Vane of the Timberlands
Part 5 out of 6
"She wanted it, and paint's comparatively cheap. It has been good drying
weather the last few days."
It was a little thing, but Evelyn was pleased. The girls had not been
greatly considered at the Dene, and it was flattering to recognize that
the man had thought it worth while to decorate his craft in her honor;
she supposed it had entailed a certain amount of work. She did not ask
herself if he had wished to please her; he had invited her for a sail
some days ago, and he was thorough in everything he did. He helped her
and Mrs. Nairn on board and when they sat down in the well he and Carroll
proceeded to hoist the mainsail. It looked exceedingly large as it
thrashed and fluttered above their heads, and there seemed to be a
bewildering quantity of ropes, but Evelyn was interested chiefly in
He was wonderfully quick, but no movement was wasted. His face was
intent, his glances sharp, and she liked the crisp, curt way in which he
spoke to Carroll. The man's task was, in one sense, not important, but he
was absorbed in it. Then while Carroll slipped the moorings, Vane ran up
the headsails and springing aft seized the tiller as the boat, slanting
over, commenced to forge through the water. It was the first time Evelyn
had ever traveled under sail and, receptive as she was of all new
impressions she sat silent a few minutes rejoicing in the sense of swift
and easy motion. The inlet was crisped by small white ripples, and the
boat with her boom broad off on her quarter drove through them, with a
wedge of foam on her lee bow and a stream of froth sluicing past her
sides. Overhead, the great inclined sail cut, sharply white, against the
dazzling blue of the mid-morning sky.
Evelyn glanced farther around. Wharves stacked with lumber, railroad
track, clustering roofs, smoking mills, were flitting fast astern. Ahead,
a big side-wheel steamer was forging, foam-ringed, toward her, with the
tall spars of a four-master towering behind, and stately pines, that
apparently walled in the harbor, a little to one side. To starboard,
beyond the wide stretch of white-flecked water, mountains ran back in
ranks, with the chilly gleam of snow, which had crept lower since her
arrival, upon their shoulders. It was a sharp contrast: the noisy,
raw-new city and, so close at hand, the fringe of the wilderness.
They swept out through the gate of the Narrows, and Vane luffed the boat
up to a moderately fresh breeze.
"It's off the land, and we'll have fairly smooth water," he explained.
"How do you like sailing?"
Evelyn watched the white ridges, which were larger than the ripples in
the inlet, smash in swift succession upon the weather bow and hurl the
glittering spray into the straining mainsail. There was something
fascinating in the way the gently-swaying boat clove through them.
"It's glorious!" she cried, looking first ahead then back toward the
distant snow. "If anything more were wanted, there are the
Vane smiled, but there was a suggestive sparkle in his eyes.
"Yes; we have them both, and that's something to be thankful for. The sea
and the mountains--the two grandest things in this world!"
"If you think that, how did you reconcile yourself to the city?"
"I'm not sure that I've done so." He indicated the gleaming heights.
"Anyway, I'm going back up yonder very soon."
Mrs. Nairn glanced at Carroll, who affected to be busy with a rope; then
she turned to Vane.
"It will no be possible with winter coming on."
"It's not really so bad then," Vane declared. "Besides, I expect to get
my work done before the hardest weather's due."
"But ye canna leave Vancouver until ye have settled about the mine!"
"I don't want to," Vane admitted. "That's not quite the same thing."
"It is with a good many people," Carroll interposed with a smile.
Evelyn fancied that there was something behind all this, but it did not
directly concern her and she made no inquiry. In the meanwhile they were
driving on to the southward, opening up the straits, with the forests to
port growing smaller and the short seas increasing in size. The breeze
was cold, but the girl was warmly clad and the easy motion in no way
troubled her. The rush of keen salt air stirred her blood, and all round
her were spread wonderful harmonies of silver-laced blue and green,
through which the straining fabric that carried her swept on. The
mountains were majestic, but except when tempests lashed their crags or
torrents swept their lower slopes they were wrapped in eternal repose;
the sea was filled with ecstatic motion.
"The hills have their fascination; it's a thing I know," she said, to
draw the helmsman out. "I think I should like the sea, too; but at first
sight it's charm isn't quite so plain."
"You have started him," interposed Carroll. "He won't refuse that
Vane accepted it with a smile which meant more than good-humored
"Well," he declared, "the sea's the same everywhere, unbridled,
unchanging; a force that remains as it was in the beginning. Once you're
out of harbor, under sail, you have done with civilization. It has
possibly provided you with excellent gear, but it can do no more; you
stand alone, stripped for the struggle with the elements."
"Is it always a struggle?"
"Always. The sea's as treacherous as the winds that vex it, pitiless,
murderous. When you have only sail to trust to, you can never relax your
vigilance; you must watch the varying drift of clouds and the swing of
the certain tides. There's nothing and nobody to fall back upon when the
breeze pipes its challenge; you have sloughed off civilization and must
stand or fall by the raw natural powers with which man is born, and chief
among them is the capacity for brutal labor. The thrashing sail must be
mastered; the tackle creaking with the strain must be hauled in. Perhaps,
that's the charm of it for some of us whose lives are pretty smooth--it
takes one back, as I said, to the beginning."
"But haven't human progress and machines made life more smooth for
Vane laughed somewhat grimly.
"Oh, no; I think that can never be done. So far, somebody pays for the
others' ease. At sea, in the mine and in the bush man still grapples with
a rugged, naked world."
The girl was pleased. She had drawn him out, and she thought that in
speaking he had kept a fair balance between too crude a mode of
colloquial expression and poetic elaboration. There was, she knew, a vein
of poetic conception in him, and the struggle he had hinted at could be
described fittingly only in heroic language. It was in one sense a pity
that those who had the gift of it and cultivated imagination had, for the
most part, never been forced into the fight; but that was, perhaps, not a
matter of much importance. There were plenty of men, such as her
companion, endowed with steadfast endurance who, if they seldom gave
their thoughts free rein, rejoiced in the struggle; and by them the
world's sternest work was clone.
"After all," she went on, "we have the mountains in civilized England."
Vane did not respond with the same freedom this time. He was inclined to
think he had spoken too unrestrainedly.
"Yes," he agreed, smiling; "you can walk about them--where you won't
disturb the grouse--and they're grand enough; but if you look down you
can see the motor dust trails and the tourist coaches in the valleys."
"But why shouldn't people enjoy themselves in that way?"
"I can't think of any reason. No doubt most of them have earned the right
to do so. But you can't rip up those hills with giant-powder where you
feel inclined, or set to work to root out some miles of forest. The
Government encourages that kind of thing here."
"And that's the charm?"
"Yes; I suppose it is."
"I'd better explain," Carroll interposed. "Men of a certain temperament
are apt to fall a prey to fantasies in the newer lands; any common sense
they once possessed seems to desert them. After that, they're never happy
except when they're ripping things--such as big rocks and trees--to
pieces, and though they'll tell you it's only to get out minerals or to
clear a ranch, they're wrong. Once they get the mine or ranch, they don't
care about it; they set to work wrecking things again. Isn't that true,
"There are such crazy bodies," agreed the lady. "I know one or two;
but if I had my way with them, they should find one mine, or build
"And then," supplied Carroll, "you would chain them up for good by
"I would like to try, but I'm no sure it would act in every case. I have
come across some women as bad as the men; they would drive their
She smiled in a half wistful manner.
"Maybe," she added, "it's as well to do something worth the remembering
when ye are young. There's a long while to sit still in afterward."
Half in banter and half in earnest, they had given Evelyn a hint of the
master passion of the true colonist, whose pride is in his burden.
Afterward, Mrs. Nairn led the conversation until Carroll laid out in the
saloon a somewhat elaborate lunch which he had brought from the hotel.
Then the others went below, leaving Vane at the helm. When they came up
again, Carroll looked at his comrade ruefully.
"I'm afraid Miss Chisholm's disappointed," he said.
"No," declared Evelyn; "that would be most ungrateful. I only expected a
more characteristic example of sea cookery. After what Mr. Vane told us,
a lunch like the one you provided, with glass and silver, struck me as
rather an anachronism."
"It's better to be broken in to sea cookery gently," Vane interposed with
"It's a poor compliment to take it for granted that we're afraid of a
little hardship. Besides, I don't think you're right."
Vane left the helm to Carroll and went below.
"He won't be long," Carroll informed the girl, with a smile. "He hasn't
got rid of all his primitive habits yet. I'll give him ten minutes."
When Vane came up, he glanced about him before he resumed the helm and
noticed that it was blowing fresher. They were also drawing out from the
land and the short seas were getting bigger; but he held on to the whole
sail, and an hour or so afterward a white iron bark, light in ballast,
with her rusty load-line high above the water, came driving up to meet
them. She made a striking picture, Evelyn thought, with the great curve
of her forecourse, which was still set, stretching high above the foam
that spouted about her bows and tier upon tier of gray canvas diminishing
aloft. With the wind upon her quarter, she rode on an even keel, and the
long iron hull, gleaming snowily in the sunshine, drove on, majestic,
through a field of white-flecked green and azure. Abreast of one
quarter, a propeller tug that barely kept pace with her belched out a
cloud of smoke.
"Her skipper's been up here before--he's no doubt coming for
salmon," Vane explained. Then he turned to Carroll. "We'd better
pass to lee of her."
Carroll let a foot or two of a rope run out and the sloop's bows swung
round a little. Her rail was just awash, and she was sailing very fast.
Then her deck slanted more sharply and the low rail became submerged in
"We'll heave down a reef when we're clear of the bark," Vane said.
The vessel was now to windward and coming up rapidly; to shorten sail
they must first round up the boat, for which they no longer had room. A
few moments later a fiercer blast swept suddenly down and the water
boiled white between the bark and the sloop. The latter's deck dipped
deeper until the lower part of it was lost in streaming froth. Carroll
made an abrupt movement.
"Shall I drop the peak?"
"No. There's the propeller close to lee."
The tug was hidden by the inclined sail, but Evelyn, clinging tightly to
the coaming, understood that they were running into the gap between the
two vessels and in order to avoid collision with one or the other, must
hold on as they were through the stress of the squall. How much more the
boat would stand she did not know, but it looked as if it were going over
bodily. Then a glance at the helmsman's face reassured her. It was fixed
and expressionless, but she somehow felt that whatever was necessary
would be promptly done. He was not one to lose his nerve or vacillate in
a crisis, and his immobility appealed to her, because she knew that if
occasion arose it would be replaced by prompt decisive action.
In the meanwhile the slant of sail and deck increased. One side of the
sloop was hove high out of the sea. It was all the girl could do to hold
herself upright, and Mrs. Nairn had fallen against and was only supported
by the coaming to leeward. Then the wind was suddenly cut off and the
sloop rose with a bewildering lurch, as the tall iron hull to weather
forged by, hurling off the sea. She passed, and while Vane called out
something and Carroll scrambled forward, the sloop swayed violently down
again. Everything in her creaked; the floorings sloped away beneath
Evelyn's feet, and now the madly-whirling froth poured in across the
coaming. The veins stood out on the helmsman's forehead, his pose
betrayed the tension on his arms; but the sloop was swinging round, and
she fell off before the wind when the upper half of the great sail
Rising more upright, she flung the water off her deck, and for some
moments drove on at a bewildering speed; then there was a mad thrashing
as Vane brought her on the wind again. The two men, desperately busy,
mastered the fluttering sail, and in a few more minutes they were running
homeward, with the white seas splashing harmlessly astern. It was now
difficult to believe they had been in any danger, but Evelyn felt that
she had had an instance of the sea's treachery; what was more, she had
witnessed an exhibition of human nerve and skill. Vane, with his
half-formulated thoughts which yet had depth to them and his flashes of
imagination, had interested her; but now he had been revealed in his
finer capacity, as a man of action.
"I'd have kept to weather of the bark, where we'd have had room to luff,
if I'd expected that burst of wind," he explained. "Did you hurt yourself
against the coaming, Mrs. Nairn?"
The lady smiled reassuringly.
"It's no worth mentioning, and I'm no altogether unused to it. Alic once
kept a boat and would have me out with him."
The remainder of the trip proved uneventful, and as they ran homeward the
breeze gradually died away. The broad inlet lay still in the moonlight
when they crept across it with the water lapping very faintly about the
bows, and it was over a mirror-like surface they rowed ashore. Nairn was
waiting at the foot of the steps and Evelyn walked back with him,
feeling, she could not tell exactly why, that she had been drawn closer
to the sloop's helmsman.
VANE PROVES OBDURATE
Vane spent two or three weeks very pleasantly in Vancouver, for Evelyn,
of whom he saw a good deal, was gracious to him. The embarrassment both
had felt on their first meeting in the western city had speedily
vanished; they had resumed their acquaintance on what was ostensibly a
purely friendly footing, and since both avoided any reference to what had
taken place in England, it had ripened into a mutual confidence and
This would have been less probable in the older country, where they would
have been continually reminded of what the Chisholm family expected of
them; but the past seldom counts for much in the new and changeful West,
where men look forward to the future. Indeed, there is something in its
atmosphere which banishes regret and retrospection; and when Evelyn
looked back at all, she felt inclined to wonder why she had once been so
troubled by the man's satisfaction with her company. She decided that
this could not have been the result of any aversion for him, and that it
was merely an instinctive revolt against the part her parents had wished
to force upon her. Chisholm and his wife had blundered, as such people
often do, for it is possible that had they adopted a perfectly neutral
attitude everything would have gone as they desired. Their mistake was
nevertheless a natural one. Somewhat exaggerated reports of Vane's
prosperity had reached them; but while they coveted the advantages his
wealth might offer their daughter, in their secret hearts they looked
upon him as a raw Colonial and something of a barbarian, and the opinions
he occasionally expressed in their hearing did not dispel this idea. Both
feared that Evelyn regarded him in the same light, and it accordingly
became evident that a little pressure might be required. In spite of
their prejudices, they did not shrink from applying it.
In the meanwhile, several people in Vancouver watched the increase of
friendliness between the girl and Vane. Mrs. Nairn and her husband did so
with benevolent interest, and it was by Mrs. Nairn's adroit management,
which even Evelyn did not often suspect, that they were thrown more and
more into each other's company. Jessy Horsfield, however, looked on with
bitterness. She was a strong-willed young woman who hitherto had
generally contrived to obtain whatever she had set her heart on; and she
had set it on this man. Indeed, she had fancied that he returned the
feeling, but disillusionment had come on the evening when he had
unexpectedly met Evelyn. Her smoldering resentment against the girl grew
steadily stronger, until it threatened to prove dangerous on opportunity.
There were, however, days when Vane was disturbed in mind. Winter was
coming on, and although it is rarely severe on the southern seaboard, it
is by no means the season one would choose for an adventure among the
ranges of the northern wilderness. Unless he made his search for the
spruce very shortly he might be compelled to postpone it until the
spring, at the risk of some hardy prospector's forestalling him; but
there were two reasons which detained him. He thought that he was gaining
ground in Evelyn's esteem and he feared the effect of absence, and there
was no doubt that the new issue of the Clermont shares was in very slack
demand. To leave the city might cost him a good deal in several ways, but
he had pledged himself to go.
That fact was uppermost in his mind one evening when he set off to call
on Celia Hartley. As it happened, Evelyn and Mrs. Nairn were driving past
as he turned off from a busy street toward the quarter in which she
lived. It had been dark for some time, but the street was well lighted
and Evelyn had no difficulty in recognizing him. Indeed, she watched him
for a few moments while he passed on into a more shadowy region, where
the gloom and dilapidation of the first small frame houses were
noticeable. Beyond them there was scarcely a light at all; the
neighborhood looked mysterious, and she wondered what kind of people
inhabited it. She did not think that Mrs. Nairn had noticed Vane.
"You have never taken me into the district on our left," she said.
"I'm no likely to. We're no proud of it."
Evelyn was a little astonished. She had seen no signs of squalor or
dissipation since she entered Canada, and had almost fancied that they
did not exist.
"I suppose the Chinese and other aliens live there?"
"They do," was the dry answer. "I'm no sure, however, that they're
"But one understands that you haven't a criminal population."
"We have folk who're on the fringe of it, only we see that they live all
together. Folk who would be respectable live somewhere else, except,
maybe, a few who have to consider cheapness. There's no great difference
in human nature wherever ye find it, and I do no suppose we're very much
better than the rest of the world; but it's no a recommendation to be
seen going into yon quarter after dark."
This left Evelyn thoughtful, for she had undoubtedly seen Vane going
there. She considered herself a judge of character and generally trusted
her intuitions, and she believed that the man's visit to the neighborhood
in question admitted of some satisfactory explanation. On the other hand,
she felt that her friends should be beyond suspicion. Taking it all
round, she was rather vexed with Vane, and it cost her some trouble to
drive the matter out of her mind.
She did not see Vane the next day, but the latter called upon Nairn at
his office during the afternoon.
"Have you had any more applications for the new stock?" he asked.
"I have no. Neither Bendle nor Howitson has paid up yet, though I've seen
them about it once or twice."
"Investors are shy; that's a fact," Vane confessed. "It's unfortunate.
I've already put off my trip north as long as possible. I wanted to see
things arranged on a satisfactory basis before I went."
"A very prudent wish. I should advise ye to carry it out."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Something like this--if the money's no forthcoming, we may be compelled
to fall back upon a different plan, and unless ye're to the fore, the
decision of a shareholders' meeting might no suit ye. Considering the
position and the stock ye hold, any views ye might express would carry
more weight than mine would do in your absence."
Vane drummed with his fingers on the table.
"I suppose that's the case; but I've got to make the journey. With
moderately good fortune it shouldn't take me long."
"Ye would be running some risk if anything delayed ye and we had to call
a meeting before ye got back."
"I see that; but it can't be helped. I expect to be back before I'm
wanted. Anyway, I could leave you authority to act on my behalf."
After a further attempt to dissuade him, Nairn spread out one hand
"He who will to Cupar maun be left to gang," he said. "Whiles, I have
wondered why any one should be so keen on getting there, but doubtless a
douce Scottish town has mair attractions for a sensible person than the
rugged Northwest in the winter-time."
Vane smiled and shortly afterward went out and left him; and when Nairn
reached home he briefly recounted the interview to his wife over his
evening meal. Evelyn listened attentively.
"Yon man will no hear reason," Nairn concluded. "He's thrawn."
Evelyn had already noticed that her host, for whom she had a strong
liking, spoke broader Scotch when he was either amused or angry, and she
supposed that Vane's determination disturbed him.
"But why should he persist in leaving the city, when it's to his
disadvantage to do so, as you lead one to believe it is?" she asked.
"If the latter's no absolutely certain, it's very likely."
"You have answered only half my question."
Mrs. Nairn smiled.
"Alic," she explained, "is reserved by nature; but if ye're anxious for
an answer, I might tell ye."
"Anxious hardly describes it."
"Then we'll say curious. The fact is that Vane made a bargain with a sick
prospector, in which he undertook to locate some timber the man had
discovered away among the mountains. He was to pay the other a share of
its value when he got his Government license."
"Is the timber very valuable?"
"No," broke in Nairn. "One might make a fair business profit out of
pulping it, though the thing's far from certain."
"Then why is Mr. Vane so determined on finding it?"
The question gave Mrs. Nairn a lead, but she decided to say no more than
"The prospector died, but that bound the bargain tighter, in Vane's
opinion. The man died without a dollar, leaving a daughter worn out and
ill with nursing him. According to the arrangement, his share will go to
"Then," said Evelyn, "Mr. Vane is really undertaking the search, which
may involve him in difficulties, in order to keep his promise to a man
who is dead? And he will not even postpone it, because if he did so
this penniless girl might, perhaps, lose her share? Isn't that rather
fine of him?"
"On the whole, ye understand the position," Nairn agreed. "If ye
desire my view of the matter, I would merely say that yon's the kind
of man he is."
Evelyn made no further comment, though the last common phrase struck her
as a most eloquent tribute. She had heard Vane confess that he did not
want to go north at present, and she now understood that to do so might
jeopardize his interests in the mine; but he was undoubtedly going. He
meant to keep his promise in its fullest and widest meaning--that was
what one would expect of him.
One mild afternoon, a few days later, he took her for a drive among the
Stanley pines, and, though she knew that she would regret his departure,
she was unusually friendly. Vane rejoiced at it, but he had already
decided that he must endeavor to proceed with caution and to content
himself in the meanwhile with the part of trusted companion. For this
reason, he chatted lightly, which he felt was safer, during most of the
drive; but once or twice, when by chance or design she asked a leading
question, he responded without reserve. He did so when they were
approaching a group of giant conifers.
"I wonder whether you ever feel any regret at having left England for
this country?" she asked.
"I did so pretty often when I first came out," he answered with a
smile. "In those days I had to work in icy water and carry massive
lumps of rock."
"I dare say regret was a natural feeling then; but that wasn't quite
what I meant."
"So I supposed," Vane confessed. "Well, I'd better own that when I'd
spent a week or two in England--at the Dene--I began to think I'd missed
a good deal by not staying at home. It struck me that the life you led
had a singular charm. Everything went so smoothly there, among the
sheltering hills. One felt that care and anxiety could not creep in.
Somehow, the place reminded me of Avalon."
"The impression was by no means correct," smiled Evelyn, "But I don't
think you have finished. Won't you go on?"
"Then if I get out of my depth, you mustn't blame me. By and by I
discovered that charm wasn't the right word--the place was permeated with
a narcotic spell."
"Narcotic? Do you think the term's more appropriate?"
"I do. Narcotics, one understands, are insidious things. If you take them
regularly, in small doses, they increase their hold on you until you
become wrapped up in dreams and unrealities. If, however, you get too big
a dose of them at the beginning, it leads to a vigorous revulsion. It's
nature's warning and remedy."
"You're not flattering; but I almost fancy you're right."
"We are told that man was made to struggle--to use all his powers. If he
rests too long beside the still backwaters of life, in fairy-like dales,
they're apt to atrophy, and he finds himself slack and nerveless when he
goes out to face the world again."
Evelyn nodded, for she had felt and striven against the insidious
influence of which he spoke. She had now and then left the drowsy dale
for a while; but the life of which she had then caught glimpses was
equally sheltered--one possible only to the favored few. Even the echoes
of the real tense struggle seldom passed its boundaries.
"But you confessed not long ago that you loved the western wilderness,"
she said. "You have spent a good deal of time in it; and you expect to
do so again. After all, isn't that only exchanging one beautiful,
tranquil region for another? The bush must be even quieter than the
"Perhaps I haven't made the point quite clear. When one goes up into the
bush, it's not to lounge and dream there, but to make war upon it with ax
He pulled up his team and pointed to the clump of giant trees.
"Look there! That's nature's challenge to man in this country."
Evelyn recognized that it was an impressive one. The great trunks ran up
far aloft, tremendous columns, before their brighter portions were lost
in the vaulted roof of somber greenery. They dwarfed the rig and team;
she felt herself a pygmy by comparison.
"They're a little larger than the average," her companion explained,
"Still, that's the kind of thing you run up against when you buy land to
start a ranch or clear the ground for a mine. Chopping, sawing up,
splitting those giants doesn't fill one with languorous dreams; the only
dreams that our axmen indulge in materialize. It's an unending, bracing
struggle. There are leagues and leagues of trees, shrouding the valleys
in a shadow that has lasted since the world was young; but you see the
dawn of a wonderful future breaking in as the long ranks go down."
Once more, without clearly intending it, he had stirred the girl. He had
not spoken in that rather fanciful style to impress her; she knew that,
trusting in her comprehension, he had merely given his ideas free rein.
But in doing so he had somehow made her hear the trumpet-call to action
which, for such men, rings through the roar of the river and the song of
the tall black pines.
"Ah!" she murmured, "it must be a glorious life, in many ways; but it's
bound to have its drawbacks. Doesn't the flesh shrink from them?"
"The flesh?" He laughed. "In this land the flesh takes second
place--except, perhaps, in the cities." He turned and looked at her
curiously. "Why should you talk of shrinking? The bush couldn't daunt
you; you have courage."
The girl's eyes sparkled, but not at the compliment. His words rang with
freedom; the freedom of the heights, where heroic effort was the rule, in
place of luxury. She longed now, as she had often done, to escape from
bondage; to break away.
"Ah, well," she said, smiling half wistfully; "perhaps it's fortunate
that such courage as I have may never be put to the test."
Though reticence was difficult, Vane made no comment. He had already
spoken unguardedly, and he decided that caution would be desirable.
As he started the team, an automobile came up, and he looked around
as he drove on.
"It's curious that I never heard the thing," he remarked.
"I didn't, either," replied Evelyn. "I was too much engrossed in the
trees. But I think Miss Horsfield was in it"
"Was she?" responded Vane in a very casual manner; and Evelyn, for no
reason that she was willing to recognize, was pleased.
She had not been mistaken. Jessy Horsfield was in the automobile, and she
had had a few moments in which to study Vane and his companion. The man's
look and the girl's expression had struck her as significant; and her
lips set in an ominously tight line as the car sped on. She felt that she
almost hated Vane; and there was no doubt that she entirely hated the
girl at his side. It would be soothing to humiliate her, to make her
suffer, and though the exact mode of setting about it was not very clear
just yet, she thought it might be managed. Her companion wondered why she
looked preoccupied during the rest of the journey.
It was the afternoon before Vane's departure for the North, and Evelyn,
sitting alone for the time being in Mrs. Nairn's drawing-room, felt
disturbed by the thought of it. She sympathized with his object, as it
had been briefly related by her hostess, but she supposed there was a
certain risk attached to the journey, and that troubled her. In addition
to this, there was another point on which she was not altogether pleased.
She had twice seen him acknowledge a bow from a very pretty girl whose
general appearance suggested that she did not belong to Evelyn's own walk
in life, and that very morning she had noticed him crossing a street in
the young woman's company. Vane, as it happened, had met Kitty Blake by
accident and had asked her to accompany him on a visit to Celia. Evelyn
did not think she was of a jealous disposition, and jealousy appeared
irrational in the case of a man whom she had dismissed as a suitor; but
the thing undoubtedly rankled in her mind. While she was considering it,
Jessy Horsfield entered the room.
"I'm here by invitation, to join Mr. Vane's other old friends in giving
him a good send-off," she explained. "Only, Mrs. Nairn told me to come
Evelyn noticed that Jessy laid some stress upon her acquaintance with
Vane, and wondered whether she had any motive for doing so.
"I suppose you have known him for some time?"
"Oh, yes," was the careless answer. "My brother was one of the first to
take him up when he came to Vancouver."
The phrase jarred on Evelyn. It savored of patronage; besides, she did
not like to think that Vane owed anything to the Horsfields.
"Though I don't know much about it, I understood that they were opposed
to each other," she said coldly.
"Their business interests don't coincide; but it doesn't follow that they
should disagree about anything else. My brother did all he could to
dissuade Mr. Vane from going on with his search for the timber until the
winter is over."
This was true, inasmuch as Horsfield had spoken to Vane about the
subject, though it is possible that he would not have done so had he
expected the latter to yield to his reasoning. Vane was one whom
opposition usually rendered more determined.
"I think it is rather fine of him to persist in it," Evelyn declared.
Jessy smiled, though she felt venomous just then.
"Yes," she agreed; "one undoubtedly feels that. Besides, the thing's
so characteristic of him; the man's impulsively generous and not
easily daunted. He possesses many of the rudimentary virtues, as well
as some of the corresponding weaknesses, which is very much what one
would look for."
"What do you mean by that?" Evelyn inquired with a trace of asperity.
Though she was not prepared to pose as Vane's advocate, she was
conscious of a growing antagonism toward her companion.
"It's difficult to explain, and I don't know that the subject's worth
discussing," answered Jessy. "However, what I think I meant was this--Mr.
Vane's of a type that's not uncommon in the West, and it's a type one
finds interesting. He's forcibly elementary, which is the only way I can
express it; the restraints the rest of us submit to don't bind him--he
breaks through them."
This, Evelyn fancied, was more or less correct. Indeed, the man's
fearless disregard of hampering customs had pleased her, but she
recognized that some restraints are needful. Her companion followed the
same train of thought.
"When one breaks down or gets over fences, it's necessary to
discriminate," she went on. "Men of the Berserker type, however, are more
addicted to going straight through the lot. In a way, they're
consistent--having smashed one barrier why should they respect the next?"
Jessy, as she was quite aware, was playing a dangerous game; one that
might afterward be exposed. The latter possibility, however, was of less
account, for detection would come too late if she were successful. She
was acquainted with the salient points of Evelyn's character.
"They're consistent, if not always very logical," she concluded after a
pause. "One endeavors to make allowances for men of that description."
Something in her tone roused Evelyn to sudden imperious anger. It was
intolerable that this woman should offer excuses for Vane.
"What particular allowances do you feel it needful to make in Mr. Vane's
case?" she asked haughtily.
Now that she was faced by the direct question, Jessy hesitated. As a
rule, she was subtle, but she could be ruthlessly frank, and she was
possessed by a passionate hatred of the girl beside her.
"You have forced me to an explanation," she smiled. "The fact is that
while he has a room at the hotel he has an--establishment--in a
different neighborhood. Unfortunately such places are a feature of some
It was a shock to Evelyn; one that she found hard to face; though she was
not convinced. The last piece of information agreed with something Mrs.
Nairn had told her; but, although she had on one occasion had the
testimony of her eyes in support of it, Jessy's first statement seemed
Jessy smiled in a bitter manner.
"It's unpleasant, but it can't be denied. He undoubtedly pays the rent of
a shack in the neighborhood I mentioned."
Evelyn sat tensely still for a moment or two. She dare not give rein to
her feelings, for she would not betray herself; but composure was
"If that is true," she demanded, "how is it that he is received
everywhere--at your house and by Mrs. Nairn? He is coming here to-night."
Jessy shrugged her shoulders.
"People in general are more or less charitable in the case of a
successful man. Apart from that, Mr. Vane has a good many excellent
qualities. As I said, one has to make allowances."
Just then, to Evelyn's relief, Mrs. Nairn came in, and though the girl
suffered during the time, it was half an hour before she could find an
excuse for slipping away alone. Then, sitting in the gathering darkness
in her own room, she set herself to consider, as dispassionately as
possible, what she had heard. It was exceedingly difficult to believe the
charge, but Jessy's assertion was definite enough, and one which, if
incorrect, could readily be disproved. Nobody would say such a thing
unless it could be substantiated; and that led Evelyn to consider why
Jessy had given her the information. She had obviously done so with at
least a trace of malice, but it could hardly have sprung from jealousy;
Evelyn could not think that a woman would vilify a man for whom she had
any tenderness. Besides, she had seen Vane entering the part of the town
indicated, where he could not have had any legitimate business. Hateful
as the suspicion was, it could not be contemptuously dismissed. Then she
recognized that she had no right to censure the man; he was not
accountable to her for his conduct--but calm reasoning carried her no
farther. She was once more filled with intolerable disgust and burning
indignation. Somehow, she had come to believe in Vane, and he had turned
out an impostor.
About an hour later Vane and Carroll entered the house with Nairn and
proceeded to the latter's room where he offered them cigars.
"So ye're all ready to sail the morn?"
Vane nodded and handed him a paper.
"There's your authority to act in my name, if it's required. If we have
moderately fine weather, I expect to be back before there's much change
in the situation; but I'll call at Nanaimo, where you can wire me if
anything turns up during the two or three days it may take us to get
there. The wind's ahead at present."
"I suppose there's no use in my saying anything more now; but I can't
help pointing out that as head of the concern you have a certain duty to
the shareholders which you seem inclined to disregard," Carroll remarked.
"I've no doubt that their interests will be as safe in Nairn's hands as
in mine. What I stand to risk is the not getting my personal ideas
carried out, which is a different matter, though I'll own that it
wouldn't please me if they were overruled."
"I fail to see why ye could no have let the whole thing stand over until
the spring," grunted Nairn. "The spruce will no run away."
"I'd have done so, had it been a few years earlier, but the whole country
is overrun with mineral prospectors and timber righters now. Every
month's delay gives somebody else a chance for getting in ahead of me."
"Weel," responded Nairn resignedly, "I can only wish ye luck; but, should
ye be detained up yonder, if one of ye could sail across to Comox to see
if there's any mail there it would be wise to do so." He waved his hand.
"No more of that; we'll consider what tactics I had better adopt in case
An hour had passed before they went down to join the guests who were
arriving for the evening meal. As a rule, the western business man, who
is more or less engrossed in his occupation except when he is asleep,
enjoys little privacy; and Nairn's friends sometimes compared his
dwelling to the rotunda of a hotel. The point of this was that people of
all descriptions who have nothing better to do are addicted to strolling
into the combined bazaar and lounge which is attached to many Canadian
Vane was placed next to Evelyn at the table; but after a quiet reply to
his first observation she turned and talked to the man at her other side.
As the latter, who was elderly and dull, had only two topics--the most
efficient means of desiccating fruit and the lack of railroad
facilities--Vane was somewhat astonished that she appeared interested in
his conversation, and by and by he tried again. He was not more
successful this time, and his face grew warm as he realized that Evelyn
was not inclined to talk to him. Being a very ordinary mortal and not
particularly patient, he was sensible of some indignation, which was not
diminished when, on looking around, Jessy Horsfield favored him with a
compassionate smile. However, he took his part in the general
conversation; and the meal was over and the guests were scattered about
the adjoining rooms when, after impatiently waiting for the opportunity,
he at last found Evelyn alone. She was standing with one hand on a table,
looking rather thoughtful.
"I've come to ask what I've done?"
Evelyn was not prepared for this blunt directness and she felt a little
disconcerted, but she broke into a chilly smile.
"The question's rather indefinite, isn't it? Do you expect me to be
acquainted with all your recent actions?"
"Then I'll put the thing in another way--do you mind telling me how I
have offended you?"
The girl almost wished that she could do so. Appearances were badly
against him, but she felt that if he declared himself innocent she could
take his word in the face of overwhelming testimony to the contrary.
Unfortunately, however, it was unthinkable that she should plainly state
"Do you suppose I should feel warranted in forming any opinion upon your
conduct?" she retorted.
"It strikes me that you have formed one, and it isn't favorable."
The girl hesitated a moment, but she had the courage of her convictions
and she felt impelled to make some protest.
"That," she said, looking him in the eyes, "is perfectly true."
He seemed more puzzled than guilty, and once more she chafed against the
fact that she could give him no opportunity for defending himself.
"Well," he responded, "I'm sorry; but it brings us back to my first
The situation was becoming painful as well as embarrassing, and Evelyn,
perhaps unreasonably, grew more angry with the man.
"I'm afraid that you either are clever at dissembling or have no
Vane held himself in hand with an effort.
"I dare say you're right on the latter point. It's a fact I'm sometimes
thankful for. It leaves one more free to go straight ahead. Now, as I see
the dried-fruit man coming in search of you and you evidently don't mean
to answer me, I can't urge the matter."
He turned away and left her wondering why he had abandoned his usual
persistency, unless it was that an uneasy conscience had driven him from
the field. It did not occur to her that the man had under strong
provocation merely yielded to the prompting of a somewhat hasty temper.
In the meanwhile he crossed the room in an absent-minded manner and
presently found himself near Jessy, who made room for him at her side.
"It looks as if you were in disgrace to-night," she said sweetly, and
waited with concealed impatience for his answer. If Evelyn had been
sufficiently clever or bold to give him a hint as to what he was
suspected of, Jessy foresaw undesirable complications.
"I think I am," he owned without reflection. "The trouble is that, while
I may deserve it on general grounds, I'm unconscious of having done
anything very reprehensible in particular."
Jessy was sensible of considerable relief. The man was sore and
resentful; he would not press Evelyn for an explanation, and the breach
would widen. In the meanwhile she must play her cards skillfully.
"Then that fact should sustain you," she smiled. "We shall miss you after
to-morrow--more than one of us. Of course, it's too late to tell you that
you are not altogether wise in resolving to go."
"Everybody has been telling me the same thing for the last few weeks,"
"Then I'll only wish you every success. It's a pity that Bendle and the
other man haven't paid up yet."
She met his surprised look with an engaging smile.
"You needn't be astonished. There's not very much goes on in the city
that I don't hear about you know how men talk business here, and it's
interesting to look on, even when one can't actually take a hand in the
game. It's said that the watchers sometimes see the most of it."
"To tell the truth, it's the uncertainty as to what those two men might
do that has chiefly been worrying me."
"Of course. I believe that I understand the position--they've been
hanging fire, haven't they? But I've reasons for believing they'll come
to a decision before very long."
Vane looked troubled.
"That's interesting, but I ought to warn you that your brother--"
Jessy stopped him with a smile.
"I've no intention of giving him away; and, as a matter of fact, I think
you are a little prejudiced against him. After all, he's not your
greatest danger. There's a cabal against you among your shareholders."
The man knit his brows, but she knew by the way he looked at her that he
admired her acumen.
"Yes," he responded; "I've suspected that."
"There are two courses open to you--the first is to put off your
The answer was to the effect she had anticipated.
"That's impossible, for several reasons."
"The other is to call at Nanaimo and wait until, we'll say, next
Thursday. If there's need for you to come back I think it will arise by
then; but it might be better if you called at Comox too--after you leave
the latter you'll be unreachable. If it seems necessary, I'll send you a
warning; if you hear nothing, you can go on."
Vane reflected hastily. Jessy, as she had told him, had opportunities for
picking up valuable information about the business done in that city, and
he had confidence in her.
"Thank you," he said. "It will be the second service you have done me,
and I appreciate it. Anyway, I promised Nairn I'd call at Nanaimo, in
case there should be a wire from him."
"It's a bargain; and now we'll talk of something else."
Jessy drew him into an exchange of badinage. Noticing, however, that
Evelyn once or twice glanced at her with some astonishment, she presently
got rid of him. She could understand Evelyn's attitude and she did not
wish her friendliness with the offender to appear unnatural after what
she had said about him.
At length the guests began to leave, and most of them had gone when Vane
rose to take his departure. His host and hostess went with him to the
door, but, though he once or twice glanced round eagerly, there was no
sign of Evelyn. He lingered a few moments on the threshold after Mrs.
Nairn had given him a kindly send-off; but nobody appeared in the lighted
hall, and after another word with Nairn he went moodily down the steps to
join Jessy and Carroll, who were waiting for him below. As the group
walked down the garden path, Mrs. Nairn looked at her husband.
"I do not know what has come over Evelyn this night," she remarked.
Nairn followed Jessy's retreating figure with distrustful eyes.
"Weel," he drawled, "I'm thinking yon besom may have had a hand in
A few minutes later Jessy, standing where the light of a big lamp
streamed down upon her through the boughs of a leafless maple, bade Vane
farewell at her brother's gate.
"If my good wishes can bring you success, it will most certainly be
yours," she said, and there was something in her voice which faintly
stirred the man, who was feeling very sore.
She did not immediately withdraw the hand she had given him. He was
grateful to her and thought she looked unusually pretty with the sympathy
shining in her eyes.
"You will not forget to wait at Nanaimo and Comox?" she reminded him.
"No. If you recall me, I'll come back at once; if not, I'll go on with a
lighter heart, knowing that I can safely stay away."
Jessy said nothing further, and he moved on. She felt that she had scored
and she knew when to stop. The man had given her his full confidence.
Soon afterward Vane entered his hotel, where he turned impatiently
"You can go into the rotunda or the smoking-room and talk to any loafer
who thinks it worth while to listen to your cryptic remarks," he said.
"As we sail as soon as it's daylight to-morrow, I'm going to sleep."
THE INTERCEPTED LETTER
The wind was fresh from the northwest when Vane drove the sloop out
through the Narrows in the early dawn and saw a dim stretch of
white-flecked sea in front of him. Land-locked as they are by Vancouver
Island, the long roll of the Pacific cannot enter those waters, but they
are now and then lashed into short, tumbling seas, sufficient to make
passage difficult for a craft no larger than the sloop. Carroll frowned
when a comber smote the weather bow and a shower of stinging spray
lashed his face.
"Right ahead again," he remarked. "But as I suppose you're going on, we'd
better stretch straight across on the starboard tack. We'll get smoother
water along the island shore."
They let her go and Vane sat at the helm hour after hour, drenched with
spray, hammering her mercilessly into the frothy seas. They could have
done with a second reef down, for the deck was swept and sluicing, and
most of the time the lee rail was buried deep in rushing foam; but Vane
showed no intention of shortening sail. Nor did Carroll, who saw that his
comrade was disturbed in temper, suggest it; resolute action had, he
knew, a soothing effect on Vane. As a matter of fact, Vane needed
soothing. Of late, he had felt that he was making steady progress in
Evelyn's favor, and now she had most inexplainably turned against him.
There was no doubt that, as Jessy had described it, he was in disgrace;
but rack his brain as he would, he could not discover the reason. That he
was conscious of no offense only made the position more galling.
In the meanwhile, the boat engrossed more and more of his attention, and
though he was by no means careful of her, he spared no effort to get her
to windward. It was a relief to drive her hard at some white-topped sea
and watch her bows disappear in it with a thud, while it somehow eased
his mind to see the smashed-up brine fly half the height of her drenched
mainsail. There was also satisfaction in feeling the strain on the tiller
when, swayed down by a fiercer gust, she plunged through the combers with
the froth swirling, perilously close to the coaming, along her
half-submerged deck. In all their moods, men of his kind find pleasure in
such things; the turmoil, the rush, the need for quick, resolute action
stirs the blood in them.
The day was cold; the man, who was compelled to sit almost still in a
nipping wind, was soon wet through; but this in some curious way further
tended to restore his accustomed optimism and good-humor. He had partly
recovered both when, as the sloop drove through the whiter turmoil
whipped up by a vicious squall, there was a crash forward.
"Down helm!" shouted Carroll. "The bobstay's gone!"
He scrambled toward the bowsprit, which having lost its principal support
swayed upward, in peril of being torn away by the sagging jib. Vane first
rounded up the boat into the wind and then followed him; and for several
minutes they had a savage struggle with the madly-flapping sail before
they flung it, bundled up, into the well. Then they ran in the bowsprit,
and Vane felt glad that, although the craft had been rigged in the usual
western fashion as a sloop, he had changed that by giving her a couple of
headsails in place of one.
"She'll trim with the staysail if we haul down another reef," he
It cost them some labor, but they were warmer afterward, and when they
drove on again Vane glanced at the bowsprit.
"We'll try to get a bit of galvanized steel in Nanaimo," he said. "I
can't risk another smash."
"You'd better be prepared for one, if you mean to drive her as you have
been doing." He flung back the saloon scuttle. "You'd have swamped her in
another hour or two--the cabin floorings are all awash."
"Then hadn't you better pump her out?" retorted Vane. "After that, you
can light the stove. It's beginning to dawn on me that it's a long while
since I had anything worth speaking of to eat. The kind of lunch you
brought along in the basket isn't sustaining."
They made a bountiful if somewhat primitive meal, in turn, sitting in the
dripping saloon which was partly filled with smoke, and Carroll sighed
for the comforts he had abandoned. He did not, however, mention his
regrets, because he did not expect his comrade's sympathy. Vane seldom
noticed what he was eating when he was on board his boat.
The craft, being under reduced sail, drove along more easily during the
rest of the afternoon, and they ran into a little colliery town late on
the following day. There Vane replaced the broken bobstay with a solid
piece of steel, and then sat down to write a letter while Carroll
stretched his cramped limbs ashore.
The letter was addressed to Evelyn, and he found it difficult to express
himself as he desired. The spoken word, as he had discovered, is now and
then awkward to use, but the written one is more evasive and complex
still, and he shook his head ruefully over the production when he laid
down his pen. This was, perhaps, unnecessary, for having grown calm he
had framed a terse and forcible appeal to the girl's sense of justice,
which would in all probability have had its effect on her had she
received it. Though he hardly realized it, the few simple words were
Having had no news from Nairn or Jessy, they sailed again in a day or
two, bound for Comox farther along the coast, where there was a
possibility of communications overtaking them; but in the meanwhile
matters which concerned them were moving forward in Vancouver.
It was rather early one afternoon when Jessy called on one of her friends
and found her alone. Mrs. Bendle was a young and impulsive woman from one
of the eastern cities and she had not made many friends in Vancouver yet,
though her husband, whom she had lately married, was a man of some
"I'm glad to see you," she said, greeting Jessy eagerly. "It's a week
since anybody has been in to talk to me, and Tom's away again. It's
a trying thing to be the wife of a western business man--you so
seldom see him."
Jessy made herself comfortable in an easy-chair before she referred to
one of her companion's remarks.
"Where has Mr. Bendle gone now?" she asked.
"Into the bush to look at a mine. He left this morning and it will be a
week before he's back. Then he's going across the Selkirks with that
Clavering man about some irrigation scheme."
This suggested one or two questions which Jessy desired to ask, but she
did not frame them immediately. Mrs. Bendle was incautious and
discursive, but there was nothing to be gained by being precipitate.
"It must be dull for you," she sympathized.
"I don't mean to complain. Tom's reasonable; the last time I said
anything about being left alone he bought me a pair of ponies. He said I
could have either them or an automobile, and I took the ponies. I thought
"You're fortunate in several ways; there are not a great many people who
can make such presents. But while everybody knows your husband has been
successful lately, I'm a little surprised that he's able to go into
Clavering's irrigation scheme. It's a very expensive one, and I
understand that they intend to confine it to a few, which means that
those interested will have to subscribe handsomely."
"Tom," explained her companion, "likes to have a number of different
things in hand. He told me it was wiser, when I said that I couldn't tell
my friends back East what he really is, because he seemed to be
everything at once. But your brother's interested in a good many things,
too, isn't he?"
"I believe so," answered Jessy. "Still, I'm pretty sure he couldn't
afford to join Clavering and at the same time take up a big block of
shares in Mr. Vane's mine."
"But Tom isn't going to do the latter now."
Jessy was startled. This was valuable information which she could
scarcely have expected to obtain so easily. There was more that she
desired to ascertain, but she had no intention of making any obvious
"It's generally understood that Mr. Vane and your husband are on good
terms," she said. "You know him, don't you?"
"I've met him once or twice, and I like him, but when I mention him Tom
smiles. He says it's unfortunate Mr. Vane can see only one thing at a
time, and that the one which lies right in front of his eyes. For all
that, he once owned that the man is likable."
"Then it's a pity he's unable to stand by him now."
Mrs. Bendle looked thoughtful.
"I really believe Tom's half sorry he can't do so. He said something last
night that suggested it--I can't remember exactly what it was. Of course,
I don't understand much about these matters, but Howitson was here
talking business until late."
Jessy was satisfied. Her hostess's previous incautious admission had gone
a long way, but to this was added the significant information that Bendle
was inclined to be sorry for Vane. The fact that he and Howitson had
decided on some joint action after a long private discussion implied that
there was trouble in store for the absent man, unless he could be
summoned to deal with the crisis in person. Jessy wondered whether Nairn
knew anything about the matter yet, and decided that she would call and
try to sound him. This would be difficult, because Nairn was not the man
to make any rash avowal, and he had an annoying habit of parrying an
injudicious question with an enigmatical smile. In the meanwhile she led
her companion away from the subject and they discussed millinery and such
matters until she took her departure.
It was early in the evening when she reached Nairn's house, for she
thought it better to arrive there a little before he came home. She was
told that Mrs. Nairn and Miss Chisholm were out but were expected back
shortly. Evelyn had been by no means cordial to her since their last
interview, and Mrs. Nairn's manner had been colder; but Jessy decided
to wait; and for the second time that day fortune seemed to play into
It was dark outside, but the entrance hall was brightly lighted and Jessy
could see into it from where she sat. Highly trained domestics are
generally scarce in the West, and the maid had left the door of the room
open. Presently there was a knock at the outer door and a young lad came
in with some letters in his hand. He explained to the maid that he had
been to the post-office and had brought his employer's private mail. The
maid pointed out that the top letter looked dirty, and the lad owned that
he had dropped the bundle in the street. Then he withdrew and the maid
laid the letters carelessly on a little table and also retired, banging a
door behind her. The concussion shook down the letters, and one,
fluttering forward with the sudden draught, fell almost upon the
threshold of the room. Jessy, who was methodical in most things, rose to
pick it up and replace it with the rest.
When she reached the door, however, she stopped abruptly, for she
recognized the rather large writing on the envelope. There was no doubt
that it was from Vane and she noticed that it was addressed to Miss
Chisholm. Jessy picked it up, and when she had laid the others on the
table, she stood with Vane's letter in her hand.
"Has the man no pride?" she said half aloud.
Then she looked about her, listening, greatly tempted, and considering.
There was no sound in the house; Evelyn and Mrs. Nairn were out, and the
other occupants were cut off from her by a closed door. Nobody would know
that she had entered the hall, and if the letter were subsequently missed
it would be remembered that the lad had confessed to dropping the bundle.
It was most unlikely, however, that any question regarding its
disappearance would ever be asked. If there should be no response from
Evelyn, Vane, she thought, would not renew his appeal. Jessy had no doubt
that the letter contained an appeal of some kind which might lead to a
reconciliation, and she knew that silence is often more potent than an
outbreak of anger. She had only to destroy the letter, and the breach
between the two people whom she desired to separate would widen
There was little risk of detection, but, standing tensely still, with set
lips and heart beating faster than usual, she shrank from the decisive
action. She could still replace the letter and look for other means of
bringing about what she wished. She was self-willed and endowed with few
troublesome principles, but until she had poisoned Evelyn's mind against
Vane she had never done anything flagrantly dishonorable. Then while she
waited, irresolute, a fresh temptation seized her in the shape of a
burning desire to learn what the man had to say. He would reveal his
feelings in the message and she could judge the strength of her rival's
influence over him. Jessy had her ideas on this point, but she could now
see them confirmed or refuted by the man's own words.
Yet she hesitated, with a half-instinctive recognition of the fact that
the decision she must make was an eventful one. She had transgressed
grievously in one recent interview with Evelyn, but, while she had no
idea of making reparation, she could at least stop short of a second
offense. She had, perhaps, not gone too far yet, but if she ventured a
little farther she might be driven on against her will and become
inextricably involved in an entanglement of dishonorable treachery.
The issue hung in the balance--the slightest thing would have turned
the scale--when she heard footsteps outside and the tinkle of a bell.
Moving with a start, she slipped back into the room just before the
maid opened the adjacent door. In another moment she thrust the
envelope inside her dress, and gathered her composure as Mrs. Nairn and
Evelyn entered the hall. The former approached the table and turned
over the handful of letters.
"Two for ye from England, Evelyn, and one or two for me," she said,
flashing a quick glance at the girl. "Nothing else; I had thought Vane
would maybe send a bit note from one of the island ports to say how he
was getting on."
Then Jessy rose, smiling, to greet her hostess. The question was
decided--it was too late to replace the letter now. She could not
remember what they talked about during the next half-hour, but she took
her part, until Nairn came in, and she contrived to have a word with him
before leaving. Mrs. Nairn had gone out to give some instructions about
supper, and when Evelyn followed her, Jessy turned to Nairn.
"Mr. Vane should be at Comox now," she began. "Have you any idea of
recalling him? Of course, I know a little about the Clermont affairs."
Nairn glanced at her with thoughtful eyes.
"I'm no acquainted with any reason that would render such a course
Evelyn reappeared shortly after this, and Jessy excused herself from
staying for the evening meal and walked home thinking hard. It was
needful that Vane should be recalled. He had written to Evelyn, but Jessy
still meant to send him word. He would be grateful to her, and, indignant
and wounded as she was, she would not own herself beaten. She would warn
the man, and afterward perhaps allow Nairn to send him a second message.
On reaching her brother's house, she went straight to her own room and
tore open the envelope. The color receded from her face as she read, and
sinking into a chair she sat still with hands clenched. The message was
terse, but it was stirringly candid; and even where the man did not
fully reveal his feelings in his words she could read between the lines.
There was no doubt that he had given his heart unreservedly into her
rival's keeping. He might be separated from her, but Jessy knew enough
of him to realize at last that he would not turn to another. The lurid
truth was burned upon her brain--she might do what she would, but this
man was not for her.
For a while she sat still, and then stooping swiftly she seized the
letter, which she had dropped, and rent it into fragments. Her eyes had
grown hard and cruel; love of the only kind that she was capable of had
suddenly turned to hate. What was more, it was a hate that could be
A little later Horsfield came in. Jessy was very composed now, but she
noticed that her brother looked at her in a rather unusual manner once or
twice during the meal that followed.
"You make me feel that you have something on your mind," she observed
"That's a fact."
Horsfield hesitated. He was attached to and rather proud of his sister.
"Well?" she prompted.
He leaned forward confidentially.
"See here," he said, "I've always imagined that you would go far, and I'm
anxious to see you do so. I shouldn't like you to throw yourself away."
His sister could take a hint, but there was information that she desired
and the man was speaking with unusual reserve.
"You must be plainer," she retorted with a slight show of impatience.
"Then, you have seen a good deal of Vane, and in case you have any
hankering after his scalp, I think I'd better mention that there's reason
to believe he won't be worth powder and shot before very long."
"Ah!" exclaimed Jessy with a calmness that was difficult to assume; "you
may as well understand that there is nothing between Vane and me. I
suppose you mean that Howitson and Bendle are turning against him?"
"Something like that." Horsfield's tone implied that her answer had
afforded him relief. "The man has trouble in front of him."
Jessy changed the subject. What she had gathered from Mrs. Bendle was
fully confirmed; but she had made up her mind. Evelyn's lover might wait
for the warning which could save him, but he should wait in vain.
ON THE TRAIL
It was a long, wet sail up the coast with the wind ahead, and Carroll was
quite content when, on reaching Comox, Vane announced his intention of
stopping there until the mail came in. Immediately after its arrival,
Carroll went ashore, and came back empty-handed.
"Nothing," he reported. "Personally, I'm pleased. Nairn could have
advised us here if there had been any striking developments since we left
the last place."
"I wasn't expecting to hear from him," Vane replied tersely.
Carroll read keen disappointment in his face, and was not surprised,
although the absence of any message meant that it was safe for them to go
on with their project and that should have afforded his companion
satisfaction. The latter sat on deck, gazing somewhat moodily across the
ruffled water toward the snow-clad heights of the mainland range. They
towered, dimly white and majestic, above a scarcely-trodden wilderness,
and Carroll, at least, was not pleasantly impressed by the spectacle.
Though not to be expected always, the cold snaps are now and then severe
in those wilds. Indeed, at odd times a frost almost as rigorous as that
of Alaska lays its icy grip upon the mountains and the usually damp
forests at their feet.
"I wish I could have got a man to go with us, but between the coal
development and the logging, everybody's busy," he remarked.
"It doesn't matter," Vane assured him. "If we took a man along and came
back unsuccessful, there'd be a risk of his giving the thing away.
Besides, he might make trouble in other respects. A hired packer would
probably kick against what you and I may have to put up with."
Carroll was far from pleased with this hint, but he let it pass.
"Do you mean that if you don't find the spruce this time, you'll go
"Yes, that's my intention. And now we may as well get the mainsail on
They got off shortly afterward and stood out to northward with the wind
still ahead of them. It was a lowering day, and a short, tumbling sea was
running. When late in the afternoon Carroll fixed their position by the
bearing of a peak on the island, he pointed out the small progress they
had made. The sloop was then plunging close-hauled through the vicious
slate-green combers, and thin showers of spray flew all over her.
"The luck's been dead against us ever since we began this search," he
"Do you believe in that kind of foolishness?" Vane inquired.
Carroll, sitting on the coaming, considered the question. It was not one
of much importance, but the dingy sky and the dreary waste of sad-colored
water had a depressing effect on him, and as it was a solace to talk,
one topic would serve as well as another.
"I think I believe in a rhythmical recurrence of the contrary chance," he
answered. "I mean that the uncertain and adverse possibility often turns
up in succession for a time."
"Then you couldn't call it uncertain."
"You can't tell exactly when the break will come," Carroll explained.
"But if I were a gambler or had other big risks, I think I'd allow for
dangers in triplets."
"Yes," Vane responded; "you could cite the three extra big head seas,
and I've noticed that when one burned tree comes down in a brûlée, it's
quite often followed by two more, though there may be a number just
ready to fall."
He mused for a few moments, with the spray whistling about him. He had
three things at stake: Evelyn's favor; his interest in the Clermont Mine;
and the timber he expected to find. Two of them were undoubtedly
threatened, and he wondered gloomily if he might be bereft of all. Then
he drove the forebodings out of his mind.
"In the present case, anyway, our course is pretty simple," he
declared with a laugh. "We have only to hold out and go on until the
Carroll knew that Vane was capable of doing as he had suggested and he
was not encouraged by the prospect; but he went below to trim and bring
up the lights, and soon afterward retired to get what rest he could. The
locker cushions on which he lay felt unpleasantly damp; his blankets,
which were not much drier, smelt moldy; and there was a dismal splash
and gurgle of water among the timbers of the plunging craft. Now and
then a jet of it shot up between the joints of the flooring or spouted
through the opening made for the lifting-gear in the centerboard trunk.
When he had several times failed to plug the opening with a rag, Carroll
gave it up and shortly afterward fell into fitful slumber.
He was awakened, shivering, by hearing Vane calling him, and scrambling
out into the well, he took the helm as his comrade left it.
"What's her course?" he inquired.
"If you can keep her hammering ahead close-hauled on the port tack,
it's all I ask," Vane laughed. "You needn't call me unless the sea
He crawled below; and it was a few minutes before Carroll, who was
dazzled by the change from the dim lamplight, felt himself fit for his
task. Fine spray whirled about him. It was pitch dark, but by degrees he
made out the shadowy seas which came charging up, tipped with frothing
white, upon the weather bow. By the way they broke on board it struck him
that they were steep enough already, but Vane had seen them not long ago
and there was nothing to be gained by expostulation if they caused him no
anxiety. Several hours went by, and then Carroll noticed that the faint
crimson blink which sometimes fell upon the seas to weather was no longer
visible. It was evident that the port light had either gone out or been
washed out, and it was his manifest duty to relight it. On the other
hand, he could not do so unless Vane took the helm. He was wet and
chilled through; any fresh effort was distasteful; he did not want to
move; and he decided that they were most unlikely to meet a steamer,
while it was certain that there would be no other yacht about. He left
the lamp alone, and at length Vane came up.
"What's become of the port light?" he demanded.
"That's more than I can tell you. It was burning an hour ago."
"An hour ago!" Vane broke out with disgusted indignation.
"It may have been a little longer. They've stopped the Alaska steamboats
now, but of course there's no reason why you shouldn't light that lamp
again, if it would give you any satisfaction. I'll stay up until you're
through with it."
Vane did as he suggested, and immediately afterward Carroll retired
below. He slept until a pale ray of sunshine crept in through the
skylights, and then crawling out found the sloop lurching very slowly
over a dying swell, with her deck and shaking mainsail white with frost.
The wind had fallen almost dead away, and it was very cold.
"On the whole," he complained, "this is worse than the other thing."
Vane merely told him to get breakfast; and most of that day and the next
one they drifted with the tides through narrowing waters, though now and
then for a few hours they were wafted on by light and fickle winds. At
length, they crept into the inlet where they had landed on the previous
voyage, and on the morning after their arrival they set out on the march.
There was on this occasion reason to expect more rigorous weather, and
the load each carried was an almost crushing one. Where the trees were
thinner the ground was frozen hard, and even in the densest bush the
undergrowth was white and stiff with frost, while overhead a forbidding
gray sky hung.
On approaching the rift in the hillside at which he had glanced when they
first passed that way, Vane stopped a moment.
"I looked into that place before, but it didn't seem worth while to
follow it up," he said. "If you'll wait, I'll go a little farther
Though the air was nipping, Carroll was content to remain where he was,
and he spent some time sitting upon a log before a faint shout reached
him. Then he rose and, making his way up the hollow, found his comrade
standing upon a jutting ledge.
"I thought you were never coming! Climb up; I've something to show you!"
Carroll joined him with difficulty, and Vane stretched out his hand.
Carroll looked and started. They stood in a rocky gateway with a river
brawling down the chasm beneath them, but a valley opened up in front.
Filled with somber forest, it ran back almost straight between stupendous
walls of hills.
"It answers Hartley's description. After all, I don't think it's
extraordinary that we should have taken so much trouble to push on past
the right place."
Carroll sat down and filled his pipe.
"It's the natural result of possessing a temperament like yours. Somehow,
you've got it firmly fixed into your mind that everything worth doing
must be hard."
"I've generally found it so."
"I think," grinned Carroll, "you've generally made it so. There's a
marked difference between the two. If any means of doing a thing looks
easy, you at once conclude that it can't be the right one. That mode of
reasoning has never appealed to me. In my opinion, it's more sensible to
try the easiest method first."
"As a rule, that leads to your having to fall back upon the other one;
and a frontal attack on a difficulty's often quicker than considering how
you can work round its flank. In this case, I'll own we have wasted a lot
of time and taken a good deal of trouble that might have been avoided.
But are you going to sit here and smoke?"
"Until I've finished my pipe," Carroll answered firmly. "I expect we'll
find tobacco, among other things, getting pretty scarce before this
He carried out his intention, and they afterward pushed on up the valley
during the remainder of the day. It grew more level as they proceeded,
and in spite of the frost, which bound the feeding snows, there was a
steady flow of water down the river, which was free from rocky barriers.
Vane now and then glanced at the river attentively, and when dusk was
drawing near he stopped and fixed his gaze on the long ranks of trees
that stretched away in front of him; fretted spires of somber greenery
lifted high above a colonnade of mighty trunks.
"Does anything in connection with this bush strike you?" he asked.
"Its stiffness, if that's what you mean," Carroll answered with a smile.
"These big conifers look as if they'd been carved, like the wooden trees
in the Swiss or German toys. They're impressive in a way, but they're
too formally artificial."
"That's not what I mean," Vane said impatiently.
"To tell the truth, I didn't suppose it was. Anyway, these trees aren't
spruce. They're red cedar; the stuff they make roofing shingles of."
"Precisely. Just now, shingles are in good demand in the Province, and
with the wooden towns springing up on the prairie, western millers can
hardly send roofing material across the Rockies fast enough. Besides
this, I haven't struck a creek more adapted for running down logs, and
the last sharp drop to tide-water would give power for a mill. I'm
only puzzled that none of the timber-lease prospectors have recorded
"That's easy to understand," laughed Carroll. "Like you, they'd no doubt
first search the most difficult spots to get at."
They went on, and when darkness fell they pitched their light tent beside
the creek. It was now freezing hard, and after supper the men lay
smoking, wrapped in blankets, with the tent between them and the stinging
wind, while a great fire of cedar branches snapped and roared in front of
them. Sometimes the red blaze shot up, flinging a lurid light on the
stately trunks and tinging the men's faces with the hue of burnished
copper; sometimes it fanned out away from them while the sparks drove
along the frozen ground and the great forest aisle, growing dim, was
filled with drifting vapor. The latter was aromatic; pungently fragrant.
"It struck me that you were disappointed when you got no mail at
Comox," Carroll remarked at length, feeling that he was making
something of a venture.
"I was," admitted Vane.
"That's strange," Carroll persisted, "because your hearing nothing
from Nairn left you free to go ahead, which, one would suppose, was
what you wanted."
Vane happened to be in a confidential mood; though usually averse to
sharing his troubles, he felt that he needed sympathy.
"I'd better confess that I wrote Miss Chisholm a few lines from Nanaimo."
"And she didn't answer you? Now, I couldn't well help noticing that you
were rather in her bad graces that night at Nairn's--the thing was pretty
obvious. No doubt you're acquainted with the reason?"
"I'm not. That's just the trouble."
Carroll reflected. He had an idea that Miss Horsfield was somehow
connected with the matter, but this was a suspicion he could not mention.
"Well," he said, "as I pointed out, you're addicted to taking the hardest
way. When we came up here before, you marched past this valley, chiefly
because it was close at hand; but I don't want to dwell on that. Has it
occurred to you that you did something of the same kind when you were at
the Dene? The way that was then offered you was easy."
"That is not the kind of subject one cares to talk about; but you ought
to know that I couldn't allow them to force Miss Chisholm upon me against
her will. It was unthinkable! Besides, looking at it in the most
cold-blooded manner, it would have been foolishness, for which we'd both
have had to pay afterward."
"I'm not so sure of that," Carroll smiled. "There were the Sabine women,
among other instances. Didn't they cut off their hair to make bowstring
for their abductors?"
His companion made no comment, and Carroll, deciding that he had ventured
as far as was prudent, talked of something else until they crept into the
little tent and soon fell asleep.
They started with the first of the daylight, but the timber grew denser
and more choked with underbrush as they proceeded and for a day or two
they wearily struggled through it and the clogging masses of tangled,
withered fern. Besides this, they were forced to clamber over mazes of
fallen trunks, when the ragged ends of the snapped-off branches caught
their loads. Their shoulders ached, their boots were ripped, their feet
were badly galled; but they held on stubbornly, plunging deeper into the
mountains all the while. It would probably overcome the average man if he
were compelled to carry all the provisions he needed for a week along a
well-kept road, but the task of the prospector and the survey packer, who
must transport also an ax, cooking utensils and whatever protection he
requires from the weather, through almost impenetrable thickets, is
infinitely more difficult.
Vane and Carroll were more or less used to it, but both of them were
badly jaded when soon after setting out one morning they climbed a
clearer hillside to look about them. High up ahead, the crest of the
white range gleamed dazzlingly against leaden clouds in a burst of
sunshine; below, dark forest, still wrapped in gloom, filled all the
valley; and in between, a belt of timber touched by the light shone with
a curious silvery luster. Though it was some distance off, probably a
day's journey allowing for the difficulty of the march, Vane gazed at it
earnestly. The trees were bare--there was no doubt of that, for the
dwindling ranks, diminished by the distance, stood out against the
snow-streaked rock like rows of thick needles set upright; their
straightness and the way they glistened suggested the resemblance.
"Ominous, isn't it?" Carroll suggested at length. "If this is the valley
Hartley came down--and everything points to that--we should be getting
near the spruce."
Vane's face grew set.
"Yes," he agreed. "There has been a big fire up yonder; but whether it
has swept the lower ground or not is more than I can tell. We'll find out
to-night or early to-morrow."
He swung round without another word, and scrambling down the hillside
they resumed the march. They pushed on all that day rather faster than
before, with the same uncertainty troubling both of them. Forest fires
are common in that region when there is a hot dry fall; and where, as
often happens, a deep valley forms a natural channel for the winds that
fan them, they travel far, stripping and charring the surface of every
tree in their way. Neither of the men thought of stopping for a noonday
meal, and during the gloomy afternoon, when dingy clouds rolled down from
the peaks, they plodded forward with growing impatience. They could see
scarcely a hundred yards in front of them; dense withering thickets
choked up the spaces between the towering trunks; and there was nothing
to indicate that they were nearing the burned area when at last they
pitched their camp as darkness fell.
THE END OF THE SEARCH
The two men made a hurried breakfast in the cold dawn, and soon afterward
they were struggling through thick timber when the light suddenly grew
clearer. Carroll remarked upon the fact and Vane's face hardened.
"We're either coming to a swamp, or the track the fire has swept is close
in front," he explained.
A thicket lay before them, but they smashed savagely through the midst of
it, the undergrowth snapping and crackling about their limbs. Then there
was a network of tangled branches to be crossed, and afterward, reaching
slightly clearer ground, they broke into a run. Three or four minutes
later they stopped, breathless and ragged, with their rent boots scarcely
clinging to their feet, and gazed eagerly about.
The living forest rose behind them, an almost unbroken wall, but ahead
the trees ran up in detached and blackened spires. Their branches had
vanished; every cluster of somber-green needles and delicate spray had
gone; the great rampicks looked like shafts of charcoal. About their feet
lay crumbling masses of calcined wood, which grew more numerous where
there were open spaces farther on, and then the bare, black columns ran
on again, up the valley and the steep hill benches on either hand. It was
a weird scene of desolation; impressive to the point of being appalling
in its suggestiveness of wide-spread ruin.
For the space of a minute the men gazed at it; and then Vane, stretching
out his hand, pointed to a snow-sheeted hill.
"That's the peak Hartley mentioned," he said in a voice which was
strangely incisive. "Give me the ax!"
He took it from his comrade and striding forward attacked the nearest
rampick. Twice the keen blade sank noiselessly overhead, scattering a
black dust in the frosty air, and then there was a clear, ringing thud.
After that, Vane smote on with a determined methodical swiftness, until
Carroll grabbed his shoulder.
"Look out!" he cried. "It's going!"
Vane stepped back a few paces; the trunk reeled and rushed downward;
there was a deafening crash, and they were enveloped in a cloud of gritty
dust. Through the midst of it they dimly saw two more great trunks
collapse; and then somewhere up the valley a series of thundering shocks,
which both knew were not echoes, broke out. The sound jarred on Carroll's
nerves, as the thud of the felled rampick had not done. Vane picked up
one of the chips.
"We have found Hartley's spruce."
Carroll did not answer for a minute. After all, when defeat must be
faced, there was very little to be said, though his companion's
expression troubled him. Its grim stolidity was portentous.
"I suppose," he suggested hopefully, "nothing could be done with it?"
Vane pointed to the butt of the tree, which showed a space of clear wood
surrounded by a blackened rim.
"You can't make marketable pulp of charcoal, and the price would have to
run pretty high before it would pay for ripping most of the log away to
get at the residue.
"But there may be some unburned spruce farther on."
"It's possible. I'm going to find out."
This was a logical determination; but, in spite of his recent suggestion,
Carroll realized that he would have abandoned the search there and then,
had the choice been left to him, in which he did not think he was
singular. After all they had undergone and the risk they had run in
leaving Vancouver, the shock of the disappointment was severe. He could
have faced a failure to locate the spruce, with some degree of
philosophical calm; but to find it at last, useless, was very much worse.
He did not, however, expect his companion to turn back yet; before he
desisted, Vane would search for and examine every unburned tree. What was
more, Carroll would have to accompany him. He noticed that Vane was
waiting for him to speak, and he decided that this was a situation which
he would better endeavor to treat lightly.
"I think I'll have a smoke," he said. "I'm afraid any remarks I could
make wouldn't do justice to the occasion. Language has its limits."
He sat down on the charred log and took out his pipe.
"A brûlée's not a nice place to wander about in when there's any wind,"
he proceeded; "and I've an idea there's some coming, though it's still
Shut in, as they were, in the deep hollow with the towering snows above
them, it was impressively still; and, in conjunction with the sight of
the black desolation, the deep silence reacted on Carroll's nerves. He
longed to escape from it, to make a noise; though this, if done
unguardedly, might bring more of the rampicks thundering down. He could
hear tiny flakes of charcoal falling from them and, though the fire had
long gone out, a faint and curious crackling, as if the dead embers were
stirring. He wondered if it were some effect of the frost; it struck him
as disturbing and weird.
"We'll work right round the brûlée," Vane decided. "Then I suppose we'd
better head back for Vancouver, though we'll look at that cedar as we
go down. Something might be made of it--I'm not sure we've thrown our
"You'd never be sure of that. It isn't in you."
Vane disregarded this. A new, constructive policy was already springing
up out of the wreck of his previous plans.
"There's a good mill site on the inlet, but as it's a long way from the
railroad we'll have to determine whether it would be cheaper to tow the
logs down or split them up on the spot. I'll talk it over with Drayton;
he'll no doubt be useful, and there's no reason why he shouldn't earn
"Do you consider that the arrangement you made with Hartley applies to
the cedar?" Carroll asked.
"Of course. I don't know that the other parties could insist on the
original terms--we can discuss that later; but, though it may be
modified, the arrangement stands."
His companion considered the matter dispassionately, as an abstract
proposition. Here was a man, who in return for certain information
respecting the whereabouts of a marketable commodity had undertaken to
find and share it with his informant. The commodity had proved to be
valueless, but during the search for it he had incidentally discovered
something else. Was he under any obligation to share the latter with his
Carroll decided that the question could be answered only in the negative;
but he had no intention of disputing his comrade's point of view. In the
first place, this would probably make Vane only more determined or would
ruffle his temper; and, in the second place, Carroll was neither a
covetous man nor an ambitious one, which, perhaps, was fortunate for him.
Ambition, the mother of steadfast industry and heroic effort, has also a
less reputable progeny.
Vane, as his partner realized, was ambitious; but in place of aspiring
after wealth or social prominence, his was a different aim: to rend the
hidden minerals from the hills, to turn forests into dressed lumber, to
make something grow. Money is often, though not always, made that way;
but, while Vane affected no contempt for it, in his case its acquisition
was undoubtedly not the end. Fortunately, he was not altogether singular
in this respect.
When he next spoke, however, there was no hint of altruistic sentiment in
his curt inquiry:
"Are you going to sit there until you freeze?"
Carroll got up and they spent the remainder of the day plodding through
the brûlée, with the result that when darkness fell Vane had abandoned
all idea of working the spruce. The next morning they set out for the
inlet, and one afternoon during the journey they came upon several fallen
logs lying athwart each other with their branches spread in an almost
impenetrable tangle. Vane proceeded to walk along one log, which was
tilted up several yards above the ground, balancing himself carefully
upon the rounded surface, and Carroll followed cautiously. Suddenly there
was a sharp snapping, and Vane plunged headlong into the tangle beneath,
while Carroll stood still and laughed. It was not an uncommon accident.
Vane, however, did not reappear; nor was there any movement among the
half-rotten boughs and withered sprays, and Carroll, moving forward
hastily, looked down into the hole. He was disagreeably surprised to see
his comrade lying, rather white in face, upon his side.
"I'm afraid you'll have to chop me out," came up hoarsely. "Get to work.
I can't move my leg."
Moving farther along the log, Carroll dropped to the ground, which was
less encumbered there, and spent the next quarter of an hour hewing a
passage to his comrade. Then as he stood beside him, hot and panting,
Vane looked up.
"It's my lower leg; the left," he explained. "Bone's broken; I
felt it snap."
Carroll turned from him for a moment in consternation. Looking out
between the branches, he could see the lonely hills tower, pitilessly
white, against the blue of the frosty sky, and the rigid firs running
back as far as his vision reached upon their lower slopes. There was no
touch of life in all the picture; everything was silent and absolutely
motionless, and its desolation came near to appalling him. When he looked
around again, Vane smiled wryly.
"If this had happened farther north, it would have been the end of me,"
he said. "As it is, it's awkward."
The word struck Carroll as singularly inexpressive, but he made an effort
to gather his courage when his companion broke off with a groan of pain.
"It's lucky we helped that doctor when he set Pete's leg at Bryant's
mill," he declared cheerily. "Can you wait a few minutes?"
Vane's face was beaded with damp now, but he tried to smile.
"It strikes me," he answered, "I'll have to wait a mighty long time."
Carroll turned and left him. He was afraid to stand still and think, and
action was a relief. It was some time before he returned with several
strips of fabric cut from the tent curtain, and the neatest splints he
could extemporize from slabs of stripped-off bark; and the next half-hour
was a trying one to both of them. Sometimes Vane assisted him with
suggestions--once he reviled his clumsiness--and sometimes he lay silent
with his face awry and his lips tight silent; but at length it was done
and Carroll stood up, breathing hard.
"I'll fasten you on to a couple of skids and pull you out. Then I'll make
He managed it with difficulty, pitched the tent above Vane, whom he
covered with their blankets, and made a fire outside.
"Are you comfortable now?" he inquired.
Vane looked up at him with a somewhat ghastly smile.
"I suppose I'm about as comfortable as could be expected. Anyhow, I've
got to get used to the thing. Six weeks is the shortest limit, isn't it?"
Carroll confessed that he did not know, and presently Vane spoke again.
"It's lucky that the winters aren't often very cold near the coast."
The temperature struck Carroll as low enough, but he made no comment. To
his disgust, he could think of no cheering observation, for there was no
doubt that the situation was serious. They were cut off from the sloop by
leagues of tangled forest which a vigorous man would find it difficult to
traverse, and it would be weeks before Vane could use his leg; no human
assistance could be looked for; and they had only a small quantity of
provisions left. Besides this, it would not be easy to keep the sufferer
warm in rigorous weather.
"I'll get supper. You'll feel better afterward," he said at length.
"Don't be too liberal," Vane warned him.
After the meal, Vane fell into a restless doze, and it was dark when he
opened his eyes again.
"I can't sleep any more, and we may as well talk--there are things to be
arranged. In the first place, as soon as I feel a little easier you'll
have to sail across to Comox and hire some men to pack me out. When
you've sent them off, you can make for Vancouver and get a timber license
and find out how matters are going on."
"That is quite out of the question," Carroll replied firmly. "Nairn can
look after our mining interests--he's a capable man--and if the thing's
too much for him, they can go to smash. Besides, they won't give you a
timber license without full particulars of area and limits, and we've
blazed no boundaries. Anyhow, I'm staying right here."
Vane began to protest, but Carroll raised his hand.
"Argument's not conducive to recovery. You're on your back,
unfortunately, and I'll give way to you as usual as soon as you're on
your feet again, but not before."
"I'd better point out that we'll both be hungry by that time. The
provisions won't last long."
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