Infomotions, Inc.Poor Man's Rock / Sinclair, Bertrand W., 1881-1972



Author: Sinclair, Bertrand W., 1881-1972
Title: Poor Man's Rock
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): macrae; gower; salmon; jack macrae; betty; donald macrae; betty gower; folly bay; squitty cove; squitty island; horace gower; fish; macrae knew; stubby abbott; dolly ferrara; crow harbor; macrae asked; macrae went; nelly abbott; macrae smiled
Contributor(s): Johnson, Frank Tenney, 1874-1939 [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 90,566 words (short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 71 (easy)
Identifier: etext16541
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Title: Poor Man's Rock

Author: Bertrand W. Sinclair

Illustrator: Frank Tenney Johnson

Release Date: August 17, 2005 [EBook #16541]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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Novels by:

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR

North of Fifty-Three
Big Timber
Burned Bridges
Poor Man's Rock




POOR MAN'S ROCK

BY

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR

BOSTON


LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY

Published September, 1920

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, MASS., U.S.A.



CONTENTS

Prologue--Long, Long Ago

CHAPTER

I. The House in Cradle Bay

II. His Own Country

III. The Flutter of Sable Wings

IV. Inheritance

V. From the Bottom Up

VI. The Springboard

VII. Sea Boots and Salmon

VIII. Vested Rights

IX. The Complexity of Simple Matters

X. Thrust and Counterthrust

XI. Peril of the Sea

XII. Between Sun and Sun

XIII. An Interlude

XIV. The Swing of the Pendulum

XV. Hearts are not Always Trumps

XVI. En Famille

XVII. Business as Usual

XVIII. A Renewal of Hostilities

XIX. Top Dog

XX. The Dead and Dusty Past

XXI. As it was in the Beginning





POOR MAN'S ROCK

PROLOGUE

Long, Long Ago


The Gulf of Georgia spread away endlessly, an immense, empty stretch of
water bared to the hot eye of an August sun, its broad face only saved
from oily smoothness by half-hearted flutterings of a westerly breeze.
Those faint airs blowing up along the Vancouver Island shore made
tentative efforts to fill and belly out strongly the mainsail and jib of
a small half-decked sloop working out from the weather side of Sangster
Island and laying her snub nose straight for the mouth of the Fraser
River, some sixty sea-miles east by south.

In the stern sheets a young man stood, resting one hand on the tiller,
his navigating a sinecure, for the wind was barely enough to give him
steerageway. He was, one would say, about twenty-five or six, fairly
tall, healthily tanned, with clear blue eyes having a touch of steely
gray in their blue depths, and he was unmistakably of that fair type
which runs to sandy hair and freckles. He was dressed in a light-colored
shirt, blue serge trousers, canvas shoes; his shirt sleeves, rolled to
the elbows, bared flat, sinewy forearms.

He turned his head to look back to where in the distance a white speck
showed far astern, and his eyes narrowed and clouded. But there was no
cloud in them when he turned again to his companion, a girl sitting on
a box just outside the radius of the tiller. She was an odd-looking
figure to be sitting in the cockpit of a fishing boat, amid recent
traces of business with salmon, codfish, and the like. The heat was
putting a point on the smell of defunct fish. The dried scales of them
still clung to the small vessel's timbers. In keeping, the girl should
have been buxom, red-handed, coarsely healthy. And she was anything but
that. No frail, delicate creature, mind you,--but she did not belong in
a fishing boat. She looked the lady, carried herself like
one,--patrician from the top of her russet-crowned head to the tips of
her white kid slippers. Yet her eyes, when she lifted them to the man at
the tiller, glowed with something warm. She stood up and slipped a
silk-draped arm through his. He smiled down at her, a tender smile
tempered with uneasiness, and then bent his head and kissed her.

"Do you think they will overtake us, Donald?" she asked at length.

"That depends on the wind," he answered. "If these light airs hold they
_may_ overhaul us, because they can spread so much more cloth. But if
the westerly freshens--and it nearly always does in the afternoon--I can
outsail the _Gull_. I can drive this old tub full sail in a blow that
will make the _Gull_ tie in her last reef."

"I don't like it when it's rough," the girl said wistfully. "But I'll
pray for a blow this afternoon."

If indeed she prayed--and her attitude was scarcely prayerful, for it
consisted of sitting with one hand clasped tight in her lover's--her
prayer fell dully on the ears of the wind god. The light airs fluttered
gently off the bluish haze of Vancouver Island, wavered across the
Gulf, kept the sloop moving, but no more. Sixty miles away the mouth of
the Fraser opened to them what security they desired. But behind them
power and authority crept up apace. In two hours they could distinguish
clearly the rig of the pursuing yacht. In another hour she was less than
a mile astern, creeping inexorably nearer.

The man in the sloop could only stand on, hoping for the usual afternoon
westerly to show its teeth.

In the end, when the afternoon was waxing late, the sternward vessel
stood up so that every detail of her loomed plain. She was full
cutter-rigged, spreading hundreds of feet of canvas. Every working sail
was set, and every light air cloth that could catch a puff of air. The
slanting sun rays glittered on her white paint and glossy varnish,
struck flashing on bits of polished brass. She looked her name, the
_Gull_, a thing of exceeding grace and beauty, gliding soundlessly
across a sun-shimmering sea. But she represented only a menace to the
man and woman in the fish-soiled sloop.

The man's face darkened as he watched the distance lessen between the
two craft. He reached under a locker and drew out a rifle. The girl's
high pinkish color fled. She caught him by the arm.

"Donald, Donald," she said breathlessly, "there's not to be any
fighting."

"Am I to let them lay alongside, hand you aboard, and then sail back to
Maple Point, laughing at us for soft and simple fools?" he said quietly.
"They can't take you from me so easily as that. There are only three of
them aboard. I won't hurt them unless they force me to it, but I'm not
so chicken-hearted as to let them have things all their own way.
Sometimes a man _must_ fight, Bessie."

"You don't know my father," the girl whimpered. "Nor grandpa. He's
there. I can see his white beard. They'll kill you, Donald, if you
oppose them. You mustn't do that. It is better that I should go back
quietly than that there should be blood spilled over me."

"But I'm not intending to slaughter them," the man said soberly. "If I
warn them off and they board me like a bunch of pirates, then--then it
will be their lookout. Do you want to go back, Bessie? Are you doubtful
about your bargain already?"

The tears started in her eyes.

"For shame to say that," she whispered. "Lord knows I don't want to turn
back from anything that includes you, Don. But my father and grandpa
will be furious. They won't hesitate to vent their temper on you if you
oppose them. They are accustomed to respect. To have their authority
flouted rouses them to fury. And they're three to one. Put away your
gun, Donald. If we can't outsail the _Gull_ I shall have to go back
without a struggle. There will be another time. They can't change my
heart."

"They can break your spirit though--and they will, for this," he
muttered.

But he laid the rifle down on the locker. The girl snuggled her hand
into his.

"You will not quarrel with them, Donald--please, no matter what they
say? Promise me that," she pleaded. "If we can't outrun them, if they
come alongside, you will not fight? I shall go back obediently. You can
send word to me by Andrew Murdock. Next time we shall not fail."

"There will be no next time, Bessie," he said slowly. "You will never
get another chance. I know the Gowers and Mortons better than you do,
for all you're one of them. They'll make you wish you had never been
born, that you'd never seen me. I'd rather fight it out now. Isn't our
own happiness worth a blow or two?"

"I can't bear to think what might happen if you defied them out here on
this lonely sea," she shuddered. "You must promise me, Donald."

"I promise, then," he said with a sigh. "Only I know it's the end of our
dream, my dear. And I'm disappointed, too. I thought you had a stouter
heart, that wouldn't quail before two angry old men--and a jealous young
one. You can see, I suppose, that Horace is there, too.

"Damn them!" he broke out passionately after a minute's silence. "It's a
free country, and you and I are not children. They chase us as if we
were pirates. For two pins I'd give them a pirate's welcome. I tell you,
Bessie, my promise to be meek and mild is not worth much if they take a
high hand with me. I can take their measure, all three of them."

"But you must not," the girl insisted. "You've promised. We can't help
ourselves by violence. It would break my heart."

"They'll do that fast enough, once they get you home," he answered
gloomily.

The girl's lips quivered. She sat looking back at the cutter half a
cable astern. The westerly had failed them. The spreading canvas of the
yacht was already blanketing the little sloop, stealing what little wind
filled her sail. And as the sloop's way slackened the other slid down
upon her, a purl of water at her forefoot, her wide mainsail bellying
out in a snowy curve.

There were three men in her. The helmsman was a patriarch, his head
showing white, a full white beard descending from his chin, a
fierce-visaged, vigorous old man. Near him stood a man of middle age, a
ruddy-faced man in whose dark blue eyes a flame burned as he eyed the
two in the sloop. The third was younger still,--a short, sturdy fellow
in flannels, tending the mainsheet with a frowning glance.

The man in the sloop held his course.

"Damn you, MacRae; lay to, or I'll run you down," the patriarch at the
cutter's wheel shouted, when a boat's length separated the two craft.

MacRae's lips moved slightly, but no sound issued therefrom. Leaning on
the tiller, he let the sloop run. So for a minute the boats sailed, the
white yacht edging up on the sloop until it seemed as if her broaded-off
boom would rake and foul the other. But when at last she drew fully
abreast the two men sheeted mainsail and jib flat while the white-headed
helmsman threw her over so that the yacht drove in on the sloop and the
two younger men grappled MacRae's coaming with boat hooks, and side by
side they came slowly up into the wind.

MacRae made no move, said nothing, only regarded the three with sober
intensity. They, for their part, wasted no breath on him.

"Elizabeth, get in here," the girl's father commanded.

It was only a matter of stepping over the rubbing gunwales. The girl
rose. She cast an appealing glance at MacRae. His face did not alter.
She stepped up on the guard, disdaining the hand young Gower extended to
help her, and sprang lightly into the cockpit of the _Gull_.

"As for you, you calculating blackguard," her father addressed MacRae,
"if you ever set foot on Maple Point again, I'll have you horsewhipped
first and jailed for trespass after."

For a second MacRae made no answer. His nostrils dilated; his blue-gray
eyes darkened till they seemed black. Then he said with a curious
hoarseness, and in a voice pitched so low it was scarcely audible:

"Take your boat hooks out of me and be on your way."

The older man withdrew his hook. Young Gower held on a second longer,
matching the undisguised hatred in Donald MacRae's eyes with a fury in
his own. His round, boyish face purpled. And when he withdrew the boat
hook he swung the inch-thick iron-shod pole with a swift twist of his
body and struck MacRae fairly across the face.

MacRae went down in a heap as the _Gull_ swung away. The faint breeze
out of the west filled the cutter's sails. She stood away on a long tack
south by west, with a frightened girl cowering down in her cabin,
sobbing in grief and fear, and three men in the _Gull's_ cockpit casting
dubious glances at one another and back to the fishing sloop sailing
with no hand on her tiller.

In an hour the _Gull_ was four miles to windward of the sloop. The
breeze had taken a sudden shift full half the compass. A southeast wind
came backing up against the westerly. There was in its breath a hint of
something stronger.

Masterless, the sloop sailed, laid to, started off again erratically,
and after many shifts ran off before this stiffer wind. Unhelmed, she
laid her blunt bows straight for the opening between Sangster and
Squitty islands. On the cockpit floor Donald MacRae sprawled unheeding.
Blood from his broken face oozed over the boards.

Above him the boom swung creaking and he did not hear. Out of the
southeast a bank of cloud crept up to obscure the sun. Far southward the
Gulf was darkened, and across that darkened area specks and splashes of
white began to show and disappear. The hot air grew strangely cool. The
swell that runs far before a Gulf southeaster began to roll the sloop,
abandoned to all the aimless movements of a vessel uncontrolled. She
came up into the wind and went off before it again, her sails bellying
strongly, racing as if to outrun the swells which now here and there
lifted and broke. She dropped into a hollow, a following sea slewed her
stern sharply, and she jibed,--that is, the wind caught the mainsail and
flung it violently from port to starboard. The boom swept an arc of a
hundred degrees and put her rail under when it brought up with a jerk on
the sheet.

Ten minutes later she jibed again. This time the mainsheet parted. Only
stout, heavily ironed backstays kept mainsail and boom from being blown
straight ahead. The boom end swung outboard till it dragged in the seas
as she rolled. Only by a miracle and the stoutest of standing gear had
she escaped dismasting. Now, with the mainsail broaded off to starboard,
and the jib by some freak of wind and sea winged out to port, the sloop
drove straight before the wind, holding as true a course as if the limp
body on the cockpit floor laid an invisible, controlling hand on sheet
and tiller.

And he, while that fair wind grew to a yachtsman's gale and lashed the
Gulf of Georgia into petty convulsions, lay where he had fallen, his
head rolling as his vessel rolled, heedless when she rose and raced on a
wave-crest or fell laboring in the trough when a wave slid out from
under her.

The sloop had all but doubled on her course,--nearly but not
quite,--and the few points north of west that she shifted bore her
straight to destruction.

MacRae opened his eyes at last. He was bewildered and sick. His head
swam. There was a series of stabbing pains in his lacerated face. But he
was of the sea, of that breed which survives by dint of fortitude,
endurance, stoutness of arm and quickness of wit. He clawed to his feet.
Almost before him lifted the bleak southern face of Squitty Island.
Point Old jutted out like a barrier. MacRae swung on the tiller. But the
wind had the mainsail in its teeth. Without control of that boom his
rudder could not serve him.

And as he crawled forward to try to lower sail, or get a rope's end on
the boom, whichever would do, the sloop struck on a rock that stands
awash at half-tide, a brown hummock of granite lifting out of the sea
two hundred feet off the tip of Point Old.

She struck with a shock that sent MacRae sprawling, arrested full in an
eight-knot stride. As she hung shuddering on the rock, impaled by a
jagged tooth, a sea lifted over her stern and swept her like a watery
broom that washed MacRae off the cabin top, off the rock itself into
deep water beyond.

He came up gasping. The cool immersion had astonishingly revived him. He
felt a renewal of his strength, and he had been cast by luck into a
place from which it took no more than the moderate effort of an able
swimmer to reach shore. Point Old stood at an angle to the smashing
seas, making a sheltered bight behind it, and into this bight the
flooding tide set in a slow eddy. MacRae had only to keep himself
afloat.

In five minutes his feet touched on a gravel beach. He walked dripping
out of the languid swell that ran from the turbulence outside and turned
to look back. The sloop had lodged on the rock, bilged by the ragged
granite. The mast was down, mast and sodden sails swinging at the end of
a stay as each sea swept over the rock with a hissing roar.

MacRae climbed to higher ground. He sat down beside a stunted, leaning
fir and watched his boat go. It was soon done. A bigger sea than most
tore the battered hull loose, lifted it high, let it drop. The crack of
breaking timbers cut through the boom of the surf. The next sea swept
the rock clear, and the broken, twisted hull floated awash. Caught in
the tidal eddy it began its slow journey to join the vast accumulation
of driftwood on the beach.

MacRae glanced along the island shore. He knew that shore slightly,--a
bald, cliffy stretch notched with rocky pockets in which the surf beat
itself into dirty foam. If he had grounded anywhere in that mile of
headland north of Point Old, his bones would have been broken like the
timbers of his sloop.

But his eyes did not linger there nor his thoughts upon shipwreck and
sudden death. His gaze turned across the Gulf to a tongue of land
outthrusting from the long purple reach of Vancouver Island. Behind that
point lay the Morton estate, and beside the Morton boundaries, matching
them mile for mile in wealth of virgin timber and fertile meadow, spread
the Gower lands.

His face, streaked and blotched with drying bloodstains, scarred with a
red gash that split his cheek from the hair above one ear to a corner of
his mouth, hardened into ugly lines. His eyes burned again.

This happened many years ago, long before a harassed world had to
reckon with bourgeois and Bolshevik, when profiteer and pacifist had not
yet become words to fill the mouths of men, and not even the politicians
had thought of saving the world for democracy. Yet men and women were
strangely as they are now. A generation may change its manners, its
outward seeming; it does not change in its loving and hating, in its
fundamental passions, its inherent reactions.

MacRae's face worked. His lips quivered as he stared across the troubled
sea. He lifted his hands in a swift gesture of appeal.

"O God," he cried, "curse and blast them in all their ways and
enterprises if they deal with her as they have dealt with me."




CHAPTER I

The House in Cradle Bay


On an afternoon in the first week of November, 1918, under a sky bank
full of murky cloud and an air freighted with a chill which threatened
untimely snow, a man came rowing up along the western side of Squitty
Island and turned into Cradle Bay, which lies under the lee of Point
Old. He was a young man, almost boyish-looking. He had on a pair of fine
tan shoes, brown overalls, a new gray mackinaw coat buttoned to his
chin. He was bareheaded. Also he wore a patch of pink celluloid over his
right eye.

When he turned into the small half-moon bight, he let up on his oars and
drifted, staring with a touch of surprise at a white cottage-roofed
house with wide porches sitting amid an acre square of bright green lawn
on a gentle slope that ran up from a narrow beach backed by a low
sea-wall of stone where the gravel ended and the earth began.

"Hm-m-m," he muttered. "It wasn't built yesterday, either. Funny he
never mentioned _that_."

He pushed on the oars and the boat slid nearer shore, the man's eyes
still steadfast on the house. It stood out bold against the grass and
the deeper green of the forest behind. Back of it opened a hillside
brown with dead ferns, dotted with great solitary firs and gnarly
branched arbutus.

No life appeared there. The chimneys were dead. Two moorings bobbed in
the bay, but there was no craft save a white rowboat hauled high above
tidewater and canted on its side.

"I wonder, now." He spoke again.

While he wondered and pushed his boat slowly in on the gravel, a low
_pr-r-r_ and a sibilant ripple of water caused him to look behind. A
high-bowed, shining mahogany cruiser, seventy feet or more over all,
rounded the point and headed into the bay. The smooth sea parted with a
whistling sound where her brass-shod stem split it like a knife. She
slowed down from this trainlike speed, stopped, picked up a mooring,
made fast. The swell from her rolled in, swashing heavily on the beach.

The man in the rowboat turned his attention to the cruiser. There were
people aboard to the number of a dozen, men and women, clustered on her
flush afterdeck. He could hear the clatter of their tongues, low ripples
of laughter, through all of which ran the impatient note of a male voice
issuing peremptory orders.

The cruiser blew her whistle repeatedly,--shrill, imperative blasts. The
man in the rowboat smiled. The air was very still. Sounds carry over
quiet water as if telephoned. He could not help hearing what was said.

"Wise management," he observed ironically, under his breath.

The power yacht, it seemed, had not so much as a dinghy aboard.

A figure on the deck detached itself from the group and waved a
beckoning hand to the rowboat.

The rower hesitated, frowning. Then he shrugged his shoulders and pulled
out and alongside. The deck crew lowered a set of steps.

"Take a couple of us ashore, will you?" He was addressed by a short,
stout man. He was very round and pink of face, very well dressed, and by
the manner in which he spoke to the others, and the glances he cast
ashore, a person of some consequence in great impatience.

The young man laid his rowboat against the steps.

"Climb in," he said briefly.

"You, Smith, come along," the round-faced one addressed a youth in tight
blue jersey and peaked cap.

The deck boy climbed obediently down. A girl in white duck and heavy
blue sweater put her foot on the steps.

"I think I shall go too, papa," she said.

Her father nodded and followed her.

The rowboat nosed in beside the end of a narrow float that ran from the
sea wall. The boy in the jersey sprang out, reached a steadying hand to
his employer. The girl stepped lightly to the planked logs.

"Give the boy a lift on that boat to the _chuck_, will you?" the stout
person made further request, indicating the white boat bottom up on
shore.

A queer expression gleamed momentarily in the eyes of the boatman. But
it passed. He did not speak, but made for the dinghy, followed by the
hand from the yacht. They turned the boat over, slid it down and afloat.
The sailor got in and began to ship his oars.

The man and the girl stood by till this was done. Then the girl turned
away. The man extended his hand.

"Thanks," he said curtly.

The other's hand had involuntarily moved. The short, stout man dropped a
silver dollar in it, swung on his heel and followed his
daughter,--passed her, in fact, for she had only taken a step or two and
halted.

The young fellow eyed the silver coin in his hand with an expression
that passed from astonishment to anger and broke at last into a smile of
sheer amusement. He jiggled the coin, staring at it thoughtfully. Then
he faced about on the jerseyed youth about to dip his blades.

"Smith," he said, "I suppose if I heaved this silver dollar out into the
_chuck_ you'd think I was crazy."

The youth only stared at him.

"You don't object to tips, do you, Smith?" the man in the mackinaw
inquired.

"Gee, no," the boy observed. "Ain't you got no use for money?"

"Not this kind. You take it and buy smokes."

He flipped the dollar into the dinghy. It fell clinking on the slatted
floor and the youth salvaged it, looked it over, put it in his pocket.

"Gee," he said. "Any time a guy hands me money, I keep it, believe me."

His gaze rested curiously on the man with the patch over his eye. His
familiar grin faded. He touched his cap.

"Thank y', sir."

He heaved on his oars. The boat slid out. The man stood watching, hands
deep in his pockets. A displeased look replaced the amused smile as his
glance rested a second on the rich man's toy of polished mahogany and
shining brass. Then he turned to look again at the house up the slope
and found the girl at his elbow.

He did not know if she had overheard him, and he did not at the moment
care. He met her glance with one as impersonal as her own.

"I'm afraid I must apologize for my father," she said simply. "I hope
you aren't offended. It was awfully good of you to bring us ashore."

"That's quite all right," he answered casually. "Why should I be
offended? When a roughneck does something for you, it's proper to hand
him some of your loose change. Perfectly natural."

"But you aren't anything of the sort," she said frankly. "I feel sure
you resent being tipped for an act of courtesy. It was very thoughtless
of papa."

"Some people are so used to greasing their way with money that they'll
hand St. Peter a ten-dollar bill when they pass the heavenly gates," he
observed. "But it really doesn't matter. Tell me something. Whose house
is that, and how long has it been there?"

"Ours," she answered. "Two years. We stay here a good deal in the
summer."

"Ours, I daresay, means Horace A. Gower," he remarked. "Pardon my
curiosity, but you see I used to know this place rather well. I've been
away for some time. Things seem to have changed a bit."

"You're just back from overseas?" she asked quickly.

He nodded. She looked at him with livelier interest.

"I'm no wounded hero," he forestalled the inevitable question. "I merely
happened to get a splinter of wood in one eye, so I have leave until it
gets well."

"If you are merely on leave, why are you not in uniform?" she asked
quickly, in a puzzled tone.

"I am," he replied shortly. "Only it is covered up with overalls and
mackinaw. Well, I must be off. Good-by, Miss Gower."

He pushed his boat off the beach, rowed to the opposite side of the bay,
and hauled the small craft up over a log. Then he took his bag in hand
and climbed the rise that lifted to the backbone of Point Old. Halfway
up he turned to look briefly backward over beach and yacht and house, up
the veranda steps of which the girl in the blue sweater was now
climbing.

"It's queer," he muttered.

He went on. In another minute he was on the ridge. The Gulf opened out,
a dead dull gray. The skies were hidden behind drab clouds. The air was
clammy, cold, hushed, as if the god of storms were gathering his breath
for a great effort.

And Jack MacRae himself, when he topped the height which gave clear
vision for many miles of shore and sea, drew a deep breath and halted
for a long look at many familiar things.

He had been gone nearly four years. It seemed to him but yesterday that
he left. The picture was unchanged,--save for that white cottage in its
square of green. He stared at that with a doubtful expression, then his
uncovered eye came back to the long sweep of the Gulf, to the brown
cliffs spreading away in a ragged line along a kelp-strewn shore. He put
down the bag and seated himself on a mossy rock close by a stunted,
leaning fir and stared about him like a man who has come a great way to
see something and means to look his fill.




CHAPTER II

His Own Country


Squitty Island lies in the Gulf of Georgia midway between a mainland
made of mountains like the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas all
jumbled together and all rising sheer from the sea, and the low
delta-like shore of Vancouver Island. Southward from Squitty the Gulf
runs in a thirty-mile width for nearly a hundred miles to the San Juan
islands in American waters, beyond which opens the sheltered beauty of
Puget Sound. Squitty is six miles wide and ten miles long, a blob of
granite covered with fir and cedar forest, with certain parklike patches
of open grassland on the southern end, and a hump of a mountain lifting
two thousand feet in its middle.

The southeastern end of Squitty--barring the tide rips off Cape
Mudge--is the dirtiest place in the Gulf for small craft in blowy
weather. The surges that heave up off a hundred miles of sea tortured by
a southeast gale break thunderously against Squitty's low cliffs. These
walls face the marching breakers with a grim, unchanging front. There is
nothing hospitable in this aspect of Squitty. It is an ugly shore to
have on the lee in a blow.

Yet it is not so forbidding as it seems. The prevailing summer winds on
the Gulf are westerly. Gales of uncommon fierceness roar out of the
northwest in fall and early winter. At such times the storms split on
Squitty Island, leaving a restful calm under those brown, kelp-fringed
cliffs. Many a small coaster has crept thankfully into that lee out of
the whitecapped turmoil on either side, to lie there through a night
that was wild outside, watching the Ballenas light twenty miles away on
a pile of bare rocks winking and blinking its warning to less fortunate
craft. Tugs, fishing boats, salmon trollers, beach-combing launches, all
that mosquito fleet which gets its bread upon the waters and learns bar,
shoal, reef, and anchorage thoroughly in the getting,--these knew that
besides the half-moon bight called Cradle Bay, upon which fronted Horace
Gower's summer home, there opened also a secure, bottle-necked cove less
than a mile northward from Point Old.

By day a stranger could only mark the entrance by eagle watch from a
course close inshore. By night even those who knew the place as they
knew the palm of their hand had to feel their way in. But once inside, a
man could lie down in his bunk and sleep soundly, though a southeaster
whistled and moaned, and the seas roared smoking into the narrow mouth.
No ripple of that troubled the inside of Squitty Cove. It was a finger
of the sea thrust straight into the land, a finger three hundred yards
long, forty yards wide, with an entrance so narrow that a man could
heave a sounding lead across it, and that entrance so masked by a rock
about the bigness of a six-room house that one holding the channel could
touch the rock with a pike pole as he passed in. There was a mud bottom,
twenty-foot depth at low tide, and a little stream of cold fresh water
brawling in at the head. A cliff walled it on the south. A low, grassy
hill dotted with solitary firs, red-barked arbutus, and clumps of wild
cherry formed its northern boundary. And all around the mouth, in every
nook and crevice, driftwood of every size and shape lay in great heaps,
cast high above tidewater by the big storms.

So Squitty had the three prime requisites for a harbor,--secure
anchorage, fresh water, and firewood. There was good fertile land, too,
behind the Cove,--low valleys that ran the length of the island. There
were settlers here and there, but these settlers were not the folk who
intermittently frequented Squitty Cove. The settlers stayed on their
land, battling with stumps, clearing away the ancient forest, tilling
the soil. Those to whom Squitty Cove gave soundest sleep and keenest joy
were tillers of the sea. Off Point Old a rock brown with seaweed, ringed
with a bed of kelp, lifted its ugly head now to the one good, blue-gray
eye of Jack MacRae, the same rock upon which Donald MacRae's sloop broke
her back before Jack MacRae was born. It was a sunken menace at any
stage of water, heartily cursed by the fishermen. In the years between,
the rock had acquired a name not written on the Admiralty charts. The
hydrographers would look puzzled and shake their heads if one asked
where in the Gulf waters lay Poor Man's Rock.

But Poor Man's Rock it is. Greek and Japanese, Spaniard and Italian,
American and Canadian--and there are many of each--who follow the
silver-sided salmon when they run in the Gulf of Georgia, these know
that Poor Man's Rock lies half a cable south southwest of Point Old on
Squitty Island. Most of them know, too, why it is called Poor Man's
Rock.

Under certain conditions of sea and sky the Rock is as lonely and
forbidding a spot as ever a ship's timbers were broken upon. Point Old
thrusts out like the stubby thumb on a clenched first. The Rock and the
outer nib of the Point are haunted by quarreling flocks of gulls and
coots and the black Siwash duck with his stumpy wings and brilliant
yellow bill. The southeaster sends endless battalions of waves rolling
up there when it blows. These rear white heads over the Rock and burst
on the Point with shuddering impact and showers of spray. When the sky
is dull and gray, and the wind whips the stunted trees on the
Point--trees that lean inland with branches all twisted to the landward
side from pressure of many gales in their growing years--and the surf is
booming out its basso harmonies, the Rock is no place for a fisherman.
Even the gulls desert it then.

But in good weather, in the season, the blueback and spring salmon swim
in vast schools across the end of Squitty. They feed upon small fish,
baby herring, tiny darting atoms of finny life that swarm in countless
numbers. What these inch-long fishes feed upon no man knows, but they
begin to show in the Gulf early in spring. The water is alive with
them,--minute, darting streaks of silver. The salmon follow these
schools, pursuing, swallowing, eating to live. Seal and dogfish follow
the salmon. Shark and the giant blackfish follow dogfish and seal. And
man follows them all, pursuing and killing that he himself may live.

Around Poor Man's Rock the tide sets strongly at certain stages of ebb
and flood. The cliffs north of Point Old and the area immediately
surrounding the Rock are thick strewn with kelp. In these brown patches
of seaweed the tiny fish, the schools of baby herring, take refuge from
their restless enemy, the swift and voracious salmon.

For years Pacific Coast salmon have been taken by net and trap, to the
profit of the salmon packers and the satisfaction of those who cannot
get fish save out of tin cans. The salmon swarmed in millions on their
way to spawn in fresh-water streams. They were plentiful and cheap. But
even before the war came to send the price of linen-mesh net beyond most
fishermen's pocketbooks, men had discovered that salmon could be taken
commercially by trolling lines. The lordly spring, which attains to
seventy pounds, the small, swift blueback, and the fighting coho could
all be lured to a hook on a wobbling bit of silver or brass at the end
of a long line weighted with lead to keep it at a certain depth behind a
moving boat. From a single line over the stern it was but a logical step
to two, four, even six lines spaced on slender poles boomed out on each
side of a power launch,--once the fisherman learned that with this gear
he could take salmon in open water. So trolling was launched. Odd
trollers grew to trolling fleets. A new method became established in the
salmon industry.

But there are places where the salmon run and a gasboat trolling her
battery of lines cannot go without loss of gear. The power boats cannot
troll in shallows. They cannot operate in kelp without fouling. So they
hold to deep open water and leave the kelp and shoals to the rowboats.

And that is how Poor Man's Rock got its name. In the kelp that
surrounded it and the greater beds that fringed Point Old, the small
feed sought refuge from the salmon and the salmon pursued them there
among the weedy granite and the boulders, even into shallows where their
back fins cleft the surface as they dashed after the little herring. The
foul ground and the tidal currents that swept by the Rock held no danger
to the gear of a rowboat troller. He fished a single short line with a
pound or so of lead. He could stop dead in a boat length if his line
fouled. So he pursued the salmon as the salmon pursued the little fish
among the kelp and boulders.

Only a poor man trolled in a rowboat, tugging at the oars hour after
hour without cabin shelter from wind and sun and rain, unable to face
even such weather as a thirty by eight-foot gasboat could easily fish
in, unable to follow the salmon run when it shifted from one point to
another on the Gulf. The rowboat trollers must pick a camp ashore by a
likely ground and stay there. If the salmon left they could only wait
till another run began. Whereas the power boat could hear of schooling
salmon forty miles away and be on the spot in seven hours' steaming.

Poor Man's Rock had given many a man his chance. Nearly always salmon
could be taken there by a rowboat. And because for many years old men,
men with lean purses, men with a rowboat, a few dollars, and a hunger
for independence, had camped in Squitty Cove and fished the Squitty
headlands and seldom failed to take salmon around the Rock, the name had
clung to that brown hummock of granite lifting out of the sea at half
tide. From April to November, any day a rowboat could live outside the
Cove, there would be half a dozen, eight, ten, more or less, of these
solitary rowers bending to their oars, circling the Rock.

Now and again one of these would hastily drop his oars, stand up, and
haul in his line hand over hand. There would be a splashing and
splattering on the surface, a bright silver fish leaping and threshing
the water, to land at last with a plop! in the boat. Whereupon the
fisherman would hurriedly strike this dynamic, glistening fish over the
head with a short, thick club, lest his struggles snarl the line, after
which he would put out his spoon and bend to the oars again. It was a
daylight and dusk job, a matter of infinite patience and hard work, cold
and wet at times, and in midsummer the blaze of a scorching sun and the
eye-dazzling glitter of reflected light.

But a man must live. Some who came to the Cove trolled long and
skillfully, and were lucky enough to gain a power troller in the end, to
live on beans and fish, and keep a strangle hold on every dollar that
came in until with a cabin boat powered with gas they joined the
trolling fleet and became nomads. They fared well enough then. Their
taking at once grew beyond a rowboat's scope. They could see new
country, hearken to the lure of distant fishing grounds. There was the
sport of gambling on wind and weather, on the price of fish or the
number of the catch. If one locality displeased them they could shift to
another, while the rowboat men were chained perforce to the monotony of
the same camp, the same cliffs, the same old weary round.

Sometimes Squitty Cove harbored thirty or forty of these power trollers.
They would make their night anchorage there while the trolling held
good, filling the Cove with talk and laughter and a fine sprinkle of
lights when dark closed in. With failing catches, or the first breath of
a southeaster that would lock them in the Cove while it blew, they would
be up and away,--to the top end of Squitty, to Yellow Rock, to Cape
Lazo, anywhere that salmon might be found.

And the rowboat men would lie in their tents and split-cedar lean-tos,
cursing the weather, the salmon that would not bite, grumbling at their
lot.

There were two or three rowboat men who had fished the Cove almost since
Jack MacRae could remember,--old men, fishermen who had shot their
bolt, who dwelt in small cabins by the Cove, living somehow from salmon
run to salmon run, content if the season's catch netted three hundred
dollars. All they could hope for was a living. They had become fixtures
there.

Jack MacRae looked down from the bald tip of Point Old with an eager
gleam in his uncovered eye. There was the Rock with a slow swell lapping
over it. There was an old withered Portuguese he knew in a green dugout,
Long Tom Spence rowing behind the Portuguese, and they carrying on a
shouted conversation. He picked out Doug Sproul among three others he
did not know,--and there was not a man under fifty among them.

Three hundred yards offshore half a dozen power trollers wheeled and
counterwheeled, working an eddy. He could see them haul the lines hand
over hand, casting the hooked fish up into the hold with an easy swing.
The salmon were biting.

It was all familiar to Jack MacRae. He knew every nook and cranny on
Squitty Island, every phase and mood and color of the sea. It is a grim
birthplace that leaves a man without some sentiment for the place where
he was born. Point Old, Squitty Cove, Poor Man's Rock had been the
boundaries of his world for a long time. In so far as he had ever
played, he had played there.

He looked for another familiar figure or two, without noting them.

"The fish are biting fast for this time of year," he reflected. "It's a
wonder dad and Peter Ferrara aren't out. And I never knew Bill Munro to
miss anything like this."

He looked a little longer, over across the tip of Sangster Island two
miles westward, with its Elephant's Head,--the extended trunk of which
was a treacherous reef bared only at low tide. He looked at the
Elephant's unwinking eye, which was a twenty-foot hole through a hump of
sandstone, and smiled. He had fished for salmon along the kelp beds
there and dug clams under the eye of the Elephant long, long ago. It did
seem a long time ago that he had been a youngster in overalls,
adventuring alone in a dugout about these bold headlands.

He rose at last. The November wind chilled him through the heavy
mackinaw. He looked back at the Gower cottage, like a snowflake in a
setting of emerald; he looked at the Gower yacht; and the puzzled frown
returned to his face.

Then he picked up his bag and walked rapidly along the brow of the
cliffs toward Squitty Cove.




CHAPTER III

The Flutter of Sable Wings


A path took form on the mossy rock as Jack MacRae strode on. He followed
this over patches of grass, by lone firs and small thickets, until it
brought him out on the rim of the Cove. He stood a second on the cliffy
north wall to look down on the quiet harbor. It was bare of craft, save
that upon the beach two or three rowboats lay hauled out. On the farther
side a low, rambling house of logs showed behind a clump of firs. Smoke
lifted from its stone chimney.

MacRae smiled reminiscently at this and moved on. His objective lay at
the Cove's head, on the little creek which came whispering down from the
high land behind. He gained this in another two hundred yards, coming to
a square house built, like its neighbor, of stout logs with a
high-pitched roof, a patch of ragged grass in front, and a picket-fenced
area at the back in which stood apple trees and cherry and plum,
gaunt-limbed trees all bare of leaf and fruit. Ivy wound up the corners
of the house. Sturdy rosebushes stood before it, and the dead vines of
sweet peas bleached on their trellises.

It had the look of an old place--as age is reckoned in so new a
country--old and bearing the marks of many years' labor bestowed to make
it what it was. Even from a distance it bore a homelike air. MacRae's
face lightened at the sight. His step quickened. He had come a long way
to get home.

Across the front of the house extended a wide porch which gave a look at
the Cove through a thin screen of maple and alder. From the
grass-bordered walk of beach gravel half a dozen steps lifted to the
floor level. As MacRae set foot on the lower step a girl came out on the
porch.

MacRae stopped. The girl did not see him. Her eyes were fixed
questioningly on the sea that stretched away beyond the narrow mouth of
the Cove. As she looked she drew one hand wearily across her forehead,
tucking back a vagrant strand of dusky hair. MacRae watched her a
moment. The quick, pleased smile that leaped to his face faded to
soberness.

"Hello, Dolly," he said softly.

She started. Her dark eyes turned to him, and an inexpressible relief
glowed in them. She held up one hand in a gesture that warned
silence,--and by that time MacRae had come up the steps to her side and
seized both her hands in his. She looked at him speechlessly, a curious
passivity in her attitude. He saw that her eyes were wet.

"What's wrong, Dolly?" he asked. "Aren't you glad to see Johnny come
marching home? Where's dad?"

"Glad?" she echoed. "I never was so glad to see any one in my life. Oh,
Johnny MacRae, I wish you'd come sooner. Your father's a sick man. We've
done our best, but I'm afraid it's not good enough."

"He's in bed, I suppose," said MacRae. "Well, I'll go in and see him.
Maybe it'll cheer the old boy up to see me back."

"He won't know you," the girl murmured. "You mustn't disturb him just
now, anyway. He has fallen into a doze. When he comes out of that he'll
likely be delirious."

"Good Lord," MacRae whispered, "as bad as that! What is it?"

"The flu," Dolly said quietly. "Everybody has been having it. Old Bill
Munro died in his shack a week ago."

"Has dad had a doctor?"

The girl nodded.

"Harper from Nanaimo came day before yesterday. He left medicine and
directions; he can't come again. He has more cases than he can handle
over there."

They went through the front door into a big, rudely furnished room with
a very old and worn rug on the floor, a few pieces of heavy furniture,
and bare, uncurtained windows. A heap of wood blazed in an open
cobblestone fireplace.

MacRae stopped short just within the threshold. Through a door slightly
ajar came the sound of stertorous breathing, intermittent in its volume,
now barely audible, again rising to a labored harshness. He listened, a
look of dismayed concern gathering on his face. He had heard men in the
last stages of exhaustion from wounds and disease breathe in that
horribly distressed fashion.

He stood a while uncertainly. Then he laid off his mackinaw, walked
softly to the bedroom door, looked in. After a minute of silent watching
he drew back. The girl had seated herself in a chair. MacRae sat down
facing her.

"I never saw dad so thin and old-looking," he muttered. "Why, his hair
is nearly white. He's a wreck. How long has he been sick?"

"Four days," Dolly answered. "But he hasn't grown old and thin in four
days, Jack. He's been going downhill for months. Too much work. Too much
worry also, I think--out there around the Rock every morning at
daylight, every evening till dark. It hasn't been a good season for the
rowboats."

MacRae stirred uneasily in his chair. He didn't understand why his
father should have to drudge in a trolling boat. They had always fished
salmon, so far back as he could recall, but never of stark necessity. He
nursed his chin in his hand and thought. Mostly he thought with a
constricted feeling in his throat of how frail and old his father had
grown, the slow-smiling, slow-speaking man who had been father and
mother and chum to him since he was an urchin in knee breeches. He
recalled him at their parting on a Vancouver railway platform,--tall and
rugged, a lean, muscular, middle-aged man, bidding his son a restrained
farewell with a longing look in his eyes. Now he was a wasted shadow.
Jack MacRae shivered. He seemed to hear the sable angel's wing-beats
over the house.

He looked up at the girl at last.

"You're worn out, aren't you, Dolly?" he said. "Have you been caring for
him alone?"

"Uncle Peter helped," she answered. "But I've stayed up and worried, and
I am tired, of course. It isn't a very cheerful home-coming, is it,
Jack? And he was so pleased when he got your cable from London. Poor old
man!"

MacRae got up suddenly. But the clatter of his shoes on the floor
recalled him to himself. He sat down again.

"I've got to do something," he asserted.

"There's nothing you can do," Dolly Ferrara said wistfully. "He can't
be moved. You can't get a doctor or a nurse. The country's full of
people down with the flu. There's only one chance and I've taken that. I
wrote a message to Doctor Laidlaw--you remember he used to come here
every summer to fish--and Uncle Peter went across to Sechelt to wire it.
I think he'll come if he can, or send some one, don't you? They were
such good friends."

"That was a good idea," MacRae nodded. "Laidlaw will certainly come if
it's possible."

"And I can keep cool cloths on his head and feed him broth and give him
the stuff Doctor Harper left. He said it depended mostly on his own
resisting power. If he could throw it off he would. If not--"

She turned her palms out expressively.

"How did you come?" she asked presently.

"Across from Qualicum in a fish carrier to Folly Bay. I borrowed a boat
at the Bay and rowed up."

"You must be hungry," she said. "I'll get you something to eat."

"I don't feel much like eating,"--MacRae followed her into the
kitchen--"but I can drink a cup of tea."

He sat on a corner of the kitchen table while she busied herself with
the kettle and teapot, marveling that in four years everything should
apparently remain the same and still suffer such grievous change. There
was an air of forlornness about the house which hurt him. The place had
run down, as the sands of his father's life were running down. Of the
things unchanged the girl he watched was one. Yet as he looked with
keener appraisal, he saw that Dolly Ferrara too had changed.

Her dusky cloud of hair was as of old; her wide, dark eyes still
mirrored faithfully every shift of feeling, and her incomparable creamy
skin was more beautiful than ever. Moving, she had lost none of her
lithe grace. And though she had met him as if it had been only yesterday
they parted, still there was a difference which somehow eluded him. He
could feel it, but it was not to be defined. It struck him for the first
time that many who had never seen a battlefield, never heard a screaming
shell, nor shuddered at the agony of a dressing station, might still
have suffered by and of and through the reactions of war.

They drank their tea and ate a slice of toast in silence. MacRae's
comrades in France had called him "Silent" John, because of his lapses
into concentrated thought, his habit of a close mouth when he was hurt
or troubled or uncertain. One of the things for which he had liked Dolly
Ferrara had been her possession of the same trait, uncommon in a girl.
She could sit on the cliffs or lie with him in a rowboat lifting and
falling in the Gulf swell, staring at the sea and the sky and the
wheeling gulls, dreaming and keeping her dreams shyly to herself,--as he
did. They did not always need words for understanding. And so they did
not talk now for the sake of talking, pour out words lest silence bring
embarrassment. Dolly sat resting her chin in one hand, looking at him
impersonally, yet critically, he felt. He smoked a cigarette and held
his peace until the labored breathing of the sick man changed to
disjointed, muttering, incoherent fragments of speech.

Dolly went to him at once. MacRae lingered to divest himself of the
brown overalls so that he stood forth in his uniform, the R.A.F. uniform
with the two black wings joined to a circle on his left breast and below
that the multicolored ribbon of a decoration. Then he went in to his
father.

Donald MacRae was far gone. His son needed no M.D. to tell him that. He
burned with a high fever which had consumed his flesh and strength in
its furnace. His eyes gleamed unnaturally, with no light of recognition
for either his son or Dolly Ferrara. And there was a peculiar tinge to
the old man's lips that chilled young MacRae, the mark of the Spanish
flu in its deadliest manifestation. It made him ache to see that gray
head shift from side to side, to listen to the incoherent babble, to
mark the feeble shiftings of the nervous hands.

For a terrible half hour he endured the sight of his father struggling
for breath, being racked by spasms of coughing. Then the reaction came
and the sick man slept,--not a healthy, restful sleep; it was more like
the dying stupor of exhaustion. Young MacRae knew that.

He knew with disturbing certainty that without skilled
treatment--perhaps even in spite of that--his father's life was a matter
of hours. Again he and Dolly Ferrara tiptoed out to the room where the
fire glowed on the hearth. MacRae sat thinking. Dusk was coming on, the
long twilight shortened by the overcast sky. MacRae glowered at the
fire. The girl watched him expectantly.

"I have an idea," he said at last. "It's worth trying."

He opened his bag and, taking out the wedge-shaped cap of the birdmen,
set it on his head and went out. He took the same path he had followed
home. On top of the cliff he stopped to look down on Squitty Cove. In a
camp or two ashore the supper fires of the rowboat trollers were
burning. Through the narrow entrance the gasboats were chugging in to
anchorage, one close upon the heels of another.

MacRae considered the power trollers. He shook his head.

"Too slow," he muttered. "Too small. No place to lay him only a doghouse
cabin and a fish hold."

He strode away along the cliffs. It was dark now. But he had ranged all
that end of Squitty in daylight and dark, in sun and storm, for years,
and the old instinctive sense of direction, of location, had not
deserted him. In a little while he came out abreast of Cradle Bay. The
Gower house, all brightly gleaming windows, loomed near. He struck down
through the dead fern, over the unfenced lawn.

Halfway across that he stopped. A piano broke out loudly. Figures
flittered by the windows, gliding, turning. MacRae hesitated. He had
come reluctantly, driven by his father's great need, uneasily conscious
that Donald MacRae, had he been cognizant, would have forbidden harshly
the request his son had come to make. Jack MacRae had the feeling that
his father would rather die than have him ask anything of Horace Gower.

He did not know why. He had never been told why. All he knew was that
his father would have nothing to do with Gower, never mentioned the name
voluntarily, let his catch of salmon rot on the beach before he would
sell to a Gower cannery boat,--and had enjoined upon his son the same
aloofness from all things Gower. Once, in answer to young Jack's curious
question, his natural "why," Donald MacRae had said:

"I knew the man long before you were born, Johnny. I don't like him. I
despise him. Neither I nor any of mine shall ever truck and traffic with
him and his. When you are a man and can understand, I shall tell you
more of this."

But he had never told. It had never been a mooted point. Jack MacRae
knew Horace Gower only as a short, stout, elderly man of wealth and
consequence, a power in the salmon trade. He knew a little more of the
Gower clan now than he did before the war. MacRae had gone overseas with
the Seventh Battalion. His company commander had been Horace Gower's
son. Certain aspects of that young man had not heightened MacRae's
esteem for the Gower family. Moreover, he resented this elaborate summer
home of Gower's standing on land he had always known to be theirs, the
MacRaes'. That puzzled him, as well as affronted his sense of ownership.

But these things, he told himself, were for the moment beside the point.
He felt his father's life trembling in the balance. He wanted to see
affectionate, prideful recognition light up those gray-blue eyes again,
even if briefly. He had come six thousand miles to cheer the old man
with a sight of his son, a son who had been a credit to him. And he was
willing to pocket pride, to call for help from the last source he would
have chosen, if that would avail.

He crossed the lawn, waited a few seconds till the piano ceased its
syncopated frenzy and the dancers stopped.

Betty Gower herself opened at his knock.

"Is Mr. Gower here?" he asked.

"Yes. Won't you come in?" she asked courteously.

The door opened direct into a great living room, from the oak floor of
which the rugs had been rolled aside for dancing. As MacRae came in out
of the murk along the cliffs, his one good eye was dazzled at first.
Presently he made out a dozen or more persons in the room,--young people
nearly all. They were standing and sitting about. One or two were in
khaki--officers. There seemed to be an abrupt cessation of chatter and
laughing at his entrance. It did not occur to him at once that these
people might be avidly curious about a strange young man in the uniform
of the Flying Corps. He apprehended that curiosity, though, politely
veiled as it was. In the same glance he became aware of a middle-aged
woman sitting on a couch by the fire. Her hair was pure white,
elaborately arranged, her eyes were a pale blue, her skin very delicate
and clear. Her face somehow reminded Jack MacRae of a faded rose leaf.

In a deep armchair near her sat Horace Gower. A young man, a very young
man, in evening clothes, holding a long cigarette daintily in his
fingers, stood by Gower.

MacRae followed Betty Gower across the room to her father. She turned.
Her quick eyes had picked out the insignia of rank on MacRae's uniform.

"Papa," she said. "Captain--" she hesitated.

"MacRae," he supplied.

"Captain MacRae wishes to see you."

MacRae wished no conventionalities. He did not want to be introduced, to
be shaken by the hand, to have Gower play host. He forestalled all this,
if indeed it threatened.

"I have just arrived home on leave," he said briefly. "I find my father
desperately ill in our house at the Cove. You have a very fast and able
cruiser. Would you care to put her at my disposal so that I may take my
father to Vancouver? I think that is his only chance."

Gower had risen. He was not an imposing man. At his first glimpse of
MacRae's face, the pink-patched eye, the uniform, he flushed
slightly,--recalling that afternoon.

"I'm sorry," he said. "You'd be welcome to the _Arrow_ if she were here.
But I sent her to Nanaimo an hour after she landed us. Are you Donald
MacRae's boy?"

"Yes," MacRae said. "Thank you. That's all."

He had said his say and got his answer. He turned to go. Betty Gower put
a detaining hand on his arm.

"Listen," she put in eagerly. "Is there anything any of us could do to
help? Nursing or--or anything?"

MacRae shook his head.

"There is a girl with him," he answered. "Nothing but skilled medical
aid would help him at this stage. He has the flu, and the fever is
burning his life out."

"The flu, did you say?" The young man with the long cigarette lost his
bored air. "Hang it, it isn't very sporting, is it, to expose us--these
ladies--to the infection? I'll say it isn't."

Jack MacRae fixed the young man--and he was not, after all, much younger
than MacRae--with a steady stare in which a smoldering fire glowed. He
bestowed a scrutiny while one might count five, under which the other's
gaze began to shift uneasily. A constrained silence fell in the room.

"I would suggest that you learn how to put on a gas mask," MacRae said
coldly, at last.

Then he walked out. Betty Gower followed him to the door, but he had
asked his question and there was nothing to wait for. He did not even
look back until he reached the cliff. He did not care if they thought
him rude, ill-bred. Then, as he reached the cliff, the joyous jazz broke
out again and shadows of dancing couples flitted by the windows. MacRae
looked once and went on, moody because chance had decreed that he should
fail.

       *       *       *       *       *

When a ruddy dawn broke through the gray cloud battalions Jack MacRae
sat on a chair before the fireplace in the front room, his elbows on his
knees, his chin in his cupped palms. He had been sitting like that for
two hours. The fir logs had wasted away to a pile of white ash spotted
with dying coals. MacRae sat heedless that the room was growing cold.

He did not even lift his head at the sound of heavy footsteps on the
porch. He did not move until a voice at the door spoke his name in
accents of surprise.

"Is that you, yourself, Johnny MacRae?"

The voice was deep and husky and kind, and it was not native to Squitty
Cove. MacRae lifted his head to see his father's friend and his own,
Doctor Laidlaw, physician and fisherman, bulking large. And beyond the
doctor he saw a big white launch at anchor inside the Cove.

"Yes," MacRae said.

"How's your father?" Laidlaw asked. "That wire worried me. I made the
best time I could."

"He's dead," MacRae answered evenly. "He died at midnight."




CHAPTER IV

Inheritance


On a morning four days later Jack MacRae sat staring into the coals on
the hearth. It was all over and done with, the house empty and still,
Dolly Ferrara gone back to her uncle's home. Even the Cove was bare of
fishing craft. He was alone under his own rooftree, alone with an
oppressive silence and his own thoughts.

These were not particularly pleasant thoughts. There was nothing mawkish
about Jack MacRae. He had never been taught to shrink from the
inescapable facts of existence. Even if he had, the war would have cured
him of that weakness. As it was, twelve months in the infantry, nearly
three years in the air, had taught him that death is a commonplace after
a man sees about so much of it, that it is many times a welcome relief
from suffering either of the body or the spirit. He chose to believe
that it had proved so to his father. So his feelings were not that
strange mixture of grief and protest which seizes upon those to whom
death is the ultimate tragedy, the irrevocable disaster, when it falls
upon some one near and dear.

No, Jack MacRae, brooding by his fire, was lonely and saddened and
heavy-hearted. But beneath these neutral phases there was slowly
gathering a flood of feeling unrelated to his father's death, more
directly based indeed upon Donald MacRae's life, upon matters but now
revealed to him, which had their root in that misty period when his
father was a young man like himself.

On the table beside him lay an inch-thick pile of note paper all closely
written upon in the clear, small pen-script of his father.

      My son: [MacRae had written] I have a feeling lately that I may
      never see you again. Not that I fear you will be killed. I no
      longer have that fear. I seem to have an unaccountable assurance
      that having come through so much you will go on safely to the
      end. But I'm not so sure about myself. I'm aging too fast. I've
      been told my heart is bad. And I've lost heart lately. Things
      have gone against me. There is nothing new in that. For thirty
      years I've been losing out to a greater or less extent in most
      of the things I undertook--that is, the important things.

      Perhaps I didn't bring the energy and feverish ambition I might
      have to my undertakings. Until you began to grow up I accepted
      things more or less passively as I found them.

      Until you have a son of your own, until you observe closely
      other men and their sons, my boy, you will scarcely realize how
      close we two have been to each other. We've been what they call
      good chums. I've taken a secret pride in seeing you grow and
      develop into a man. And while I tried to give you an
      education--broken into, alas, by this unending war--such as
      would enable you to hold your own in a world which deals harshly
      with the ignorant, the incompetent, the untrained, it was also
      my hope to pass on to you something of material value.

      This land which runs across Squitty Island from the Cove to
      Cradle Bay and extending a mile back--in all a trifle over six
      hundred acres--was to be your inheritance. You were born here. I
      know that no other place means quite so much to you as this old
      log house with the meadow behind it, and the woods, and the sea
      grumbling always at our doorstep. Long ago this place came into
      my hands at little more cost than the taking. It has proved a
      refuge to me, a stronghold against all comers, against all
      misfortune. I have spent much labor on it, and most of it has
      been a labor of love. It has begun to grow valuable. In years to
      come it will be of far greater value. I had hoped to pass it on
      to you intact, unencumbered, an inheritance of some worth. Land,
      you will eventually discover, Johnny, is the basis of
      everything. A man may make a fortune in industry, in the market.
      He turns to land for permanence, stability. All that is sterling
      in our civilization has its foundation in the soil.

      Out of this land of ours, which I have partially and
      half-heartedly reclaimed from the wilderness, you should derive
      a comfortable livelihood, and your children after you.

      But I am afraid I must forego that dream and you, my son, your
      inheritance. It has slipped away from me. How this has come
      about I wish to make clear to you, so that you will not feel
      unkindly toward me that you must face the world with no
      resources beyond your own brain and a sound young body. If it
      happens that the war ends soon and you come home while I am
      still alive to welcome you, we can talk this over man to man.
      But, as I said, my heart is bad. I may not be here. So I am
      writing all this for you to read. There are many things which
      you should know--or at least which I should like you to know.

      Thirty years  ago--

Donald MacRae's real communication to his son began at that point in the
long ago when the _Gull_ outsailed his sloop and young Horace Gower,
smarting with jealousy, struck that savage blow with a pike pole at a
man whose fighting hands were tied by a promise. Bit by bit, incident
by incident, old Donald traced out of a full heart and bitter memories
all the passing years for his son to see and understand. He made
Elizabeth Morton, the Morton family, Horace Gower and the Gower kin
stand out in bold relief. He told how he, Donald MacRae, a nobody from
nowhere, for all they knew, adventuring upon the Pacific Coast, questing
carelessly after fortune, had fallen in love with this girl whose
family, with less consideration for her feelings and desires than for
mutual advantages of land and money and power, favored young Gower and
saw nothing but impudent presumption in MacRae.

Young Jack sat staring into the coals, seeing much, understanding more.
It was all there in those written pages, a powerful spur to a vivid
imagination.

No MacRae had ever lain down unwhipped. Nor had Donald MacRae, his
father. Before his bruised face had healed--and young Jack remembered
well the thin white scar that crossed his father's cheek bone--Donald
MacRae was again pursuing his heart's desire. But he was forestalled
there. He had truly said to Elizabeth Morton that she would never have
another chance. By force or persuasion or whatsoever means were
necessary they had married her out of hand to Horace Gower.

"That must have been she sitting on the couch," Jack MacRae whispered to
himself, "that middle-aged woman with the faded rose-leaf face. Lord,
Lord, how things get twisted!"

Though they so closed the avenue to a mesalliance, still their pride
must have smarted because of that clandestine affection, that boldly
attempted elopement. Most of all, young Gower must have hated
MacRae--with almost the same jealous intensity that Donald MacRae must
for a time have hated him--because Gower apparently never forgot and
never forgave. Long after Donald MacRae outgrew that passion Gower had
continued secretly to harass him. Certain things could not be otherwise
accounted for, Donald MacRae wrote to his son. Gower functioned in the
salmon trade, in timber, in politics. In whatever MacRae set on foot, he
ultimately discerned the hand of Gower, implacable, hidden, striking at
him from under cover.

And so in a land and during a period when men created fortunes easily
out of nothing, or walked carelessly over golden opportunities, Donald
MacRae got him no great store of worldly goods, whereas Horace Gower,
after one venture in which he speedily dissipated an inherited fortune,
drove straight to successful outcome in everything he touched. By the
time young Jack MacRae outgrew the Island teachers and must go to
Vancouver for high school and then to the University of British
Columbia, old Donald had been compelled to borrow money on his land to
meet these expenses.

Young Jack, sitting by the fire, winced when he thought of that. He had
taken things for granted. The war had come in his second year at the
university,--and he had gone to the front as a matter of course.

Failing fish prices, poor seasons, other minor disasters had
followed,--and always in the background, as old Donald saw it, the Gower
influence, malign, vindictive, harboring that ancient grudge.

Whereas in the beginning MacRae had confidently expected by one resource
and another to meet easily the obligation he had incurred, the end of it
was the loss, during the second year of the war, of all the MacRae
lands on Squitty,--all but a rocky corner of a few acres which included
the house and garden. Old Donald had segregated that from his holdings
when he pledged the land, as a matter of sentiment, not of value. All
the rest--acres of pasture, cleared and grassed, stretches of fertile
ground, blocks of noble timber still uncut--had passed through the hands
of mortgage holders, through bank transfers, by devious and tortuous
ways, until the title rested in Horace Gower,--who had promptly built
the showy summer house on Cradle Bay to flaunt in his face, so old
Donald believed and told his son.

It was a curious document, and it made a profound impression on Jack
MacRae. He passed over the underlying motive, a man justifying himself
to his son for a failure which needed no justifying. He saw now why his
father tabooed all things Gower, why indeed he must have hated Gower as
a man who does things in the open hates an enemy who strikes only from
cover.

Strangely enough, Jack managed to grasp the full measure of what his
father's love for Elizabeth Morton must have been without resenting the
secondary part his mother must have played. For old Donald was frank in
his story. He made it clear that he had loved Bessie Morton with an
all-consuming passion, and that when this burned itself out he had never
experienced so headlong an affection again. He spoke with kindly regard
for his wife, but she played little or no part in his account. And Jack
had only a faint memory of his mother, for she had died when he was
seven. His father filled his eyes. His father's enemies were his. Family
ties superimposed on clan clannishness, which is the blood heritage of
the Highland Scotch, made it impossible for him to feel otherwise. That
blow with a pike pole was a blow directed at his own face. He took up
his father's feud instinctively, not even stopping to consider whether
that was his father's wish or intent.

He got up out of his chair at last and went outside, down to where the
Cove waters, on a rising tide, lapped at the front of a rude shed. Under
this shed, secure on a row of keel-blocks, rested a small
knockabout-rigged boat, stowed away from wind and weather, her single
mast, boom, and gaff unshipped and slung to rafters, her sail and
running gear folded and coiled and hung beyond the wood-rats' teeth.
Beside this sailing craft lay a long blue dugout, also on blocks, half
filled with water to keep it from checking.

These things belonged to him. He had left them lying about when he went
away to France. And old Donald had put them here safely against his
return. Jack stared at them, blinking. He was full of a dumb protest. It
didn't seem right. Nothing seemed right. In young MacRae's mind there
was nothing terrible about death. He had become used to that. But he had
imagination. He could see his father going on day after day, month after
month, year after year, enduring, uncomplaining. Gauged by what his
father had written, by what Dolly Ferrara had supplied when he
questioned her, these last months must have been gray indeed. And he had
died without hope or comfort or a sight of his son.

That was what made young MacRae blink and struggle with a lump in his
throat. It hurt.

He walked away around the end of the Cove without definite objective. He
was suddenly restless, seeking relief in movement. Sitting still and
thinking had become unbearable. He found himself on the path that ran
along the cliffs and followed that, coming out at last on the neck of
Point Old where he could look down on the broken water that marked Poor
Man's Rock.

The lowering cloud bank of his home-coming day had broken in heavy rain.
That had poured itself out and given place to a southeaster. The wind
was gone now, the clouds breaking up into white drifting patches with
bits of blue showing between, and the sun striking through in yellow
shafts which lay glittering areas here and there on the Gulf. The swell
that runs after a blow still thundered all along the southeast face of
Squitty, bursting _boom_--_boom_--_boom_ against the cliffs, shooting
spray in white cascades. Over the Rock the sea boiled.

There were two rowboats trolling outside the heavy backwash from the
cliffs. MacRae knew them both. Peter Ferrara was in one, Long Tom Spence
in the other. They did not ride those gray-green ridges for pleasure,
nor drop sidling into those deep watery hollows for joy of motion. They
were out for fish, which meant to them food and clothing. That was their
work.

They were the only fisher folk abroad that morning. The gasboat men had
flitted to more sheltered grounds. MacRae watched these two lift and
fall in the marching swells. It was cold. Winter sharpened his teeth
already. The rowers bent to their oars, tossing and lurching. MacRae
reflected upon their industry. In France he had eaten canned salmon
bearing the Folly Bay label, salmon that might have been taken here by
the Rock, perhaps by the hands of these very men, by his own father.
Still, that was unlikely. Donald MacRae had never sold a fish to a Gower
collector. Nor would he himself, young MacRae swore under his breath,
looking sullenly down upon the Rock.

Day after day, month after month, his father had tugged at the oars,
hauled on the line, rowing around and around Poor Man's Rock, skirting
the kelp at the cliff's foot, keeping body and soul together with
unremitting labor in sun and wind and rain, trying to live and save that
little heritage of land for his son.

Jack MacRae sat down on a rock beside a bush and thought about this
sadly. He could have saved his father much if he had known. He could
have assigned his pay. There was a government allowance. He could have
invoked the War Relief Act against foreclosure. Between them they could
have managed. But he understood quite clearly why his father made no
mention of his difficulties. He would have done the same under the same
circumstances himself, played the game to its bitter end without a cry.

But Donald MacRae had made a long, hard fight only to lose in the end,
and his son, with full knowledge of the loneliness and discouragement
and final hopelessness that had been his father's lot, was passing
slowly from sadness to a cumulative anger. That cottage amid its green
grounds bright in a patch of sunshine did not help to soften him. It
stood on land reclaimed from the forest by his father's labor. It should
have belonged to him, and it had passed into hands that already grasped
too much. For thirty years Gower had made silent war on Donald MacRae
because of a woman. It seemed incredible that a grudge born of jealousy
should run so deep, endure so long. But there were the facts. Jack
MacRae accepted them; he could not do otherwise. He came of a breed
which has handed its feuds from generation to generation, interpreting
literally the code of an eye for an eye.

So that as he sat there brooding, it was perhaps a little unfortunate
that the daughter of a man whom he was beginning to regard as a
forthright enemy should have chosen to come to him, tripping soundlessly
over the moss.

He did not hear Betty Gower until she was beside him. Her foot clicked
on a stone and he looked up. Betty was all in white, a glow in her
cheeks and in her eyes, bareheaded, her reddish-brown hair shining in a
smooth roll above her ears.

"I hear you have lost your father," she said simply. "I'm awfully
sorry."

Some peculiar quality of sympathy in her tone touched MacRae deeply. His
eyes shifted for a moment to the uneasy sea. The lump in his throat
troubled him again. Then he faced her again.

"Thanks," he said slowly. "I dare say you mean it, although I don't know
why you should. But I'd rather not talk about that. It's done."

"I suppose that's the best way," she agreed, although she gave him a
doubtful sort of glance, as if she scarcely knew how to take part of
what he said. "Isn't it lovely after the storm? Pretty much all the
civilized world must feel a sort of brightness and sunshine to-day, I
imagine."

"Why?" he asked. It seemed to him a most uncalled-for optimism.

"Why, haven't you heard that the war is over?" she smiled. "Surely some
one has told you?"

He shook his head.

"It is a fact," she declared. "The armistice was signed yesterday at
eleven. Aren't you glad?"

MacRae reflected a second. A week earlier he would have thrown up his
cap and whooped. Now the tremendously important happening left him
unmoved, unbelievably indifferent. He was not stirred at all by the
fact of acknowledged victory, of cessation from killing.

"I should be, I suppose," he muttered. "I know a lot of fellows will
be--and their people. So far as I'm concerned--right now--"

He made a quick gesture with his hands. He couldn't explain how he
felt--that the war had suddenly and imperiously been relegated to the
background for him. Temporarily or otherwise, as a spur to his emotions,
the war had ceased to function. He didn't want to talk. He wanted to be
let alone, to think.

Yet he was conscious of a wish not to offend, to be courteous to this
clear-eyed young woman who looked at him with frank interest. He
wondered why he should be of any interest to her. MacRae had never been
shy. Shyness is nearly always born of acute self-consciousness. Being
free from that awkward inturning of the mind Jack MacRae was not
thoroughly aware of himself as a likable figure in any girl's sight.
Four years overseas had set a mark on many such as himself. A man cannot
live through manifold chances of death, face great perils, do his work
under desperate risks and survive, without some trace of his deeds being
manifest in his bearing. Those tried by fire are sure of themselves, and
it shows in their eyes. Besides, Jack MacRae was twenty-four,
clear-skinned, vigorous, straight as a young fir tree, a handsome boy in
uniform. But he was not quick to apprehend that these things stirred a
girl's fancy, nor did he know that the gloomy something which clouded
his eyes made Betty Gower want to comfort him.

"I think I understand," she said evenly,--when in truth she did not
understand at all. "But after a while you'll be glad. I know I should be
if I were in the army, although of course no matter how horrible it all
was it had to be done. For a long time I wanted to go to France myself,
to do _something_. I was simply wild to go. But they wouldn't let me."

"And I," MacRae said slowly, "didn't want to go at all--and I had to
go."

"Oh," she remarked with a peculiar interrogative inflection. Her
eyebrows lifted. "Why did you have to? You went over long before the
draft was thought of."

"Because I'd been taught that my flag and country really meant
something," he said. "That was all; and it was quite enough in the way
of compulsion for a good many like myself who didn't hanker to stick
bayonets through men we'd never seen, nor shoot them, nor blow them up
with hand grenades, nor kill them ten thousand feet in the air and watch
them fall, turning over and over like a winged duck. But these things
seemed necessary. They said a country worth living in was worth fighting
for."

"And isn't it?" Betty Gower challenged promptly.

MacRae looked at her and at the white cottage, at the great Gulf seas
smashing on the rocks below, at the far vista of sea and sky and the
shore line faintly purple in the distance. His gaze turned briefly to
the leafless tops of maple and alder rising out of the hollow in which
his father's body lay--in a corner of the little plot that was left of
all their broad acres--and came back at last to this fair daughter of
his father's enemy.

"The country is, yes," he said. "Anything that's worth having is worth
fighting for. But that isn't what they meant, and that isn't the way it
has worked out."

He was not conscious of the feeling in his voice. He was thinking with
exaggerated bitterness that the Germans in Belgium had dealt less hardly
with a conquered people than this girl's father had dealt with his.

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean by that," she
remarked. Her tone was puzzled. She looked at him, frankly curious.

But he could not tell her what he meant. He had a feeling that she was
in no way responsible. He had an instinctive aversion to rudeness. And
while he was absolving himself of any intention to make war on her he
was wondering if her mother, long ago, had been anything like Miss Betty
Gower. It seemed odd to think that this level-eyed girl's mother might
have been _his_ mother,--if she had been made of stiffer metal, or if
the west wind had blown that afternoon.

He wondered if she knew. Not likely, he decided. It wasn't a story
either Horace Gower or his wife would care to tell their children.

So he did not try to tell her what he meant. He withdrew into his shell.
And when Betty Gower seated herself on a rock and evinced an inclination
to quiz him about things he did not care to be quizzed about, he lifted
his cap, bade her a courteous good-by, and walked back toward the Cove.




CHAPTER V

From the Bottom Up


MacRae did nothing but mark time until he found himself a plain
citizen once more. He could have remained in the service for months
without risk and with much profit to himself. But the fighting was over.
The Germans were whipped. That had been the goal. Having reached it,
MacRae, like thousands of other young men, had no desire to loaf in a
uniform subject to military orders while the politicians wrangled.

But even when he found himself a civilian again, master of his
individual fortunes, he was still a trifle at a loss. He had no definite
plan. He was rather at sea, because all the things he had planned on
doing when he came home had gone by the board. So many things which had
seemed good and desirable had been contingent upon his father. Every
plan he had ever made for the future had included old Donald MacRae and
those wide acres across the end of Squitty. He had been deprived of
both, left without a ready mark to shoot at. The flood of war had
carried him far. The ebb of it had set him back on his native
shores,--stranded him there, so to speak, to pick up the broken threads
of his old life as best he could.

He had no quarrel with that. But he did have a feud with circumstance, a
profound resentment with the past for its hard dealing with his father,
for the blankness of old Donald's last year or two on earth. And a good
deal of this focused on Horace Gower and his works.

"He might have let up on the old man," Jack MacRae would say to himself
resentfully. He would lie awake in the dark thinking about this. "We
were doing our bit. He might have stopped putting spokes in our wheel
while the war was on."

The fact of the matter is that young MacRae was deeply touched in his
family pride as well as his personal sense of injustice. Gower had
deeply injured his father, therefore it was any MacRae's concern. It
made no difference that the first blow in this quarrel had been struck
before he was born. He smarted under it and all that followed. His only
difficulty was to discern a method of repaying in kind, which he was
thoroughly determined to do.

He saw no way, if the truth be told. He did not even contemplate
inflicting physical injury on Horace Gower. That would have been absurd.
But he wanted to hurt him, to make him squirm, to heap trouble on the
man and watch him break down under the load. And he did not see how he
possibly could. Gower was too well fortified. Four years of war
experience, which likewise embraced a considerable social experience,
had amply shown Jack MacRae the subtle power of money, of political
influence, of family connections, of commercial prestige.

All these things were on Gower's side. He was impregnable. MacRae was
not a fool. Neither was he inclined to pessimism. Yet so far as he could
see, the croakers were not lying when they said that here at home the
war had made the rich richer and the poor poorer. It was painfully true
in his own case. He had given four years of himself to his country,
gained an honorable record, and lost everything else that was worth
having.

What he had lost in a material way he meant to get back. How, he had not
yet determined. His brain was busy with that problem. And the dying down
of his first keen resentment and grief over the death of his father, and
that dead father's message to him, merely hardened into a cold resolve
to pay off his father's debt to the Gowers and Mortons. MacRae ran true
to the traditions of his Highland blood when he lumped them all
together.

In this he was directed altogether by the promptings of emotion, and he
never questioned the justice of his attitude. But in the practical
adjustment of his life to conditions as he found them he adopted a
purely rational method.

He took stock of his resources. They were limited enough. A few hundred
dollars in back pay and demobilization gratuities; a sound body, now
that his injured eye was all but healed; an abounding confidence in
himself,--which he had earned the right to feel. That was all. Ambition
for place, power, wealth, he did not feel as an imperative urge. He
perceived the value and desirability of these things. Only he saw no
short straight road to any one of them.

For four years he had been fed, clothed, directed, master of his own
acts only in supreme moments. There was an unconscious reaction from
that high pitch. Being his own man again and a trifle uncertain what to
do, he did nothing at all for a time. He made one trip to Vancouver, to
learn by just what legal processes the MacRae lands had passed into the
Gower possession. He found out what he wanted to know easily enough.
Gower had got his birthright for a song. Donald MacRae had borrowed six
thousand dollars through a broker. The land was easily worth double,
even at wild-land valuation. But old Donald's luck had run true to form.
He had not been able to renew the loan. The broker had discounted the
mortgage in a pinch. A financial house had foreclosed and sold the place
to Gower,--who had been trying to buy it for years, through different
agencies. His father's papers told young MacRae plainly enough through
what channels the money had gone. Chance had functioned on the wrong
side for his father.

So Jack went back to Squitty and stayed in the old house, talked with
the fishermen, spent a lot of his time with old Peter Ferrara and Dolly.
Always he was casting about for a course of action which would give him
scope for two things upon which his mind was set: to get the title to
that six hundred acres revested in the MacRae name, and, in Jack's own
words to Dolores Ferrara, to take a fall out of Horace Gower that would
jar the bones of his ancestors.

With Christmas the Ferrara clan gathered at the Cove, all the stout and
able company of Dolly Ferrara's menfolk. It had seemed to MacRae a
curious thing that Dolly was the only woman of all the Ferraras. There
had been mothers in the Ferrara family, or there could not have been so
many capable uncles and cousins. But in MacRae's memory there had never
been any mothers or sisters or daughters save Dolly.

There were nine male Ferraras when Jack MacRae went to France. Dolores'
father was dead. Uncle Peter was a bachelor. He had two brothers, and
each brother had bred three sons. Four of these sons had left their
boats and gear to go overseas. Two of them would never come back. The
other two were home,--one after a whiff of gas at Ypres, the other with
a leg shorter by two inches than when he went away. These two made
nothing of their disabilities, however; they were home and they were
nearly as good as ever. That was enough for them. And with the younger
boys and their fathers they came to old Peter's house for a week at
Christmas, after an annual custom. These gatherings in the old days had
always embraced Donald MacRae and his son. And his son was glad that it
included him now. He felt a little less alone.

They were of the sea, these Ferraras, Castilian Spanish, tempered and
diluted by three generations in North America. Their forebears might
have sailed in caravels. They knew the fishing grounds of the British
Columbia coast as a schoolboy knows his _a, b, c_'s. They would never
get rich, but they were independent fishermen, making a good living. And
they were as clannish as the Scotch. All of them had chipped in to send
Dolly to school in Vancouver. Old Peter could never have done that,
MacRae knew, on what he could make trolling around Poor Man's Rock.
Peter had been active with gill net and seine when Jack MacRae was too
young to take thought of the commercial end of salmon fishing. He was
about sixty-five now, a lean, hardy old fellow, but he seldom went far
from Squitty Cove. There was Steve and Frank and Vincent and Manuel of
the younger generation, and Manuel and Peter and Joaquin of the elder.
Those three had been contemporary with Donald MacRae. They esteemed old
Donald. Jack heard many things about his father's early days on the Gulf
that were new to him, that made his blood tingle and made him wish he
had lived then too. Thirty years back the Gulf of Georgia was no place
for any but two-handed men.

He heard also, in that week of casual talk among the Ferraras, certain
things said, statements made that suggested a possibility which never
seemed to have occurred to the Ferraras themselves.

"The Folly Bay pack of blueback was a whopper last summer," Vincent
Ferrara said once. "They must have cleaned up a barrel of money."

Folly Bay was Gower's cannery.

"Well, he didn't make much of it out of us," old Manuel grunted. "We
should worry."

"Just the same, he ought to be made to pay more for his fish. He ought
to pay what they're worth, for a change," Vincent drawled. "He makes
about a hundred trollers eat out of his hand the first six weeks of the
season. If somebody would put on a couple of good, fast carriers, and
start buying fish as soon as he opens his cannery, I'll bet he'd pay
more than twenty-five cents for a five-pound salmon."

"Maybe. But that's been tried and didn't work. Every buyer that ever cut
in on Gower soon found himself up against the Packers' Association when
he went into the open market with his fish. And a wise man," old Manuel
grinned, "don't even figure on monkeying with a buzz saw, sonny."

Not long afterward Jack MacRae got old Manuel in a corner and asked him
what he meant.

"Well," he said, "it's like this. When the bluebacks first run here in
the spring, they're pretty small, too small for canning. But the fresh
fish markets in town take 'em and palm 'em off on the public for salmon
trout. So there's an odd fresh-fish buyer cruises around here and picks
up a few loads of salmon between the end of April and the middle of
June. The Folly Bay cannery opens about then, and the buyers quit. They
go farther up the coast. Partly because there's more fish, mostly
because nobody has ever made any money bucking Gower for salmon on his
own grounds."

"Why?" MacRae asked bluntly.

"Nobody knows _exactly_ why," Manuel replied. "A feller can guess,
though. You know the fisheries department has the British Columbia coast
cut up into areas, and each area is controlled by some packer as a
concession. Well, Gower has the Folly Bay license, and a couple of
purse-seine licenses, and that just about gives him the say-so on all
the waters around Squitty, besides a couple of good bays on the
Vancouver Island side and the same on the mainland. He belongs to the
Packers' Association. They ain't supposed to control the local market.
But the way it works out they really do. At least, when an independent
fish buyer gets to cuttin' in strong on a packer's territory, he
generally finds himself in trouble to sell in Vancouver unless he's got
a cast-iron contract. That is, he can't sell enough to make any money.
Any damn fool can make a living.

"At the top of the island here there's a bunch that has homesteads. They
troll in the summer. They deal at the Folly Bay cannery store. Generally
they're in the hole by spring. Even if they ain't they have to depend on
Folly Bay to market their catch. The cannery's a steady buyer, once it
opens. They can't always depend on the fresh-fish buyer, even if he pays
a few cents more. So once the cannery opens, Gower has a bunch of
trollers ready to deliver salmon, at most any price he cares to name.
And he generally names the lowest price on the coast. He don't have no
competition for a month or so. If there is a little there's ways of
killin' it. So he sets his own price. The trollers can take it or leave
it."

Old Manuel stopped to light his pipe.

"For three seasons," said he, "Gower has bought blueback salmon the
first month of the season for twenty-five cents or less--fish that run
three to four pounds. And there hasn't been a time when salmon could be
bought in a Vancouver fresh-fish market for less than twenty-five cents
a pound."

"Huh!" MacRae grunted.

It set him thinking. He had a sketchy knowledge of the salmon packer's
monopoly of cannery sites and pursing licenses and waters. He had heard
more or less talk among fishermen of agreements in restraint of
competition among the canneries. But he had never supposed it to be
quite so effective as Manuel Ferrara believed.

Even if it were, a gentleman's agreement of that sort, being a matter of
profit rather than principle, was apt to be broken by any member of the
combination who saw a chance to get ahead of the rest.

MacRae took passage for Vancouver the second week in January with a
certain plan weaving itself to form in his mind,--a plan which promised
action and money and other desirable results if he could carry it
through.




CHAPTER VI

The Springboard


With a basic knowledge to start from, any reasonably clever man can
digest an enormous amount of information about any given industry in a
very brief time. Jack MacRae spent three weeks in Vancouver as a one-man
commission, self-appointed, to inquire into the fresh-salmon trade. He
talked to men who caught salmon and to men who sold them, both wholesale
and retail. He apprised himself of the ins and outs of salmon canning,
and of the independent fish collector who owned his own boat, financed
himself, and chanced the market much as a farmer plants his seed, trusts
to the weather, and makes or loses according to the yield and
market,--two matters over which he can have no control.

MacRae learned before long that old Manuel Ferrara was right when he
said no man could profitably buy salmon unless he had a cast-iron
agreement either with a cannery or a big wholesaler. MacRae soon saw
that the wholesaler stood like a wall between the fishermen and those
who ate fish. They could make or break a buyer. MacRae was not long
running afoul of the rumor that the wholesale fish men controlled the
retail price of fresh fish by the simple method of controlling the
supply, which they managed by cooeperation instead of competition among
themselves. He heard this stated. And more,--that behind the big dealers
stood the shadowy figure of the canning colossus. This was told him
casually by fishermen. Fish buyers repeated it, sometimes with a touch
of indignation. That was one of their wails,--the fish combine. It was
air-tight, they said. The packers had a strangle hold on the fishing
waters, and the big local fish houses had the same unrelenting grip on
the market.

Therefore the ultimate consumer--whose exploitation was the prize plum
of commercial success--paid thirty cents per pound for spring salmon
that a fisherman chivied about in the tumbling Gulf seas fifty miles
up-coast had to take fourteen cents for. As for the salmon packers, the
men who pack the good red fish in small round tins which go to all the
ends of the earth to feed hungry folk,--well, no one knew _their_
profits. Their pack was all exported. The back yards of Europe are
strewn with empty salmon cans bearing a British Columbia label. But they
made money enough to be a standing grievance to those unable to get in
on this bonanza.

MacRae, however, was chiefly concerned with the local trade in fresh
salmon. His plan didn't look quite so promising as when he mulled over
it at Squitty Cove. He put out feelers and got no hold. A fresh-fish
buyer operating without approved market connections might make about
such a living as the fishermen he bought from. To Jack MacRae, eager and
sanguine, making a living was an inconspicuous detail. Making a
living,--that was nothing to him. A more definite spur roweled his
flank.

It looked like an air-tight proposition, he admitted, at last. But, he
said to himself, anything air-tight could be punctured. And undoubtedly
a fine flow of currency would result from such a puncture. So he kept
on looking about, asking casual questions, listening. In the language of
the street he was getting wise.

Incidentally he enjoyed himself. The battle ground had been transferred
to Paris. The pen, the typewriter, and the press dispatch, with immense
reserves of oratory and printer's ink, had gone into action. And the
soldiers were coming home,--officers of the line and airmen first, since
to these leave and transportation came easily, now that the guns were
silent. MacRae met fellows he knew. A good many of them were well off,
had homes in Vancouver. They were mostly young and glad the big show was
over. And they had the social instinct. During intervals of fighting
they had rubbed elbows with French and British people of consequence.
They had a mind to enjoy themselves.

MacRae had a record in two squadrons. He needed no press-agenting when
he met another R.A.F. man. So he found himself invited to homes, the
inside of which he would otherwise never have seen, and to pleasant
functions among people who would never have known of his existence save
for the circumstance of war. Pretty, well-bred girls smiled at him,
partly because airmen with notable records were still a novelty, and
partly because Jack MacRae was worth a second look from any girl who was
fancy-free. Matrons were kind to him because their sons said he was the
right sort, and some of these same matrons mothered him because he was
like boys they knew who had gone away to France and would never come
back.

This was very pleasant. MacRae was normal in every respect. He liked to
dance. He liked glittering lights and soft music. He liked nice people.
He liked people who were nice to him. But he seldom lost sight of his
objective. These people could relax and give themselves up to enjoyment
because they were "heeled"--as a boy lieutenant slangily put it--to
MacRae.

"It's a great game, Jack, if you don't weaken," he said. "But a fellow
can't play it through on a uniform and a war record. I'm having a
top-hole time, but it'll be different when I plant myself at a desk in
some broker's office at a hundred and fifty a month. It's mixed pickles,
for a fact. You can't buy your way into this sort of thing. And you
can't stay in it without a bank roll."

Which was true enough. Only the desire to "see it through" socially was
not driving Jack MacRae. He had a different target, and his eye did not
wander far from the mark. And perhaps because of this, chance and his
social gadding about gave him the opening he sought when he least
expected to find one.

To be explicit, he happened to be one of an after-theater party at an
informal supper dance in the Granada, which is to Vancouver what the
Biltmore is to New York or the Fairmont to San Francisco,--a place where
one can see everybody that is anybody if one lingers long enough. And
almost the first man he met was a stout, ruddy-faced youngster about his
own age. They had flown in the same squadron until "Stubby" Abbott came
a cropper and was invalided home.

Stubby fell upon Jack MacRae, pounded him earnestly on the back, and
haled him straight to a table where two women were sitting.

"Mother," he said to a plump, middle-aged woman, "here's Silent John
MacRae."

Her eyes lit up pleasantly.

"I've heard of you," she said, and her extended hand put the pressure
of the seal of sincerity on her words. "I've wanted to thank you. You
can scarcely know what you did for us. Stubby's the only man in the
family, you know."

MacRae smiled.

"Why," he said easily, "little things like that were part of the game.
Stubb used to pull off stuff like that himself now and then."

"Anyway, we can thank God it's over," Mrs. Abbott said fervently.
"Pardon me,--my daughter, Mr. MacRae."

Nelly Abbott was small, tending to plumpness like her mother. She was
very fair with eyes of true violet, a baby-doll sort of young woman, and
she took possession of Jack MacRae as easily and naturally as if she had
known him for years. They drifted away in a dance, sat the next one out
together with Stubby and a slim young thing in orange satin whose talk
ran undeviatingly upon dances and sports and motor trips, past and
anticipated. Listening to her, Jack MacRae fell dumb. Her father was
worth half a million. Jack wondered how much of it he would give to
endow his daughter with a capacity for thought. A label on her program
materialized to claim her presently. Stubby looked after her and
grinned. MacRae looked thoughtful. The girl was pretty, almost
beautiful. She looked like Dolores Ferrara, dark, creamy-skinned,
seductive. And MacRae was comparing the two to Dolores' advantage.

Nelly Abbott was eying MacRae.

"Tessie bores you, eh?" she said bluntly.

MacRae smiled. "Her flow of profound utterance carries me out of my
depth, I'm afraid," said he. "I can't follow her."

"She'd lead you a chase if you tried," Stubby grinned and sauntered
away to smoke.

"Is that sarcasm?" Nelly drawled. "I wonder if you are called Silent
John because you stop talking now and then to think? Most of us don't,
you know. Tell me," she changed the subject abruptly, "did you know
Norman Gower overseas?"

"He was an officer in the battalion I went over with," MacRae replied.
"I went over in the ranks, you see. So I couldn't very well know him.
And I never met him after I transferred to the air service."

"I just wondered," Nelly went on. "I know Norman rather well. It has
been whispered about that he pulled every string to keep away from the
front,--that all he has done over there is to hold down cushy jobs in
England. Did you ever hear any such talk?"

"We were too busy to gossip about the boys at home, except to envy
them." MacRae evaded direct reply, and Nelly did not follow it up.

"I see his sister over there. Betty is a dear girl. That's she talking
to Stubby. Come over and meet her. They've been up on their island for a
long time, while the flu raged."

MacRae couldn't very well avoid it without seeming rude or making an
explanation which he did not intend to make to any one. His grudge
against the Gower clan was focused on Horace Gower. His feeling had not
abated a jot. But it was a personal matter, something to remain locked
in his own breast. So he perforce went with Nelly Abbott and was duly
presented to Miss Elizabeth Gower. And he had the next dance with her,
also for convention's sake.

While they stood chatting a moment, the four of them, Stubby said to
MacRae:

"Who are you with, Jack?"

"The Robbin-Steeles."

"If I don't get a chance to talk to you again, come out to the house
to-morrow," Stubby said. "The mater said so, and I want to talk to you
about something."

The music began and MacRae and Betty Gower slid away in the one-step,
that most conversational of dances. But Jack couldn't find himself
chatty with Betty Gower. She was graceful and clear-eyed, a vigorously
healthy girl with a touch of color in her cheeks that came out of
Nature's rouge pot. But MacRae was subtly conscious of a stiffness
between them.

"After all," Betty said abruptly, when they had circled half the room,
"it was worth fighting for, don't you really think?"

For a second MacRae looked down at her, puzzled. Then he remembered.

"Good Heavens!" he said, "is that still bothering you? Do you take
everything a fellow says so seriously as that?"

"No. It wasn't so much what you said as the way you said it," she
replied. "You were uncompromisingly hostile that day, for some reason.
Have you acquired a more equable outlook since?"

"I'm trying," he answered.

"You need coaching in the art of looking on the bright side of things,"
she smiled.

"Such as clusters of frosted lights, cut glass, diamonds, silk dresses
and ropes of pearls," he drawled. "Would you care to take on the
coaching job, Miss Gower?"

"I might be persuaded." She looked him frankly in the eyes.

But MacRae would not follow that lead, whatever it might mean. Betty
Gower was nice,--he had to admit it. To glide around on a polished floor
with his arm around her waist, her soft hand clasped in his, and her
face close to his own, her grayish-blue eyes, which were so very like
his own, now smiling and now soberly reflective, was not the way to
carry on an inherited feud. He couldn't subject himself to that
peculiarly feminine attraction which Betty Gower bore like an aura and
nurse a grudge. In fact, he had no grudge against Betty Gower except
that she was the daughter of her father. And he couldn't explain to her
that he hated her father because of injustice and injury done before
either of them was born. In the genial atmosphere of the Granada that
sort of thing did not seem nearly so real, so vivid, as when he stood on
the cliffs of Squitty listening to the pound of the surf. Then it welled
up in him like a flood,--the resentment for all that Gower had made his
father suffer, for those thirty years of reprisal which had culminated
in reducing his patrimony to an old log house and a garden patch out of
all that wide sweep of land along the southern face of Squitty. He
looked at Betty and wished silently that she were,--well, Stubby
Abbott's sister. He could be as nice as he wanted to then. Whereupon,
instinctively feeling himself upon dangerous ground, he diverged from
the personal, talked without saying much until the music stopped and
they found seats. And when another partner claimed Betty, Jack as a
matter of courtesy had to rejoin his own party.

The affair broke up at length. MacRae slept late the next morning. By
the time he had dressed and breakfasted and taken a flying trip to Coal
Harbor to look over a forty-five-foot fish carrier which was advertised
for sale, he bethought himself of Stubby Abbott's request and, getting
on a car, rode out to the Abbott home. This was a roomy stone house
occupying a sightly corner in the West End,--that sharply defined
residential area of Vancouver which real estate agents unctuously speak
of as "select." There was half a block of ground in green lawn bordered
with rosebushes. The house itself was solid, homely, built for use, and
built to endure, all stone and heavy beams, wide windows and deep
porches, and a red tile roof lifting above the gray stone walls.

Stubby permitted MacRae a few minutes' exchange of pleasantries with his
mother and sister.

"I want to extract some useful information from this man," Stubby said
at length. "You can have at him later, Nell. He'll stay to dinner."

"How do you know he will?" Nelly demanded. "He hasn't said so, yet."

"Between you and me, he can't escape," Stubby said cheerfully and led
Jack away upstairs into a small cheerful room lined with bookshelves,
warmed by glowing coals in a grate, and with windows that gave a look
down on a sandy beach facing the Gulf.

Stubby pushed two chairs up to the fire, waved Jack to one, and extended
his own feet to the blaze.

"I've seen the inside of a good many homes in town lately," MacRae
observed. "This is the homiest one yet."

"I'll say it is," Stubby agreed. "A place that has been lived in and
cared for a long time gets that way, though. Remember some of those old,
old places in England and France? This is new compared to that country.
Still, my father built this house when the West End was covered with
virgin timber."

"How'd you like to be born and grow up in a house that your father
built with a vision of future generations of his blood growing up in,"
Stubby murmured, "and come home crippled after three years in the red
mill and find you stood a fat chance of losing it?"

"I wouldn't like it much," MacRae agreed.

But he did not say that he had already undergone the distasteful
experience Stubby mentioned as a possibility. He waited for Stubby to go
on.

"Well, it's a possibility," Stubby continued, quite cheerfully, however.
"I don't propose to allow it to happen. Hang it, I wouldn't blat this to
any one but you, Jack. The mater has only a hazy idea of how things
stand, and she's an incurable optimist anyway. Nelly and the Infant--you
haven't met the Infant yet--don't know anything about it. I tell you it
put the breeze up when I got able to go into our affairs and learned how
things stood. I thought I'd get mended and then be a giddy idler for a
year or so. But it's up to me. I have to get into the collar. Otherwise
I should have stayed south all winter. You know we've just got home. I
had to loaf in the sun for practically a year. Now I have to get busy. I
don't mean to say that the poorhouse stares us in the face, you know,
but unless a certain amount of revenue is forthcoming, we simply can't
afford to keep up this place.

"And I'd damn well like to keep it going." Stubby paused to light a
cigarette. "I like it. It's our home. We'd be deucedly sore at seeing
anybody else hang up his hat and call it home. So behold in me an active
cannery operator when the season opens, a conscienceless profiteer for
sentiment's sake. You live up where the blueback salmon run, don't you,
Jack?"

MacRae nodded.

"How many trollers fish those waters?"

"Anywhere from forty to a hundred, from ten to thirty rowboats."

"The Folly Bay cannery gets practically all that catch?"

MacRae nodded again.

"I'm trying to figure a way of getting some of those blueback salmon,"
Abbott said crisply. "How can it best be done?"

MacRae thought a minute. A whole array of possibilities popped into his
mind. He knew that the Abbotts owned the Crow Harbor cannery, in the
mouth of Howe Sound just outside Vancouver Harbor. When he spoke he
asked a question instead of giving an answer.

"Are you going to buck the Packers' Association?"

"Yes and no," Stubby chuckled. "You do know something about the cannery
business, don't you?"

"One or two things," MacRae admitted. "I grew up in the Gulf, remember,
among salmon fishermen."

"Well, I'll be a little more explicit," Stubby volunteered. "Briefly, my
father, as you know, died while I was overseas. We own the Crow Harbor
cannery. I will say that while I was still going to school he started in
teaching me the business, and he taught me the way he learned it
himself--in the cannery and among fishermen. If I do say it, I know the
salmon business from gill net and purse seine to the Iron Chink and bank
advances on the season's pack. But Abbott, senior, it seems, wasn't a
profiteer. He took the war to heart. His patriotism didn't consist of
buying war bonds in fifty-thousand dollar lots and calling it square. He
got in wrong by trying to keep the price of fresh fish down locally, and
the last year he lived the Crow Harbor cannery only made a normal
profit. Last season the plant operated at a loss in the hands of hired
men. They simply didn't get the fish. The Fraser River run of sockeye
has been going downhill. The river canneries get the fish that do run.
Crow Harbor, with a manager who wasn't up on his toes, got very few. I
don't believe we will ever see another big sockeye run in the Fraser
anyway. So we shall have to go up-coast to supplement the Howe Sound
catch and the few sockeyes we can get from gill-netters.

"The Packers' Association can't hurt me--much. For one thing, I'm a
member. For another, I can still swing enough capital so they would
hesitate about using pressure. You understand. I've got to make that
Crow Harbor plant pay. I must have salmon to do so. I have to go outside
my immediate territory to get them. If I could get enough blueback to
keep full steam from the opening of the sockeye season until the coho
run comes--there's nothing to it. I've been having this matter looked
into pretty thoroughly. I can pay twenty per cent. over anything Gower
has ever paid for blueback and coin money. The question is, how can I
get them positively and in quantity?"

"Buy them," MacRae put in softly.

"Of course," Stubby agreed. "But buying direct means collecting. I have
the carriers, true. But where am I going to find men to whom I can turn
over a six-thousand-dollar boat and a couple of thousand dollars in cash
and say to him, 'Go buy me salmon'? His only interest in the matter is
his wage."

"Bonus the crew. Pay 'em percentage on what salmon they bring in."

"I've thought of that," Stubby said between puffs. "But--"

"Or," MacRae made the plunge he had been coming to while Stubby talked,
"I'll get them for you. I was going to buy bluebacks around Squitty
anyway for the fresh-fish market in town if I can make a sure-delivery
connection. I know those grounds. I know a lot of fishermen. If you'll
give me twenty per cent. over Gower prices for bluebacks delivered at
Crow Harbor I'll get them."

"This grows interesting." Stubby straightened in his chair. "I thought
you were going to ranch it! Lord, I remember the night we sat watching
for the bombers to come back from a raid and you first told me about
that place of yours on Squitty Island. Seems ages ago--yet it isn't
long. As I remember, you were planning all sorts of things you and your
father would do."

"I can't," MacRae said grimly. "You've been in California for months.
You wouldn't hear any mention of my affairs, anyway, if you'd been home.
I got back three days before the armistice. My father died of the flu
the night I got home. The ranch, or all of it but the old log house I
was born in and a patch of ground the size of a town lot, has gone the
way you mentioned your home might go if you don't buck up the business.
Things didn't go well with us lately. I have no land to turn to. So I'm
for the salmon business as a means to get on my feet."

"Gower got your place?" Abbott hazarded.

"Yes. How did you know?"

"Made a guess. I heard he had built a summer home on the southeast end
of Squitty. In fact Nelly was up there last summer for a week or so.
Hurts, eh, Jack? That little trip to France cost us both something."

MacRae sprang up and walked over to a window. He stood for half a minute
staring out to sea, looking in that direction by chance, because the
window happened to face that way, to where the Gulf haze lifted above a
faint purple patch that was Squitty Island, very far on the horizon.

"I'm not kicking," he said at last. "Not out loud, anyway."

"No," Stubby said affectionately, "I know you're not, old man. Nor am I.
But I'm going to get action, and I have a hunch you will too. Now about
this fish business. If you think you can get them, I'll certainly go you
on that twenty per cent. proposition--up to the point where Gower boosts
me out of the game, if that is possible. We shall have to readjust our
arrangement then."

"Will you give me a contract to that effect?" MacRae asked.

"Absolutely. We'll get together at the office to-morrow and draft an
agreement."

They shook hands to bind the bargain, grinning at each other a trifle
self-consciously.

"Have you a suitable boat?" Stubby asked after a little.

"No," MacRae admitted. "But I have been looking around. I find that I
can charter one cheaper than I can build--until such time as I make
enough to build a fast, able carrier."

"I'll charter you one," Stubby offered. "That's where part of our money
is uselessly tied up, in expensive boats that never carried their weight
in salmon. I'm going to sell two fifty-footers and a seine boat. There's
one called the _Blackbird_, fast, seaworthy rig, you can have at a
nominal rate."

"All right," MacRae nodded. "By chartering I have enough cash in hand to
finance the buying. I'm going to start as soon as the bluebacks come
and run fresh fish, if I can make suitable connections."

Stubby grinned.

"I can fix that too," he said. "I happen to own some shares in the
Terminal Fish Company. The pater organized it to give Vancouver people
cheap fish, but somehow it didn't work as he intended. It's a fairly
strong concern. I'll introduce you. They'll buy your salmon, and they'll
treat you right."

"And now," Stubby rose and stretched his one good arm and the other that
was visibly twisted and scarred between wrist and elbow, above his head,
"let's go downstairs and prattle. I see a car in front, and I hear
twittering voices."

Halfway down the stairs Stubby halted and laid a hand on MacRae's arm.

"Old Horace is a two-fisted old buccaneer," he said. "And I don't go
much on Norman. But I'll say Betty Gower is some girl. What do you
think, Silent John?"

And Jack MacRae had to admit that Betty was. Oddly enough, Stubby Abbott
had merely put into words an impression to which MacRae himself was
slowly and reluctantly subscribing.




CHAPTER VII

Sea Boots and Salmon


From November to April the British Columbian coast is a region of
weeping skies, of intermittent frosts and fog, and bursts of sleety
snow. The frosts, fogs, and snow squalls are the punctuation points, so
to speak, of the eternal rain. Murky vapors eddy and swirl along the
coast. The sun hides behind gray banks of cloud, the shining face of him
a rare miracle bestowed upon the sight of men as a promise that bright
days and blossoming flowers will come again. When they do come the coast
is a pleasant country. The mountains reveal themselves, duskily green
upon the lower slopes, their sky-piercing summits crowned with snow caps
which endure until the sun comes to his full strength in July. The Gulf
is a vista of purple-distant shore and island, of shimmering sea. And
the fishermen come out of winter quarters to overhaul boats and gear
against the first salmon run.

The blueback, a lively and toothsome fish, about which rages an
ichthyological argument as to whether he is a distant species of the
salmon tribe or merely a half-grown coho, is the first to show in great
schools. The spring salmon is always in the Gulf, but the spring is a
finny mystery with no known rule for his comings and goings, nor his
numbers. All the others, the blueback, the sockeye, the hump, the coho,
and the dog salmon, run in the order named. They can be reckoned on as
a man reckons on changes of the moon. These are the mainstay of the
salmon canners. Upon their taking fortunes have been built--and
squandered--men have lived and died, loved and hated, gone hungry and
dressed their women in silks and furs. The can of pink meat some inland
chef dresses meticulously with parsley and sauces may have cost some
fisherman his life; a multiplicity of cases of salmon may have produced
a divorce in the packer's household. We eat this fine red fish and heave
its container into the garbage tin, with no care for the tragedy or
humors that have attended its getting for us.

In the spring, when life takes on a new prompting, the blueback salmon
shows first in the Gulf. He cannot be taken by net or bait,--unless the
bait be a small live herring. He may only be taken in commercial
quantities by a spinner or a wobbling spoon hook of silver or brass or
copper drawn through the water at slow speed. The dainty gear of the
trout spinner gave birth to the trolling fleets of the Pacific Coast.

At first the schools pass into the Straits of San Juan. Here the joint
fleets of British Columbia and of Puget Sound begin to harry them. A
week or ten days later the vanguard will be off Nanaimo. And in another
week they will be breaking water like trout in a still pool around the
rocky base of the Ballenas Light and the kelp beds and reefs of Squitty
Island.

By the time they were there, in late April, there were twenty local
power boats to begin taking them, for Jack MacRae made the rounds of
Squitty to tell the fishermen that he was putting on a carrier to take
the first run of blueback to Vancouver markets.

They were a trifle pessimistic. Other buyers had tried it, men gambling
on a shoestring for a stake in the fish trade, buyers unable to make
regular trips, whereby there was a tale of many salmon rotted in waiting
fish holds, through depending on a carrier that did not come. What was
the use of burning fuel, of tearing their fingers with the gear, of
catching fish to rot? Better to let them swim.

But since the Folly Bay cannery never opened until the fish ran to
greater size and number, the fishermen, chafing against inaction after
an idle winter, took a chance and trolled for Jack MacRae.

To the trailers' surprise they found themselves dealing with a new type
of independent buyer,--a man who could and did make his market trips
with clocklike precision. If MacRae left Squitty with a load on Monday,
saying that he would be at Squitty Cove or Jenkins Island or Scottish
Bay by Tuesday evening, he was there.

He managed it by grace of an able sea boat, engined to drive through sea
and wind, and by the nerve and endurance to drive her in any weather.
There were times when the Gulf spread placid as a mill pond. There were
trips when he drove through with three thousand salmon under battened
hatches, his decks awash from boarding seas, ten and twelve and fourteen
hours of rough-and-tumble work that brought him into the Narrows and the
docks inside with smarting eyes and tired muscles, his head splitting
from the pound and clank of the engine and the fumes of gas and burned
oil.

It was work, strain of mind and body, long hours filled with discomfort.
But MacRae had never shrunk from things like that. He was aware that few
things worth while come easy. The world, so far as he knew, seldom
handed a man a fortune done up in tissue paper merely because he
happened to crave its possession. He was young and eager to do. There
was a reasonable satisfaction in the doing, even of the disagreeable,
dirty tasks necessary, in beating the risks he sometimes had to run.
There was a secret triumph in overcoming difficulties as they arose. And
he had an object, which, if it did not always lie in the foreground of
his mind, he was nevertheless keen on attaining.

The risks and work and strain, perhaps because he put so much of himself
into the thing, paid from the beginning more than he had dared hope. He
made a hundred dollars his first trip, paid the trollers five cents a
fish more on the second trip and cleared a hundred and fifty. In the
second week of his venture he struck a market almost bare of fresh
salmon with thirty-seven hundred shining bluebacks in his hold. He made
seven hundred dollars on that single cargo.

A Greek buyer followed the _Blackbird_ out through the Narrows that
trip. MacRae beat him two hours to the trolling fleet at Squitty, a
fleet that was growing in numbers.

"Bluebacks are thirty-five cents," he said to the first man who ranged
alongside to deliver. "And I want to tell you something that you can
talk over with the rest of the crowd. I have a market for every fish
this bunch can catch. If I can't handle them with the _Blackbird_, I'll
put on another boat. I'm not here to buy fish just till the Folly Bay
cannery opens. I'll be making regular trips to the end of the salmon
season. My price will be as good as anybody's, better than some. If
Gower gets your bluebacks this season for twenty-five cents, it will be
because you want to make him a present. Meantime, there's another buyer
an hour behind me. I don't know what he'll pay. But whatever he pays
there aren't enough salmon being caught here yet to keep two carriers
running. You can figure it out for yourself."

MacRae thought he knew his men. Nor was his judgment in error. The Greek
hung around. In twenty-four hours he got three hundred salmon. MacRae
loaded nearly three thousand.

Once or twice after that he had competitive buyers in Squitty Cove and
the various rendezvous of the trolling fleet. But the fishermen had a
loyalty born of shrewd reckoning. They knew from experience the way of
the itinerant buyer. They knew MacRae. Many of them had known his
father. If Jack MacRae had a market for all the salmon he could buy on
the Gower grounds all season, they saw where Folly Bay would buy no fish
in the old take-it-or-leave it fashion. They were keenly alive to the
fact that they were getting mid-July prices in June, that Jack MacRae
was the first buyer who had not tried to hold down prices by pulling a
poor mouth and telling fairy tales of poor markets in town. He had
jumped prices before there was any competitive spur. They admired young
MacRae. He had nerve; he kept his word.

Wherefore it did not take them long to decide that he was a good man to
keep going. As a result of this decision other casual buyers got few
fish even when they met MacRae's price.

When he had run a little over a month MacRae took stock. He paid the
Crow Harbor Canning Company, which was Stubby Abbott's trading name, two
hundred and fifty a month for charter of the _Blackbird_. He had
operating outlay for gas, oil, crushed ice, and wages for Vincent
Ferrara, whom he took on when he reached the limit of single-handed
endurance. Over and above these expenses he had cleared twenty-six
hundred dollars.

That was only a beginning he knew,--only a beginning of profits and of
work. He purposely thrust the taking of salmon on young Ferrara, let him
handle the cash, tally in the fish, watched Vincent nonchalantly chuck
out overripe salmon that careless trollers would as nonchalantly heave
in for fresh ones if they could get away with it. For Jack MacRae had it
in his mind to go as far and as fast as he could while the going was
good. That meant a second carrier on the run as soon as the Folly Bay
cannery opened, and it meant that he must have in charge of the second
boat an able man whom he could trust. There was no question about
trusting Vincent Ferrara. It was only a matter of his ability to handle
the job, and that he demonstrated to MacRae's complete satisfaction.

Early in June MacRae went to Stubby Abbott.

"Have you sold the _Bluebird_ yet?" he asked.

"I want to let three of those _Bird_ boats go," Stubby told him. "I
don't need 'em. They're dead capital. But I haven't made a sale yet."

"Charter me the _Bluebird_ on the same terms," Jack proposed.

"You're on. Things must be going good."

"Not too bad," MacRae admitted.

"Folly Bay opens the twentieth. We open July first," Stubby said
abruptly. "How many bluebacks are you going to get for us?"

"Just about all that are caught around Squitty Island," MacRae said
quietly. "That's why I want another carrier."

"Huh!" Stubby grunted. His tone was slightly incredulous. "You'll have
to go some. Wish you luck though. More you get the better for me."

"I expect to deliver sixty thousand bluebacks to Crow Harbor in July,"
MacRae said.

Stubby stared at him. His eyes twinkled.

"If you can do that in July, and in August too," he said, "I'll _give_
you the _Bluebird_."

"No," MacRae smiled. "I'll buy her."

"Where will Folly Bay get off if you take that many fish away?" Stubby
reflected.

"Don't know. And I don't care a hoot." MacRae shrugged his shoulders.
"I'm fairly sure I can do it. You don't care?"

"Do I? I'll shout to the world I don't," Stubby replied. "It's
self-preservation with me. Let old Horace look out for himself. He had
his fingers in the pie while we were in France. I don't have to have
four hundred per cent profit to do business. Get the fish if you can,
Jack, old boy, even if it busts old Horace. Which it won't--and, as I
told you, lack of them may bust me."

"By the way," Stubby said as MacRae rose to go, "don't you ever have an
hour to spare in town? You haven't been out at the house for six weeks."

MacRae held out his hands. They were red and cut and scarred, roughened,
and sore from salt water and ice-handling and fish slime.

"Wouldn't they look well clasping a wafer and a teacup," he laughed.
"I'm working, Stub. When I have an hour to spare I lie down and sleep.
If I stopped to play every time I came to town--do you think you'd get
your sixty thousand bluebacks in July?"

Stubby looked at MacRae a second, at his work-torn hands and weary eyes.

"I guess you're right," he said slowly. "But the old stone house will
still be up on the corner when the salmon run is over. Don't forget
that."

MacRae went off to Coal Harbor to take over the second carrier. And he
wondered as he went if it would all be such clear sailing, if it were
possible that at the first thrust he had found an open crack in Gower's
armor through which he could prick the man and make him squirm.

He looked at his hands. When they fingered death as a daily task they
had been soft, white, delicate,--dainty instruments equally fit for the
manipulation of aerial controls, machine guns or teacups. Why should
honest work prevent a man from meeting pleasant people amid pleasant
surroundings? Well, it was not the work itself, it was simply the
effects of that gross labor. On the American continent, at least, a man
did not lose caste by following any honest occupation,--only he could
not work with the workers and flutter with the butterflies. MacRae,
walking down the street, communing with himself, knew that he must pay a
penalty for working with his hands. If he were a drone in
uniform--necessarily a drone since the end of war--he could dance and
play, flirt with pretty girls, be a welcome guest in great houses, make
the heroic past pay social dividends.

It took nearly as much courage and endurance to work as it had taken to
fight; indeed it took rather more, at times, to keep on working.
Theoretically he should not lose caste. Yet MacRae knew he
would,--unless he made a barrel of money. There had been stray straws in
the past month. There were, it seemed, very nice people who could not
quite understand why an officer and a gentleman should do work that
wasn't,--well, not even clean. Not clean in the purely objective,
physical sense, like banking or brokerage, or teaching, or any of those
semi-genteel occupations which permit people to make a living without
straining their backs or soiling their hands. He wasn't even sure that
Stubby Abbott--MacRae was ashamed of his cynicism when he got that far.
Stubby was a real man. Even if he needed a man or a man's activities in
his business Stubby wouldn't cultivate that man socially merely because
he needed his producing capacity.

The solace for long hours and aching flesh and sleep-weary eyes was a
glimpse of concrete reward,--money which meant power, power to repay a
debt, opportunity to repay an ancient score. It seemed to Jack MacRae
that his personal honor was involved in getting back all that broad
sweep of land which his father had claimed from the wilderness, that he
must exact an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That was the why
of his unceasing energy, his uncomplaining endurance of long hours in
sea boots, the impatient facing of storms that threatened to delay. Man
strives under the spur of a vision, a deep longing, an imperative
squaring of needs with desires. MacRae moved under the whip of all
three.

He was quite sanguine that he would succeed in this undertaking. But he
had not looked much beyond the first line of trenches which he planned
to storm. They did not seem to him particularly formidable. The Scotch
had been credited with uncanny knowledge of the future. Jack MacRae,
however, though his Highland blood ran undiluted, had no such gift of
prescience. He did not know that the highway of modern industry is
strewn with the casualties of commercial warfare.




CHAPTER VIII

Vested Rights


A small balcony over the porch of Gower's summer cottage commanded a
wide sweep of the Gulf south and east. That was one reason he had built
there. He liked to overlook the sea, the waters out of which he had
taken a fortune, the highway of his collecting boats. He had to keep in
touch with the Folly Bay cannery while the rush of the pack was on. But
he was getting more fastidious as he grew older, and he no longer
relished the odors of the cannery. There were other places nearer the
cannery than Cradle Bay, if none more sightly, where he could have built
a summer house. People wondered why he chose the point that frowned over
Poor Man's Rock. Even his own family had questioned his judgment.
Particularly his wife. She complained of the isolation. She insisted on
a houseful of people when she was there, and as Vancouver was full of
eligible week-enders of both sexes her wish was always gratified. And no
one except Betty Gower ever knew that merely to sit looking out on the
Gulf from that vantage point afforded her father some inscrutable
satisfaction.

On a day in mid-July Horace Gower stepped out on this balcony. He
carried in his hand a pair of prism binoculars. He took a casual look
around. Then he put the glasses to his eyes and scanned the Gulf with a
slow, searching sweep. At first sight it seemed empty. Then far
eastward toward Vancouver his glass picked up two formless dots which
alternately showed and disappeared.

Gower put down the glasses, seated himself in a grass chair, lighted a
cigar and leaned back, looking impersonally down on Point Old and the
Rock. A big, slow swell rolled up off the Gulf, breaking with a
precisely spaced _boom_ along the cliffs. For forty-eight hours a
southeaster had swept the sea, that rare phenomenon of a summer gale
which did not blow itself out between suns. This had been a wild
tantrum, driving everything of small tonnage to the nearest shelter,
even delaying the big coasters.

One of these, trailing black smoke from two funnels, lifting white
superstructure of cabins high above her main deck, standing bold and
clear in the mellow sunshine, steamed out of the fairway between Squitty
and Vancouver Island. But she gained scant heed from Gower. His eyes
kept turning to where those distant specks showed briefly between
periods in the hollows of the sea. They drew nearer. Gower finished his
cigar in leisurely fashion. He focused the glass again. He grunted
something unintelligible. They were what he fully expected to behold as
soon as the southeaster ceased to whip the Gulf,--the _Bluebird_ and the
_Blackbird_, Jack MacRae's two salmon carriers. They were walking up to
Squitty in eight-knot boots. Through his glass Gower watched them lift
and fall, lurch and yaw, running with short bursts of speed on the crest
of a wave, laboring heavily in the trough, plowing steadily up through
uneasy waters to take the salmon that should go to feed the hungry
machines at Folly Bay.

Gower laid aside the glasses. He smoked a second cigar down to a stub,
resting his plump hands on his plump stomach. He resembled a thoughtful
Billiken in white flannels, a round-faced, florid, middle-aged Billiken.
By that time the two _Bird_ boats had come up and parted on the head of
Squitty. The _Bluebird_, captained by Vin Ferrara, headed into the Cove.
The _Blackbird_, slashing along with a bone in her teeth, rounded Poor
Man's Rock, cut across the mouth of Cradle Bay, and stood on up the
western shore.

"He knows every pot-hole where a troller can lie. He's not afraid of
wind or sea or work. No wonder he gets the fish. Those damned--"

Gower cut his soliloquy off in the middle to watch the _Blackbird_ slide
out of sight behind a point. He knew all about Jack MacRae's operations,
the wide swath he was cutting in the matter of blueback salmon. The
Folly Bay showing to date was a pointed reminder. Gower's cannery
foreman and fish collectors gave him profane accounts of MacRae's
indefatigable raiding,--as it suited them to regard his operations. What
Gower did not know he made it his business to find out. He sat now in
his grass chair, a short, compact body of a man, with a heavy-jawed,
powerful face frowning in abstraction. Gower looked younger than his
fifty-six years. There was little gray in his light-brown hair. His blue
eyes were clear and piercing. The thick roundness of his body was not
altogether composed of useless tissue. Even considered superficially he
looked what he really was, what he had been for many years,--a man
accustomed to getting things done according to his desire. He did not
look like a man who would fight with crude weapons--such as a pike
pole--but nevertheless there was the undeniable impression of latent
force, of aggressive possibilities, of the will and the ability to
rudely dispose of things which might become obstacles in his way. And
the current history of him in the Gulf of Georgia did not belie such an
impression.

He left the balcony at last. He appeared next moving, with the stumpy,
ungraceful stride peculiar to the short and thick-bodied, down the walk
to a float. From this he hailed the _Arrow_, and a boy came in, rowing a
dinghy.

When Gower reached the cruiser's deck he cocked his ear at voices in the
after cabin. He put his head through the companion hatch. Betty Gower
and Nelly Abbott were curled up on a berth, chuckling to each other over
some exchange of confidences.

"Thought you were ashore," Gower grunted.

"Oh, the rest of the crowd went off on a hike into the woods, so we came
out here to look around. Nelly hasn't seen the _Arrow_ inside since it
was done over," Betty replied.

"I'm going to Folly Bay," Gower said. "Will you go ashore?"

"Far from such," Betty returned. "I'd as soon go to the cannery as
anywhere. Can't we, daddy?"

"Oh, yes. Bit of a swell though. You may be sick."

Betty laughed. That was a standing joke between them. She had never been
seasick. Nelly Abbott declared that if there was anything she loved it
was to ride the dead swell that ran after a storm. They came up out of
the cabin to watch the mooring line cast off, and to wave handkerchiefs
at the empty cottage porches as the _Arrow_ backed and straightened and
swept out of the bay.

The _Arrow_ was engined to justify her name. But the swell was heavier
than it looked from shore. No craft, even a sixty-footer built for
speed, finds her speed lines a thing of comfort in heavy going. Until
the _Arrow_ passed into the lee of an island group halfway along
Squitty she made less time than a fishing boat, and she rolled and
twisted uncomfortably. If Horace Gower had a mind to reach Folly Bay
before the _Blackbird_ he could not have done so. However, he gave no
hint of such intention. He kept to the deck. The girls stayed below
until the big cruiser struck easier going and a faster gait. Then they
joined Gower.

The three of them stood by the rail just abaft the pilot house when the
_Arrow_ turned into the half-mile breadth of Folly Bay. The cannery
loomed white on shore, with a couple of purse seiners and a tender or
two tied at the slips. And four hundred yards off the cannery wharf the
_Blackbird_ had dropped anchor and lay now, a dozen trolling boats
clustered about her to deliver fish.

"Slow up and stop abreast of that buyer," Gower ordered.

The _Arrow's_ skipper brought his vessel to a standstill within a
boat-length of the _Blackbird_.

"Why, that's Jack MacRae," Nelly Abbott exclaimed. "Hoo-hoo, Johnny!"

She waved both hands for good measure. MacRae, bareheaded, sleeves
rolled above his elbows, standing in hip boots of rubber on a deck wet
and slippery with water and fish slime, amid piles of gleaming salmon,
recognized her easily enough. He waved greeting, but his gaze only for
that one recognizing instant left the salmon that were landing _flop,
flop_ on the _Blackbird's_ deck out of a troller's fish well. He made
out a slip, handed the troller some currency. There was a brief exchange
of words between them. The man nodded, pushed off his boat. Instantly
another edged into the vacant place. Salmon began to fall on the deck,
heaved up on a picaroon. At the other end of the fish hold another of
the Ferrara boys was tallying in fish.

"Old crab," Nelly Abbott murmured. "He doesn't even look at us."

"He's counting salmon, silly," Betty explained. "How can he?"

There was no particular inflection in her voice. Nevertheless Horace
Gower shot a sidelong glance at his daughter. She also waved a hand
pleasantly to Jack MacRae, who had faced about now.

"Why don't you say you're glad to see us, old dear?" Nelly Abbott
suggested bluntly, and smiling so that all her white teeth gleamed and
her eyes twinkled mischievously.

"Tickled to death," MacRae called back. He went through the pantomime of
shaking hands with himself. His lips parted in a smile. "But I'm the
busiest thing afloat right now. See you later."

"Nerve," Horace Gower muttered under his breath.

"Not if we see you first," Nelly Abbott retorted.

"It's not likely you will," MacRae laughed.

He turned back to his work. The fisherman alongside was tall and surly
looking, a leathery-faced individual with a marked scowl. He heaved half
a dozen salmon up on the _Blackbird_. Then he climbed up himself. He
towered over Jack MacRae, and MacRae was not exactly a small man. He
said something, his hands on his hips. MacRae looked at him. He seemed
to be making some reply. And he stepped back from the man. Every other
fisherman turned his face toward the _Blackbird's_ deck. Their
clattering talk stopped short.

The man leaned forward. His hands left his hips, drew into doubled
fists, extended threateningly. He took a step toward MacRae.

And MacRae suddenly lunged forward, as if propelled by some invisible
spring of tremendous force. With incredible swiftness his left hand and
then his right shot at the man's face. The two blows sounded like two
open-handed smacks. But the fisherman sagged, went lurching backward.
His heels caught on the _Blackbird's_ bulwark and he pitched backward
head-first into the hold of his own boat.

MacRae picked up the salmon and flung them one by one after the man,
with no great haste, but with little care where they fell, for one or
two spattered against the fellow's face as he clawed up out of his own
hold. There was a smear of red on his lips.

"Oh! My goodness gracious, sakes alive!"

Nelly Abbott grasped Betty by the arm and murmured these expletives as
much in a spirit of deviltry as of shock. Her eyes danced.

"Did you see that?" she whispered. "I never saw two men fight before.
I'd hate to have Jack MacRae hit _me_."

But Betty was holding her breath, for MacRae had picked up a twelve-foot
pike pole, a thing with an ugly point and a hook of iron on its tip. He
only used it, however, to shove away the boat containing the man he had
so savagely smashed. And while he did that Gower curtly issued an order,
and the _Arrow_ slid on to the cannery wharf.

Nelly went below for something. Betty stood by the rail, staring back
thoughtfully, unaware that her father was keenly watching the look on
her face, with an odd expression in his own eyes.

"You saw quite a lot of young MacRae last spring, didn't you?" he asked
abruptly. "Do you like him?"

A faint touch of color leaped into her cheeks. She met her father's
glance with an inquiring one of her own.

"Well--yes. Rather," she said at last. "He's a nice boy."

"Better not," Gower rumbled. His frown grew deeper. His teeth clamped a
cigar in one corner of his mouth at an aggressive angle. "Granted that
he is what you call a nice boy. I'll admit he's good-looking and that he
dances well. And he seems to pack a punch up his sleeve. I'd suggest
that you don't cultivate any romantic fancy for him. Because he's making
himself a nuisance in my business--and I'm going to smash him."

Gower turned away. If he had lingered he might have observed
unmistakable signs of temper. Betty flew storm signals from cheek and
eye. She looked after her father with something akin to defiance,
likewise with an air of astonishment.

"As if I--" she left the whispered sentence unfinished.

She perched herself on the mahogany-capped rail, and while she waited
for Nelly Abbott she gave herself up to thinking of herself and her
father and her father's amazing warning which carried a veiled
threat,--an open threat so far as Jack MacRae was concerned. Why should
he cut loose like that on her?

She stared thoughtfully at the _Blackbird_, marked the trollers slipping
in from the grounds and clustering around the chunky carrier.

It might have interested Mr. Horace Gower could he have received a
verbatim report of his daughter's reflections for the next five minutes.
But whether it would have pleased him it is hard to say.




CHAPTER IX

The Complexity of Simple Matters


The army, for a period extending over many months, had imposed a rigid
discipline on Jack MacRae. The Air Service had bestowed upon him a less
rigorous discipline, but a far more exacting self-control. He was not
precisely aware of it, but those four years had saved him from being a
firebrand of sorts in his present situation, because there resided in
him a fiery temper and a capacity for passionate extremes, and those
years in the King's uniform, whatever else they may have done for him,
had placed upon his headlong impulses manifold checks, taught him the
vital necessity of restraint, the value of restraint.

If the war had made human life seem a cheap and perishable commodity, it
had also worked to give men like MacRae a high sense of honor, to
accentuate a natural distaste for lying and cheating, for anything that
was mean, petty, ignoble. Perhaps the Air Service was unique in that it
was at once the most dangerous and the most democratic and the most
individual of all the organizations that fought the Germans. It had high
standards. The airmen were all young, the pick of the nations, clean,
eager, vigorous boys whose ideals were still undimmed. They lived
and--as it happened--died in big moments. They trained with the gods in
airy spaces and became men, those who survived.

And the gods may launch destroying thunderbolts, but they do not lie or
cheat or steal. An honest man may respect an honest enemy, and be roused
to murderous fury by a common rascal's trickery.

When MacRae dropped his hook in Folly Bay he was two days overdue, for
the first time in his fish-running venture. The trollers had promised to
hold their fish. The first man alongside to deliver reminded him of
this.

"Southeaster held you up, eh?" said he. "We fished in the lee off the
top end. But we might as well have laid in. Held 'em too long for you."

"They spoiled before you could slough them on the cannery, eh?" MacRae
observed.

"Most of mine did. They took some."

"How many of your fish went bad?" Jack asked.

"About twenty-five, I guess."

MacRae finished checking the salmon the fisherman heaved up on the deck.
He made out two slips and handed the man his money.

"I'm paying you for the lost fish," he said. "I told you to hold them
for me. I want you to hold them. If I can't get here on time, it's my
loss, not yours."

The fisherman looked at the money in his hand and up at MacRae.

"Well," he said, "you're the first buyer I ever seen do that. You're all
right, all right."

There were variations of this. Some of the trollers, weatherwise old
sea-dogs, had foreseen that the _Blackbird_ could not face that blow,
and they had sold their fish. Others had held on. These, who were all
men MacRae knew, he paid according to their own estimate of loss. He did
not argue. He accepted their word. It was an astonishing experience for
the trolling fleet. They had never found a buyer willing to make good a
loss of that kind.

But there were other folk afloat besides simple, honest fishermen who
would not lie for the price of one salmon or forty. When the _Arrow_
drew abreast and stopped, a boat had pushed in beside the _Blackbird_.
The fisherman in it put half a dozen bluebacks on the deck and clambered
up himself.

"You owe me for thirty besides them," he announced.

"How's that?" MacRae asked coolly.

But he was not cool inside. He knew the man, a preemptor of Folly Bay, a
truckler to the cannery because he was always in debt to the
cannery,--and a quarrelsome individual besides, who took advantage of
his size and strength to browbeat less able men.

MacRae had got few salmon off Sam Kaye since the cannery opened. He had
never asked Kaye to hold fish for him. He knew instantly what was in
Kaye's mind; it had flitted from one boat to another that MacRae was
making good the loss of salmon held for him, and Kaye was going to get
in on this easy money if he could bluff it through.

He stood on the _Blackbird's_ deck, snarlingly demanding payment for
thirty fish. MacRae looked at him silently. He hated brawling,
acrimonious dispute. He was loth to a common row at that moment, because
he was acutely conscious of the two girls watching. But he was even more
conscious of Gower's stare and the curious expectancy of the fishermen
clustered about his stern.

Kaye was simply trying to do him out of fifteen dollars. MacRae knew it.
He knew that the fishermen knew it,--and he had a suspicion that Folly
Bay might not be unaware, or averse, to Sam Kaye taking a fall out of
him. Folly Bay had tried other unpleasant tricks.

"That doesn't go for you, Kaye," he said quietly. "I know your game. Get
off my boat and take your fish with you."

Sam Kaye glowered threateningly. He had cowed men before with the
fierceness of his look. He was long-armed and raw-boned, and he rather
fancied himself in a rough and tumble. He was quite blissfully ignorant
that Jack MacRae was stewing under his outward calmness. Kaye took a
step forward, with an intimidating thrust of his jaw.

MacRae smashed him squarely in the mouth with a straight left, and
hooked him somewhere on the chin with a wicked right cross. Either blow
was sufficient to knock any ordinary man down. There was a deceptive
power in MacRae's slenderness, which was not so much slenderness as
perfect bodily symmetry. He weighed within ten pounds as much as Sam
Kaye, although he did not look it, and he was as quick as a playful
kitten. Kaye went down, as told before. He lifted a dazed countenance
above the cockpit as MacRae shoved his craft clear.

The fishermen broke the silence with ribald laughter. They knew Kaye's
game too.

MacRae left Folly Bay later in the afternoon, poorer by many dollars
paid for rotten salmon. He wasn't in a particularly genial mood. The Sam
Kaye affair had come at an inopportune moment. He didn't care to stand
out as a bruiser. Still, he asked himself irritably, why should he care
because Nelly Abbott and Betty Gower had seen him using his fists? He
was perfectly justified. Indeed, he knew very well he could have done
nothing else. The trailers had chortled over the outcome. These were
matters they could understand and appreciate. Even Steve Ferrara looked
at him enviously.

"It makes me wish I'd dodged the gas," Steve said wistfully. "It's hell
to wheeze your breath in and out. By jiminy, you're wicked with your
hands, Jack. Did you box much in France?"

"Quite a lot," MacRae replied. "Some of the fellows in our squadron were
pretty clever. We used the gloves quite a bit."

"And you're naturally quick," Steve drawled. "Now, me, the gas has
cooked my goose. I'd have to bat Kaye over the head with an oar. Gee, he
sure got a surprise."

They both laughed. Even upon his bloody face--as he rose out of his own
fish hold--bewildered astonishment had been Sam Kaye's chief expression.

The _Blackbird_ went her rounds. At noon the next day she met Vincent
Ferrara with her sister ship, and the two boats made one load for the
_Blackbird_. She headed south. With high noon, too, came the summer
westerly, screeching and whistling and lashing the Gulf to a brief fury.

It was the regular summer wind, a yachtsman's gale. Four days out of six
its cycle ran the same, a breeze rising at ten o'clock, stiffening to a
healthy blow, a mere sigh at sundown. Midnight would find the sea smooth
as a mirror, the heaving swell killed by changing tides.

So the _Blackbird_ ran down Squitty, rolling and yawing through a
following sea, and turned into Squitty Cove to rest till night and calm
settled on the Gulf.

When her mudhook was down in that peaceful nook, Steve Ferrara turned
into his bunk to get a few hours' sleep against the long night watch.
MacRae stirred wakeful on the sun-hot deck, slushing it down with
buckets of sea water to save his ice and fish. He coiled ropes, made his
vessel neat, and sat him down to think. Squitty Cove always stirred him
to introspection. His mind leaped always to the manifold suggestions of
any well-remembered place. He could shut his eyes and see the old log
house behind its leafy screen of alder and maple at the Cove's head. The
rosebushes before it were laden with bloom now. At his hand were the
gray cliffs backed by grassy patches, running away inland to virgin
forest. He felt dispossessed of those noble acres. He was always seeing
them through his father's eyes, feeling as Donald MacRae must have felt
in those last, lonely years of which he had written in simple language
that had wrung his son's heart.

But it never occurred to Jack MacRae that his father, pouring out the
tale of those troubled years, had bestowed upon him an equivocal
heritage.

He slid overboard the small skiff the _Blackbird_ carried and rowed
ashore. There were rowboat trollers on the beach asleep in their tents
and rude lean-tos. He walked over the low ridge behind which stood Peter
Ferrara's house. It was hot, the wooded heights of the island shutting
off the cool westerly. On such a day Peter Ferrara should be dozing on
his porch and Dolly perhaps mending stockings or sewing in a rocker
beside him.

But the porch was bare. As MacRae drew near the house a man came out the
door and down the three low steps. He was short and thick-set, young,
quite fair, inclined already to floridness of skin. MacRae knew him at
once for Norman Gower. He was a typical Gower,--a second edition of his
father, save that his face was less suggestive of power, less heavily
marked with sullenness.

He glanced with blank indifference at Jack MacRae, passed within six
feet and walked along the path which ran around the head of the Cove.
MacRae watched him. He would cross between the boathouse and the roses
in MacRae's dooryard. MacRae had an impulse to stride after him, to
forbid harshly any such trespass on MacRae ground. But he smiled at that
childishness. It was childish, MacRae knew. But he felt that way about
it, just as he often felt that he himself had a perfect right to range
the whole end of Squitty, to tramp across greensward and through forest
depths, despite Horace Gower's legal title to the land. MacRae was aware
of this anomaly in his attitude, without troubling to analyze it.

He walked into old Peter's house without announcement beyond his
footsteps on the floor, as he had been accustomed to do as far back as
he could remember. Dolly was sitting beside a little table, her chin in
her palms. There was a droop to her body that disturbed MacRae. She had
sat for hours like that the night his father died. And there was now on
her face something of the same look of sad resignation and pity. Her
big, dark eyes were misty, troubled, when she lifted them to MacRae.

"Hello, Jack," she said.

He came up to her, put his hands on her shoulders.

"What is it now?" he demanded. "I saw Norman Gower leaving as I came up.
And here you're looking--what's wrong?"

His tone was imperative.

"Nothing, Johnny."

"You don't cry for nothing. You're not that kind," MacRae replied.
"That chunky lobster hasn't given you the glooms, surely?"

Dolly's eyes flashed.

"It isn't like you to call names," she declared. "It isn't nice.
And--and what business of yours is it whether I laugh or cry?"

MacRae smiled. Dolly in a temper was not wholly strange to him. He was
struck with her remarkable beauty every time he saw her. She was
altogether too beautiful a flower to be blushing unseen on an island in
the Gulf. He shook her gently.

"Because I'm big brother. Because you and I were kids together for years
before we ever knew there could be serpents in Eden. Because anything
that hurts you hurts me. I don't like anything to make you cry, _mia
Dolores_. I'd wring Norman Gower's chubby neck with great pleasure if I
thought he could do that. I didn't even know you knew him."

Dolly dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief.

"There are lots of things you don't know, Jack MacRae," she murmured.
"Besides, why shouldn't I know Norman?"

MacRae threw out his hands helplessly.

"No law against it, of course," he admitted. "Only--well--"

He was conscious of floundering, with her grave, dark eyes searching his
face. There was no reason save his own hostility to anything Gower,--and
Dolly knew no basis for that save the fact that Horace Gower had
acquired his father's ranch. That could not possibly be a ground for
Dolores Ferrara to frown on any Gower, male or female, who happened to
come her way.

"Why, I suppose it really is none of my business," he said slowly.
"Except that I can't help being concerned in anything that makes you
unhappy. That's all."

He sat down on the arm of her chair and patted her cheek. To his utter
amazement Dolly broke into a storm of tears. Long ago he had seen Dolly
cry when she had hurt herself, because he had teased her, because she
was angry or disappointed. He had never seen any woman cry as she did
now. It was not just simple grieved weeping. It was a tempest that shook
her. Her body quivered, her breath came in gasping bursts between
racking sobs.

MacRae gathered her into his arms, trying to dam that wild flood. She
put her face against him and clung there, trembling like some hunted
thing seeking refuge, mysteriously stirring MacRae with the passionate
abandon of her tears, filling him with vague apprehensions, with a
strange excitement.

Like the tornado, swift in its striking and passing, so this storm
passed. Dolly's sobbing ceased. She rested passively in his arms for a
minute. Then she sighed, brushed the cloudy hair out of her eyes, and
looked up at him.

"I wonder why I should go all to pieces like that so suddenly?" she
muttered. "And why I should somehow feel better for it?"

"I don't know," MacRae said. "Maybe I could tell you if I knew _why_ you
went off like that. You poor little devil. Something has stung you deep,
I know."

"Yes," she admitted. "I hope nothing like it ever comes to you, Jack.
I'm bleeding internally. Oh, it hurts, it hurts!"

She laid her head against him and cried again softly.

"Tell me," he whispered.

"Why not?" She lifted her head after a little. "You could always keep
things to yourself. It wasn't much wonder they called you Silent John.
Do you know I never really grasped The Ancient Mariner until now? People
_must_ tell their troubles to some one--or they'd corrode inside."

"Go ahead," MacRae encouraged.

"When Norman Gower went overseas we were engaged," she said bluntly, and
stopped. She was not looking at MacRae now. She stared at the opposite
wall, her fingers locked together in her lap.

"For four years," she went on, "I've been hoping, dreaming, waiting,
loving. To-day he came home to tell me that he married in England two
years ago. Married in the madness of a drunken hour--that is how he puts
it--a girl who didn't care for anything but the good time his rank and
pay could give her."

"I think you're in luck," MacRae said soberly.

"What queer creatures men are!" She seemed not to have heard him--to be
thinking her own thoughts out loud. "He says he loves me, that he has
loved me all the time, that he feels as if he had been walking in his
sleep and fallen into some muddy hole. And I believe him. It's terrible,
Johnny."

"It's impossible," MacRae declared savagely. "If he's got in that kind
of a hole, let him stay there. You're well out of it. You ought to be
glad."

"But I'm not," she said sadly. "I'm not made that way. I can't let a
thing become a vital part of my life and give it up without a pang."

"I don't see what else you can do," MacRae observed. "Only brace up and
forget it."

"It isn't quite so simple as that," she sighed. "Norman's w--this woman
presently got tired of him. Evidently she had no scruples about getting
what she wanted, nor how. She went away with another man. Norman is
getting a divorce--the decree absolute will be granted in March next. He
wants me to marry him."

"Will you?"

Dolly looked up to meet MacRae's wondering stare. She nodded.

"You're a triple-plated fool," he said roughly.

"I don't know," she replied thoughtfully. "Norman certainly has been.
Perhaps I am too. We should get on--a pair of fools together."

The bitterness in her voice stung MacRae.

"You really should have loved me," he said, "and I you."

"But you don't, Jack. You have never thought of that before."

"I could, quite easily."

Dolly considered this a moment.

"No," she said. "You like me. I know that, Johnny. I like you, too. You
are a man, and I'm a woman. But if you weren't bursting with sympathy
you wouldn't have thought of that. If Norman had some of your
backbone--but it wouldn't make any difference. If you know what it is
that draws a certain man and woman together in spite of themselves, in
spite of things they can see in each other that they don't quite like, I
dare say you'd understand. I don't think I do. Norman Gower has made me
dreadfully unhappy. But I loved him before he went away, and I love him
yet. I want him just the same. And he says--he says--that he never
stopped caring for me--that it was like a bad dream. I believe him. I'm
sure of it. He didn't lie to me. And I can't hate him. I can't punish
him without punishing myself. I don't want to punish him, any more than
I would want to punish a baby, if I had one, for a naughtiness it
couldn't help."

"So you'll marry him eventually?" MacRae asked.

Dolly nodded.

"If he doesn't change his mind," she murmured. "Oh, I shouldn't say ugly
things like that. It sounds cheap and mean."

"But it hurts, it hurts me so to think of it," she broke out
passionately. "I can forgive him, because I can see how it happened.
Still it hurts. I feel cheated--cheated!"

She lay back in her chair, fingers locked together, red lips parted over
white teeth that were clenched together. Her eyes glowed somberly,
looking away through distant spaces.

And MacRae, conscious that she had said her say, feeling that she wanted
to be alone, as he himself always wanted to fight a grief or a hurt
alone and in silence, walked out into the sunshine, where the westerly
droned high above in the swaying fir tops.

He went up the path around the Cove's head to the porch of his own
house, sat down on the top step, and cursed the Gowers, root and branch.
He hated them, everything of the name and blood, at that moment, with a
profound and active hatred.

They were like a blight, as their lives touched the lives of other
people. They sat in the seats of the mighty, and for their pleasure or
their whims others must sweat and suffer. So it seemed to Jack MacRae.

Home, these crowded, hurrying days, was aboard the _Blackbird_. It was
pleasant now to sit on his own doorstep and smell the delicate perfume
of the roses and the balsamy odors from the woods behind. But the rooms
depressed him when he went in. They were dusty and silent, abandoned to
that forsaken air which rests upon uninhabited dwellings. MacRae went
out again, to stride aimlessly along the cliffs past the mouth of the
Cove.

Beyond the lee of the island the westerly still lashed the Gulf. The
white horses galloped on a gray-green field. MacRae found a grassy place
in the shade of an arbutus, and lay down to rest and watch. Sunset would
bring calm, a dying wind, new colors to sea and sky and mountains. It
would send him away on the long run to Crow Harbor, driving through the
night under the cool stars.

No matter what happened people must be fed. Food was vital. Men lost
their lives at the fishing, but it went on. Hearts might be torn, but
hands still plied the gear. Life had a bad taste in Jack MacRae's mouth
as he lay there under the red-barked tree. He was moody. It seemed a
struggle without mercy or justice, almost without reason, a blind
obedience to the will-to-live. A tooth-and-toenail contest. He surveyed
his own part in it with cynical detachment. So long as salmon ran in the
sea they would be taken for profit in the markets and the feeding of the
hungry. And the salmon would run and men would pursue them, and the game
would be played without slackening for such things as broken faith or
aching hearts or a woman's tears.

MacRae grew drowsy puzzling over things like that. Life was a jumble
beyond his understanding, he concluded at last. Men strove to a godlike
mastery of circumstances,--and achieved three meals a day and a squalid
place to sleep. Sometimes, when they were pluming themselves on having
beaten the game, Destiny was laughing in her sleeve and spreading a
snare for their feet. A man never knew what was coming next. It was
just a damned scramble! A disorderly scramble in which a man could be
sure of getting hurt.

He wondered if that were really true.




CHAPTER X

Thrust and Counterthrust


By the time Jack MacRae was writing August on his sales slips he was
conscious of an important fact; namely, that nearly a hundred gas-boat
fishermen, trolling Squitty Island, the Ballenas, Gray Rock, even
farther afield to Yellow Rock Light and Lambert Channel, were compactly
behind him. They were still close to a period when they had been
remorselessly exploited. They were all for MacRae. Prices being equal,
they preferred that he should have their fish. It was still vivid in
their astonished minds that he had shared profits with them without
compulsion, that he had boosted prices without competition, had put a
great many dollars in their pockets. Only those who earn a living as
precariously, as riskily and with as much patient labor as a salmon
fisherman, can so well value a dollar. They had an abiding confidence,
by this time, in Jack MacRae. They knew he was square, and they said so.
In the territory his two carriers covered, MacRae was becoming the
uncrowned salmon king. Other buyers cut in from time to time. They did
not fare well. The trollers would hold their salmon, even when some
sporting independent offered to shade the current price. They would
shake their heads if they knew either of the _Bird_ boats would be there
to take the fish. For when MacRae said he would be there, he was always
there. In the old days they had been compelled to play one buyer
against another. They did not have to do that with MacRae.

The Folly Bay collectors fared little better than outside buyers. In
July Gower met MacRae's price by two successive raises. He stopped at
that. MacRae did not. Each succeeding run of salmon averaged greater
poundage. They were worth more. MacRae paid fifty, fifty-five cents.
When Gower stood pat at fifty-five, MacRae gave up a fourth of his
contract percentage and paid sixty. It was like draw poker with the
advantage of the last raise on his side.

The salmon were worth the price. They were worth double to a cannery
that lay mostly idle for lack of fish. The salmon, now, were running
close to six pounds each. The finished product was eighteen dollars a
case in the market. There are forty-eight one-pound cans in a case. To a
man familiar with packing costs it is a simple sum. MacRae often
wondered why Gower stubbornly refused to pay more, when his collecting
boats came back to the cannery so often with a few scattered salmon in
their holds. They were primitive folk, these salmon trollers. They
jeered the unlucky collectors. Gower was losing his fishermen as well as
his fish. For the time, at least, the back of his long-held monopoly was
broken.

MacRae got a little further light on this attitude from Stubby Abbott.

"He's figuring on making out a season's pack with cohoes, humps, and dog
salmon," Stubby told MacRae at the Crow Harbor cannery. "He expects to
work his purse seiners overtime, and to hell with the individual
fisherman. Norman was telling me. Old Horace has put Norman in charge at
Folly Bay, you know."

MacRae nodded. He knew about that.

"The old boy is sore as a boil at you and me," Stubby chuckled. "I
don't blame him much. He has had a cinch there so long he thinks it's
his private pond. You've certainly put a crimp in the Folly Bay blueback
pack--to my great benefit. I don't suppose any one but you could have
done it either."

"Any one could," MacRae declared, "if he knew the waters, the men, and
was wise enough to play the game square. The trouble has been that each
buyer wanted to make a clean-up on each trip. He wanted easy money. The
salmon fisherman away up the coast practically has to take what is
offered him day by day, or throw his fish overboard. Canneries and
buyers alike have systematically given him the worst of the deal. You
don't cut your cannery hands' pay because on certain days your pack
falls off."

"Hardly."

"But canneries and collectors and every independent buyer have always
used any old pretext to cut the price to the fisherman out on the
grounds. And while a fisherman has to take what he is offered he doesn't
have to keep on taking it. He can quit, and try something else. Lots of
them have done that. That's why there are three Japanese to every white
salmon fisherman on the British Columbia coast. That is why we have an
Oriental problem. The Japs are making the canneries squeal, aren't
they?"

"Rather." Stubby smiled. "They are getting to be a bit of a problem."

"The packers got them in here as cheap labor in the salmon fishing,"
MacRae went on. "The white fisherman was too independent. He wanted all
he could get out of his work. He was a kicker, as well as a good
fisherman. The packers thought they could keep wages down and profits
up by importing the Jap--cheap labor with a low standard of living. And
the Jap has turned the tables on the big fellows. They hang together, as
aliens always do in a strange country, and the war has helped them
freeze the white fisherman out on one hand and exact more and more from
the canneries on the other. And that would never have happened if this
had been kept a white man's country, and the white fisherman had got a
square deal."

"To buy as cheaply as you can and sell for as much as you can," Stubby
reminded him, "is a fundamental of business. You can't get away from it.
My father abandoned that maxim the last two years of his life, and it
nearly broke us. He was a public-spirited man. He took war and war-time
conditions to heart. In a period of jumping food costs he tried to give
people cheaper food. As I said, he nearly went broke trying to do a
public service, because no one else in the same business departed from
the business rule of making all they could. In fact, men in the same
business, I have since learned, were the first to sharpen their knives
for him. He was establishing a bad precedent. I don't know but their
attitude is sound, after all. In sheer self-defense a man must make all
he can when he has a chance. You cannot indulge in philanthropy in a
business undertaking these days, Silent John."

"Granted," MacRae made answer. "I don't propose to be a philanthropist
myself. But you will get farther with a salmon fisherman, or any other
man whose labor you must depend on, if you accept the principle that he
is entitled to make a dollar as well as yourself, if you don't stretch
every point to take advantage of his necessity. These fellows who fish
around Squitty have been gouged and cheated a lot. They aren't fools.
They know pretty well who makes the long profit, who pile up moderate
fortunes while they get only a living, and not a particularly good
living at that."

"Are you turning Bolshevik?" Stubby inquired with mock solicitude.

MacRae smiled.

"Hardly. Nor are the fishermen. They know I'm making money. But they
know also that they are getting more out of it than they ever got
before, and that if I were not on the job they would get a lot less."

"They certainly would," Abbott drawled. "You have been, and are now,
paying more for blueback salmon than any buyer on the Gulf."

"Well, it has paid me. And it has been highly profitable to you, hasn't
it?" MacRae said. "You've had a hundred thousand salmon to pack which
you would not otherwise have had."

"Certainly," Stubby agreed. "I'm not questioning your logic. In this
case it has paid us both, and the fisherman as well. But suppose
everybody did it?"

"If you can pay sixty cents a fish, and fifteen per cent, on top of that
and pack profitably, why can't other canneries? Why can't Folly Bay meet
that competition? Rather, why won't they?"

"Matter of policy, maybe," Stubby hazarded. "Matter of keeping costs
down. Apart from a few little fresh-fish buyers, you are the only
operator on the Gulf who is cutting any particular ice. Gower may figure
that he will eventually get these fish at his own price. If I were
eliminated, he would."

"I'd still be on the job," MacRae ventured.

"Would you, though?" Stubby asked doubtfully.

"Yes." MacRae made his reply positive in tone. "You could buy all
right. That Squitty Island bunch of trollers seem convinced you are the
whole noise in the salmon line. But without Crow Harbor where could you
unload such quantities of fish?"

It struck MacRae that there was something more than mere casual
speculation in Stubby's words. But he did not attempt to delve into
motives.

"A good general," he said with a dry smile, "doesn't advertise his plan
of campaign in advance. Without Crow Harbor as a market I could not have
done what I have done this season. But Crow Harbor could shut down
to-morrow--and I'd go on just the same."

Stubby poked thoughtfully with a pencil at the blotter on his desk.

"Well, Jack, I may as well be quite frank with you," he said at last. "I
have had hints that may mean something. The big run will be over at
Squitty in another month. I don't believe I can be dictated to on short
notice. But I cannot positively say. If you can see your way to carry
on, it will be quite a relief to me. Another season it may be
different."

"I think I can."

But though MacRae said this confidently, he was privately not so sure.
From the very beginning he had expected pressure to come on Stubby, as
the active head of Crow Harbor. It was as Stubby said. Unless
he--MacRae--had a market for his fish, he could not buy. And within the
limits of British Columbia the salmon market was subject to control; by
just what means MacRae had got inklings here and there. He had not been
deceived by the smoothness of his operations so far. Below the clear
horizon there was a storm gathering. A man like Gower did not lie down
and submit passively to being beaten at his own game.

But MacRae believed he had gone too far to be stopped now, even if his
tactics did not please the cannery interests. They could have squelched
him easily enough in the beginning, when he had no funds to speak of,
when his capital was mostly a capacity for hard, dirty work and a
willingness to take chances. Already he had run his original shoestring
to fifteen thousand dollars cash in hand. It scarcely seemed possible.
It gave him a startling vision of the profits in the salmon industry,
and it was not a tenable theory that men who had controlled such a
source of profits would sit idle while he undermined their monopoly.
Nevertheless he had made that much money in four months. He had at his
back a hundred fishermen who knew him, liked him, trusted him, who were
anxious that he should prosper, because they felt that they were sharing
in that prosperity. Ninety per cent. of these men had a grievance
against the canneries. And he had the good will of these men with
sun-browned faces and hook-scarred hands. The human equation in
industrial processes is a highly important one, as older, wiser men than
Jack MacRae had been a longer time discovering.

He did not try to pin Stubby to a more definite statement. A hint was
enough for MacRae. Stubby Abbott could also be depended upon to see
things beyond the horizon. If a storm broke Stubby was the most
vulnerable, because in a sense he was involved with the cannery
interests in general, and they would consider him an apostate and knife
him without mercy,--if they could. If the Abbott estate had debts,
obligations which could be manipulated, if through the financial
convolutions of marketing the Crow Harbor pack Stubby could be reached,
the Abbott family had property, a standard of living that stood for
comfort, appearance, luxury almost. There are always plenty of roads
open to a flank attack on people like that; many levers, financial and
otherwise, can be pulled for or against them.

So MacRae, knowing that Stubby must protect himself in a showdown, set
about fortifying his own approaches.

For a first move he hired an engineer, put Steve Ferrara in charge of
the _Blackbird_, and started him back to Squitty. Then MacRae took the
next train to Bellingham, a cannery town which looks out on the southern
end of the Gulf of Georgia from the American side of the boundary. He
extended his journey to Seattle. Altogether, he was gone three days.

When he came back he made a series of calls,--at the Vancouver offices
of three different canneries and one of the biggest cold-storage
concerns on the Pacific Coast. He got a courteous but unsatisfactory
reception from the cannery men. He fared a little better with the
manager of the cold-storage plant. This gentleman was tentatively
agreeable in the matter of purchasing salmon, but rather vague in the
way of terms.

"Beginning with May next I can deliver any quantity up to two thousand a
day, perhaps more, for a period of about four months," MacRae stated.
"What I should like to know is the percentage over the up-coast price
you would pay."

But he could not pin the man down to anything definite. He would only
speak pleasantly of the market and possible arrangements, utter vague
commonplaces in business terminology. MacRae rose.

"I'm wasting your time and my own," he said. "You don't want my fish.
Why not say so?"

"We always want fish," the man declared, bending a shrewdly appraising
eye on MacRae. "Bring in the salmon and we will do business."

"On your own terms when my carriers are tied to your dock with a
capacity load which I must sell or throw overboard within forty-eight
hours," MacRae smiled. "No, I don't intend to go up against any
take-it-or-leave proposition like that. I don't have to."

"Well, we might allow you five per cent. That's about the usual thing on
salmon. And we would rather have salmon now than a promise of them next
season."

"Oh, rats!" MacRae snorted. "I'm in the business to make money--not
simply to create dividends for your Eastern stockholders while I eke out
a living and take all the risks. Come again."

The cold storage man smiled.

"Come and see me in the spring. Meantime, when you have a cargo of
salmon, you might run them in to us. We'll pay market prices. It's up to
you to protect yourself in the buying."

MacRae went on about his business. He had not expected much
encouragement locally, so he did not suffer disappointment. He knew
quite well what he could expect in Vancouver if Crow Harbor canceled his
contract. He would bring in boatloads of salmon, and the dealers would
squeeze him, all but the Terminal Fish Company. And if the market could
be controlled, if the men behind could dictate the Crow Harbor policy,
they might also bring the Terminal into line. Even if they did not the
Terminal could only handle a minor portion of the salmon he could get
while the big run swirled around Squitty Island.

But MacRae was not downcast. He was only sober and thoughtful, which had
become characteristic of him in the last four months. He was forgetting
how to laugh, to be buoyant, to see the world through the rose-colored
glasses of sanguine youth. He was becoming a living exampler of his
nickname. Even Stubby Abbott marked this when Jack came back from
Bellingham.

"Come on out to the house," Stubby urged. "Your men can handle the job a
day or two longer. Forget the grind for once. It's getting you."

"No, I don't think it is," MacRae denied. "But a man can't play and
produce at the same time. I have to keep going."

He did go out to Abbott's one evening, however, and suffered a good deal
of teasing from Nelly over his manhandling of Sam Kaye. A lot of other
young people happened to foregather there. They sang and flirted and
presently moved the rugs off the living-room floor and danced to a
phonograph. MacRae found himself a little out of it, by inclination. He
was tired, without knowing quite what was the matter with him. A man,
even a young and sturdy man, cannot work like a horse for months on end,
eating his meals anyhow and sleeping when he can, without losing
temporarily the zest for careless fun. For another thing, he found
himself looking at these immaculate young people as any hard-driven
worker must perforce look upon drones.

They were sons and daughters of the well-to-do, divorced from all
uncouthness, with pretty manners and good clothes. They seemed serene in
the assurance--MacRae got this impression for the first time in his
social contact with them--that wearing good clothes, behaving well,
giving themselves whole-heartedly to having a good time, was the most
important and satisfying thing in the world. They moved in an atmosphere
of considering these things their due, a birthright, their natural and
proper condition of well-being.

And MacRae found himself wondering what they gave or ever expected to
give in return for this pleasant security of mind and body. Some one had
to pay for it, the silks and georgettes and white flannels, furs and
strings of pearls and gold trinkets, the good food, the motor cars, and
the fun.

He knew a little about every one he met that evening, for in Vancouver
as in any other community which has developed a social life beyond the
purely primitive stages of association, people gravitate into sets and
cliques. They lived in good homes, they had servants, they week-ended
here and there. Of the dozen or more young men and women present, only
himself and Stubby Abbott made any pretense at work.

Yet somebody paid for all they had and did. Men in offices, in shops, in
fishing boats and mines and logging camps worked and sweated to pay for
all this well-being in which they could have no part. MacRae even
suspected that a great many men had died across the sea that this sort
of thing should remain the inviolate privilege of just such people as
these. It was not an inspiring conclusion.

He smiled to himself. How they would stare if he should voice these
stray thoughts in plain English. They would cry out that he was a
Bolshevik. Absolutely! He wondered why he should think such things. He
wasn't disgruntled. He wanted a great many things which these young
people of his own age had gotten from fairy godmothers,--in the shape of
pioneer parents who had skimmed the cream off the resources of a
developing frontier and handed it on to their children, and who
themselves so frequently kept in the background, a little in awe of
their gilded offspring. MacRae meant to beat the game as it was being
played. He felt that he was beating it. But nothing would be handed him
on a silver salver. Fortune would not be bestowed upon him in any easy,
soft-handed fashion. He would have to render an equivalent for what he
got. He wondered if the security of success so gained would have any
greater value for him than it would have for those who took their
blessings so lightly.

This kink of analytical reasoning was new to MacRae, and it kept him
from entering whole-heartedly into the joyous frivolity which functioned
in the Abbott home that evening. He had never found himself in that
critical mood before. He did not want to prattle nonsense. He did not
want to think, and he could not help thinking. He had a curious sense of
detachment from what was going on, even while he was a part of it. So he
did not linger late.

The _Blackbird_ had discharged at Crow Harbor late in the afternoon. She
lay now at a Vancouver slip. By eleven o'clock he was aboard in his
bunk, still thinking when he should have been asleep, staring wide-eyed
at dim deck beams, his mind flitting restlessly from one thing to
another. Steve Ferrara lay in the opposite bunk, wheezing his breath in
and out of lungs seared by poison gas in Flanders. Smells of seaweed and
tide-flat wafted in through open hatch and portholes. A full moon thrust
silver fingers through deck openings. Gradually the softened medley of
harbor noises lulled MacRae into a dreamless sleep. He only wakened at
the clank of the engine and the shudder of the _Blackbird's_ timbers as
Steve backed her out of her berth in the first faint gleam of dawn.

The _Blackbird_ made her trip and a second and a third, which brought
the date late in August. On his delivery, when the salmon in her hold
had been picarooned to the cannery floor, MacRae went up to the office.
Stubby had sent for him. He looked uncomfortable when Jack came in.

"What's on your mind now?" MacRae asked genially.

"Something damned unpleasant," Stubby growled.

"Shoot," MacRae said. He sat down and lit a cigarette.

"I didn't think they could do it," Abbott said slowly. "But it seems
they can. I guess you'll have to lay off the Gower territory after all,
Jack."

"You mean _you_ will," MacRae replied. "I've been rather expecting that.
Can Gower hurt you?"

"Not personally. But the banks--export control--there are so many angles
to the cannery situation. There's nothing openly threatened. But it has
been made perfectly clear to me that I'll be hampered and harassed till
I won't know whether I'm afoot or on horseback, if I go on paying a few
cents more for salmon in order to keep my plant working efficiently.
Damn it, I hate it. But I'm in no position to clash with the rest of the
cannery crowd and the banks too. I hate to let you down. You've pulled
me out of a hole. I don't know a man who would have worked at your pitch
and carried things off the way you have. If I had this pack marketed, I
could snap my fingers at them. But I haven't. There's the rub. I hate to
ditch you in order to insure myself--get in line at somebody else's
dictation."

"Don't worry about me," MacRae said gently. "I have no cannery and no
pack to market through the regular channels. Nor has the bank advanced
me any funds. You are not responsible for what I do. And neither Gower
nor the Packers' Association nor the banks can stop me from buying
salmon so long as I have the money to pay the fishermen and carriers to
haul them, can they?"

"No, but the devil of it is they can stop you _selling_," Stubby
lamented bitterly. "I tell you there isn't a cannery on the Gulf will
pay you a cent more than they pay the fishermen. What's the use of
buying if you can't sell?"

MacRae did not attempt to answer that.

"Let's sum it up," he said. "You can't take any more bluebacks from
Gower's territory. That, I gather, is the chief object. I suppose they
know as much about your business as you know yourself. Am I to be
deprived of the two boat charters into the bargain?"

"No, by the Lord," Stubby swore. "Not if you want them. My general
policy may be subject to dictation, but not the petty details of my
business. There's a limit. I won't stand for that."

"Put a fair price on the _Birds_, and I'll buy 'em both," MacRae
suggested. "You had them up for sale, anyway. That will let you out, so
far as my equipment is concerned."

"Five thousand each," Stubby said promptly.

"They're good value at that. And I can use ten thousand dollars to
advantage, right now."

"I'll give you a check. I want the registry transferred to me at once,"
MacRae continued. "That done, you can cease worrying over me, Stub.
You've been square, and I've made money on the deal. You would be
foolish to fight unless you have a fighting chance. Oh, another thing.
Will the Terminal shut off on me, too?"

"No," Stubby declared. "The Terminal is one of the weapons I intend
ultimately to use as a club on the heads of this group of gentlemen who
want to make a close corporation of the salmon industry on the British
Columbia coast. If I get by this season, I shall be in shape to show
them something. They will not bother about the Terminal, because the
Terminal is small. All the salmon they could take from you wouldn't hurt
Gower. What they want is to enable Gower to get up his usual fall pack.
It has taken him this long to get things shaped so he could call me off.
He can't reach a local concern like the Terminal. No, the Terminal will
continue to buy salmon from you, Jack. But you know they haven't the
facilities to handle a fourth of the salmon you have been running
lately."

"I'll see they get whatever they can use," MacRae declared. "And if it
is any satisfaction to you personally, Stub, I can assure you that I
shall continue to do business as usual."

Stubby looked curious.

"You've got something up your sleeve?"

"Yes," MacRae admitted. "No stuffed club, either. It's loaded. You wait
and keep your ears open."

MacRae's face twisted into a mirthless smile. His eyes glowed with the
fire that always blazed up in them when he thought too intensely of
Horace Gower and the past, or of Gower's various shifts to defeat him in
what he undertook. He had anticipated this move. He was angrily
determined that Gower should not get one more salmon, or buy what he got
a cent cheaper, by this latest strategy.

"You appear to like old Horace," Stubby said thoughtfully, "about as
much as our fellows used to like Fritz when he dropped high explosives
on supposedly bomb-proof shelters."

"Just about as much," MacRae said shortly. "Well, you'll transfer that
registry--when? I want to get back to Squitty as soon as possible."

"I'll go to town with you now, if you like," Stubby offered.

They acted on that. Within two hours MacRae was the owner of two motor
launches under British registry. Payment in full left him roughly with
five thousand dollars working capital, enough by only a narrow margin.
At sunset Vancouver was a smoky smudge on a far horizon. At dusk he
passed in the narrow mouth of Squitty Cove. The _Bluebird_ was swinging
about to go when her sister ship ranged alongside. Vincent Ferrara
dropped his hook again. There were forty trollers in the Cove. MacRae
called to them. They came in skiffs and dinghys, and when they were all
about his stern and some perched in sea boots along the _Blackbird's_
low bulwarks, MacRae said what he had to say.

"Gower has come alive. My market for fish bought in Gower's territory is
closed, so far as Crow Harbor is concerned. If I can't sell salmon I
can't buy them from you. How much do you think Folly Bay will pay for
your fish?"

He waited a minute. The fishermen looked at him in the yellow lantern
light, at each other. They shifted uneasily. No one answered his
question.

MacRae went on.

"You can guess what will happen. You will be losers. So will I. I don't
like the idea of being frozen out of the salmon-buying business, now
that I have got my hand in. I don't intend to be. As long as I can
handle a load of salmon I'll make the run. But I've got to run them
farther, and you fellows will have to wait a bit for me now and then,
perhaps. The cannery men hang together. They are making it bad for me
because I'm paying a few cents more for salmon. They have choked off
Crow Harbor. Gower is hungry for cheap salmon. He'll get them, too, if
you let him head off outside buyers. Since I'm the only buyer covering
these grounds, it's up to you, more than ever, to see that I keep
coming. That's all. Tell the rest of the fishermen what I say whenever
you happen to run across them."

They became articulate. They plied MacRae with questions. He answered
tersely, as truthfully as he could. They cursed Folly Bay and the
canneries in general. But they were not downcast. They did not seem
apprehensive that Folly Bay would get salmon for forty cents. MacRae had
said he would still buy. For them that settled it. They would not have
to sell their catch to Folly Bay for whatever price Gower cared to set.
Presently they began to drift away to their boats, to bed, for their
work began in that gray hour between dawn and sunrise when the schooling
salmon best strike the trolling spoon.

One lingered, a returned soldier named Mullen, who had got his discharge
in May and gone fishing. Mullen had seen two years in the trenches. He
sat in his skiff, scowling up at MacRae, talking about the salmon
packers, about fishing.

"Aw, it's the same everywhere," he said cynically. "They all want a
cinch, easy money, big money. Looks like the more you have, the more you
can grab. Folly Bay made barrels of coin while the war was on. Why can't
they give us fellers a show to make a little now? But they don't give a
damn, so long as they get theirs. And then they wonder why some of us
guys that went to France holler about the way we find things when we
come home."

He pushed his skiff away into the gloom that rested upon the Cove.

The _Bluebird_ was packed with salmon to her hatch covers. There had
been a fresh run. The trollers were averaging fifty fish to a man daily.
MacRae put Vincent Ferrara aboard the _Blackbird_, himself took over the
loaded vessel, and within the hour was clear of Squitty's dusky
headlands, pointing a course straight down the middle of the Gulf. His
man turned in to sleep. MacRae stood watch alone, listening to the
ka-_choof_, ka-_choof_ of the exhaust, the murmuring swash of calm water
cleft by the _Bluebird's_ stem. Away to starboard the Ballenas light
winked and blinked its flaming eye to seafaring men as it had done in
his father's time. Miles to port the Sand Heads lightship swung to its
great hawsers off the Fraser River shoals.

MacRae smiled contentedly. There was a long run ahead. But he felt that
he had beaten Gower in this first definite brush. Moving in devious
channels to a given end Gower had closed the natural markets to MacRae.

But there was no law against the export of raw salmon to a foreign
country. MacRae could afford to smile. Over in Bellingham there were
salmon packers who, like Folly Bay, were hungry for fish to feed their
great machines. But--unlike Folly Bay--they were willing to pay the
price, any price in reason, for a supply of salmon. Their own carriers
later in the season would invade Canadian waters, so many thorns in the
ample sides of the British Columbia packers. "The damned Americans!"
they sometimes growled, and talked about legislation to keep American
fish buyers out. Because the American buyer and canner alike would spend
a dollar to make a dollar. And the British Columbia packers wanted a
cinch, a monopoly, which in a measure they had. They were an
anachronism, MacRae felt. They regarded the salmon and the salmon waters
of the British Columbia coast as the feudal barons of old jealously
regarded their special prerogatives. MacRae could see them growling and
grumbling, he could see most clearly the scowl that would spread over
the face of Mr. Horace A. Gower, when he learned that ten to twenty
thousand Squitty Island salmon were passing down the Gulf each week to
an American cannery; that a smooth-faced boy out of the Air Service was
putting a crimp in the ancient order of things so far as one particular
cannery was concerned.

This notion amused MacRae, served to while away the hours of monotonous
plowing over an unruffled sea, until he drove down abreast the Fraser
River's mouth and passed in among the nets and lights of the sockeye
fleet drifting, a thousand strong, on the broad bosom of the Gulf. Then
he had to stand up to his steering wheel and keep a sharp lookout, lest
he foul his propellor in a net or cut down some careless fisherman who
did not show a riding light.




CHAPTER XI

Peril of the Sea


The last of August set the Red Flower of the Jungle books blooming along
the British Columbia coast. The seeds of it were scattered on hot, dry,
still days by pipe and cigarette, by sparks from donkey engines, by
untended camp fires, wherever the careless white man went in the great
coastwise forests. The woods were like a tinder box. One unguarded
moment, and the ancient firs were wrapped in sheets of flame. Smoke lay
on the Gulf like a pall of pungent fog, through which vessels ran by
chart and compass, blind between ports, at imminent risk of collision.

Through this, well on into September, MacRae and Vincent Ferrara
gathered cargoes of salmon and ran them down the Gulf to Bellingham,
making their trips with the regularity of the tides, despite the murk
that hid landmarks by day and obscured the guiding lighthouse flashes
when dark closed in. They took their chances in the path of coastwise
traffic, straining their eyes for vessels to leap suddenly out of the
thickness that shut them in, their ears for fog signals that blared
warning. There were close shaves, but they escaped disaster. They got
the salmon and they delivered them, and Folly Bay still ran a bad second
wherever the _Bird_ boats served the trolling fleet. Even when Gower at
last met MacRae's price, his collectors got few fish. The fishermen took
no chances. They were convinced that if MacRae abandoned buying for
lack of salmon Folly Bay would cut the price in two. It had been done
before. So they held their fish for the _Bird_ boats. MacRae got them
all. Even when American buyers trailed MacRae to the source of his
supply their competition hurt Gower instead of MacRae. The trollers
supplied MacRae with all the salmon he could carry. It was still fresh
in their minds that he had come into the field that season as their
special Providence.

But the blueback run tapered off at Squitty. September ushered in the
annual coho run on its way to the spawning grounds. And the coho did not
school along island shores, feeding upon tiny herring. Stray squadrons
of coho might pass Squitty, but they did not linger in thousands as the
blueback did. The coho swept into the Gulf from mysterious haunts in
blue water far offshore, myriads of silver fish seeking the streams
where they were spawned, and to which as mature fish they now returned
to reproduce themselves. They came in great schools. They would loaf
awhile in some bay at a stream mouth, until some irresistible urge drove
them into fresh water, up rivers and creeks, over shoal and rapid,
through pool and canyon, until the stream ran out to a whimpering
trickle and the backs of the salmon stuck out of the water. Up there, in
the shadow of great mountains, in the hidden places of the Coast range,
those that escaped their natural enemies would spawn and die.

While the coho and the humpback, which came about the same time, and the
dog salmon, which comes last of all--but each to function in the same
manner and sequence--laid in the salt-water bays, resting, it would
seem, before the last and most terrible struggle of their brief
existence, the gill-net fishermen and the cannery purse-seine boats took
toll of them. The trollers harried them from the moment they showed in
the Gulf, because the coho will strike at a glittering spoon anywhere in
salt water. But the net boats take them in hundreds at one drift, and
the purse seiners gather thousands at a time in a single sweep of the
great bag-like seine.

When September days brought the cohoes in full force along with cooler
nights and a great burst of rain that drowned the forest fires and
cleared away the enshrouding smoke, leaving only the pleasant haze of
autumn, the Folly Bay purse-seine boats went out to work. The trolling
fleet scattered from Squitty Island. Some steamed north to the troubled
waters of Salmon River and Blackfish Sound, some to the Redondas where
spring salmon could be taken. Many put by their trolling gear and hung
their gill nets. A few gas boats and a few rowboat men held to the
Island, depending upon stray schools and the spring salmon that haunted
certain reefs and points and beds of kelp. But the main fleet scattered
over two hundred miles of sea.

MacRae could have called it a season and quit with honor and much
profit. Or he might have gone north and bought salmon here and there,
free-lancing. He did neither. There were enough gill-netters operating
on Gower's territory to give him fair cargoes. Every salmon he could
divert from the cans at Folly Bay meant,--well, he did not often stop to
ask precisely what that did mean to him. But he never passed Poor Man's
Rock, bleak and brown at low tide, or with seas hissing over it when the
tide was at flood, without thinking of his father, of the days and
months and years old Donald MacRae had lived and worked in sight of the
Rock,--a life at the last lonely and cheerless and embittered by the
sight of his ancient enemy preening his feathers in Cradle Bay. Old
Donald had lived for thirty years unable to return a blow which had
scarred his face and his heart in the same instant. But his son felt
that he was making better headway. It is unlikely that Donald MacRae
ever looked at Gower's cottage nestling like a snowflake in the green
lee of Point Old, or cast his eyes over that lost estate of his, with
more unchristian feelings than did his son. In Jack MacRae's mind the
Golden Rule did not apply to Horace Gower, nor to aught in which Gower
was concerned.

So he stayed on Folly Bay territory with a dual purpose: to make money
for himself, and to deprive Gower of profit where he could. He was wise
enough to know that was the only way he could hurt a man like Gower. And
he wanted to hurt Gower. The intensity of that desire grew. It was a
point of honor, the old inborn clan pride that never compromised an
injury or an insult or an injustice, which neither forgave nor forgot.

For weeks MacRae in the _Blackbird_ and Vin Ferrara in her sister ship
flitted here and there. The purse seiners hunted the schooling salmon,
the cohoes and humps. The gill-netters hung on the seiner's heels,
because where the purse seine could get a haul so could they. And the
carriers and buyers sought the fishermen wherever they went, to buy and
carry away their catch.

Folly Bay suffered bad luck from the beginning. Gower had four
purse-seine boats in commission. Within a week one broke a crankshaft in
half a gale off Sangster Island. The wind put her ashore under the nose
of the sandstone Elephant and the seas destroyed her.

Fire gutted a second not long after, so that for weeks she was laid up
for repairs. That left him but two efficient craft. One operated on his
concessions along the mainland shore. The other worked three stream
mouths on Vancouver Island, straight across from Folly Bay.

Still, Gower's cannery was getting salmon. In those three bays no other
purse seiner could shoot his gear. Folly Bay held them under exclusive
license. Gill nets could be drifted there, but the purse seiner was
king.

A gill net goes out over a boat's stern. When it is strung it stands in
the sea like a tennis net across a court, a web nine hundred feet long,
twenty feet deep, its upper edge held afloat by corks, its lower sunk by
lead weights spaced close together. The outer end is buoyed to a float
which carries a flag and a lantern; the inner is fast to the bitts of
the launch. Thus set, and set in the evening, since salmon can only be
taken by the gills in the dark, fisherman, launch, and net drift with
the changing tides till dawn. Then he hauls. He may have ten salmon, or
a hundred, or treble that. He may have none, and the web be torn by
sharks and fouled heavy with worthless dogfish.

The purse seiner works in daylight, off a powerfully engined sixty-foot,
thirty-ton craft. He pays the seine out over a roller on a revolving
platform aft. His vessel moves slowly in a sweeping circle as the net
goes out,--a circle perhaps a thousand feet in diameter. When the circle
is complete the two ends of the net meet at the seiner's stern. A power
winch hauls on ropes and the net closes. Nothing escapes. It draws
together until it is a bag, a "purse" drawn up under the vessel's
counter, full of glistening fish.

The salmon is a surface fish, his average depth seldom below four
fathoms. He breaks water when he feeds, when he plays, when he runs in
schools. The purse seiner watches the signs. When the salmon rise in
numbers he makes a set. To shoot the gear and purse the seine is a
matter of minutes. A thousand salmon at a haul is nothing. Three
thousand is common. Five thousand is far below the record. Purse seines
have been burst by the dead weight of fish against the pull of the
winch.

The purse seine is a deadly trap for schooling salmon. And because the
salmon schools in mass formation, crowding nose to tail and side to
side, in the entrance to a fresh-water stream, the Fisheries Department
having granted a monopoly of seining rights to a packer has also
benevolently decreed that no purse seine or other net shall operate
within a given distance of a stream mouth,--that the salmon, having won
to fresh water, shall go free and his kind be saved from utter
extinction.

These regulations are not drawn for sentimental reasons, only to
preserve the salmon industry. The farmer saves wheat for his next year's
seeding, instead of selling the last bushel to the millers. No man
willfully kills the goose that lays him golden eggs. But the salmon
hunter, eagerly pursuing the nimble dollar, sometimes grows rapacious in
the chase and breaks laws of his own devising,--if a big haul promises
and no Fisheries Inspector is by to restrain him. The cannery purse
seiners are the most frequent offenders. They can make their haul
quickly in forbidden waters and get away. Folly Bay, shrewdly paying its
seine crews a bonus per fish on top of wages, had always been notorious
for crowding the law.

Solomon River takes its rise in the mountainous backbone of Vancouver
Island. It is a wide, placid stream on its lower reaches, flowing
through low, timbered regions, emptying into the Gulf in a half-moon bay
called the Jew's Mouth, which is a perfect shelter from the Gulf storms
and the only such shelter in thirty miles of bouldery shore line. The
beach runs northwest and southeast, bleak and open, undented. In all
that stretch there is no point from behind which a Fisheries Patrol
launch could steal unexpectedly into the Jew's Mouth.

Upon a certain afternoon the _Blackbird_ lay therein. At her stern, fast
by light lines to her after bitts, clung half a dozen fish boats, blue
wisps of smoke drifting from the galley stovepipes, the fishermen
variously occupied. The _Blackbird's_ hold was empty except for ice. She
was waiting for fish, and the _Bluebird_ was due on the same errand the
following day.

Nearer shore another cluster of gill-netters was anchored, a Jap or two,
and a Siwash Indian with his hull painted a gaudy blue. And in the
middle of the Jew's Mouth, which was a scant six hundred yards across at
its widest, the _Folly Bay No. 5_ swung on her anchor chain. A tubby
cannery tender lay alongside. The crews were busy with picaroons forking
salmon out of the seiner into the tender's hold. The flip-flop of the
fish sounded distinctly in that quiet place. Their silver bodies flashed
in the sun as they were thrown across the decks.

When the tender drew clear and passed out of the bay she rode deep with
the weight of salmon aboard. Without the Jew's Mouth, around the
_Blackbird_ and the fish boats and the _No. 5_ the salmon were threshing
water. _Klop._ A flash of silver. Bubbles. A series of concentric rings
that ran away in ripples, till they merged into other widening rings.
They were everywhere. The river was full of them. The bay was alive with
them.

A boat put off from the seiner. The man rowed out of the Jew's Mouth and
stopped, resting on his oars. He remained there, in approximately the
same position. A sentry.

The _No. 5_ heaved anchor, the chain clanking and chattering in a
hawsepipe. Her exhaust spat smoky, gaseous fumes. A bell clanged. She
moved slowly ahead, toward the river's mouth, a hundred yards to one
side of it. Then the brown web of the seine began to spin out over the
stern. She crossed the mouth of the Solomon, holding as close in as her
draft permitted, and kept on straight till her seine was paid out to the
end. Then she stopped, lying still in dead water with her engine idling.

The tide was on the flood. Salmon run streams on a rising tide. And the
seine stood like a wall across the river's mouth.

Every man watching knew what the seiner was about, in defiance of the
law. The salmon, nosing into the stream, driven by that imperative urge
which is the law of their being, struck the net, turned aside, swam in a
slow circle and tried again and again, seeking free passage, until
thousands of them were massed behind the barrier of the net. Then the
_No. 5_ would close the net, tauten the ropes which made it a purse, and
haul out into deep water.

It was the equivalent of piracy on the high seas. To be taken in the act
meant fines, imprisonment, confiscation of boat and gear. But the _No.
5_ would not be caught. She had a guard posted. Cannery seiners were
never caught. When they were they got off with a warning and a
reprimand. Only gill-netters, the small fry of the salmon industry, ever
paid the utmost penalty for raids like that. So the fishermen said, with
a cynical twist of their lips.

"Look at 'em," one said to MacRae. "They make laws and break 'em
themselves. They been doin' that every day for a week. If one of us set
a piece of net in the river and took three hundred salmon the canners
would holler their heads off. There'd be a patrol boat on our heels all
the time if they thought we'd take a chance."

"Well, I'm about ready to take a chance," another man growled. "They
clear the bay in daylight and all we get is their leavings at night."

The _No. 5_ pursed her seine and hauled out until she was abreast of the
_Blackbird_. She drew close up to her massive hull a great heap of
salmon, struggling, twisting, squirming within the net. The loading
began. Her men laughed and shouted as they worked. The gill-net
fishermen watched silently, scowling. It was like taking bread out of
their mouths. It was like an honest man restrained by a policeman's club
from taking food when he is hungry, and seeing a thief fill his pockets
and walk off unmolested.

"Four thousand salmon that shot," Dave Mullen said, the same Mullen who
had talked to MacRae in Squitty one night. "Say, why should we stand for
that? We can get salmon that way too."

He spoke directly to MacRae.

"What's sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander," MacRae
replied. "I'll take the fish if you get them."

"You aren't afraid of getting in wrong yourself?" the man asked him.

MacRae shook his head. He did not lean to lawlessness. But the cannery
men had framed this law. They cried loudly and continually for its
strict enforcement. And they violated it flagrantly themselves, or
winked at its violation when that meant an added number of cases to
their pack. Not alone in the Jew's Mouth; all along the British Columbia
coast the purse seiners forgot the law when the salmon swarmed in a
stream mouth and they could make a killing. Only canneries could hold a
purse-seine license. If the big men would not honor their own law, why
should the lesser? So MacRae felt and said.

The men in the half-dozen boats about his stern had dealt all the season
with MacRae. They trusted him. They neither liked nor trusted Folly Bay.
Folly Bay was not only breaking the law in the Jew's Mouth, but in
breaking the law they were making it hard for these men to earn a dollar
legitimately. Superior equipment, special privilege, cold-blooded
violation of law because it was safe and profitable, gave the purse
seiner an unfair advantage. The men gathered in a little knot on the
deck of one boat. They put their heads together and lowered their
voices. MacRae knew they were angry, that they had reached the point of
fighting fire with fire. And he smiled to himself. He did not know what
they were planning, but he could guess. It would not be the first time
the individual fishermen had kicked over the traces and beaten the purse
seiners at their own game. They did not include him in their council. He
was a buyer. It was not his function to inquire how they took their
fish. If they could take salmon which otherwise the _No. 5_ would take,
so much the worse for Folly Bay,--and so much the better for the
fishermen, who earned their living precariously at best.

It was dusk when the purse seiner finished loading her catch and stowed
the great net in a dripping heap on the turntable aft. At daylight or
before, a cannery tender would empty her, and she would sweep the Jew's
Mouth bare of salmon again.

With dusk also the fishermen were busy over their nets, still riding to
the _Blackbird's_ stern. Then they moved off in the dark. MacRae could
hear nets paying out. He saw lanterns set to mark the outer end of each
net. Silence fell on the bay. A single riding light glowed at the _No.
5's_ masthead. Her cabin lights blinked out. Her crew sprawled in their
bunks, sound asleep.

Under cover of the night the fishermen took pattern from the seiner's
example. A gill net is nine hundred feet long, approximately twenty feet
deep. They stripped the cork floats off one and hung it to the lead-line
of another. Thus with a web forty feet deep they went stealthily up to
the mouth of the Solomon. With a four-oared skiff manning each end of
the nine hundred-foot length they swept their net around the Jew's
Mouth, closed it like a purse seine, and hauled it out into the shallows
of a small beach. They stood in the shallow water with sea boots on and
forked the salmon into their rowboats and laid the rowboats alongside
the _Blackbird_ to deliver,--all in the dark without a lantern flicker,
with muffled oarlocks and hushed voices. Three times they swept the bay.

At five in the morning, before it was lightening in the east, the
_Blackbird_ rode four inches below her load water line with a mixed
cargo of coho and dog salmon, the heaviest cargo ever stowed under her
hatches,--and eight fishermen divided two thousand dollars share and
share alike for their night's work.

MacRae battened his hatch covers, started his engine, heaved up the
hook, and hauled out of the bay.

In the Gulf the obscuring clouds parted to lay a shaft of silver on
smooth, windless sea. The _Blackbird_ wallowed down the moon-trail.
MacRae stood at the steering wheel. Beside him Steve Ferrara leaned on
the low cabin.

"She's getting day," Steve said, after a long silence. He chuckled.
"Some raid. If they can keep that lick up those boys will all have new
boats for next season. You'll break old Gower if you keep on, Jack."

The thought warmed MacRae. To break Gower, to pull him down to where he
must struggle for a living like other common men, to deprive him of the
power he had abused, to make him suffer as such a man would suffer under
that turn of fortune,--that would help to square accounts. It would be
only a measure of justice. To be dealt with as he had dealt with
others,--MacRae asked no more than that for himself.

But it was not likely, he reflected. One bad season would not seriously
involve a wary old bird like Horace Gower. He was too secure behind
manifold bulwarks. Still in the end,--more spectacular things had come
to pass in the affairs of men on this kaleidoscopic coast. MacRae's face
was hard in the moonlight. His eyes were somber. It was an ugly feeling
to nurse. For thirty years that sort of impotent bitterness must have
rankled in his father's breast--with just cause, MacRae told himself
moodily. No wonder old Donald had been a grave and silent man; a just,
kindly, generous man, too. Other men had liked him, respected him. Gower
alone had been implacable.

Well into the red and yellow dawn MacRae stood at the wheel, thinking of
this, an absent look in eyes which still kept keen watch ahead. He was
glad when it came time for Steve's watch on deck, and he could lie down
and let sleep drive it out of his mind. He did not live solely to
revenge himself upon Horace Gower. He had his own way to make and his
own plans--even if they were still a bit nebulous--to fulfill. It was
only now and then that the past saddened him and made him bitter.

The week following brought great runs of salmon to the Jew's Mouth. Of
these the _Folly Bay No. 5_ somehow failed to get the lion's share. The
gill-net men laughed in their soiled sleeves and furtively swept the bay
clear each night and all night, and the daytime haul of the seine fell
far below the average. The _Blackbird_ and the _Bluebird_ waddled down a
placid Gulf with all they could carry.

And although there was big money-making in this short stretch, and the
secret satisfaction of helping put another spoke in Gower's wheel,
MacRae did not neglect the rest of his territory nor the few trollers
that still worked Squitty Island. He ran long hours to get their few
fish. It was their living, and MacRae would not pass them up because
their catch meant no profit compared to the time he spent and the fuel
he burned making this round. He would drive straight up the Gulf from
Bellingham to Squitty, circle the Island and then across to the mouth of
the Solomon. The weather was growing cool now. Salmon would keep
unspoiled a long time in a trailer's hold. It did not matter to him
whether it was day or night around Squitty. He drove his carrier into
any nook or hole where a troller might lie waiting with a few salmon.

The _Blackbird_ came pitching and diving into a heavy southeast swell up
along the western side of Squitty at ten o'clock in the black of an
early October night. There was a storm brewing, a wicked one, reckoned
by the headlong drop of the aneroid. MacRae had a hundred or so salmon
aboard for all his Squitty round, and he had yet to pick up those on the
boats in the Cove. He cocked his eye at a cloud-wrack streaking above,
driving before a wind which had not yet dropped to the level of the
Gulf, and he said to himself that it would be wise to stay in the Cove
that night. A southeast gale, a beam sea, and the tiny opening of the
Jew's Mouth was a bad combination to face in a black night. As he stood
up along Squitty he could hear the swells break along the shore. Now and
then a cold puff of air, the forerunner of the big wind, struck him.
Driving full speed the _Blackbird_ dipped her bow deep in each sea and
rose dripping to the next. He passed Cradle Bay at last, almost under
the steep cliffs, holding in to round Poor Man's Rock and lay a compass
course to the mouth of Squitty Cove.

And as he put his wheel over and swept around the Rock and came clear of
Point Old a shadowy thing topped by three lights in a red and green and
white triangle seemed to leap at him out of the darkness. The lights
showed, and under the lights white water hissing. MacRae threw his
weight on the wheel. He shouted to Steve Ferrara, lying on his bunk in
the little cabin aft.

He knew the boat instantly,--the _Arrow_ shooting through the night at
twenty miles an hour, scurrying to shelter under the full thrust of her
tremendous power. For an appreciable instant her high bow loomed over
him, while his hands twisted the wheel. But the _Blackbird_ was heavy,
sluggish on her helm. She swung a little, from square across the rushing
_Arrow_, to a slight angle. Two seconds would have cleared him. By the
rules of the road at sea the _Blackbird_ had the right of way. If MacRae
had held by the book this speeding mass of mahogany and brass and steel
would have cut him in two amidships. As it was, her high bow, the stem
shod with a cast bronze cutwater edged like a knife, struck him on the
port quarter, sheared through guard, planking, cabin.

There was a crash of riven timbers, the crunching ring of metal, quick
oaths, a cry. The _Arrow_ scarcely hesitated. She had cut away nearly
the entire stern works of the _Blackbird_. But such was her momentum
that the shock barely slowed her up. Her hull bumped the _Blackbird_
aside. She passed on. She did not even stand by to see what she had
done. There was a sound of shouting on her decks, but she kept on.

MacRae could have stepped aboard her as she brushed by. Her rail was
within reach of his hand. But that did not occur to him. Steve Ferrara
was asleep in the cabin, in the path of that destroying stem. For a
stunned moment MacRae stood as the _Arrow_ drew clear. The _Blackbird_
began to settle under his feet.

MacRae dived down the after companion. He went into water to his waist.
His hands, groping blindly, laid hold of clothing, a limp body. He
struggled back, up, gained the deck, dragging Steve after him. The
_Blackbird_ was deep by the holed stern now, awash to her after fish
hatch. She rose slowly, like a log, on each swell. Only the buoyancy of
her tanks and timbers kept her from the last plunge. There was a light
skiff bottom up across her hatches by the steering wheel. MacRae moved
warily toward that, holding to the bulwark with one hand, dragging Steve
with the other lest a sea sweep them both away.

He noticed, with his brain functioning unruffled, that the _Arrow_
drove headlong into Cradle Bay. He could hear her exhaust roaring. He
could still hear shouting. And he could see also that the wind and the
tide and the roll of the swells carried the water-logged hulk of the
_Blackbird_ in the opposite direction. She was past the Rock, but she
was edging shoreward, in under the granite walls that ran between Point
Old and the Cove. He steadied himself, keeping his hold on Steve, and
reached for the skiff. As his fingers touched it a comber flung itself
up out of the black and shot two feet of foam and green water across the
swamped hull. It picked up the light cedar skiff like a chip and cast it
beyond his reach and beyond his sight. And as he clung to the cabin
pipe-rail, drenched with the cold sea, he heard that big roller burst
against the shore very near at hand. He saw the white spray lift ghostly
in the black.

MacRae held his hand over Steve's heart, over his mouth to feel if he
breathed. Then he got Steve's body between his legs to hold him from
slipping away, and bracing himself against the sodden lurch of the
wreck, began to take off his clothes.




CHAPTER XII

Between Sun and Sun


Walking when he could, crawling on hands and knees when his legs buckled
under him, MacRae left a blood-sprinkled trail over grass and moss and
fallen leaves. He lived over and over that few minutes which had seemed
so long, in which he had been battered against broken rocks, in which he
had clawed over weedy ledges armored with barnacles that cut like
knives, hauling Steve Ferrara's body with him so that it should not
become the plaything of the tides. MacRae was no stranger to death. He
had seen it in many terrible forms. He had heard the whistle of the
invisible scythe that cuts men down. He knew that Steve was dead when he
dragged him at last out of the surf, up where nothing but high-flung
drops of spray could reach him. He left him there on a mossy ledge,
knowing that he could do nothing more for Steve Ferrara and that he must
do something for himself. So he came at last to the end of that path
which led to his own house and crept and stumbled up the steps into the
deeper darkness of those hushed, lonely rooms.

MacRae knew he had suffered no vital hurt, no broken bones. But he had
been fearfully buffeted among those sea-drenched rocks, bruised from
head to foot, shocked by successive blows. He had spent his strength to
keep the sea from claiming Steve. He had been unmercifully slashed by
the barnacles. He was weak from loss of blood, and he was bleeding yet,
in oozy streams,--face, hands, shoulders, knees, wherever those
lance-edged shells had raked his flesh.

He was sick and dizzy. But he could still think and act. He felt his way
to matches on a kitchen shelf, staggered into his bedroom, lit a lamp.
Out of a dresser drawer he took clean white cloth, out of another
carbolic acid. He got himself a basin of water.

He sat down on the edge of his bed. As he tore the first strip of linen
things began to swim before his eyes. He sagged back on a pillow. The
room and the lamp and all that was near him blended in a misty swirl. He
had the extraordinary sensation of floating lightly in space that was
quiet and profoundly dark--and still he was cloudily aware of footsteps
ringing hollow on the bare floor of the other room.

He became aware--as if no interval had elapsed--of being moved, of hands
touching him, of a stinging sensation of pain which he understood to be
the smarting of the cuts in his flesh. But time must have gone winging
by, he knew, as his senses grew clearer. He was stripped of his sodden,
bloody undershirt and overalls, partly covered by his blanket. He could
feel bandages on his legs, on one badly slashed arm. He made out Betty
Gower's face with its unruly mass of reddish-brown hair and two rose
spots of color glowing on her smooth cheeks. There was also a tall young
man, coatless, showing a white expanse of flannel shirt with the sleeves
rolled above his elbows. MacRae could only see this out of one corner of
his eye, for he was being turned gently over on his face. Weak and
passive as he was, the firm pressure of Betty's soft hands on his skin
gave him a curiously pleasant sensation.

He heard her draw her breath sharply and make some exclamation as his
bare back turned to the light.

"This chap has been to the wars, eh, Miss Gower?" he heard the man say.
"Those are machine-gun marks, I should say--close range, too. I saw
plenty of that after the Argonne."

"Such scars. How could a man live with holes like that through his
body?" Betty said. "He was in the air force."

"Some Hun got in a burst of fire on him, sometime, then," the man
commented. "Didn't get him, either, or he wouldn't be here. Why, two or
three bullet holes like that would only put a fellow out for a few
weeks. Look at him," he tapped MacRae's back with a forefinger.
"Shoulders and chest and arms like a champion middle weight ready to go
twenty rounds. And you can bet all your pin money, Miss Gower, that this
man's heart and lungs and nerves are away above par or he would never
have got his wings. Takes a lot to down those fellows. Looks in bad
shape now, doesn't he? All cut and bruised and exhausted. But he'll be
walking about day after to-morrow. A little stiff and sore, but
otherwise well enough."

"I wish he'd open his eyes and speak," Betty said. "How can you tell? He
may be injured internally."

The man chuckled. He did not cease work as he talked. He was using a
damp cloth, with a pungent medicated smell. Dual odors familiar to every
man who has ever been in hospital assailed MacRae's nostrils. Wherever
that damp cloth touched a cut it burned. MacRae listened drowsily. He
had not the strength or the wish to do anything else.

"Heart action's normal. Respiration and temperature, ditto," he heard
above him. "Unconsciousness is merely natural reaction from shock,
nerve strain, loss of blood. You can guess what sort of fight he must
have made in those breakers. If you were a sawbones, Miss Gower, you
wouldn't be uneasy. I'll stake my professional reputation on his
injuries being superficial. Quite enough to knock a man out, I grant.
But a physique of this sort can stand a tremendous amount of strain
without serious effect. Hand me that adhesive, will you, please?"

There was an air of unreality about the whole proceeding in MacRae's
mind. He wondered if he would presently wake up in his bunk opposite
Steve and find that he had been dreaming. Yet those voices, and the
hands that shifted him tenderly, and the pyjama coat that was slipped on
him at last, were not the stuff of dreams. No, the lights of the
_Arrow_, the smash of the collision, the tumbling seas which had flung
him against the rocks, the dead weight of Steve's body in his bleeding
arms, were not illusions.

He opened his eyes when they turned him on his back.

"Well, old man, how do you feel?" Betty's companion asked genially.

"All right," MacRae said briefly. He found that speech required effort.
His mind worked clearly enough, but his tongue was uncertain, his voice
low-pitched, husky. He turned his eyes on Betty. She tried to smile. But
her lips quivered in the attempt. MacRae looked at her curiously. But he
did not say anything. In the face of accomplished facts, words were
rather futile.

He closed his eyes again, only to get a mental picture of the _Arrow_
leaping at him out of the gloom, the thunder of the swells bursting
against the foot of the cliffs, of Steve lying on that ledge alone. But
nothing could harm Steve. Storm and cold and pain and loneliness were
nothing to him, now.

He heard Betty speak.

"Can we do anything more?"

"Um--no," the man answered. "Not for some time, anyway."

"Then I wish you would go back to the house and tell them," Betty said.
"They'll be worrying. I'll stay here."

"I suppose it would be as well," he agreed. "I'll come back."

"There's no need for either of you to stay here," MacRae said wearily.
"You've stopped the bleeding, and you can't do any more. Go home and go
to bed. I'm as well alone."

There was a brief interval of silence. MacRae heard footsteps crossing
the floor, receding, going down the steps. He opened his eyes. Betty
Gower sat on a low box by his bed, her hands in her lap, looking at him
wistfully. She leaned a little toward him.

"I'm awfully sorry," she whispered.

"So was the little boy who cut off his sister's thumb with the hatchet,"
MacRae muttered. "But that didn't help sister's thumb. If you'll run
down to old Peter Ferrara's house and tell him what has happened, and
then go home yourself, we'll call it square."

"I have already done that," Betty said. "Dolly is away. The fishermen
are bringing Steve Ferrara's body to his uncle's house. They are going
to try to save what is left of your boat."

"It is kind of you, I'm sure, to pick up the pieces," MacRae gibed.

"I _am_ sorry," the girl breathed.

"After the fact. Belting around a point in the dark at train speed,
regardless of the rules of the road. Destroying a valuable boat, killing
a man. Property is supposed to be sacred--if life has no market value.
Were you late for dinner?"

In his anger he made a quick movement with his arms, flinging the
blanket off, sending intolerable pangs through his bruised and torn
body.

Betty rose and bent over him, put the blanket back silently, tucked him
in like a mother settling the cover about a restless child. She did not
say anything for a minute. She stood over him, nervously plucking bits
of lint off the blanket. Her eyes grew wet.

"I don't blame you for feeling that way," she said at last. "It was a
terrible thing. You had the right of way. I don't know why or how
Robertson let it happen. He has always been a careful navigator. The
nearness when he saw you under his bows must have paralyzed him, and
with our speed--oh, it isn't any use, I know, to tell you how sorry I
am. That won't bring that poor boy back to life again. It won't--"

"You killed him--your kind of people--twice," MacRae said thickly. "Once
in France, where he risked his life--all he had to risk--so that you and
your kind should continue to have ease and security. He came home
wheezing and strangling, suffering all the pains of death without
death's relief. And when he was beginning to think he had another chance
you finish him off. But that's nothing. A mere incident. Why should you
care? The country is full of Ferraras. What do they matter? Men of no
social or financial standing, men who work with their hands and smell of
fish. If it's a shock to you to see one man dead and another cut and
bloody, think of the numbers that suffer as great pains and hardships
that you know nothing about--and wouldn't care if you did. You couldn't
be what you are and have what you have if they didn't. Sorry! Sympathy
is the cheapest thing in the market, cheaper than salmon. You can't help
Steve Ferrara with that--not now. Don't waste any on me. I don't need
it. I resent it. You may need it all for your own before I get through.
I--I am--"

MacRae's voice trailed off into an incoherent murmur. He seemed to be
floating off into those dark shadowy spaces again. In reality he was
exhausted. A man with his veins half emptied of blood cannot get in a
passion without a speedy reaction. MacRae went off into an unconscious
state which gradually became transformed into natural, healthy sleep,
the deep slumber of utter exhaustion.

At intervals thereafter he was hazily aware of some one beside him, of
soft hands that touched him. Once he wakened to find the room empty, the
lamp turned low. In the dim light and the hush the place seemed
unutterably desolate and forsaken, as if he were buried in a crypt. When
he listened he could hear the melancholy drone of the southeaster and
the rumble of the surf, two sounds that fitted well his mood. He felt a
strange relief when Betty came tiptoeing in from the kitchen. She bent
over him. MacRae closed his eyes and slept again.

He awakened at last, alert, refreshed, free of that depression which had
rested so heavily on him. And he found that weariness had caught Betty
Gower in its overpowering grip. She had drawn her box seat up close
beside him. Her body had drooped until her arms rested on the side of
the bed, and her head rested on her arms. MacRae found one of his hands
caught tight in both hers. She was asleep, breathing lightly, regularly.
He twisted his stiffened neck to get a better look at her. He could
only see one side of her face, and that he studied a long time. Pretty
and piquant, still it was no doll's face. There was character in that
firm mouth and round chin. Betty had a beautiful skin. That had been
MacRae's first impression of her, the first time he saw her. And she had
a heavy mass of reddish-brown hair that shone in the sunlight with a
decided wave in it which always made it seem unruly, about to escape
from its conventional arrangement.

MacRae made no attempt to free his hand. He was quite satisfied to let
it be. The touch of her warm flesh against his stirred him a little,
sent his mind straying off into strange channels. Queer that the first
woman to care for him when he crept wounded and shaken to the shelter of
his own roof should be the daughter of his enemy. For MacRae could not
otherwise regard Horace Gower. Anything short of that seemed treason to
the gray old man who had died in the next room, babbling of his son and
the west wind and some one he called Bessie.

MacRae's eyes blurred unexpectedly. What a damned shame things had to be
the way they were. Behind this girl, who was in herself lovely and
desirable as a woman should be, loomed the pudgy figure of her father,
ruthless, vindictively unjust. Gower hadn't struck at him openly; but
that, MacRae believed, was merely for lack of suitable opening.

But that did not keep Jack MacRae from thinking--what every normal man
begins to think, or rather to feel, soon or late--that he is incomplete,
insufficient, without some particular woman to love him, upon whom to
bestow love. It was like a revelation. He caught himself wishing that
Betty would wake up and smile at him, bend over him with a kiss. He
stared up at the shadowy roof beams, feeling the hot blood leap to his
face at the thought. There was an uncanny magic in the nearness of her,
a lure in the droop of her tired body. And MacRae struggled against that
seduction. Yet he could not deny that Betty Gower, innocently sleeping
with his hand fast in hers, filled him with visions and desires which
had never before focused with such intensity on any woman who had come
his way. Mysteriously she seemed absolved of all blame for being a
Gower, for any of the things the Gower clan had done to him and his,
even to the misfortune of that night which had cost a man his life.

"It isn't _her_ fault," MacRae said to himself. "But, Lord, I wish she'd
kept away from here, if _this_ sort of thing is going to get me."

What _this_ was he did not attempt to define. He did not admit that he
was hovering on the brink of loving Betty Gower--it seemed an incredible
thing for him to do--but was vividly aware that she had kindled an
incomprehensible fire in him, and he suspected, indeed he feared with a
fear that bordered on spiritual shrinking, that it would go on glowing
after she was gone. And she would go presently. This spontaneous rushing
to his aid was merely what a girl like that, with generous impulses and
quick sympathy, would do for any one in dire need. She would leave
behind her an inescapable longing, an emptiness, a memory of sweetly
disturbing visions. MacRae seemed to see with remarkable clarity and
sureness that he would be penalized for yielding to that bewitching
fancy. By what magic had she so suddenly made herself a shining figure
in a golden dream? Some necromancy of the spirit, invisible but
wonderfully potent? Or was it purely physical,--the soft reddish-brown
of her hair; her frank gray eyes, very like his own; the marvelous,
smooth clearness and coloring of her skin; her voice, that was given to
soft cadences? He did not know. No man ever quite knows what positive
qualities in a woman can make his heart leap. MacRae was no wiser than
most. But he was not prone to cherish illusions, to deceive himself. He
had imagination. That gave him a key to many things which escape a
sluggish mind.

"Well," he said to himself at last, with a fatalistic humor, "if it
comes that way, it comes. If I am to be the goat, I shall be, and that's
all there is to it."

Under his breath he cursed Horace Gower deeply and fervently, and he was
not conscious of anything incongruous in that. And then he lay very
thoughtful and a little sad, his eyes on the smooth curve of Betty's
cheek swept by long brown lashes, the corner of a red mouth made for
kissing. His fingers were warm in hers. He smiled sardonically at a
vagrant wish that they might remain there always.

Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. MacRae wondered if the
gods thus planned his destruction?

A tremulous sigh warned him. He shut his eyes, feigned sleep. He felt
rather than saw Betty sit up with a start, release his hand. Then very
gently she moved that arm back under the blanket, reached across him and
patted the covers close about his body, stood looking down at him.

And MacRae stirred, opened his eyes.

"What time is it?" he asked.

She looked at a wrist watch. "Four o'clock." She shivered.

"You've been here all this time without a fire. You're chilled through.
Why didn't you go home? You should go now."

"I have been sitting here dozing," she said. "I wasn't aware of the cold
until now. But there is wood and kindling in the kitchen, and I am going
to make a fire. Aren't you hungry?"

"Starving," he said. "But there is nothing to eat in the house. It has
been empty for months."

"There is tea," she said. "I saw some on a shelf. I'll make a cup of
that. It will be something warm, refreshing."

MacRae listened to her at the kitchen stove. There was the clink of iron
lids, the smell of wood smoke, the pleasant crackle of the fire.
Presently she came in with two steaming cups.

"I have a faint recollection of talking wild and large a while ago,"
MacRae remarked. Indeed, it seemed hazy to him now. "Did I say anything
nasty?"

"Yes," she replied frankly; "perhaps the sting of what you said lay in
its being partly true. A half truth is sometimes a deadly weapon. I
wonder if you do really hate us as much, as your manner implied--and
why?"

"Us. Who?" MacRae asked.

"My father and me," she put it bluntly.

"What makes you think I do?" MacRae asked. "Because I have set up a
fierce competition in a business where your father has had a monopoly so
long that he thinks this part of the Gulf belongs to him? Because I
resent your running down one of my boats? Because I go about my affairs
in my own way, regardless of Gower interests?"

"What do these things amount to?" Betty answered impatiently. "It's in
your manner, your attitude. Sometimes it even shows in your eyes. It
was there the morning I came across you sitting on Point Old, the day
after the armistice was signed. I've danced with you and seen you look
at me as if--as if," she laughed self-consciously, "you would like to
wring my neck. I have never done anything to create a dislike of that
sort. I have never been with you without being conscious that you were
repressing something, out of--well, courtesy, I suppose. There is a
peculiar tension about you whenever my father is mentioned. I'm not a
fool," she finished, "even if I happen to be one of what you might call
the idle rich. What is the cause of this bad blood?"

"What does it matter?" MacRae parried.

"There is something, then?" she persisted.

MacRae turned his head away. He couldn't tell her. It was not wholly his
story to tell. How could he expect her to see it, to react to it as he
did? A matter involving her father and mother, and his father. It was
not a pretty tale. He might be influenced powerfully in a certain
direction by the account of it passed on by old Donald MacRae; he might
be stirred by the backwash of those old passions, but he could not lay
bare all that to any one--least of all to Betty Gower. And still MacRae,
for the moment, was torn between two desires. He retained the same
implacable resentment toward Gower, and he found himself wishing to set
Gower's daughter apart and outside the consequences of that ancient
feud. And that, he knew, was trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. It
couldn't be done.

"Was the _Arrow_ holed in the crash?"

Betty stood staring at him. She blinked. Her fingers began again that
nervous plucking at the blanket. But her face settled presently into
its normal composure and she answered evenly.

"Rather badly up forward. She was settling fast when they beached her in
the Bay."

"And then," she continued after a pause, "Doctor Wallis and I got ashore
as quickly as we could. We got a lantern and came along the cliffs. And
two of the men took our big lifeboat and rowed along near the shore.
They found the _Blackbird_ pounding on the rocks, and we found Steve
Ferrara where you left him. And we followed you here by the blood you
spattered along the way."

A line from the Rhyme of the Three Sealers came into MacRae's mind as
befitting. But he was thinking of his father and not so much of himself
as he quoted:

                "'Sorrow is me, in a lonely sea,
                And a sinful fight I fall.'"

"I'm afraid I don't quite grasp that," Betty said. "Although I know
Kipling too, and could supply the rest of those verses. I'm afraid I
don't understand."

"It isn't likely that you ever will," MacRae answered slowly. "It is not
necessary that you should."

Their voices ceased. In the stillness the whistle of the wind and the
deep drone of the seas shattering themselves on the granite lifted a
dreary monotone. And presently a quick step sounded on the porch. Doctor
Wallis came hurriedly in.

"Upon my soul," he said apologetically. "I ought to be shot, Miss
Grower. I got everybody calmed down over at the cottage and chased them
all to bed. Then I sat down in a soft chair before that cheerful fire in
your living room. And I didn't wake up for hours. You must be worn out."

"That's quite all right," Betty assured him. "Don't be
conscience-stricken. Did mamma have hysterics?"

Wallis grinned cheerfully.

"Well, not quite," he drawled. "At any rate, all's quiet along the
Potomac now. How's the patient getting on?"

"I'm O.K.," MacRae spoke for himself, "and much obliged to you both for
tinkering me up. Miss Gower ought to go home."

"I think so myself," Wallis said. "I'll take her across the point. Then
I'll come back and have another look over you."

"It isn't necessary," MacRae declared. "Barring a certain amount of
soreness I feel fit enough. I suppose I could get up and walk now if I
had to. Go home and go to bed, both of you."

"Good night, or perhaps it would be better to say good morning." Betty
gave him her hand. "Pleasant dreams."

It seemed to MacRae that there was a touch of reproach, a hint of the
sardonic in her tone and words.

Then he was alone in the quiet house, with his thoughts for company, and
the distant noises of the storm muttering in the outer darkness.

They were not particularly pleasant processes of thought. The sins of
the fathers shall be visited even unto the third and fourth generation.
Why, in the name of God, should they be, he asked himself?

Betty Gower liked him. She had been trying to tell him so. MacRae felt
that. He did not question too closely the quality of the feeling for her
which had leaped up so unexpectedly. He was afraid to dig too deep. He
had got a glimpse of depths and eddies that night which if they did not
wholly frighten him, at least served to confuse him. They were like
flint and steel, himself and Betty Gower. They could not come together
without striking sparks. And a man may long to warm himself by fire,
MacRae reflected gloomily, but he shrinks from being burned.




CHAPTER XIII

An Interlude


At daybreak Peter Ferrara came to the house.

"How are you?" he asked.

"Sore. Wobbly." MacRae had tried his legs and found them wanting.

"It was a bad night all round, eh, lad?" Peter rumbled in his rough old
voice. "Some of the boys got a line on the _Blackbird_ and hauled what
was left of her around into the Cove. But she's a ruin. The engine went
to pieces while she was poundin' on the rocks. Steve lays in the house.
He looks peaceful--as if he was glad to be through."

"I couldn't save him. It was done like that." MacRae snapped his
fingers.

"I know," Old Peter said. "You're not to blame. Perhaps nobody is. Them
things happen. Manuel'll feel it. He's lost both sons now. But Steve's
better off. He'd 'a' died of consumption or something, slow an' painful.
His lungs was gone. I seen him set for weeks on the porch wheezin' after
he come home. He didn't get no pleasure livin'. He said once a bullet
would 'a' been mercy. No, don't worry about Steve. We all come to it
soon or late, John. It's never a pity for the old or the crippled to
die."

"You old Spartan," MacRae muttered.

"What's that?" Peter asked. But MacRae did not explain. He asked about
Dolly instead.

"She was up to Potter's Landing. I sent for her and she's back," Peter
told him. "She'll be up to see you presently. There's no grub in the
house, is there? Can you eat? Well, take it easy, lad."

An hour or so later Dolly Ferrara brought him a steaming breakfast on a
tray. She sat talking to him while he ate.

"Gower will have to pay for the _Blackbird_, won't he?" she asked. "The
fishermen say so."

"If he doesn't in one way he will another," MacRae answered
indifferently. "But that doesn't help Steve. The boat doesn't matter.
One can build boats. You can't bring a man back to life when he's dead."

"If Steve could talk he'd say he didn't care," Dolly declared sadly.
"You know he wasn't getting much out of living, Jack. There was nothing
for him to look forward to but a few years of discomfort and
uncertainty. A man who has been strong and active rebels against dying
by inches. Steve told me--not so very long ago--that if something would
finish him off quickly he would be glad."

If that had been Steve's wish, MacRae thought, then fate had hearkened
to him. He knew it was true. He had lived at elbows with Steve all
summer. Steve never complained. He was made of different stuff. It was
only a gloomy consolation, after all, to think of Steve as being better
off. MacRae knew how men cling to life, even when it has lost all its
savor. There is that imperative will-to-live which refuses to be denied.

Dolly went away. After a time Wallis came over from the cottage at
Cradle Bay. He was a young and genial medico from Seattle, who had just
returned from service with the American forces overseas, and was
holidaying briefly before he took up private practice again. He had
very little more than a casual interest in MacRae, however, and he did
not stay long once he had satisfied himself that his patient had little
further need of professional services. And MacRae, who was weaker than
he expected to find himself, rested in his bed until late afternoon
brought bars of sunlight streaming through openings in the cloud bank
which still ran swift before the wind.

Then he rose, dressed, made his way laboriously and painfully down to
the Cove's edge and took a brief look at the hull of the _Blackbird_
sunk to her deck line, her rail and cabins broken and twisted. After
that he hailed a fisherman, engaged him to go across to Solomon River
and apprise the _Bluebird_. That accomplished he went back to the house.
Thereafter he spent days lying on his bed, resting in a big chair before
the fireplace while his wounds healed and his strength came back to him,
thinking, planning, chafing at inaction.

There was a perfunctory inquest, after which Steve's body went away to
Hidalgo Island to rest beside the bodies of other Ferraras in a plot of
ground their grandfather had taken for his own when British Columbia was
a Crown colony.

MacRae carried insurance on both his carriers. There was no need for him
to move against Gower in the matter. The insurance people would attend
efficiently to that. The adjusters came, took over the wreck, made
inquiries. MacRae made his formal claim, and it was duly paid.

But long before the payment was made he was at work, he and Vin Ferrara
together, on the _Bluebird_, plowing the Gulf in stormy autumn weather.
The season was far gone, the salmon run slackening to its close. It was
too late to equip another carrier. The cohoes were gone. The dog
salmon, great-toothed, slimy fish which are canned for European
export--for cheap trade, which nevertheless returned much profit to the
canneries--were still running.

MacRae had taken ninety per cent. of the Folly Bay bluebacks. He had
made tremendous inroads on Folly Bay's take of coho and humpback. He did
not care greatly if Gower filled his cans with "dogs." But the
Bellingham packers cried for salmon of whatsoever quality, and so MacRae
drove the _Bluebird_ hard in a trade which gave him no great profit,
chiefly to preserve his connection with the American canners, to harass
Folly Bay, and to let the fishermen know that he was still a factor and
could serve them well.

He was sick of the smell of salmon, weary of the eternal heaving of the
sea under his feet, of long cold tricks at the wheel, of days in somber,
driving rain and nights without sleep. But he kept on until the salmon
ceased to run, until the purse seiners tied up for the season, and the
fishermen put by their gear.

MacRae had done well,--far better than he expected. His knife had cut
both ways. He had eighteen thousand dollars in cash and the _Bluebird_.
The Folly Bay pack was twelve thousand cases short. How much that
shortage meant in lost profit MacRae could only guess, but it was a
pretty sum. Another season like that,--he smiled grimly. The next season
would be better,--for him. The trollers were all for him. They went out
of their way to tell him that. He had organized good will behind him.
The men who followed the salmon schools believed he did not want the
earth, only a decent share. He did not sit behind a mahogany desk in
town and set the price of fish. These men had labored a long time under
the weighty heel of a controlled industry, and they were thankful for a
new dispensation. It gave MacRae a pleasant feeling to know this. It
gave him also something of a contempt for Gower, who had sat tight with
a virtual monopoly for ten years and along with his profits had earned
the distrust and dislike of a body of men who might as easily have been
loyal laborers in his watery vineyards,--if he had not used his power to
hold them to the most meager return they could wring from the sea.

He came home to the house at Squitty Cove with some odds and ends from
town shops to make it more comfortable, flooring to replace the old,
worn boards, a rug or two, pictures that caught his fancy, new cushions
for the big chairs old Donald MacRae had fashioned by hand years before,
a banjo to pick at, and a great box of books which he had promised to
read some day when he had time. And he knew he would have time through
long winter evenings when the land was drenched with rain, when the
storm winds howled in the swaying firs and the sea beat clamorously
along the cliffs. He would sit with his feet to a glowing fire and read
books.

He did, for a time. When late November laid down a constant barrage of
rain and the cloud battalions marched and countermarched along the
coast, MacRae had settled down. He had no present care upon his
shoulders. Although he presumed himself to be resting, he was far from
idle. He found many ways of occupying himself about the old place. It
was his pleasure that the old log house should be neat within and
without, the yard clean, the garden restored to order. It had suffered a
season's neglect. He remedied that with a little labor and a little
money, wishing, as the place took on a sprightlier air, that old Donald
could be there to see. MacRae was frank in his affection for the spot.
No other place that he had ever seen meant quite the same to him. He was
always glad to come back to it; it seemed imperative that he should
always come back there. It was home, his refuge, his castle. Indeed he
had seen castles across the sea from whose towers less goodly sights
spread than he could command from his own front door, now that winter
had stripped the maple and alder of their leafy screen. There was the
sheltered Cove at his feet, the far sweep of the Gulf--colored according
to its mood and the weather--great mountain ranges lifting sheer from
blue water, their lower slopes green with forest and their crests white
with snow. Immensities of land and trees. All his environment pitched
upon a colossal scale. It was good to look at, to live among, and MacRae
knew that it was good.

He sat on a log at the brink of the Cove one morning, in a burst of
sunshine as grateful as it was rare. He looked out at the mainland
shore, shading away from deep olive to a faint and misty blue. He cast
his gaze along Vancouver Island, a three-hundred-mile barrier against
the long roll of the Pacific. He thought of England, with its scant area
and its forty million souls. He smiled. An empire opened within range of
his vision. He had had to go to Europe to appreciate his own country.
Old, old peoples over there. Outworn, bewildered aristocracies and vast
populations troubled with the specter of want, swarming like rabbits,
pressing always close upon the means of subsistence. No room; no chance.
Born in social stratas solidified by centuries. No wonder Europe was
full of race and class hatred, of war and pestilence. Snap
judgment,--but Jack MacRae had seen the peasants of France and Belgium,
the driven workmen of industrial France and England. He had seen also
something of the forces which controlled them, caught glimpses of the
iron hand in the velvet glove, a hand that was not so sure and steady as
in days gone by.

Here a man still had a chance. He could not pick golden apples off the
fir trees. He must use his brains as well as his hands. A reasonable
measure of security was within a man's grasp if he tried for it. To pile
up a fortune might be a heavy task. But getting a living was no
insoluble problem. A man could accomplish either without selling his
soul or cutting throats or making serfs of his fellow men. There was
room to move and breathe,--and some to spare.

Perhaps Jack MacRae, in view of his feelings, his cherished projects,
was a trifle inconsistent in the judgments he passed, sitting there on
his log in the winter sunshine. But the wholly consistent must die
young. Their works do not appear in this day and hour. The normal man
adjusts himself to, and his actions are guided by, moods and
circumstances which are seldom orderly and logical in their sequence.

MacRae cherished as profound an animosity toward Horace Gower as any
Russian ever felt for bureaucratic tyranny. He could smart under
injustice and plan reprisal. He could appreciate his environment, his
opportunities, be glad that his lines were cast amid rugged beauty. But
he did not on that account feel tolerant toward those whom he conceived
to be his enemies. He was not, however, thinking concretely of his
personal affairs or tendencies that bright morning. He was merely
sitting more or less quiescent on his log, nursing vagrant impressions,
letting the sun bathe him.

He was not even conscious of trespassing on Horace Gower's land. When
he thought of it, of course he realized that this was legally so. But
the legal fact had no reality for MacRae. Between the Cove and Point
Old, for a mile back into the dusky woods, he felt free to come and go
as he chose. He had always believed and understood and felt that area to
be his, and he still held to that old impression. There was not a foot
of that six hundred acres that he had not explored alone, with his
father, with Dolly Ferrara, season after season. He had gone barefoot
over the rocks, dug clams on the beaches, fished trout in the little
streams, hunted deer and grouse in the thickets, as far back as he could
remember. He had loved the cliffs and the sea, the woods around the Cove
with an affection bred in use and occupancy, confirmed by the sense of
inviolate possession. Old things are dear, if a man has once loved them.
They remain so. The aura of beloved familiarity clings to them long
after they have passed into alien hands. When MacRae thought of this and
turned his eyes upon this noble sweep of land and forest which his
father had claimed for his own from the wilderness, it was as if some
one had deprived him of an eye or an arm by trickery and unfair
advantage.

He was not glooming over such things this rare morning which had come
like a benediction after ten days of rain and wind. He was sitting on
his log bareheaded, filled with a passive content rare in his recent
experience.

From this perch, in the idle wandering of his gaze, his eyes at length
rested upon Peter Ferrara's house. He saw a man and a woman come out of
the front door and stand for a minute or two on the steps. He could not
recognize the man at the distance, but he could guess. The man presently
walked away around the end of the Cove, MacRae perceived that his guess
was correct, for Norman Gower came out on the brow of the cliff that
bordered the south side of the Cove. He appeared a short distance away,
walking slowly, his eyes on the Cove and Peter Ferrara's house. He did
not see MacRae till he was quite close and glanced that way.

"Hello, MacRae," he said.

"How d' do," Jack answered. There was no cordiality in his tone. If he
had any desire at that moment it was not for speech with Norman Gower,
but rather a desire that Gower should walk on.

But the other man sat down on MacRae's log.

"Not much like over the pond, this," he remarked.

"Not much," MacRae agreed indifferently.

Young Gower took a cigarette case out of his pocket, extended it to
MacRae, who declined with a brief shake of his head. Norman lighted a
cigarette. He was short and stoutly built, a compact, muscular man
somewhat older than MacRae. He had very fair hair and blue eyes, and the
rose-leaf skin of his mother had in him taken on a masculine floridity.
But he had the Gower mouth and determined chin. So had Betty, MacRae was
reminded, looking at her brother.

"You sank your harpoon pretty deep into Folly Bay this season," Norman
said abruptly. "Did you do pretty well yourself?"

"Pretty well," MacRae drawled. "Did it worry you?"

"Me? Hardly," young Gower smiled. "It did not cost _me_ anything to
operate Folly Bay at a loss while I was in charge. I had neither money
nor reputation to lose. You may have worried the governor. I dare say
you did. He never did take kindly to anything or any one that interfered
with his projects. But I haven't heard him commit himself. He doesn't
confide in me, anyway, nor esteem me very highly in any capacity. I
wonder if your father ever felt that way about you?"

"No," MacRae said impulsively. "By God, no!"

"Lucky. And you came home with a record behind you. Nothing to handicap
you. You jumped into the fray to do something for yourself and made good
right off the bat. There is such a thing as luck," Norman said soberly.
"A man can do his best--and fail. I have, so far. I was expected to come
home a credit to the family, a hero, dangling medals on my manly chest.
Instead, I've lost caste with my own crowd. Girls and fellows I used to
know sneer at me behind my back. They put their tongues in their cheek
and say I was a crafty slacker. I suppose you've heard the talk?"

"No," MacRae answered shortly; he had forgotten Nelly Abbott's
questioning almost the first time he met her. "I don't run much with
your crowd, anyway."

"Well, they can think what they damn please," young Gower grumbled.
"It's quite true that I was never any closer to the front than the Dover
cliffs. Perhaps at home here in the beginning they handed me a captain's
commission on the family pull. But I tried to deliver the goods. These
people think I dodged the trenches. They don't know my eyesight spoiled
my chances of going into action. I couldn't get to France. So I did my
bit where headquarters told me I could do it or go home. And all I have
got out of it is the veiled contempt of nearly everybody I know, my
father included, for not killing Germans with my own hands."

MacRae kept still. It was a curious statement. Young Gower twisted and
ground his boot heel into the soft earth.

"Being a rich man's son has proved a considerable handicap in my case,"
he continued at last. "I was petted and coddled all my life. Then the
war came along. Everybody expected a lot of me. And I am as good as
excommunicated for not coming up to expectations. Beautiful irony. If my
eyes had been normal, I should be another of Vancouver's heroes,--alive
or dead. The spirit doesn't seem to count. The only thing that matters,
evidently, is that I stayed on the safe side of the Channel. They take
it for granted that I did so because I valued my own skin above
everything. Idiots."

"You can easily explain," MacRae suggested.

"I won't. I'd see them all in Hades first," Norman growled. "I'll admit
it stings me to have people think so and rub it in, in their polite way.
But I'm getting more or less indifferent. There are plenty of real
people in England who know I did the only work I could do and did it
well. Do you imagine I fancied sitting on the side lines when all the
fellows I knew were playing a tough game? But I can't go about telling
that to people at home. I'll be damned if I will. A man has to learn to
stand the gaff sometime, and the last year or so seems to be my period
of schooling."

"Why tell all this to me?" MacRae asked quietly.

Norman rose from the log. He chucked the butt of his cigarette away. He
looked directly, rather searchingly, at MacRae.

"Really, I don't know," he said in a flat, expressionless. Then he
walked on.

MacRae watched him pass out of sight among the thickets. Young Gower had
succeeded in dispelling the passive contentment of basking in the sun.
He had managed to start buzzing trains of not too agreeable reflection.
MacRae got to his feet before long and tramped back around the Cove's
head. He had known, of course, that the Gowers still made more or less
use of their summer cottage. But he had not come in personal contact
with any of them since the night Betty had given him that new,
disturbing angle from which to view her. He had avoided her purposely.
Now he was afflicted with a sudden restlessness, a desire for other
voices and faces besides his own, and so, as he was in the habit of
doing when such a mood seized him, he went on to Peter Ferrara's house.

He walked in through a wide-open door, unannounced by aught save his
footsteps, as he was accustomed to do, and he found Dolly Ferrara and
Betty Gower laughing and chatting familiarly in the kitchen over teacups
and little cakes.

"Oh, I beg pardon," said he. "I didn't know you were entertaining."

"I don't entertain, and you know it," Dolly laughed. "Come down from
that lofty altitude and I'll give you a cup of tea."

"Mr. MacRae, being an aviator of some note," Betty put in, "probably
finds himself at home in the high altitudes."

"Do I seem to be up in the air?" MacRae inquired dryly. "I shall try to
come down behind my own lines, and not in enemy territory."

"You might have to make a forced landing," Dolly remarked.

Her great dusky eyes rested upon him with a singular quality of
speculation. MacRae wondered if those two had been talking about him,
and why.

There was an astonishing contrast between these two girls, MacRae
thought, his mind and his eyes busy upon them while his tongue uttered
idle words and his hands coped with a teacup and cakes. They were the
product of totally dissimilar environments. They were the physical
antithesis of each other,--in all but the peculiar feline grace of young
females who are healthily, exuberantly alive. Yet MacRae had a feeling
that they were sisters under their skins, wonderfully alike in their
primary emotions. Why, then, he wondered, should one be capable of
moving him to violent emotional reactions (he had got that far in his
self-admissions concerning Betty Gower), and the other move him only to
a friendly concern and latterly a certain pity?

Certainly either one would quite justify a man in seeking her for his
mate, if he found his natural instincts urging him along ways which
MacRae was beginning to perceive no normal man could escape traveling.
And if he had to tread that road, why should it not have been his desire
to tread it with Dolly Ferrara? That would have been so much simpler.
With unconscious egotism he put aside Norman Gower as a factor. If he
had to develop an unaccountable craving for some particular woman, why
couldn't it have centered upon a woman he knew as well as he knew Dolly,
whose likes and dislikes, little tricks of speech and manner, habits of
thought, all the inconsiderable traits that go to make up what we call
personality, were pleasantly familiar?

Strange thoughts over a teacup, MacRae decided. It seemed even more
strange that he should be considering such intimately personal things in
the very act of carrying on an impersonal triangular conversation; as if
there were two of him present, one being occupied in the approved teacup
manner while the other sat by speculating with a touch of moroseness
upon distressingly important potentialities. This duality persisted in
functioning even when Betty looked at her watch and said, "I must go."

He walked with her around to the head of the Cove. He had not wanted to
do that,--and still he did. He found himself filled with an intense and
resentful curiosity about this calm, self-possessed young woman. He
wondered if she really had any power to hurt him, if there resided in
her any more potent charm than other women possessed, or if it were a
mere sentimental befogging of his mind due to the physical propinquity
of her at a time when he was weak and bruised and helpless. He could
feel the soft warmth of her hands yet, and without even closing his eyes
he could see her reddish-brown hair against the white of his bed covers
and the tired droop of her body as she slept that night.

Curiously enough, before they were well clear of the Ferrara house they
had crossed swords. Courteously, to be sure. MacRae could not afterward
recall clearly how it began,--something about the war and the
after-effect of the war. British Columbia nowise escaped the muddle into
which the close of the war and the wrangle of the peacemakers had
plunged both industry and politics. There had been a recent labor
disturbance in Vancouver in which demobilized soldiers had played a
part.

"You can't blame these men much. They're bewildered at some of the
things they get up against, and exasperated by others. A lot of them
have found the going harder at home than it was in France. A lot of
promises and preachments don't fit in with performance since the guns
have stopped talking. I suppose that doesn't seem reasonable to people
like you," MacRae found himself saying. "You don't have to gouge and
claw a living out of the world. Or at least, if there is any gouging
and clawing to be done, you are not personally involved in it. You get
it done by proxy."

Betty flushed slightly.

"Do you always go about with a chip on your shoulder?" she asked. "I
should think you did enough fighting in France."

"I learned to fight there," he said. "I was a happy-go-lucky kid before
that. Rich and poor looked alike to me. I didn't covet anything that
anybody had, and I didn't dream that any one could possibly wish to take
away from me anything that I happened to have. I thought the world was a
kind and pleasant place for everybody. But things look a little
different to me now. They sent us fellows to France to fight Huns. But
there are a few at home, I find. Why shouldn't I fight them whenever I
see a chance?"

"But _I'm_ not a Hun," Betty said with a smile.

"I'm not so sure about that."

The words leaped out before he was quite aware of what they might imply.
They had come to a point on the path directly in front of his house.
Betty stopped. Her gray eyes flashed angrily. Storm signals blazed in
her cheeks, bright above the delicate white of her neck.

"Jack MacRae," she burst out hotly, "you are a--a--a first-class idiot!"

Then she turned her back on him and went off up the path with a quick,
springy step that somehow suggested extreme haste.

MacRae stood looking after her fully a minute. Then he climbed the
steps, went into the front room and sat himself down in a deep,
cushioned chair. He glowered into the fireplace with a look as black as
the charred remains of his morning fire. He uttered one brief word after
a long period of fixed staring.

"Damn!" he said.

It seemed a very inadequate manner of expressing his feelings, but it
was the best he could do at the moment.

He sat there until the chill discomfort of the room stirred him out of
his abstraction. Then he built a fire and took up a book to read. But
the book presently lay unheeded on his knees. He passed the rest of the
short forenoon sprawled in that big chair before the fireplace,
struggling with chaotic mental processes.

It made him unhappy, but he could not help it. A tremendous assortment
of mental images presented themselves for inspection, flickering up
unbidden out of his brain-stuff,--old visions and new, familiar things
and vague, troublesome possibilities, all strangely jumbled together.
His mind hopped from Squitty Cove to Salisbury Plain, to the valley of
the Rhone, to Paris, London, Vancouver, turned up all sorts of
recollections, cameralike flashes of things that had happened to him,
things he had seen in curious places, bits of his life in that somehow
distant period when he was a youngster chumming about with his father.
And always he came back to the Gowers,--father, son and daughter, and
the delicate elderly woman with the faded rose-leaf face whom he had
seen only once. Whole passages of Donald MacRae's written life story
took form in living words. He could not disentangle himself from these
Gowers.

And he hated them!

Dark came down at last. MacRae went out on the porch. The few scattered
clouds had vanished completely. A starry sky glittered above horizons
edged by mountain ranges, serrated outlines astonishingly distinct. The
sea spread duskily mysterious from duskier shores. It was very still, to
MacRae suddenly very lonely, empty, depressing.

The knowledge that just across a narrow neck of land the Gowers,
father, daughter and son, went carelessly, securely about their own
affairs, made him infinitely more lonely, irritated him, stirred up a
burning resentment against the lot of them. He lumped them all together,
despite a curious tendency on the part of Betty's image to separate
itself from the others. He hated them, the whole damned, profiteering,
arrogant, butterfly lot. He nursed an unholy satisfaction in having made
some inroad upon their comfortable security, in having "sunk his
harpoon" into their only vulnerable spot.

But that satisfaction did not give him relief or content as he stood
looking out into the clear frost-tinged night. Squitty had all at once
become a ghostly place, haunted with sadness. Old Donald MacRae was
living over again in him, he had a feeling, reliving those last few
cheerless, hopeless years which, MacRae told himself savagely, Horace
Gower had deliberately made more cheerless and hopeless.

And he was in a fair way to love that man's flesh and blood? MacRae
sneered at himself in the dark. Never to the point of staying his hand,
of foregoing his purpose, of failing to strike a blow as chance offered.
Not so long as he was his father's son.

"Hang it, I'm getting morbid," MacRae muttered at last. "I've been
sticking around here too close. I'll pack a bag to-morrow and go to town
for a while."

He closed the door on the crisp, empty night, and set about getting
himself something to eat.




CHAPTER XIV

The Swing of the Pendulum


MacRae did himself rather well, as the English say, when he reached
Vancouver. This was a holiday, and he was disposed to make the most of
it. He put up at the Granada. He made a few calls and presently found
himself automatically relaunched upon Vancouver's social waters. There
were a few maids and more than one matron who recalled pleasantly this
straight up-standing youngster with the cool gray eyes who had come
briefly into their ken the winter before. There were a few fellows he
had known in squadron quarters overseas, home for good now that
demobilization was fairly complete. MacRae danced well. He had the
faculty of making himself agreeable without effort. He found it pleasant
to fall into the way of these careless, well-dressed folk whose greatest
labor seemed to be in amusing themselves, to keep life from seeming
"slow." Buttressed by revenues derived from substantial sources, mines,
timber, coastal fisheries, land, established industries, these sons and
daughters of the pioneers, many but one degree removed from pioneering
uncouthness, were patterning their lives upon the plan of equivalent
classes in older regions. If it takes six generations in Europe to make
a gentleman, western America quite casually dispenses with five, and the
resulting product seldom suffers by comparison.

As the well-to-do in Europe flung themselves into revelry with the
signing of the armistice, so did they here. Four years of war had corked
the bottle of gayety. The young men were all overseas. Life was a little
too cloudy during that period to be gay. Shadows hung over too many
homes. But that was past. They had pulled the cork and thrown it away,
one would think. Pleasure was king, to be served with light abandon.

It was a fairly vigorous place, MacRae discovered. He liked it, gave
himself up to it gladly,--for a while. It involved no mental effort.
These people seldom spoke of money, or of work, or politics, the high
cost of living, international affairs. If they did it was jocularly,
sketchily, as matters of no importance. Their talk ran upon dances,
clothes, motoring, sports indoors and afield, on food,--and sometimes
genially on drink, since the dry wave had not yet drained their cellars.

MacRae floated with this tide. But he was not wholly carried away with
it. He began to view it impersonally, to wonder if it were the real
thing, if this was what inspired men to plot and scheme and struggle
laboriously for money, or if it were just the froth on the surface of
realities which he could not quite grasp. He couldn't say. There was a
dash and glitter about it that charmed him. He could warm and thrill to
the beauty of a Granada ballroom, music that seduced a man's feet,
beauty of silk and satin, of face and figure, of bright eyes and
gleaming jewels, a blending of all the primary colors and every shade
between, flashing over a polished floor under high, carved ceilings.

He had surrendered Nelly Abbott to a claimant and stood watching the
swirl and glide of the dancers in the Granada one night. His eyes were
on the brilliance a little below the raised area at one end of the
floor, and so was his mind, inquiringly, with the curious concentration
of which his mind was capable. Presently he became aware of some one
speaking to him, tugging at his elbow.

"Oh, come out of it," a voice said derisively.

He looked around at Stubby Abbott.

"Regular trance. I spoke to you twice. In love?"

"Uh-uh. Just thinking," MacRae laughed.

"Deep thinking, I'll say. Want to go down to the billiard room and
smoke?"

They descended to a subterranean chamber where, in a pit lighted by
low-hung shaded globes, men in shirt sleeves clicked the red and white
balls on a score of tables. Rows of leather-upholstered chairs gave
comfort to spectators. They commandeered seats and lighted cigarettes.
"Look," Stubby said. "There's Norman Gower."

Young Gower sat across a corner from them. He was in evening clothes. He
slumped in his chair. His hands were limp along the chair arms. He was
not watching the billiard players. He was staring straight across the
room with the sightless look of one whose mind is far away.

"Another deep thinker," Stubby drawled. "Rather rough going for Norman
these days."

"How?" MacRae asked.

"Funked it over across," Stubby replied. "So they say. Careful to stay
on the right side of the Channel. Paying the penalty now. Girls rather
rub it in. Fellows not too--well, cordial. Pretty rotten for Norman."

"Think he slacked deliberately?" MacRae inquired.

"That's the story. Lord, I don't know," Stubby answered. "He stuck in
England four years. Everybody else that was fit went up the line.
That's all I know. By their deeds ye shall judge them--eh?"

"Perhaps. What does he say about that himself?"

"Nothing, so far as I know. Keeps strictly mum on the war subject,"
Stubby said.

Young Gower did not alter his position during the few minutes they sat
there. He sat staring straight ahead of him, unseeingly. MacRae suddenly
felt sorry for him. If he had told the truth he was suffering a
peculiarly distressing form of injustice, of misconception. MacRae
recalled the passionate undertone in Gower's voice when he said, "I did
the only thing I could do in the way I was told to do it." Yes, he was
sorry for Norman. The poor devil was not getting a square deal.

But MacRae's pity was swiftly blotted out. He had a sudden uncomfortable
vision of old Donald MacRae rowing around Poor Man's Rock, back and
forth in sun and rain, in frosty dawns and stormy twilights, coming home
to a lonely house, dying at last a lonely death, the sordid culmination
of an embittered life.

Let him sweat,--the whole Gower tribe. MacRae was the ancient Roman, for
the moment, wishing all his enemies had but a single head that he might
draw his sword and strike it off. Something in him hardened against that
first generous impulse to repeat to Stubby Abbott what Norman had told
him on the cliff at Squitty. Let the beggar make his own defense. Yet
that stubborn silence, the proud refusal to make words take the place of
valiant deeds expected, wrung a gleam of reluctant admiration from
MacRae. He would have done just that himself.

"Let's get back," Stubby suggested. "I've got the next dance with Betty
Gower. I don't want to miss it."

"Is she here to-night? I haven't noticed her."

"Eyesight affected?" Stubby bantered. "Sure she's here. Looking like a
dream."

MacRae felt a pang of envy. There was nothing to hold Stubby back,--no
old scores, no deep, abiding resentment. MacRae had the conviction that
Stubby would never take anything like that so seriously as he, Jack
MacRae, did. He was aware that Stubby had the curious dual code common
in the business world,--one set of inhibitions and principles for
business and another for personal and social uses. A man might be
Stubby's opponent in the market and his friend when they met on a common
social ground. MacRae could never be quite like that. Stubby could fight
Horace Gower, for instance, tooth and toenail, for an advantage in the
salmon trade, and stretch his legs under Gower's dining table with no
sense of incongruity, no matter what shifts the competitive struggle had
taken or what weapons either had used. That was business; and a man left
his business at the office. A curious thing, MacRae thought. A
phenomenon in ethics which he found hard to understand, harder still to
endorse.

He stood watching Stubby, knowing that Stubby would go straight to Betty
Gower. Presently he saw her, marked the cut and color of her gown,
watched them swing into the gyrating wave of couples that took the floor
when the orchestra began. Indeed, MacRae stood watching them until he
recalled with a start that he had this dance with Etta Robbin-Steele,
who would, in her own much-used phrase, be "simply furious" at anything
that might be construed as neglect; only Etta's fury would consist of
showing her white, even teeth in a pert smile with a challenging twinkle
in her very black eyes.

He went to Betty as soon as he found opportunity. He did not quite know
why. He did not stop to ask himself why. It was a purely instinctive
propulsion. He followed his impulse as the needle swings to the pole; as
an object released from the hand at a great height obeys the force of
gravity; as water flows downhill.

He took her programme.

"I don't see any vacancies," he said. "Shall I create one?"

He drew his pencil through Stubby Abbott's name. Stubby's signature was
rather liberally inscribed there, he thought. Betty looked at him a
trifle uncertainly.

"Aren't you a trifle--sweeping?" she inquired.

"Perhaps. Stubby won't mind. Do you?" he asked.

"I seem to be defenseless." Betty shrugged her shoulders. "What shall we
quarrel about this time?"

"Anything you like," he made reckless answer.

"Very well, then," she said as they got up to dance. "Suppose we begin
by finding out what there is to quarrel over. Are you aware that
practically every time we meet we nearly come to blows? What is there
about me that irritates you so easily?"

"Your inaccessibility."

MacRae spoke without weighing his words. Yet that was the truth,
although he knew that such a frank truth was neither good form nor
policy. He was sorry before the words were out of his mouth. Betty could
not possibly understand what he meant. He was not sure he wanted her to
understand. MacRae felt himself riding to a fall. As had happened
briefly the night of the _Blackbird's_ wrecking, he experienced that
feeling of dumb protest against the shaping of events in which he moved
helpless. This bit of flesh and blood swaying in his arms in effortless
rhythm to sensuous music was something he had to reckon with powerfully,
whether he liked or not. MacRae was beginning dimly to see that. When he
was with her--

"But I'm not inaccessible."

She dropped her voice to a cooing whisper. Her eyes glowed as they met
his with steadfast concern. There was a smile and a question in them.

"What ever gave you that idea?"

"It isn't an idea; it's a fact."

The resentment against circumstances that troubled MacRae crept into his
tone.

"Oh, silly!"

There was a railing note of tenderness in Betty's voice. MacRae felt his
moorings slip. A heady recklessness of consequences seized him. He drew
her a little closer to him. Irresistible prompting from some wellspring
of his being urged him on to what his reason would have called sheer
folly, if that reason had not for the time suffered eclipse, which is a
weakness of rational processes when they come into conflict with a
genuine emotion.

"Do you like me, Betty?"

Her eyes danced. They answered as well as her lips:

"Of course I do. Haven't I been telling you so plainly enough? I've been
ashamed of myself for being so transparent--on such slight provocation."

"How much?" he demanded.

"Oh--well--"

The ballroom was suddenly shrouded in darkness, saved only from a
cavelike black by diffused street light through the upper windows. A
blown fuse. A mis-pulled switch. One of those minor accidents common to
electric lighting systems. The orchestra hesitated, went on. From a
momentary silence the dancers broke into chuckles, amused laughter, a
buzz of exclamatory conversation. But no one moved, lest they collide
with other unseen couples.

Jack and Betty stood still. They could not see. But MacRae could feel
the quick beat, of Betty's heart, the rise and fall of her breast, a
trembling in her fingers. There was a strange madness stirring in him.
His arm tightened about her. He felt that she yielded easily, as if
gladly. Their mouths sought and clung in the first real kiss Jack MacRae
had ever known. And then, as they relaxed that impulse-born embrace, the
lights flashed on again, blazed in a thousand globes in great frosted
clusters high against the gold-leaf decorations of the ceiling. The
dancers caught step again. MacRae and Betty circled the polished floor
silently. She floated in his arms like thistledown, her eyes like twin
stars, a deeper color in her cheeks.

Then the music ceased, and they were swept into a chattering group, out
of which presently materialized another partner to claim Betty. So they
parted with a smile and a nod.

But MacRae had no mind for dancing. He went out through the lobby and
straight to his room. He flung off his coat and sat down in a chair by
the window and blinked out into the night. He had looked, it seemed to
him, into the very gates of paradise,--and he could not go in.

It wasn't possible. He sat peering out over the dusky roofs of the city,
damning with silent oaths the coil in which he found himself
inextricably involved. History was repeating itself. Like father, like
son.

There was a difference though. MacRae, as he grew calmer, marked that.
Old Donald had lost his sweetheart by force and trickery. His son must
forego love--if it were indeed love--of his own volition. He had no
choice. He saw no way of winning Betty Gower unless he stayed his hand
against her father. And he would not do that. He could not. It would be
like going over to the enemy in the heat of battle. Gower had wronged
and persecuted his father. He had beaten old Donald without mercy in
every phase of that thirty-year period. He had taken Donald MacRae's
woman from him in the beginning and his property in the end. Jack MacRae
had every reason to believe Gower merely sat back awaiting a favorable
opportunity to crush him.

So there could be no compromising there; no inter-marrying and
sentimental burying of the old feud. Betty would tie his hands. He was
afraid of her power to do that. He did not want to be a Samson shorn.
His ego revolted against love interfering with the grim business of
everyday life. He bit his lip and wished he could wipe out that kiss. He
cursed himself for a slavish weakness of the flesh. The night was old
when MacRae lay down on his bed. But he could find no ease for the
throbbing ferment within him. He suffered with a pain as keen as if he
had been physically wounded, and the very fact that he could so suffer
filled him with dismay. He had faced death many times with less emotion
than he now was facing life.

He had no experience of love. Nothing remotely connected with women had
ever suggested such possibilities of torment. He had known first-hand
the pangs of hunger and thirst, of cold and weariness, of anger and
hate, of burning wounds in his flesh. He had always been able to grit
his teeth and endure; none of it had been able to wring his soul. This
did. He had come to manhood, to a full understanding of sex, at a time
when he played the greatest game of all, when all his energies were
fiercely centered upon preservation for himself and certain destruction
for other men. Perhaps because he had come back clean, having never
wasted himself in complaisant liaisons overseas, the inevitable focusing
of passion stirred him more profoundly. He was neither a varietist nor a
male prude. He was aware of sex. He knew desire. But the flame Betty
Gower had kindled in him made him look at women out of different eyes.
Desire had been revealed to him not as something casual, but as an
imperative. As if nature had pulled the blinkers off his eyes and shown
him his mate and the aim and object and law and fiery urge of the mating
instinct all in one blinding flash.

He lay hot and fretful, cursing himself for a fool, yet unable to find
ease, wondering dully if Betty Gower must also suffer as he should, or
if it were only an innocent, piquant game that Betty played. Always in
the background of his mind lurked a vision of her father, sitting back
complacently, fat, smug, plump hands on a well-rounded stomach,
chuckling a brutal satisfaction over another MacRae beaten.

MacRae wakened from an uneasy sleep at ten o'clock. He rose and dressed,
got his breakfast, went out on the streets. But Vancouver had all at
once grown insufferable. The swarming streets irritated him. He
smoldered inside, and he laid it to the stir and bustle and noise. He
conceived himself to crave hushed places and solitude, where he could
sit and think.

By mid-afternoon he was far out in the Gulf of Georgia, aboard a
coasting steamer sailing for island ports. If it occurred to him that he
was merely running away from temptation, he did not admit the fact.




CHAPTER XV

Hearts are Not Always Trumps


If MacRae reckoned on tranquillity in his island seclusion he failed in
his reckoning. A man may fly from temptation, run from a threatening
danger, but he cannot run away from himself. He could not inhibit
thought, reflection, surges of emotion generated mysteriously within
himself.

He did his best. He sought relief in action. There were a great many
things about his freehold upon which he bestowed feverish labor for a
time. He cleared away all the underbrush to the outer limits of his
shrunken heritage. He built a new enclosing fence of neatly split cedar,
installed a pressure system of water in the old house.

"You goin' to get married?" old Peter inquired artlessly one day. "You
got all the symptoms--buzzin' around in your nest like a bumblebee."

And Dolly smiled her slow, enigmatic smile.

Whereupon MacRae abandoned his industry and went off to Blackfish Sound
with Vincent in the _Bluebird_. The salmon run was long over, but the
coastal waters still yielded a supply of edible fish. There were always
a few spring salmon to be taken here and there. Ling, red and rock cod
knew no seasons. Nor the ground fish, plaice, sole, flounders, halibut.
Already the advance guard of the great run of mature herring began to
show. For a buyer there was no such profit in running these fish to
market as the profit of the annual salmon run. Still it paid moderately.
So MacRae had turned the _Bluebird_ over to Vin to operate for a time on
a share basis. It gave Vin, who was ambitious and apparently tireless, a
chance to make a few hundred dollars in an off season.

Wherefore MacRae, grown suddenly restless beyond all restraining upon
his island, made a trip or two north with Vin--a working guest on his
own vessel--up where the Gulf of Georgia is choked to narrow passages
through which the tidal currents race like mountain streams pent in a
gorge, up where the sea is a maze of waterways among wooded islands.
They anchored in strange bays. They fared once into Queen Charlotte
Sound and rode the great ground swell that heaves up from the far coast
of Japan to burst against the rocky outpost of Cape Caution. They
doubled on their tracks and gathered their toll of the sea from fishing
boats here and there until the _Bluebird_ rode deep with cargo, fresh
fish to be served on many tables far inland. MacRae often wondered if
the housewife who ordered her weekly ration of fish and those who picked
daintily at the savory morsels with silver forks ever thought how they
came by this food. Men till the sea with pain and risk and infinite
labor, as they till the land; only the fisherman with his nets and hooks
and gear does not sow, he only reaps. Nature has attended diligently to
the sowing, from the Cape of Good Hope to Martha's Vineyard, from Bering
Strait to Botany Bay.

But MacRae soon had enough of that and came back to Squitty, to his
fireplace and his books. He had been accustomed to enjoy the winters,
the clear crisp mornings that varied weeks of drenching rain which
washed the land clean; to prowl about in the woods with a gun when he
needed meat; to bask before a bed of coals in the fireplace through long
evenings when the wind howled and the rain droned on the roof and the
sea snored along the rocky beaches. That had been in days before he
learned the weight of loneliness, when his father had been there to sit
quietly beside the fire smoking a pipe, when Dolly Ferrara ran wild in
the woods with him or they rode for pure sport the tumbling seas in a
dugout canoe.

Now winter was a dull inaction, a period of discontent, in which thought
gnawed at him like an ingrowing toenail. Everything seemed out of joint.
He found himself feverishly anxious for spring, for the stress and
strain of another tilt with Folly Bay. Sometimes he asked himself where
he would come out, even if he won all along the line, if he made money,
gained power, beat Gower ultimately to his knees, got back his land. He
did not try to peer too earnestly into the future. It seemed a little
misty. He was too much concerned with the immediate present, looming big
with possibilities of good or evil for himself. Things did not seem
quite so simple as at first. A great many complications, wholly
unforeseen, had arisen since he came back from France. But he was
committed to certain undertakings from which he neither wished nor
intended to turn aside,--not so long as he had the will to choose.

Christmas came again, and with it the gathering of the Ferraras for
their annual reunion,--Old Manuel and Joaquin, young Manuel and Ambrose
and Vincent. Steve they could speak of now quite casually. He had died
in his sea boots like many another Ferrara. It was a pity, of course,
but it was the chance of his calling. And the gathering was stronger in
numbers, even with Steve gone. Ambrose had taken himself a wife, a
merry round-cheeked girl whose people were coaxing Ambrose to quit the
sea for a more profitable undertaking in timber. And also Norman Gower
was there.

MacRae did not quite know how to take that young man. He had had stray
contacts with Norman during the last few weeks. For a rich man's son he
was not running true to form. He and Long Tom Spence had struck up a
partnership in a group of mineral claims on the Knob, that conical
mountain which lifted like one of the pyramids out of the middle of
Squitty Island. There had been much talk of those claims. Years ago Bill
Munro--he who died of the flu in his cabin beside the Cove--had staked
those claims. Munro was a young man then, a prospector. He had inveigled
other men to share his hopes and labors, to grubstake him while he drove
the tunnel that was to cut the vein. MacRae's father had taken a hand in
this. So had Peter Ferrara. But these informal partnerships had always
lapsed. Old Bill Munro's prospects had never got beyond the purely
prospective stage. The copper was there, ample traces of gold and
silver. But he never developed a showing big enough to lure capital.
When Munro died the claims had been long abandoned.

Long Tom Spence had suddenly relocated them. Some working agreement had
included Uncle Peter and young Gower. Long Tom went about hinting
mysteriously of fortunes. Peter Ferrara even admitted that there was a
good showing. Norman had been there for weeks, living with Spence in a
shack, sweating day after day in the tunnel. They were all beginning to
speak of it as "the mine."

Norman had rid himself of that grouchy frown. He was always singing or
whistling or laughing. His fair, rather florid face glowed with a
perpetual good nature. He treated MacRae to the same cheerful, careless
air that he had for everything and everybody. And when he was about
Uncle Peter's house at the Cove he monopolized Dolly, an attitude which
Dolly herself as well as her uncle seemed to find agreeable and proper.

MacRae finally found himself compelled to accept Norman Gower as part of
the group. He was a little surprised to find that he harbored no decided
feeling about young Gower, one way or the other. If he felt at all, it
was a mild impatience that another man had established a relation with
Dolly Ferrara which put aside old friendships. He found himself
constrained more and more to treat Dolly like any other pleasant young
woman of his acquaintance. He did not quite like that. He and Dolly
Ferrara had been such good chums. Besides, he privately considered that
Dolly was throwing herself away on a man weak enough to make the tragic
blunder young Gower had made in London. But that was their own affair.
Altogether, MacRae found it quite impossible to muster up any abiding
grudge against young Gower on his own account.

So he let matters stand and celebrated Christmas with them. Afterward
they got aboard the _Bluebird_ and went to a dance at Potter's Landing,
where for all that Jack MacRae was the local hero, both of the great war
and the salmon war of the past season, both Dolly and Norman, he
privately conceded, enjoyed themselves a great deal more than he did.
Their complete absorption in each other rather irritated him.

They came back to the Cove early in the morning. The various Ferraras
disposed themselves about Peter's house to sleep, and MacRae went on to
his own place. About an hour after daybreak he saw Norman Gower pass up
the bush trail to the mine with a heavy pack of provisions on his back.
And MacRae wondered idly if Norman was bucking the game in earnest,
strictly on his own, and why?

Late in January the flash of a white skirt and a sky-blue sweater past
his dooryard apprised MacRae that Betty was back. And he did not want to
see Betty or talk with her. He hoped her stay would be brief. He even
asked himself testily why people like that wanted to come to a summer
dwelling in the middle of winter. But her sojourn was not so brief as he
hoped. At divers times thereafter he saw her in the distance, faring to
and fro from Peter Ferrara's house, out on the trail that ran to the
Knob, several times when the sea was calm paddling a canoe or rowing
alongshore. Also he had glimpses of the thickset figure of Horace Gower
walking along the cliffs. MacRae avoided both. That was easy enough,
since he knew every nook and bush and gully on that end of the island.
But the mere sight of Gower was an irritation. He resented the man's
presence. It affected him like a challenge. It set him always pondering
ways and means to secure ownership of those acres again and forever bar
Gower from walking along those cliffs with that masterful air of
possession. Only a profound distaste for running away from anything kept
him from quitting the island while they were there, those two, one of
whom he was growing to hate far beyond the original provocation, the
other whom he loved,--for MacRae admitted reluctantly, resentfully, that
he did love Betty, and he was afraid of where that emotion might lead
him. He recognized the astonishing power of passion. It troubled him,
stirred up an amazing conflict at times between his reason and his
impulses. He fell back always upon the conclusion that love was an
irrational thing anyway, that it should not be permitted to upset a
man's logical plan of existence. But he was never very sure that this
conclusion would stand a practical test.

The southern end of Squitty was not of such vast scope that two people
could roam here and there without sometime coming face to face,
particularly when these two were a man and a woman, driven by a spirit
of restlessness to lonely wanderings. MacRae went into the woods with
his rifle one day in search of venison. He wounded a buck, followed him
down a long canyon, and killed his game within sight of the sea. He took
the carcass by a leg and dragged it through the bright green salal
brush. As he stepped out of a screening thicket on to driftwood piled by
storm and tide, he saw a rowboat hauled up on the shingle above reach of
short, steep breakers, and a second glance showed him Betty sitting on a
log close by, looking at him.

"Stormbound?" he asked her.

"Yes. I was rowing and the wind came up."

She rose and came over to look at the dead deer.

"What beautiful animals they are!" she said. "Isn't it a pity to kill
them?"

"It's a pity, too, to kill cattle and sheep and pigs, to haul fish by
the gills out of the sea," MacRae replied; "to trap marten and mink and
fox and beaver and bear for their skins. But men must eat and women must
wear furs."

"How horribly logical you are," Betty murmured. "You make a natural
sympathy appear wishy-washy sentimentalism."

She reseated herself on the log. MacRae sat down beside her. He looked
at her searchingly. He could not keep his eyes away. A curious
inconsistency was revealed to him. He sat beside Betty, responding to
the potent stimuli of her nearness and wishing pettishly that she were a
thousand miles away, so that he would not be troubled by the magic of
her lips and eyes and unruly hair, the musical cadences of her voice.
There was a subtle quality of expectancy about her, as if she sat there
waiting for him to say something, do something, as if her mere presence
were powerful to compel him to speak and act as she desired. MacRae
realized the fantasy of those impressions. Betty sat looking at him
calmly, her hands idle in her lap. If there were in her soul any of the
turmoil that was fast rising in his, it was not outwardly manifested by
any sign whatever. For that matter, MacRae knew that he himself was
placid enough on the surface. Nor did he feel the urge of
inconsequential speech. There was no embarrassment in that mutual
silence, only the tug of a compelling desire to take her in his arms,
which he must resist.

"There are times," Betty said at last, "when you live up to your
nickname with a vengeance."

"There are times," MacRae replied slowly, "when that is the only wise
thing for a man to do."

"And you, I suppose, rather pride yourself on being wise in your day and
generation."

There was gentle raillery in her tone.

"I don't like you to be sarcastic," he said.

"I don't think you like me sarcastic or otherwise," Betty observed,
after a moment's silence.

"But I do," he protested. "That's the devil of it. I do--and you know I
do. It would be a great deal better if I didn't."

Betty's fingers began to twist in her lap. The color rose faintly in her
smooth cheeks. Her eyes turned to the sea.

"I don't know why," she said gently. "I'd hate to think it would."

MacRae did not find any apt reply to that. His mind was in an agonized
muddle, in which he could only perceive one or two things with any
degree of clearness. Betty loved him. He was sure of that. He could tell
her that he loved her. And then? Therein arose the conflict. Marriage
was the natural sequence of love. And when he contemplated marriage with
Betty he found himself unable to detach her from her background, in
which lurked something which to MacRae's imagination loomed sinister,
hateful. To make peace with Horace Gower--granting that Gower was
willing for such a consummation--for love of his daughter struck MacRae
as something very near to dishonor. And if, contrariwise, he repeated to
Betty the ugly story which involved her father and his father, she would
be harassed by irreconcilable forces even if she cared enough to side
with him against her own people. MacRae was gifted with acute
perception, in some things. He said to himself despairingly--nor was it
the first time that he had said it--that you cannot mix oil and water.

He could do nothing at all. That was the sum of his ultimate
conclusions. His hands were tied. He could not go back and he could not
go on. He sat beside Betty, longing to take her in his arms and still
fighting stoutly against that impulse. He was afraid of his impulses.

A faint moisture broke out on his face with that acute nervous strain. A
lump rose chokingly in his throat. He stared out at the white-crested
seas that came marching up the Gulf before a rising wind until his eyes
grew misty. Then he slid down off the log and laid his head on Betty's
knee. A weight of dumb grief oppressed him. He wanted to cry, and he was
ashamed of his weakness.

Betty's fingers stole caressingly over his bare head, rumpled his hair,
stroked his hot cheek.

"Johnny-boy," she said at last, "what is it that comes like a fog
between you and me?"

MacRae did not answer.

"I make love to you quite openly," Betty went on. "And I don't seem to
be the least bit ashamed of doing so. I'm not a silly kid. I'm nearly as
old as you are, and I know quite well what I want--which happens to be
you. I love you, Silent John. The man is supposed to be the pursuer. But
I seem to have that instinct myself. Besides," she laughed tremulously,
"this is leap year. And, remember, you kissed me. Or did I kiss you?
Which was it, Jack?"

MacRae seated himself on the log beside her. He put his arm around her
and drew her close to him. That disturbing wave of emotion which had
briefly mastered him was gone. He felt only a passionate tenderness for
Betty and a pity for them both. But he had determined what to do.

"I do love you, Betty," he said--"your hair and your eyes and your lips
and the sound of your voice and the way you walk and everything that is
you. Is that quite plain enough? It's a sort of emotional madness."

"Well, I am afflicted with the same sort of madness," she admitted. "And
I like it. It is natural."

"But you wouldn't like it if you knew it meant a series of mental and
spiritual conflicts that would be almost like physical torture," he said
slowly. "You'd be afraid of it."

"And you?" she demanded.

"Yes," he said simply. "I am."

"Then you're a poor sort of lover," she flung at him, and freed herself
from his arms with a quick twist of her body. Her breast heaved. She
moved away from him.

"I'll admit being a poor lover, perhaps," MacRae said. "I didn't want to
love you. I shouldn't love you. I really ought to hate you. I don't, but
if I was consistent, I should. I ought to take every opportunity to hurt
you just because you are a Gower. I have good reason to do so. I can't
tell you why--or at least I am not going to tell you why. I don't think
it would mend matters if I did. I dare say I'm a better fighter than a
lover. I fight in the open, on the square. And because I happen to care
enough to shrink from making you risk things I can't dodge, I'm a poor
lover. Well, perhaps I am."

"I didn't really mean that, Jack," Betty muttered.

"I know you didn't," he returned gently. "But I mean what I have just
said."

"You mean that for some reason which I do not know and which you will
not tell me, there is such bad blood between you and my father that you
can't--you won't--won't even take a chance on me?"

"Something like that," MacRae admitted. "Only you put it badly. You'd
either tie my hands, which I couldn't submit to, or you'd find yourself
torn between two factions, and life would be a pretty sad affair."

"I asked you once before, and you told me it was something that happened
before either of us was born," Betty said thoughtfully. "I am going to
get at the bottom of this somehow. I wonder if you do really care, or
if this is all camouflage,--if you're just playing with me to see how
big a fool I _will_ make of myself."

That queer mistrust of him which suddenly clouded Betty's face and made
her pretty mouth harden roused Jack MacRae to an intolerable fury. It
was like a knife in a tender spot. He had been stifling the impulse to
forget and bury all these ancient wrongs and injustices for which
neither of them was responsible but for which, so far as he could see,
they must both suffer. Something cracked in him at Betty's words. She
jumped, warned by the sudden blaze in his eyes. But he caught her with a
movement quicker than her own. He held her by the arms with fingers that
gripped like iron clamps. He shook her.

"You wonder if I really care," he cried. "My God, can't you see? Can't
you feel? Must a man grovel and weep and rave?"

Betty whitened a little at this storm which she had evoked. But she did
not flinch. Her eyes looked straight into his, fearlessly.

"You are raving now," she said. "And you are hurting my arms terribly."

MacRae released his hold on her. His hands dropped to his sides.

"I suppose I was," he said in a flat, lifeless tone. "But don't say that
to me again, ever. You can say anything you like, Betty, except that I'm
not in earnest. I don't deserve that."

Betty retreated a little. MacRae was not even looking at her now. His
eyes were turned to the sea, to hide the blur that crept into them in
spite of his will.

"You don't deserve anything," Betty said distinctly. She moved warily
away as she spoke. "You have the physical courage to face death; but you
haven't the moral courage to face a problem in living, even though you
love me. You take it for granted that I'm as weak as you are. You won't
even give me a chance to prove whether love is strong or weak in the
face of trouble. And I will never give you another chance--never."

She sprang from the beach to the low pile of driftwood and from that
plunged into the thicket. MacRae did not try to follow. He did not even
move. He looked after her a minute. Then he sat down on the log again
and stared at the steady march of the swells. There was a sense of
finality in this thing which made him flounder desperately. Still, he
assured himself, it had to be. And if it had to be that way it was
better to have it so understood. Betty would never look at him again
with that disturbing message in her eyes. He would not be troubled by a
futile longing. But it hurt. He had never imagined how so abstract a
thing as emotion could breed such an ache in a man's heart.

After a little he got up. There was a trail behind that thicket, an old
game trail widened by men's feet, that ran along the seaward slope to
Cradle Bay. He went up now to this path. His eye, used to the practice
of woodcraft, easily picked up tiny heel marks, toe prints, read their
message mechanically. Betty had been running. She had gone home.

He went back to the beach. The rowboat and the rising tide caught his
attention. He hauled the boat up on the driftwood so that it should not
float away. Then he busied himself on the deer's legs with a knife for a
minute and shouldered the carcass.

It was a mile and a half across country to the head of Squitty Cove. He
had intended to hang his deer in a tree by the beach and come for it
later with a boat. Now he took up this hundred-pound burden for the
long carry over steep hills and through brushy hollows in the spirit of
the medieval flagellantes, mortifying his flesh for the ease of his
soul.

An hour or so later he came out on a knoll over-looking all the
southeastern face of Squitty. Below, the wind-harassed Gulf spread its
ruffled surface. He looked down on the cliffs and the Cove and Cradle
Bay. He could see Gower's cottage white among the green, one chimney
spitting blue smoke that the wind carried away in a wispy banner. He
could see a green patch behind his own house with the white headboard
that marked his father's grave. He could see Poor Man's Rock bare its
kelp-grown head between seas, and on the point above the Rock a solitary
figure, squat and brown, that he knew must be Horace Gower.

MacRae laid down his pack to rest his aching shoulders. But there was no
resting the ache in his heart. Nor was it restful to gaze upon any of
these things within the span of his eye. He was reminded of too much
which it was not good to remember. As he sat staring down on the distant
Rock and a troubled sea with an intolerable heaviness in his breast, he
recalled that so must his father have looked down on Poor Man's Rock in
much the same anguished spirit long ago. And Jack MacRae's mind reacted
morbidly to the suggestion, the parallel. His eyes turned with
smoldering fire to the stumpy figure on the tip of Point Old.

"I'll pay it all back yet," he gritted. "Betty or no Betty, I'll make
him wish he'd kept his hands off the MacRaes."

       *       *       *       *       *

About the time Jack MacRae with his burden of venison drew near his own
dooryard, Betty Gower came out upon the winter-sodden lawn before their
cottage and having crossed it ran lightly up the steps to the wide
porch. From there she saw her father standing on the Point. She called
to him. At her hail he came trudging to the house. Betty was piling wood
in the living-room fireplace when he came in.

"I was beginning to worry about you," he said.

"The wind got too much for me," she answered, "so I put the boat on the
beach a mile or so along and walked home."

Gower drew a chair up to the fire.

"Blaze feels good," he remarked. "There's a chill in this winter air."

Betty made no comment.

"Getting lonesome?" he inquired after a minute. "It seems to me you've
been restless the last day or two. Want to go back to town, Betty?"

"I wonder why we come here and stay and stay, out of reach of everything
and everybody?" she said at last.

"Blest if I know," Gower answered casually. "Except that we like to.
It's a restful place, isn't it? You work harder at having a good time in
town than I ever did making money. Well, we don't have to be hermits
unless we like. We'll go back to mother and the giddy whirl to-morrow,
if you like."

"We might as well, I think," she said absently.

For a minute neither spoke. The fire blazed up in a roaring flame.
Raindrops slashed suddenly against the windows out of a storm-cloud
driven up by the wind. Betty turned her eyes on her father.

"Did you ever do anything to Jack MacRae that would give him reason to
hate you?" she asked bluntly.

Gower shook his head without troubling to look at her. He kept his face
steadfastly to the fire.

"No," he said. "The other way about, if anything. He put a crimp in me
last season."

"I remember you said you were going to smash him," she said
thoughtfully.

"Did I?" he made answer in an indifferent tone. "Well, I might. And then
again I might not. He may do the smashing. He's a harder proposition
than I figured he would be, in several ways."

"That isn't it," Betty said, as if to herself. "Then you must have had
some trouble with his father--long ago. Something that hurt him enough
for him to pass a grudge on to Jack. What was it, daddy? Anything real?"

"Jack, eh?" Gower passed over the direct question. "You must be getting
on. Have you been seeing much of that young man lately?"

"What does that matter?" Betty returned impatiently. "Of course I see
him. Is there any reason I shouldn't?"

Gower picked up a brass poker. He leaned forward, digging aimlessly at
the fire, stirring up tiny cascades of sparks that were sucked glowing
into the black chimney throat.

"Perhaps no reason that would strike you as valid," he said slowly.
"Still--I don't know. Do you like him?"

"You won't answer my questions," Betty complained. "Why should I answer
yours?"

"There are plenty of nice young fellows in your own crowd," Gower went
on, still poking mechanically at the fire. "Why pick on young MacRae?"

"You're evading, daddy," Betty murmured. "Why _shouldn't_ I pick on
Jack MacRae if I like him--if he likes me? That's what I'm trying to
find out."

"Does he?" Gower asked pointblank.

"Yes," Betty admitted in a reluctant whisper. "He does--but--why don't
you tell me, daddy, what I'm up against, as you would say? What did you
ever do to old Donald MacRae that his son should have a feeling that is
stronger than love?"

"You think he loves you?"

"I know it," Betty murmured.

"And you?" Gower's deep voice seemed harsh.

Betty threw out her hands in an impatient gesture.

"Must I shout it out loud?" she cried.

"You always were different from most girls, in some things," Gower
observed reflectively. "Iron under your softness. I never knew you to
stop trying to get anything you really wanted, not while there was a
chance to get it. Still--don't you think it would be as well for you to
stop wanting young MacRae--since he doesn't want you bad enough to try
to get you? Eh?"

He still kept his face studiously averted. His tone was kind, full of a
peculiar tenderness that he kept for Betty alone.

She rose and perched herself on the arm of his chair, caught and drew
his head against her, forced him to look up into eyes preternaturally
bright.

"You don't seem to understand," she said. "It isn't that Jack doesn't
want me badly enough. He could have me, and I think he knows that too.
But there is something, something that drives him the other way. He
loves me. I know he does. And still he has spells of hating all us
Gowers--especially you. I know he wouldn't do that without reason."

"Doesn't he tell you the reason?"

Betty shook her head.

"Would I be asking you, daddy?"

"I can't tell you, either," Gower rumbled deep in his throat.

"Is it something that can't be mended?" Betty put her face down against
his, and he felt the tears wet on her cheek. "Think, daddy. I'm
beginning to be terribly unhappy."

"That seems to be a family failing," Gower muttered. "I can't mend it,
Betty. I don't know what young MacRae knows or what he feels, but I can
guess. I'd make it worse if I meddled. Should I go to this hot-headed
young fool and say, 'Come on, let's shake hands, and you marry my
daughter'?"

"Don't be absurd," Betty flashed. "I'm not asking you to _do_ anything."

"I couldn't do anything in this case if I wanted to," Gower declared.
"As a matter of fact, I think I'd put young MacRae out of my head, if I
were you. I wouldn't pick him for a husband, anyway."

Betty rose to her feet.

"You brought me into the world," she said passionately. "You have fed me
and clothed me and educated me and humored all my whims ever since I can
remember. But you can't pick a husband for me. I shall do that for
myself. It's silly to tell me to put Jack MacRae out of my head. He
isn't in my head. He's in my--my--heart. And I can keep him there, if I
can't have him in my arms. Put him out of my head! You talk as if loving
and marrying were like dealing in fish."

"I wish it were," Gower rumbled. "I might have had some success at it
myself."

Betty did not even vouchsafe reply. Probably she did not even hear what
he said. She turned and went to the window, stood looking out at the
rising turmoil of the sea, at the lowering scud of the clouds, dabbing
surreptitiously at her eyes with a handkerchief. After a little she
walked out of the room. Her feet sounded lightly on the stairs.

Gower bent to the fire again. He resumed his aimless stirring of the
coals. A grim, twisted smile played about his lips. But his eyes were as
somber as the storm-blackened winter sky.




CHAPTER XVI

En Famille


Horace Gower's town house straddled the low crest of a narrow peninsula
which juts westward into the Gulf from the heart of the business section
of Vancouver. The tip of this peninsula ends in the green forest of
Stanley Park, which is like no other park in all North America, either
in its nature or its situation. It is a sizable stretch of ancient
forest, standing within gunshot of skyscrapers, modern hotels, great
docks where China freighters unload tea and silk. Hard on the flank of a
modern seaport this area of primitive woodland broods in the summer sun
and the winter rains not greatly different from what it must have been
in those days when only the Siwash Indians penetrated its shadowy
depths.

The rear of Gower's house abutted against the park, neighbor to great
tall firs and massive, branchy cedars and a jungle of fern and thicket
bisected by a few paths and drives, with the sea lapping all about three
sides of its seven-mile boundary. From Gower's northward windows the
Capilano canyon opened between two mountains across the Inlet. Southward
other windows gave on English Bay and beach sands where one could count
a thousand swimmers on a summer afternoon.

The place was only three blocks from Abbott's. The house itself was not
unlike Abbott's, built substantially of gray stone and set in ample
grounds. But it was a good deal larger, and both within and without it
was much more elaborate, as befitted the dwelling of a successful man
whose wife was socially a leader instead of a climber,--like so many of
Vancouver's newly rich. There was order and system and a smooth,
unobtrusive service in that home. Mrs. Horace A. Gower rather prided
herself on the noiseless, super-efficient operation of her domestic
machinery. Any little affair was sure to go off without a hitch, to be
quite charming, you know. Mrs. Gower had a firmly established prestige
along certain lines. Her business in life was living up to that
prestige, not only that it might be retained but judiciously expanded.

Upon a certain March morning, however, Mrs. Gower seemed to be a trifle
shaken out of her usual complacency. She sat at a rather late breakfast,
facing her husband, flanked on either hand by her son and daughter.
There was an injured droop to Mrs. Gower's mouth, a slightly indignant
air about her. The conversation had reached a point where Mrs. Gower
felt impelled to remove her pince-nez and polish them carefully with a
bit of cloth. This was an infallible sign of distress.

"I cannot see the least necessity for it, Norman," she resumed in a
slightly agitated, not to say petulant tone. "It's simply ridiculous for
a young man of your position to be working at common labor with such
terribly common people. It's degrading."

Norman was employing himself upon a strip of bacon.

"That's a mere matter of opinion," he replied at length. "Somebody has
to work. I have to do something for myself sometime, and it suits me to
begin now, in this particular manner which annoys you so much. I don't
mind work. And those copper claims are a rattling good prospect.
Everybody says so. We'll make a barrel of money out of them yet. Why
shouldn't I peel off my coat and go at it?"

"By the way," Gower asked bluntly, "what occasioned this flying trip to
England?"

Norman pushed back his chair a trifle, thrust his hands in his trousers
pockets and looked straight at his father.

"My own private business," he answered as bluntly.

"You people," he continued after a brief interval, "seem to think I'm
still in knee breeches."

But this did not serve to turn his mother from her theme.

"It is quite unnecessary for you to attempt making money in such a
primitive manner," she observed. "We have plenty of money. There is
plenty of opportunity for you in your father's business, if you must be
in business."

"Huh!" Norman grunted. "I'm no good in my father's business, nor
anywhere else, in his private opinion. It's no good, mamma. I'm on my
own for keeps. I'm going through with it. I've been a jolly fizzle so
far. I'm not even a blooming war hero. You just stop bothering about
me."

"I really can't think what's got into you," Mrs. Gower complained in a
tone which implied volumes of reproach. "It's bad enough for your father
and Betty to be running off and spending so much time at that miserable
cottage when so much is going on here. I'm simply exhausted keeping
things up without any help from them. But this vagary of yours--I really
can't consider it anything else--is most distressing. To live in a dirty
little cabin and cook your own food, to associate with such men--it's
simply dreadful! Haven't you any regard for our position?"

"I'm fed up with our position," Norman retorted. A sullen look was
gathering about his mouth. "What does it amount to? A lot of people
running around in circles, making a splash with their money. You, and
the sort of thing you call our position, made a sissy of me right up
till the war came along. There was nothing I was good for but parlor
tricks. And you and everybody else expected me to react from that and
set things afire overseas. I didn't. I didn't begin to come up to your
expectations at all. But if I didn't split Germans with a sword or do
any heroics I did get some horse sense knocked into me--unbelievable as
that may appear to you. I learned that there was a sort of satisfaction
in doing things. I'm having a try at that now. And you needn't imagine
I'm going to be wet-nursed along by your money.

"As for my associates, and the degrading influences that fill you with
such dismay," Norman's voice flared into real anger, "they may not have
much polish--but they're human. I like them, so far as they go. I've
been frostbitten enough by the crowd I grew up with, since I came home,
to appreciate being taken for what I am, not what I may or may not have
done. Since I have discovered myself to have a funny sort of feeling
about living on your money, it behooves me to get out and make what
money I need for myself--in view of the fact that I'm going to be
married quite soon. I am going to marry"--Norman rose and looked down at
his mother with something like a flicker of amusement in his eyes as he
exploded his final bombshell--"a fisherman's daughter. A poor but worthy
maiden," he finished with unexpected irony.

"Norman!" His mother's voice was a wail. "A common fisherman's
daughter? Oh, my son, my son."

She shed a few beautifully restrained tears.

"A common fisherman's daughter. Exactly," Norman drawled. "Terrible
thing, of course. Funny the fish scales on the family income never
trouble you."

Mrs. Gower glared at him through her glasses.

"Who is this--this woman?" she demanded.

"Dolly," Betty whispered under her breath.

"Miss Dolores Ferrara of Squitty Cove," Norman answered imperturbably.

"A foreigner besides. Great Heavens! Horace," Mrs. Gower appealed to her
husband, "have you no influence whatever with your son?"

"Mamma," Betty put in, "I assure you you are making a tremendous fuss
about nothing. I can tell you that Dolly Ferrara is really quite a nice
girl. _I_ think Norman is rather lucky."

"Thanks, Bet," Norman said promptly. "That's the first decent thing I've
heard in this discussion."

Mrs. Gower turned the battery of her indignant eyes on her daughter.

"You, I presume," she said spitefully, "will be thinking of marrying
some fisherman next?"

"If she did, Bessie," Gower observed harshly, "it would only be history
repeating itself."

Mrs. Gower flushed, paled a little, and reddened again. She glared--no
other word describes her expression--at her husband for an instant. Then
she took refuge behind her dignity.

"There is a downright streak of vulgarity in you, Horace," she said,
"which I am sorry to see crop out in my children."

"Thank you, mamma," Betty remarked evenly.

Mrs. Gower whirled on Norman.

"I wash my hands of you completely," she said imperiously. "I am ashamed
of you."

"I'd rather you'd be ashamed of me," Norman retorted, "than that I
should be ashamed of myself."

"And you, sir,"--he faced his father, speaking in a tone of formal
respect which did not conceal a palpable undercurrent of defiance--"you
also, I suppose, wash your hands of me?"

Gower looked at him for a second. His face was a mask, devoid of
expression.

"You're a man grown," he said. "Your mother has expressed herself as she
might be expected to. I say nothing."

Norman walked to the door.

"I don't care a deuce of a lot what you say or what you don't say, nor
even what you think," he flung at them angrily, with his hand on the
knob. "I have my own row to hoe. I'm going to hoe it my own style. And
that's all there is to it. If you can't even wish me luck, why, you can
go to the devil!"

"Norman!" His mother lifted her voice in protesting horror. Gower
himself only smiled, a bit cynically. And Betty looked at the door which
closed upon her brother with a wistful sort of astonishment.

Gower first found occasion for speech.

"While we are on the subject of intimate family affairs, Bessie," he
addressed his wife casually, "I may as well say that I shall have to
call on you for some funds--about thirty thousand dollars. Forty
thousand would be better."

Mrs. Gower stiffened to attention. She regarded her husband with an air
of complete disapproval, slightly tinctured with surprise.

"Oh," she said, "really?"

"I shall need that much properly to undertake this season's operations,"
he stated calmly, almost indifferently.

"Really?" she repeated. "Are you in difficulties again?"

"Again?" he echoed. "It is fifteen years since I was in a corner where I
needed any of your money."

"It seems quite recent to me," Mrs. Gower observed stiffly.

"Am I to understand from that that you don't care to advance me whatever
sum I require?" he asked gently.

"I don't see why I should," Mrs. Gower replied after a second's
reflection, "even if I were quite able to do so. This place costs
something to keep up. I can't very well manage on less than two thousand
a month. And Betty and I must be clothed. You haven't contributed much
recently, Horace."

"No? I had the impression that I had been contributing pretty freely for
thirty years," Gower returned dryly. "I paid the bills up to December.
Last season wasn't a particularly good one--for me."

"That was chiefly due to your own mismanagement, I should say," Mrs.
Gower commented tartly. "Putting the whole cannery burden on Norman when
the poor boy had absolutely no experience. Really, you must have
mismanaged dreadfully. I heard only the other day that the Robbin-Steele
plants did better last season than they ever did. I'm sure the Abbotts
made money last year. If the banks have lost faith in your business
ability, I--well, I should consider you a bad risk, Horace. I can't
afford to gamble."

"You never do. You only play cinches," Gower grunted. "However, your
money will be safe enough. I didn't say the banks refuse me credit. I
have excellent reasons for borrowing of you."

"I really do not see how I can possibly let you have such a sum," she
said. "You already have twenty thousand dollars of my money tied up in
your business, you know."

"You have an income of twelve thousand a year from the Maple Point
place," Gower recited in that unchanging, even tone. "You have over
twenty thousand cash on deposit. And you have eighty thousand dollars in
Victory Bonds. You mean you don't want to, Bessie."

"You may accept that as my meaning," she returned.

"There are times in every man's career," Gower remarked dispassionately,
"when the lack of a little money might break him."

"That is all the more reason why I should safeguard my funds," Mrs.
Gower replied. "You are not as young as you were, Horace. If you should
fail now, you would likely never get on your feet again. But we could
manage, I dare say, on what I have. That is why I do not care to risk
any of it."

"You refuse then, absolutely, to let me have this money?" he asked.

"I do," Mrs. Gower replied, with an air of pained but conscious
rectitude. "I should consider myself most unwise to do so."

"All right," Gower returned indifferently. "You force me to a showdown.
I have poured money into your hands for years for you to squander in
keeping up your position--as you call it. I'm about through doing that.
I'm sick of aping millionaires. All I need is a comfortable place where
I can smoke a pipe in peace. This house is mine. I shall sell it and
repay you your twenty thousand. You--"

"Horace! Sell this house. Our home! _Horace._"

"Our home?" Gower continued inflexibly. "The place where we eat and
sleep and entertain, you mean. We never had a home, Bessie. You will
have your ancestral hall at Maple Point. You will be quite able to
afford a Vancouver house if you choose. But this is mine, and it's going
into the discard. I shall owe you nothing. I shall still have the
cottage at Cradle Bay, if I go smash, and that is quite good enough for
me. Do I make myself clear?"

Mrs. Gower was sniffing. She had taken refuge with the pince-nez and the
polishing cloth. But her fingers were tremulous, and her expression was
that of a woman who feels herself sadly abused and who is about to
indulge in luxurious weeping.

"But, Horace, to sell this house over my head--what will p-people say?"

"I don't care two whoops what people say," Mr. Gower replied
unfeelingly.

"This is simp-ply outrageous! How is Betty going to m-meet p-people?"

"You mean," her husband retorted, "how are you going to contrive the
proper background against which Betty shall display her charms to the
different varieties of saphead which you hit upon as being eligible to
marry her? Don't worry. With the carefully conserved means at your
disposal you will still be able to maintain yourself in the station in
which it has pleased God to place you. You will be able to see that
Betty has the proper advantages."

This straw broke the camel's back, if it is proper so to speak of a
middle-aged, delicate-featured lady, delightfully gowned and coiffed
and manicured. Mrs. Gower's grief waxed crescendo. Whereupon her
husband, with no manifest change of expression beyond an unpleasant
narrowing of his eyes, heaved his short, flesh-burdened body out of the
chair and left the room.

Betty had sat silent through this conversation, a look of profound
distaste slowly gathering on her fresh young face. She gazed after her
father. When the door closed upon him Betty's gray eyes came to rest on
her mother's bowed head and shaking shoulders. There was nothing in
Betty Gower's expression which remotely suggested sympathy. She said
nothing. She leaned her elbows on the table and rested her pretty chin
in her cupped palms.

Mrs. Gower presently became aware of this detached, observing, almost
critical attitude.

"Your f-father is p-positively b-brutal," she found voice to declare.

"There are various sorts of brutality," Betty observed enigmatically. "I
don't think daddy has a corner on the visible supply. Are you going to
let him have that money?"

"No. Never," Mrs. Gower snapped.

"You may lose a great deal more than the house by that," Betty murmured.

But if Mrs. Gower heard the words they conveyed no meaning to her
agitated mind. She was rapidly approaching that incomprehensible state
in which a woman laughs and cries in the same breath, and Betty got up
with a faintly contemptuous curl to her red lips. She went out into the
hall and pressed a button. A maid materialized.

"Go into the dining room and attend to mamma, if you please, Mary,"
Betty said.

Then she skipped nimbly upstairs, two steps at a time, and went into a
room on the second floor, a room furnished something after the fashion
of a library in which her father sat in a big leather chair chewing on
an unlighted cigar.

Betty perched on the arm of his chair and ran her fingers through a
patch on top of his head where the hair was growing a bit thin.

"Daddy," she asked, "did you mean that about going smash?"

"Possibility," he grunted.

"Are you really going to sell this house and live at Cradle Bay?"

"Sure. You sorry?"

"About the house? Oh, no. It's only a place for mamma to make a splash,
as Norman said. If you hibernate at the cottage I'll come and keep house
for you."

Gower considered this.

"You ought to stay with your mother," he said finally. "She'll be able
to give you a lot I wouldn't make an effort to provide. You don't know
what it means really to work. You'd find it pretty slow at Squitty."

"Maybe," Betty said. "But we managed very well last winter, just you and
me. If there is going to be a break-up of the family I shall stay with
you. I'm a daddy's girl."

Gower drew her face down and kissed it.

"You are that," he said huskily. "You're all Gower. There's real stuff
in you. You're free of that damned wishy-washy Morton blood. She made a
poodle dog of Norman, but she couldn't spoil you. We'll manage, eh,
Betty?"

"Of course," Betty returned. "But I don't know that Norman is such a
hopeless case. Didn't he rather take your breath away with his
declaration of independence?"

"It takes more than a declaration to win independence," Gower answered
grimly. "Wait till the going gets hard. However, I'll say there's a
chance for Norman. Now, you run along, Betty. I've got some figuring to
do."




CHAPTER XVII

Business as Usual


Late in March Jack MacRae came down to Vancouver and quartered himself
at the Granada again. He liked the quiet luxury of that great hostelry.
It was a trifle expensive, but he was not inclined to worry about
expense. At home, or aboard his carriers in the season, living was a
negligible item. He found a good deal of pleasure in swinging from one
extreme to the other. Besides, a man stalking big game does not arm
himself with a broomstick.

He had not come to town solely for his pleasure, although he was not
disposed to shy from any diversion that offered. He had business in
hand, business of prime importance since it involved spending a little
matter of twelve thousand dollars. In brief, he had to replace the
_Blackbird_, and he was replacing her with a carrier of double the
capacity, of greater speed, equipped with special features of his own
choosing. The new boat was designed to carry ten thousand salmon. There
was installed in her holds an ammonia refrigerating plant which would
free him from the labor and expense and uncertainty of crushed ice.
Science bent to the service of money-making. MacRae grinned to himself
when he surveyed the coiled pipes, the pumping engine. His new boat was
a floating, self-contained cold-storage plant. He could maintain a
freezing temperature so long as he wished by chemico-mechanical means.
That meant a full load every trip, since he could follow the trollers
till he got a load, if it took a week, and his salmon would still be
fresh.

He wondered why this had not been done before. Stubby enlightened him.

"Partly because it's a costly rig to install. But mostly because salmon
and ice have always been both cheap and plentiful, and people have got
into a habit of doing things in the same old way. You know. Until the
last season or two salmon have been so cheap that neither canneries nor
buyers bothered about anything so up-to-date. If they lost their ice in
hot weather and the fish rotted--why, there were plenty more fish. There
have been times when the Fraser River stunk with rotten salmon. They
used to pay the fishermen ten cents apiece for six-pound sockeyes and
limit them to two hundred fish to the boat if there was a big run. The
gill-netter would take five hundred in one drift, come in to the cannery
loaded to the guards, find himself up against a limit. He would sell the
two hundred and dump more than that overboard. And the Fraser River
canneries wonder why sockeye is getting scarce. My father used to rave
about the waste. Criminal, he used to say."

"When the fishermen were getting only ten cents apiece for sockeyes,
salmon was selling at fifteen cents a pound tin," MacRae observed.

"Oh, the canneries made barrels of money." Stubby shrugged his
shoulders. "They thought the salmon would always run in millions, no
matter how many they destroyed. Some of 'em think so yet."

"We're a nation of wasters, compared to Europe," MacRae said
thoughtfully. "The only thing they are prodigal with over there is human
flesh and blood. That is cheap and plentiful. But they take care of
their natural resources. We destroy as much as we use, fish,
timber--everything. Everybody for himself and the devil take the
hindmost."

"Well, I don't know what _we_ can do about it," Stubby drawled.

"Keep from being the hindmost," MacRae answered. "But I sometimes feel
sorry for those who are."

"Man," Stubby observed, "is a predatory animal. You can't make anything
else of him. Nobody develops philanthropy and the public spirit until he
gets rich and respectable. Social service is nothing but a theory yet.
God only helps those who help themselves."

"How does he arrange it for those who _can't_ help themselves?" MacRae
inquired.

Stubby shrugged his shoulders.

"Search me," he said.

"Do you even believe in this anthropomorphic God of the preachers?"
MacRae asked curiously.

"Well, there must be something, don't you think?" Stubby hedged.

"There may be," MacRae pursued the thought. "I read a book by Wells not
long ago in which he speaks of God as the Great Experimenter. If there
is an all-powerful Deity, it strikes me that in his attitude toward
humanity he is a good deal like a referee at a football game who would
say to the teams, 'Here is the ball and the field and the two goals. Go
to it,' and then goes off to the side lines to smoke his pipe while the
players foul and gouge and trip and generally run amuck in a frenzied
effort to win the game."

"You're a pessimist," Stubby declared.

"What is a pessimist?" MacRae demanded.

But Stubby changed the subject. He was not concerned with abstractions.
And he was vitally concerned with the material factors of his everyday
life, believing that he was able to dominate those material factors and
bend them to his will if only he were clever enough and energetic
enough.

Stubby wanted to get in on the blueback salmon run again. He had put a
big pack through Crow Harbor and got a big price for the pack. In a
period of mounting prices canned salmon was still ascending. Food in any
imperishable, easily transported form was sure of a market in Europe.
There was a promise of even bigger returns for Pacific salmon packers in
the approaching season. But Stubby was not sure enough yet of where he
stood to make any definite arrangement with MacRae. He wanted to talk
things over, to feel his way.

There were changes in the air. For months the industrial pot had been
spasmodically boiling over in strikes, lockouts, boycotts, charges of
profiteering, loud and persistent complaints from consumers, organized
labor and rapidly organizing returned soldiers. Among other things the
salmon packers' monopoly and the large profits derived therefrom had not
escaped attention.

From her eight millions of population during those years of war effort
Canada had withdrawn over six hundred thousand able-bodied men. Yet the
wheels of industry turned apace. She had supplied munitions, food for
armies, ships, yet her people had been fed and clothed and housed,--all
their needs had been liberally supplied.

And in a year these men had come back. Not all. There were close on to
two hundred thousand to be checked off the lists. There was the lesser
army of the slightly and totally disabled, the partially digested food
of the war machine. But there were still a quarter of a million men to
be reabsorbed into a civil and industrial life which had managed to
function tolerably well without them.

These men, for the most part, had somehow conceived the idea that they
were coming back to a better world, a world purged of dross by the
bloody sweat of the war. And they found it pretty much the same old
world. They had been uprooted. They found it a little difficult to take
root again. They found living costly, good jobs not so plentiful,
masters as exacting as they had been before. The Golden Rule was no more
a common practice than it had ever been. Yet the country was rich,
bursting with money. Big business throve, even while it howled to high
heaven about ruinous, confiscatory taxation.

The common man himself lifted up his voice in protest and backed his
protest with such action as he could take. Besides the parent body of
the Great War Veterans' Association other kindred groups of men who had
fought on both sea and land sprang into being. The labor organizations
were strengthened in their campaign for shorter hours and longer pay by
thousands of their own members returned, all semi-articulate, all more
or less belligerent. The war had made fighters of them. War does not
teach men sweet reasonableness. They said to themselves and to each
other that they had fought the greatest war in the world's history and
were worse off than they were before. From coast to coast society was
infiltrated with men who wore a small bronze button in the left lapel of
their coats, men who had acquired a new sense of their relation to
society, men who asked embarrassing questions in public meetings, in
clubs, in legislative assemblies, in Parliament, and who demanded
answers to the questions.

British Columbia was no exception. The British Columbia coast fishermen
did not escape the influence of this general unrest, this critical
inquiry. Wealthy, respectable, middle-aged citizens viewed with alarm
and denounced pernicious agitation. The common man retorted with the
epithet of "damned profiteer" and worse. Army scandals were aired.
Ancient political graft was exhumed. Strident voices arose in the
wilderness of contention crying for a fresh deal, a clean-up, a new
dispensation.

When MacRae first began to run bluebacks there were a few returned
soldiers fishing salmon, men like the Ferrara boys who had been
fishermen before they were soldiers, who returned to their old calling
when they put off the uniform. Later, through the season, he came across
other men, frankly neophytes, trying their hand at a vocation which at
least held the lure of freedom from a weekly pay check and a boss. These
men were not slow to comprehend the cannery grip on the salmon grounds
and the salmon fishermen. They chafed against the restrictions which,
they said, put them at the canneries' mercy. They growled about the
swarms of Japanese who could get privileges denied a white man because
the Japs catered to the packers. They swelled with their voices the
feeble chorus that white fishermen had raised long before the war.

All of this, like wavering gusts, before the storm, was informing the
sentient ears of politicians who governed by grace of electoral votes.
Soldiers, who had been citizens before they became soldiers, who were
frankly critical of both business and government, won in by-elections.
In the British Columbia legislature there was a major from an Island
district and a lieutenant from North Vancouver. They were exponents of a
new deal, enemies of the profiteer and the professional politician, and
they were thorns in the side of a provincial government which yearned
over vested rights as a mother over her ailing babe. In the Dominion
capital it was much the same as elsewhere,--a government which had
grasped office on a win-the-war platform found its grasp wavering over
the knotty problems of peace.

The British Columbia salmon fisheries were controlled by the Dominion,
through a department political in its scope. Whether the Macedonian cry
penetrated through bureaucratic swaddlings, whether the fact that
fishermen had votes and might use them with scant respect for personages
to whom votes were a prerequisite to political power, may remain a
riddle. But about the time Jack MacRae's new carrier was ready to take
the water, there came a shuffle in the fishery regulations which fell
like a bomb in the packers' camp.

The ancient cannery monopoly of purse-seining rights on given territory
was broken into fine large fragments. The rules which permitted none but
a cannery owner to hold a purse-seine license and denied all other men
that privilege were changed. The new regulations provided that any male
citizen of British birth or naturalization could fish if he paid the
license fee. The cannery men shouted black ruin,--but they girded up
their loins to get fish.

MacRae was still in Vancouver when this change of policy was announced.
He heard the roaring of the cannery lions. Their spokesmen filled the
correspondence columns of the daily papers with their views. MacRae had
not believed such changes imminent or even possible. But taking them as
an accomplished fact, he foresaw strange developments in the salmon
industry. Until now the packers could always be depended upon to stand
shoulder to shoulder against the fishermen and the consumer, to dragoon
one another into the line of a general policy. The American buyers,
questing adventurously from over the line, had alone saved the
individual fisherman from eating humbly out of the British Columbia
canner's hand.

The fishermen had made a living, such as it was. The cannery men had
dwelt in peace and amity with one another. They had their own loosely
knit organization, held together by the ties of financial interest. They
sat behind mahogany desks and set the price of salmon to the fishermen
and very largely the price of canned fish to the consumer, and their
most arduous labor had been to tot up the comfortable balance after each
season's operations. All this pleasantness was to be done away with,
they mourned. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry was to be turned loose on the
salmon with deadly gear and greedy intent to exterminate a valuable
species of fish and wipe out a thriving industry. The salmon would all
be killed off, so did the packers cry. What few small voices arose,
suggesting that the deadly purse seine had never been considered deadly
when only canneries had been permitted to use such gear and that _they_
had not worried about the extermination of the salmon so long as they
did the exterminating themselves and found it highly profitable,--these
few voices, alas, arose only in minor strains and were for the most part
drowned by the anvil chorus of the cannery men.

MacRae observed, listened, read the papers, and prophesied to himself a
scramble. But he did not see where it touched him,--not until
Robbin-Steele Senior asked him to come to his office in the Bond
Building one afternoon.

MacRae faced the man over a broad table in an office more like the
library of a well-appointed home than a place of calculated
profit-mongering. Robbin-Steele, Senior, was tall, thin, sixty years of
age, sandy-haired, with a high, arched nose. His eyes, MacRae thought,
were disagreeably like the eyes of a dead fish, lusterless and sunken; a
cold man with a suave manner seeking his own advantage. Robbin-Steele
was a Scotchman of tolerably good family who had come to British
Columbia with an inherited fortune and made that fortune grow to vast
proportions in the salmon trade. He had two pretty and clever daughters,
and three of his sons had been notable fighters overseas. MacRae knew
them all, liked them well enough. But he had never come much in contact
with the head of the family. What he had seen of Robbin-Steele, Senior,
gave him the impression of cold, calculating power.

"I wonder," MacRae heard him saying after a brief exchange of
courtesies, "if we could make an arrangement with you to deliver all the
salmon you can get this season to our Fraser River plant."

"Possibly," MacRae replied. "But there is no certainty that I will get
any great number of salmon."

"If you were as uncertain as that," Robbin-Steele said dryly, "you would
scarcely be putting several thousand dollars into an elaborately
equipped carrier. We may presume that you intend to get the salmon--as
you did last year."

"You seem to know a great deal about my business," MacRae observed.

"It is our policy to know, in a general way, what goes on in the salmon
industry," Robbin-Steele assented.

MacRae waited for him to continue.

"You have a good deal of both energy and ability," Robbin-Steele went
on. "It is obvious that you have pretty well got control of the blueback
situation around Squitty Island. You must, however, have an outlet for
your fish. We can use these salmon to advantage. On what basis will you
deliver them to us on the Fraser if we give you a contract guaranteeing
to accept all you can deliver?"

"Twenty per cent, over Folly Bay prices," MacRae answered promptly.

The cannery man shook his head.

"No. We can't afford to boost the cost of salmon like that. It'll ruin
the business, which is in a bad enough way as it is. The more you pay a
fisherman, the more he wants. We must keep prices down. That is to your
interest, too."

"No," MacRae disagreed. "I think it is to my interest to pay the
fishermen top prices, so long as I make a profit on the deal. I don't
want the earth--only a moderate share of it."

"Twenty per cent. on Folly Bay prices is too uncertain a basis."
Robbin-Steele changed his tactics. "We can send our own carriers there
to buy at far less cost."

MacRae smiled.

"You can send your carriers," he drawled, "but I doubt if you would get
many fish. I don't think you quite grasp the Squitty situation."

"Yes, I think I do," Robbin-Steele returned. "Gower had things pretty
much his own way until you cut in on his grounds. You have undoubtedly
secured quite an advantage in a peculiar manner, and possibly you feel
secure against competition. But your hold is not so strong as Gower's
once was. Let me tell you, your hold on that business can be broken, my
young friend."

"Undoubtedly," MacRae readily admitted. "But there is a world-wide
demand for canned salmon, and I have not suffered for a market--even
when influence was used last season to close the home market against me,
on Folly Bay's behalf. And I am quite sure, from what I have seen and
heard, that many of the big British Columbia packers like yourself are
so afraid the labor situation will get out of hand that they would shut
down their plants rather than pay fishermen what they could afford to
pay if they would be content with a reasonable profit. So I am not at
all afraid of you seducing the Squitty trollers with high prices."

"You are laboring under the common error about cannery profits,"
Robbin-Steele declared pointedly. "Considering the capital invested, the
total of the pack, the risk and uncertainty of the business, our returns
are not excessive."

MacRae smiled amusedly.

"That all depends on what you regard as excessive. But there is nothing
to be gained by an argument on that subject. Canning salmon is a highly
profitable business, but it would not be the gold mine it has been if
canneries hadn't been fostered at the expense of the men who actually
catch the fish, if the government hadn't bestowed upon cannery men the
gift of a strangle hold on the salmon grounds, and license privileges
that gave them absolute control. I haven't any quarrel with cannery men
for making money. You only amuse me when you speak of doubtful returns.
I wish I could have your cinch for a season or two."

"You shouldn't have any quarrel with us. You started with nothing and
made twenty thousand dollars in a single season," Robbin-Steele
reminded.

"I worked like a dog. I took chances. And I was very lucky," MacRae
agreed. "I did make a lot of money. But I paid the fishermen more than
they ever got for salmon--a great deal more than they would have got if
I hadn't broken into the game. Abbott made money on the salmon I
delivered him. So everybody was satisfied, except Gower--who perhaps
feels that he is ordained by the Almighty to get cheap salmon."

"You're spoiling those men," Robbin-Steele declared irritably. "My
observation of that class of labor is that the more money they get the
less they will do and the more they will want. You can't carry on any
industry on that basis. But that's beside the point. We're getting away
from the question. We want you to deliver those fish to us, if you can
do so at a reasonable price. We should like to have some sort of
agreement, so that we may know what to expect."

"I can deliver the fish," MacRae asserted confidently. "But I don't care
to bind myself to anything. Not this far in advance. Wait till the
salmon run."

"You are a very shrewd young man, I should say." Robbin-Steele paid him
a reluctant compliment and let a gleam of appreciation flicker in his
dead-fish eyes. "I imagine you will get on. Come and see me when you
feel like considering this matter seriously."

MacRae went down the elevator wondering if the gentleman's agreement
among the packers was off, if there was going to be something in the
nature of competition among them for the salmon. There would be a few
more gill-net licenses issued. More important, the gill-netters would be
free to fish where they chose, for whosoever paid the highest price,
and not for the cannery which controlled their license. There would be
scores of independent purse seiners. Would the packers bid against one
another for the catch? It rather seemed to MacRae as if they must. They
could no longer sit back secure in the knowledge that the salmon from a
given area must come straight to their waiting cans. And British
Columbia packers had always dreaded American competition.

Following that, MacRae took train for Bellingham. The people he had
dealt with there at the close of the last season had dealt fairly.
American salmon packers had never suffered the blight of a monopoly.
They had established their industry in legitimate competition, without
governmental favors. They did not care how much money a fisherman made
so long as he caught fish for them which they could profitably can.

MacRae had no contract with them. He did not want a contract. If he made
hard and fast agreements with any one it would be with Stubby Abbott.
But he did want to fortify himself with all the information he could
get. He did not know what line Folly Bay would take when the season
opened. He was not sure what shifts might occur among the British
Columbia canneries. If such a thing as free and unlimited competition
for salmon took place he might need more than one outlet for his
carriers. MacRae was not engaged in a hazardous business for pastime. He
had an objective, and this objective was contingent upon making money.

From the American source he learned that a good season was anticipated
for the better grades of salmon. He found out what prices he could
expect. They were liberal enough to increase his confidence. These men
were anxious to get the thousands of British Columbia salmon MacRae
could supply.

MacRae returned to Vancouver. Before he had finished unpacking his bag
the telephone rang. Hurley, of the Northwest Cold Storage, spoke when he
took down the receiver. Could he drop into the Northwest office? MacRae
grinned to himself and went down to the grimy wharf where deep-sea
halibut schooners rubbed against the dock, their stubby top-hamper
swaying under the office windows as they rocked to the swell of passing
harbor craft.

He talked with Hurley,--the same gentleman whom he had once approached
with no success in the matter of selling salmon. The situation was
reversed now. The Northwest was eager to buy. They would pay him, _sub
rosa_, two cents a pound over the market price for fresh salmon if he
would supply them with the largest possible quantity from the beginning
of the blueback run.

As with Robbin-Steele, MacRae refused to commit himself. More clearly he
perceived that the scramble was beginning. The packers and the
cold-storage companies had lost control. They must have fish to
function, to make a profit. They would cut one another's throats for
salmon. So much the better, MacRae cynically reflected. He told Hurley,
at last, as he had told Robbin-Steele, to wait till the salmon began to
run.

He left the Northwest offices with the firm conviction that it was not
going to be a question of markets, but a question of getting the salmon.
And he rather fancied he could do that.

Last of all on the list of these men who approached him in this fashion
came Stubby Abbott. Stubby did not ask him to call. He came to the
Granada in search of Jack and haled him, nothing loth, out to the stone
house in the West End. It happened that Betty Gower, Etta Robbin-Steele,
and two gilded youths, whom MacRae did not know, were there. They had
been walking in the Park. Nelly and her mother were serving tea.

It happened, too, that as they chatted over the teacups, a blue-bodied
limousine drew up under the Abbott pergola and deposited Mrs. Horace A.
Gower for a brief conversation with Mrs. Abbott. It was MacRae's first
really close contact with the slender, wonderfully preserved lady whose
life had touched his father's so closely in the misty long ago. He
regarded her with a reflective interest. She must have been very
beautiful then, he thought. She was almost beautiful still. Certainly
she was a very distinguished person, with her costly clothing, her rich
furs, her white hair, and that faded rose-leaf skin. The petulant,
querulous droop of her mouth escaped MacRae. He was not a physiognomist.
But the distance of her manner did not escape him. She acknowledged the
introduction and thereafter politely overlooked MacRae. He meant nothing
at all to Mrs. Horace A. Gower, he saw very clearly. Merely a young man
among other young men; a young man of no particular interest. Thirty
years is a long time, MacRae reflected. But his father had not
forgotten. He wondered if she had; if those far-off hot-blooded days had
grown dim and unreal to her?

He turned his head once and caught Betty as intent upon him as he was
upon her mother, under cover of the general conversation. He gathered
that there was a shade of reproach, of resentment, in her eyes. But he
could not be sure. Certainly there was nothing like that in her manner.
But the manner of these people, he understood very well, was pretty much
a mask. Whatever went on in their secret bosoms, they smiled and joked
and were unfailingly courteous.

He made another discovery within a few minutes. Stubby maneuvered
himself close to Etta Robbin-Steele. Stubby was not quite so adept at
repression as most of his class. He was a little more naive, more prone
to act upon his natural, instinctive impulses. MacRae was aware of that.
He saw now a swift by-play that escaped the rest. Nothing of any
consequence,--a look, the motion of a hand, a fleeting something on the
girl's face and Stubby's. Jack glanced at Nelly Abbott sitting beside
him, her small blonde head pertly inclined. Nelly saw it too. She smiled
knowingly.

"Has the brunette siren hooked Stubby?" MacRae inquired in a discreet
undertone.

"I think so. I'm not sure. Etta's such an outrageous flirt," Nelly said.
"I hope not, anyway. I'm afraid I can't quite appreciate Etta as a
prospective sister-in-law."

"No?"

"She's catty--and vain as a peacock. Stubby ought to marry a nice
sensible girl who'd mother him," Nelly observed with astonishing
conviction; "like Betty, for instance."

"Oh, you seem to have very definite ideas on that subject," MacRae
smiled. He did not commit himself further. But he resented the
suggestion. There was also an amusing phase of Nelly's declaration which
did not escape him,--the pot calling the kettle black. Etta
Robbin-Steele did flirt. She had dancing black eyes that flung a
challenge to men. But Nelly herself was no shrinking violet, for all her
baby face. She was like an elf. Her violet eyes were capable of
infinite shades of expression. She, herself, had a way of appropriating
men who pleased her, to the resentful dismay of other young women. It
pleased her to do that with Jack MacRae whenever he was available. And
until Betty had preempted a place in his heart without even trying, Jack
MacRae had been quite willing to let his fancy linger romantically on
Nelly Abbott.

As it was,--he looked across the room at Betty chatting with young Lane.
What a damned fool he was,--he, MacRae! All his wires were crossed. If
some inescapable human need urged him to love, how much better to love
this piquant bit of femininity beside him? But he couldn't do it. It
wasn't possible. All the old rebellion stirred in him. The locked
chambers of his mind loosed pictures of Squitty, memories of things
which had happened there, as he let his eyes drift from Betty, whom he
loved, to her mother, whom his father had loved and lost. She had made
his father suffer through love. Her daughter was making Donald MacRae's
son suffer likewise. Again, through some fantastic quirk of his
imagination, the stodgy figure of Horace Gower loomed in the background,
shadowy and sinister. There were moments, like the present, when he felt
hatred of the man concretely, as he could feel thirst or hunger.

"A penny for your thoughts," Nelly bantered.

"They'd be dear at half the price," MacRae said, forcing a smile.

He was glad when those people went their way. Nelly put on a coat and
went with them. Stubby drew Jack up to his den.

"I have bought up the controlling interest in the Terminal Fish Company
since I saw you last," Stubby began abruptly. "I'm going to put up a
cold-storage plant and do what my father started to do early in the
war--give people cheaper fish for food."

"Can you make it stick," MacRae asked curiously, "with the other
wholesalers against you? Their system seems to be to get all the traffic
will bear, to boost the price to the consumer by any means they can use.
And there is the Packers' Association. They are not exactly--well,
favorable to cheap retailing of fish. Everybody seems to think the
proper caper is to tack on a cent or two a pound wherever he can."

"I know I can," Stubby declared. "The pater would have succeeded only he
trusted too much to men who didn't see it his way. Look at Cunningham--"
Stubby mentioned a fish merchant who had made a resounding splash in
matters piscatorial for a year or two, and then faded, along with his
great cheap-fish markets, into oblivion--"he made it go like a house
afire until he saw a chance to make a quick and easy clean-up by
sticking people. It can be done, all right, if a man will be satisfied
with a small profit on a big turnover. I know it."

MacRae made no comment on that. Stubby was full of his plan, eager to
talk about its possibilities.

"I wanted to do it last year," he said, "but I couldn't. I had to play
the old game--make a bunch of money and make it quick. Between you and
Gower's pig-headedness, and the rest of the cannery crowd letting me go
till it was too late to stop me, and a climbing market, I made more
money in one season than I thought was possible. I'm going to use that
money to make more money and to squash some of these damned fish
pirates. I tell you it's jolly awful. We had baked cod for lunch to-day.
That fish cost twenty cents a pound. Think of it! When the fisherman
sells it for six cents within fifty miles of us. No wonder everybody is
howling. I don't know anything about other lines of food supply, but I
can sure put my finger on a bunch of fish profiteers. And I feel like
putting my foot on them. Anyway, I've got the Terminal for a starter;
also I have a twenty-five-year lease on the water frontage there. I have
the capital to go ahead and build a cold-storage plant. The wholesale
crowd can't possibly bother me. And the canneries are going to have
their hands full this season without mixing into a scrap over local
prices of fresh fish. You've heard about the new regulations?"

MacRae nodded assent.

"There's going to be a free-for-all," Stubby chuckled. "There'll be a
lot of independent purse seiners. If the canneries don't pay good prices
these independent fishermen, with their fast, powerful rigs, will seine
the salmon under the packers' noses and run their catch down to the
Puget Sound plants. This is no time for the British Columbia packers to
get uppish. Good-by, four hundred per cent."

"They'll wiggle through legislation to prevent export of raw salmon,"
MacRae suggested; "same as they have on the sockeye."

"No chance. They've tried, and it can't be done," Stubby grinned. "There
aren't going to be any special privileges for British Columbia salmon
packers any more. I know, because I'm on the inside. The fishermen have
made a noise that disturbs the politicians, I guess. Another thing,
there's a slack in the demand for all but the best grades of salmon. But
the number one grades, sockeye and blueback and coho, are short. So that
a cannery man with an efficient plant can pay big for those fish. If
you can hold that Squitty fleet of trollers like you did last year,
you'll make some money."

"Do you want those salmon?" MacRae asked.

"Sure I want them. I want them as soon as they begin to run big enough
to be legally taken for sale," Stubby declared. "I'm going to rush that
cold-storage construction. By the time you begin collecting bluebacks
I'll have a place for them, all you can buy. I'll have storage for three
hundred thousand fish. I'm going to buy everything and start half a
dozen retail stores at the same time. Just imagine the situation in this
burg of a hundred and fifty thousand people with waters that swarm with
fish right at our doors--salmon selling for thirty cents a pound, hardly
ever below twenty, other fish in about the same proportion. It's a
damned scandal, and I don't much blame a man who works for four dollars
a day thinking he might as well turn Bolshevik. I know that I can pay
twelve cents for salmon and make a good profit selling for sixteen. Can
you make money supplying me with bluebacks at twelve cents a pound?"

"Yes, more money than I made last year," MacRae replied--"unless Folly
Bay boosts prices to the sky in an effort to drive me out of business."

"I don't think there's much danger of that," Stubby said. "I doubt if
Folly Bay opens this season. It's reported that Gower is broke."

"Eh?" MacRae looked his doubt.

"That's what they say," Stubby went on. "It's common talk. He sold his
place in town a short while ago. He has the cannery on the market. And
there are no takers. Folly Bay used to be a little gold mine. But Gower
rode the fishermen too hard. And you balled things up last season. He
lost his grip. I suppose he was involved other ways, too. Lots of these
old-timers are, you know. Anyway, he seems to be trying to get out from
under. But nobody wants to take over a plant that has a black eye among
the men who catch the fish, in a territory where you appear to have a
pretty strong hold."

"At the same time, if I can pay so much for salmon, haul them up the
coast and make a profit on that, and if you can pay this advanced price
and pack them at a still bigger profit, why in blazes can't a plant
right there on the grounds pay top price and still make money?" MacRae
asked impatiently.

"Could," Stubby declared. "Certainly. But most men in the salmon canning
business aren't like you and me, Jack. They are used to big returns on a
three months' season. They simply can't stand the idea of paying out big
gobs of money to a sulky, un-shaven bohunk whose whole equipment isn't
worth a thousand dollars. They think any man in sea boots ought to be
damn well satisfied if he makes a living. They say high wages, or
returns, spoil fishermen. On top of these new regulations nobody hankers
to buy a plant where they might have to indulge in a price war with a
couple of crazy young fools like you and me--that's what they call us,
you know. That is why no experienced cannery man will touch Folly Bay
the way things stand now. It's a fairly good plant, too. I don't know
how Gower has managed to get in a hole. I don't believe one poor season
could do that to him. But he sure wants to get rid of Folly Bay. It is a
forty-thousand-dollar plant, including the gas boats. He has been
nibbling at an offer of twenty-five thousand. I know, because I made it
myself."

"What'll you do with it if you get it?" MacRae asked curiously. "It's
no good unless you get the fish. You'd have to put me out of business."

"Well, I wasn't exactly figuring on that," Stubby grinned. "In the first
place, the machinery and equipment is worth that much in the open
market. And if I get it, we'll either make a deal for collecting the
fish, or you can take a half-interest in the plant at the ground-floor
price. Either way, we can make it a profitable investment for both of
us."

"You really think Gower is in a bad way?" Jack asked reflectively.

"I know it," Stubby replied emphatically. "Oh, I don't mean to say that
abject poverty is staring him in the face, or anything like that. But it
looks to me as if he had lost a barrel of money somehow and was anxious
to get Folly Bay off his hands before it sets him further in the hole.
You could make Folly Bay pay big dividends. So could I. But so long as
you cover his ground with carriers, every day he operates is a dead
loss. I haven't much sympathy for him. He has made a fortune out of that
place and those fishermen and spent it making a big splurge in town.
Anyway, his wife has all kinds of kale, so we should worry about old
Horace A."

MacRae lit a cigarette and listened to the flow of Stubby's talk, with
part of his mind mulling over this information about Horace Gower. He
wondered if that was why Robbin-Steele was so keen on getting a contract
for those Squitty bluebacks, why Hurley of the Northwest wanted to make
a deal for salmon; if they reckoned that Gower had ceased to be a factor
and that Jack MacRae held the Squitty Island business in the hollow of
his hand. MacRae smiled to himself. If that were true it was an
advantage he meant to hold for his own good and the good of all those
hard-driven men who labored at the fishing. In a time that was
economically awry MacRae's sympathy turned more to those whose struggle
was to make a living, or a little more if they could, than to men who
already had more than they needed, men who had no use for more money
except to pile it up, to keep piling it up. MacRae was neither an
idealist nor a philanthropic dreamer. But he knew the under dog of the
great industrial scramble. In his own business he would go out of his
way to add another hundred dollars a year to a fisherman's earnings. He
did not know quite clearly why he felt like that. It was more or less
instinctive. He expected to make money out of his business, he was eager
to make money, but he saw very clearly that it was only in and through
the tireless labor of the fishermen that he could reap a profit. And he
was young enough to be generous in his impulses. He was not afraid, like
the older men, that if those who worked with their hands got a little
more than sufficient to live on from season to season they would grow
fat and lazy and arrogant, and refuse to produce.

Money was a necessity. Without it, without at least a reasonable amount
of money, a man could not secure any of the things essential to
well-being of either body or mind. The moneyless man was a slave so long
as he was moneyless. MacRae smiled at those who spoke slightingly of the
power of money. He knew they were mistaken. Money was king. No amount of
it, cash in hand, would purchase happiness, perhaps, but lack of it made
a man fall an easy victim to dire misfortunes. Without money a man was
less than the dirt beneath the feet of such as Robbin-Steele and Hurley
and Gower, because their criterion of another man's worth was his
ability to get money, to beat the game they all played.

MacRae put himself and Stubby Abbott in a different category. They
wanted to get on. They were determined to get on. But their programme of
getting on, MacRae felt, was a better one for themselves and for other
men than the mere instinct to grab everything in sight. MacRae was not
exactly a student of economics or sociology, but he had an idea that the
world, and particularly his group-world, was suffering from the
grab-instinct functioning without control. He had a theory that society
would have to modify that grab-instinct by legislation and custom before
the world was rid of a lot of its present ills. And both his reason and
his instinct was to modify it himself, in his dealings with his fellows,
more particularly when those he dealt with were simple, uneducated men
who worked as hard and complained as little as salmon fishermen.

He talked with Stubby in the den until late in the afternoon, and then
walked downtown. When he reached the Granada he loafed uneasily in the
billiard room until dinner. His mind persistently turned from material
considerations of boats and gear and the season's prospects to dwell
upon Betty Gower. This wayward questing of his mind irritated him. But
he could not help it. Whenever he met her, even if it were only a brief,
casual contact, for hours afterward he could not drive her out of his
mind. And he was making a conscious effort to do that. It was a matter
of sheer self-defense. Only when he shut Betty resolutely out of the
chambers of his brain could he be free of that hungry longing for her.
While he suffered from that vain longing there was neither peace nor
content in his life; he could get no satisfaction out of working or
planning or anything that he undertook.

That would wear off, he assured himself. But he did not always have
complete confidence in this assurance. He was aware of a tenacity of
impressions and emotions and ideas, once they took hold of him. Old
Donald MacRae had been afflicted with just such characteristics, he
remembered. It must be in the blood, that stubborn constancy to either
an affection or a purpose. And in him these two things were at war,
pulling him powerfully in opposite directions, making him unhappy.

Sitting deep in a leather chair, watching the white and red balls roll
and click on the green cloth, MacRae recalled one of the maxims of
Hafiz:

                "'Two things greater than all things are
                And one is Love and the other is War.'"

MacRae doubted this. He had had experience of both. At the moment he
could see nothing in either but vast accumulations of futile anguish
both of the body and the soul.




CHAPTER XVIII

A Renewal of Hostilities


The pussy willows had put out their fuzzy catkins and shed them for
delicate foliage when MacRae came back to Squitty Cove. The alder, the
maple and the wild cherry, all the spring-budding trees and shrubs, were
making thicket and foreshore dainty green and full of pleasant smells.
Jack wakened the first morning at daybreak to the muted orchestration of
mating birds, the song of a thousand sweet-voiced, unseen warblers. The
days were growing warm, full of sunshine. Distant mountain ranges stood
white-capped and purple against sapphire skies. The air was full of the
ancient magic of spring.

Yet MacRae himself, in spite of these pleasant sights and sounds and
smells, in spite of his books and his own rooftree, found the Cove
haunted by the twin ghosts he dreaded most, discontent and loneliness.
He was more isolated than he had ever been in his life. There was no one
in the Cove save an old, unkempt Swede, Doug Sproul, who slept eighteen
hours a day in his cabin while he waited for the salmon to run again, a
withered Portuguese who sat in the sun and muttered while he mended
gear. They were old men, human driftwood, beached in their declining
years, crabbed and sour, looking always backward with unconscious
regret.

Vin Ferrara was away with the _Bluebird_, still plying his fish venture.
Dolly and Norman Gower were married, and Dolly was back on the Knob in
the middle of Squitty Island, keeping house for her husband and Uncle
Peter and Long Tom Spence while they burrowed in the earth to uncover a
copper-bearing lead that promised a modest fortune for all three. Peter
Ferrara's house at the Cove stood empty and deserted in the spring sun.

People had to shift, to grasp opportunities as they were presented,
MacRae knew. They could not take root and stand still in one spot like
the great Douglas firs. But he missed the familiar voices, the sight of
friendly faces. He had nothing but his own thoughts to keep him company.
A man of twenty-five, a young and lusty animal of abounding vitality,
needs more than his own reflections to fill his days. Denied the outlet
of purposeful work in which to release pent-up energy, MacRae brooded
over shadows, suffered periods of unaccountable depression. Nature had
not designed him for either a hermit or a celibate. Something in him
cried out for affection, for companionship, for a woman's tenderness
bestowed unequivocally. The mating instinct was driving him, as it drove
the birds. But its urge was not the general, unspecified longing which
turns a man's eyes upon any desirable woman. Very clearly, imperiously,
this dominant instinct in MacRae had centered upon Betty Gower.

He was at war with his instincts. His mind stipulated that he could not
have her without a revolutionary overturning of his convictions,
inhibitions, soundly made and passionately cherished plans of reprisal
for old injustices. That peculiar tenacity of idea and purpose which was
inherent with him made him resent, refuse soberly to consider any
deviation from the purpose which had taken form with such bitter
intensity when he kindled to his father's account of those drab years
which Horace Gower had laid upon him.

Jack MacRae was no angel. Under his outward seeming his impulses were
primitive, like the impulses of all strong men. He nursed a vision of
beating Gower at Gower's own game. He hugged to himself the ultimate
satisfaction of that. Even when he was dreaming of Betty, he was
mentally setting her aside until he had beaten her father to his knees
under the only sort of blows he could deal. Until he had made Gower know
grief and disappointment and helplessness, and driven him off the south
end of Squitty landless and powerless, he would go on as he had elected.
When he got this far Jack would sometimes say to himself in a spirit of
defiant recklessness that there were plenty of other women for whom
ultimately he could care as much. But he knew also that he would not say
that, nor even think it, whenever Betty Gower was within reach of his
hand or sound of his voice.

He walked sometimes over to Point Old and stared at the cottage, snowy
white against the tender green, its lawn growing rank with uncut grass,
its chimney dead. There were times when he wished he could see smoke
lifting from that chimney and know that he could find Betty somewhere
along the beach. But these were only times when his spirits were very
low.

Also he occasionally wondered if it were true, as Stubby Abbott
declared, that Gower had fallen into a financial hole. MacRae doubted
that. Men like Gower always got out of a hole. They were fierce and
remorseless pursuers of the main chance. When they were cast down they
climbed up straightway over the backs of lesser men. He thought of
Robbin-Steele. A man like that would die with the harness of the
money-game on his back, reaching for more. Gower was of the same type,
skillful in all the tricks of the game, ruthless, greedy for power and
schooled to grasp it in a bewildering variety of ways.

No, he rather doubted that Gower was broke, or even in any danger of
going broke. He hoped this might be true, in spite of his doubts, for it
meant that Gower would be compelled to sacrifice this six hundred acres
of MacRae land. The sooner the better. It was a pain to MacRae to see it
going wild. The soil Donald MacRae had cleared and turned to meadow, to
small fields of grain, was growing up to ferns and scrub. It had been a
source of pride to old Donald. He had visualized for his son more than
once great fields covered with growing crops, a rich and fruitful area,
with a big stone house looking out over the cliffs where ultimate
generations of MacRaes should live. If luck had not gone against old
Donald he would have made this dream come true. But life and Gower had
beaten him.

Jack MacRae knew this. It maddened him to think that this foundation of
a dream had become the plaything of his father's enemy, a neglected
background for a summer cottage which he only used now and then.

There might, however, be something in the statements Stubby had made.
MacRae recalled that Gower had not replaced the _Arrow_. The
underwriters had raised and repaired the mahogany cruiser, and she had
passed into other hands. When Betty and her father came to Cradle Bay
they came on a cannery tender or a hired launch. MacRae hoped it might
be true that Gower was slipping, that he had helped to start him on this
decline.

Presently the loneliness of the Cove was broken by the return of
Vincent Ferrara. They skidded the _Bluebird_ out on the beach at the
Cove's head and overhauled her inside and out, hull and machinery. That
brought them well into April. The new carrier was complete from truck to
keelson. She had been awaiting only MacRae's pleasure for her maiden
sea-dip. So now, with the _Bluebird_ sleeked with new paint, he went
down for the launching.

There was a little ceremony over that.

"It's bad luck, the very worst sort of luck, to launch a boat without
christening her in the approved manner," Nelly Abbott declared. "I
insist on being sponsor. Do let me, Jack."

So the new sixty-footer had a bottle of wine from the Abbott cellar
broken over her brass-bound stemhead as her bows sliced into the salt
water, and Nelly's clear treble chanted:

"I christen thee _Agua Blanco_."

Vin Ferrara's dark eyes gleamed, for _agua blanco_ means "white water"
in the Spanish tongue.

The Terminal Fish Company's new coolers were yawning for fish when the
first blueback run of commercial size showed off Gray Rock and the
Ballenas. All the Squitty boats went out as soon as the salmon came.
MacRae skippered the new and shining _Blanco_, brave in white paint and
polished brass on her virgin trip. He followed the main fleet, while the
_Bluebird_ scuttled about to pick up stray trollers' catches and to tend
the rowboat men. She would dump a day's gathering on the _Blanco's_
deck, and the two crews would dress salmon till their hands were sore.
But it saved both time and fuel to have that great carrying capacity,
and the freezing plant which automatically chilled the fish. MacRae
could stay on the grounds till he was fully loaded. He could slash
through to Vancouver at nine knots instead of seven. A sea that would
toss the old wrecked _Blackbird_ like a dory and keep her low decks
continually awash let the _Blanco_ pass with only a moderate pitch and
roll.

MacRae worked hard. He found ease in work. When the last salmon was
dressed and stowed below, many times under the glow of electric bulbs
strung along the cargo boom, he would fall into his bunk and sleep
dreamlessly. Decks streaming with blood and offal, plastered with slime
and clinging scales--until such time as they were washed down--ceased to
annoy him. No man can make omelettes without breaking eggs. Only the
fortunate few can make money without soiling their hands. There is no
room in the primary stages of taking salmon for those who shrink from
sweat and strain, from elemental stress. The white-collared and the
lily-fingered cannot function there. The pink meat my lady toys with on
Limoges china comes to her table by ways that would appal her. Only the
men who toil aboard the fishing boats, with line and gear and gutting
knife know in what travail this harvest of the sea is reaped.

MacRae played fair, according to his conception of fair play. He based
his payments on a decent profit, without which he could not carry on.
Running heavier cargoes at less cost he raised the price to the
fishermen as succeeding runs of blueback salmon were made up of larger,
heavier fish. Other buyers came, lingered awhile, cursed him and went
away. They could not run to Vancouver with small quantities of salmon
and meet his price. But MacRae in the _Blanco_ could take six, eight,
ten thousand salmon profitably on a margin which the other buyers said
was folly.

The trolling fleet swelled in numbers. The fish were there. The
old-timers had prophesied a big blueback year, and for once their
prophecy was by way of being fulfilled. The fish schooled in great
shoals off Nanaimo, around Gray Rock, the Ballenas, passed on to
Sangster and Squitty. And the fleet followed a hundred strong, each day
increasing,--Indians, Greeks, Japanese, white men, raking the salmon
grounds with glittering spoon hooks, gathering in the fish.

In early June MacRae was delivering eighteen thousand salmon a week to
the Terminal Fish Company. He was paying forty cents a fish, more than
any troller in the Gulf of Georgia had ever got for June bluebacks, more
than any buyer had ever paid before the opening of the canneries
heightened the demand. He was clearing nearly a thousand dollars a week
for himself, and he was putting unheard-of sums in the pockets of the
fishermen. MacRae believed these men understood how this was possible,
that they had a feeling of cooeperating with him for their common good.
They had sold their catches on a take-it-or-leave-it basis for years. He
had put a club in their hands as well as money in their pockets. They
would stand with him against less scrupulous, more remorseless
exploiters of their labor. They would see that he got fish. They told
him that.

"If somebody else offered sixty cents you'd sell to him, wouldn't you?"
MacRae asked a dozen of them sitting on the _Blanco's_ deck one
afternoon. They had been talking about canneries and competition.

"Not if he was boosting the price up just to make you quit, and then cut
it in two when he had everything to himself," one man said. "That's been
done too often."

"Remember that when the canneries open, then," MacRae said dryly.
"There is not going to be much, of a price for humps and dog salmon this
fall. But there is going to be a scramble for the good canning fish. I
can pay as much as salmon are worth, but I can't go any further. If I
should have to pull my boats off in mid-season you can guess what
they'll pay around Squitty."

MacRae was not crying "wolf." There were signs and tokens of uneasiness
and irritation among those who still believed it was their right and
privilege to hold the salmon industry in the hollows of their grasping
hands. Stubby Abbott was a packer. He had the ears of the other packers.
They were already complaining to Stubby, grouching about MacRae, unable
to understand that Stubby listened to them with his tongue in his cheek,
that one of their own class should have a new vision of industrial
processes, a vision that was not like their own.

"They're cultivating quite a grievance about the price you're paying,"
Stubby told Jack in confidence. "They say you are a damned fool. You
could get those fish for thirty cents and you are paying forty. The
fishermen will want the earth when the canneries open. They hint around
that something will drop with a loud bang one of these days. I think
it's just hot air. They can't hurt either of us. I'll get a fair pack at
Crow Harbor, and I'll have this plant loaded. I've got enough money to
carry on. It makes me snicker to myself to imagine how they'll squirm
and squeal next winter when I put frozen salmon on the market ten cents
a pound below what they figure on getting. Oh, yes, our friends in the
fish business are going to have a lot of grievances. But just now they
are chiefly grouching at you."

MacRae seldom set foot ashore those crowded days. But he passed within
sight of Squitty Cove and Poor Man's Rock once at least in each
forty-eight hours. For weeks he had seen smoke drifting blue from the
cottage chimney in Cradle Bay. He saw now and then the flutter of
something white or blue on the lawn that he knew must be Betty. Part of
the time a small power boat swung to the mooring in the bay where the
shining _Arrow_ nosed to wind and tide in other days. He heard current
talk among the fishermen concerning the Gowers. Gower himself was
spending his time between the cottage and Folly Bay.

The cannery opened five days in advance of the sockeye season on the
Fraser. When the Gower collecting boats made their first round MacRae
knew that he had a fight on his hands. Gower, it seemed to him, had
bared his teeth at last.

The way of the blueback salmon might have furnished a theme for Solomon.
In all the years during which these fish had run in the Gulf of Georgia
neither fishermen, canners, nor the government ichthyologists were
greatly wiser concerning their nature or habits or life history. Grounds
where they swarmed one season might prove barren the next. Where they
came from, out of what depths of the far Pacific those silvery hordes
marshaled themselves, no man knew. Nor, when they vanished in late
August, could any man say whither they went. They did not ascend the
streams. No blueback was ever taken with red spawn in his belly. They
were a mystery which no man had unraveled, no matter that he took them
by thousands in order that he himself might subsist upon their flesh.
One thing the trollers did know,--where the small feed swarmed, in shoal
water or deep, those myriads of tiny fish, herring and nameless smaller
ones, there the blueback would appear, and when he did so appear he
could be taken by a spoon hook.

Away beyond the Sisters--three gaunt gray rocks rising out of the sea
miles offshore in a fairway down which passed all the Alaska-bound
steamers, with a lone lighthouse on the middle rock--away north of Folly
Bay there opened wide trolling grounds about certain islands which lay
off the Vancouver Island shore,--Hornby, Lambert Channel, Yellow Rock,
Cape Lazo. In other seasons the blueback runs lingered about Squitty for
a while and then passed on to those kelp-grown and reef-strewed grounds.
This season these salmon appeared first far south of Squitty. The
trolling scouts, the restless wanderers of the fleet, who could not
abide sitting still and waiting in patience for the fish to come, first
picked them up by the Gulf Islands, very near that great highway to the
open sea known as the Strait of San Juan. The blueback pushed on the
Gray Rock to the Ballenas, as if the blackfish and seal and shark that
hung always about the schools to prey were herding them to some given
point. Very shortly after they could be taken in the shadow of the
Ballenas light the schools swarmed about the Cove end of Squitty Island,
between the Elephant on Sangster and Poor Man's Rock. For days on end
the sea was alive with them. In the gray of dawn and the reddened dusk
they played upon the surface of the sea as far as the eye reached. And
always at such times they struck savagely at a glittering spoon hook.
Beyond Squitty they vanished. Fifty and sixty salmon daily to a boat off
the Squitty headlands dwindled to fifteen and twenty at the Folly Bay
end. Those restless trollers who crossed the Gulf to Hornby and Yellow
Rock Light got little for their pains. Between Folly Bay and the
swirling tide races off the desolate head of Cape Mudge the blueback
disappeared. But at Squitty the runs held constant. There were off days,
but the fish were always there. The trollers hung at the south end,
sheltering at night in the Cove, huddled rubstrake to rubstrake and bow
to stern, so many were they in that little space, on days when the
southeaster made the cliffs shudder under the shock of breaking seas. If
fishing slackened for a day or two they did not scatter as in other
days. There would be another run hard on the heels of the last. And
there was.

MacRae ran the _Blanco_ into Squitty Cove one afternoon and made fast
alongside the _Bluebird_ which lay to fore and aft moorings in the
narrow gut of the Cove. The Gulf outside was speckled with trollers, but
there were many at anchor, resting, or cooking food.

One of the mustard pots was there, a squat fifty-foot carrier painted a
gaudy yellow--the Folly Bay house color--flying a yellow flag with a
black C in the center. She was loading fish from two trollers, one lying
on each side. One or two more were waiting, edging up.

"He came in yesterday afternoon after you left," Vin Ferrara told Jack.
"And he offered forty-five cents. Some of them took it. To-day he's
paying fifty and hinting more if he has to."

MacRae laughed.

"We'll match Gower's price till he boosts us out of the bidding," he
said. "And he won't make much on his pack if he does that."

"Say, Folly Bay," Jack called across to the mustard-pot carrier, "what
are you paying for bluebacks?"

The skipper took his eye off the tallyman counting in fish.

"Fifty cents," he answered in a voice that echoed up and down the Cove.

"That must sound good to the fishermen," MacRae called back pleasantly.
"Folly Bay's getting generous in its declining years."

It was the off period between tides. There were forty boats at rest in
the Cove and more coming in. The ripple of laughter that ran over the
fleet was plainly audible. They could appreciate that. MacRae sat down
on the _Blanco's_ after cabin and lit a cigarette.

"Looks like they mean to get the fish," Vin hazarded. "Can you tilt that
and make anything?"

"Let them do the tilting," MacRae answered. "If the fish run heavy I can
make a little, even if prices go higher. If he boosts them to
seventy-five, I'd have to quit. At that price only the men who catch the
fish will make anything. I really don't know how much we will be able to
pay when Crow Harbor opens up."

"We'll have some fun anyway." Vin's black eyes sparkled.

It took MacRae three days to get a load. Human nature functions pretty
much the same among all men. The trollers distrusted Folly Bay. They
said to one another that if Gower could kill off competition he would
cut the price to the bone. He had done that before. But when a fisherman
rises wearily from his bunk at three in the morning and spends the bulk
of the next eighteen hours hauling four one hundred and fifty foot
lines, each weighted with from six to fifteen pounds of lead, he feels
that he is entitled to every cent he can secure for his day's labor.

The Gower boats got fish. The mustard pot came back next day, paying
fifty-five cents. A good many trollers sold him their fish before they
learned that MacRae was paying the same. And the mustard pot evidently
had his orders, for he tilted the price to sixty, which forced MacRae to
do the same.

When the _Blanco_ unloaded her cargo of eight-thousand-odd salmon into
the Terminal and MacRae checked his receipts and expenditures for that
trip, he discovered that he had neither a profit nor a loss.

He went to see Stubby, explained briefly the situation.

"You can't get any more cheap salmon for cold storage until the seiners
begin to take coho, that's certain," he declared. "How far can you go in
this price fight when you open the cannery?"

"Gower appears to have gone a bit wild, doesn't he?" Stubby ruminated.
"Let's see. Those fish are running about five pounds now. They'll get a
bit heavier as we go along. Well, I can certainly pack as cheaply as he
can. I tell you, go easy for a week, till I get Crow Harbor under way.
Then you can pay up to seventy-five cents and I'll allow you five cents
a fish commission. I don't believe he'll dare pay more than that before
late in July. If he does, why, we'll see what we can do."

MacRae went back to Squitty. He could make money with the _Blanco_ on a
five-cent commission,--if he could get the salmon within the price
limit. So for the next trip or two he contented himself with meeting
Gower's price and taking what fish came to him. The Folly Bay mustard
pots--three of them great and small--scurried here and there among the
trollers, dividing the catch with the _Bluebird_ and the _Blanco_. There
was always a mustard-pot collector in sight. The weather was getting
hot. Salmon would not keep in a troller's hold. Part of the old guard
stuck tight to MacRae. But there were new men fishing; there were
Japanese and illiterate Greeks. It was not to be expected that these men
should indulge in far-sighted calculations. But it was a trifle
disappointing to see how readily any troller would unload his catch into
a mustard pot if neither of MacRae's carriers happened to be at hand.

"Why don't you tie up your boats, Jack?" Vin asked angrily. "You know
what would happen. Gower would drop the price with a bang. You'd think
these damned idiots would know that. Yet they're feeding him fish by the
thousand. They don't appear to care a hoot whether you get any or not. I
used to think fishermen had some sense. These fellows can't see an inch
past their cursed noses. Pull off your boats for a couple of weeks and
let them get their bumps."

"What do you expect?" MacRae said lightly. "It's a scramble, and they
are acting precisely as they might be expected to act. I don't blame
them. They're under the same necessity as the rest of us--to get it
while they can. Did you think they'd sell me fish for sixty if somebody
else offered sixty-five? You know how big a nickel looks to a man who
earns it as hard as these fellows do."

"No, but they don't seem to care who gets their salmon," Vin growled.
"Even when you're paying the same, they act like they'd just as soon
Gower got 'em as you. You paid more than Folly Bay all last season. You
put all kinds of money in their pockets that you didn't have to."

"And when the pinch comes, they'll remember that," MacRae said. "You
watch, Vin. The season is young yet. Gower may beat me at this game, but
he won't make any money at it."

MacRae kept abreast of Folly Bay for ten days and emerged from that
period with a slight loss, because at the close he was paying more than
the salmon were worth at the Terminal warehouse. But when he ran his
first load into Crow Harbor Stubby looked over the pile of salmon his
men were forking across the floor and drew Jack into his office.

"I've made a contract for delivery of my entire sockeye and blueback
pack," he said. "I know precisely where I stand. I can pay up to ninety
cents for all July fish. I want all the Squitty bluebacks you can get.
Go after them, Jack."

And MacRae went after them. Wherever a Folly Bay collector went either
the _Blanco_ or the _Bluebird_ was on his heels. MacRae could cover more
ground and carry more cargo, and keep it fresh, than any mustard pot.
The _Bluebird_ covered little outlying nooks, the stragglers, the
rowboat men in their beach camps. The _Blanco_ kept mostly in touch with
the main fleet patrolling the southeastern end of Squitty like a naval
flotilla, wheeling and counterwheeling over the grounds where the
blueback played. MacRae forced the issue. He raised the price to
sixty-five, to seventy, to seventy-five, to eighty, and the boats under
the yellow house flag had to pay that to get a fish. MacRae crowded them
remorselessly to the limit. So long as he got five cents a fish he could
make money. He suspected that it cost Gower a great deal more than five
cents a salmon to collect what he got. And he did not get so many now.
With the opening of the sockeye season on the Fraser and in the north
the Japs abandoned trolling for the gill net. The white trollers
returned to their first love because he courted them assiduously. There
was always a MacRae carrier in the offing. It cost MacRae his sleep and
rest, but he drove himself tirelessly. He could leave Squitty at dusk,
unload his salmon at Crow Harbor, and be back at sunrise. He did it many
a time, after tallying fish all day. Three hours' sleep was like a gift
from the gods. But he kept it up. He had a sense of some approaching
crisis.

By the third week in July MacRae was taking three fourths of the
bluebacks caught between the Ballenas and Folly Bay. He would lie
sometimes within a stone's throw of Gower's cannery, loading salmon.

He was swinging at anchor there one day when a rowboat from the cannery
put out to the _Blanco_. The man in it told MacRae that Gower would like
to see him. MacRae's first impulse was to grin and ignore the request.
Then he changed his mind, and taking his own dinghy rowed ashore. Some
time or other he would have to meet his father's enemy, face him, talk
to him, listen to what he might say, tell him things. Curiosity was
roused in him a little now. He desired to know what Gower had to say. He
wondered if Gower was weakening; what he could want.

He found Gower in a cubby-hole of an office behind the cannery store.

"You wanted to see me," MacRae said curtly.

He was in sea boots, bareheaded. His shirt sleeves were rolled above
sun-browned forearms. He stood before Gower with his hands thrust in the
pockets of duck overalls speckled with fish scales, smelling of salmon.
Gower stared at him silently, critically, it seemed to MacRae, for a
matter of seconds.

"What's the sense in our cutting each other's throats over these fish?"
Gower asked at length. "I've been wanting to talk to you for quite a
while. Let's get together. I--"

MacRae's temper flared.

"If that's what you want," he said, "I'll see you in hell first."

He turned on his heel and walked out of the office. When he stepped into
his dinghy he glanced up at the wharf towering twenty feet above his
head. Betty Gower was sitting on a pile head. She was looking down at
him. But she was not smiling. And she did not speak. MacRae rowed back
to the _Blanco_ in an ugly mood.

In the next forty-eight hours Folly Bay jumped the price of bluebacks to
ninety cents, to ninety-five, to a dollar. The _Blanco_ wallowed down to
Crow Harbor with a load which represented to MacRae a dead loss of four
hundred dollars cash.

"He must be crazy," Stubby fumed. "There's no use canning salmon at a
loss."

"Has he reached the loss point yet?" MacRae inquired.

"He's shaving close. No cannery can make anything worth reckoning at a
dollar or so a case profit."

"Is ninety cents and five cents' commission your limit?" MacRae
demanded.

"Just about," Stubby grunted. "Well"--reluctantly--"I can stand a
dollar. That's the utmost limit, though. I can't go any further."

"And if he gets them all at a dollar or more, he'll be canning at a dead
loss, eh?"

"He certainly will," Stubby declared. "Unless he cans 'em heads, tails,
and scales, and gets a bigger price per case than has been offered yet."

MacRae went back to Squitty with a definite idea in his mind. Gower had
determined to have the salmon. Very well, then, he should have them. But
he would have to take them at a loss, in so far as MacRae could inflict
loss upon him. He knew of no other way to hurt effectively such a man as
Gower. Money was life blood to him, and it was not of great value to
MacRae as yet. With deliberate calculation he decided to lose the
greater part of what he had made, if for every dollar he lost himself he
could inflict equal or greater loss on Gower.

The trailers who combed the Squitty waters were taking now close to five
thousand salmon a day. Approximately half of these went to Folly Bay.
MacRae took the rest. In this battle of giants the fishermen had lost
sight of the outcome. They ceased to care who got fish. They only
watched eagerly for him who paid the biggest price. They were making
thirty, forty, fifty dollars a day. They no longer held salmon--only a
few of the old-timers--for MacRae's carriers. It was nothing to them who
made a profit or suffered a loss. Only a few of the older men wondered
privately how long MacRae could stand it and what would happen when he
gave up.

MacRae met every raise Folly Bay made. He saw bluebacks go to a dollar
ten, then to a dollar fifteen. He ran cargo after cargo to Crow Harbor
and dropped from three to seven hundred dollars on each load, until even
Stubby lost patience with him.

"What's the sense in bucking him till you go broke? I'm in too deep to
stand any loss myself. Quit. Tie up your boats, Jack. Let him have the
salmon. Let those blockheads of fishermen see what he'll do to 'em once
you stop."

But MacRae held on till the first hot days of August were at hand and
his money was dwindling to the vanishing point. Then he ran the _Blanco_
and the _Bluebird_ into Squitty Cove and tied them to permanent
moorings in shoal water near the head. For a day or two the salmon had
shifted mysteriously to the top end, around Folly Bay and the Siwash
Islands and Jenkins Pass. The bulk of the fleet had followed them. Only
a few stuck to the Cove and Poor Man's Rock. To these and the rowboat
trollers MacRae said:

"Sell your fish to Folly Bay. I'm through."

Then he lay down in his bunk in the airy pilot house of the _Blanco_ and
slept the clock around, the first decent rest he had taken in two
months. He had not realized till then how tired he was.

When he wakened he washed, ate, changed his clothes and went for a walk
along the cliffs to stretch his legs. Vin had gone up to the Knob to see
Dolly and Uncle Peter. His helper on the _Bluebird_ was tinkering about
his engine. MacRae's two men loafed on the clean-slushed deck. They were
none of them company for MacRae in his present mood. He sought the
cliffs to be alone.

Gower had beaten him, it would seem. And MacRae did not take kindly to
being beaten. But he did not think this was the end yet. Gower would do
as he had done before. When he felt himself secure in his monopoly he
would squeeze the fishermen, squeeze them hard. And as soon as he did
that MacRae would buy again. He could not make any money himself,
perhaps. But he could make Gower operate at a loss. That would be
something accomplished.

MacRae walked along the cliffs until he saw the white cottage, and saw
also that some one sat on the steps in the sun. Whereupon he turned
back. He didn't want to see Betty. He conceived that to be an ended
chapter in his experiences. He had hurt her, and she had put on her
armor against another such hurt. There was a studied indifference about
her now, when he met her, which hurt him terribly. He supposed that in
addition to his own incomprehensible attitude which she resented, she
took sides with her father in this obvious commercial warfare which was
bleeding them both financially. Very likely she saw in this only the
open workings of his malice toward Gower. In which MacRae admitted she
would be quite correct. He had not been able to discover in that
flaring-up of passion for Betty any reason for a burial of his feud with
Gower. There was in him some curious insistence upon carrying this to
the bitter end. And his hatred of Gower was something alive, vital,
coloring his vision somberly. The shadow of the man lay across his life.
He could not ignore this, and his instinct was for reprisal. The
fighting instinct in MacRae lurked always very near the surface.

He spent a good many hours during the next three or four days lying in
the shade of a gnarly arbutus which gave on the cliffs. He took a book
up there with him, but most of the time he lay staring up at the blue
sky through the leaves, or at the sea, or distant shore lines, thinking
always in circles which brought him despairingly out where he went in.
He saw a mustard pot slide each day into the Cove and pass on about its
business. There was not a great deal to be got in the Cove. The last gas
boat had scuttled away to the top end, where the blueback were schooling
in vast numbers. There were still salmon to be taken about Poor Man's
Rock. The rowboat men took a few fish each day and hoped for another big
run.

There came a day when the mustard pot failed to show in the Cove. The
rowboat men had three hundred salmon, and they cursed Folly Bay with a
fine flow of epithet as they took their rotting fish outside the Cove
and dumped them in the sea. Nor did a Gower collector come, although
there was nothing in the wind or weather to stop them. The rowboat
trollers fumed and stewed and took their troubles to Jack MacRae. But he
could neither inform nor help them.

Then upon an evening when the sun rested on the serrated backbone of
Vancouver Island, a fiery ball against a sky of burnished copper,
flinging a red haze down on a slow swell that furrowed the Gulf, Jack
MacRae, perched on a mossy boulder midway between the Cove and Point
Old, saw first one boat and then another come slipping and lurching
around Poor Man's Rock. Converted Columbia River sailboats, Cape
Flattery trollers, double-enders, all the variegated craft that
fishermen use and traffic with, each rounded the Rock and struck his
course for the Cove, broadside on to the rising swell, their twenty-foot
trolling poles lashed aloft against a stumpy mast and swinging in a
great arc as they rolled. One, ten, a dozen, an endless procession,
sometimes three abreast, again a string in single file. MacRae was
reminded of the march of the oysters--

                "So thick and fast they came at last,
                And more and more and more."

He sat watching them pass, wondering why the great trek. The trolling
fleet normally shifted by pairs and dozens. This was a squadron
movement, the Grand Fleet steaming to some appointed rendezvous. MacRae
watched till the sun dipped behind the hills, and the reddish tint left
the sea to linger briefly on the summit of the Coast Range flanking the
mainland shore. The fish boats were still coming, one behind the other,
lurching and swinging in the trough of the sea, rising and falling,
with wheeling gulls crying above them. On each deck a solitary fisherman
humped over his steering gear. From each cleaving stem the bow-wave
curled in white foam.

There was something in the wind. MacRae felt it like a premonition. He
left his boulder and hurried back toward the Cove.

The trolling boats were packed about the _Blanco_ so close that MacRae
left his dinghy on the outer fringe and walked across their decks to the
deck of his own vessel. The _Blanco_ loomed in the midst of these lesser
craft like a hen over her brood of chicks. The fishermen had gathered on
the nearest boats. A dozen had clambered up and taken seats on the
_Blanco's_ low bulwarks. MacRae gained his own deck and looked at them.

"What's coming off?" he asked quietly. "You fellows holding a convention
of some sort?"

One of the men sitting on the big carrier's rail spoke.

"Folly Bay's quit--shut down," he said sheepishly. "We come to see if
you'd start buying again."

MacRae sat down on one sheave of his deck winch. He took out a cigarette
and lighted it, swung one foot back and forth. He did not make haste to
reply. An expectant hush fell on the crowd. In the slow-gathering dusk
there was no sound but the creak of rubbing gunwales, the low snore of
the sea breaking against the cliffs, and the chug-chug of the last
stragglers beating into the shelter of the Cove.

"He shut down the cannery," the fishermen's spokesman said at last. "We
ain't seen a buyer or collector for three days. The water's full of
salmon, an' we been suckin' our thumbs an' watching 'em play. If you
won't buy here again we got to go where there is buyers. And we'd
rather not do that. There's no place on the Gulf as good fishin' as
there is here now."

"What was the trouble?" MacRae asked absently. "Couldn't you supply him
with fish?"

"Nobody knows. There was plenty of salmon. He cut the price the day
after you tied up. He cut it to six bits. Then he shut down. Anyway, we
don't care why he shut down. It don't make no difference. What we want
is for you to start buyin' again. Hell, we're losin' money from daylight
to dark! The water's alive with salmon. An' the season's short. Be a
sport, MacRae."

MacRae laughed.

"Be a sport, eh?" he echoed with a trace of amusement in his tone. "I
wonder how many of you would have listened to me if I'd gone around to
you a week ago and asked you to give me a sporting chance?"

No one answered. MacRae threw away his half-smoked cigarette. He stood
up.

"All right, I'll buy salmon again," he said quietly. "And I won't ask
you to give me first call on your catch or a chance to make up some of
the money I lost bucking Folly Bay, or anything like that. But I want to
tell you something. You know it as well as I do, but I want to jog your
memory with it."

He raised his voice a trifle.

"You fellows know that I've always given you a square deal. You aren't
fishing for sport. You're at this to make a living, to make money if you
can. So am I. You are entitled to all you can get. You earn it. You work
for it. So am I entitled to what I can make. I work, I take certain
chances. Neither of us is getting something for nothing. But there is a
limit to what either of us can get. We can't dodge that. You fellows
have been dodging it. Now you have to come back to earth.

"No fisherman can get the prices you have had lately. No cannery can
pack salmon at those prices. Sockeye, the finest canning salmon that
swims in the sea, is bringing eighty cents on the Fraser. Bluebacks are
sixty-five cents at Nanaimo, sixty at Cape Mudge, sixty at the
Euclataws.

"I can do a little better than that," MacRae hesitated a second. "I can
pay a little more, because the cannery I'm supplying is satisfied with a
little less profit than most. Stubby Abbott is not a hog, and neither am
I. I can pay seventy-five cents and make money. I have told you before
that it is to your interest as well as mine to keep me running. I will
always pay as much as salmon are worth. But I cannot pay more. If your
appreciation of Folly Bay's past kindness to you is so keen that you
would rather sell him your fish, why, that's your privilege."

"Aw, that's bunk," a man called. "You know blamed well we wouldn't. Not
after him blowin' up like this."

"How do I know?" MacRae laughed. "If Gower opened up to-morrow again and
offered eighty or ninety cents, he'd get the salmon--even if you knew he
would make you take thirty once he got you where he wanted you."

"Would he?" another voice uprose. "The next time a mustard pot gets any
salmon from me, it'll be because there's no other buyer and no other
grounds to fish."

A growled chorus backed this reckless statement.

"That's all right," MacRae said good-naturedly. "I don't blame you for
picking up easy money. Only easy money isn't always so good as it
looks. Fly at it in the morning, and I'll take the fish at the price
I've said. If Folly Bay gets into the game again, it's up to you."

When the lights were doused and every fisherman was stretched in his
bunk, falling asleep to the slow beat of a dead swell breaking in the
Cove's mouth, Vin Ferrara stood up to seek his own bed.

"I wonder," he said to Jack, "I wonder why Gower shut down at this stage
of the game?"

MacRae shook his head. He was wondering that himself.




CHAPTER XIX

Top Dog


Some ten days later the _Bluebird_ swung at anchor in the kelp just
clear of Poor Man's Rock. From a speck on the horizon the _Blanco_ grew
to full shape, flaring bow and pilot house, walking up the Gulf with a
bone in her teeth. She bore down upon her consort, sidled alongside and
made fast with lines to the bitts fore and aft. Vin Ferrara threw back
his hatch covers. His helper forked up salmon with a picaroon. Vin
tossed them across into the _Blanco's_ hold. At the same time the larger
carrier's short, stout boom swung back and forth, dumping into the
_Bluebird's_ fish pens at each trip a hundred pounds of cracked ice.
Presently this work was done, the _Bluebird's_ salmon transferred to the
_Blanco_, the _Bluebird's_ pens replenished with four tons of ice.

Vin checked his tabs with the count of fish. The other men slushed decks
clean with buckets of sea water.

"Twenty-seven hundred," MacRae said. "Big morning. Every troller in the
Gulf must be here."

"No, I have to go to Folly Bay and Siwash Islands to-night," Vin told
him. "There's about twenty boats working there and at Jenkins Pass.
Salmon everywhere."

They sat in the shade of the _Blanco's_ pilot house. The sun beat
mercilessly, a dog-day sun blazing upon glassy waters, reflected upward
in eye-straining shafts. The heat seared. Within a radius of a mile
outside the Rock the trollers chug-chugged here and there, driving
straight ahead, doubling short, wheeling in slow circles, working the
eddies. They stood in the small cockpit aft, the short tiller between
their legs, leaving their hands free to work the gear. They stood out in
the hot sun without shade or cover, stripped to undershirt and duck
trousers, many of them barefooted, brown arms bare, wet lines gleaming.
Wherever a man looked some fisherman hauled a line. And everywhere the
mirror of the sea was broken by leaping salmon, silver crescents
flashing in the sun.

"Say, what do you know about it?" Vin smiled at MacRae. "Old Gower is
trolling."

"Trolling!"

"Rowboat. Plugging around the Rock. He was at it when daylight came. He
sold me fifteen fish. Think of it. Old H.A. rowboat trolling. Selling
his fish to you."

Vincent chuckled. His eyes rested curiously on Jack's face.

"Haughty spirit that goes before destruction, as Dolly used to say," he
rambled on. "Some come-down for him. He must be broke flat as a
flounder."

"He sold you his salmon?"

"Sure. Nobody else to sell 'em to, is there? Said he was trying his
hand. Seemed good-natured about it. Kinda pleased, in fact, because he
had one more than Doug Sproul. He started joshin' Doug. You know what a
crab old Doug is. He got crusty as blazes. Old Gower just grinned at him
and rowed off."

MacRae made no comment, and their talk turned into other channels until
Vin hauled his hook and bore away. MacRae saw to dropping the
_Blanco's_ anchor. He would lie there till dusk. Then he sat in the
shade again, looking up at the Gower cottage.

Gower was finished as an exploiter. There was no question about that.
When a man as big as he went down the crash set tongues wagging. All the
current talk reached MacRae through Stubby. That price-war had been
Gower's last kick, an incomprehensible, ill-judged effort to reestablish
his hold on the Squitty grounds, so it was said.

"He never was such a terribly big toad in the cannery puddle," Stubby
recited, "and I guess he has made his last splash. They always cut a
wide swath in town, and that sort of thing can sure eat up coin. I'm
kind of sorry for Betty. Still, she'll probably marry somebody with
money. I know two or three fellows who would be tickled to death to get
her."

"Why don't _you_ go to the rescue?" MacRae had suggested, with an irony
that went wide of the mark.

Stubby looked reflectively at his crippled arm.

"Last summer I would have," he said. "But she couldn't see me with a
microscope. And I've found a girl who seems to think a winged duck is
worth while."

"You'll be able to get hold of that ranch of yours again, probably,"
Stubby had also said. "The chances are old H.A. will raise what cash he
can and try to make a fresh start. It seems there has been friction in
the family, and his wife refused to come through with any of her
available cash. Seems kind of a complicated hole he got into. He's
cleaned, anyway. Robbin-Steele got all his cannery tenders and took over
several thousand cases of salmon. I hear he still has a few debts to be
settled when the cannery is sold. Why don't you figure a way of getting
hold of that cannery, Jack?"

"I'm no cannery man," MacRae replied. "Why don't you? I thought you
made him an offer."

"I withdrew it," Stubby said. "I have my hands full without that. You've
knocked about a hundred per cent off its value anyway."

"If I can get my father's land back I'll be satisfied," MacRae had said.

He was thinking about that now. He had taken the first steps toward that
end, which a year ago had seemed misty and rather hopeless. Gower rich,
impregnable, would hold that land for his own pleasure and satisfaction.
Beaten in the commercial scramble he might be forced to let it go. And
MacRae was ready to pay any price in reason to get it back. That seemed
a debt he owed old Donald MacRae, apart from his own craving to sometime
carry out plans they had made together long before he went away to
France. The lives of some men are rooted in the soil where they were
born, where they grow to manhood. Jack MacRae was of that type. He loved
the sea in all its moods and colors, its quiet calm and wildest storms.
But the sea was only his second love. He was a landsman at heart. All
seamen are. They come ashore when they are old and feeble, to give their
bodies at last to the earth. MacRae loved the sea, but he loved better
to stand on the slopes running back from Squitty's cliffs, to look at
those green meadows and bits of virgin forest and think that it would
all be his again, to have and to hold.

So he had set a firm in Vancouver the task of approaching Gower, to
sound him, to see if he would sell, while he kept in the background. He
believed that it was necessary for him to remain in the background. He
believed that Gower would never willingly relinquish that land into his
hands.

MacRae sat on the _Blanco's_ deck, nursing his chin in his palms,
staring at Poor Man's Rock with a grim satisfaction. About that lonely
headland strange things had come to pass. Donald MacRae had felt his
first abiding grief there and cried his hurt to a windy sky. He had
lived his last years snatching a precarious living from the seas that
swirled about the Rock. The man who had been the club with which fate
bludgeoned old Donald was making his last stand in sight of the Rock,
just as Donald MacRae had done. And when they were all dead and gone,
Poor Man's Rock would still bare its brown hummock of a head between
tides, the salmon would still play along the kelp beds, in the eddies
about the Rock. Other men would ply the gear and take the silver fish.
It would all be as if it had never happened. The earth and the sea
endured and men were passing shadows.

Afternoon waned. Faint, cool airs wavered off the land, easing the heat
and the sun-glare. MacRae saw Betty and her father come down to the
beach. She helped him slide his rowboat afloat. Then Gower joined the
rowers who were putting out to the Rock for the evening run. He passed
close by the _Blanco_ but MacRae gave him scant heed. His eyes were all
for the girl ashore. Betty sat on a log, bareheaded in the sun. MacRae
had a feeling that she looked at him. And she would be thinking,--God
only knew what.

In MacRae's mind arose the inevitable question,--one that he had choked
back dozens of times: Was it worth while to hurt her so, and himself,
because their fathers had fought, because there had been wrongs and
injustices? MacRae shook himself impatiently. He was backsliding.
Besides that unappeasable craving for her, vivid images of her with
tantalizing mouth, wayward shining hair, eyes that answered the passion
in his own, besides these luring pictures of her which troubled him
sometimes both in waking hours and sleeping, there was a strange,
deep-seated distrust of Betty because she was the daughter of her
father. That was irrational, and Jack MacRae knew it was irrational. But
he could not help it. It colored his thought of her. It had governed his
reactions.

MacRae himself could comprehend all too clearly the tragedy of his
father's life. But he doubted if any one else could. He shrank from
unfolding it even to Betty,--even to make clear to her why his hand must
be against her father. MacRae knew, or thought he knew--he had reasoned
the thing out many times in the last few months--that Betty would not
turn to him against her own flesh and blood without a valid reason. He
could not, even, in the name of love, cut her off from all that she had
been, from all that had made her what she was, and make her happy. And
MacRae knew that if they married and Betty were not happy and contented,
they would both be tigerishly miserable. There was only one possible
avenue, one he could not take. He could not seek peace with Gower, even
for Betty's sake.

MacRae considered moodily, viewing the matter from every possible angle.
He could not see where he could do other than as he was doing: keep
Betty out of his mind as much as possible and go on determinedly making
his fight to be top dog in a world where the weak get little mercy and
even the strong do not always come off unscarred.

Jack MacRae was no philosopher, nor an intellectual superman, but he
knew that love did not make the world go round. It was work. Work and
fighting. Men spent most of their energies in those two channels.

This they could not escape. Love only shot a rosy glow across life. It
did not absolve a man from weariness or scars. By it, indeed, he might
suffer greater stress and deeper scars. To MacRae, love, such as had
troubled his father's life and his own, seemed to be an emotion pregnant
with sorrow. But he could not deny the strange power of this thing
called love, when it stirred men and women.

His deck hand, who was also cook, broke into MacRae's reflections with a
call to supper. Jack went down the companion steps into a forepeak
stuffy with the heat of the sun and a galley stove, a cramped place
where they ate heartily despite faint odors of distillate and burned
lubricating oil from the engine room and bilge water that smelled of
fish.

A troller's boat was rubbing against the _Blanco's_ fenders when they
came on deck again. Others were hoisting the trolling poles, coming in
to deliver. The sun was gone. The long northern twilight cast a pearly
haze along far shores. MacRae threw open his hatches and counted the
salmon as they came flipping off the point of a picaroon. For over an
hour he stood at one hatch and his engineer at the other, counting fish,
making out sale slips, paying out money. It was still light--light
enough to read. But the bluebacks had stopped biting. The rowboat men
quit last of all. They sidled up to the _Blanco_, one after the other,
unloaded, got their money, and tied their rowboats on behind for a tow
around to the Cove.

Gower had rowed back and forth for three hours. MacRae had seen him
swing around the Rock, up under the cliffs and back again, pulling slow
and steady. He was last to haul in his gear. He came up to the carrier
and lay alongside Doug Sproul while that crabbed ancient chucked his
salmon on deck. Then he moved into the place Sproul vacated. The bottom
of his boat was bright with salmon. He rested one hand on the _Blanco's_
guard rail and took the pipe out of his mouth with the other.

"Hello, MacRae," he said, as casually as a man would address another
with whom he had slight acquaintance. "I've got some fish. D'you want
'em?"

MacRae looked down at him. He did not want Gower's fish or anything that
was Gower's. He did not want to see him or talk to him. He desired, in
so far as he was conscious of any desire in the matter, that Gower
should keep his distance. But he had a horror of meanness, of petty
spite. He could knock a man down with a good heart, if occasion arose.
It was not in him to kick a fallen enemy.

"Chuck them up," he said.

He counted them silently as they flipped over the bulwark and fell into
the chilly hold, marked a slip, handed Gower the money for them. The
hand that took the money, a pudgy hand all angry red from beating sun,
had blisters in the palm. Gower's face, like his hands, was brick red.
Already shreds of skin were peeling from his nose and cheeks. August sun
on the Gulf. MacRae knew its bite and sting. So had his father known. He
wondered if Gower ever thought about that now.

But there was in Gower's expression no hint of any disturbing thought.
He uttered a brief "thanks" and pocketed his money. He sat down and took
his oars in hand, albeit a trifle gingerly. And he said to old Doug
Sproul, almost jovially:

"Well, Doug, I got as many as you did, this trip."

"Didja?" Sproul snarled. "Kain't buy 'em cheap enough, no more, huh?
Gotta ketch 'em yourself, huh?"

"Hard-boiled old crab, aren't you, Doug?" Gower rumbled in his deep
voice. But he laughed. And he rowed away to the beach before his house.
MacRae watched. Betty came down to meet him. Together they hauled the
heavy rowboat out on skids, above the tide mark.

Nearly every day after that he saw Gower trolling around the Rock,
sometimes alone, sometimes with Betty sitting forward, occasionally
relieving him at the oars. No matter what the weather, if a rowboat
could work a line Gower was one of them. Rains came, and he faced them
in yellow oilskins. He sweltered under that fiery sun. If his life had
been soft and easy, softness and ease did not seem to be wholly
necessary to his existence, not even to his peace of mind. For he had
that. MacRae often wondered at it, knowing the man's history. Gower
joked his way to acceptance among the rowboat men, all but old Doug
Sproul, who had forgotten what it was to speak pleasantly to any one.

He caught salmon for salmon with these old men who had fished all their
lives. He sold his fish to the _Blanco_ or the _Bluebird_, whichever was
on the spot. The run held steady at the Cove end of Squitty, a
phenomenal abundance of salmon at that particular spot, and the _Blanco_
was there day after day.

And MacRae could not help pondering over Gower and his ways. He was
puzzled, not alone about Gower, but about himself. He had dreamed of a
fierce satisfaction in beating this man down, in making him know poverty
and work and privation,--rubbing his nose in the dirt, he had said to
himself.

He had managed it. Gower had joined the ranks of broken men. He was
finished as a figure in industry, a financial power. MacRae knew that,
beyond a doubt. Gower had debts and no assets save his land on the
Squitty cliffs and the closed cannery at Folly Bay. The cannery was a
white elephant, without takers in the market. No cannery man would touch
it unless he could first make a contract with MacRae for the bluebacks.
They had approached him with such propositions. Like wolves, MacRae
thought, seeking to pick the bones of one of their own pack who had
fallen.

And if MacRae needed other evidence concerning Gower, he had it daily
before his eyes. To labor at the oars, to troll early and late in
drizzling rain or scorching sunshine, a man only does that because he
must. MacRae's father had done it. As a matter of course, without
complaint, with unprotesting patience.

So did Gower. That did not fit Jack MacRae's conception of the man. If
he had not known Gower he would have set him down as a fat,
good-natured, kindly man with an infinite capacity for hard,
disagreeable work.

He never attempted to talk to MacRae. He spoke now and then. But there
was no hint of rancor in his silences. It was simply as if he understood
that MacRae did not wish to talk to him, and that he conceded this to be
a proper attitude. He talked with the fishermen. He joked with them. If
one slammed out at him now and then with a touch of the old resentment
against Folly Bay he laughed as if he understood and bore no malice. He
baffled MacRae. How could this man who had walked on fishermen's faces
for twenty years, seeking and exacting always his own advantage, playing
the game under harsh rules of his own devising which had enabled him to
win--until this last time--how could he see the last bit of prestige
wrested from him and still be cheerful? How could he earn his daily
bread in the literal sweat of his brow, endure blistered hands and sore
muscles and the sting of slime-poison in fingers cut by hooks and
traces, with less outward protest than men who had never known anything
else?

MacRae could find no answer to that. He could only wonder. He only knew
that some shift of chance had helped him to put Gower where Gower had
put his father. And there was no satisfaction in the achievement, no
sense of victory. He looked at the man and felt sorry for him, and was
uncomfortably aware that Gower, taking salmon for his living with other
poor men around Poor Man's Rock, was in no need of pity. This podgy man
with the bright blue eyes and heavy jaw, who had been Donald MacRae's
jealous Nemesis, had lost everything that was supposed to make life
worth living to men of his type. And he did not seem to care. He seemed
quite content to smoke a pipe and troll for salmon. He seemed to be a
stranger to suffering. He did not even seem to be aware of discomfort,
or of loss.

MacRae had wanted to make him suffer. He had imagined that poverty and
hard, dirty work would be the fittest requital he could bestow. If Jack
MacRae had been gifted with omnipotence when he read that penned history
of his father's life, he would have devised no fitter punishment, no
more fitting vengeance for Gower than that he should lose his fortune
and his prestige and spend his last years getting his bread upon the
waters by Poor Man's Rock in sun and wind and blowy weather.

And MacRae was conscious that if there were any suffering involved in
this matter now, it rested upon him, not upon Gower. Most men past
middle age, who have drunk deeply the pleasant wine of material
success, shrink from the gaunt specter of poverty. They have shot their
bolt. They cannot stand up to hard work. They cannot endure privation.
They lose heart. They go about seeking sympathy, railing against the
fate. They lie down and the world walks unheeding over their prone
bodies.

Gower was not doing that. If he had done so, MacRae would have sneered
at him with contempt. As it was, in spite of the rancor he had nursed,
the feeling which had driven him to reprisal, he found himself
sorry--sorry for himself, sorry for Betty. He had set out to bludgeon
Gower, to humiliate him, and the worst arrows he could sling had blunted
their points against the man's invulnerable spirit.

Betty had been used to luxury. It had not spoiled her. MacRae granted
that. It had not made her set great store by false values. MacRae was
sure of that. She had loved him simply and naturally, with an almost
primitive directness. Spoiled daughters of the leisure class are not so
simple and direct. MacRae began to wonder if she could possibly escape
resenting his share in the overturning of her father's fortunes, whereby
she herself must suffer.

By the time MacRae came slowly to these half-formed, disturbing
conclusions he was already upon the verge of other disturbing
discoveries in the realm of material facts.

For obvious reasons he could not walk up to Gower's house and talk to
Betty. At least he did not see how he could, although there were times
when he was tempted. When he did see her he was acutely sensitive to a
veiled reproach in her eyes, a courteous distance in her speech. She
came off the beach one day alone, a few minutes after MacRae dropped
anchor in the usual spot. She had a dozen salmon in the boat. When she
came alongside MacRae set foot over the bulwark with intent to load them
himself. She forestalled him by picking the salmon up and heaving them
on the _Blanco's_ deck. She was dressed for the work, in heavy nailed
shoes, a flannel blouse, a rough tweed skirt.

"Oh, say, take the picaroon, won't you?" He held it out to her, the
six-foot wooden shaft with a slightly curving point of steel on the end.

She turned on him with a salmon dangling by the gills from her fingers.

"You don't think I'm afraid to get my hands dirty, do you?" she asked.
"Me--a fisherman's daughter. Besides, I'd probably miss the salmon and
jab that pointed thing through the bottom of the boat."

She laughed lightly, with no particular mirth in her voice. And MacRae
was stricken dumb. She was angry. He knew it, felt it intuitively. Angry
at him, warning him to keep his distance. He watched her dabble her
hands in the salt chuck, dry them coolly on a piece of burlap. She took
the money for the fish with a cool "thanks" and rowed back to shore.

Jack lay in his bunk that night blasted by a gloomy sense of futility in
everything. He had succeeded in his undertaking beyond all the
expectations which had spurred him so feverishly in the beginning. But
there was no joy in it; not when Betty Gower looked at him with that
cold gleam in her gray eyes. Yet he told himself savagely that if he had
to take his choice he would not have done otherwise. And when he had
accomplished the last move in his plan and driven Gower off the island,
then he would have a chance to forget that such people had ever existed
to fill a man's days with unhappiness. That, it seemed to him, must be
the final disposition of this problem which his father and Horace Gower
and Elizabeth Morton had set for him years before he was born.

There came a burst of afternoon westerlies which blew small hurricanes
from noon to sundown. But there was always fishing under the broad lee
of the cliffs. The _Bluebird_ continued to scuttle from one outlying
point to another, and the _Blanco_ wallowed down to Crow Harbor every
other day with her hold crammed. When she was not under way and the sea
was fit the big carrier rode at anchor in the kelp close by Poor Man's
Rock, convenient for the trollers to come alongside and deliver when
they chose. There were squalls that blew up out of nowhere and drove
them all to cover. There were days when a dead swell rolled and the
trolling boats dipped and swung and pointed their bluff bows skyward as
they climbed the green mountains,--for the salmon strike when a sea is
on, and a troller runs from heavy weather only when he can no longer
handle his gear.

MacRae was much too busy to brood long at a time. The phenomenal run of
blueback still held, with here and there the hook-nosed coho coming in
stray schools. He had a hundred and forty fishermen to care for in the
matter of taking their catch, keeping them supplied with fuel, bringing
them foodstuffs such as they desired. The _Blanco_ came up from
Vancouver sometimes as heavily loaded as when she went down. But he
welcomed the work because it kept him from too intense thinking. He
shepherded his seafaring flock for his profit and theirs alike and
poured salmon by tens of thousands into the machines at Crow
Harbor,--red meat to be preserved in tin cans which in months to come
should feed the hungry in the far places of the earth.

MacRae sometimes had the strange fancy of being caught in a vast machine
for feeding the world, a machine which did not reckon such factors as
pain and sorrow in its remorseless functioning. Men could live without
love or ease or content. They could not survive without food.

He came up to Squitty one bright afternoon when the sea was flat and
still, unharassed by the westerly. The Cove was empty. All the fleet was
scattered over a great area. The _Bluebird_ was somewhere on her rounds.
MacRae dropped the _Blanco's_ hook in the middle of Cradle Bay, a spot
he seldom chose for anchorage. But he had a purpose in this. When the
bulky carrier swung head to the faint land breeze MacRae was sitting on
his berth in the pilot house, glancing over a letter he held in his
hand. It was from a land-dealing firm in Vancouver. One paragraph is
sufficiently illuminating:

      In regard to the purchase of this Squitty Island property we beg
      to advise you that Mr. Gower, after some correspondence, states
      distinctly that while he is willing to dispose of this property
      he will only deal directly with a _bona fide_ purchaser.

      We therefore suggest that you take the matter up with Mr. Gower
      personally.

MacRae put the sheet back in its envelope. He stared thoughtfully
through an open window which gave on shore and cottage. He could see
Gower sitting on the porch, the thick bulk of the man clean-cut against
the white wall. As he looked he saw Betty go across the untrimmed lawn,
up the path that ran along the cliffs, and pass slowly out of sight
among the stunted, wind-twisted firs.

He walked to the after deck, laid hold of the dinghy, and slid it
overboard. Five minutes later he had beached it and was walking up the
gravel path to the house.

He was conscious of a queer irritation against Gower. If he were willing
to sell the place, why did he sit like a spider in his web and demand
that victims come to him? MacRae was wary, distrustful, suspicious, as
he walked up the slope. Some of the old rancor revived in him. Gower
might have a shaft in his quiver yet, and the will to use it.




CHAPTER XX

The Dead and Dusty Past


Gower sat in a deep grass chair, a pipe sagging one corner of his mouth,
his slippered feet crossed on a low stool. His rubber sea boots lay on
the porch floor as if he had but discarded them. MacRae took in every
detail of his appearance in one photographic glance, as a man will when
his gaze rests upon another with whom he may be about to clash.

Gower no longer resembled the well-fed plutocrat. He scarcely seemed the
same man who, nearly two years before, had absently bestowed upon MacRae
a dollar for an act of simple courtesy. He wore nondescript trousers
which betrayed a shrunken abdominal line, a blue flannel shirt that
bared his short, thick neck. And in that particular moment, at least,
the habitual sullenness of his heavy face was not in evidence. He looked
placid in spite of the fiery redness which sun and wind had burned into
his skin. He betrayed no surprise at MacRae's coming. The placidity of
his blue eyes did not alter in any degree.

"Hello, MacRae," he said.

"How d' do," MacRae answered. "I came to speak to you about a little
matter of business."

"Yes?" Gower rumbled. "I've been sort of expecting you."

"Oh?" MacRae failed to conceal altogether his surprise at this
statement. "I understand you are willing to sell this place. I want to
buy it."

"It was yours once, wasn't it?"

The words were more of a comment than a question, but MacRae answered:

"You know that, I think."

"And you want it back?"

"Naturally."

"If that's what you want," Gower said slowly. "I'll see you in----"

He cut off the sentence. His round stomach--less round by far than it
had been two months earlier--shook with silent laughter. His eyes
twinkled. His thick, stubby fingers drummed on the chair arm.

MacRae's face grew hot. He recognized the unfinished sentence as one of
his own, words he had flung in Gower's face not so long since. If that
was the way of it he could save his breath. He turned silently.

"Wait."

He faced about at the changed quality of Gower's tone. The amused
expression had vanished. Gower leaned forward a little. There was
something very like appeal in his expression. MacRae was suddenly
conscious of facing a still different man,--an oldish, fat man with
thinning hair and tired, wistful eyes.

"I just happened to think of what you said to me not long ago," Gower
explained. "It struck me as funny. But that isn't how I feel. If you
want this land you can have it. Take a chair. Sit down. I want to talk
to you."

"There is nothing the matter with my legs," MacRae said shortly. "I do
want this land. I will pay you the price you paid for it, in cash, when
you execute a legal transfer. Is that satisfactory?"

"What about this house?" Gower asked casually. "It's worth something,
isn't it?"

"Not to me," MacRae replied. "I don't want the house. You can take it
away with you, if you like."

Gower looked at him thoughtfully.

"The Scotch," he said, "cherish a grudge like a family heirloom."

"Perhaps they do," MacRae answered. "Why not? If you knock a man down
you don't expect him to jump up and shake hands with you. You had your
inning. It was a long one."

"I wonder," Gower said slowly, "why old Donald MacRae kept his mouth
closed to you about trouble between us until he was ready to die?"

"How do you know he did that?" MacRae demanded harshly.

"The night you came to ask for the _Arrow_ to take him to town you had
no such feeling against me as you have had since," Gower said. "I know
you didn't. You wouldn't have come if you had. I cut no figure in your
eyes, one way or the other, until after he was dead. So he must have
told you at the very last. What did he tell you? Why did he have to pass
that old poison on to another generation?"

"Why shouldn't he?" MacRae demanded. "You made his life a failure. You
put a scar on his face--I can remember when I was a youngster wondering
how he got that mark--I remember how it stood like a ridge across his
cheek bone when he was dead. You put a scar upon his soul that no one
but himself ever saw or felt--except as I have been able to feel it
since I knew. You weren't satisfied with that. You had to keep on
throwing your weight against him for thirty years. You didn't even stop
when the war made everything seem different. You might have let up
then. We were doing our bit. But you didn't. You kept on until you had
deprived him of everything but the power to row around the Rock day
after day and take a few salmon in order to live. You made a pauper of
him and sat here gloating over it. It preyed on his mind to think that I
should come back from France and find myself a beggar because he was
unable to cope with you. He lived his life without whimpering to me,
except to say he did not like you. He only wrote this down for me to
read--when he began to feel that he would never see me again--the
reasons why he had failed in everything, lost everything. When I pieced
out the story, from the day you used your pike pole to knock down a man
whose fighting hands were tied by a promise to a woman he loved, from
then till the last cold-blooded maneuver by which you got this land of
ours, I hated you, and I set out to pay you back in your own coin.

"But," MacRae continued after a momentary hesitation, "that is not what
I came here to say. Talk--talk's cheap. I would rather not talk about
these things, or think of them, now. I want to buy this land from you if
you are willing to sell. That's all."

Gower scarcely seemed to hear him. He was nursing his heavy chin with
one hand, looking at MacRae with a curious concentration, looking at him
and seeing something far beyond.

"Hell; it is a true indictment, up to a certain point," he said at last.
"What a curse misunderstanding is--and pride! By God, I have envied your
father, MacRae, many a time. I struck him an ugly blow once. Yes. I was
young and hot-headed, and I was burning with jealousy. But I did him a
good turn at that, I think. I--oh, well, maybe you wouldn't understand.
I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I say I didn't swoop down on him
every time I got a chance; that I didn't bushwhack--no matter if he
believed I did."

"No?" MacRae said incredulously. "You didn't break up a logging venture
on the Claha when he had a chance to make a stake? You didn't show your
fine Italian hand in that marble quarry undertaking on Texada? Nor other
things that I could name as he named them. Why crawl now? It doesn't
matter. I'm not swinging a club over your head."

Gower shook himself.

"No," he declared slowly. "He interfered with the Morton interests in
that Claha logging camp, and they did whatever was done. The quarry
business I know nothing about, except that I had business dealings with
the people whom he ran foul of. I tell you, MacRae, after the first
short period of time when I was afire with the fury of jealousy, I did
not do these things. I didn't even want to do them. I wish you would get
that straight. I wanted Bessie Morton and I got her. That was an issue
between us, I grant. I gained my point there. I would have gone farther
to gain that point. But I paid for it. It was not so long before I knew
that I was going to pay dearly for it. I tell you I came to envy Donald
MacRae. I don't know if he nursed a disappointment--which I came to know
was an illusion. Perhaps he did. But he had nothing real to regret,
nothing to prick, prick him all the time. He married a woman who seemed
to care for him. At any rate, she respected him and was a mate, living
his life while she did live.

"Look, MacRae. I married Bessie Morton because I wanted her, wanted her
on any terms. She didn't want me. She wanted Donald MacRae. But she had
wanted other men. That was the way she was made. She was facile. And
she never loved any one half so much as she loved herself. She was only
a beautiful peacock preening her feathers and sighing for homage. She
was--she is--the essence of self from the top of her head to her shoes.
Her feelings, her wants, her wishes, her whims, her two-by-four outlook,
nothing else counted. She couldn't comprehend anything outside of
herself. She would have made Donald MacRae's life a misery to him when
the novelty of that infatuation wore off. The Mortons are like that.
They want everything. They give nothing.

"She was cowardly too. Do you think two old men and myself would have
taken her, or anything else, from your father out in the middle of the
Gulf, if she had had any spirit? You knew your father. He wasn't a tame
man. He would have fought--fought like a tiger. We might have killed
him. It is more likely that he would have killed us. But we could not
have beaten him. But she had to knuckle down--take the easy way for her.
She cried; and he promised."

Gower lay back in his chair. His chin sunk on his breast. He spoke
slowly, groping for his words. MacRae did not interrupt. Something
compelled him to listen. There was a pained ring in Gower's voice that
held him. The man was telling him these things with visible reluctance,
with a simple dignity that arrested him, even while he felt that he
should not listen.

"She used to taunt me with that," he went on, "taunt me with striking
Donald MacRae. For years after we were married she used to do that. Long
after--and that wasn't so long--she had ceased to care if such a man as
your father existed. That was only an episode to her, of which she was
snobbishly ashamed in time. But she often reminded me that I had struck
him like a hardened butcher, because she knew she could hurt me with
that. So that I used to wish to God I had never followed her out into
the Gulf.

"For thirty years I've lived and worked and never known any real
satisfaction in living--or happiness. I've played the game, played it
hard. I've been hard, they say. Probably I have. I didn't care. A man
had to walk on others or be walked on himself. I made money. Money--I
poured it into her hands, like pouring sand in a rat-hole. She lived for
herself, her whims, her codfish-aristocracy standards, spending my money
like water to make a showing, giving me nothing in return, nothing but
whining and recrimination if I crossed her ever so little. She made a
lap dog of her son the first twenty-five years of his life. She would
have made Betty a cheap imitation of herself. But she couldn't do that."

He stopped a moment and shook his head gently.

"No," he resumed, "she couldn't do that. There's iron in that girl.
She's all Gower. I think I should have thrown up my hands long ago only
for Betty's sake."

MacRae shifted uneasily.

"You see," Gower continued, "my life has been a failure, too. When
Donald MacRae and I clashed, I prevailed. I got what I wanted. But it
was only a shadow. There was no substance. It didn't do me any good. I
have made money, barrels of it, and that has not done me any good. I've
been successful at everything I undertook--except lately--but succeeding
as the world reckons success hasn't made me happy. In my personal life
I've been a damned failure. I've always been aware of that. And if I
have held a feeling toward Donald MacRae these thirty-odd years, it was
a feeling of envy. I would have traded places with him and been the
gainer. I would have liked to tell him so. But I couldn't. He was a dour
Scotchman and I suppose he hated me, although he kept it to himself. I
suppose he loved Bessie. I know I did. Perhaps he cherished hatred of me
for wrecking his dream, and so saw my hand in things where it never was.
But he was wrong. Bessie would have wrecked it and him too. She would
have whined and sniffled about being a poor man's wife, once she learned
what it was to be poor. She could never understand anything but a
silk-lined existence. She loved herself and her own illusions. She would
have driven him mad with her petty whims, her petty emotions. She
doesn't know the meaning of loyalty, consideration, or even an open,
honest hatred. And I've stood it all these years--because I don't shirk
responsibilities, and I had brought it on myself."

He stopped a second, staring out across the Gulf.

"But apart from that one thing, I never consciously or deliberately
wronged Donald MacRae. He may honestly have believed I did. I have the
name of being hard. I dare say I am. The world is a hard place. When I
had to choose between walking on a man's face and having my own walked
on, I never hesitated. There was nothing much to make me soft. I moved
along the same lines as most of the men I know.

"But, I repeat, I never put a straw in your father's way. I know that
things went against him. I could see that. I knew why, too. He was too
square for his time and place. He trusted men too much. You can't always
do that. He was too scrupulously honest. He always gave the other fellow
the best of it. That alone beat him. He didn't always consider his own
interest and follow up every advantage. I don't think he cared to
scramble for money, as a man must scramble for it these days. He could
have held this place if he had cast about for ways to do so. There were
plenty of loopholes. But he had that old-fashioned honor which doesn't
seek loopholes. He had borrowed money on it. He would have taken the
coat off his back, beggared himself any day to pay a debt. Isn't that
right?"

MacRae nodded.

"So this place came into my hands. It was deliberate on my part--but
only, mind you, when I knew that he was bound to lose it. Perhaps it was
bad judgment on my part. I didn't think that he would see it as an end
I'd been working for. As I grew older, I found myself wanting now and
then to wipe out that old score between us. I would have given a good
deal to sit down with him over a pipe. A woman, who wasn't much as women
go, had made us both suffer. So I built this cottage and came here to
stay now and then. I liked the place. I liked to think that now he and I
were getting to be old men, we could be friends. But he was too bitter.
And I'm human. I've got a bit of pride. I couldn't crawl. So I never got
nearer to him than to see him rowing around the Rock. And he died full
of that bitterness. I don't like to think of that. Still, it cannot be
helped. Do you grasp this, MacRae? Do you believe me?"

Incredible as it seemed, MacRae had no choice but to accept that
explanation of strangely twisted motives, those misapprehensions, the
murky cloud of misunderstanding. The tone of Gower's voice, his
attitude, carried supreme conviction. And still--

"Yes," he said at last. "It is all a contradiction of things I have been
passionately sure of for nearly two years. But I can see--yes, it must
be as you say. I'm sorry."

"Sorry? For what?" Gower regarded him soberly.

"Many things. Why did you tell me this?"

"Why should the anger and bitterness of two old men be passed on to
their children?" Gower asked him gently.

MacRae stared at him. Did he know? Had he guessed? Had Betty told him?
He wondered. It was not like Betty to have spoken of what had passed
between them. Yet he did not know how close a bond might exist between
this father and daughter, who were, MacRae was beginning to perceive,
most singularly alike. And this was a shrewd old man, sadly wise in
human weaknesses, and much more tolerant than MacRae had conceived
possible. He felt a little ashamed of the malice with which he had
fought this battle of the salmon around Squitty Island. Yet Gower by his
own admission was a hard man. He had lived with a commercial sword in
his hand. He knew what it was to fall by that weapon. He had been hard
on the fishermen. He had exploited them mercilessly. Therein lay his
weakness, whereby he had fallen, through which MacRae had beaten him.
But had he beaten him? MacRae was not now so sure about that. But it was
only a momentary doubt. He struggled a little against the reaction of
kindliness, this curious sympathy for Gower which moved him now. He
hated sentimentalism, facile yielding to shallow emotions. He wanted to
talk and he was dumb. Dumb for appropriate words, because his mind kept
turning with passionate eagerness upon Betty Gower.

"Does Betty know what you have just told me?" he asked at last.

Gower shook his head.

"She knows there is something. I can't tell her. I don't like to. It
isn't a nice story. I don't shine in it--nor her mother."

"Nor do I," MacRae muttered to himself.

He stood looking over the porch rail down on the sea where the _Blanco_
swung at her anchor chain. There seemed nothing more to say. Yet he was
aware of Gower's eyes upon him with something akin to expectancy. An
uncertain smile flitted across MacRae's face.

"This has sort of put me on my beam ends," he said, using a sailor's
phrase. "Don't you feel as if I'd rather done you up these two seasons?"

Gower's heavy features lightened with a grimace of amusement.

"Well," he said, "you certainly cost me a lot of money, one way and
another. But you had the nerve to go at it--and you used better judgment
of men and conditions than anybody has manifested in the salmon business
lately, unless it's young Abbott. So I suppose you are entitled to win
on your merits. By the way, there is one condition tacked to selling you
this ranch. I hesitated about bringing it up at first. I would like to
keep this cottage and a strip of ground a hundred and fifty feet wide
running down to the beach."

"All right," MacRae agreed. "We can arrange that later. I'll come
again."

He set foot on the porch steps. Then he turned back. A faint flush stole
up in his sun-browned face. He held out his hand.

"Shall we cry quits?" he asked. "Shall we shake hands and forget it?"

Gower rose to his feet. He did not say anything, but the grip in his
thick, stubby fingers almost made Jack MacRae wince,--and he was a
strong-handed man himself.

"I'm glad you came to-day," Gower said huskily. "Come again--soon."

He stood on the porch and watched MacRae stride down to the beach and
put off in his dinghy. Then he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose
with a tremendous amount of unnecessary noise and gesture. There was
something suspiciously like moisture brightening his eyes.

But when he saw MacRae stand in the dinghy alongside the _Blanco_ and
speak briefly to his men, then row in under Point Old behind Poor Man's
Rock which the tide was slowly baring, when he climbed up over the Point
and took the path along the cliff edge, that suspicious brightness in
Gower's keen old eyes was replaced by a twinkle. He sat down in his
grass chair and hummed a little tune, the while one slippered foot kept
time, rat-a-pat, on the floor of the porch.




CHAPTER XXI

As it Was in the Beginning


MacRae followed the path along the cliffs. He did not look for Betty.
His mind was on something else, engrossed in considerations which had
little to do with love. If it be true that a man keeps his loves and
hates and hobbies and ambitions and appetites in separate chambers, any
of which may be for a time so locked that what lies therein neither
troubles nor pleases him, then that chamber in which he kept Betty
Gower's image was hermetically sealed. Her figure was obscured by other
figures,--his father and Horace Gower and himself.

Not until he had reached the Cove's head and come to his own house did
he recall that Betty had gone along the cliffs, and that he had not seen
her as he passed. But that could easily happen, he knew, in that mile
stretch of trees and thickets, those deep clefts and pockets in the
rocky wall that frowned upon the sea.

He went into the house. Out of a box on a shelf in his room he took the
message his father had left him and sitting down in the shadowy coolness
of the outer room began to read it again, slowly, with infinite care for
the reality his father had meant to convey.

All his life, as Jack remembered him, Donald MacRae had been a silent
man, who never talked of how he felt, how things affected him, who never
was stricken with that irresistible impulse to explain and discuss, to
relieve his troubled soul with words, which afflicts so many men. It
seemed as if he had saved it all for that final summing-up which was to
be delivered by his pen instead of his lips. He had become articulate
only at the last. It must have taken him weeks upon weeks to write it
all down, this autobiography which had been the mainspring of his son's
actions for nearly two years. There was wind and sun in it, and blue sky
and the gray Gulf heaving; somber colors, passion and grief, an apology
and a justification.

MacRae laid down the last page and went outside to sit on the steps.
Shadows were gathering on the Cove. Far out, the last gleam of the sun
was touching the Gulf. A slow swell was rising before some far,
unheralded wind. The _Blanco_ came gliding in and dropped anchor.
Trollers began to follow. They clustered about the big carrier like
chickens under the mother wing. By these signs MacRae knew that the fish
had stopped biting, that it was lumpy by Poor Man's Rock. He knew there
was work aboard. But he sat there, absent-eyed, thinking.

He was full of understanding pity for his father, and also for Horace
Gower. He was conscious of being a little sorry for himself. But then he
had only been troubled a short two years by this curious aftermath of
old passions, whereas they had suffered all their lives. He had got a
new angle from which to approach his father's story. He knew now that he
had reacted to something that was not there. He had been filled with a
thirst for vengeance, for reprisal, and he had declared war on Gower,
when that was not his father's intent. Old Donald MacRae had hated Gower
profoundly in the beginning. He believed that Gower hated him and had
put the weight of his power against him, wherever and whenever he
could. But life itself had beaten him,--and not Gower. That was what he
had been trying to tell his son.

And life itself had beaten Gower in a strangely similar fashion. He too
was old, a tired, disappointed man. He had reached for material success
with one hand and happiness with the other. One had always eluded him.
The other Jack MacRae had helped wrest from him. MacRae could see
Gower's life in detached pictures, life that consisted of making money
and spending it, life with a woman who whined and sniffled and
complained. These things had been a slow torture. MacRae could no longer
regard this man as a squat ogre, merciless, implacable, ready and able
to crush whatsoever opposed him. He was only a short, fat, oldish man
with tired eyes, who had been bruised by forces he could not understand
or cope with until he had achieved a wistful tolerance for both things
and men.

Both these old men, MacRae perceived, had made a terrible hash of their
lives. Neither of them had succeeded in getting out of life much that a
man instinctively feels that he should get. Both had been capable of
happiness. Both had struggled for happiness as all men struggle. Neither
had ever securely grasped any measure of it, nor even much of content.

MacRae felt a chilly uncertainty as he sat on his doorstep considering
this. He had been traveling the same road for many months,--denying his
natural promptings, stifling a natural passion, surrendering himself to
an obsession of vindictiveness, planning and striving to return evil for
what he conceived to be evil, and being himself corrupted by the
corrosive forces of hatred.

He had been diligently bestowing pain on Betty, who loved him quite
openly and frankly as he desired to be loved; Betty, who was innocent of
these old coils of bitterness, who was primitive enough in her emotions,
MacRae suspected, to let nothing stand between her and her chosen mate
when that mate beckoned.

But she was proud. He knew that he had puzzled her to the point of
anger, hurt her in a woman's most vital spot.

"I've been several kinds of a fool," MacRae said to himself. "I have
been fooling myself."

He had said to himself once, in a somber mood, that life was nothing but
a damned dirty scramble in which a man could be sure of getting hurt.
But it struck him now that he had been sedulously inflicting those hurts
upon himself. Nature cannot be flouted. She exacts terrible penalties
for the stifling, the inhibition, the deflection of normal instincts,
fundamental impulses. He perceived the operation of this in his father's
life, in the thirty years of petty conflict between Horace Gower and his
wife. And he had unconsciously been putting himself and Betty in the way
of similar penalties by exalting revenge for old, partly imagined wrongs
above that strange magnetic something which drew them together.

Twilight was at hand. Looking through the maple and alder fringe before
his house MacRae saw the fishing boats coming one after the other,
clustering about the _Blanco_. He went down and slid the old green
dugout afloat and so gained the deck of his vessel. For an hour
thereafter he worked steadily until all the salmon were delivered and
stowed in the _Blanco's_ chilly hold.

He found it hard to keep his mind on the count of salmon, on money to be
paid each man, upon these common details of his business. His thought
reached out in wide circles, embracing many things, many persons:
Norman Gower and Dolly, who had had courage to put the past behind them
and reach for happiness together; Stubby Abbott and Etta Robbin-Steele,
who were being flung together by the same inscrutable forces within
them. Love might not truly make the world go round, but it was a
tremendous motive power in human actions. Like other dynamic forces it
had its dangerous phases. Love, as MacRae had experienced it, was a
curious mixture of affection and desire, of flaming passion and infinite
tenderness. Betty Gower warmed him like a living flame when he let her
take possession of his thought. She was all that his fancy could conjure
as desirable. She was his mate. He had felt that, at times, with a
conviction beyond reason or logic ever since the night he kissed her in
the Granada. If fate, or the circumstances he had let involve him,
should juggle them apart, he felt that the years would lead him down
long, drab corridors.

And he was suddenly determined that should not happen. His imagination
flung before him kinetoscopic flashes of what his father's life had been
and Horace Gower's. That vision appalled MacRae. He would not let it
happen,--not to him and Betty.

He washed, ate his supper, lay on his bunk in the pilot house and smoked
a cigarette. Then he went out on deck. The moon crept up in a cloudless
sky, dimming the stars. There was no wind about the island. But there
was wind loose somewhere on the Gulf. The glass was falling. The swells
broke more heavily along the cliffs. At the mouth of the Cove white
sheets of spray lifted as each comber reared and broke in that narrow
place.

He recollected that he had left the _Blanco's_ dinghy hauled up on the
beach on the tip of Point Old. He got ashore now in the green dugout and
walked across to the Point.

A man is seldom wholly single-track in his ideas, his impulses. MacRae
thought of the dinghy. He had a care for its possible destruction by the
rising sea. But he thought also of Betty. There was a pleasure in simply
looking at the house in which she lived. Lights glowed in the windows.
The cottage glistened in the moonlight.

When he came out on the tip of the Point the dinghy, he saw, lay safe
where he had dragged it up on the rocks. And when he had satisfied
himself of this he stood with hands thrust deep in his pockets, looking
down on Poor Man's Rock, watching the swirl and foam as each swell ran
over its sunken head.

MacRae had a subconscious perception of beauty, beauty of form and
color. It moved him without his knowing why. He was in a mood to respond
to beauty this night. He had that buoyant, grateful feeling which comes
to a man when he has escaped some great disaster, when he is suddenly
freed from some grim apprehension of the soul.

The night was one of wonderful beauty. The moon laid its silver path
across the sea. The oily swells came up that moon-path in undulating
folds to break in silver fragments along the shore. The great island
beyond the piercing shaft of the Ballenas light and the mainland far to
his left lifted rugged mountains sharp against the sky. From the
southeast little fluffs of cloud, little cottony flecks white as virgin
snow, sailed before the wind that mothered the swells. But there was no
wind on Squitty yet. There was breathless stillness except for the low,
spaced mutter of the surf.

He stood a long time, drinking in the beauty of it all,--the sea and
the moon-path, and the hushed, dark woods behind.

Then his gaze, turning slowly, fell on something white in the shadow of
a bushy, wind-distorted fir a few feet away. He looked more closely. His
eyes gradually made out a figure in a white sweater sitting on a flat
rock, elbows on knees, chin resting in cupped palms.

He walked over. Betty's eyes were fixed on him. He stared down at her,
suddenly tongue-tied, a queer constricted feeling in his throat. She did
not speak.

"Were you sitting here when I came along?" he asked at last.

"Yes," she said. "I often come up here. I have been sitting here for
half an hour."

MacRae sat down beside her. His heart seemed to be trying to choke him.
He did not know where to begin, or how, and there was much he wanted to
say that he must say. Betty did not even take her chin out of her palms.
She stared out at the sea, rolling up to Squitty in silver windrows.

MacRae put one arm around her and drew her up close to him, and Betty
settled against him with a little sigh. Her fingers stole into his free
hand. For a minute they sat like that. Then he tilted her head back,
looked down into the gray pools of her eyes, and kissed her.

"You stood there looking down at the sea as if you were in a dream," she
whispered; "and all the time I was crying inside of me for you to come
to me. And presently, I suppose, you will go away."

"No," he said. "This time I have come for good."

"I knew you would, sometime," she murmured. "At least, I hoped you
would. I wanted you so badly."

"But because one wants a thing badly it doesn't always follow that one
gets it."

MacRae was thinking of his father when he spoke.

"I know that," Betty said. "But I knew that you wanted me, you see. And
I had faith that you would brush away the cobwebs somehow. I've been
awfully angry at you sometimes. It's horrible to feel that there is an
imaginary wall between you and some one you care for."

"There is no wall now," MacRae said.

"Was there ever one, really?"

"There seemed to be."

"And now there is none?"

"None at all."

"Sure?" she murmured.

"Honest Injun," MacRae smiled. "I went to see your father to-day about a
simple matter of business. And I found--I learned--oh, well, it doesn't
matter. I buried the hatchet. We are going to be married and live
happily ever after."

"Well," Betty said judiciously, "we shall have as good a chance as any
one, I think. Look at Norman and Dolly. I positively trembled for
them--after Norman getting into that mess over in England. He never
exactly shone as a real he-man, that brother of mine, you know. But they
are really happy, Jack. They make me envious."

"I think you're a little hard on that brother of yours," MacRae said. He
was suddenly filled with a great charity toward all mankind. "He never
had much of a chance, from all I can gather."

He went on to tell her what Norman had told him that afternoon on the
hill above the Cove. But Betty interrupted.

"Oh, I know that now," she declared. "Daddy told me just recently.
Daddy knew what Norman was doing over there. In fact, he showed me a
letter from some British military authority praising Norman for the work
he did. But Daddy kept mum when Norman came home and those nasty rumors
began to go around. He thought it better for Norman to take his
medicine. He was afraid mother would smother him with money and insist
on his being a proper lounge lizard again, and so he would gradually
drop back into his old uselessness. Daddy was simply tickled stiff when
Norman showed his teeth--when he cut loose from everything and married
Dolly, and all that. He's a very wise old man, that father of mine,
Jack. He hasn't ever got much real satisfaction in his life. He has been
more content this last month or so than I can ever remember him. We have
always had loads of money, and while it's nice to have plenty, I don't
think it did him any good. My whole life has been lived in an atmosphere
of domestic incompatibility. I think I should make a very capable
wife--I have had so many object lessons in how not to be. My mother
wasn't a success either as a wife or a mother. It is a horrible thing to
say, but it's really true, Jack. Mamma's a very well-bred,
distinguished-looking person with exquisite taste in dress and dinner
parties, and that's about the only kind thing I can say for her. Do you
really love me, Jack? Heaps and heaps?"

She shot this question at him with a swift change of tone and an
earnestness which straightway drove out of MacRae's mind every
consideration save the proper and convincing answer to such intimate
questions.

"Look," Betty said after a long interval. "Daddy has built a fire on the
beach. He does that sometimes, and we sit around it and roast clams in
the coals. Johnny, Johnny," she squeezed his arm with a quick pressure,
"we're going to have some good times on this island now."

MacRae laughed indulgently. He was completely in accord with that
prophecy.

The blaze Gower had kindled flickered and wavered, a red spot on the
duskier shore, with a yellow nimbus in which they saw him move here and
there, and sit down at last with his back to a log and his feet
stretched to the fire.

"Let's go down," MacRae suggested, "and break the news to him."

"I wonder what he'll say?" Betty murmured thoughtfully.

"Haven't you any idea?" MacRae asked curiously.

"No. Honestly, I haven't," Betty replied. "Daddy's something like you,
Jack. That is, he does and says unexpected things, now and then. No, I
really don't know what he will say."

"We'll soon find out."

MacRae took her hand. They went down off the backbone of the Point,
through ferns and over the long uncut grass, down to the fire where the
wash from the heavy swell outside made watery murmurs along the gravelly
beach.

Gower looked up at them, waited for them to speak.

"Betty and I are going to be married soon," MacRae announced abruptly.

"Oh?" Gower took the pipe out of his mouth and rapped the ash out of it
in the palm of his hand. "You don't do things half-heartedly, do you,
MacRae? You deprive me of a very profitable business. You want my
ranch--and now my housekeeper."

"Daddy!" Betty remonstrated.

"Oh, well, I suppose I can learn to cook for myself," Gower rumbled.

He was frowning. He looked at them staring at him, nonplussed. Suddenly
he burst into deep, chuckling laughter.

"Sit down, sit down, and look at the fire," he said. "Bless your soul,
if you want to get married that's your own business.

"Mind you," he chuckled after a minute, when Betty had snuggled down
beside him, and MacRae perched on the log by her, "I don't say I like
the idea. It don't seem fair for a man to raise a daughter and then have
some young fellow sail up and take her away just when she is beginning
to make herself useful."

"Daddy, you certainly do talk awful nonsense," Betty reproved.

"I expect you haven't talked much else the last little while," he
retorted.

Betty subsided. MacRae smiled. There was a whimsicality about Gower's
way of taking this that pleased MacRae.

They toasted their feet at the fire until the wavering flame burned down
to a bed of glowing coals. They talked of this and that, of everything
but themselves until the moon was swimming high and the patches of
cottony cloud sailing across the moon's face cast intense black patches
on the silvery radiance of the sea.

"I've got some clams in a bucket," Gower said at last. "Let's roast
some. You get plates and forks and salt and pepper and butter, Bet,
while I put the clams on the fire."

Betty went away to the house. Gower raked a flat rock, white-hot, out to
the edge of the coals and put fat quahaugs on it to roast. Then he sat
back and looked at MacRae.

"I wonder if you realize how lucky you are?" he said.

"I think I do," MacRae answered. "You don't seem much surprised."

Gower smiled.

"Well, no. I can't say I am. That first night you came to the cottage to
ask for the _Arrow_ I got a good look at you, and you struck me as a
fine, clean sort of boy, and I said to myself, 'Old Donald has never
told him anything and he has no grudge against me, and wouldn't it be a
sort of compensation if those two should fall naturally and simply in
love with each other?' Yes, it may seem sentimental, but that idea
occurred to me. Of course, it was just an idea. Betty would marry
whoever she wanted to marry. I knew that. Nothing but her own judgment
would influence her in a matter of that sort. I know. I've watched her
grow up. Maybe it's a good quality or maybe it's a bad one, but she has
always had a bull-dog sort of persistence about anything that strikes
her as really important.

"And of course I had no way of knowing whether she would take a fancy to
you or you to her. So I just watched. And maybe I boosted the game a
little, because I'm a pretty wise old fish in my own way. I took a few
whacks at you, now and then, and she flew the storm signals without
knowing it."

Gower smiled reminiscently, stroking his chin with his hand.

"I had to fight you, after a fashion, to find out what sort of stuff you
were, for my own satisfaction," he continued. "I saw that you had your
Scotch up and were after my scalp, and I knew it couldn't be anything
but that old mess. That was natural. But I thought I could square that
if I could ever get close enough to you. Only I couldn't manage that
naturally. And this scramble for the salmon got me in deep before I
realized where I was. I used to feel sorry for you and Betty. I could
see it coming. You both talk with your eyes. I have seen you both when
you didn't know I was near.

"So when I saw that you would fight me till you broke us both, and also
that if I kept on I would not only be broke but so deep in the hole that
I could never get out, I shut the damned cannery up and let everything
slide. I knew as soon as you were in shape you would try to get this
place back. That was natural. And you would have to come and talk to me
about it. I was sure I could convince you that I was partly human. So
you see this is no surprise to me. Lord, no! Why, I've been playing
chess for two years--old Donald MacRae's knight against my queen."

He laughed and thumped MacRae on the flat of his sturdy back.

"It might have been a stalemate, at that," MacRae said.

"But it wasn't," Gower declared. "Well, I'll get something out of
living, after all. I've often thought I'd like to see a big, roomy house
somewhere along these cliffs, and kids playing around. You and Betty may
have your troubles, but you're starting right. You ought to get a lot
out of life. I didn't. I made money. That's all. Poured it into a rat
hole. Bessie is sitting over on Maple Point in a big drafty house with
two maids and a butler, a two-thousand-acre estate, and her pockets full
of Victory Bonds. She isn't happy, and she never can be. She never cared
for anybody but herself, not even her children, and nobody cares for
her, I'm all but broke, and I'm better off than she is. I hate to think
I ever fought for her. She wasn't worth it, MacRae. That's a hell of a
thing for a man to say about a woman he lived with for over thirty
years. But it's true. It took me a good many miserable years to admit
that to myself.

"I suppose she'll cling to her money and go on playing the _grande
dame_. And if she can get any satisfaction out of that I'm willing. I've
never known as much real peace and satisfaction as I've got now. All I
need is a place to sleep and a comfortable chair to sit in. I don't want
to chase dollars any more. All I want is to row around the Rock and
catch a few salmon now and then and sit here and look at the sea when
I'm tired. You're young, and you have all your life before you--you and
Betty. If you need money, you are pretty well able to get it for
yourself. But I'm old, and I don't want to bother."

He rambled on until Betty came down with plates and other things. The
fat clams were opening their shells on the hot rock. They put butter and
seasoning on the tender meat and ate, talking of this and that. And when
the last clam had vanished, Gower stuffed his pipe and lit it with a
coal. He gathered up the plates and forks and rose to his feet.

"Good night," he said benevolently. "I'm going to the house and to bed.
Don't sit out here dreaming all night, you two."

He stumped away up the path. MacRae piled driftwood on the fire. Then he
sat down with his back against the log, and Betty snuggled beside him,
in the crook of his arm. Beyond the Point the booming of the surf rose
like far thunder. The tide was on the ebb. Poor Man's Rock bared its
kelp-thatched head. The racing swells covered it with spray that shone
in the moonlight.

They did not talk. Speech had become nonessential. It was enough to be
together.

So they sat, side by side, their backs to the cedar log and their feet
to the fire, talking little, dreaming much, until the fluffy clouds
scudding across the face of the moon came thicker and faster and lost
their snowy whiteness, until the radiance of the night was dimmed.

Across the low summit of Point Old a new sound was carried to them.
Where the moonlight touched the Gulf in patches, far out, whitecaps
showed.

"Listen," MacRae murmured.

The wind struck them with a puff that sent sparks flying. It rose and
fell and rose again until it whistled across the Point in a steady
drone,--the chill breath of the storm-god.

MacRae turned up Betty's wrist and looked at her watch.

"Look at the time, Betty mine," he said. "And it's getting cold.
There'll be another day."

He walked with her to the house. When she vanished within, blowing him a
kiss from her finger tips, MacRae cut across the Point. He laid hold of
the _Blanco's_ dinghy and drew it high to absolute safety, then stood a
minute gazing seaward, looking down on the Rock. Clouds obscured the
moon now. A chill darkness hid distant shore lines and mountain ranges
which had stood plain in the moon-glow, a darkness full of rushing,
roaring wind and thundering seas. Poor Man's Rock was a vague bulk in
the gloom, forlorn and lonely, hidden under great bursts of spray as
each wave leaped and broke with a hiss and a roar.

MacRae braced himself against the southeaster. It ruffled his hair,
clawed at him with strong, invisible fingers. It shrieked its fury among
the firs, stunted and leaning all awry from the buffeting of many
storms.

He took a last look behind him. The lights in Gower's house were out and
the white-walled cottage stood dim against the darkened hillside. Then
MacRae, smiling to himself in the dark, set out along the path that led
to Squitty Cove.




THE END





By the author of "Big Timber"

NORTH OF FIFTY-THREE

By BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR

Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth.

       *       *       *       *       *

He has created the atmosphere of the frozen North with wonderful
realism.--_Boston Globe_.

Mr. Sinclair's two characters are exceptionally well-drawn and
sympathetic. His style is robust and vigorous. His pictures of Canadian
life stimulating.--_New York Nation_.

Mr. Sinclair sketches with bold strokes as befits a subject set amid
limitless surroundings. The book is readable and shows consistent
progress in the art of novel writing.--_St. Louis Globe-Democrat_.

An unusually good story of the conflict between a man and a woman. It is
a readable, well written book showing much observation and good sense.
The hero is a fine fellow and manages to have his fling at a good many
conventions without being tedious.--_New York Sun_.

The story is well written. It is rich in strong situation, romance and
heart-stirring scenes, both of the emotional and courage-stirring order.
It ranks with the best of its type.--_Springfield Republican_.

       *       *       *       *       *

LITTLE, BROWN & CO., Publishers

34 Beacon St., Boston.





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