are you doing that for?” asked the doctor.
“Wash it off. Clean off the sand on account of the saw. I want to see who it belongs to,” Dick said.
The log was just awash in the lake. Eddy and Billy Tabeshaw leaned on their cant hooks, sweating in the sun. Dick kneeled down in the sand and looked at the mark of the sealer’s hammer in the wood at the end of the log.
“It belongs to White and McNally,” he said, standing up and brushing off his trousers knees.
The doctor was very uncomfortable.
“You’d better not saw it up then, Dick,” he said, shortly.
“Don’t get huffy, Doc,” said Dick. “Don’t get huffy. I don’t care who you steal from. It’s none of my business.”
“If you think the logs are stolen, leave them alone and take your tools back to the camp,” the doctor said. His face was red.
“Don’t go off at half cock, Doc,” Dick said. He spat tobacco juice on the log. It slid off, thinning in the water. “You know they’re stolen as well as I do. It don’t make any difference to me.”
“All right. If you think the logs are stolen, take your stuff and get out.”
“Take your stuff and get out.”
“If you call me Doc once again, I’ll knock your eye teeth down your throat.”
“Oh, no, you won’t, Doc.”
Dick Boulton looked at the doctor. Dick was a big man. He knew how big a man he was. He liked to get into fights. He was happy. Eddy and Billy Tabeshaw leaned on their cant hooks and looked at the doctor. The doctor chewed the beard on his lower lip and looked at Dick Boulton. Then he turned away and walked up the hill to the cottage. They could see from his back how angry he was. They all watched him walk up the hill and go inside the cottage.
Dick said something in Ojibway. Eddy laughed but Billy Tabeshaw looked very serious. He did not understand English but he had sweat all the time the row was going on. He was fat, with only a few hairs of mustache like a Chinaman. He picked up the two cant hooks. Dick picked up the axes and Eddy took the saw down from the tree. They started off and walked up past the cottage and out the back gate into the woods. Dick left the gate open. Billy Tabeshaw went back and fastened it. They were gone through the woods.
In the cottage the doctor, sitting on the bed in his room, saw a pile of medical journals on the floor by the bureau. They were still in their wrappers, unopened. It irritated him.