Lister's Great Adventure
Part 2 out of 5
could go cautiously, he stopped and tried to brace himself at the end of
the bridge. Although he had run across not long since, he shrank from
the dark, forbidding gaps. For all that, he must get back, and feeling
carefully for the ties, he reached the other side and was for some time
engaged at the muskeg where two cars had overrun the broken rails. At
length he went to the log shack he used for his office and
sleeping-room, and soon after he lighted his pipe Kemp came in.
"You made it," Kemp remarked. "When you stopped me at the bridge I saw
you'd get there."
Lister laughed. "Now you talk about it, I believe I did shout you to go
back. Anyhow, you were some way behind. Did Willis come?"
"He did not. Willis was badly rattled and started for the muskeg.
Thought he might get the track thrown across the hole, perhaps! I'm
rather sorry for the kid. But what are you going to do about it?"
"Report we had two cars bogged and state the cost of labor. That's all,
Kemp nodded. "Well, perhaps there's no use in talking about the lamp.
Our business is to make good, using the tools we've got. All the same,
if they want a man somewhere else, I guess I'd recommend Willis."
He smoked quietly for a time, and then resumed: "We don't get forward
much. In fact, if the new Western irrigation company would take me on, I
think I'd quit."
Lister pondered. Since his short stop at Winnipeg he had been conscious
of a strange restlessness. He wanted something the woods could not give,
and had begun to think life had more to offer than he had known.
Besides, he was not making much progress.
"Since the double track is to be pushed on across the plains, the
department will need a bigger staff and there ought to be a chance for
some of us," he said. "Then there's the new work with the long bridges
on the lake section that will carry higher pay. We're next on turn and
have some claim. They ought to move us up."
"I doubt. We didn't come from a famous office, and it's not always
enough to know your job."
"Somebody will get a better post, and if I'm lucky I'll stay. If not, I
think I'll try the irrigation works."
"I feel like that," Kemp declared. "But suppose the irrigation people
turn our application down?"
"Then I'll lie off for a time. Except when I went, to McGill with money
I earned on a wheat barge, I haven't stopped work since I was a boy. Now
I'm getting tired and think I'll pull out and go across to look at the
Old Country. My father was an Englishman, and I have some money to
"A good plan," Kemp agreed. "After a change you come back fresh with a
stronger punch. Well, if we're not put on to the lake section, we'll try
the irrigation scheme."
He got up and went off, but Lister sat on his bunk and smoked. The bunk
was packed with swamp-grass on which his coarse Hudson's Bay blankets
were laid, and the shack was bare. Ragged slickers and old overalls
occupied the wall, long gum-boots a corner. A big box carried an iron
wash-basin, and a small table some drawing instruments. Lister was not
fastidious, and, as a rule, did not stop long enough at one spot to
justify his making his shack comfortable. Besides, he found it necessary
to concentrate on his work, and had not much time to think about
All the same, he felt the shack was dreary and his life was bleak. He
had not felt this until he went to Winnipeg. On the whole, he had liked
the struggle against physical obstacles. It was his proper job, but the
struggle was stern and sometimes exhausting, and his reward was small.
Now he wanted something different, and gave himself to vague and
Ruth Duveen had broken his former tranquillity. In a sense, she had
awakened him, and he imagined she had meant to do so. All the same, to
think she loved him was ridiculous; she was rather experimenting with
fresh material. Yet she was accountable for his discontent. She had
helped him to see that while he labored in the woods he had missed much.
He wanted the society of cultivated women and men with power and
influence; to use control instead of carrying out orders; and to know
something of refinement and beauty. After all, his father was a
cultivated Englishman, although Lister imagined he had inherited
qualities that helped him most from his Canadian mother. It was all he
had inherited, except some debts he had laboriously paid.
He admitted that to realize his ambitions might be hard, but he meant to
try. Canada was for the young and stubborn. If his chiefs did not
promote him, he would make a plunge, and if his new plan did not work,
he would go over and see the Old Country. Then he would come back,
braced and refreshed, and try his luck again.
Putting down his pipe, he got into bed. He was tired and in the morning
the gravel cars must be pulled out of the muskeg. The job was awkward,
and while he thought about it he went to sleep.
A boisterous wind swept the high plain and round, white-edged clouds
rolled across the sky. The grass that ran back from the horizon was
parched, and in the distance a white streak of blowing dust marked a
dried alkali lake. Dust of dark color drove along the row of wooden
stores and houses that fronted the railroad track, across which three
grain elevators rose like castles. The telegraph posts along the track
melted into the level waste, and behind the spot where they vanished the
tops of a larger group of elevators cut the edge of the plain.
The street was not paved, and the soil was deeply ploughed by wheels.
The soil was the black gumbo in which the wheat plant thrives, but the
town occupied the fringe of a dry belt and farming had not made much
progress. Now, however, a company was going to irrigate the land with
water from a river fed by the Rockies' snow. The town was square, and
although it looked much smaller than real-estate agents' maps indicated,
it was ornamented by four wooden churches, a Y.M.C.A. like a temple, and
an ambitious public hall.
The Tecumseh Hotel occupied a corner lot at the end of the street and
was not remarkably commodious or clean, but its charges were less than
the Occidental's by the station, and Lister and Kemp were not
fastidious. Some time had gone since they pulled the gravel cars out of
the swamp and they had not been sent to the lake section. In
consequence, they had applied to the irrigation company for a post, and
having been called to meet the engineers and directors, imagined they
were on the short list.
Lister lounged against the rails on the Tecumseh veranda. The boards
were cracked and dirty; burned matches and cigar ends were scattered
about, and a skeleton, gauze covered door that shut with a powerful
spring kept some of the flies and mosquitoes out of the hotel.
"We'll know to-morrow," he remarked presently.
Kemp nodded. "I can't figure on our chances. Feel anxious about it?"
"Not much. In fact, I mean to use the thing to test my luck. If we're
engaged, I'll stay in Canada; if they turn us down, I'll start for the
"You have no particular plans, I reckon."
"No," said Lister, smiling. "I'm going to look about. I know our new
Western towns, but I want to see old cities, churches, and cathedrals;
the great jobs men made before they used concrete and steel. Then I'd
like to study art and music and see the people my father talked about.
Ours is a good country, but when it's all you know it gets monotonous."
He indicated the row of wooden houses and lonely plain. "One wants more
than the track and this."
"It's possible you may go across," said Kemp. "Looks as if the company's
short list was pretty long. There's a gang of candidates in town, we
have no pull on the directors, and I don't know if our advantages are
very marked--" He stopped and laughed, for a man came round the corner.
"Hello, Willis!" he exclaimed. "When did you arrive?"
"I came in on the last train. Got a notice to meet the Irrigation
"Oh, well," said Kemp, "since the applicants are more numerous than the
posts, I reckon another won't count. Do you expect they're going to take
"I expect my chance is as good as yours."
"I'll sell you my chance for ten dollars," Kemp rejoined.
"Nothing doing, at the price," said Willis, and went off.
Kemp laughed. Willis was marked by a superficial smartness his comrades
sometimes found amusing and sometimes annoying. For the most part, they
bore with him good-humoredly, but did not trust him when work that
needed careful thought was done.
"The kid looks confident, but his applying for a job is something of a
joke," Kemp remarked. "I'd put his value at fifty cents a day."
Lister agreed, and looked up the dusty street. The fronts of the small
frame houses were cracked by the sun, and some were carried up to hide
the roof and give the building a fictitious height. A Clover-leaf wagon
stood in front of a store, the wheels crusted by dry mud, and the team
fidgeted amidst a swarm of flies. Except for one or two railroad hands
waiting by the caboose of a freight train, nobody was about. The town
looked strangely dreary.
Yet Lister knew it stood for all the relief from labor in the stinging
alkali dust one could get. One could loaf in a hard chair in front of
the hotel, lose a dollar or two at the shabby pool-room, or go to a
movie show and see pictures of frankly ridiculous Western melodrama. In
the real West, the pictures were ridiculous, because romantic
shootings-up did not happen. In fact, unless a stubborn labor dispute
began, nothing broke the dull monotony of toilsome effort. Romance had
vanished with the buffaloes. Lister admitted that he had not long felt
the monotony. The trouble began when he stopped at Winnipeg.
"I think I'll go up the street," he said.
A rough plank sidewalk ran in front of the houses, and Lister imagined
it was needed when the spring thaw and summer thunder-storms softened
the gumbo soil. Opposite the Occidental he stopped, for Duveen occupied
a chair on the veranda. While Lister hesitated Duveen beckoned him to
"It's hot and dusty. Will you take a drink?" he said.
Lister refused with thanks and wondered whether Ruth was at the hotel.
In a way, he would like to see her, but admitted that perhaps he had
better not. When he asked if she was well Duveen said she had gone to
Quebec, and gave Lister a cigar.
"It looks as if you had left the railroad," he remarked.
"I have not left yet," said Lister cautiously.
"Then, you won't go unless you get a better job? Did you know I had
joined the Irrigation Board?"
Lister said he did not know, and got embarrassed when Duveen gave him a
thoughtful glance. He wondered whether Ruth had talked to Duveen before
she hinted he might get a better post.
"Perhaps I ought not to have come up. In fact, I hesitated--"
Duveen laughed. "So I remarked! You reckoned the Occidental stoop was
pretty public and your talking to me might imply that you wanted my
support? Well, I'll risk that. It's obvious you're on the short list. Do
you want a post?"
For a moment or two Lister pondered. He did want a post; anyhow, he
ought to try for it. On the whole he liked Duveen, and thought he might
have liked Ruth better had she not been rich. All the same, Duveen was a
shrewd manipulator of new industries and to take a post by his favor
would be to own a debt, for which payment might be demanded. Yet Duveen
had been kind and Lister hesitated.
"I asked for a post," he said. "If I'm engaged, I'll try to make good;
but I must make good at the dam or on the ditch. Then I don't want to
bother my friends. The company has my engineering record and must judge
my usefulness by this. If they're not satisfied, I won't grumble much."
"You're an independent fellow, but I think I understand," Duveen
rejoined with a twinkle. "A company director's duty _is_ to judge an
applicant for a post by his professional record. If you are appointed,
you want us to appoint you because we believe you are the proper man?"
"Something like that," said Lister quietly.
Duveen nodded, and his glance rested for a moment on Lister's forehead.
"I see the mark you got on board the train hasn't altogether gone. Did
you hear anything about the girl you helped?"
"I did not," said Lister, starting, for he had not imagined Duveen knew
about the girl. "I have not seen her since she went off on the
"Then she has not written to you since?"
"She could not write, because she doesn't know who I am, and I don't
know her. We talked for a minute or two, that's all."
Duveen's face was inscrutable and Lister wondered whether he doubted his
statement. He was annoyed because the other knew so much.
"Oh, well," said Duveen, "I expect you heard they didn't catch Shillito,
and since he got across the frontier, it's possible the Canadian police
won't see him again. But I must get ready for supper. Will you stay?"
Lister excused himself and went back to the Tecumseh, where the bill of
fare was frugal and the serving rude. He imagined he had refused much
more than a first-class supper, but was satisfied he had taken the
proper line. For one thing, Duveen knew Ruth had given him her
friendship and, since he knew his daughter, it was significant that he
had not thought it necessary to meddle. Lister wondered whether he had
meant to use him, and was glad he had kept his independence. If he got
the post now, he would know he had rather misjudged Duveen, but he
doubted. All the same, he liked the man.
After supper Kemp and he sat on the veranda and watched the green glow
fade from the edge of the plain. They did not talk much, but by and by
Kemp remarked: "I thought I saw you go into the Occidental."
"Duveen called me on to the stoop."
"Duveen?" Kemp exclaimed. "Then he's got his hand on the wires! If the
Irrigation Company puts the undertaking over, a number of the dollars
will go to Duveen's wad. If he's your friend, I expect you know he could
get you the job."
"It's possible. All the same, I hinted I didn't want his help."
Kemp laughed. "You surprise me every time! I'm all for a square deal and
down with scheming grafters and log-rollers, but I allow I hate them
worst when they give another fellow the post I want."
"The thing's not fixed yet. The company's engineers are going to judge
and our record's pretty good. They may engage us. We'll know to-morrow."
"Sure thing," Kemp remarked dryly. "I reckon we'll both pull out on the
It began to get dark and Lister went off to bed. He must get water from
a cistern in the roof and to carry the heavy jug was awkward when one
could not see. At the Tecumseh the guests were expected to carry water
for themselves, and Lister, groping along the shadowy passage with his
load, thought his doing so had some significance. It was part of the
price he must pay for freedom.
At the time fixed in the morning, he went to the Occidental and was
shown into a room where a number of gentlemen occupied a table. One or
two were smoking and the others talked in low voices, but when Lister
came in and the secretary indicated a chair they turned as if to study
him. Duveen sat next a man at the end of the table and gave Lister a
nod. Somehow Lister thought he was amused.
Lister's heart beat. He felt this was ridiculous, because he had
persuaded himself it did not matter whether he got the post or not. Now,
however, when the moment to try his luck had come, he shrank from the
plunge he had resolved to make if he were not engaged. After all, he
knew and liked his occupation; to let it go and try fresh fields would
be something of a wrench.
The gentlemen did not embarrass him. On the whole, they were urbane, and
when the secretary gave the chairman his application one asked a few
questions about the work he had done. Lister was able to answer
satisfactorily, and another talked to him about the obstacles
encountered when one excavated treacherous gravel and built a bank to
stand angry floods. For all that, Lister was anxious. The others looked
bored, as if they were politely playing a game. He thought they knew
beforehand how the game would end, but he did not know. The inquiries
that bored the urbane gentlemen had important consequences for him and
the suspense was keen.
At length they let him go, and Duveen gave him a smile that Lister
thought implied much. When he returned to the hotel Kemp remarked that
he looked as if he needed a drink, and suggested that Lister go with him
and get one.
"I need three or four drinks, but mean to go without," said Lister
grimly. "I begin to understand how some men get the tanking habit."
He started off across the plain, and coming back too late for lunch,
found Kemp on the veranda. Kemp looked as if he were trying to be
philosophical, but found it hard.
"The secretary arrived not long since," he said. "A polite man! He
didn't want to let us down too heavily."
"Ah!" said Lister. "The Irrigation people have no use for us?"
Kemp nodded. "Willis has got the best job; they've hired up two or three
others, but we're left out."
"Willis!" exclaimed Lister, and joined in Kemp's laugh.
"After all, the money he's going to get is theirs," said Kemp. "In this
country we're a curious lot. We let grafters and wire-pullers run us,
and, when we start a big job, get away with much of the capital we want
for machines; but somehow we make good. We shoulder a load we needn't
carry and hit the pace up hot. If we got clean control, I reckon we'd
never stop. However, there's not much use in philosophizing when you've
lost your job, and the East-bound train goes out in a few minutes. You'd
better pack your grip."
BARBARA PLAYS A PART
Lister returned to the railroad camp and stayed until the company sent a
man to fill his post. In the meantime, he wrote to some of his father's
relations, whom he had not seen, and their reply was kind. They stated
that while he was in England he must make their house his home. When his
successor arrived he started for Montreal, and one afternoon sat under a
tree in the square by the cathedral.
The afternoon was calm. A thunderstorm that wet the streets had gone,
and an enervating damp heat brooded over the city. After the fresh winds
that sweep the woods and plains, Lister felt the languid air made him
slack and dull. His steamer did not sail until daybreak, and since he
had gone up the mountain and seen the cathedral and Notre Dame, he did
not know what to do. The bench he occupied was in the shade, and he
smoked and looked about.
Cabs rolled up the street to the big hotel across the square, and behind
the trees the huge block of the C.P.R. station cut the sky. One heard
whistles, the rumble of heavy wheels, and the tolling of locomotive
bells. Pigeons flew down from the cathedral dome and searched the damp
A group of foreign emigrants picnicked in the shade. Their clothes were
old and greasy; they carried big shapeless bundles and looked tired and
worn. Lister could not guess their nationality, but imagined they had
known poverty and oppression in Eastern Europe. It was obvious they had
recently disembarked from a crowded steerage and waited for an emigrant
train. They were going West, to the land of promise, and Lister wished
them luck. He and they were birds of passage and, with all old landmarks
left behind, rested for a few hours on their journey.
He studied the group. The men looked dull and beaten; the women had no
beauty and had grown coarse with toil. Their faces were pinched and
their shoulders bent. Only the children, in spite of rags and dirt,
struck a hopeful note. Yet the forlorn strangers had pluck; they had
made a great adventure and might get their reward. Lister had seen
others in the West, who had made good, breaking soil they owned and
walking with the confident step of self-respecting men. On the plains,
stubborn labor was rewarded, but one needed pluck to leave all one knew
and break custom's familiar but heavy yoke.
By and by Lister remembered he wanted to take his relations a few
typically Canadian presents. He had seen nothing that satisfied him at
Winnipeg, and had better look about the shops at Montreal. Anyhow, it
would amuse him for an hour or two. He got up, went along the path for a
few yards, and then stopped.
Across the clanging of the locomotive bells and the roll of trolley cars
at the bottom of the hill he heard sweet voices. The music was faint and
somehow ethereal, as if it fell from a height. One lost it now and then.
It came from the cathedral and Lister stopped and listened. He did not
know what office was being sung, but the jaded emigrants knew, for a
child got up and stood with bent head, holding a greasy cap, and a
ragged woman's face got gentle as she signed herself with the cross. It
looked as if the birds of passage had found a landmark in a foreign
land. Lister was moved, and gave the child a coin before he went off.
He strolled east, past Notre Dame, towards the post office, about which
the stately banks and imposing office blocks stand. This quarter of the
city drew him, for one saw how constructive talent and imagination could
be used, and he wondered whether England had new buildings like these.
Sometimes one felt the Western towns were raw and vulgar, but one saw
the bold Canadian genius at its best in Montreal.
After a time he stopped in front of a shop in a short side street.
Indian embroidery work and enameled silver occupied the window, and
although Lister was not an artist he had an eye for line and knew the
things were good. The soft, stained deerskin was cleverly embroidered;
he liked the warm colors of the enamel, and going in was shown a tray of
The shop, shut in by high buildings, was dark and smelt of aromatic wood
and leather, but a beam from a window pierced the gloom and sparkled on
the silver. This was emblazoned with the arms of the Provinces; the
Ship, the Wheatsheaves, and the red Maple Leaf. Lister picked up the
articles, and while he did so was vaguely conscious that a girl at the
opposite counter studied him. He, however, did not look up until he had
selected a few of the spoons, and then he started.
The light that touched the girl's face did not illuminate it all. Her
profile was sharp as an old daguerreotype: he saw the flowing line from
brow to chin, drawn with something of austere classic beauty, the arched
lips and the faint indication of a gently-rounded cheek. The rest was in
shadow, and the contrast of light and gloom was like a Rembrandt
picture. Then the enameled spoons rattled as Lister put down the tray.
He knew the picture. When he last saw the girl, her face was lighted
like that by the blaze of a locomotive head-lamp.
"I'll take these things," he said, and crossed the floor.
The girl moved back, but he indicated a bundle of deerskin articles he
thought her business was to sell. Her color was high; he noted the vivid
white and pink against the dull background of stained leather.
"What does one do with those bags?" he asked.
"They're useful for keeping gloves and handkerchiefs," she replied. "The
pattern is worked in sinews, but we have some with a neat colored
embroidery." She paused and signed to a saleswoman farther on. "Will you
bring this gentleman the Revillon goods?"
Lister's object for stopping her was not very plain, but he did not mean
to let her go.
"Please don't bother. I expect to find something in this bundle," he
said to the approaching saleswoman. Then he turned to the girl in front.
"Let me look at the bag with the arrow-head pattern."
She gave him the bag, and although her glance was steady he knew she was
"If you will wrap it up, I'll keep this one," he resumed. "I expect you
have not forgotten me. When I came into the shop I didn't imagine I
should meet you, but if you'd sooner I went off, I'll go."
"I have not forgotten," she admitted, and her color faded and came back
to her delicate skin.
"Very well! Since I sail to-night on the Allan boat, it's plain you
needn't be afraid of my bothering you. All the same, we were partners in
an adventure that ought to make us friends. Can't I meet you for a few
minutes when you stop work?"
She hesitated, and then gave him a searching glance.
"Come to the fountain up the street in an hour. This is my early
Lister went off with the bag and spoons, and when he returned to the
fountain saw her crossing the square in front. She was dressed like the
shop-girls he had seen hurrying on board the street cars in the morning;
her clothes were pretty and fashionable, but Lister thought the material
was cheap. He felt she ought not to wear things like that. While she
advanced he studied her. She was attractive, in a way he had hardly
remarked on board the train. One rather noted her quick, resolute
movements, the sparkle in her eyes, and her keen vitality. Lister began
to think he had unconsciously noted much.
"I'm going to take you to supper, and you can send me off when you like
afterwards," he said and started across the square. A famous restaurant
was not far off.
"No," she said, as if she knew where he was going. "If I go with you, it
must be the tea-rooms I and my friends use." She gave him a rather hard
smile and added: "There's no use in my going where I don't belong."
Lister said nothing, but while they walked across the town she talked
with a brightness he thought forced, and when they stopped at a small
tea-room in a side street he frowned. He was persuaded she did not
belong there. She was playing a part, perhaps not very cleverly since he
had found her out. She wanted him to think her a shop-girl enjoying an
evening's adventure; her talk and careless laugh hinted at this, but
Lister was not cheated.
They went in. The room was small and its ornamentation unusual.
Imitation vines crawled about light wooden arches, cutting up the floor
space into quiet corners. The room was rather dark, but pink lamps shone
among the leaves and the soft light touched the tables and clusters of
artificial grapes. Lister thought the plan was well carried out, for the
grapes were the small red Muskokas that grow in Canada. When he picked
up the menu card he understood why girls from the stores and offices
used the place.
Lister ordered the best supper the French-Canadian landlady could serve,
and then began to talk while he helped his companion. The corner they
occupied was secluded and he owned that to sup with an attractive girl
had a romantic charm. He noted that she frankly enjoyed the food and he
liked her light, quick laugh and the sparkle in her eyes. Her thin
summer clothes hinted at a slender, finely-lined form, and her careless
pose was graceful.
He wondered whether she felt her meeting him was something of an
adventure, but he was persuaded she was playing a part. Her frankness
was not bold, the little, French-Canadian gestures were obviously
borrowed, and some of the colloquialisms she used were out of date.
Except for these, her talk was cultivated. For a time Lister tried to
play up, and then resolved to see if he could break her reserve.
"It looks as if you made Malcolm all right on board the gravel train,"
She gave him a quick glance and colored. "Yes, I made it and got the
East-bound express. The engineer was kind. I expect you told him he must
"When I put you on board the locomotive I knew Roberts would see you
out. He's a sober fellow and has two girls as old as you."
"You don't know how old I am," she said with an effort for carelessness.
"Anyhow, it's plain you are young enough to be rash," Lister rejoined.
She put down her cup and her glance was soft. He saw she was not acting.
"I don't think I really was rash--not _then_. It's something to know
when you can trust people, and I did know."
Lister was embarrassed, but her gentleness had charm. He did not want
her to resume her other manner. Then he was tempted to make an
"You know Shillito got away?"
Her lips trembled and the blood came to her skin, but she fronted him
bravely and he felt ashamed.
"Yes," she said. "I think I would sooner he had been caught! But why did
you begin to talk about Shillito?"
"Perhaps I oughtn't; I'm sorry."
She studied him and he thought she pondered, although it was possible
she wanted to recover her calm.
"Unless you are very dull, you know something," she resumed with an
effort. "Well, I was rash, but just before I saw you on the platform I
found out all I'd risked. I think I was desperate; I meant to jump off
the train, only it was going fast and water shone under the bridge. Then
you pushed me from the step and I felt I must make another plunge and
try to get your help. Now I'm glad I did so. But that's all."
Lister understood that the thing was done with. She would tell him
nothing more, and he was sorry he had indulged his curiosity.
"Oh, well," he said, "there's not much risk of my bothering you about
the fellow again. I start for England in a few hours."
Her glance got wistful. She moved her plate and her hand trembled.
"You are English?" he resumed.
"I met you first on board a Canadian train and now you find me helping
at a Montreal store. Isn't this enough? Why do you try to find out where
I come from?"
"I'm sorry. All the same, you're not a Canadian."
"I am a Canadian now," she rejoined, and then added, as if she were
resolved to talk about something else, "There's a mark on your forehead,
like a deep cut. You hadn't got it when I saw you on the platform."
"No," said Lister. "I fell down some steps not long afterwards."
She looked at him sharply and then exclaimed: "Oh! the newspapers said
there was a struggle on the train! Somebody helped the police and got
hurt. It was you. Shillito knew you had meddled. You got the cut for
"We agreed we wouldn't talk about Shillito. I got the cut because I
didn't want to see a young police trooper knocked out. People who meddle
do get hurt now and then. Anyhow, it's some time since and I think we'll
let it go. Suppose you tell me about Montreal and your job at the
She roused herself and began to talk. Lister thought it cost her
something, but she sketched her working companions with skill and humor.
She used their accent and their French-Canadian gestures. Lister laughed
and led her on, although he got a hint of strain. The girl was not happy
and he had noted her wistful look when she talked about England. At
length she got up, and stopping at the door for a moment gave him her
"Thank you. I wish you _bon voyage_," she said.
"Can't we go somewhere else? Is there nothing doing at the theaters?"
"No," she said resolutely; "I'm going home. Anyhow, I'm going where I
Lister let her go, but waited, watching her while she went up the
street. Somehow she looked forlorn and he felt pitiful. He remembered
that he did not know her name, which he had wanted to ask but durst not.
When he returned to his hotel he stopped at the desk and gave the clerk
a cigarette. As a rule, a Canadian hotel clerk knows something about
everybody of importance in the town.
"I bought some _souvenirs_ at a curiosity depot," he said, and told the
other where the shop was. "Although they charged me pretty high, the
things looked good."
"You haven't got stung," the clerk remarked. "The folks are
French-Canadians but they like a square deal. If you put up the money,
they put up the goods."
"The shop hands looked smart and bright. If you study the sales people,
you can sometimes tell how a store is run."
"That's so. Those girls don't want to grumble. They're treated all
"Oh, well," said Lister, "since I don't know much about enameled goods
and deerskin truck, I'm glad I've not got stung."
When he went off the other smiled, for a hotel clerk is not often
cheated, and he thought he saw where Lister's remarks led. Lister,
however, was strangely satisfied. It was something to know the
storekeepers were honest and kind to the people they employed.
Silky blue lines streaked the long undulations that ran back to the
horizon and the _Flaminian_ rolled with a measured swing. When her bows
went down the shining swell broke with a dull roar and rainbows
flickered in the spray about her forecastle; then, while the long deck
got level, one heard the beat of engines and the grinding of screws. A
wake like an angry torrent foamed astern, and in the distance, where the
dingy smoke-cloud melted, the crags of Labrador ran in faint, broken
line. Ahead an ice-floe glittered in the sun. The liner had left Belle
Isle Strait and was steaming towards Greenland on the northern Atlantic
Harry Vernon occupied a chair on the saloon-deck and read the _Montreal
Star_ which had been sent on board at Rimouski. The light reflected by
the white boats and deck was strong; he was not much interested, and put
down the newspaper when Lister joined him. They had met on the journey
from Winnipeg to Montreal, and on boarding the _Flaminian_ Lister was
given the second berth in Vernon's room. Vernon liked Lister.
"Take a smoke," he said, indicating a packet of cigarettes. "Nothing
fresh in the newspapers. They've caught the fellow Porteous; he was
trying to steal across to Detroit."
Lister sat down and lighted a cigarette. Porteous was a clerk who had
not long since gone off with a large sum of his employer's money.
"Canada is getting a popular hunting ground for smart crooks. It looks
as if our business men were easily robbed."
"There are two kinds of business men; one lot makes things, the other
buys and sells. Some of the first are pretty good manufacturers, but
stop at that. They concentrate on manufacturing and hire a specialist to
look after finance."
"But if the specialist's a crook, can't you spot him when he gets to
"As a rule, the men who get stung know all about machines and material
but nothing about book-keeping," Vernon replied. "A bright accountant
could rob one or two I've met when he was asleep. For example, there was
Shillito. His employers were big and prosperous lumber people; clever
men at their job, but Shillito gambled with their money for some time
before they got on his track. I expect you read about him in the
Lister smiled and, pushing back his cap, touched his forehead.
"I know something about Shillito. That's his mark!"
"Then you were the man he knocked out!" Vernon exclaimed. "But he hasn't
got your money. Why did you help the police?"
"It isn't very obvious. Somehow, I didn't like the fellow. Then, you
see, the girl--"
"The girl? What had a girl to do with it?"
Lister frowned. He had not meant to talk about the girl and was angry
because he had done so, but did not see how he could withdraw his
careless statement. Moreover Vernon looked interested, and it was
important that both were typical Canadians. The young Canadian is not
subtle; as a rule, his talk is direct, and at awkward moments he is
generally marked by a frank gravity. Vernon was grave now and Lister
thought he pondered. He had not known Vernon long, but he felt one could
"I met a girl on board the train," he said. "She was keen about getting
away from Shillito."
"Why did she want to get away?"
"I don't know. Looked as if she was afraid of him. When I first saw her
she was on the car platform and I reckoned she was bracing herself to
jump off. Since we were running across a trestle, I pulled her from the
steps. That's how the thing began."
"But it didn't stop just then?"
"It stopped soon afterwards," Lister replied. "She wanted to get off and
go East; the train was bound West, but we were held up at a side-track,
and I put her on board a gravel train locomotive."
"Then she went East!" said Vernon thoughtfully, and studied the other.
Lister sat with his head thrown back and the sun on his brown face. His
look was calm and frank; his careless pose brought out the lines of his
thin but muscular figure. Vernon felt he was honest; he knew Lister's
"She went off on board our construction locomotive," Lister replied.
"But I don't see yet! Why did you meddle? Why did she give you her
"She didn't give me her confidence," Lister said, and smiled. "She
wanted to get away and I helped. That's all. It's obvious I wasn't out
for a romantic adventure, because I put her off the train."
Vernon nodded. Lister's argument was sound; besides, he did not look
like a philanderer.
"Then you don't know who she is?"
"I don't know. She didn't put me wise and my business was not to bother
"What was she like? Did you guess her age? How was she dressed?"
Lister lighted a fresh cigarette. Vernon's keenness rather puzzled him,
but he thought he had told the fellow enough. In fact, he doubted if the
girl would approve his frankness. He was not going to state that he had
met her at Montreal. Anyhow, not yet. If Vernon talked about the thing
again and gave proper grounds for his curiosity, he might perhaps
"She was young," he answered vaguely. "Attractive, something of a
looker, I think. I don't know much about women's clothes."
"Oh, well!" said Vernon. "You helped her off and Shillito found this out
and got after you?"
"He got after me when he saw he was corraled," Lister replied, and
narrated his struggle on the platform. He was now willing to tell Vernon
all he wanted to know, but saw the other's interest was not keen and
they presently began to talk about something else.
"What are you going to do in the Old Country?" Vernon asked.
"I have no plans. For a time, I guess I'll loaf and look about. Then I
want to see my father's folks, whom I haven't met."
"Your father was English?"
"Why, yes," said Lister, smiling. "If you reckon up, you'll find a big
proportion of the staunchest Canadians' parents came from the Old
Country. In fact, I sometimes feel Canada belongs to us and the boys of
the sourdough stock. Between us we have given the country its stamp and
made it a land for white men; but we'll soon be forced to make good our
claim. If we're slack, we'll be snowed under by folks from Eastern
Europe whose rules and habits are not ours."
Vernon nodded. "It's a problem we have got to solve. But are you going
back to the railroad when you have looked about?"
"I'm going back some time, but, now I have pulled out, I want to see all
I can. I'd like to look at Europe, Egypt and India."
"Wandering around costs something," Vernon remarked.
"That is so. My wad's small, but if I've not had enough when it's used
up, I'll look for a job. If nothing else is doing, I'll go to sea."
Vernon's smile was sympathetic and he looked ahead, over the dipping
forecastle to the far horizon. The sea shone with reflected light and an
iceberg glimmered against the blue. He felt the measured throb of
engines and the ship leap forward. Vernon was a young Canadian and
sprang from pioneering stock. The vague distance called; he felt the
lure of going somewhere.
"If the thing was possible, I'd go with you," he said. "All the same,
I'm tied to business and the old man can't pull his load alone. My job's
to stick to the traces and help him along. But do you know much about
"I was engineer on board a Pacific coasting boat and a wheat barge on
"Well," said Vernon thoughtfully, "I know an English shipping boss who
might help you get a berth. I'd rather like you to meet him, but we'll
talk about this again. Now let's join those fellows at deck-quoits."
Their friendship ripened, but it was not until the last day of the
voyage Vernon said something more about the English ship-owner.
_Flaminian_ was steaming across the Irish Sea, with the high blue hills
of Mourne astern and the Manx rocks ahead. Vernon lounged on the
saloon-deck and his face was thoughtful as he looked across the shining
"We'll make Liverpool soon after dark, and if I can get the train I
want, I'll pull out right then," he said. "You allowed you might try a
run on board an English ship before you went back?"
"It's possible," said Lister. "Depends on how my wad holds out and on
somebody's being willing to give me a post."
Vernon nodded. "That's where I'm leading." He stopped, and Lister
wondered why he pondered. The thing did not seem worth the thought his
companion gave it.
"I reckon you don't know Cartwright of the Independent Freighters, but
he could put you wise about getting a ship," Vernon resumed. "I'm
stopping for a week or two at his country house. The freighters are
small boats, but Cartwright's worth knowing; in fact, to know him is
something of an education. In the West we're pretty keen business men,
and I've put across some smart deals at the Winnipeg Board of Trade, but
I'll admit Cartwright would beat me every time. Where do you mean to
Lister said he was going to the neighborhood of a small country town in
the North of England, and was puzzled by Vernon's start.
"That fixes it! The thing's strangely lucky. Cartwright's country house
is not far off. You had better come along by my train. Soon after I
arrive I'll get Mrs. Cartwright to ask you across."
"I mustn't bother your friends," said Lister. "Besides, I really don't
know if I want to go to sea."
"All the same, you'll come over to Carrock. You ought to know Cartwright
and I reckon he'll like to know you. I have a notion you and he would
make a good team."
Lister wondered whether Vernon had an object for urging him to meet his
friend, but this looked ridiculous.
"What's Cartwright like?" he asked carelessly.
"My notion is, Cartwright's unique. You imagine he's something of a
highbrow Englishman, rather formal and polite, but he has an eye like a
fish-hawk's and his orders go. Hair and mustache white; you don't know
if his clothes are old or new, but you feel they're exactly what he
ought to wear. That's Cartwright, so to speak, on top; but when you meet
him you want to remember you're not up against a Canadian. We're a
straight type. When we're tough, we're very tough all the time; when
we're cultivated, you can see the polish shine. In the Old Country it's
harder to fix where folks belong."
"You imply that you have got to know Cartwright before you fix him?"
Vernon laughed. "I haven't quite fixed him yet. At one time he's a sober
gentleman of the stiff old school; at another he's as rough as the
roughest hobo I've met in the West. I reckon he'd beat a business crook
at the other's smartest trick, but if you're out for a straight deal,
you'll find Cartwright straight."
He went off to change some money and Lister went to his cabin and began
to pack his trunk. When he came up they had passed the Chicken Rock and
a long bright beam touched the sea astern. In the East, water and sky
faded to dusky blue, but presently a faint light began to blink as if it
beckoned. The light got brighter and gradually drew abeam. The foaming
wake glimmered lividly in the dark, the beat of screws seemed quicker,
and Lister thought the ship was carried forward by a stream of tide.
Other lights began to blink. They stole out of the dark, got bright, and
vanished, and Lister, leaning on the rails, felt they called him on. One
knew them by their colors and measured flashes. They were beacons,
burning on a well-ordered plan to guide the navigator, but he did not
know the plan. In a sense, this was important, and he began to muse.
Now he would soon reach the Old Country, he felt he had made a momentous
plunge. Adventure called, he knew Canada and wanted something fresh, but
he wondered whether this was all. Perhaps the plunge had, so to speak,
not been a thoughtless caprice. In a sense, things had led up to it and
made it logical. For example, it might not have been for nothing he met
the girl on the train and got hurt. His hurt had kept him at Winnipeg
and stopping there had roused his discontent. Then he had met Vernon,
who wanted him to know the English ship-owner. It was possible these
things were like the flashes that leaped out of the dark. He would know
where they pointed when the journey was over. Then Lister smiled and
knocked out his pipe.
When he went on deck again some time afterwards the ship was steering
for a gap between two rows of twinkling lights. They ran on, closing on
each other, like electric lamps in a long street, and in front the sky
shone with a dull red glow. It was the glimmer of a great port, they
were entering the Mersey, and he went off to get up his luggage.
PART II--THE RECKONING
Lister occupied the end of a slate-flag bench on the lawn at Carrock,
Mrs. Cartwright's house in Rannerdale. Rannerdale slopes to a lake in
the North Country, and the old house stands among trees and rocks in a
sheltered hollow. The sun shone on its lichened front, where a creeper
was going red; in the background birches with silver stems and leaves
like showers of gold gleamed against somber firs. Across the lawn and
winding road, the tranquil lake reflected bordering woods; and then long
mountain slopes that faded from yellow and green to purple closed the
While Lister waited for the tea Mrs. Cartwright had given him to cool he
felt the charm of house and dale was strong. Perhaps it owed something
to the play of soft light and shade, for, as a rule, in Canada all was
sharply cut. The English landscape had a strange elusive beauty that
gripped one hard, and melted as the fleecy clouds rolled by. When the
light came back color and line were as beautiful but not the same.
There was no grass in Canada like the sweep of smooth English turf, and
Lister had not thought a house could give the sense of ancient calm one
got at Carrock. Since his boyhood he had not known a home; his resting
place had been a shack at a noisy construction camp, a room at a crowded
cheap hotel, and a berth beside a steamer's rattling engines. Then the
shining silver on the tea-table was something new; he marked its beauty
of line, and the blue and gold and brown pattern on the delicate china
he was almost afraid to touch. In fact, all at Carrock was marked by a
strange refinement and quiet charm.
He liked his hosts. Mrs. Cartwright was large, rather fat, and placid,
but he felt the house and all it stood for were hers by rightful
inheritance. Her son and daughter were not like that. Lister thought
they had cultivated their well-bred serenity and by doing so had
cultivated out some virile qualities of human nature. Grace Hyslop had
beauty, but not much charm; Lister thought her cold, and imagined her
prejudices were strong and conventional. Mortimer's talk and manners
were colorlessly correct. Lister did not know yet if Hyslop was a prig
Cartwright was frankly puzzling. He looked like a sober country
gentleman, and this was not the type Lister had thought to meet. His
clothes were fastidiously good, his voice had a level, restrained note,
but his eye was like a hawk's, as Vernon had said. Now and then one saw
a twinkle of ironical amusement and some of his movements were quick and
vigorous. Lister thought Cartwright's blood was red.
Vernon, lounging at the opposite end of the bench, talked about a day
Hyslop and he had spent upon the rocks, and rather struck a foreign
note. He had not Hyslop's graceful languidness; he looked alert and
highly-strung. His thin face was too grave for Carrock and his glance
too quick. Lister, listening to his remarks, was surprised to note that
Hyslop was a bold mountaineer.
"Oh, well," he said, with a deprecatory smile, when Vernon stopped,
"this small group of mountains is all the wild belt we have got, and you
like to find a stranger keen about your favorite sport. Then your
keenness was flattering. In your country, with its lonely woods and
rivers running to the North, you have a field for strenuous sport and
"The woods pull," Vernon agreed. "All the same, I'm a business man.
Betting at the Board of Trade is my proper job and I've got to be
satisfied with a week at a fishing camp now and then. Adventure is for
the pioneers, lumber men and railroad builders like my friend."
Lister looked up. He did not see why Vernon talked about him.
"My adventures don't count for much," he said. "Sometimes a car went
into a muskeg and we had to hustle to dig her out. Sometimes the boys
made trouble about their pay. Railroad building is often dull."
"I don't know if we're all modest in Canada, but my partner is," Vernon
observed. "If you want a romantic tale, persuade him to tell you how he
got the mark on his head."
"Oh shucks!" said Lister. "I had sooner you had cut that out." He turned
to the others apologetically. "It was a dispute with a fellow on board a
train who threw me down the steps. I don't want to bore you with the
"The man was the famous crook, Shillito," Vernon remarked.
Cartwright lifted his head and looked at Vernon hard. Then he looked at
Lister, who felt embarrassed and angry. He saw Grace and Mrs. Cartwright
were curious and thought Hyslop's glance got keen.
"If it will not bother Mr. Lister, we would like to hear his narrative,"
said Cartwright quietly, but Lister got a hint of command.
He narrated his adventure on the train, and although he tried to rob the
story of its romance, was surprised when he stopped for a moment. Vernon
was carelessly lighting a cigarette, but Lister saw his carelessness was
forced. When he got a light he crossed the grass, as if he meant to
throw the match over the hedge. Lister thought Cartwright watched Harry
with dry amusement. Mrs. Cartwright's look was obviously disturbed, but
she had not altogether lost her calm. One felt her calm was part of her,
but the Hyslops' was cultivated. Lister imagined it cost them something
to use control.
"Go on," said Cartwright, rather sharply.
Lister resumed, but presently Cartwright stopped him.
"You imagined the girl was afraid of Shillito! What were your grounds?"
"She was disturbed and declared she must get off the train. I think she
meant to jump off, although we were going fast. Then she asked me if the
conductor could be bribed to stop."
"Perhaps we can take it for granted she wanted to get away from
somebody. Why did you surmise the man was Shillito?"
"He came through the car afterwards, as if he tried to find the girl,
and gave me a keen glance. When he came back I thought him angry and
disappointed. By and by I had better grounds for imagining he suspected
I had helped her."
Cartwright pondered, but Lister did not think he doubted. It rather
looked as if he weighed something carefully. The lines on his face got
deeper and his look was thoughtful.
"I understand the girl did not give you her name," he said. "What was
she like? How was she dressed?"
Lister was rather surprised to find he could not answer satisfactorily.
It was not the girl's physical qualities but her emotions he had marked.
He remembered the pluck with which she had struggled against the fear
she obviously felt, her impulsive trust when he offered help, and her
relief when she got into the locomotive cab. Although he had studied her
at Montreal, it was her effort to play a part that impressed him most.
"She was young, and I think attractive," he replied. "She wore a knitted
cap and a kind of jersey a girl might use for boating. I thought she
came from a summer camp."
Cartwright's face was inscrutable, but Lister saw the others' interest
was keen. Mrs. Cartwright's eyes were fixed on him and he got a hint of
suspense. Although Grace was very quiet, a touch of color had come to
her skin, as if she felt humiliated. Mortimer's pose was stiff and his
control over done. Then Cartwright turned to his step-daughter.
"Have you told Jones about the box of plants for Liverpool?"
Grace's look indicated that she did not want to go, but Cartwright's
glance was insistent and she got up. Lister looked about and saw Vernon
had not come back. He was studying the plants in a border across the
lawn. When Grace had gone Cartwright asked:
"Can you remember the evening of the month and the time when you first
saw the girl?"
Lister fixed the date and added: "It was nearly ten o'clock. The porter
had just gone through the car and when he said my berth was ready I
looked at my watch. He went to the next Pullman, and I thought he was
getting busy late."
Cartwright nodded and Mortimer glanced at him sharply, but next moment
looked imperturbable. Mrs. Cartwright's relief, however, was obvious.
Her face had become animated and her hands trembled.
"Thank you," said Cartwright. "Go on."
Lister narrated his putting the girl on board the gravel train and Mrs.
"Do you know if she had money?"
"She had some. Enough to buy a ticket East."
"It's strange," said Mrs. Cartwright, and then exclaimed: "You mean you
gave her some?"
"Oh, well," said Lister awkwardly, "I'd seen her look at her purse and
frown, and as I helped her up the locomotive steps I pushed a few bills
into her hand. I don't think she knew they were paper money. She was
highly-strung and anxious to get off before Shillito came along."
Mrs. Cartwright gave him a look that moved him. Her eyes shone and he
knew she was his friend.
"The poor girl was strangely lucky when she met you," she said.
Lister resumed his narrative, but it was plain the climax had passed.
The others' interest was now polite, and he went on as fast as possible.
He had begun to see a light and wanted to finish and get away. He did
not, however, see that while he told his artless tale he had drawn his
character. When he stopped Cartwright said:
"Then you did not know her name?"
"I don't know it yet," said Lister, as coolly as he could, but got
embarrassed when he saw Cartwright's smile.
"You don't imagine Shillito rejoined her afterwards?"
"No," said Lister firmly, "I think it's impossible. The gravel train was
going East, and when the police boarded the cars we had run some
distance West." He stopped for a moment, because he saw he was very
dull. If his supposition were correct, there was something the others
ought to know. "Besides," he resumed, "I met her not long since at
"At Montreal!" Mrs. Cartwright exclaimed.
"At a shop where they sold _souvenirs_," Lister replied. "I didn't
expect to meet her; I went in to buy some enameled things. It was a
pretty good shop and the hotel clerk declared the people were all right.
She knew me and we went to a tea-room. She left me at the door, and I
think that's all."
He got up. "I don't know if I have bored you, but I felt you wanted me
to talk. Now I must get off, and I want to see Harry before I go."
"Mr. Vernon does not seem to be about," Cartwright remarked with some
dryness. "I'll go to the gate with you."
Mrs. Cartwright gave Lister her hand and her glance was very kind. "You
will come back? So long as you stop here I hope you will feel our house
is open to you."
Hyslop got up, but Cartwright stopped him with a sign. He was quiet
while they crossed the lawn, but when they reached the wood by the road
he said, "I imagine you know we owe you much. After a time, your efforts
to use some tact were rather obvious. Well, the girl you helped is my
"At the beginning, I did not know this," Lister declared.
"It was plain," said Cartwright, "Well, I agree with her mother--Barbara
was very lucky when she met you, but since you look embarrassed, we'll
let this go. Did she repay your loan?"
"She wanted to pay me," said Lister. "I refused."
"Why?" Cartwright asked, looking at him hard.
Lister hesitated, "For one thing, I didn't know the sum. Then I knew her
wages were not high. You ought to see I couldn't take the money."
"You ought to have taken the money, for the girl's sake."
"Oh," said Lister, "I think she knew I didn't refuse because I wanted
her to feel she owed me something."
"It's possible she did know," said Cartwright dryly. "You must try to
remember the sum when you come again. Now I want the name of the shop at
Lister told him and added: "You mean to write to Miss Hyslop?"
Cartwright smiled. "I'm going across as soon as possible to bring my
When Lister had gone Cartwright returned to the tea-table and looked at
Hyslop, who got up and went off. Hyslop did not altogether want to go
but he had cultivated discretion, and it was plain his step-father meant
to get rid of him. Then Cartwright gave his wife a sympathetic glance.
Mrs. Cartwright was calm, but when she put some cups together her hand
"Leave the things alone," said Cartwright in a soothing voice. "Vernon's
plot was clever."
"Do you think Harry planned that Lister should tell us?"
"It looks like that," said Cartwright dryly. "He was keen about bringing
his friend over, but was cautious enough to wait until the fellow began
to know us. When he talked about Lister's adventures I wondered where he
was leading. The other was puzzled, and didn't see until near the end."
"But why didn't Harry, himself, tell us all he knew?"
"Vernon's a good sort and more fastidious than one thinks; he saw he'd
be forced to venture on rather awkward ground, and there was some doubt.
He wanted us to weigh the story and judge if the clew he gave us ought
to be followed. This was not Vernon's job, although I think he was
"But you are satisfied?"
"Yes," said Cartwright "Lister's portrait of Barbara was lifelike and
his own was pretty good. I think he drew himself and her better than he
knew, and perhaps it's lucky we have to deal with fellows like these. A
good Canadian is a fine type. However, we must bring Barbara back."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Cartwright, "I want her back! One must hide one's hurt,
but to hide it is hard--" She pulled herself up and added: "Will you
send a cablegram?"
"I think not. The girl is proud and as wild as a hawk. She thinks she
has humiliated us, and if she's startled, she'll probably run away."
"You don't think she has humiliated us?" Mrs. Cartwright said in a
Cartwright smiled. "It's plain that her escapade must not be talked
about but we can trust these Canadians and I know Barbara. In a sense,
Lister's narrative wasn't necessary. The girl is headstrong, but I was
persuaded she would find the rascal out. Looks as if she did so soon
after they got on board the cars, and I imagine Shillito had an awkward
few moments; Barbara's temper is not mild. Then it's important that she
was desperately anxious to escape from him. There's no more to be said."
Mrs. Cartwright gave him a grateful look. Her husband had never failed
her and he had justified her trust again.
"If you don't send a cablegram, how shall we get Barbara back?"
"I'll go myself," said Cartwright "If she can't be persuaded, I'll bring
her by force. It's lucky I can charge the cost to the office. The new
wheat is coming down to Montreal, and the _Conference_ people have a
plan to get it all, but I expect to beat them and engage some cargo for
our boats before the St. Lawrence freezes. However, since I'm going, I
must get to work."
He started for the house and met his step-son at the porch. Mortimer
looked thoughtful, and held an unlighted cigarette. Cartwright studied
him with scornful amusement.
"Have you been speculating about the proper way of handling an awkward
"I have been talking to Grace," Hyslop replied in an even voice.
"I rather think Grace has been talking to you, but expect you agreed.
You have, no doubt, decided the best plan is to leave your headstrong
"We did agree about something like that," said Hyslop coolly, although
when Cartwright fixed his eyes on his he turned his head. "We thought if
Barbara were given an allowance, she might, for example, stay with the
Vernons. Grace's notion--"
Cartwright's mouth got hard and his mustache bristled. When he was moved
his urbanity vanished and his talk was very blunt.
"We'll let Grace's notion go. My form is not my step-children's, but I
try to moderate my remarks about women. We'll admit Grace is a woman,
although I sometimes doubt. Anyhow, you are not a man; you haven't a
drop of warm blood in your veins! You're a curled and scented fine
lady's lap-dog pup!"
"I don't see much use in talking about my qualities, sir."
"You don't see," Cartwright agreed. "That's your drawback! You see
nothing that's rude and human; you're afraid to look. All that's obvious
is, Barbara must not come home to throw an awkward reflection on Grace's
Puritanical virtue. People might find out something and talk? If anybody
talks while I'm about, I'll ram the implication down his throat! You
don't see, or perhaps you don't mind, the drawbacks to separating
Barbara from her mother and banishing her from home? She's trustful,
rash, and fiery, and not a statue like Grace. Anyhow, Barbara is coming
back, and if you don't approve, I'll expect you to be resigned. Now get
off before I let myself go!"
Hyslop went. One gained nothing by arguing with a brute like Cartwright,
and since Mrs. Cartwright's infatuation for her husband could not be
disturbed Hyslop knew he must acquiesce. Cartwright, rather braced by
the encounter, went to the library and wrote some letters to Liverpool.
A few days afterwards, he packed his trunk and was driven to the station
in Mrs. Cartwright's car. Grace got up an hour earlier than usual in
order to see him off, and when she brought his scarf and gloves
Cartwright accepted her ministrations with politeness. Although he knew
she disapproved of him, she thought her duty was to do things like this,
and he played up.
When the throb of the car was getting faint she met Mortimer going to
the lake. He stopped and looked up at the valley, which was streaked by
a thin line of dust.
"For three or four weeks we'll be undisturbed," he said. "I admit I like
Carrock better when my step-father is away."
"Barbara's coming back with him," Grace remarked. "In some ways, her
return will be awkward, but perhaps she ought to come."
Mortimer gave her a surprised glance. "This was not your view!"
"Oh, well, I have been thinking. Barbara is rash and very young. In
Canada, she would be free from all control, and one must not weigh
drawbacks against one's duty. Perhaps Cartwright takes the proper line,
although of course it costs him nothing. You didn't tell me what he said
the other evening."
Mortimer shrugged. "As a rule, my step-father's remarks won't bear
re-stating. He was a little franker than usual."
"He _is_ coarse," said Grace. "One feels he gets coarser, as if his
thoughts had begun to react on his body. There is a link, and, of
course, with his habits--"
"I rather think you mean with his appetites. Cartwright does not often
let himself go when he's at home, but when he is away he's another man."
Grace looked thoughtful. "One likes restraint. All the same, I sometimes
think rude, primitive people have a vigor we have not. It's strange, but
indulgence seems to go with force. One feels our friends are rather
_bloodless_--I'm using Cartwright's phrase."
"Our Canadian friends are not bloodless. I expect you have remarked that
Barbara's the type they like."
"She has an appeal for men like that," Grace agreed, and mused.
It was hard to own, but she began to see that when she thought Barbara
ought to stop in Canada she was inspired by jealousy. Barbara's charm
for men was strong and when she was about they left Grace alone. Still
she had a vague perception that her sister's charm was not altogether
physical. She herself had a classical beauty that did not mark the
younger girl; it looked as if Barbara had attractive qualities that were
not hers. Lister, for example, was not a brute like Cartwright, but it
was plain that Barbara had attracted him. Grace approved his soberness
and frank gravity; and then she pulled herself up. She must not be
jealous about her sister.
"Cartwright's power is stronger because he does not use our money,"
Mortimer resumed. "I don't know if it was cleverness or scruples that
urged him to refuse. All the same, if he were forced to ask mother's
help, his influence would be less."
"But his needing help is not probable. He's managing owner of the line."
Mortimer smiled. "He gets a commission on the boat's earnings, but does
not hold many shares. Then the fleet is small and the boats don't earn
very much. Things are not going smoothly and some shareholders would
like to put Cartwright off the Board. At the last meeting, one fellow
talked about the need for fresh blood. However, I expect Cartwright's
clever enough, to keep off the rocks, and when one can't get rid of a
drawback one must submit."
Lighting a cigarette, he started for the lake and Grace returned
thoughtfully to the house. Mortimer hated Cartwright and Grace admitted
he had some grounds. Although her brother was indolent and
philosophical, he did not forget. Rude disputes jarred him, but if by
some chance he was able to injure the other, Grace thought he would do
so. Grace, herself, strongly disapproved of Cartwright. All the same, he
was her step-father and she had tried to cultivate her sense of duty.
She was prejudiced, cold, and censorious, but she meant to be just and
did not like Mortimer's bitterness.
Cartwright was occupied for some time at Montreal, and the birch leaves
had fallen when he returned. The evening was dark, and chilly mist
rolled down the dale, but a big fire burned in the hall at Carrock and
tall lamps threw a cheerful light on the oak paneling. A flooded beck
roared in the hollow of a ghyll across the lawn and its turmoil echoed
about the hall. Mrs. Cartwright stood by the fire, Grace moved
restlessly about, and Mortimer appeared to be absorbed by the morning's
"I wish you would sit down, mother," he said presently. "You can hear
the car, you know, and the train is often late."
For a few minutes Mrs. Cartwright did not move, and then she started and
fixed her eyes on the door. She heard an engine throb, there was a noise
in the porch, and a cold wind blew into the room. Then the door opened
and Cartwright entered, shaking the damp from his fur coat. He turned,
beckoning somebody behind, and Barbara came out from the arch. Her face
was flushed, her eyes were hard, and she stopped irresolutely. Mortimer
advanced to take the coat she carried and Grace crossed the floor, but
Barbara waited, as if she did not see them. Then her strained look
vanished, for Mrs. Cartwright went forward with awkward speed and took
her in her arms.
Cartwright saw his wife had forgotten him, and turning to the others
with a commanding gesture, drove them and the servants from the hall.
When they had gone he gave Mrs. Cartwright a smile.
"I've brought her back," he said. "Not altogether an easy job. Barbara's
ridiculous, but she can fight."
He went off and Barbara clung to her mother. She was shaking and her
breath came hard.
"You were ridiculous," said Mrs. Cartwright in a gentle voice. "I expect
you were very obstinate. But he was kind?"
"He's a dear; I love him!" Barbara replied. "He understands everything.
I think he ought to have stopped at Liverpool; the secretary met us and
talked about some business, but if he hadn't come with me, I could not
She stopped, and resting her head on Mrs. Cartwright's shoulder, began
to cry. Mrs. Cartwright said nothing, but kissed and soothed her with
When, some time afterwards, Barbara came down the stairs that occupied
one side of the hall she was composed, but tea by the fire was something
of a strain. It was plain that Grace's careless talk was forced and
Mortimer's efforts to keep on safe ground were marked. Now and then
Cartwright's eyes twinkled and Barbara thought she knew why he sometimes
made a joke that jarred the others. When the meal was over he took them
"I imagine your sister understands Grace and you are willing to take her
back and forget the pain she gave you," he said to Hyslop. "Your
handling of the situation was tactful and correct, but you can leave her
to her mother."
Mrs. Cartwright stopped with Barbara, who brought a footstool to the
hearthrug, and sitting down leaned against her knee.
"I have been an obstinate, selfish, romantic fool!" she broke out.
Mrs. Cartwright touched her hair and smiled, for she felt comforted.
This was the tempestuous Barbara she thought she had lost.
"My dear!" she said. "It's not important since you have come back.''
"I oughtn't to have come back. If you had not sent father, I would not
have come. He's determined, but he's gentle. You know he sympathizes."
"Although I wanted him to go, I did not send him," Mrs. Cartwright
replied. "He went because he loves you, but we can talk about this
again." She hesitated for a moment and went on: "It was not long, I
think, before you found Shillito was a thief? Mr. Lister's story
A wave of color came to Barbara's skin, but she looked up and her eyes
"At the beginning, I did not know he was a thief; I found out he was a
cunning brute. Afterwards, when I read about his escape in the
newspapers, I rather wished the trooper who shot at him had not
missed--" She shook with horror and anger and it was a moment or two
before she resumed: "I can't tell you all, mother. I was frightened, but
anger gave me pluck. He said I must stick to him because I could not go
back. I think I struck him, and then I ran away. People were going to
their berths in the Pullman and he durst not use force. When I got to
the car platform and was going to jump off I saw Mr. Lister--but he has
Mrs. Cartwright nodded, for she was satisfied.
"My dear," she said, "it's done with. Still I wonder why you were
willing to leave us."
"Sometimes I wonder. To begin with, I have owned I was a fool; but
things were dreary and I wanted a thrill. Then I had begun to feel
nobody at home wanted me. Father and you were kind, but he seemed to
think me an amusing, willful child. Grace always disapproved, and
Mortimer sneered. They knew I was not their sort and very proper people
are cruel if you won't obey their rules. I hated rules; Grace's
correctness made me rebel. Then Louis came and declared I was all to
him. He was handsome and romantic, and I was tired of restraint. I
thought I loved him, but it was ridiculous, because I hate him now.
Mortimer's a prig, but Louis is a brute!"
Mrs. Cartwright sighed. She liked tranquillity and the girl's passion
jarred. She tried to soothe her, and presently Barbara asked in a level
voice: "Where is Harry Vernon?"
"He went to town a few days since."
"When he knew I would soon arrive? His going is significant. I shall
hate Harry next!"
"You must not be unjust. I imagine he thought to meet him would
"It would have embarrassed me, but Harry would not have known," Barbara
declared. "If I have been a fool, I can pay. Still I ought to have
stayed in Canada. Father's obstinate and I wanted to come home, but
things will be harder than at Montreal."
Mrs. Cartwright kissed her. "My poor child, the hurt is not as deep as
you think. We will try to help you to forget."
LISTER CLEARS THE GROUND
The sun was on the rocks and the lichen shone in rings of soft and
varied color. Blue shadows filled the dale, which, from the side of the
Buttress, looked profoundly deep. A row of young men and women followed
a ledge that crossed the face of the steep crag; Mortimer Hyslop
leading, a girl and Vernon a few yards behind, Lister and Barbara
Hyslop knew the rocks and was a good leader. He was cool and cautious
and did not undertake a climb until he was satisfied about his
companions' powers. The slanting edge looked dangerous, but was not,
although one must be steady and there was an awkward corner. At the
turning, the ledge got narrow, and one must seize a knob and then step
lightly on a stone embedded in mossy soil.
When they reached the spot Hyslop stopped and told Vernon what to do;
the girl immediately behind him was a clever mountaineer. They went
round and Lister watched from a few yards off. For a moment or two each
in turn, supported by one foot with body braced against the rock,
grasped the knob and vanished round the corner. It was plain one must
get a firm hold, but Lister thought this was all. He was used to the
tall skeleton trestles that carried the rails across Canadian ravines.
After the others disappeared Lister seized the knob. He thought the
stone he stood on moved and he cautiously took a heavier strain on his
arm. He could get across, but he obeyed an impulse and gave the stone a
push. It rolled out and, when he swung himself back to the ledge,
plunged down and smashed upon the rocks below. For a few moments the
echoes rolled about the crags, and then Hyslop shouted: "Are you all
right? Can you get round?"
Lister said he thought not, and Hyslop replied that it did not matter.
Barbara would take him up a grassy ridge and the others would meet them
at the top. A rattle of nailed boots indicated that he was going off and
Lister turned and glanced at Barbara. She had sat down on an inclined
slab and her figure and face, in profile, cut against the sky. A yard or
two beneath her, the sloping rock vanished at the top of a steep pitch
and one saw nothing but the crags across the narrow dale. Yet Lister
thought the girl was not disturbed.
"I expect I was clumsy,'' he apologized.
"Well," she said, "it looks like that!"
He gave her a quick glance and pondered. Although he had gone to Carrock
since she came home, she had been strangely cold and, so to speak,
aloof. He had imagined their meeting might embarrass her, but she was
not embarrassed. In fact, she had met him as if he were a friend, but he
had not seen her afterwards unless somebody was about. Now he meant to
force her to be frank.
"I was clumsy," he resumed. "All the same, when I felt the stone begin
to move I might have pulled myself across by my hands. I expect the
block would have been firm enough to carry you."
"Yes, I know," said Barbara. "You didn't want me to get across!"
Lister studied her. He doubted if it was altogether exertion that had
brought the blood to her skin and given her eyes the keen sparkle.
Clinging to the rock, with the shadowy gulf below, she looked strangely
alert and virile. Her figure cut against the sky; he noted its
slenderness and finely-drawn lines. She was not angry, although he had
admitted he pushed down the stone, but he felt as if something divided
them and doubted if he could remove the obstacle.
"I wanted to talk and had found I could not get near you unless the
others were about," he said. "It looked as if I had unconsciously given
you some grounds for standing me off. Well, I suppose I did put your
relations on your track."
"It wasn't that," said Barbara. "I imagine Harry Vernon helped you
there. You were forced to tell your story."
"I was forced. All the same, I think Harry's plan was good."
"He went away a few days before I arrived!" Barbara remarked.
Lister thought he saw where she led and knitted his brows. He was on
awkward ground and might say too much, but to say nothing might be
"Harry's a good sort and I expect he pulled out because he imagined
you'd sooner he did so," he said. "For all that, I reckon he ought to
Although her color was vivid, Barbara gave him a searching glance. "In
order to imply I had no grounds for embarrassment if I met him? Harry
was at the camp in the woods."
"He knew you had no grounds for embarrassment," Lister declared. "I
knew, and Harry's an older friend."
Barbara turned her head, and when she looked back Lister thought his
boldness was justified. In a sense she had been very frank, although
perhaps this situation made for frankness. They were alone on the face
of the towering crag. All was very quiet but for the noise of falling
water, and the only living object one could see was a buzzard hovering
high up at a white cloud's edge. One could talk in the mountain solitude
as one could not talk in a drawing-room. For all that, Lister felt he
had not altogether broken the girl's reserve.
"One envies men like you who build railways and sail ships," she said,
and now Lister wondered where she led. "You live a natural life, knowing
bodily strain and primitive emotions. Sometimes you're exhausted and
sometimes afraid. Your thought's fixed on the struggle; you're keenly
occupied. Isn't it like that?"
"Something like that," Lister agreed. "Sometimes the strain gets
"But it's often thrilling. Men and women need to be thrilled. People
talk about the modern lust for excitement, but it isn't modern and I
expect the instinct's sound. Civilization that gives us hot water before
we get up and food we didn't grow is not all an advantage. Our bodies
get soft and we're driven back on our emotions. Where we want action we
get talk. Then one gets up against the rules; you mustn't be angry, you
mustn't be sincere, you must use a dreary level calm."
Lister was puzzled and said nothing, but Barbara went on: "Perhaps some
girls like this; others don't, and now and then rebel. We feel we're
human, we want to live. Adventure calls us, as it calls you. We want to
front life's shocks and storms; unsatisfied curiosity drives us on. Then
perhaps romance comes and all the common longings of flesh and blood are
She stopped, and Lister began to see a light. This was her apology for
her rashness in Canada, all she would give, and he doubted if she had
given as much to others. On the whole, he thought the apology good.
"Romance cheats one now and then," he remarked, and pulled himself up
awkwardly, but Barbara was calm.
"I wonder whether it always cheats one!"
"I think not," he said. "Sometimes one must trust one's luck, and
venture. All the same, philosophizing is not my habit, and when I didn't
step lightly on the stone--"
"You mean, when you pushed the stone down?" Barbara interrupted.
"Oh, well. Anyhow, I didn't mean to philosophize. I wanted to find out
why you kept away from me."
"Although you knew why I did so? You admitted you knew why Harry went
"I see I've got to talk," said Lister. "Shillito was a cheat, but when
you found him out you tried to jump off the train. You let me help
because I think you trusted me."
"I did trust you. It's much to know my trust was justified. For one
thing, it looks as if I wasn't altogether a fool."
"Afterwards, when I met you at Montreal, you were friendly, although you
tried to persuade me you were a shop girl."
Barbara smiled. "I was a shop girl. Besides, you were a stranger, and
it's sometimes easy to trust people one does not expect to see again."
"My plan's to trust the people I like all the time," Lister replied.
"When I found you on the car platform I knew I ought to help, I saw you
meant to escape from something mean. Then at Montreal it was plain you
were trying in make good because you were proud and would not go back. I
liked that, although I thought you were not logical. Well, I told your
story because Vernon bluffed me, but if I'd known your step-father as I
know him now, I'd have told the tale before."
"Then, it was in order that I might understand this you sent the stone
down the crag?"
"I think it was," said Lister. "I hope I have, so to speak, cleared the
Barbara gave him a puzzling smile. "You're rather obvious, but it's
important you mean to be nice. However, I expect the others are waiting
for us and we must join them, although we won't go by the grass ridge,"
She indicated the slope of cracked rock in front. "The hold is pretty
good. Do you think you can get up?"
Lister doubted. He was athletic and steady, but the climb looked awkward
for a beginner.
"If you are going, I'll try."
"You imagine you can go where I can go?"
"Something like that," Lister admitted. "If I'm beaten, you're
accountable and will have to help."
He was satisfied by Barbara's frank laugh. Her mood was changeable. Not
long since he had, with awkward sympathy, thought her a proud humiliated
woman; now she was marked by the humor of a careless girl. He could,
however, play up to her later mood, and when they set off he began to
The rock slanted, and cracks and breaks gave a firm hold, but there was
not a crack wherever one was needed and the pitch was steep. Then in
places the slabs were slippery with wet lichen and Lister's ordinary
walking boots could get no grip. His jokes stopped and the sweat began
to dew his face. His breath got hard and he felt his heart beat. It was
obvious that climbing needed study.
For all that, he went on and found a strange delight in watching
Barbara. Her clothes harmonized with the soft colors of lichen and
stone; her movements were confident and light. He got no sense of
effort; her pose was seldom strained and the lines of her limbs and body
flowed in easy curves. He thought she rather flitted than labored up the
rock. Practice no doubt accounted for much, but something was due to
temperament. Barbara did not hesitate; she trusted her luck and went
At length she stopped, pressed against the stone in the hollow of a
gully, while Lister crept obliquely across a long wet slab. He looked up
and saw her face, finely colored after effort, against a background of
green and gold. The berries on a small mountain-ash in a cranny
harmonized with the carmine of her skin. She looked down and smiled with
Then Lister's foot slipped and he could get no hold for his hands. His
smooth boots drew a greasy line across the wet slab as he slid down.
Perhaps the risk was not very daunting, but he knew he must not roll
down far. At the bottom of the slab he brought up with his foot braced
against a knob, and he saw Barbara coming after him. When she stopped
her glance was apologetic.
"I forgot you hadn't proper boots. Give me your hand and try again."
"No, thanks," said Lister. "Do you think I'm going to let you pull me
"Why not?" she asked with a twinkle.
"To begin with, I'm obstinate and don't mean to be beaten by a bit of
greasy rock. Then I expect I'm heavier than you think."
"You're ridiculously proud. It would hurt to let a girl help," Barbara
rejoined. "After all, you're a conventionalist, and I rather thought you
"Anyhow, I'm going up myself," Lister declared.
He got up, but his clothes gathered some slime from the rock and his
skin was stained by soil and moss. Barbara looked at him with a twinkle.
"Your obstinacy cost you something," she remarked. "If you're tired, you
had better stop and smoke."
Lister lighted a cigarette. She had been rather keen about rejoining the
others, but he thought she had forgotten. Barbara's carelessness gave
her charm. Perhaps he ought to go on, but he meant to take the extra few
minutes luck had given him.
"I'm really sorry I forgot about your boots and brought you up the
rock," she said.
"I wonder why you did bring me up?"
"Oh, well, a number of the men I know have a comfortable feeling of
superiority. Of course, nice men don't make you feel this, but it's
there. One likes to give such pride a jolt."
"I think I see. If it's some comfort, I'll own you can beat me going up
awkward rocks. But where does this take us?"
Barbara smiled. "It takes us some distance. When you admit a girl's your
equal, friendship's easier. You know, one reason Mortimer and I can't
agree is, his feeling of superiority is horribly strong."
"Couldn't you take him up an awkward gully and get him stuck?"
"No," said Barbara, in a regretful voice. "He's really a good cragsman
and knows exactly how far he can go. When he starts an awkward climb he
reckons up all the obstacles and is ready to get round them when they
come. The plan's good. People like Mortimer don't get stuck."
"It's possible, but I expect they miss something now and then. There
isn't much thrill in knowing you are safe."
"Sometimes you play up rather well," Barbara remarked.
"I'm not playing up. I'm preaching my code. I'm not as sober and
cautious as you perhaps think."
"You'll probably get bored, but in Canada I turned down a pretty good
job because it was monotonous. I wanted something fresh, and thought I'd
go across and see the Old Country. Well, I'm here and all's charming,
but I don't know how I'll get back when my wad runs out."
"Ah," said Barbara, "you mean your money will soon be gone? But you have
relations. Somebody would help."
"It's possible, but I would refuse," Lister rejoined. "You're not
adventuring much when another meets the bill. When my wallet's empty
I'll pull out and take any old job. The chances are I'll go to sea."
Barbara gave him an approving glance. She had known but one other
adventurer and he was a rogue. Lister was honest and she thought he
would go far. She liked his rashness, but if he found it hard to get on
board ship, she imagined she could help. All the same, she would not
talk about this yet.
"We really must go," she said, and they started up a gully where holes
and wedged stones helped them up like steps.
When they left the gully they saw a group of people on the neighboring
summit of the hill and for a moment Lister stopped.
"We have had a glorious climb," he said, "Now it's over, I hope you're
not going to stand me off again."
Barbara gave him a curious smile. "One can't stop on the mountains long.
We're going down to the every-day level and all looks different there."
The others began to wave to them, and crossing a belt of boggy grass
they joined the group. When they returned to Carrock, Cartwright was not
about and Mrs. Cartwright said he had got a telegram calling him to
A DISSATISFIED SHAREHOLDER
Cartwright had read the morning's letters and the _Journal of Commerce_,
and finding nothing important, turned his revolving chair to the fire.
He had been forced to wait for a train at a draughty station, and his
feet were cold. His office occupied an upper floor of an old-fashioned
building near the docks. Fog from the river rolled up the street and the
windows were grimed by soot, but Cartwright had not turned on the
electric light. The fire snapped cheerfully, and he lighted his pipe and
The furniture was shabby, the carpet was getting threadbare, and some of
the glass in the partition that cut off the clerks' office was cracked.
Cartwright had thought about modernizing and decorating the rooms, but
to do the thing properly would cost five hundred pounds, and money was
scarce. Besides, a number of the merchants who shipped goods by his
boats were conservative and rather approved his keeping the parsimonious
rules of the old school.
The house was old and had been at one time rich and powerful.
Cartwright's father, however, had used sailing ships too long, and
Cartwright's speculations and extravagance when he took control had not
mended its fortunes. Then had come a number of lean years when few
shipping companies earned a dividend and the line's capital steadily
melted. Now the shareholders were not numerous and the ships were small.
Cartwright glanced at the pictures in tarnished gold frames. _Oreana_,
drawn plunging across an Atlantic comber, was the best of the fleet, but
her engineer had for some time demanded new boilers. Since the reserve
fund was low and other boats needed expensive repairs, Cartwright
resolved to wait. He had bought _Melphomene_, above the fireplace, very
cheap; but her engines were clumsy compounds and she cost much to coal.
Still she was fast, and now and then got a paying load by reaching a
port where freights were high before the _Conference_ found out that
Cartwright meant to cut the rates.
_Titania_, with the white deckhouse and shade-deck, carried a good load
on a light draught, and sometimes picked up a profitable cargo in
shallow African lagoons. When he glanced at her picture Cartwright's
look got thoughtful. She was one of two sister ships, launched at a
famous yard, and Cartwright had wanted both, but the builders demanded
terms of payment he could not meet, and another company had bought the
vessel. She was wrecked soon afterwards, and now lay buried in the sand
by an African river bar. The salvage company had given up their efforts
to float her, but Cartwright imagined she could be floated if one were
willing to run a risk. But no one, it seemed was willing. On the failure
of the salvage company the underwriters had put the steamer into the
hands of Messrs. Bull and Morse, a firm of Ship Brokers and Marine
Auctioneers, but at the public auction no bids whatever had been made.
Subsequently advertisements appeared in the shipping papers inviting
offers for the ship as she lay and for the salvage of the cargo. These
had run for several weeks, but without result. Cartwright had cut them
out. Now and then he looked at them and speculated about the
By and by the bookkeeper came in and filed some letters. Gavin's hair
was going white, and he had been with Cartwright's since he was a boy.
He was fat, red-faced, and humorous, although his humor was not refined.
Gavin liked to be thought something of a sport, but Cartwright knew he
"You imagine Mrs. Seaton will look me up this morning?" Cartwright said
"Yes, sir. She called and demanded to see you. In fact, I think she
doubted when I told her you hadn't come back from the North. She said
the shareholders' meeting would be soon and she expected you to give a
bigger dividend; the Blue Funnel people had paid five per cent. If you
didn't return before long, she might run up to Carrock. So I sent the
Cartwright nodded. He trusted his bookkeeper, who had grounds for
imagining it was not altogether desirable Mrs. Seaton should arrive at
"Have you heard anything from Manners while I was away?"
"Nothing direct, sir. His nephew, Hatton, came round with a tender for
the bunker coal, and implied that he ought to get the job. Then I had a
notion Mrs. Seaton, so to speak, was _primed_. Looked as if somebody had
got at her; her arguments about the dividend were rather good."
"It's possible," said Cartwright dryly. "If she comes, you can show her
in. But what about the wine?"
"I don't know if it will see you out. There's not a great deal left, and
Cartwright's eyes twinkled. "Exactly! Send for another bottle and see
you get the proper stuff. Some of the biscuits, too; you know the kind.
Rather a bother, but perhaps the best plan!"
"Safer than going out to lunch," Gavin remarked. "Then, in the office,
you're on your own ground. That counts."
"Gives you moral support and handicaps an antagonist who's not a
business man?" Cartwright suggested. "Well, perhaps it does so, but I
see some drawbacks. Anyhow, get the wine."
Gavin went off and Cartwright mused by the fire. The morning was raw and
foggy, and if he went out, the damp might get at his throat; moreover,
Gavin would reply to his letters. Cartwright had begun to feel it was
time to let others work while he looked on. His control counted for less
than he had thought; things went without much guidance and it was enough
to give them a push in the proper direction now and then. To rouse
himself for an effort was getting harder and he would have been
satisfied to rest, had not his pride, and, to some extent, his
step-children's antagonism, prevented his doing so. He needed money and
would not use his wife's.
One must pay for old extravagances, and the bills were coming in; Mrs.
Seaton's expected call was an example. Ellen was a widow, but before she
married Seaton, Cartwright knew she counted him her lover. They were
alike in temperament; rash, strong-willed, and greedy for all that gave
life a thrill. In fact, Ellen was a stimulating comrade, but not the
kind of girl one married. Cartwright married Clara and knew Mrs. Seaton
bore him a lasting grudge.
Since Seaton was a merchant whose investments in Liverpool were
numerous, it was perhaps not strange he left his widow shares that gave
her some control of the Cartwright line. Although she was not poor, she
was greedy and extravagant. In fact, Cartwright imagined greed was now
her ruling passion.
By and by he heard steps in the passage behind the partition and thought
he knew the tap of high-heeled shoes. Then he heard a laugh and Gavin's
voice. Ellen was using her charm on his bookkeeper and the old sport
would play up. The door opened, the room smelt of violets, and Mrs.
Seaton came in. She was tall and her furs gave her large figure a touch
of dignity. Her color was sharply white and red, and in the rather dim
light her skin was like a girl's. Cartwright knew Ellen was younger than
he, but not very much.
"You look hipped and rather slack, Tom," she said when he got up and
Gavin fetched a chair.
"I feel the cold and damp," Cartwright replied. "Then managing a
tramp-steamship line when freights are low is a wearing job."
Mrs. Seaton took off her coat. "Your office is shabby and climbing all
those stairs is a pull. Why don't you launch out, get a lift, and
"My trouble is to keep the boats supplied with coal and stores. Besides,
you see, I don't often use my office for a drawing-room."
"You're very cautious," Mrs. Seaton remarked with a laugh. "You start to
Back to Full Books