Vane of the Timberlands
Part 6 out of 6
"Then I'll look for a deer as soon as I think you can be left. And now
we'll try to talk of something more amusing."
"Can you see anything humorous in the situation?"
"I can't," Carroll confessed. "Still, there may be something of that
description which I haven't noticed yet. By the way, the last time we
were at Nairn's I happened to cross the room near where you and Miss
Horsfield were sitting, and I heard her ask you to wait for something at
Nanaimo or Comox. It struck me as curious."
"She told me to wait so that she could send me word to come back, if it
should be needful."
"Ah!" ejaculated Carroll. "I won't ask why she was willing to do so--it
concerns you more than me--but I think that as regards your interests in
the Clermont a warning from her would be worth as much as one from Nairn;
that is, if she could be depended on."
"Have you any doubt upon the subject?"
Carroll made a soothing gesture.
"Don't get angry! Perhaps I've talked too much. We have to think of
"I'm not likely to forget it," Vane informed him. "But I dare say you're
right in one respect--as an amusing companion you're a dead failure; and
talking isn't as easy as I thought."
He lay silent afterward, and though he had disclaimed any desire for
sleep, worn by the march and pain as he was, his eyes presently closed.
Carroll, however, sat long awake that night, and he afterward confessed
that he felt badly afraid. Deer are by no means numerous in some parts of
the bush--they had not seen one during the journey; and it was a long way
to the sloop.
Once or twice, for no obvious reason, he drew aside the tent flap and
looked out. The sky was cloudless and darkly blue, and a sickle moon
gleamed in it, keen and clear with frost. Below, the hills were washed in
silver, majestic, but utterly cheerless; and lower still the serrated
tops of the rigid firs cut against the dreary whiteness. After each
glimpse of them, Carroll drew his blanket tighter round him with a
shiver. Very shortly, when the little flour and pork was gone and their
few cartridges had been expended, he would be reduced to the condition of
primitive man. Cut off from all other resources, he must then wrest what
means of subsistence he could from the snowy wilderness by brute strength
and cunning and such instruments as he could make with his unassisted
hands, except that an ax of Pennsylvania steel was better than a stone
one. Civilization has its compensations, and Carroll longed for a few
more of them that night.
On rising the next morning, he found the frost keener, and he spent that
day and a number of those that followed in growing anxiety, which was
only temporarily lessened when he once succeeded in killing a deer. There
was almost a dearth of animal life in the lonely valley. Sometimes, at
first, Vane was feverish; often he was irritable; and the recollection of
the three or four weeks he spent with him afterward haunted Carroll like
a nightmare. At last, when he had spent several days in vain search for a
deer and the provisions were almost exhausted, he and his companion held
a council of emergency.
"There's no use in arguing," Vane declared. "You'll rig me a shelter of
green boughs outside the tent and close to the fire. I can move from the
waist upward and, if it's necessary, drag myself with my hands. Then you
can chop enough cord-wood to last a while, cook my share of the eatables,
and leave me while you go down to the sloop. There's half a bag of flour
on board her, and a few other things I'd be uncommonly glad to have."
Carroll expostulated; but it was evident that his companion was right,
and the next morning he started for the inlet, taking with him the
smallest possible portion of their provisions. So long as he had enough
to keep him from fainting on the way, it was all he required, because he
could renew his stores on board the sloop. The weather broke during the
march; driving snow followed him down the valley, and by and by gave
place to bitter rain. The withered underbrush was saturated, the soil was
soddened with melting snow, and after the first scanty meal or two the
man dare risk no delay. He felt himself flagging from insufficient food,
and it was obvious that he must reach the sloop before he broke down. He
had tobacco, but that failed to stay the gnawing pangs, and before the
march was done he was on the verge of exhaustion, forcing himself onward,
drenched and grim of face, scarcely able to keep upon his bleeding feet.
It was falling dusk and blowing fresh when he limped down the beach and
with a last effort launched the light dingy and pulled off to the sloop.
She rode rather deep in the water, but that did not trouble him. Most
wooden craft leak more or less, and it was a considerable time since he
had pumped her out. Clambering wearily on board, he made the dingy fast;
and then stood still a moment or two, looking about him with his hand on
the cabin slide. Thin flakes of snow drifted past him; the firs were
rustling eerily ashore, and ragged wisps of cloud drove by low down
above their tops. Little frothy ripples flecked the darkening water with
streaks of white and splashed angrily against the bows of the craft. The
prospect was oppressively dreary, and the worn-out man was glad that he
was at last in shelter and could snatch a few hours' rest.
Thrusting back the slide, he stepped below and lighted the lamp. The
brightening glow showed him that the boat's starboard side was wet high
up, and though there was a good deal of water in her, this puzzled him
until an explanation suggested itself. They had moored the craft
carefully, but he supposed she must have dragged her anchor or kedge and
swung in near enough the shore to ground toward low tide. Then as the
tide left her she would fall over on her starboard bilge, because they
had lashed the heavy boom down on that side, and the water in her would
cover the depressed portion of her interior. This reasoning was probably
correct; but he did not foresee the result until, after lighting the
stove and putting on the kettle, he opened the provision locker, which
was to starboard. Then he saw with a shock of dismay that the stock of
food they had counted on was ruined. The periodically-submerged flour-bag
had rotted and burst, and most of its contents had run out into the water
as the boat righted with the rising tide; the prepared cereals, purchased
to save cooking, had turned to moldy pulp; and the few other stores were
in much the same condition. There were only two sound cans of beef and a
few ounces of unspoiled tea in a canister.
Carroll's courage failed him as he realized it, but he felt that he must
eat and sleep before he could grapple with the situation. He would allow
himself a scanty meal and a few hours' rest. While the kettle boiled, he
crawled out and shortened in the cable and plied the pump. Then he went
below and feasted on preserved beef and tea, gaging the size of each
slice with anxious care, until he reluctantly laid the can aside. After
that, he filled his pipe and stretching his aching limbs out on the port
locker, which was comparatively dry, soon sank into heavy sleep.
CARROLL SEEKS HELP
Carroll slept for several hours before he awakened and sat up on the
locker, shivering. He had left the hatch slightly open, and a confused
uproar reached him from outside; the wail of wind-tossed trees; the
furious splash of ripples against the bows; and the drumming of the
halyards upon the mast. There was no doubt that it was blowing hard, but
the wind was off the land and the sloop in shelter.
Filling his pipe, he set himself to think, and promptly decided that it
would have been better had he gone down to the sloop in the beginning,
before the provisions had been spoiled. A natural reluctance to leave his
helpless companion had mainly prevented him from doing this, but he had
also been encouraged by the possibility of obtaining a deer now and then.
It was clear that he had made a mistake in remaining, but it was not the
first time he had done so, and the point was unimportant. The burning
question was--what should he do now.
It would obviously be useless to go back with rations that would barely
suffice for the march. Vane still had food enough to keep life in one man
for a little while, and it would not be a long run to Comox with a strong
northerly wind. If the sloop would face the sea that was running he might
return with assistance before his comrade's scanty store was exhausted.
Getting out the mildewed chart, he laid off his course, carefully trimmed
and lighted the binnacle lamp, and going up on deck hauled in the
kedge-anchor. He could not break the main one out, though he worked
savagely with a tackle, and deciding to slip it, he managed to lash three
reefs in the mainsail and hoist it with the peak left down. Then he
stopped to gather breath--for the work had been cruelly heavy--before he
let the cable run and hoisted the jib.
She paid off when he put up his helm, and the black loom of trees ashore
vanished. He thought that he could find his way out of the inlet, but he
knew that he had done so only when the angry ripples that splashed about
the boat suddenly changed to confused tumbling combers. They foamed up in
quick succession on her quarter, but he fancied she would withstand their
onslaught so long as he could prevent her from screwing up to windward
when she lifted. It would need constant care, and if he failed, the next
comber would, no doubt, break on board. His task was one that would have
taxed the vigilance of a strong, well-fed man, and Carroll had already
nearly reached the limit of his powers.
His case, however, was by no means an unusual one. The cost of the
subjugation of the wilderness is the endurance of hunger and thirst, cold
and crushing fatigue; and somebody pays, to the utmost farthing. Carroll
sitting, drenched, strung up and hungry, at the helm, was merely playing
his part in the struggle, though he found it cruelly difficult.
It was pitch dark, but he must gaze ahead and guess the track of the
pursuing seas by the angle of the spouting white ridge abreast of the
weather shrouds. He had a compass, but when his course did not coincide
with safety it must be disregarded. The one essential thing was to keep
the sloop on top, and to do so he had frequently to let her fall off
dead before the mad white combers that leaped out of the dark. By and by
his arms began to ache from the strain of the tiller, and his wet
fingers grew stiff and claw-like. The nervous strain was also telling,
but that could not be helped; he must keep the craft before the sea or
go down with her. There was one consolation; she was traveling at a
At length, morning broke, gray and lowering, over a leaden sea that was
seamed with white. Carroll glanced longingly at the meat can on the
locker near his feet. He could reach it by stooping, though he dare not
leave the helm, but he determined to wait until noon before he broke his
fast again. It could not be very far to Comox, but the wind might drop.
Then he began to wonder how he had escaped the perils of the night. He
had come down what was really a wide and not quite straight sound,
passing several unlighted islands. Before starting, he had decided that
he would run so far, and then change his course a point or two, but he
could not be sure that he had done so. He had a hazy recollection of
seeing surf, and once a faint loom of land, but he supposed that he had
avoided it half-consciously or that chance had favored him.
In the afternoon, the wind changed a little, backing to the northwest;
the sky grew brighter, and Carroll made out shadowy land over his
starboard quarter. Soon he recognized it with a start. It was the high
ridge north of Comox. He had run farther than he had expected, and he
must try to hoist the peak of the mainsail and haul her on the wind.
There was danger in rounding her up, but it must be faced, though a sea
foamed across her as he put down his helm. Another followed, but he
scrambled forward and struggled desperately to hoist the down-hanging
gaff. The halyards were swollen; and he could scarcely keep his footing
on the deluged deck that slanted steeply under him. He thought he could
have mastered the banging canvas had he been fresh; but worn out as he
was, drenched with spray and buffeted by the shattered tops of the seas,
the task was beyond his power. Giving it up, he staggered back,
breathless and almost nerveless, to the helm.
He could not reach Comox, which lay to windward, with the sail half set,
but it was only seventy miles or so to Nanaimo and not much farther to
Vancouver. The breeze would be fair to either, and he could charter a
launch or tug for the return journey. Letting her go before the sea
again, he ate some canned meat ravenously, tearing it with one hand.
During the afternoon, a gray mass rose out of the water to port and he
supposed it was Texada. There were mines on the island and he might be
able to engage a rescue party; but he reflected that he could not beat
the sloop back to windward unless the breeze fell, which it showed no
signs of doing. It would be more prudent to go on to Vancouver, where he
would be sure of getting a steamer; but he closed with the long island a
little, and dusk was falling when he made out a boat in the partial
shelter of a bight. Standing in closer, he saw that there were two men on
the craft, and driving down upon her he backed and ran alongside. There
was a crash as he struck the boat and an astonished and angry man
clutched the sloop's rail.
"Now what in the name of thunder--" he began and stopped, struck by
Carroll's haggard and ragged appearance.
"Can you take this sloop to Vancouver?" Carroll asked hoarsely.
"I could if it was worth while," was the cautious answer. "It will be a
mighty wet run."
"Seven dollars a day, until you're home again. A bonus, if you can sail
her with the whole reefed mainsail up--I won't stick at a few dollars.
Can your partner pull that boat ashore alone? If not, cast her adrift;
I'll buy her."
"He'll make the beach," returned the other, jumping on board. "Seven
dollars sounds a square deal. I won't put the screw on you."
"Then help me hoist the peak. After that, you can take the helm; I'm
The man shouted something to his companion and then seized the halyards,
and the sloop drove on again, furiously, with an increased spread of
canvas, while Carroll stood holding on by the coaming until the boat
"I'll leave you to it," he told the new helmsman, "It's twenty-four hours
since I've had more than a bite or two of food, and some weeks since I
had a decent meal."
"You look it. Been up against it somewhere?"
Carroll, without replying, crawled below and managed to light the stove
and make a kettleful of tea. He drank a good deal of it, and nearly
emptied the remaining small meat can, which he presently held out for the
helmsman's inspection, standing beneath the hatch.
"There's some tea left, but this is all there is to eat on board the
craft," he said. "You're hired to take her to Vancouver--you'd better get
there as quick as you can."
The bronzed helmsman nodded.
"She won't be long on the way if the mast holds up."
"Have you seen any papers lately?" Carroll inquired. "I've been up in the
bush and I'm interested in the Clermont Mine. It looked as if there might
be some changes in the company's prospects when I went away."
"I noticed a bit about it in the _Colonist_ a while back. The
company sold out to another concern, or amalgamated with it; I don't
Carroll was not astonished. The news implied that he must be prepared to
face a more or less serious financial reverse, and it struck him as a
fitting climax to his misadventures.
"It's pretty much what I expected," he said. "I'm going to sleep and I
don't want to be wakened before it's necessary."
He crawled below, and he had hardly stretched himself out upon the locker
before his eyes closed. When he opened them, feeling more like his usual
self, he saw that the sun was above the horizon, and he recognized by the
boat's motion that the wind had fallen. Going out he found her driving
through the water under her whole mainsail and the helmsman sitting
stolidly at the tiller. The man stretched out a hand and pointed to the
hazy hills to port.
"We'll fetch the Narrows some time before noon. If you'll take the helm,
I guess we'll half that meat for breakfast"
His prediction proved correct, for Carroll reached his hotel about
midday, and hastily changing his clothes set off to call on Nairn. He had
not yet recovered his mental equipoise and, in spite of his long, sound
sleep, he was still badly jaded physically. On arriving at the house, he
was shown into a room where Mrs. Nairn and her husband were sitting with
Evelyn, waiting for the midday meal The elder lady rose with a start of
astonishment when he walked in.
"Man," she cried, "what's wrong? Ye're looking like a ghost."
It was not an inapt description. Carroll's face was worn and haggard, and
his clothes hung slack upon him.
"I've been feeling rather unsubstantial of late, as the result of
a restricted diet," he answered with a smile sinking into the
Nairn regarded him with carefully suppressed curiosity.
"Ye're over lang in coming," he remarked. "Where left ye your partner?"
Carroll sat silent a moment or two, his eyes fixed on Evelyn. It was
evident that his sudden appearance unaccompanied by Vane, which he felt
had been undesirably dramatic, had alarmed her. At first, he felt
compassionate, and then he was suddenly possessed by hot indignation.
This girl, with her narrow prudish notions and dispassionate nature, had
presumed to condemn his comrade, unheard, for an imaginary offense. The
thing was at once ludicrous and intolerable; if his news brought her
dismay, let her suffer. His nerves, it must be remembered, were not in
their normal condition.
"Yes," he said, in answer to his host's first remark; "I've gathered that
we have failed to save the situation. But I don't know exactly what has
happened. You had better tell me."
Mrs. Nairn made a sign of protest, but her husband glanced at her
"Ye will hear his news in good time," he informed her, and then turned to
Carroll. "In a few words, the capital was no subscribed--it leaked out
that the ore was running poor--and we held an emergency meeting. With
Vane away, I could put no confidence into the shareholders--they were
anxious to get from under--and Horsfield brought forward an amalgamation
scheme: A combine would take the property over, on their valuation. I and
a few others were outvoted; the scheme went through; and when the
announcement steadied the stock, which had been tumbling down, I
exercised the authority given me and sold your shares and Vane's at
considerably less than their face value. Ye can have particulars later.
What I have to ask now is--where is Vane?"
The man's voice grew sharp; the question was flung out like an
accusation; but Carroll still looked at Evelyn. He felt very bitter
against her; he would not soften the blow.
"I left him in the bush, with no more than a few days' provisions and a
broken leg," he announced.
Then, in spite of Evelyn's efforts to retain her composure, her face
blanched. Carroll's anger vanished, because the truth was clear. Vane had
triumphed through disaster; his peril and ruin had swept his offenses
away. The girl, who had condemned him in his prosperity, would not turn
from him in misfortune. In the meanwhile the others sat silent, gazing at
the bearer of evil news, until he spoke again.
"I want a tug to take me back, at once, if she can be got. I'll pick up a
few men along the waterfront."
Nairn rose and went out of the room. The tinkle of a telephone bell
reached those who remained, and a minute or two later he came back.
"I've sent Whitney round," he explained. "He'll come across if there's a
boat to be had, and now ye look as if ye needed lunch."
"It's several weeks since I had one," Carroll smiled.
The meal was brought in, but for a while he talked as well as ate,
relating his adventures in somewhat disjointed fragments, while the
others sat listening eagerly. He was also pleased to notice something
which suggested returning confidence in him in Evelyn's intent eyes as
the tale proceeded. When at last he had made the matter clear, he added:
"If I keep you waiting, you'll excuse me."
His hostess watched his subsequent efforts with candid approval, and
looking up once or twice, he saw sympathy in the girl's face, instead of
the astonishment or disgust he had half expected. When he finished, his
hostess rose and Carroll stood up, but Nairn motioned to him to resume
"I'm thinking ye had better sit still a while and smoke," he said.
Carroll was glad to do so, and they conferred together until Nairn was
called to the telephone.
"Ye can have the Brodick boat at noon to-morrow," he reported on
"That won't do," Carroll objected heavily. "Send Whitney round again; I
must sail to-night."
He had some difficulty in getting out the words, and when he rose his
eyes were half closed. Walking unsteadily, he crossed the room and sank
onto a big lounge.
"I think," he added, "if you don't mind, I'll go to sleep."
Nairn merely nodded, and when he went silently out of the room a minute
or two afterward, the worn-out man was already wrapped in profound
slumber. Nairn just then received another call by telephone and left in
haste for his office without speaking to his wife, with the result that
Mrs. Nairn and Evelyn, returning to the room in search of Carroll, found
him lying still. The elder lady raised her hand in warning as she bent
over the sleeper, and then taking up a light rug spread it gently over
him. Evelyn, too, was stirred to sudden pity, for the man's attitude was
eloquent of exhaustion. They withdrew softly and had reached the corridor
outside when Mrs. Nairn turned to the girl.
"When he first came in, ye blamed that man for deserting his
partner," she said.
Evelyn confessed it and her hostess smiled meaningly.
"Are ye no rather too ready to blame?"
"I'm afraid I am," Evelyn admitted, with the color creeping into her
face as she remembered another instance in which she had condemned a
"In this case, ye were very foolish. The man came down for help, and if
he could no get it, he would go back his lone, if all the way was barred
with ice and he must walk on his naked feet. Love of woman's strong and
the fear of death is keen, but ye will find now and then a faith between
man and man that neither would sever." She paused and looked at the girl
fixedly as she asked: "What of him that could inspire it?"
Evelyn did not answer. She had never seen her hostess in this mood, and
she also was stirred; but the elder lady went on again:
"The virtue of a gift lies in part, but no altogether, with the giver.
Whiles, it may be bestowed unworthily, but I'm thinking it's no often.
The bond that will drag Carroll back to the North again, to his death, if
need be, has no been spun from nothing."
Evelyn had no doubt that Mrs. Nairn was right. Loyalty, most often,
demanded a worthy object to tender service to; it sprang from implicit
confidence, mutual respect and strong appreciation. It was not without a
reason that Vane had inspired it in his comrade's breast; and this was
the man she had condemned. That fact, however, was by comparison a very
minor trouble. Vane was lying, helpless and alone, in the snowy
wilderness, in peril of his life; and she knew that she loved him. She
realized now, when it might be too late, that had he in reality been
stained with dishonor, she could have forgiven him. Indeed, it had only
been by a painful effort that she had maintained some show of composure
since Carroll had brought the disastrous news, and she felt that she
could not keep it up much longer.
What she said to Mrs. Nairn she could not remember, but escaping from
her she retired to her own room, to lie still and grapple with an agony
of fear and contrition.
It was two hours later when she went down and found Carroll, who still
looked drowsy, about to go out. His hostess had left him for a moment in
the hall, and meeting the girl's eyes, he smiled at her reassuringly.
"Don't be anxious. I'll bring him back," he said.
Then Mrs. Nairn appeared and in a few moments Carroll left without
another word to Evelyn. She did not ask herself why he had taken it for
granted that she would be anxious; she was beyond any petty regard for
appearances then. It was consoling to remember that he was Vane's tried
comrade; a man who kept his word.
After leaving Mrs. Nairn, Carroll walked toward Horsfield's residence
in a thoughtful mood, because he felt it incumbent upon him to play a
part he was not particularly fitted for in a somewhat delicate matter.
Uncongenial as his task was, it was one that could not be left to
Vane, who was even less to be trusted with the handling of such
affairs; and Carroll had resolved, as he would have described it, to
straighten out things.
His partner had somehow offended Evelyn, and though she was now obviously
disposed to forgive him, the recollection of his supposititious iniquity
might afterward rankle in her mind. Though Vane was innocent of any
conduct to which she could with reason take exception, it was first of
all needful to ascertain the exact nature of the charge against him.
Carroll, who for several reasons had preferred not to press this question
upon Evelyn, had a strong suspicion that Jessy Horsfield was at the
bottom of the trouble. There was also one clue to follow--Vane had paid
the rent of Celia Hartley's shack, and he wondered whether Jessy could by
any means have heard of it. If she had done so, the matter would be
simplified, for he had a profound distrust of her. A recent action of
hers was, he thought, sufficient to justify this attitude.
He found her at home, reclining gracefully in an easy-chair in her
drawing-room, and though she did not seem astonished to see him, he
fancied that her expression hinted at suppressed concern.
"I heard that you had arrived alone, and I intended to make inquiries
from Mrs. Nairn as soon as I thought she would be at liberty," she
Carroll had found the direct attack effective in Evelyn's case, and he
determined to try it again.
"Then," he declared, "it says a good deal for your courage."
He never doubted that she possessed courage, and she displayed it now.
"So," she said calmly, "you have come as an enemy."
"Not exactly; it didn't seem worth while. Though there's no doubt you
betrayed us--Vane waited for the warning you could have sent--so far as
it concerns our ruined interests in the Clermont, the thing's done and
can't be mended. We'll let that question go. The most important point
is that if you had recalled us, as you promised, Vane would now be safe
This shot told. The girl's face became less imperturbable; there was
eagerness and, he thought, a hint of fear in it.
"Then has any accident happened to him?"
"He's lying in the bush, helpless, in imminent peril of starvation."
There were signs of strain clearly perceptible in the girl's voice.
Carroll was brief, but he made her understand the position; then she
turned upon him imperiously.
"Then why are you wasting your time here?"
"It's a reasonable question. I can't get a tug to take me back until noon
"Ah!" murmured Jessy. "Excuse me for a minute."
She left him astonished. He had not expected her to take him at a
disadvantage, as she had done with her previous thrust, and now he did
not think that she had slipped away to hide her feelings. That did not
seem necessary in Jessy's case, though he believed she was more or less
disturbed. She came back presently, looking calm, and sat down again.
"My brother will be here in a quarter of an hour," she informed him.
"Things are rather slack, and he had half promised to take me for a
drive. I have just called him up."
Carroll did not see how this bore upon the subject of their conversation,
but he left her to take the lead.
"Did Mr. Vane tell you that I had promised to warn him?" she asked.
"To do him justice, he let it out before he quite realized what he was
saying. I'd better own that I partly surprised him into giving me the
"The expedient seems a favorite one with you. I suppose no news of what
has happened here can have reached him?"
"None. If it's any consolation, he has still an unshaken confidence in
you," Carroll assured her with blunt bitterness.
The girl showed faint signs of confusion, but she sat silent for the
next few moments. During that time it flashed upon Carroll with
illuminating light that he had heard Celia Hartley say that Miss
Horsfield had found her orders for millinery. This confirmed his
previous suspicion that Jessy had discovered who had paid the rent of
Celia's shack, and that she had with deliberate malice informed Evelyn,
distorting her account so that it would tell against Vane. There were
breaks in the chain of reasoning which led him to this conclusion, but
he did not think that Jessy would shrink from such a course, and he
determined to try a chance shot.
"Vane's inclined to be trustful, and his rash generosity has once or
twice got him into trouble," he remarked, and went on as if an
explanation were needed: "It's Miss Hartley's case I'm thinking about
just now. I've an idea he asked you to look after her. Am I right?"
As soon as he had spoken he knew that he had hit the mark. Jessy did not
openly betray herself, but there are not many people who can remain
absolutely unmoved when unexpectedly asked a startling question. Besides,
the man was observant, and had all his faculties strung up for the
encounter. He saw one of her hands tighten on the arm of her chair and a
hint of uneasiness in her eyes, and that sufficed him.
"Yes," she replied; "I recommended her to some of my friends. I
understand that she is getting along satisfactorily."
Carroll felt compelled to admire her manner. He believed that she loved
his comrade but had nevertheless tried to ruin him in a fit of jealous
rage. She was, no doubt, now keenly regretting her success, but though he
thought she deserved to suffer, she was bravely facing the trying
situation. It was one that was rife with dramatic possibilities, and he
was grateful to her for avoiding them.
"You are going back to-morrow," she said after a brief silence. "I
suppose you will have to tell your partner--what you have discovered
here--as soon as you reach him?"
Carroll had not intended to spare her, but now he felt almost
compassionate, and he had one grain of comfort to offer.
"I must tell him that his shares in the Clermont have been sacrificed. I
wonder if that is all you meant?"
Jessy met his inquiring gaze with something very much like an appeal, and
then she spread out her hands in a manner that seemed to indicate that
she threw herself upon his mercy.
"It is not all I meant," she confessed.
"Then if it's any relief to you, I'll confine myself to telling him that
he has been deprived of his most valuable property. I dare say the news
will hit him hard enough. He may afterward discover other facts for
himself, but on the whole I shouldn't consider it likely. As I said, he's
confiding and slow to suspect."
He read genuine gratitude, which he had hardly expected, in the girl's
face; but he raised his hand and went on in the rather formal manner
which he felt was the only safe one to assume:
"I had, perhaps, better mention that I am going to call on Miss Hartley.
After that, I shall be uncommonly thankful to start back for the bush."
He paused and concluded with a sudden trace of humor: "I'll own that I
feel more at home with the work that awaits me there."
Jessy made a little gesture which, while it might have meant anything,
was somehow very expressive. Just then there were footsteps outside and
the next moment Horsfield walked into the room.
"So you're back!"
"Yes," Carroll replied shortly. "Beaten at both ends--there's no use in
Horsfield showed no sign of satisfaction, and Carroll afterward admitted
that the man behaved very considerately.
"Well," he declared, "though you may be astonished to hear it, I'm sorry.
Unfortunately, our interests clashed, and I naturally looked after mine.
Once upon a time I thought I could have worked hand in hand with Vane,
but our ideas did not coincide, and your partner is not the man to yield
a point or listen to advice."
Carroll was aware that Horsfield had by means which were far from
honorable deprived him of a considerable portion of his possessions. He
had also betrayed his fellow shareholders in the Clermont Mine, selling
their interests, doubtless for a tempting consideration, to the
directors of another company. For all that, Carroll recognized that
since he and Vane were beaten, as he had confessed, recriminations and
reproaches would be useless as well as undignified. He preferred to face
"It's the fortunes of war," he returned. "What you say about Vane is
more or less correct; but, although it is not a matter of much
importance now, it was impossible from the beginning that your views
and his ever should agree."
"Too great a difference of temperament? I dare say you're right. Vane
measures things by a different standard--mine's perhaps more adapted to
the market-place. But where have you left him?"
"In the bush. Miss Horsfield will, no doubt, give you particulars; I've
just told her the tale."
"She called me up at the office and asked me to come across at once. Will
you excuse us for a few minutes?"
They went out together, and Jessy presently came back alone and looked at
Carroll in a diffident manner.
"I suppose," she began, "one could hardly expect you to think of either
of us very leniently; but I must ask you to believe that I am sincerely
distressed to hear of your partner's accident. It was a thing I could
never have anticipated; but there are amends I can make. Every minute you
can save is precious, isn't it?"
"Then I can get you a tug. My brother tells me the _Atlin_ is coming
across from Victoria and should be here early this evening. He has gone
back to the office to secure her for you, though she was fixed to go off
for a lumber boom."
"Thank you," responded Carroll. "It's a very great service. She's a
"I think my brother would like to say a few words when he comes back. Can
I offer you some tea?"
"I think not," answered Carroll, smiling. "For one thing, if I sit still
much longer, I shall, no doubt, go to sleep again, as I did at Nairn's;
and that would be neither seemly nor convenient, if I'm to sail this
evening. Besides, now that we've arranged an armistice, it might be wiser
not to put too much strain on it."
"I think that describes it." Carroll's manner grew significant. "The word
implies a cessation of hostilities--on certain terms."
Jessy could take a hint, and his meaning was clear. Unless she forced him
to do so, he would not betray her to his comrade, who might never
discover the part she had played; but he had given her a warning, which
might be bluntly rendered as "Hands off." There was only one course open
to her--to respect it. She had brought down the man she loved, but it was
clear that he was not for her, and now that the unreasoning fury which
had driven her to strike had passed, she was troubled with contrition.
There was nothing left except to retire from the field, and it was better
to do so gracefully. For all that, there were signs of strain in her
expression as she capitulated.
"Well," she said, "I have given you proof that you have nothing to fear
from me. My brother is the only man in Vancouver who could have got you
that tug for this evening; I understand that the sawmill people are very
much in need of the lumber she was engaged to tow."
She held out her hand and Carroll took it, though he had not expected to
part from her on friendly terms.
"I owe you a good deal for that," he smiled.
His task, however, was only half completed when he left the house, and
the remaining portion was the more difficult, but he meant to finish it.
He preferred to take life lightly; he had trifled with it before disaster
had driven him out into the wilds; but there was resolution in the man,
and he could force himself to play an unpleasant part when it was
needful. Fortune also favored him, as she often does those who follow the
He had entered a busy street when he met Kitty and Celia. The latter
looked thin and somewhat pale, but she was moving briskly, and her face
was eager when she shook hands with him.
"We have been anxious about you," she declared; "there was no news. Is
Mr. Vane with you? How have you got on?"
"We found the spruce," answered Carroll. "It's not worth milling--a
forest fire has wiped out most of it--but we struck some shingling cedar
we may make something of."
"Where's Mr. Vane?"
"In the bush. I've a good deal to tell you about him; but we can't talk
here. I wonder if we could find a quiet place in a restaurant, or if the
park would be better."
"The park," said Kitty decidedly.
They reached it in due time, and Carroll, who had refused to say anything
about Vane on the way, found the girls a seat in a grove of giant firs
and sat down opposite to them. Though it was winter, the day, as is often
the case near Vancouver, was pleasantly mild.
"Now," he began, "my partner is a singularly unfortunate person. In the
first place, the transfer of the Clermont property, which you have no
doubt heard of, means a serious loss to him, though he is not ruined yet.
He talks of putting up a shingling mill, in which Drayton will be of
service, and if things turn out satisfactorily you will be given an
interest in it."
He added the last sentence as an experiment, and was satisfied with
"Never mind our interests," cried Kitty. "What about Mr. Vane?"
For the third time since his arrival, Carroll made the strongest appeal
he could to womanly pity, drawing, with a purpose, a vivid picture of his
comrade's peril and suffering. Nor was he disappointed, for he saw
consternation, compassion and sympathy in the girls' faces. So far, the
thing had been easy, but now he hesitated, and it was with difficulty
that he nerved himself for what must follow.
"He has been beaten out of his stock in the mine; he's broken down in
health and in danger; but, by comparison, that doesn't count for very
much with him. He has another trouble; and though I'm afraid I'm going
out of the way in mentioning it, if it could be got over, it would help
him to face the future and set him on his feet again."
Then he briefly recounted the story of Vane's regard for Evelyn, making
the most of his sacrifice in withdrawing from the field, and again he
realized that he had acted wisely. A love affair appealed to his
listeners, and there was a romance in this one that heightened the
effect of it.
"But Miss Chisholm can't mean to turn from him now," interrupted Celia.
Carroll looked at her meaningly.
"No; she turned from him before he sailed. She heard something
His companions appeared astonished.
"She couldn't have heard anything that anybody could mind," Kitty
exclaimed indignantly. "He's not that kind of man."
"It's a compliment," returned Carroll. "I think he deserves it. At the
same time, he's a little rash, and now and then a man's generosity is
open to misconception. In this case, I don't think one could altogether
blame Miss Chisholm."
Kitty glanced at him sharply and then at Celia, who looked at first
puzzled and then startled. Then the blood surged into Kitty's cheeks.
"Oh!" she gasped, as if she were breathless, "I was once afraid of
something like this. You mean we're the cause of it?"
The course he followed was hateful to Carroll, but the tangle could not
be straightened without having somebody's feelings hurt, and it was his
comrade about whom he was most concerned.
"I believe that you understand the situation," he said quietly.
He saw the fire in Kitty's eyes and noticed that Celia's face also was
flushed, but he did not think their anger was directed against him.
They knew the world they lived in, and, for that matter, he could share
their indignation. He resented the fact that a little thing should
bring swift suspicion upon them. He was, however, not required to face
any disconcerting climax. Indeed, it struck him as curious that a
difficult situation in which strong emotion was stirred up could become
so tamely prosaic merely because it was resolutely handled in a
"Well," inquired Celia, "why did you tell us this?"
"I think you both owe Vane something, and you can do him a great favor
Kitty looked up at him.
"Don't ask me too much, Mr. Carroll. I'm Irish, and I feel like killing
"It's natural," responded Carroll with a sympathetic smile. "I've now and
then felt much the same way; it's probably unavoidable in a world like
this. However, I think you ought to call on Miss Chisholm, after I've
gone, though you'd better not mention that I sent you. You can say you
came for news of Vane--and add anything that you consider necessary."
The girls looked at each other, and at length, though it obviously cost
her a struggle, Kitty said decidedly:
"We will have to go."
Then she faced round toward Carroll.
"If Miss Chisholm won't believe us, she'll be sorry we came!"
Carroll made her a slight inclination.
"She'll deserve it, if she's not convinced. But it might be better if you
didn't approach her in the mood you're in just now."
Kitty rose, motioning to Celia, and Carroll turned back with them toward
the city, feeling a certain constraint in their company and yet conscious
of a strong relief. It had grown dark when he returned to Nairn's house.
"Where have ye been?" his host inquired. "I had a clerk seeking ye all
round the city. I canna get ye a boat before the morn."
Carroll saw that Mrs. Nairn shared her husband's desire to learn how he
had been occupied. Evelyn also was in the room, and she waited
expectantly for his answer.
"There were one or two little matters that required attention and I
managed to arrange them satisfactorily," he explained. "Among other
things, I've got a tug, and I expect to sail in an hour or two. Miss
Horsfield found me the vessel."
He noticed Evelyn's interest, and was rather pleased to see it. If she
were disposed to be jealous of Jessy it could do no harm. Nairn,
"I'm thinking it might have been better if ye had no troubled Jessy," he
"I'm sorry I can't agree with you," Carroll retorted. "The difference
between this evening and noon to-morrow is a big consideration."
"Weel," replied Nairn resignedly; "I can no deny the thing, if ye look at
it like that."
Carroll changed the subject; but some time later Mrs. Nairn sat down near
him in the temporary absence of her husband and Evelyn.
"We will no be disturbed for two or three minutes," she said. "Ye
answered Alic like a Scotsman before supper and put him off the track,
though that's no so easy done."
Carroll grinned. He enjoyed an encounter with Mrs. Nairn, though she was,
as a rule, more than a match for him.
"You're too complimentary," he declared. "The genuine Caledonian caution
can't be acquired by outsiders; it's a gift."
"I'll no practise it now," returned the lady. "Ye're no so proud of
yourself for nothing. What have ye been after?"
Carroll crossed his finger-tips and looked at her over them.
"Since you ask the question, I may say this--If Miss Chisholm has two
lady visitors during the next few days, you might make sure that she
"What are their names?"
"Miss Celia Hartley, the daughter of the prospector who sent Vane off to
look for the timber, and Miss Kitty Blake, who, as you have probably
heard, once came down the west coast with him, in company with an elder
lady and myself."
Mrs. Nairn started, then she looked thoughtful, and finally she broke
into a smile of open appreciation.
"Now," she ejaculated, "I understand. I did no think it of ye. Ye're no
far from a genius!"
"Thanks. I believe I succeeded better than I could have expected, and
perhaps than I deserved."
They were interrupted then by Nairn, who came hastily into the room.
"There's one of the _Atlin_ deck-hands below," he announced. "He's come
on here from Horsfield's to say that the boat's ready with a full head of
steam up, and the packers ye hired are waiting on the wharf."
Carroll rose and became in a moment intent and eager.
"Tell him I'll be down almost as soon as he is. You'll have to excuse
me." Two minutes later he left the house, and fervent good wishes
followed him from the party on the stoop. He did not stop to acknowledge
them, but shortly afterward the blast of a whistle came ringing across
the roofs from beside the water-front.
One afternoon three or four days after Carroll had sailed, Evelyn sat
alone in Mrs. Nairn's drawing-room, a prey to confused regrets and keen
anxiety. She had recovered from the first shock caused her by Carroll's
news, but though she could face the situation more calmly, she could find
no comfort anywhere--Vane was lying, helpless and famishing, in the
frost-bound wilderness. She knew that she loved the man; indeed, she had
really known it for some time, and it was that which had made Jessy's
revelation so bitter. Now, fastidious in thought and feeling as she was,
she wondered whether she had been too hard upon him; it was becoming more
and more difficult to believe that he could have justified her disgust
and anger; but this was not what troubled her most. She had sent him away
with cold disfavor. Now he was threatened by dangers. It was horrible to
think of what might befall him before assistance arrived, and yet she
could not drive the haunting dread out of her mind.
She was in this mood when a maid announced that two visitors wished to
see her; and when they were shown in, she found it difficult to hide her
astonishment as she recognized in Kitty the very attractive girl she had
once seen in Vane's company. It was this which prompted her to assume a
chilling manner, though she asked her guests to be seated. Neither of
them appeared altogether at her ease, and there was, indeed, a rather
ominous sparkle in Kitty's blue eyes.
"Mr. Carroll was in town not long ago," Kitty began bluntly. "Have you
had any news of him since he sailed?"
Evelyn did not know what to make of the question, and she answered
"No; we do not expect any word for some time."
"I'm sorry. We're anxious about Mr. Vane."
On the surface, the announcement appeared significant, but the girl's
boldness in coming to her for news was inexplainable to Evelyn. Puzzled
as she was, her attitude became more discouraging.
"You know him then?"
Something in her tone made Celia's cheeks burn and she drew herself up.
"Yes," she said; "we know him, both of us. I guess it's astonishing to
you. But I met him first when he was poor, and getting rich hasn't
spoiled Mr. Vane."
Evelyn was once more puzzled. The girl's manner savored less of assurance
than of wholesome pride which had been injured. Kitty then broke in:
"We had no cards to send in; but I'm Kathleen Blake, and this is Celia
Hartley--it was her father sent Mr. Vane off to look for the spruce."
"Ah!" exclaimed Evelyn, a little more gently, addressing Celia. "I
understand that your father died."
Kitty flashed a commanding glance at Celia.
"Yes," the girl replied; "that is correct. He left me ill and worn out,
without a dollar, and I don't know what I should have done if Mr. Vane
hadn't insisted on giving Drayton a little money for me; on account, he
said, because I was a partner in the venture. Then Miss Horsfield got
some work among her friends for me to do at home. Mr. Vane must have
asked her to; it would be like him."
Evelyn sat silent a few moments. Celia had given her a good deal of
information in answer to a very simple remark; but she was most impressed
by the statement that Jessy, who had prejudiced her against Vane, had
helped the girl at his request. It was difficult to believe that she
would have done so had there been any foundation for her insinuations. If
Celia spoke the truth, and Evelyn somehow felt this was the case, the
whole thing was extraordinary.
"Now," continued Celia, "it's no way astonishing that I'm grateful to Mr.
Vane and anxious to hear whether Mr. Carroll has reached him." This was
spoken with a hint of defiance, but the girl's voice changed.
"I am anxious. It's horrible to think of a man like him freezing in
Her concern was so genuine and yet somehow so innocent that Evelyn's
"Yes," she asserted, "it's dreadful." Then she asked a question. "Who's
the Mr. Drayton you mentioned?"
Kitty blushed becomingly; this was her lead.
"He's a kind of partner in the lumber scheme; I'm going to marry him.
He's as firm a friend of Mr. Vane's as any one. There's a reason for
that--I was in a very tight place once, left without money in a desolate
settlement where there was nothing I could do, when Mr. Vane helped me.
But perhaps that wouldn't interest you."
For a moment her doubts still clung to their hold in Evelyn's mind, and
then she suddenly drove the last of them out, with a stinging sense of
humiliation. She could not distrust this girl; it was Jessy's suggestion
that was incredible.
"It would interest me very much," she declared.
Kitty told her story effectively, but with caution, laying most stress
upon Vane's compassion for the child and her invalid mother. She was
rather impressed by Miss Chisholm, but she supposed that she was endowed
with some of the failing common to human nature.
Evelyn listened with confused emotions and a softened face. She was
convinced of the truth of the simple tale, and the thought of Vane's
keeping his moneyed friends and directors waiting in Vancouver in order
that a tired child might rest and gather shells upon a sunny beach
stirred her deeply. It was so characteristic; exactly what she would have
expected him to do.
"Thank you," she said quietly, when Kitty had finished; and then,
flinging off the last of her reserve, she asked a number of questions
about Drayton and about Celia's affairs.
Before her visitors left, all three were on friendly terms; but Evelyn
was glad when they took their departure. She wanted to be alone to think.
In spite of the relief of which she was conscious, her thoughts were far
from pleasant. Foremost among them figured a crushing sense of shame. She
had wickedly misjudged a man who had given her many proofs of the
fineness of his character; the evil she had imputed to him was born of
her own perverted imagination. She was no better than the narrow-minded,
conventional Pharisees she detested, who were swift to condemn out of the
uncleanness of their self-righteous hearts. Then, as she began to reason,
it flashed upon her that she was, perhaps, wronging herself. Her mind had
been cunningly poisoned by an utterly unscrupulous and wholly detestable
woman, and she flamed out into a fit of imperious anger against Jessy.
She had a hazy idea that this was not altogether reasonable, for she was
to some extent fastening the blame she deserved upon another person's
shoulders; but it did not detract from the comfort the indulgence in her
indignation brought her.
When she had grown a little calmer, Mrs. Nairn came in; and Mrs. Nairn
was a discerning lady. It was not difficult to lead Evelyn on to speak of
her visitors, for the girl's pride was broken and she felt in urgent need
of sympathy; but when she had described the interview she felt impelled
to avoid any discussion of the more important issues, even with the
kindly Scotch lady.
"I was surprised at the girls' manner," she concluded. "It must have been
embarrassing to them; but they were really so delicate over it, and they
had so much courage."
Mrs. Nairn smiled.
"Although one of them has traveled with third-rate strolling companies
and the other has waited in a hotel? Weel, maybe your surprise was
natural. Ye canna all at once get rid of the ideas and prejudices ye were
brought up with."
"I suppose that was it," replied Evelyn thoughtfully.
Her companion's eyes twinkled.
"Then, if ye're to live among us happily, ye'll have to try. In the way
ye use the words, some of the leading men in this country were no brought
up at all."
"Do you imagine that I'm going to live here?"
Mrs. Nairn gathered up one or two articles she had brought into the room
with her and moved toward the door, but before she reached it she looked
back with a laugh.
"It occurred to me that the thing was no altogether impossible."
An hour afterward, Evelyn and Mrs. Nairn went down into the town, and in
one of the streets they came upon Jessy leaving a store. The latter was
not lacking in assurance and she moved toward them with a smile; but
Evelyn gazed at her with a total disregard of her presence and walked
quietly on. There was neither anger nor disdain in her attitude; to have
shown either would have been a concession she could not make. The
instincts of generations of gently-reared Englishwomen were aroused, as
well as the revulsion of an untainted nature from something unclean.
Jessy's cheeks turned crimson and a malevolent light flashed into her
eyes as she crossed the street. Mrs. Nairn noticed her expression and
smiled at her companion.
"I'm thinking it's as weel ye met Jessy after she had got the boat for
Carroll," she commented.
The remark was no doubt justified, but the fact that Jessy had been able
to offer valuable assistance failed to soften Evelyn toward her. It was
merely another offense.
In the meanwhile, the powerful tug steamed northward, towing the sloop,
which would be required, and after landing the rescue party at the inlet
steamed away again. Before she had disappeared Carroll began his march,
and his companions long remembered it. Two of them were accustomed to
packing surveyors' stores through the seldom-trodden bush and the others
had worked in logging camps and chopped new roads, but though they did
not spare themselves, they lacked their leader's animus. Carroll, with
all his love of ease, could rise to meet an emergency, and he wore out
his companions before the journey was half done. He scarcely let them
sleep; he fed them on canned stuff to save delay in lighting fires; and
he grew more feverishly impatient with every mile they made. He showed it
chiefly by the tight set of his lips and the tension of his face, though
now and then when fallen branches or thickets barred the way he fell upon
the obstacles with the ax in silent fury. For the rest, he took the lead
and kept it, and the others, following with shoulders aching from the
pack-straps and labored breath, suppressed their protests.
Like many another made in that country, it was a heroic journey; one in
which every power of mind and body was taxed to the limit. Delay might
prove fatal. The loads were heavy; fatigue seized the shrinking flesh,
but the unrelenting will, trained in such adventures, mercilessly spurred
it on. Toughened muscle is useful and in the trackless North can seldom
be dispensed with; but man's strength does not consist of that alone:
there are occasions when the stalwart fall behind and die.
In front of them, as they progressed, lay the unchanging forest,
tangled, choked with fallen wreckage, laced here and there with stabbing
thorns, appalling and almost impenetrable to the stranger. They must
cleave their passage, except where they could take to the creek for an
easier way and wade through stingingly cold water or flounder over
slippery fangs of rock and ice-encrusted stones. There was sharp frost
among the ranges and the brush through which they tore their way was
generally burdened with clogging snow. They went on, however, and on the
last day Carroll drew some distance ahead of those who followed him. It
was dark when he discovered that he had lost them, but that did not
matter, for now and then faint moonlight came filtering down and he was
leaving a plain trail behind. His shoulders were bleeding beneath the
biting straps; he was on the verge of exhaustion; but he struggled
forward, panting heavily and rending his garments to rags as he smashed
through the brakes in the darkness.
The night--it seemed a very long one--was nearly over when he recognized
the roar of a rapid that rang in louder and louder pulsations across the
snow-sprinkled bush. He was not far from the end now, and he became
conscious of an unnerving fear. The ground was ascending sharply, and
when he reached the top of the slope the question from which he shrank
would be answered for him--if there should be no blink of light among the
serried trunks, he would have come too late.
He reached the summit and his heart leaped; then he clutched at a
drooping branch to support himself, shaken by a reaction that sprang from
relief. A flicker of uncertain radiance fell upon the trees ahead, and
down the bitter wind there came the reek of pungent smoke. The bush was
slightly more open, and Carroll broke into a run. Presently he came
crashing and stumbling into the light of the fire and then stopped, too
stirred and out of breath to speak. Vane lay where the red glow fell upon
his face, smiling up at him.
"Well," he said, "you've come. I've been expecting you, but on the whole
I got along not so badly."
Carroll flung off his pack and sat down beside the fire; then he fumbled
for his pipe and began to fill it hurriedly with trembling fingers. He
lighted it and flung away the match before he spoke.
"Sorry I couldn't get through sooner," he mumbled. "The stores on board
the sloop were spoiled; I had to go on to Vancouver. But there are things
to eat in my pack."
"Hand it across. I haven't been faring sumptuously the last few days. No,
sit still! I'm supple enough from the waist up."
He proved it by the way he leaned to and fro as he opened the pack and
distributed part of its contents among the cooking utensils. Carroll
assisted him now and then but he did not care to speak. The sight of the
man's gaunt face and the eagerness in his eyes prompted him to an
outbreak of feeling rather foreign to his nature, and he did not think
his companion would appreciate it. When the meal was ready, Vane looked
up at him.
"I've no doubt this journey cost you something--partner," he said.
Then they ate cheerfully, and Carroll, watching his friend's efforts with
appreciation, told his story in broken sentences. Afterward, they lighted
their pipes, but by and by Carroll's fell from his relaxing grasp.
"I can't get over this sleepiness," he explained. "I believe I disgraced
myself in Vancouver by going off in the most unsuitable places,"
"I dare say it was quite natural. Anyway, hadn't you better hitch
yourself a little farther from the fire?"
Carroll did so and lay still afterward, but Vane kept watch during the
rest of the night, until in the dawn the packers appeared.
VANE IS REINSTATED
Breakfast was over and the two men, wrapped in blankets, lay on opposite
sides of the fire, while the packers reclined in various ungainly
attitudes about another. Now that they had a supply of provisions, haste
was not a matter of importance, and there was no doubt that the rescue
party needed a rest. Carroll was aching all over and was somewhat
disturbed in mind. He had not said anything about their financial affairs
to his comrade yet, and the subject must be mentioned. It was, from every
point of view, an unpleasant one.
"What about the Clermont?" Vane asked at length. "You needn't trouble
about breaking the news--come right to the point."
"Then, to all intents and purposes, the company has gone under; it's been
taken over by Horsfield's friends. Nairn has sold our stock--at
considerably less than face value," Carroll explained, adding a brief
account of the absorption of the concern.
Vane's face set hard.
"I anticipated something of the kind last night; I saw how you kept clear
of the matter."
"But you said nothing."
"No. I'd had time to consider the thing while I lay here, and it didn't
look as if I could have got an intelligible account out of you. But you
may as well mention how much Nairn got."
He lay smoking silently for a few minutes after he learned the amount,
and Carroll was strongly moved to sympathy. He felt that it was not the
financial reverse but one indirect result of it which would hit his
"Well," Vane said grimly, "I suppose I've done what my friends would
consider a mad thing in coming up here--and I must face the reckoning."
Carroll wondered whether their conversation could be confined to the
surface of the subject, because there were depths beneath it that it
would be better to leave undisturbed.
"After all, you're far from broke," he encouraged him. "You have what
the Clermont stock brought in, and you may make something out of this
There was bitterness in Vane's laugh.
"When I left Vancouver for England I was generally supposed to be well on
the way to affluence, and there was some foundation for the idea. I had
floated the Clermont in the face of opposition; people believed in me; I
could have raised what money I required for any new undertaking. Now a
good deal of my money and all of my prestige is gone; people have very
little confidence in a man who has shown himself a failure. What's more,
I may be a cripple. My leg will probably have to be broken again."
Carroll could guess his companion's thoughts. There was a vein of
stubborn pride in him, and he had, no doubt, decided it was unfitting
that Evelyn's future should be linked to that of a ruined man. This was
an exaggerated view, because Vane was in reality far from ruined, and
even if he had been so, he had in him the ability to recover from his
misfortunes. Still, the man was obstinate and generally ready to make a
sacrifice for an idea. Carroll, however, consoled himself with the
reflection that Evelyn would probably have something to say upon the
subject if she were given an opportunity, and he felt certain that Mrs.
Nairn would contrive that she had one.
"I can't see any benefit in making things out considerably worse than
they are," he objected.
"Nor can I," Vane agreed. "After all, I was getting pretty tired of the
city, and I suppose I can raise enough to put up a small-power mill. It
will be a pleasant change to take charge for a year or two in the bush.
I'll make a start at the thing as soon as I'm able to walk."
This was significant, as it implied that he did not intend to remain in
Vancouver, where he would be able to enjoy Evelyn's company; but Carroll
made no comment, and Vane soon spoke again.
"Didn't you mention last night that it was through Miss Horsfield that
you got the tug? I was thinking about something else at the time."
"Yes. She made Horsfield put some pressure on the people who had
previously hired the boat."
"That's rather strange."
For a moment he looked puzzled, but almost immediately his face grew
impassive, and Carroll knew that he had some idea of Jessy's treachery.
He was, however, sure that any suspicions his comrade entertained would
remain locked up in his breast.
"I'm grateful to her, anyway," Vane added. "I dare say I could have held
out another day or two, but it wouldn't have been pleasant."
Carroll began to talk about the preparations for their return, which he
soon afterward set about making, and early the next morning they started
for the sloop, carrying Vane upon a stretcher they had brought with them.
Though they had to cut a passage for it every here and there, they
reached the sloop in safety, and after some trouble in getting Vane below
and onto a locker, Carroll decided to sail straight for Vancouver. They
were favored with moderate, fair winds, and though the little vessel was
uncomfortably crowded, she made a quick passage and stole in through the
Narrows as dusk was closing down one tranquil evening.
Evelyn had spent the greater part of the afternoon on the forest-crested
rise above the city, where she could look down upon the inlet. She had
visited the spot frequently during the last few days, watching eagerly
for a sail that did not appear. There had been no news of Carroll since
the skipper of the tug reported having landed him, and the girl was
tormented by doubts and anxieties. She had just come back and was
standing in Mrs. Nairn's sitting-room, when she heard the tinkle of the
telephone bell. A moment or two later her hostess entered hastily.
"It's a message from Alic," she cried. "He's heard from the
wharf--Vane's sloop's crossing the harbor. I'll away down to see Carroll
brings him here."
Evelyn turned to follow her, but Mrs. Nairn waved her back.
"No," she said firmly; "ye'll bide where ye are. See they get plenty
lights on--at the stairhead and in the passage--and the room on the left
of it ready."
She was gone in another moment, and Evelyn hastily carried out her
instructions and then waited with what patience she could assume. At last
there was a rattle of wheels outside, followed by a voice giving orders,
and then a tramp of feet. The sounds brought her a strange inward
shrinking, but she ran to the door, and saw two tattered men awkwardly
carrying a stretcher up the steps, while Carroll and another assisted
them. Then the light fell upon its burden and, half prepared as she was,
she started in dismay. Vane, whom she had last seen in vigorous health,
lay partly covered with an old blanket which had slipped off him to the
waist. His jacket looked a mass of rags, his hat had fallen aside and his
face showed hollow and worn and pinched. Then he saw her and a light
leaped into his eyes, but the next moment Carroll's shoulder hid him and
the men plodded on toward the stairs. They ascended them with difficulty
and the girl waited until Carroll came down.
"I noticed you at the door. I dare say you were a little shocked at the
change in Vane," he said. "What he has undergone has pulled him down, but
if you had seen him when I first found him, you'd have been worse
startled. He's getting on quite satisfactorily."
Evelyn was relieved to hear it; and Carroll continued:
"As soon as the doctor comes, we'll make him more presentable; he can't
be moved till then, as I'm not sure about the last bandages I put on.
Afterward, he'll no doubt hold an audience."
There was nothing to do but wait, and Evelyn again summoned her
patience. Before long, a doctor arrived, and Carroll followed him to
Vane's room. The invalid's face was very impassive, though Carroll waited
in tense suspense while the doctor stripped off the bandages and bark
supports from the injured leg. He examined it attentively, and then
looked around at Carroll.
"You fixed that limb, when it was broken in the bush?" he asked.
"Yes," Carroll answered, with a desperate attempt to treat the matter
humorously. "But I really think we both had a hand in the thing. My
partner favored me with his views; I disclaim some of the
"Then I guess you've been remarkably fortunate. Perhaps that's the best
way of expressing it."
Vane raised his head and fixed his eyes upon the speaker.
"It won't have to be rebroken? I'll be able to walk without a limp?"
"It's most probable."
Vane's eyes glistened and he let his head fall back.
"It's good news; better than I expected. Now if you could fix me up
again, I'd like to get dressed. I've felt like a hobo long enough."
The doctor smiled indulgently.
"We can venture to change that state of affairs, but I'll superintend the
It was some time before Vane's toilet was completed, and then Carroll
surveyed him with humorous admiration.
"It strikes me you do us credit; and now I suppose I can announce that
Nairn and his wife and Evelyn came in. Nairn, shaking hands with Vane
very heartily, looked down at him with twinkling eyes.
"I'd have been glad to see ye, however ye had come," he asserted, and
Vane fully believed him. "For a' that, this is no the way I would have
wished to welcome ye."
"When a man won't take his friends' advice, what can he expect?"
Nairn nodded, smiling.
"Let it be a warning. If the making of your mark and money is your
object, ye must stick to it and think of nothing else. Ye canna
accumulate riches by spreading yourself, and philanthropy's no lucrative,
except maybe to a few."
"It's good counsel, but I'm thinking that it's a pity," Mrs. Nairn
remarked. "What would ye say, Evelyn?"
The girl was aware that the tone of light banter had been adopted to
cover deeper feelings, which those present shrank from expressing; but
she ventured to give her thoughts free rein.
"I agree with you in one respect," she said. "But I can't believe the
object mentioned is Mr. Vane's only one. He would never be willing to pay
the necessary price."
It was a delicate compliment uttered in all sincerity, and Vane's worn
face grew warm. He was, however, conscious that it would be safer to
avoid being serious, and he smiled.
"Well," he drawled, "looking for timber rights is apt to prove
expensive, too. I had a haunting fear that I might be lame, until the
doctor banished it. I'd better own that I'd no great confidence in
Carroll, keeping strictly to the line the others had chosen, made him an
ironical bow; but Evelyn was not to be deterred.
"It was foolish of you to be troubled," she declared. "It isn't a fault
to be wounded in an honorable fight, and even if the mark remains, there
is no reason why one should be ashamed of it."
Mrs. Nairn glanced at the girl rather sharply, but Carroll came to his
"Strictly speaking, there wasn't a wound," he pointed out. "Fortunately,
it was what is known as a simple fracture. If it had been anything else,
I'm inclined to think I couldn't have treated it."
Nairn chuckled, as if this met with his approval; and his wife turned
around as they heard a patter of footsteps on the stairs.
"Yon bell has kept on ringing ever since we came up," she complained. "I
left word I was no to be disturbed. Weel"--as the door opened--"what is
"The reception room's plumb full," announced the maid, who was lately
from the bush. "If any more folks come along, I sure won't know where
to put 'em."
Now that the door was open, Evelyn could hear a murmur of voices on the
floor below, and the next moment the bell rang violently again. It struck
her as a testimonial to the injured man. Vane had not spent a long time
in Vancouver, but he had the gift of making friends. Having heard of the
sloop's arrival, they had come to inquire for him, and there was
obviously a number of them.
Mrs. Nairn glanced interrogatively at Carroll.
"It does no look as if they could be got rid of by a message."
"I guess he's fit to see them," Carroll answered, "We'll hold a levee. If
he'd only let me, I'd like to pose him a bit."
Mrs. Nairn, with Evelyn's assistance, did so instead, rearranging the
cushions about the man, in spite of his confused and half-indignant
protests; and during the next half-hour the room was generally full.
People walked in, made sympathetic inquiries, or exchanged cheerful
banter, until Mrs. Nairn forcibly dismissed the last of them. After this,
she declared that Vane must go to sleep, and paying no heed to his
assertion that he had not the least wish to do so, she led her remaining
A couple of hours had passed when she handed Evelyn a large tumbler
containing a preparation of beaten eggs and milk.
"Ye might take him this and ask if he would like anything else," she
said. "I'm weary of the stairs and I would no trust Minnie. She's
handiest at spilling things."
"It's the third and, I'd better say firmly, the limit."
Then he assumed an aggrieved expression as Evelyn moved off with the
"I can't see why I couldn't have gone. I think I've discharged my duties
as nurse satisfactorily."
"I canna help ye thinking," Mrs. Nairn informed him. "But I would point
out that ye have now and then been wrong."
"That's a fact," Carroll confessed.
Evelyn fully shared his suspicions. Her hostess's artifice was a
transparent one, but she nevertheless fell in with it. She had seen Vane
only in the company of others; this might be the same again to-morrow;
and there was something to be said. By intuition as much as reason, she
recognized that there was something working in his mind; something that
troubled him and might trouble her. It excited her apprehension and
animated her with a desire to combat it. That she might be compelled to
follow an unconventional course did not matter. She knew this man was
hers--and she could not let him go.
She entered his room collectedly. He was lying, neatly dressed, upon a
couch with his shoulders raised against the end of it, for he had thrown
the cushions which supported him upon the floor. As she came in, he
leaned down in an attempt to recover them, and finding himself too late
looked up guiltily. The fact that he could move with so much freedom was
a comfort to the girl. She set the tray down on a table near him.
"Mrs. Nairn has sent you this," she said, and the laugh they both
indulged in drew them together.
Then her mood changed and her heart yearned over him. He had gone away
a strong, self-confident, prosperous man, and he had come back
defeated, broken in fortune and terribly worn. Her pity shone in her
"Do you wish to sleep?" she asked.
"No," Vane assured her; "I'd a good deal rather talk to you."
"I want to say something," Evelyn confessed. "I'm afraid I was rather
unpleasant to you the evening before you sailed. I was sorry for it
afterward; it was flagrant injustice."
"Then I wonder why you didn't answer the letter I wrote at Nanaimo."
"The letter? I never received one."
Vane considered this for a few moments.
"After all," he declared, "it doesn't matter now. I'm acquitted?"
The man's satisfaction was obvious, but he smiled.
"Do you know," he said, "I've still no idea of my offense?"
Evelyn was exceedingly glad to hear it, but a warmth crept into her face,
and as the blood showed through the delicate skin he fixed his eyes upon
"It was all a mistake; I'm sorry still," she murmured penitently.
"Oh!" he exclaimed in a different tone. "Don't trouble about it. The
satisfaction of being acquitted outweighs everything else. Besides, I've
made a number of rather serious mistakes myself. The search for that
spruce, for instance, is supposed to be one."
"No," returned Evelyn decidedly; "whoever thinks that, is wrong. It is a
very fine thing you have done. It doesn't matter in the least that you
"Do you really believe that?"
"Of course. How could I believe anything else?"
The man's face changed again, and once more she read the signs. Whatever
doubts and half-formed resolutions--and she had some idea of them--had
been working in his mind were dissipating.
"Well," he continued, "I've sacrificed the best half of my possessions
and have destroyed the confidence of the people who, to serve their ends,
would have helped me on. Isn't that a serious thing?"
"No; it's really a most unimportant one. I"--the slight pause gave the
assertion force--"really mean it."
Vane partly raised himself with one arm and there was no doubting the
significance of his intent gaze.
"I believe I made another blunder--in England. I should have had
more courage and have faced the risk. But you might have turned
against me then."
"I don't think that's likely," Evelyn murmured, lowering her eyes.
The man leaned forward eagerly, but the hand he stretched out fell short,
and the trivial fact once more roused her compassion for his
"You can mean only one thing!" he cried. "You wouldn't be afraid to face
the future with me now?"
"I wouldn't be afraid at all."
A half-hour later Mrs. Nairn tapped at the door and smiled rather broadly
when she came in. Then she shook her head reproachfully.
"Ye should have been asleep a while since," she scolded Vane, and then
turned to Evelyn. "Is this the way ye intend to look after him?"
She waved the girl toward the door and when she joined her in the passage
she kissed her effusively.
"Ye have got the man I would have chosen ye," she declared. "It will no
be any fault of his if ye are sorry."
"I have very little fear of that," laughed Evelyn.
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