Dwight Wade, high school principal, is in love with John Barrett’s daughter Elva. Barrett and Pulaski Britt are great lumber magnates. Wade disapproves of their wasteful methods that are killing the forests. Forced to resign, Wade takes a forestry job with Rodburd Ide. Colin MacLeod, Britt’s boss, is in love with Ide’s daughter Nina and jealous of Wade.
It’s been many years since Barrett has seen his woods. This year, he makes the trip. He’s stayed away because “Ladder” Lane, the fire lookout, knows his secret: that he stole Lane’s wife, she became pregnant, and he abandoned the child with a camp of squatters. Kate Arden is the girl’s name (it sounds like Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine. The Abenaki considered it the home of the gods, particularly Gluskabe, the trickster god). When Britt’s crew come to evict the squatters, Kate sets fire to the forest. Lane takes Barrett captive and ties him up in the fire’s path. Wade finds him and frees him, getting his promise that he’ll pay for the girl’s education. Barrett reneges on this almost instantly.
Barrett grows dangerously ill and is taken into town, where he stays with Ide. Kate has also been staying with Nina. When Elva comes to see her father, she knows at once that Kate is her sister. Nina and Elva travel north to the lumber camp to talk with Wade, but Elva is kidnapped along the way by Lane. Lane is so enraged that he has a stroke and dies. Wade and his guide find Elva and rescue her.
Britt has dammed the stream that Ide depends on to get his lumber out. Tommy Eye, a teamster whose life Wade saved, dynamites the dam, draining the lake almost entirely down Ide’s stream and leaving no water at all for Britt. Humbled, Barrett consents to Wade and Elva’s marriage.
Inscriptions: On the reverse of the frontispiece (odd place to sign), “Irving A. Sorvino, Christmas 1919”.