Vane of the Timberlands
Part 3 out of 6
"I don't suppose he meant to go in. It's in the blood."
"There's no reason why he shouldn't, if it amuses him," Carroll replied.
"When I first met him, he'd have been more careful of his clothes."
A little later the dogs were driven in again, and this time the whole of
the otter's head was visible as it swam up-stream. The animal was
flagging, and on reaching shoaler water it sprang out altogether now and
then, rising and falling in the stronger stream with a curious
serpentine motion. In fact, as head and body bent in the same sinuous
curves, it looked less like an animal than a plunging fish. The men
guarding the rapid stood ready with their poles, and more were wading
and splashing up both sides of the pool. The otter's pace was getting
slower; sometimes it seemed to stop; and now and then it vanished among
the ripples. Carroll saw that Evelyn's face was intent, though there
were signs of shrinking in it.
"I'll tell you what you are thinking," he said. "You want that poor
little beast to get away."
"I believe I do," Evelyn confessed. "And you?"
"I'm afraid I'm not much of a sportsman, in this sense."
They watched with strained attention. The girl could not help it, though
she dreaded the climax. Her sympathies were now with the hard-pressed,
exhausted creature that was making a desperate fight for its life. The
pursuers were close upon it, the swimming dogs leading them; and ahead
lay a foaming rush of water which seemed less than a foot deep, with men
spread out across it. The shouting from the bank had ceased, and
everybody waited in tense expectancy when the otter disappeared. The dogs
reached the rapid, where they were washed back a few yards before they
could make headway up-stream. Men who came splashing close upon them left
the water to scramble along the bank; and then they stopped abruptly,
while the dogs swam in an uncertain manner about the still reach beyond.
They came out in a few minutes and scampered up and down among the
stones, evidently at fault, for there was no sign of the otter anywhere.
Incredible as it seemed, the hunted creature, an animal that would
probably weigh about twenty-four pounds, had crept up the rush of water
among the feet of those who watched for it and vanished unseen into the
sheltering depths beyond.
Evelyn sighed with relief.
"I think it will escape," she said. "The river's rather full after the
rain, which is against the dogs, and there isn't another shallow for some
distance. Shall we go on?"
They strolled forward behind the dogs, which were again moving up-stream;
but they turned aside to avoid a bit of woods, and it was some time later
when they came out upon a rocky promontory dropping steeply to the river.
Just there, the water flowed through a deep gorge, down the sides of
which great oaks and ashes straggled. In front of Carroll and his
companion a ragged face of rock fell about twenty feet; but there was a
little soil among the stones below, and a dense growth of alders
interspersed with willows, fringed the water's edge. The stream swirled
in deep black eddies beneath their drooping branches, though a little
farther on it poured tumultuously between scattered boulders into the
slacker pool. The rock sloped on one side, and there was a bank of
underbrush near the foot of the descent.
The hunt was now widely scattered about the reach. Men crept along
slippery ledges above the water and moved over dangerously slanting
slopes, half hidden among the trees; a few were in the river. Three or
four of the dogs were swimming; the others, spread out in twos and
threes, trotted in and out among the undergrowth.
Presently, a figure creeping along the foot of the rock not far away
seized Carroll's attention.
"It's Mopsy!" he exclaimed. "The foothold doesn't look very safe among
those stones, and there seems to be deep water below."
He called out in warning, but the girl did not heed. The willows were
thinner at the spot she had reached, and, squeezing herself through them,
she leaned down, clinging to an alder branch.
"He's gone to holt among the roots!" she cried.
Three or four men running along the opposite bank apparently decided that
she was right, for the horn was sounded and here and there a dog broke
through the underbrush. Just as the first-comers reached the rapid, there
was a splash. It was a moment or two before Evelyn or Carroll, who had
been watching the dogs, realized what had happened; then the blood ebbed
from the girl's face. Mabel had disappeared.
Running a few paces forward, Carroll saw what looked like a bundle of
outspread garments swing round in an eddy. It washed in among the
willows, and he heard a faint cry.
"Help!--Quick! I've caught a branch!"
He could not see the girl now, but an alder branch was bending sharply,
and he flung a rapid glance around him. The summit of the rock on which
he stood rose above the trees. Had there been a better landing, he would
have faced the risky fall, but it seemed impossible to alight among the
stones without a broken leg. Even if he came down uninjured, there was a
barrier of tangled branches and densely growing withes between him and
the river, and the opening through which Mabel had fallen was some
distance away. Farther down-stream, he might reach the water by a
reckless jump, as the promontory sloped toward it there, but he would not
be able to swim back against the current. His position was a painful one;
there was nothing that he could do.
The next moment, men and dogs went scrambling and swimming down the
rapid. They were in hot pursuit of the otter, which had left its
hiding place, and it was evident that the girl, clinging to a branch
beneath the willows, had escaped their attention. Carroll shouted
savagely as his comrade appeared among the tail of the hunt below. The
others were too much occupied to heed; or perhaps they concluded that
he was urging them on.
"Help! Mabel!" Carroll shouted again and again, gesticulating wildly in
Vane, waist-deep in the water, seemed to catch the girl's name and
understand. In a few moments he was swimming down the pool along the edge
of the alders. Then Carroll saw that Evelyn expected him to take some
part in the rescue.
"Get down before it's too late!" she cried.
Carroll spread out his hands, as if to beg her forbearance. While every
impulse urged him to the leap, he endeavored to keep his head. He fancied
that he would be wanted later, and it was obvious that he would not be
available if he lay upon the rocks below with broken bones.
"I can't do any good just now," he tried to explain, knowing that he was
right and yet feeling horribly ashamed. "She's holding on, and Wallace
will reach her in a moment or two."
Evelyn broke out at him in an agony of fear and anger.
"You coward! Will you let her drown?"
She turned and ran forward, but Carroll, dreading that she meant to
attempt the descent, seized her shoulder and held her fast. While he
grappled with her, Vane's voice rose from below, and he let his
"Wallace has her. There's no more danger," he said quietly.
Evelyn suddenly recovered a small degree of calm. Even amid the stress of
her terror, she recognized the assurance in the man's tone. He had blind
confidence in his comrade's prowess, and his next words made this
"Don't be afraid. He'll never let go until he brings her out."
Standing, breathless, a pace or two apart, they saw Vane and the girl
appear from beneath the willows and wash away down-stream. The man was
swimming, but he was hampered by his burden, and once he and Mabel sank
almost from sight in a whirling eddy. Carroll said nothing. Turning, he
ran along the sloping ridge until the fall was less and the trees were
thinner; then he leaped out into the air. He broke through the alders
amid a rustle of bending boughs, and disappeared; but a moment or two
later his shoulders shot out of the water close beside Vane, and the two
men went down the stream with Mabel between them.
Evelyn scrambled wildly along the ridge, and when she reached the foot of
it, Vane was helping Mabel up the sloping bank of gravel. The girl's
drenched garments clung about her, and her wet hair was streaked across
her face, but she seemed able to stand. The hunt had swept on through
shoaler water, but there was a cheer from the stragglers across the
river. Evelyn clutched her sister, half laughing, half sobbing, and
incoherently upbraided her. Mabel shook herself free, and her first
remark was characteristic.
"Oh, don't make a silly fuss! I'm only wet through. Wallace, take me
She tried to shake out her dripping skirt, and Vane picked her up, as she
seemed to expect it. The others followed when he pushed through the
underbrush toward a neighboring meadow. Evelyn, however, was still a
little unnerved, and when they reached a gap in a wall she stopped and
leaned heavily against the stones.
"I think I'm more disturbed than Mopsy is," she said to Carroll. "What I
felt must be some excuse for me. You were right, of course. I'm sorry
for what I said; it was unjustifiable."
Carroll laughed lightly.
"Anyway, it was perfectly natural; but I must confess that I felt some
temptation to make a spectacular fool of myself. I might have jumped into
those alders, but it's most unlikely that I could have got out of them."
Evelyn looked at him with a new respect. He had not troubled to point
out that he had not flinched from the jump when it seemed likely to be
"How could you have the sense to think of that?" she asked.
"I suppose it's a matter of practise. One can't work among the ranges and
rivers without learning to make the right decision rapidly. When you
don't, you get badly hurt. With most of us, the thing has to be
cultivated; it's not instinctive."
Evelyn was struck by the explanation. This acquired coolness was a finer
thing, and undoubtedly more useful, than hot-headed gallantry, though she
admired the latter. She was young, and physical prowess appealed to her;
besides, it had been displayed in saving her sister's life. Carroll and
his comrade were men of varied and romantic experience; and they
possessed, she fancied, qualities not shared by all their fellows.
"Wallace was splendid in the water!" she exclaimed, uttering part of her
"I thought rather more of him in the city," Carroll replied. "That kind
of thing was new to him, and I'm inclined to believe that I'd have let
the people he had to negotiate with have the mine for a good deal less
than he eventually got for it. But I've said something about that before;
and, after all, I'm not here to play Boswell."
The girl was surprised at the apt allusion; it was not what she would
have expected from the man. As she had not wholly recovered her
composure, she forgot what Vane had told her about him, and her comment
was an incautious one:
"How did you hear of him?"
Carroll parried this with a smile.
"You don't suppose you can keep those old fellows to yourselves--they're
international. But hadn't we better be getting on? Let me help you
through the gap."
They reached the Dene some time later, and Mabel, very much against her
wishes, was sent to bed. Shortly afterward Carroll came across Vane, who
had changed his clothes and was strolling up and down among the
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
Vane looked embarrassed.
"For one thing, I'm keeping out of Mrs. Chisholm's way; she's inclined to
be effusive. For another, I'm trying to think out what I ought to do.
We'll have to pull out very shortly; and I had meant to have an interview
with Evelyn to-day. That's why I feel uncommonly annoyed with Mopsy for
Carroll made a grimace.
"If that's how it strikes you, any advice I could offer would be wasted.
A sensible man would consider it a promising opportunity."
"And trade upon it? As you know, there wasn't the slightest risk,
with branches that one could get hold of, and a shelving bank almost
"Do you really want the girl?"
"That impression's firmly in my mind," Vane said curtly.
"Then you'd better pitch your Quixotic notions overboard and tell her
Vane frowned but made no answer; and Carroll, recognizing that his
comrade was not inclined to be communicative, left him pacing up and
Dusk was drawing on, but there was still a little light in the western
sky, when Vane strolled along the terrace in front of the Dene. In the
distance the ranks of fells rose black and solemn out of filmy trails of
mist, but the valley had faded to a trough of shadow. A faint breeze was
stirring, and the silence was broken by the soft patter of withered
leaves which fluttered down across the lawn. Vane noticed it all by some
involuntary action of his senses, for although, at the time, he was
oblivious to his surroundings, he afterward found that he could recall
each detail of the scene with vivid distinctness. He was preoccupied and
eager, but fully aware of the need for coolness, for it was quite
possible that he might fail in the task he had in hand.
Presently he saw Evelyn, for whom he had been waiting, cross the opposite
end of the terrace. Moving forward he joined her at the entrance to a
shrubbery walk. A big, clipped yew with a recess in which a seat had been
placed stood close by.
"I have been sitting with Mopsy," said Evelyn. "She seems very little the
worse for her adventure--thanks to you." She hesitated and her voice grew
softer. "I owe you a heavy debt--I am very fond of Mopsy."
"It's a great pity she fell in," Vane declared curtly.
Evelyn looked at him in surprise. She scarcely thought he could regret
the efforts he had made on her sister's behalf, but that was what his
words implied. He noticed her change of expression.
"The trouble is that the thing might seem to give me some claim on you;
and I don't want that," he explained. "It cost me no more than a wetting;
I hadn't the least difficulty in getting her out."
His companion was still puzzled. She could find no fault with him for
being modest about his exploit, but that he should make it clear that he
did not require her gratitude struck her as unnecessary.
"For all that, you did bring her out," she persisted. "Even if it causes
you no satisfaction, the fact is of some importance to us."
"I don't seem to be beginning very fortunately. What I mean is that I
don't want to urge my claim, if I have one. I'd rather be taken on my
merits." He paused a moment with a smile. "That's not much better, is it?
But it partly expresses what I feel. Leaving Mopsy out altogether, let me
try to explain--I don't wish you to be influenced by anything except your
own idea of me. I'm saying this because one or two points that seem in my
favor may have a contrary effect."
Evelyn made no answer, and he indicated the seat.
"Won't you sit down? I have something to say."
The girl did as he suggested, and his smile died away.
"Would you be astonished if I were to ask you to marry me?"
He leaned against the smooth wall of yew, looking down at her with an
impressive steadiness of gaze. She could imagine him facing the city men
from whom he had extorted the full value of his mine in the same fashion,
and, in a later instance, so surveying the eddies beneath the osiers,
when he had gone to Mabel's rescue. It was borne in upon her that they
would better understand each other.
"No," she answered. "If I must be candid, I am not astonished." Then the
color crept into her cheeks as she met his gaze. "I suppose it is an
honor; and it is undoubtedly a--temptation."
"Yes," said Evelyn, mustering her courage to face a crisis she had
dreaded. "It is only due you that you should hear the truth--though I
think you suspect it. Besides--I have some liking for you."
"That is what I wanted you to own!" Vane broke in.
She checked him with a gesture. Her manner was cold, and yet there was
something in it that stirred him more than her beauty.
"After all," she explained, "it does not go very far, and you must try to
understand. I want to be quite honest, and what I have to say
is--difficult. In the first place, things are far from pleasant for me
here; I was expected to make a good marriage, and I had my chance in
London. I refused to profit by it, and now I'm a failure. I wonder
whether you can realize what a temptation it is to get away?"
"Yes," he responded. "It makes me savage to think of it! I can, at least,
take you out of all this. If you hadn't had a very fine courage, you
wouldn't have told me."
Evelyn smiled, a curious wry smile.
"It has only prompted me to behave, as most people would consider,
shamelessly; but there are times when one must get above that point of
view. Besides, there's a reason for my candor--had you been a man of
different stamp, it's possible that I might have been driven into taking
the risk. We should both have suffered for a time, but we might have
reached an understanding--not to intrude on each other--through open
variance. As it is, I could not do you that injustice, and I should
shrink from marrying you with only a little cold liking."
The man held himself firmly in hand. Her calmness had infected him, and
he felt that this was not an occasion for romantic protestations, even
had he felt capable of making them, which was not the case. As a matter
of fact, such things were singularly foreign to his nature.
"Even that would go a long way with me, if I could get nothing better,"
he declared. "Besides, you might change. I could surround you with some
comfort; I think I could promise not to force my company upon you; I
believe I could be kind."
"Yes," assented Evelyn. "I shouldn't be afraid of harshness from you; but
it seems impossible that I should change. You must see that you started
handicapped from the beginning. Had I been free to choose, it might have
been different, but I have lived for some time in shame and fear, hating
the thought that some one would be forced on me."
He said nothing and she went on.
"Must I tell you? You are the man!"
His face grew hard and for a moment he set his lips tight. It would have
been a relief to express his feelings concerning his host just then.
"If you don't hate me for it now, I'm willing to take the risk," he said
at length. "It will be my fault if you hate me in the future; I'll try
not to deserve it."
He fancied that she was yielding, but she roused herself with an effort.
"No. Love on one side may go a long way, if it is strong enough--but it
must be strong to overcome the many clashes of thought and will.
Yours"--she looked at him steadily--"would not stand the strain."
"You are the only woman I ever wished to marry," he declared vehemently.
He paused and spread out his hands.
"What can I say to convince you?"
"I'm afraid it's impossible. If you had wanted me greatly, you would have
pressed the claim you had in saving Mopsy, and I should have forgiven you
that; you would have urged any and every claim. As it is, I suppose I am
pretty"--her lips curled scornfully--"and you find that some of your
ideas and mine agree. It isn't half enough! Shall I tell you that you are
scarcely moved as yet?"
It flashed upon Vane that he was confronted with the reality. Her beauty
had appealed to him, and her other qualities--her reserved graciousness
with its tinge of dignity, her insight and her comprehension--had also
had their effect; but they had only awakened admiration and respect. He
desired her as one desires an object for its rarity and preciousness; but
this, as she had told him, was not enough. Behind her physical and mental
attributes, and half revealed by them, there was something deeper: the
real personality of the girl. It was elusive, mystic, with a spark of
immaterial radiance which might brighten human love with its transcendent
glow; but, as he dimly realized, if he won her by force, it might recede
and vanish altogether. He could not, with strong ardor, compel its
"I think I am moved as much as it is possible for me to be."
Evelyn shook her head.
"No; you will discover the difference some day, and then you will
thank me for leaving you your liberty. Now I beg you to leave me mine
and let me go."
Vane stood silent a minute or two, for the last appeal had stirred him to
chivalrous pity. He was shrewd enough to realize that if he persisted he
could force her to come to him. Her father and mother were with him; she
had nothing--no commonplace usefulness nor trained abilities--to fall
back on if she defied them. But it was unthinkable that he should
brutally compel her.
"Well," he yielded at length, "I must try to face the situation; I want
to assure you that it is not a pleasant one to me. But there's another
point--I'm afraid I've made things worse for you. Your people will
probably blame you for sending me away."
Evelyn did not answer this, and he broke into a grim smile.
"Well," he added, "I think I can save you any trouble on that
score--though the course I'm going to take isn't flattering, if you look
at it in one way, I want you to leave me to deal with your father."
He took her consent for granted, and leaning down laid a hand lightly on
"You will try to forgive me for the anxiety I have caused you? The time
I've spent here has been very pleasant, but I'm going back to Canada in a
day or two. Perhaps you'll think of me without bitterness now and then."
He turned away; and Evelyn sat still, glad that the strain was over,
thinking earnestly. The man was gentle and considerate as well as
forceful, and to some extent she liked him. Indeed, she admitted that she
had not met any man she liked as much; but that was not going very far.
Then she began to wonder at her candor, and to consider if it had been
necessary. It was curious that this was the only man she had ever taken
into her confidence. It struck her that her next suitor would probably be
a much less promising specimen. On the other hand, since her views on the
subject differed from those her parents held, it was consoling to
remember that eligible suitors for the daughter of an impoverished
gentleman were likely to be scarce.
It had grown dark when she rose and entering the house went up to Mabel's
room. The girl looked at her sharply as she came in.
"So you have got rid of him!" she said. "I think you're very silly."
"How did you know?" Evelyn asked with a start.
"I heard him walking up and down the terrace, and I heard you go out. You
can't walk over raked gravel without making a noise. He went along to
join you, and it was a good while before you came back at different
times. I've been waiting for this the last day or two."
Evelyn sat down with a rather strained smile.
"Well, I have sent him away."
Mabel regarded her indignantly.
"You'll never get another chance like this one. If I'd been in your
place, I'd have had Wallace if it had cost me no end of trouble to get
him. He said something about its being a pity I wasn't older, one day,
and I told him that I wasn't by any means as young as I looked. If you
had only taken him, I could have worn decent frocks. Nobody could call
the last one that!"
This was a favorite grievance, and Evelyn ignored it; but Mabel had
more to say.
"I suppose," she went on, "you don't know that Wallace has been getting
Gerald out of trouble?"
"Are you sure of that?"
"Yes. I'll tell you what I know. Wallace saw Gerald in London--he told us
that--and we all know that Gerald couldn't pay his debts a little while
ago. You remember he came down to Kendall and went on and stayed the next
night with the Claytons. It isn't astonishing that he didn't come here,
after the row there was on the last occasion."
"Go on," prompted Evelyn impatiently. "What has his visit to the
Clayton's to do with it?"
"Well, you don't know that I saw Gerald in the afternoon. After all, he's
the only brother I've got; and as Jim was going to the station with the
trap I made him take me. The Claytons were in the garden; we were
scattered about, and I heard Frank and Gerald, who had strolled off from
the others, talking. Gerald was telling him about some things he'd
bought--they must have been expensive, because Frank asked him where he
got the money. Gerald laughed and said he'd had an unexpected stroke of
luck that had set him straight again. Now, of course Gerald got no money
from home, and if he'd won it he would have told Frank how he did so.
Gerald always would tell a thing like that."
Evelyn was filled with confusion and hot indignation. She had little
doubt that Mabel's surmise was correct.
"I wonder whether he has told anybody; though it's scarcely likely."
"Of course he hasn't. We all know what Gerald is. Before I came home, I
asked him what he thought of Wallace. He said he was a good sort, or
something like that, and I saw that he had a reason for saying it; but
he must go on in his patronizing style that Wallace was rather
Colonial, though he hadn't drifted too far--not beyond reclamation.
After all, Wallace was one of--us--before he went out; and if Carroll's
Colonial he's the kind of man I like. I was so angry with Gerald I
wanted to slap him!"
There was no doubt that Mabel was a staunch partizan, and Evelyn
sympathized with her. She was, of course, acquainted with her brother's
character, and she was filled with indignant contempt for him. It was
intolerable that he should have allowed Vane to discharge his debts and
then have alluded to him in terms of indulgent condescension.
"It strikes me Wallace ought to get his money back, now that you have
sent him away," Mabel added. "But of course that's most unlikely. It
wouldn't take Gerald long to waste it."
Evelyn rose and, making some excuse, left the room. She could feel her
face growing hot, and Mabel had unusually keen eyes and precocious powers
of deduction. A suspicion which had troubled her more than Gerald's
conduct had lately crept into her mind, and it now thrust itself upon her
attention; several things pointed to the fact that her father had taken
the same course her brother had done. She felt that had she heard Mabel's
information before the interview with Vane, she might have yielded to him
in an agony of humiliation. Mabel had summed up the situation with
stinging candor and crudity--Vane, who had been defrauded, was entitled
to recover his money. For a few moments Evelyn was furiously angry with
him, and then, growing calmer, she recognized that this was unreasonable.
She could not imagine any idea of a compact originating with the man, and
he had quietly acquiesced in her decision.
Soon after she left her sister, Vane walked into the room which Chisholm
reserved for his own use. It was handsomely furnished, and the big,
light-oak writing-table and glass-fronted cabinets were examples of
artistic handicraft. The sight of them jarred on Vane, who had already
surmised that it was the women of the Chisholm family who were expected
to practise self-denial. Chisholm was sitting at the table with some
papers in front of him and a cigar in his hand, and Vane drew out a chair
and lighted his pipe before he addressed him.
"I've made up my mind to sail on Saturday, instead of next week," he
"You have decided rather suddenly, haven't you?" Chisholm suggested.
Vane knew that what his host wished to know was the cause of the
decision, and he meant to come to the point. He was troubled by no
consideration for the man.
"The last news I had indicated that I was wanted," he replied. "After
all, there is only one reason why I have abused Mrs. Chisholm's
hospitality so long."
"You will remember what I asked you some time ago. I had better say that
I retire from the position--abandon the idea."
Chisholm started and his florid face grew redder, while Vane, in place of
embarrassment, was conscious of a somewhat grim amusement. It seemed
curious that a man of Chisholm's stamp should have any pride.
"What am I to understand by that?" Chisholm asked with some asperity.
"I think that what I said explained it. Bearing in mind your and Mrs.
Chisholm's influence, I've an idea that Evelyn might have yielded, if I'd
strongly urged my suit; but that was not by any means what I wanted. I'd
naturally prefer a wife who married me because she wished to do so.
That's why, after thinking the thing over, I've decided to--withdraw."
Chisholm straightened himself in his chair in fiery indignation, which he
made no attempt to conceal.
"You mean that after asking my consent, and seeing more of Evelyn, you
have changed your mind! Can't you understand that it's an unpardonable
confession--one which I never fancied a man born and brought up in your
station could have brought himself to make?"
Vane looked at him with an impassive face.
"It strikes me as largely a question of terms--I may not have used the
right one. Now that you know how the matter stands, you can describe it
in any way that sounds nicest. In regard to your other remark, I've been
in a good many stations, and I must admit that until lately none of them
were likely to promote much delicacy of sentiment."
"So it seems!" Chisholm was almost too hot to sneer. "But can't you
realize how your action reflects upon my daughter?"
Vane held himself in hand. He had only one object: to divert Chisholm's
wrath from Evelyn to himself, and he fancied that he was succeeding in
this. For the rest, he was conscious of a strong resentment against the
man. Evelyn had told him that he had started handicapped.
"It can't reflect upon her unless you talk about it, and both you and
Mrs. Chisholm have sense enough to refrain from doing that," he answered
dryly. "I can't flatter myself that Evelyn will grieve over me." Then his
manner changed. "Now we'll get down to business. I don't purpose to call
in that loan, which will, no doubt, be a relief to you."
He rose leisurely and strolled out of the room.
Shortly afterward he met Carroll in the hall, and the latter glanced at
"What have you been doing?" he inquired. "There's a look in your eyes I
seem to remember."
"I suppose I've been outraging the rules of decency; but I don't feel
ashamed. I've been acting the uncivilized Westerner, though it's possible
that I rather strained the part. To come to the point, however, we pull
out for the Dominion first thing to-morrow."
Carroll asked no further questions; he did not think it would serve any
purpose. He contented himself with making arrangements for their
departure, which they took early on the morrow. Vane had a brief
interview with Mabel, and then by her contrivance he secured a word or
two with Evelyn alone.
"It is possible," he told her, "that you may hear some hard things of
me--and I count upon your not contradicting them. After all, I think you
owe me that favor. There's just another matter--now that I won't be here
to trouble you, won't you try to think of me leniently?"
He held her hand for a moment and then turned away, and a few minutes
later he and Carroll left the Dene.
About a fortnight after Vane's return to Vancouver, he sat one evening on
the veranda of Nairn's house, in company with his host and Carroll,
lazily looking down upon the inlet. The days were growing shorter; the
air was clear and cool; and the snow upon the heights across the still,
blue water was creeping lower down. The clatter of a steamer's winches
rose sharply from the wharf, and the sails of two schooners gleamed
against the dark pines that overhang the Narrows.
In some respects, Vane was glad to be back in the western city. At first,
the ease and leisure at the Dene had their charm for him, but by degrees
he came to chafe at them. The green English valley, hemmed in by its
sheltering hills, was steeped in too profound a tranquillity; the stream
of busy life passed it by with scarcely an entering ripple to break its
drowsy calm. One found its atmosphere enervating, dulling to the
faculties. In the new West, however, one was forcibly thrust into contact
with a strenuous activity. Life was free and untrammeled there; it flowed
with a fierce joyousness in natural channels, and one could feel the
eager throb of it.
Yet the man was not content. He had been to the mine, and in going and
coming he had ridden far over a very rough trail, but the physical effort
had not afforded a sufficient outlet for his pent-up energies. He had
afterward lounged about the city for nearly a week, and he found this
Nairn presently referred to one of the papers in his hand.
"Horsfield has been bringing up that smelter project again, and there's
something to be said in favor of his views," he remarked. "We're paying a
good deal for reduction."
"We couldn't keep a smelter going, at present," Vane objected.
"There are two or three low-grade mineral properties in the neighborhood
of the Clermont that have had very little development work done on them.
They can't pay freight on their raw product, but I'm thinking that we'd
encourage their owners to open up the mines, and we'd get their business,
if we had a smelter handy."
"It wouldn't amount to much," Vane replied. "Besides, there's another
objection--we haven't the money to put up a thoroughly efficient plant."
"Horsfield's ready to find part of it and to do the work."
"I know he is." Vane frowned. "It strikes me he's suspiciously anxious.
The arrangement he has in view would give him a pretty strong hold upon
the company; and there are ways in which he could squeeze us."
"It's possible. But, looking at it as a purely personal matter, there are
inducements he could offer ye. Horsfield's a man who has the handling of
other folks' money, if he has no that much of his own. It might be wise
to stand in with him."
"So he hinted," Vane answered dryly.
"Your argument was about the worst you could have used, Mr. Nairn,"
"Weel," drawled Nairn good-humoredly, "I'm no urging it. I would not see
your partner make enemies for the want of a warning."
"He'd probably do so, in any case; it's a gift of his. On the other hand,
it's fortunate that he has a way of making friends. The two things
sometimes go together."
Vane turned to Nairn with signs of impatience.
"It might save trouble if I state that while I'm a director of the
Clermont I expect to be content with a fair profit on my stock in
"He's modest," Carroll commented. "What he means is that he doesn't
propose to augment that profit by taking advantage of his position."
"It's a creditable idea, though I'm no sure it's as common as might be
desired. While I have to thank ye for it, I would not consider the
explanation altogether necessary." Nairn's eyes twinkled for a moment,
and then he turned seriously to Vane. "Now we come to another point--the
company's a small one, the mine is doing satisfactorily, and the moment's
favorable for the floating of mineral properties. If we got an option on
the half-developed claims near the Clermont and went into the market,
it's likely that an issue of new stock would meet with the favor of
"I suppose so," Vane responded. "I'll support such a scheme when I can
see how an increased capital could be used to advantage and am convinced
about the need for a smelter. At present that's not the case."
"I mentioned it as a duty---ye'll hear more of it. For the rest, I'm
inclined to agree with ye."
A few minutes later, Nairn went into the house with Carroll, and as they
entered he glanced at his companion.
"In the present instance, Mr. Vane's views are sound," he said. "But I
see difficulties before him in his business career."
"So do I," smiled Carroll. "When he grapples with them it will be by a
"A bit of compromise is judicious now and then."
"In a general way, it's not likely to appeal to Vane. When he can't get
through by direct means, there'll be something wrecked. You'd better
understand what kind of man he is."
Nairn made a sign of concurrence.
"It's no the first time I've been enlightened upon the point."
Shortly after they had disappeared, Miss Horsfield came out of another
door, and Vane rose when she approached him. He had always found her a
"Mrs. Nairn told me I would find you and the others on the veranda," she
informed him. "She said she would join you presently. It is too fine an
evening to stay in."
"I'm alone, as you see. Nairn and Carroll have just deserted me: but I
can't complain. What pleases me most about this house is that you can
do what you like in it, and--within limits--the same thing applies to
Jessy laughed as she sank gracefully into the chair he drew forward. She
was, as a rule, deliberate in her movements, and her pose was usually an
"Yes," she replied; "I think that would please you. But how long have you
"A fortnight, yesterday."
There was a hint of reproach in Jessy's glance.
"Then I think Mrs. Nairn might have brought you over to see us."
Vane wondered whether she meant that she was surprised that he had not
come of his own accord. He felt mildly flattered. She was interesting,
and knew how to listen sympathetically, as well as how to talk, and she
was also a lady of station in the western city.
"I was away at the mine a good deal of the time," he explained.
"I wonder if you are sorry to get back?"
Turning a little, Vane indicated the climbing city, rising tier on tier
above its water-front; and then the broad expanse of blue inlet and the
faint white line of towering snow.
"Wouldn't anything I could say in praise of Vancouver be a trifle
superfluous?" he asked.
Jessy recognized that he had parried her question neatly, but this did
not deter her. She was anxious to learn whether he had felt any regret at
leaving England, or, to be more concise, if there was anybody in that
country from whom he had reluctantly parted. She admitted that the man
attracted her. There was a breezy freshness about him which he had
brought from the rocks and woods, and though she was acquainted with a
number of young men whose conversation was characterized by snap and
sparkle, they needed toning down. This miner was set apart from them by
something which he had doubtless acquired in youth in the older land.
"That wasn't quite what I meant," she returned. "We don't always want to
be flattered. I'm in search of information. You told me that you had
been eight or nine years in this country, and life must be rather
different yonder. How did it and the people you belong to strike you
after the absence?"
"It's difficult to explain," Vane replied with an air of amused
reflection which hinted that he meant to get away from the point. "On
the whole, I think I'm more interested in the question as to how I
struck them. It's curious that whereas some people here insist on
considering me English, I've a suspicion that they looked upon me as a
typical Colonial there."
"One wouldn't like to think you resented it."
"How could I? This land sheltered me when I was an outcast; it provided
me with a living, widened my views, and set me on my feet."
"Ah!" murmured Jessy, "you are the kind we don't mind taking in. The
others go back and try to forget us, or abuse us. But you haven't given
me very much information yet."
"Well," drawled Vane, "the best comparison is supplied by my first
remark--that in this city you can do what you like. You're rather fenced
in yonder. If you're of a placid disposition, that, no doubt, is
comforting, because it shuts out unpleasant things. On the other hand, if
you happen to be restless and active, the fences are inconvenient, for
you can't always climb over--and it is not considered proper to break
them down. Still, having admitted that, I'm proud of the old land. If one
has means and will conform, it's the finest country in the world! It's
only the fences that irritate me."
"Fences would naturally be obnoxious to you. But we have some here."
"They're generally built loose, of split-rails, and not nailed. An
energetic man can pull off a bar or two and stride over. If it's
necessary, he can afterward put them up again, and there's no harm done."
"Would you do the latter?"
Vane's expression changed.
"No. I think if there were anything good on the other side, I'd widen the
gap so that the less agile and the needy could crawl through." He smiled
at her. "You see, I owe some of them a good deal. They were the only
friends I had when I first tramped, jaded and footsore, about the
Jessy was pleased with his answer. She had heard of the free hospitality
of the bush choppers, and she thought it was a graceful thing that he
should acknowledge his debt to them. She was also pleased that she could
lead him on to talk unreservedly.
"Now at last you'll be content to rest a while," she suggested. "I dare
say you deserve it."
"It's strange that you should say that, because just before you came out
of the house I was thinking that I'd sat still long enough. It's a thing
that gets monotonous. One must keep going on."
"Take care that you don't walk over a precipice some day when you have
left all the fences behind. But I've kept you from your meditations, and
I had better see if Mrs. Nairn is coming."
He was sitting alone, lighting a cigar, when he noticed a girl whose
appearance seemed familiar in the road below. Moving along the veranda,
he recognized her as Kitty, and hastily crossed the lawn toward her. She
was accompanied by a young man whom Vane had once or twice seen in the
city, and she greeted him with evident pleasure.
"Tom," she introduced, when they had exchanged a few words, "this is Mr.
Vane." Turning to Vane she added: "Mr. Drayton."
Vane liked the man's face and manner. He shook hands with him, and then
looked back at Kitty.
"What are you doing now; and how are little Elsie and her mother?"
Kitty's face clouded.
"Mrs. Marvin's dead. Elsie's with some friends at Spokane, and I think
she's well looked after. I've given up the stage. Tom"--she explained
shyly--"didn't like it. Now I'm with some people at a ranch near the
Fraser, on the Westminster road. There are two or three children, and I'm
very fond of them."
"She won't be there long," Drayton interposed. "I've wanted to meet you
for some time, Mr. Vane. They told me at the office that you were away."
Vane smiled comprehendingly.
"I suppose my congratulations will not be out of place? Won't you ask me
to the wedding?"
"Will you come?"
"There's nobody we would rather see," declared Drayton. "I'm heavily in
your debt, Mr. Vane."
"Pshaw!" rejoined Vane. "Come to see me any time--to-morrow, if you can
Drayton said that he would do so, and shortly afterward he and Kitty
moved away. Vane turned back across the lawn; but he was not aware that
Jessy Horsfield had watched the meeting from the veranda and had
recognized Kitty, whom she had once seen at the station. She had already
ascertained that the girl had arrived in Vancouver in Vane's company,
and, in view of the opinion she had formed of him, this somewhat puzzled
her; but she decided that one must endeavor to be charitable. Besides,
having closely watched the little group, she was inclined to believe from
the way Vane shook hands with the man that there was no danger to be
apprehended from Kitty.
A NEW PROJECT
Vane was sitting alone in the room set apart for the Clermont Company in
Nairn's office when Drayton was shown in. He took the chair Vane
indicated and lighted a cigar the latter gave him.
"Now," he began with some diffidence, "you cut me off short when I met
you the other day, and one of my reasons for coming over was to get
through with what I was saying then. It's just this--I owe you a good
deal for taking care of Kitty; she's very grateful and thinks no end of
you. I want to say I'll always feel that you have a claim on me."
Vane smiled at him. It was evident that Kitty had taken her lover into
her confidence with regard to her trip aboard the sloop, and that she had
done so said a good deal for her. He thought one might have expected a
certain amount of half-jealous resentment, or even faint suspicion, on
the man's part; but there was no sign of this. Drayton believed in Kitty,
and that was strongly in his favor.
"It didn't cost me any trouble," Vane replied. "We were coming to
Drayton's embarrassment became more obvious.
"It cost you some money--there were the tickets. Now I feel that I
"Nonsense! When you are married to Miss Blake, you can pay me back, if
it will be a relief to you. When's the wedding to be?"
"In a couple of months," answered Drayton. He saw that it would be
useless to protest. "I'm a clerk in the Winstanley mills, and as one of
the staff is going, I'll get a move up then. We are to be married as
soon as I do."
He said a little more on the same subject, and then after a few moments'
silence he added:
"I wonder if the Clermont business keeps your hands full, Mr. Vane?"
"It doesn't. It's a fact I'm beginning to regret."
Drayton appeared to consider.
"Well," he said, "people seem to regard you as a rising man with snap in
him, and there's a matter I might, perhaps, bring before you. Let me
explain. I'm a clerk on small pay, but I've taken an interest outside my
routine work in the lumber trade of this Province and its subsidiary
branches. I figured any knowledge I could pick up might stand me in some
money some day. So far"--he smiled ruefully--"it hasn't done so."
"Go on," prompted Vane. His curiosity was aroused.
"It has struck me that pulping spruce--paper spruce--is likely to be
scarce presently. The supply's not unlimited and the world's consumption
is going up by jumps."
"There's a good deal of timber you could use for pulp, in British
Columbia alone," Vane interposed.
"Sure. But there's not a very great deal that could be milled into
high-grade paper pulp; and it's getting rapidly worked out in most other
countries. Then, as a rule, it's mixed up with firs, cedars and
cypresses; and that means the cutting of logging roads to each cluster of
milling trees. There's another point--a good deal of the spruce lies back
from water or a railroad, and in some cases it would be costly to bring
in a milling plant or to pack the pulp out."
"That's obvious; anyway, where you would have to haul every pound of
freight over a breakneck divide."
Drayton leaned forward confidentially.
"Then if one struck high-grade paper spruce--a whole valley full of
it--with water power and easy access to the sea, there ought to be money
in the thing?"
"Yes," Vane answered with growing interest; "that strikes me as very
"I believe I could put you on the track of such a valley."
Vane looked at him thoughtfully.
"We'd better understand each other. Do you want to sell me your
knowledge? And have you offered it to anybody else?"
His companion answered with the candor he expected.
"Kitty and I aren't going to find it easy to get along--rents are high in
this city. I want to give her as much as I can; but I'm willing to leave
you to do the square thing. The Winstanley people have their hands full
and won't look at any outside matter, and the one or two people I've
spoken to don't seem anxious to consider it. It's mighty hard for a
little man to launch a project."
"It is," Vane agreed sympathetically.
"Then," Drayton continued, "the idea's not my own. It was a mineral
prospector--a relative of mine--who struck the valley on his last trip.
He's an old man, and he came down played out and sick. Now I guess he's
slowly dying." He paused a moment. "Would you like to see him?"
"I'll go with you now, if it's convenient," Vane replied.
Drayton said that he might spare another half-hour without getting into
trouble, and they crossed the city to where a row of squalid frame
shacks stood on its outskirts. In the one they entered, a gaunt man
with grizzled hair lay upon a rickety bed. A glance showed Vane that
the man was very frail, and the harsh cough that he broke into as the
colder air from outside flowed in made the fact clearer. Drayton,
hastily shutting the door and explaining the cause of the visit,
motioned Vane to sit down.
"I've heard of you," said the prospector, fixing his eyes on Vane.
"You're the man who located the Clermont--and put the project through.
You had the luck. I've been among the ranges half my life--and you can
see how much I've made of it! When I struck a claim that was worth
anything somebody else got the money."
Vane had reasons for believing that this was not an uncommon experience.
"Well," the man continued, "you look straight--and I've got to take some
chances. It's my last stake. We'll get down to business. I'll tell you
about that spruce."
He spoke for a few minutes, and then asked abruptly:
"What are you going to offer?"
Vane had not been certain that he would make any offer at all; but, as
had befallen him once or twice before, the swift decision flashed
instinctively into his mind.
"If I find that the timber and its location come up to your account of
it, I'll pay you so many dollars down--whatever we can agree on--when I
get my lease from the land office. Then I'll make another equal payment
the day we start the mill. But I don't bind myself to record the timber
or to put up a mill, unless I'm convinced that it's worth while."
"I'd rather take less money and have a small share in the concern; and
Drayton must stand in."
"It's a question of terms," Vane replied. "I'll consider your views."
They discussed it for a while, and when they had at length arrived at a
provisional understanding, the prospector made a sign of acquiescence.
"We'll let it go at that; but the thing will take time, and I'll
never get the money. If you exercise your option, you'll sure pay it
down to Seely?"
"Celia's his daughter," Drayton explained. "He has no one else. She's a
waitress at the ---- House." He named a hotel of no great standing in the
city. "Comes home at nights, and looks after him as best she can."
Vane glanced round the room. It was evident that Celia's earnings were
small; but he noticed several things which suggested that she had
lavished loving care upon the sick man, probably at the cost of severe
self-denial. This was what he would have expected, for he had spent most
of his nine years in Canada among the people who toil the hardest for
the least reward.
"Yes," he answered; "I'll promise that. But, as I pointed out, while we
have agreed on the two payments, I reserve the right of deciding what
share your daughter and Drayton are to have, within the limits sketched
out. I can't fix it definitely until I've seen the timber--you'll have to
The prospector once more looked at him steadily, and then implied by a
gesture that he was satisfied. He was not in a position to dictate terms,
but his confidence had its effect on the man in whom he reposed it.
"There's another thing. You'll do all you can to find that spruce?"
"Yes," Vane promised.
The man fumbled under his pillow and produced a piece cut out from a map
of the Province, with rough pencil notes on the back of it.
"It was on my last prospecting trip I found the spruce," he said. "I'd
been looking round, and I figured I'd strike down to the coast over the
range. The creeks were full up with snow-water, and as I was held up here
and there before I could get across, provisions began to run short. Then
I fell down a gulch and hurt my knee, and as I had to leave my tent and
it rained most of the while, I lay in the wet at nights, half-fed, with
my knee getting worse. By and by I fell sick; but I had to get out of the
mountains, and I was pushing on for the straits when I struck the valley
where the spruce is. After that, I got kind of muddled in the head, but I
went down a long valley on an easy grade and struck some Siwash curing
the last of the salmon. The trouble is, I was too sick to figure exactly
where the small inlet they were camped by lies. They took me back with
them to their rancherie--you could find that--and sailed me across to
Comox. I came down on a steamboat, and the doctor told me I'd made my
Vane could sympathize. The narrative had been crudely matter-of-fact, but
he had been out on the prospecting trail often enough to fill in the
details the sick man omitted. He had slept in the rain, very scantily
fed, and he could picture the starving man limping along in an agony of
pain and exhaustion, with an injured knee, over boulders and broken rock
and through dense tangles of underbrush strewed with mighty fallen logs.
"How far was the valley from the inlet?" he asked.
"I can't tell you. I think I was three days on the trail; but it might
have been more. I was too sick to remember. Anyway, there was a creek you
could run the logs down."
"Well, how far was the inlet from the rancherie?"
"I was in the canoe part of one night and some of the next day. I can't
get it any clearer. We had a fair breeze. Guess thirty miles wouldn't
be far out."
"That's something to go upon. How much does your daughter earn?"
It was an abrupt change of subject, but the man answered as Vane had
expected. The girl's wages might maintain her economically, but it was
difficult to see how she could provide for her sick father. The latter
seemed to guess Vane's thoughts, for he spoke again.
"If I'd known I was done for when I was up in the bush, I wouldn't have
pushed on quite so fast," he said with expressive simplicity.
"If Drayton will come along with me, I'll send him back with a hundred
dollars. It's part of the first payment. Your getting it now should make
things a little easier for Celia."
"But you haven't located the spruce yet!"
"I'm going to locate it, if the thing's anyway possible." Vane shook
hands with the man. "I expect to get off up the straits very shortly."
The prospector looked at him with relief and gratitude in his eyes.
"You're white--and I guess you'd be mighty hard to beat!"
When they reached the rutted street, which was bordered on one side by
great fir stumps, Drayton glanced at Vane with open admiration.
"I'm glad I brought you across. You have a way of getting hold of
people--making them believe in you. Hartley hasn't a word in writing, but
he knows you mean to act square with him. Kitty felt the same thing--it
was why she came down in the sloop with you."
Vane smiled, though there was a trace of embarrassment in his manner.
"Now that you mention it, I don't think Hartley was wise; and you were
equally confiding. We have only arrived at a rather indefinite
understanding about your share."
"We'll leave it at that. I haven't struck anybody else in this city who
would hear about the thing. Anyway, I'd prefer a few shares in the
concern, as mentioned, instead of money. If you get the thing on foot, I
guess it will go."
"Won't they raise trouble at the mill about your staying out?" Vane
inquired. "We have still to go for that hundred dollars."
Drayton owned that it might be advisable to hurry, and they set off for
the business quarter of the city.
During the remainder of the day Vane was busy on board the sloop, but in
the evening he walked over to Horsfield's house with Mrs. Nairn and found
Jessy and her brother at home. Horsfield presently took Vane to his
"About that smelter," he began. "Haven't you made up your mind yet? The
thing's been hanging fire a long while."
"Isn't it a matter for the board?" Vane asked suggestively. "There are
"We'll face the fact: they'll do what you decide on."
Vane did not reply to this.
"Well," he said, "at present we couldn't keep a smelter big enough to be
economical going, and I'm doubtful whether we would get much ore from the
other properties you were talking about to Nairn."
"Did he say it was my idea?"
"He didn't; I'd reasons for assuming it. Those properties, however, are
of no account."
Horsfield made no comment but waited expectantly, and Vane went on:
"If it seems possible that we can profitably increase our output later
on, by means of further capital, we'll put up a smelter. But in that
case it might be economical to do the work ourselves."
"Who would superintend it?"
"I would, if necessary, with the assistance of an engineer used to
Horsfield smiled in a significant manner.
"Aren't you inclined to take hold of too much? When you have plenty in
your hands, it's good policy to leave a little for somebody else.
Sometimes the person who benefits is willing to reciprocate."
The hint was plain, and Nairn had said sufficient on another occasion to
make it clearer; but Vane did not respond.
"If we gave the work out, it would be on an open tender," he declared.
"There would be no reason why you shouldn't make a bid."
Horsfield found it difficult to conceal his disgust. He had no desire to
bid on an open tender, which would prevent his obtaining anything beyond
the market price.
"The question must stand over until I come back," Vane went on. "I'm
going up the west coast shortly and may be away some time."
They left the smoking-room shortly afterward, and when they strolled back
to the others, Vane sat down near Jessy.
"I hear you are going away," she began.
"Yes. I'm going to look for pulping timber."
"But what do you want with pulping timber?"
"It can sometimes be converted into money."
"Isn't there every prospect of your obtaining a good deal already? Are
you never satisfied?"
"I suppose I'm open to take as much as I can get."
Vane answered with an air of humorous reflection. "The reason probably is
that I've had very little until lately. Still, I don't think it's
altogether the money that is driving me."
"If it's the restlessness you once spoke of, you ought to put a check on
it and try to be content. There's danger in the longing to be always
"It's a common idea that a small hazard gives a thing a spice."
Jessy shot a swift glance at him, and she had, as he noticed,
"Be careful," she advised. "After all, it's wiser to keep within safe
limits and not climb over too many fences." She paused and her voice grew
softer. "You have friends who would be sorry if you got hurt."
The man was stirred. She was alluring, physically, while something in her
voice had its effect on him. Evelyn, however, still occupied his thoughts
and he smiled at his companion.
"Thank you. I like to believe it."
Then Mrs. Nairn and Horsfield crossed the room toward them and the
conversation became general.
VANE SAILS NORTH
On the evening of Vane's departure he walked out of Nairn's room just as
dusk was falling. His host was with him, and when they entered an
adjacent room the elder man's face relaxed into a smile as he saw Jessy
Horsfield talking to his wife. Vane stopped a few minutes to speak to
them, and it was Jessy who gave the signal for the group to break up.
"I must go," she said to Mrs. Nairn. "I've already stayed longer than I
intended. I'll let you have those patterns back in a day or two."
"Mair patterns!" Nairn exclaimed with dry amusement. "It's the second lot
this week! Ye're surely industrious, Jessy. Women"--he addressed
Vane--"have curious notions of economy. They will spend a month knitting
a thing to give to somebody who does no want it, when they could buy it
for half a dollar, done better by machinery. I'm no saying, however, that
it does no keep them out of mischief."
"I don't think many of us are industrious in that way now. After all,
isn't it a pity that so many of the beautiful old handicrafts are dying
out? No loom, for instance, could turn out some of the things your wife
makes. They're matchless."
"She has an aumrie--ye can translate it bureaufull of them. It's no
longer customary to scatter them over the house. If ye mean to copy the
lot, ye have a task that will take ye most a lifetime."
Mrs. Nairn's smile was half a sigh.
"There were no books and no many amusements when I was young. We sat
through the long winter forenights, counting stitches, in the old gray
house at Burnfoot, under the Scottish moors. That, my dear, was thirty
She shook hands with Vane as he left the house with Jessy, and standing
on the stoop she watched them cross the lawn.
"I'm thinking ye'll no see so much of Jessy for the next few weeks,"
Nairn remarked dryly. "Has she shown ye any of yon knickknacks when she
has finished them?"
His wife shook her head at him reproachfully.
"Alic," she admonished, "ye're now and then hasty in jumping at
"Maybe. I'm no infallible, but the fault ye mention is no common in the
land where we were born. I'm no denying that Jessy has enterprise, but
how far it will carry her in this case is mair than I can tell."
He smiled as he recalled a scene at the station some time ago, and Mrs.
Nairn looked up at him.
"What is amusing you, Alic?"
"It was just a bit idea no worth the mentioning. I think it would no
count." He paused, and added with an air of reflection: "A young man's
heart is whiles inconstant and susceptible."
Mrs. Nairn, ignoring the last remark, went into the house. In the
meanwhile Jessy and Vane walked down the road, until they stopped at a
gate. Jessy held out her hand.
"I'm glad I met you to-night," she said. "You will allow me to wish you
There was a softness in her voice which Vane wholly failed to notice,
though he was aware that she was pretty and artistically dressed. This
was possibly why she made him think of Evelyn.
"Thank you," he replied. "It's nice to feel that one has the sympathy of
He turned away, and Jessy stood watching him as he strode down the road,
noticing, though it was getting dark, the free vigor of his movements.
There was, she thought, something in his fine poise and swing that set
him apart from other men she knew. None of them walked or carried himself
as Vane did. She was, however, forced to recognize that although he had
answered her courteously, there had been no warmth in his words. As a
matter of fact, Vane just then was conscious of a slight relief. He
admired Jessy, and he liked Nairn and his wife; but they belonged to the
city; and he was glad, on the whole, to leave it behind. He was going
back to the shadowy woods, where men lived naturally. The lust of fresh
adventure was strong in him.
On reaching the wharf he found Kitty, with Celia Hartley, whom he had not
met hitherto, awaiting him with Carroll and Drayton. A boat lay at the
steps, and he and Carroll rowed the others off to the sloop. The moon was
just rising from behind the black firs at the inner end of the inlet, and
a little cold wind that blew down across them, faintly scented with
resinous fragrance, stirred the water into tiny ripples that flashed into
silvery radiance here and there. Lights gleamed on the forestays of
vessels whose tall spars were etched in high, black tracery against the
dusky blue of the sky, athwart which there streamed the long smoke trail
of a steamer passing out through the Narrows.
Kitty, urged by Drayton, broke into a little song with a smooth, swinging
cadence that went harmoniously with the measured splash of oars; and Vane
enjoyed it all. The city was dropping behind him; he felt himself at
liberty. Carroll was a tried comrade; the others were simple people whose
views were more or less his own. Besides, it was a glorious night and
Kitty sang charmingly.
A soft glow shone out from the skylights to welcome them as they
approached the sloop. When, laughing gaily, they clambered on board,
Carroll led the way to the tiny saloon, which just held them all. It was
brightly lighted by two nickeled lamps; flowers were fastened against the
paneling, and clusters of them stood upon the table, which was covered
with a spotless cloth. What was even more unusual, it was daintily set
out with good china and silver. Vane took the head of it, and Carroll
modestly explained that only part of the supper had been prepared by
himself. The rest he had obtained in the city, out of regard for the
guests, who, he added, had not lived in the bush. Presently Vane, who had
been busy talking to the others, turned to Celia.
"Now that we can see each other better, I think you ought to recognize
me, Miss Hartley."
The girl was young and attractive, and she blushed prettily.
"I do, of course; but I thought I'd wait until I saw whether you
"Why should you wait?"
Celia looked confused.
"It's two or three years since I've seen you; and I've left that place."
Vane laughed. He had made her acquaintance at a workman's hotel where she
was engaged, when he was differently situated, and he fancied that she
was diffident about recalling the fact, now that he was obviously
"Well," he responded, "it's only fair that I should give you supper, for
once. I've always had an idea that you brought me more dessert than I was
really entitled to."
"It was because you were--civil," Celia explained, though her expression
suggested that the word did not convey all she meant. "Still, I can't
complain of the rest of the boys."
"I wonder if you remember how astonished you were the first time you
brought me supper?"
Celia smiled and Vane turned to the others.
"I'd just come in on a schooner. We'd had wild weather, during which the
galley fire was generally washed out and the cook had some difficulty in
getting us anything to eat. Miss Hartley brought me a double supply. She
must have thought I needed it."
"There was mighty little left," the girl retorted.
The others laughed, but Vane went on, in a reminiscent manner:
"I was wearing a pair of old gum-boots with one toe torn off, and my
jacket was split right up the back. When I went up-town the next day,
people looked at me suspiciously. The trade of the Province is pretty
bad when you see men in Vancouver dressed as I was. The fact that sticks
in my mind most clearly, however, is that on the following morning, when
I'd arranged to see a man who might give me a job, Miss Hartley offered
to sew up the tear for me. I was uncommonly glad to let her."
Celia colored again, but it was evident that she was not displeased.
Kitty smiled at him, and there was appreciation in Drayton's eyes.
"Were you surprised when she offered to sew it?" Kitty inquired.
"Now, you have helped me on to what I wanted to say. I wasn't
surprised--how could I be? The kind of people I'd met out here had seldom
much money, or much of anything; but I had generally less, and they held
out a hand when I needed it and gave me what they had. It stirs me in a
way that almost hurts to think of it."
Then Carroll started the general chatter, which went on after the meal
was finished, and nobody appeared to notice that Kitty sat with her hand
in Drayton's amid the happy laughter. Even Celia, who had her grief to
grapple with, smiled bravely. Vane had given them champagne, the best in
the city, though they drank sparingly; and at last, when Celia made a
move to rise, Drayton stood up with his glass in his hand.
"We must go, but there's something to be done," he announced. "It's to
thank our host and wish him success. It's a little boat he's sailing in,
but she's carrying a big freight, if our good wishes count for anything."
They emptied the glasses, and Vane replied:
"My success is yours. You have all a stake in the venture, and that
piles up my responsibility. If the spruce is still in existence, I've
got to find it."
"And you're going to find it!" declared Drayton. "It's a sure thing!"
Vane divided the flowers between Celia and Kitty, but when they went up
on deck Kitty raised one bunch and kissed it.
"Tom won't mind," she laughed. "Take that one back from Celia and
They got down into the boat, and Carroll handed them a basket of crockery
and table linen which Drayton promised to have delivered at the hotel.
Then, while the girls called back to Vane, Drayton rowed away, and the
boat was fading out of sight when Kitty's voice once more reached the men
on board. She was singing a well-known Jacobite ballad.
Carroll laughed softly.
"It strikes me as appropriate," he said. "Considering what his Highland
followers suffered on his account and what the women thought of him, some
of the virtues they credited the Young Chevalier with must have been
real." He raised his hand. "You may as well listen!"
Vane stood still a moment, with the blood hot in his face, as the refrain
rang more clearly across the sparkling water:
"Better lo'ed ye cannot be--
Will ye no come back to me?"
"I don't know whether you feel flattered, but I've an idea that Kitty and
Celia would go through fire for you; and Drayton seems to share their
confidence," Carroll went on in his most matter-of-fact tone.
"Celia mended my jacket," Vane replied. "I got a month's work as a
result of it." Then he began to shake the mainsail loose. "I believe
we both went rather far in our talk to-night; but we have got to find
"So you have said already. Hadn't you better heave the boom up with the
They got the mainsail onto her, broke out the anchor and set the jib; and
as the boat slipped away before a freshening breeze Vane sat at the helm
while Carroll stood on the foredeck, coiling up the gear. The moon was
higher now; the broad sail gleamed a silvery gray; the ripples, which
were getting bigger, flashed and sparkled as they streamed back from the
bows; and the lights of the city dropped fast astern. Vane was conscious
of a keen exhilaration. He had started on a new adventure. He was going
back to the bush; and he knew that, no matter how his life might change,
the wilderness would always call to him. In spite of this, however, he
was, as he had said, conscious of an unusual responsibility. Hitherto he
had fought for what he could get, for himself; but now Kitty's future
partly depended on his efforts, and his success would be of vast
importance to Celia.
He had a very friendly feeling toward both the girls. Indeed, all the
women he had met of late had attracted him, in different ways. It was
hard to believe that any of them possessed unlovable qualities, though
there was not one among them to compare with Evelyn. Whatever he liked
most in the others--intelligence, beauty, tenderness, courage--reminded
him of her. Kitty, he thought, belonged to the hearth; she personified
gentleness and solace; it would be her part to diffuse cheerful comfort
in the home. Jessy would make an ambitious man's companion; a clever
counselor, who would urge him forward if he lagged. Celia he had not
placed yet; but Evelyn stood apart from all.
She appealed less to his senses and intellect than she did to a
sublimated something in the depths of his nature; and it somehow seemed
fitting that her image should materialize before his mental vision as the
sloop drove along under the cloudless night sky while the moonlight
poured down glamour on the shining water. Evelyn harmonized with such
things as these.
It was true that she had repulsed him; but that, he felt, was what he
deserved for entering into an alliance against her with her venial
father. He was glad now that he had acquiesced in her dismissal of him,
since to have stood firm and broken her to his will would have brought
disaster upon both of them. He felt that she had not wholly escaped him,
after all; by and by he would go back and seek her favor by different
means. Then she might, perhaps, forgive him and listen.
The breeze came down fresher as they drove out through the Narrows.
Carroll had gone below; and, brushing his thoughts aside, Vane busied
himself hauling in some of the mainsheet, while the water splashed more
loudly beneath the bows. The great black firs rolled by in somber
masses over his port hand, and presently the last of the lights were
blotted out. He was alone, flitting swiftly and smoothly across the
THE FIRST MISADVENTURE
The breeze freshened fiercely with the red and fiery dawn. Vane, who had
gone below, was advised of it by being flung off the locker in the
saloon, where he sat with coffee and crackers before him. The jug,
overturning, spilled its contents upon him, and the crackers were
scattered, but he picked himself up in haste and scrambled out into the
well. He found the sloop slanted over with a good deal of her lee deck
submerged in rushing foam, and Carroll bracing himself against the strain
upon the tiller. To windward, the sea looked as if it had been strewed
with feathers, for there were flecks and blurs of white everywhere.
"I'll let her come up when you're ready!" Carroll shouted. "We'd better
get some sail off her, if we mean to hold on to the mast!"
He thrust down his helm; and the sloop, forging round to windward, rose
upright, with her heavy main-boom banging to and fro. After that, they
were desperately busy for a few minutes. Vane wished that they had
engaged a hand in Vancouver, instead of waiting to hire a Siwash
somewhere up the coast. There was the headsail to haul to windward, which
was difficult, and the mainsheet to get in; then the two men, standing on
the slippery, inclined deck, struggled hard to haul the canvas down to
the boom. The jerking spar smote them in the ribs; once or twice the
reefing tackle beneath it was torn from their hands; but they mastered
the sail, tying two reefs in it, to reduce its size; and the craft drove
away with her lee rail just awash.
"You'd better go down and get some crackers," Vane advised his comrade.
"You'll find them rolling up and down the floor. I spilled the coffee,
but perhaps the kettle's still on the stove. Anyhow, you may not have an
"It looks like that," Carroll agreed. "The wind's backing northward, and
that means more of it before long. You can call, if you want me."
He disappeared below, and Vane sat at the helm with a frown on his face.
An angry coppery glare streamed down upon the white-flecked water which
gleamed in the lurid light. It was very cold, but there was a wonderful
quality that set the blood tingling in the nipping air. Even upon the
high peaks and in the trackless bush, one fails to find the bracing
freshness that comes with the dawn at sea.
Vane, however, knew that the breeze would increase and draw ahead, which
was unfortunate, because they would have to beat, fighting for every
fathom they slowly made. There was no help for it, and he buttoned his
jacket against the spray. By the time Carroll came up the sloop was
plunging sharply, pitching showers of stinging brine all over her when
the bows went down. They drove her at it stubbornly most of the day,
making but little to windward, while the seas got bigger and whiter,
until they had some trouble to keep the light boat they carried upon the
deluged deck. At last, when she came bodily aft amid a frothing cascade
which poured into the well, Vane brought the sloop round, and they
stretched away to eastward, until they could let go the anchor in smooth
water beneath a wall of rock. They were very wet, and were stiff with
cold, for winter was drawing near.
"We'll get supper," said Vane. "If the breeze drops a little at dusk,
which is likely, we'll go on again."
Having eaten little since dawn, they enjoyed the meal; and Carroll would
have been content to remain at anchor afterward. The tiny saloon was
comfortably warm, and he thought it would be pleasanter to lounge away
the evening on a locker, with his pipe, than to sit amid the bitter spray
at the helm. The breeze had fallen a little, but the firs in a valley
ashore were still wailing loudly. Vane, however, was proof against his
"With a head wind, we'll be some time working up to the rancherie, and
then we have thirty miles of coast to search for the inlet Hartley
reached. After that, there's the valley to locate; he was uncertain how
far it lay from the beach."
"It couldn't be very far. You wouldn't expect a man who was sick and
badly lame to make any great pace."
"I can imagine a man, who knew he must reach the coast before he starved,
making a pretty vigorous effort. If he were worked-up and desperate, the
pain might turn him savage and drive him on, instead of stopping him. Do
you remember the time we crossed the divide in the snow?"
"I could remember it, if I wanted to," Carroll answered with a shiver.
"As it happens, that's about the last thing I'm anxious to do."
"The trouble is that there are a good many valleys in this strip of
country, and we may have to try a number before we strike the right one.
Winter's not far off, and I can't spend very much time over this search.
As soon as the man we put in charge of the mine has tried his present
system long enough to give us something to figure on, I want to see what
can be done to increase our output. We haven't marketed very much refined
"There's no doubt that it would be advisable," Carroll answered
thoughtfully. "As I've pointed out, you have spent a good deal of the
cash you got when you turned the Clermont over to the company. In fact,
that's one reason why I didn't try to head off this timber-hunting
scheme. You can't spend much over the search, and if the spruce comes up
to expectations, you ought to get it back. It would be a fortunate
change, after your extravagance in England."
"That's a subject I don't want to talk about. We'll go up and see what
the weather's like."
Carroll shivered when they stood in the well. It was falling dusk, and
the sky was a curious cold, shadowy blue. A nipping wind came down across
the darkening firs ashore, but there was no doubt that it had fallen
somewhat, and Carroll resigned himself when Vane began to pull the tiers
off the mainsail.
In a few minutes they were under way, the sloop heading out toward open
water with two reefs down in her mainsail, a gray and ghostly shape of
slanted canvas that swept across the dim, furrowed plain of sea. By
midnight the breeze was as strong as ever, but they had clear moonlight
and they held on; the craft plunging with flooded decks through the
white combers, while Carroll sat at the helm, battered by spray and
stung with cold.
When Vane came up, an hour or two later, the sea was breaking viciously.
Carroll would have put up his helm and run for shelter, had the decision
been left to him; but he saw his comrade's face in the moonlight and
refrained from any suggestion of that nature. There was a spice of
dogged obstinacy in Vane, which, although on the whole it made for
success, occasionally drove him into needless difficulties. They held
on; and soon after day broke, with its first red flush ominously high in
the eastern sky, they stretched in toward the land, with a somewhat
sheltered bay opening up beyond a foam-fringed point ahead of them.
Carroll glanced dubiously at the white turmoil in the midst of which
black fangs of rock appeared.
"Will she weather the point on this tack?" he asked.
"She'll have to! We'll have smoother water to work through, once we're
round, and the tide's helping her."
They drove on, though it occurred to Carroll that they were not opening
up the bay very rapidly. The light was growing, and he could now discern
the orderly phalanxes of white-topped combers that crumbled into a
chaotic spouting on the point's outer end. It struck him that the sloop
would not last long if she touched bottom there; but once more, after a
glance at Vane's face, he kept silent. After all, Vane was leader; and
when he looked as he did then, he usually resented advice. The mouth of
the bay grew wider, until Carroll could see most of the forest-girt shore
on one side of it; but the surf upon the point was growing unpleasantly
near. Wisps of spray whirled away from it and vanished among the scrubby
firs clinging to the fissured crags behind. The sloop, however, was going
to windward, for Vane was handling her with nerve and skill. She had
almost cleared the point when there was a rattle and a bang inside of
her. Carroll started.
"It's the centerboard coming up! It must have touched a boulder!"
"Then jump down and lift it before it strikes another and bends!" cried
Vane. "She's far enough to windward to keep off the beach without it."
Carroll went below and hove up the centerboard, which projected several
feet beneath the bottom of the craft; but he was not satisfied that the
sloop was far enough off the beach, as Vane seemed to be, and he got out
into the well as soon as possible.
The worst of the surf was abreast of their quarter now, and less-troubled
water stretched away ahead. Carroll had hardly noticed this, however,
when there was a second heavy crash and the sloop stopped suddenly. The
comber to windward that should have lifted her up, broke all over her,
flinging the boat on deck upon the saloon skylight and pouring inches
deep over the coaming into the well. Vane was hurled from the tiller. His
wet face was smeared with blood, from a cut on his forehead, but he
seized a big oar to shove the sloop off, when she swung upright, moved,
and struck again. The following sea hove her up; there was a third, less
violent, crash; and as Vane dropped the oar and grasped the helm, she
suddenly shot ahead.
"She'll go clear!" he shouted. "Jump below and see if she's damaged!"
Carroll got no farther than the scuttle, for the saloon floorings on the
depressed side were already awash, and he could hear an ominous splashing
"It's pouring into her!" he cried.
"Then, you'll have to pump!"
"We passed an opening some miles to lee. Wouldn't it be better if you ran
back there?" Carroll suggested.
"No! I won't run a yard! There's another inlet not far ahead and we'll
stand on until we reach it. I'd put her on the beach here, only that
she'd go to pieces with the first shift of the wind to westward."
Carroll agreed with this opinion; but there is a great difference between
running to leeward with the sea behind the vessel and thrashing to
windward when it is ahead, and he hesitated.
"Get the pump started! We're going on!" Vane said impatiently.
Fortunately the pump was a powerful one, of the semi-rotary type, and
they had nearly two miles of smoother water before they stretched out of
the bay upon the other tack. When they did so, Carroll, glancing down
again through the scuttle, could not flatter himself that he had reduced
the water. It was comforting, however, to see that it had not increased,
though he did not expect that state of affairs to last. When they drove
out into broken water, he found it difficult to work the crank. The
plunges threw him against the coaming, and the sea poured in over it
continually. There are not many men who feel equal to determined toil
before their morning meal, and the physical slackness is generally more
pronounced if they have been up most of the preceding night; but Carroll
recognized that he had no choice. There was too much sea for the boat,
even if they could have launched her, and he could make out no spot on
the beach where it seemed possible to effect a landing if they ran the
sloop ashore. As a result of this, it behooved him to pump.
After half an hour of it, he was breathless and exhausted, and Vane took
his place. The sea was higher; the sloop wetter than she had been; and
there was no doubt that the water was rising fast inside of her. Carroll
wondered how far ahead the inlet lay; and the next two hours were anxious
ones to both of them. Turn about, they pumped with savage determination
and went back, gasping, to the helm to thrash the boat on. They drove her
remorselessly; and she swept through the combers, tilted and streaming,
while the spray scourged the helmsman's face as he gazed to weather. The
men's arms and shoulders ached from working in a cramped position; but
there was no help for it. They toiled on furiously, until at last the
crest of a crag for which they were heading sloped away in front of them.
A few minutes later they drove past the end of it into a broad lane of
water. The wind was suddenly cut off; the combers fell away; and the
sloop crept slowly up the inlet, which wound, green and placid, among the
hills, with long ranks of firs dropping steeply to the edge of the water.
Vane loosed the pump handle, and striding to the scuttle looked down at
the flood which splashed languidly to and fro below.
"It strikes me as fortunate that we're in," he commented. "Another
half-hour would have seen the end of her. Let her come up a little!
There's a smooth beach to yonder cove."
She slid in quietly, scarcely rippling the smooth surface of the tiny
basin, and Carroll laid her on the beach.
"Now," advised Vane, "we'll drop the boom on the shore side to keep her
from canting over; and then we'll get breakfast. We'll see where she's
damaged when the tide ebbs."
As most of their stores had lain in the flooded lockers, from which there
had been no time to extricate them, the meal was not an appetizing one.
They were, however, glad to have it; and rowing ashore afterward, they
lay on the shingle in the sunshine while the sloop was festooned with
their drying clothes. There was no wind in that deep hollow, and they
were thankful, for the weather was already getting cold.
"If she has only split a plank or two, we can patch her up," Vane
remarked. "There are all the tools we'll want in the locker."
"Where will you get new planks?" Carroll inquired. "I don't think we
have any spikes that would go through the frames."
"That is the trouble. I expect I'll have to make a trip across to Comox
for them in a sea canoe. We're sure to come across a few Siwash somewhere
in the neighborhood." Then he knit his brows. "I can't say that this
expedition is beginning fortunately."
"There's no doubt on that point," Carroll agreed.
"Well, the sloop has to be patched up; and until I find that spruce I'm
going on--anyway, as long as the provisions hold out. If we're not
through with the business then, we'll come back again."
Carroll made no comment. It was not worth while to object, when Vane was
It was a quiet evening, nearly a fortnight after the arrival of the
sloop. Pale sunshine streamed into the cove, and little glittering
ripples lapped lazily along the shingle. The placid surface of the inlet
was streaked with faint blue lines where wandering airs came down from
the heights above, and now and then an elfin sighing fell from the ragged
summits of the firs. When it died away, the silence was broken only by
the pounding of a heavy hammer and the crackle of a fire.
Carroll sat beside the latter, alternately holding a stout plank up to
the blaze and dabbling its hot surface with a dripping mop. His face was
scorched, and he coughed as the resinous-scented smoke drifted about his
head and floated in heavy, blue wisps half-way up the giant trunks behind
him. A big sea canoe lay drawn up not far away, and one of its
copper-skinned Siwash owners lounged on the shingle, stolidly watching
the white men. His comrade was then inside the sloop, holding a big stone
against one of her frames, while Vane crouched outside, swinging a
hammer. Her empty hull flung back the thud of the blows, which rang far
across the trees.
Vane was bare-armed and stripped to shirt and trousers. He had arrived
from Comox across the straits at dawn that morning. It was a long trip
and they had had wild weather on the journey, but he had set to work with
characteristic energy as soon as he landed. Now, though the sun was low,
he was working harder than ever, with the flood tide, which would shortly
compel him to desist, creeping up to his feet.
It is a difficult matter to fit a new plank into the rounded bilge of a
boat, particularly when one is provided with inadequate appliances. One
requires a good eye for curves, for the planks need much shaping. They
must also be driven into position by force. Two or three stout shores
were firmly wedged against the side of the boat, and these encumbered
Vane in the free use of his arms. His face was darkly flushed and he
panted heavily and now and then flung vitriolic instructions to the
Siwash inside the craft. Carroll, watching him with quiet amusement, was
on the whole content that the tide was rising, for his comrade had firmly
declined to stop for dinner, and he was conscious of a sharpened
appetite. It was comforting to reflect that Vane would be unable to get
the plank into place before the evening meal, for if there had been any
prospect of his doing so, he would certainly have postponed his dinner.
Presently he stopped a moment and turned to Carroll.
"If you were any use in an emergency, you'd be holding up for me, instead
of that wooden image inside! He will back the stone against any frame
except the one I'm nailing."
"The difficulty is that I can't be in two places at the same time,"
Carroll retorted good-naturedly. "Shall I leave this plank? You can't
get it in to-night."
"I'm going to try," Vane answered grimly.
He turned around to direct the Siwash and then cautiously hammered in one
of the wedges a little farther. Swinging back the hammer, he struck a
heavy blow. The result was disastrous, for there was a crash and one of
the shores shot backward, striking him on the knee. He jumped with a
savage cry, and the next moment there was a sharp snapping, and the end
of the plank sprang out. Then another shore gave way; and when the plank
fell clattering at his feet, Vane whirled the hammer round his head and
hurled it violently into the bush. This appeared to afford him some
satisfaction, and he strode up the beach, with the blood dripping from
the knuckles of one hand.
"That's the blamed Siwash's fault!" he muttered. "I couldn't get him to
back up when I put the last spike in."
"Hadn't you better tell him to come out?" Carroll suggested.
"No!" thundered Vane. "If he hasn't sense enough to see that he isn't
wanted, he can stay where he is all night! Are you going to get supper,
or must I do that, too?"
Carroll merely smiled and set about preparing the meal, which the two
Siwash partook of and afterward departed with some paper currency. Then
Vane, walking down the beach, came back with the plank. Lighting his
pipe, he pointed to one or two broken nails in it. The water was now
rippling softly about the sloop, and the splash of canoe paddles came up
out of the distance in rhythmic cadence.
"That's the cause of the trouble," he explained. "It cost me a week's
journey to get the package of galvanized spikes--I could have managed to
split a plank or two out of one of these firs. The storekeeper fellow
assured me they were specially annealed for heading up. If I knew who the
manufacturers were, I'd have pleasure in telling them what I think of
them. If they set up to make spikes, they ought to make them, and empty
every keg that won't stand the test out on to the scrap-heap."
Carroll smiled. The course his partner had indicated was the one he would
have adopted. He was characterized by a somewhat grim idea of efficiency,
and never spared his labor to attain it, though the latter fact now and
then had its inconveniences for those who cooperated with him, as Carroll
had discovered. The latter had no doubt that Vane would put the planks
in, if he spent a month over the operation.
"I wouldn't have had this trouble if you'd been handier with tools,"
Vane went on. "I can't see why you never took the trouble to learn how
to use them."
"My abilities aren't as varied as yours; and the thing strikes me as bad
economy," Carroll replied. "Skill of the kind you mention is worth about
three dollars a day."
"You were getting two dollars for shoveling in a mining ditch when I
first met you."
"I was," Carroll assented good-humoredly. "I believe another month or
two of it would have worn me out. It's considerably pleasanter and more
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