IN GIVING an account of what happened to Philip Allaway in connection with the Kingscote inheritance, it is only fair to make it clear that that young man’s predilections were largely the result of environment and heredity. His father had been a happy-golucky character, who expected more from life than he put into it. One word was conspicuously absent from the Allaway ritual—and that word was work. Allaway senior extracted as much as possible from his fifteen hundred a year, and having lived with a lingering and wistful desire for just a few hundred more, died rather abruptly with that desire still unsatisfied. Then his son took up the same trail without effort or question.
Fifteen hundred pounds a year was, to him, an exasperating income—enough to rob one of the incentive to work, but not enough to satisfy a luxurious appetite. Imaginatively he spent another two thousand, and figuratively enjoyed himself. And Marjorie, his wife, had, no doubt, a good deal to do with it.
One thing encouraged them both. John Kingscote, Philip’s uncle, had at the most five years to go. Also he had a sound three thousand a year. This income— or the thought of it—occupied much of Philip’s time. He got amazing and imaginary bargains. This money bred more money. He saw himself striding on to financial prominence—a man of power. Marjorie had a salon where he occasionally showed himself—but only occasionally. She was really the better spender of the two. She did not expect Philip to make money—but he suggested the possibility. And she, too, was comforted by the thought of old John Kingscote.
The thing happened sooner than they expected, and Philip, in a whirl, went by request to the office of his uncle’s solicitor. He was there for half-an-hour, and started homeward in a semi-conscious condition. Marjorie, who was waiting for him and the figures, plied him with questions till she realized that he was too agitated to speak. Presently he took out of his pocket a cheque, and handed it to her.
“ Five hundred pounds!” She nodded contentedly.
“I’d better begin at the beginning,” he said shakily. “Uncle John left seventy-five thousand at four per cent.
But he also left a younger brother.”
“What!” Marjorie felt a little sick.
“When I say younger, he must be about sixty now. Uncle John thought he was dead, until quite recently— then heard in a roundabout way that he was somewhere in British Columbia; at least, that was the rumor.”
“And he gets it?” gasped the girl.
“Yes, if he still exists.”
Marjorie had a sinking feeling of absolute conviction that he did exist. She stared at her husband speechlessly.
“The thing is left in an extraordinary way. It’s up to me to find out if he is still alive.
I’m to go out to British Columbia at once and look for him. If I don’t find him in six months, we get the inheritance. Uncle John stipulates that the inquiring be entirely in my hands. That cheque is for my expenses. To begin with, I’m to insert a notice in the Canadian papers.”
“The old beast!” she said vindictively. “Of course
This vigorous story of the B.C. coast is by the author of “The ]ade God.
you will find him. There isn’t any doubt, is there?” There fell a silence. They did not look at each other, but each communicated an identical and sudden thought. After a long pause Philip lifted his glance slowly to Marjorie’s face. It had strangely sharpened. Her lips were now thin and compressed, and her smile had given place to something unnatural and furtive. She stared
straight into the fire.
“Of course you will find him,” she said provocatively.
Still he did not answer. All thoughts of the inheritance had been curiously displaced by this glimpse. He felt himself suddenly called on to search himself for some quality to meet it. It was as if, in a queer way, she had lowered the family average, and it was for him to restore it.
“And if I do,” he answered slowly, “we sha’n’t be any worse off than we are now.” “But this is the one thing we hoped for, and some old man who’s been an outcast for years steps in between. He has nothing ahead of him, and we have everything.” Philip was now on the defensive quite definitely, and was disturbed much less by the thought of losing the inheritance than by this vision of a new Marjorie, who had lurked, it seemed, behind a rather casual exterior—the Marjorie with whom he would always have to deal. He had wanted the money himself, but not like that.
“You’re going, I sup-
Still she did
not look at him.
“Yes, I must. The solicitor wants me to sail next week.”
Her lids lowered until she could see only a line of yellow flame. She knew just what kind of expression Philip was wearing, and had no desire to watch it. The fire seemed insolent and outrageous—as though it were consuming John Kingscote’s fortune before her eyes. Never had the old man’s money been more desired than at this moment; and
now Philip was going to the Pacific to try to get rid of it. The irony of it all hit her in the face.
“He never liked us,” she broke out. “He only played with us, dangling his fortune. Old people don't realize what it often costs young ones to lie nice to them and we were nice." She bit her lip at that, and hurried on. “He's just trying to teach you a lesson, and is walling to pay five hundred pounds to bring us both back to earth. And, besides,” she concluded bitterly, “you don't know what other instructions the solicitor may have."
He shook his head. "I don’t, and I don't care," he said, a little wearily. “There's just one thing about it that I like, and----”
“That you like!”
"Yes. Uncle John evidently believed I've stuff enough in me to do this —though I never gave him any particular reason for believing in me.” He went on candidly: “He knew it would be a rotten job, but he reckoned I was good for it—and I rather like him for that.”
"I don't understand you at all."
“I didn’t think you would,” he said, with a little lift.
' I 'HIS mood carried Philip over the next few days, during which he made successive discoveries in himself. He found them in an odd way reassuring. Their gradual effect was to make him feel something like a crusader—though Marjorie’s farewell could not be said to speed him courageously on. Three weeks later he was in Vancouver, and sniffing the salt fogs of the Pacific.
He put the advertisement in both local papers. This seemed to be the last act of sacrifice, save one. He began to make inquiries, and found to his secret relief that no man of the name of Henry Kingscote was known to either to the police or to the postal authorities of Vancouver or Victoria.
He discovered that there were more than two thousand miles of coast-line in the province. This cheered him enormously. Then he settled down to wait, wrote to Marjorie, and enjoyed the next few weeks exceedingly. The idea of finding any individual in the surrounding wilderness seemed grotesque. At the end of a month the advertisement was still unanswered.
He had lounged down to the docks to see a Yokohama liner move out, when, like an echo from the unknown, his uncle's name drifted across a slip where adisreputable coasting-steamer was moored. He heard it quite distinctly through the chuckle of water amongst the massive timber piles that supported the wharf, but it was not till a moment or two later that he realized its full import. The thing seemed to have removed itself too definitely. He did not stir, but stared at the small vessel from which breathed the odors of cargoes many and varied. This was the kind of boat, he had learned, that poked her blunt nose into hidden harbors, where she picked up pulp, fish, ore, skins, or whatever offered. On her after-deck two men were conversing—as disreputable as the ship herself. Kingscote’s name occurred again, and Allaway yielded to a blinding conviction that the man existed after all. He walked very slowly round the ship and leaned over the after-rail. “I’m looking for a man of that name,” he said, in a pause in the conversation; “Henry Kingscote.”
/ANE of the deck-hands glanced up a little suspiciously. V ' A good many men were looked for at times along that coast, and it was recognized as sound practice to mind one’s own business. Allaway, with his English clothes and voice, was patently an outsider.
“Well, there’s nothing to prevent you."
“He’s my uncle,” added Allaway stiffly.
“There’s nothing to prevent that either.” The deckhand spat over-side into the black' water.
Allawav flushed, and took a copy of the local paper out of his pocket. “Perhaps that will convince you” he said.
I have good news for Kingscote—if I can only find him.”
Something in his irritation drew a shrewd glance, and the other man's voice came in casually. "Tell him. Bill. I guess it’s straight; and if it isn't, the old man’s able to take care of himself.”
Allaway smiled, in spite of himself, at the irony of it all and handed over his card. “That’s my name.”
Bill took it and turned it over in a brown paw. “Nice things, them. I never seen one before.” Then, with a grunt, he went on: “Old Kingscote is about three hundred miles from here and he ain’t fond of strangers. I wouldn’t carry no gun when you go up to his shack."
Allaway's brows went up. “How do I get there?” he said doggedly.
“Well, you might take a passenger-boat up to Swanson
Bay—that’s three hundred and fifty miles—at the end of the week, and chance it to get a launch that would run you down the inside channel to Poison’s Cove, where the old man lives; or you might come up north with us to-morrow on the Venus— we’re going right there. I don’t know whether you can get a launch or not. They’re scarce in the fishing season.”
Allaway glanced at the dirty decks. “Supposing I don’t get a launch?”
“Well, you hang around Swanson Bay for a week. It’s a great place for rain.”
There was a little silence after that, and Bill, losing interest, turned to his companion. There was something about the whole outfit—drab, dirty, and dingy — that suggested itself curiously as being a fitting medium for this last act of sacrifice. Philip was now in a temper to take the rough with the smooth—and this was certainly rough. There was a touch of the heroic in descending from this marine outcast with a fortune in his hands and proferring it to the old man of Poison’s Cove; so, with a throb of recklessness, he said that he would sail on the tramp to-morrow. Whereat Bill merely grunted, and was inwardly pleased at the idea of seeing the starch taken out of an immaculate Britisher.
THREE days later Allaway landed from the dinghy on a strip of shingly beach. The Venus gave out one throaty blast that echoed mockingly amid the surrounding peaks, furrowed her way round a point, and was immediately lost. Silence abysmal and seemingly illimitable, settled down, and the traveller stared curiously about.
A little clearing where the timber was thinner, a patch of black soil where vegetables flourished, a tiny dock where the shore fell away abruptly to deep water, a trail that wound through scattered stumps, a log cabin that rested at the base of a gigantic spruce. Behind this rose the big timber—vast, impressive boles a thousand years old, steeped in shadow; and, behind the timber, the mountains, with purple shades climbing their long flanks toward the flush that still lingered on the alabaster peaks. Against all this was set the Pacific: smooth like a forest pool, with distant islands that swam in the half-light.
Half-way to the cabin Allaway halted. Something moved toward him between the great trees at the clearing's edge, and took the form of a little man clad in rusty brown, with a rifle under his arm. He wore no hat. His face, too, was brown, with the smooth tan of exposure, and as he came nearer Allaway saw that his eyes were very bright and blue. He walked with a light, noiseless tread. Thirty feet away Philip knew that he had found his man.
“And who might you be?” Even the voice was like that of the late John Kingscote, very quiet, and retaining the soft English inflection.
Philip drew a long breath and told him, whereupon the hermit, with a curious chuckle that held no regret for the late departed, seized the new-comer’s bag and started for the cabin. He did not seem in any way affected or elated. Two minutes afterwards, Philip looked round his uncle’s abode and admitted that it was good—very good. Presently he became aware of the little man’s scrutiny. “I came to give you this,” he said, and brought out the solicitor’s letter.
The hermit received it with a nod, and, motioning his visitor to a chair, betook himself to a bearskin-covered couch, where he sat leaning forward for a few minutes of silence. Presently he glanced up, and Philip noted a flicker of humor in the blue eyes. “It's a lo: of money. I suppose since you’re my nephew I can can you Philip. There's no particular hurry about this, is there?”
Young Allaway shook his head. “That's for you to say. I'm out of it now."
The old man folded the letter slowly and slipped it back into the envelope. “Needs thinking over, eh? Ever been in this part of the country before?”
“No,” said Philip.
“Well, you’re here for a week now. Suppose you make the best of it, and,” he added, quizzically, “of me?”
A LISP of water sounded along the shore, and in the silence Philip was suddenly grateful that Henry Kingscote had offered neither thanks nor condolence. It was a good thing, he reflected, that his late uncle’s money was going to a man who obviously would never know how to spend it all. He wondered for a moment just how this hermit would use it, then put all thought of money out of his mind, and was aware at the same time that something in the character of his surroundings made it easier to do this than he had expected.
“Shoot?” said the hermit.
“Hares, partridge—and grouse when I can get them.” “Fish?”
Philip smiled, and glanced at the curving shore. “Bream, roach—and trout when I can get them.”
Kingscote thrust a brown finger into the bowl of a brown pipe. “That’s England as I remember it—forty years ago,” he said musingly; then, in the softest possible voice, “Would you like to kill a grizzly?”
Philip nodded quite automatically. Never in all his wildest dreams had such a thing occurred to him.
“Then we’ll get one this week.” The hermit spoke as though the brute were just outside, waiting to be slaughtered. “The spring salmon are running now—they go up to sixty pounds. It’s good fishing.” His accents trailed out, but he still held his guest in a contemplative glance. “Now, suppose you forget everything but this”—he made a gesture that took in the entire coast of British Columbia —“for I’m glad to see you, and you’ve done a difficult job right well. It will take me a little while to decide just what I’ll do with all that money of John’s. I reckon that a thousand dollars would buy all I’ve got here. Seems queer, eh; but—anyway—forget it. Hungry? I could do with a bite myself.”
They ate preserved salmon-berries, fresh bannock, wild honey, and grilled spring salmon; after which the hermit sat for an hour, staring at the fire and sending out
little, regular puffs of smoke. He declined cigarettes and cigars. “You can’t get your teeth into ’em,” he explained, “and a pipe’s the only thing—especially in the big timber. That spruce near the shore—it was a sapling when William the Conqueror put his hooks into England —and I’ll show you bigger ones to-morrow. We don’t use sheets in this country, but the blankets are clean. Goodnight, nephew.”
The old man went to sleep like a child, unburdened by the consciousness of wealth, but Philip lay awake for hours. He stared out of the low-cut window at the glassy bay, and heard the barking of gray seals that fished in the clear water. There was no wind, and the night was full of little crepitant sounds. He tried to think of England and Marjorie, but they seemed too far away, and, in a curious fashion, unreal. His own affairs, his disappointment and resentment, began to be smoothed under the touch of invisible fingers that reached in with the tide and laid upon him a subtle caress. And then he slept.
BY MID-FORENOON they were traversing the alluvial plain that borders the river which the hermit called Poison’s Creek: otherwise it had no name. Here grew the biggest timber, an interminable succession of great trunks, spruce and hemlock, whose roots had groped at the moist earth for a thousand years. The ground was carpeted with deep moss and giant ferns, over which the tree-tops mingled in a vast canopy, hundreds of feet above the soil. It was a cathedral of nature, the green tracery of its roof supported by brownblack columns ten feet in diameter, its cloisters filled with the hush of ages. Through them toiled Philip, his feet sinking in the yielding moss, a pigmy in a titan setting; while twenty yards ahead glided the hermit, himself a thing of the forest, noiseless, observant, and seemingly without speech. Now and then he made a gesture at some giant that overtopped its brethern, till, gradually, they began to ascend, and came out on a spur of the Cascade Range, where spruce gave way to cedar, and the wild coast-line became visible far to the south. Here the little man put up a wet finger to feel the wind, and shook his head warningly at Philip’s cigarette. “No, I wouldn’t. Wait till we get him. You’ve just been through the finest patch of stuff on the coast. Don’t know how you feel about that sort of thing, or if you feel it at all. With me it
goes for a good deal—get myself in a sort of perspective, eh?—and most other things too. That’s the effect—it makes you feel like hell-—you don’t know why. At first I used to conclude that anything in the world was possible after I’d been here for a while. Had a sort of impulse to go out and do it—then didn’t just like to leave— this.”
He pointed to the green carpet beneath them, through which scattered monsters thrust up here and there an overtowering crest. “By-and-by it gets you, as it’s got me. Isn’t it possible that these trees, after sucking in the winds and fogs and juices of the earth for so many hundreds of yeai's, give something of that out again? I don’t know, and nobody knows, but they’re something more than just alive—in a secret way that we haven’t got on to.” He lay back, his hands under his head. “And now you’re thinking that, if this is the way I feel, I shan’t have any use for John’s money.”
Philip started. It was exactly what had occurred to him.
“But,” drawled the hermit, his eyes fixed on the drifting clouds, “I don’t suppose you know that with this money I can buy a good slice of this coast district—for keeps. My God!” he whispered, “I hadn’t thought of it myself till this very minute. Some one will come along presently—as they have farther south—and want to cut that”—he pointed to the silent forest—“cut that down to make paper on which to print rotten, lying statements. And,” he concluded wistfully, “I can stop that—or at any rate some of it. Eh—what about it?”
Philip did not look at him. “Yes, you can.”
The hermit chuckled. “All of which has nothing to do with our grizzly. Come on.”
They climbed higher over broken ground, and close to the edge of long, narrow strips of dwindling timber that thrust themselves up the depressions in the mountain slopes. The coast-line unrolled, till channel and point and bay stretched out their lazy miles in a soft panorama of purple and blue and green, melting toward an undecipherable distance that revealed provocative glimpses of still further enchantment. The supreme unction of it was settling like a garment on Philip’s spirit, when, from a. slope a little higher up, a stone slithered down. The hermit became instantly alert.
“That’s our meat. Now do exactly as I do,” he whispered. “There’s only a breath of wind, but it’s favorable..
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Continued from page 11
Don’t shoot unless you get a sight just behind the angle ot the foreleg.” He put a finger to his lips and squirmed on.
TEN minutes later, Philip, peering over a boulder, saw the grizzly a hundred yards away. He seemed about the size of a cow. His ruddy, brown coat blended almost indistinguishably with the rock and soil. As he pulled at a long, succulent root, great waves of tawny fur ran over his body. Philip, breathing hard, pushed the barrel of his rifle over the top of the boulder, and in doing so made a slight scraping sound. In a flash the brute looked up, his small eyes on the boulder, and lurched inquiringly toward it, his black muzzle wrinkling as he shambled downhill. His head was carried low. Philip caught the loose play of massive shoulders, the soft shuffle of the great and terrible paws. He sent a beseeching glance at the hermit, who was cuddled down fifty feet away, his cheek glued against the stock of his rifle. The young man hesitated to fire at the bony skull, and had ghastly visions of what an infuriated grizzly might look like. Then his finger crooked on the trigger when the beast was only a hundred feet off, and a bullet ploughed along the shaggy side. At that the grizzly rose toweringly, his lips lifted from a red-black mouth, and came on with an indignant grunt, his extended claws scraping on the bare rock. Philip firedagain, and clipped off the tip of a pointed ear. He was horribly rattled, and sent an appealing shout to Kingseote, who seemed turned to stone. The big brute was within fifty feet of the boulder ere the little man’s rifle spoke—twice, and so rapid were the shots that they sounded like one. The grizzly lurched as though something invisible had pushed him aside. In the next moment, carried by his impetus, he thudded against the face of Philip’s shelter and collapsed in a twitching mass. Blood gushed from his mouth—he stretched his great, gaunt body in one convulsive effort —and lay still.
The hermit strolled up, examined his quarry’s teeth and claws, then, lifting the great forearm, showed his nephew two small holes where the fur was short at the back of the first joint.
“I had to wait till I could get him there. Hope it didn’t bother you much. Heart and lungs—that does it every time; but you can’t stop these big fellows at once — ever. There’s too much weight behind ’em. I reckon you’d better take his hide back with you.”
SUCH was Philip’s introduction to life on Poison’s Cove; and when, without protest from the little man, he lit a cigarette, and gave himself up to contemplation of the beast in front of him, he felt the first real comprehension of this ancient Nimrod who was about to dispossess him of a long-anticipated fortune. Old Kingseote seemed to have eliminated most of the things which Philip began secretly to admit were, perhaps, non-essentials. He would use his money to preserve what was undoubtedly worth preserving, which might be a better thing than using it to cater to one’s ideas of luxury. It struck young Allaway just at this moment that he was six thousand miles from his wife, and thereby secured more rope for his imagination than otherwise would be possible and he perceived that here in Poison’s Cove he might capture something with which to fortify himself against his return.
The fact that the hermit not only skinned the grizzly, declining all help, but also carried hide and head, which weighed just about what he did, back to the cabin that same night—strapped over his muscular shoulders with a tumpline filled the young man with a new respect. Kingseote evidently didn't think anything of it, but talked after supper about England with a certain wistfulness, and made tentative inquiries as to what Philip was doing with himself and his life. He did not seem much impressed with the result.
“I suppose,” he said, after a long, ruminative pause, “that with some it’s things, and with others people. For my end of it I find things more comforting than people, and that’s why I’d like to own a slice of this timber. Perhaps I never went far enough to meet people, and so I took to things—for they’ll come right up to you if you only stay still a
while. It was different with John and your father. We all went to school together. John liked people and used ’em, while your father liked ’em too—but they used him. I was sent home because I kept a badger in the bottom drawer of my bureau. He bit the house-master who came round to inspect our rooms—but he never bit me. Later on I drifted abroad. I guess I made my brothers uncomfortable. I hadn’t any use for money, and wandered round the world till I fetched up on this coast ten years ago. It’s about twelve months past that I sent John a picturepostcard of a canning-factory ten miles north of here—sort of impulse on my part.” The hermit paused, and a twinkle dawned in his blue eyes. “I didn’t know whether he got it or not—for he didn’t answer.”
Philip felt a throb of revolt. That a grizzled old trapper should send a picture-postcard, and be answered with £75,000, was preposterous.
“Queer, isn’t it,” Kingscote rambled on, “how you can’t be lost in the wilderness? If that card had been sent from London— there was no address on it—you’d never have found me. Seems as though in a country like this a man takes on a certain importance from the things around him, while down in Whitechapel I’d be of no importance at all.”
PHILIP did not answer at once. It seemed a little unfair that the thing should be thus rubbed in. “You said something about fishing,” he hazarded pressently.
Kingscote leaned forward and put a hand on his knee. “Ice getting a little thin, eh? Well, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to forgive an old man who hasn’t had much chance to talk. Fishing, yes— spring salmon—we’ll get some to-morrow.”
At daylight they embarked in a stout boat that was the hermit’s pride. As they sailed he talked, till two strong lines were unreeled, heavily weighted with lead to carry the hook to deep water. The air was sharp and sweet, with a bit of trailing fog that cleared before a blazing sun. Their course took them close to shore, skirting the bare band of rock that marks the travel of the tide, its upper edge a mass of twisting roots where the gnarled cedars groped for anchorage against the winter gales. Here and there the water was dotted with the heads of seals, who turned their dark, liquid eyes on the boat and dived for safety. At the mouths of creeks were dead trunks, where whiteheaded eagles sat, watching an army of fish that struggled up the shallows to drop their spawn.
The marshes were populous with geese and ducks, while from a distance came the hoarse voice of an ivory-beaked raven, the scavenger of the north. The hermit was surveying it all contentedly, when Philip felt a violent tug at his line and began to haul in. Soon, like living silver plunged in liquid emerald, the great fish became visible, and his wrists began to weaken against fifty pounds of writhing, fighting weight. The hermit leaned over and out.
“Up a little—a little more!”
Came the crack of a heavy bludgeon and the thrust of a gaff. The salmon quivered and grew limp. In the bottom of the boat he flapped once with a broad, strong tail—and lay motionless.
Philip was rather proud. It was savage sport—but still sport. “What shall we do with him now we’ve got him?”
“Get more—and sell them to the canning-factory. It’s only ten miles away.” They fished for hours with fair success. At sunset they slid into a small harbor where the cannery lay, and where for five months in the year the harvest of the sea is cooked for distribution over the face of the world. So, after sunset back to Poison’s Cove with a favoring breeze that died just as they touched the gravelly beach, and the shadow of the big timber began to grow black and mysterious.
THUS the week passed, while every day the hermit revealed some new charm of his wilderness. To Philip, England and its attendant anxieties now seemed very far away, and in their distance he achieved something of a new angle of vision. His rather soft body was getting harder, and an appetite that for years had been jaded was now extraordinarily keen. The things he had wanted—and Marjorie had wanted three months ago, commenced to look unreasonable, and it was in a quiet hour
when he walked by himself in the big timber that he realized he was happy— because, forsooth! he had forgotten about John Kingscote’s fortune. He was even able to take a whimsical pleasure in prophesying what the hermit, suddenly affluent, would do with his money. He could not imagine him in the world of men, but it was easy to picture him the lord of a strip of this booming coast, the pigmy master of big timber. And, thus environed, Henry Kingscote took on more interesting proportions than ever before.
But the settler said nothing further of his plans. When the last night came, he sat at his home-made table, writing laboriously, while Philip watched him silently, in full knowledge that these were the hermit’s instructions to the solicitor. Yet the young man felt no stir of resentment. He assumed that Henry Kingscote was unaccustomed to the use of money, that its possession gave himno thrill, and that he would employ it only to perpetuate, so far as he could, the sanctity of the surrounding forest—and that the grizzlies on the neighboring hills would benefit at Marjorie’s expense. But, he decided, the wiser plan would be to say nothing of this to Marjorie. Presently the hermit sealed the letter, and wrote the address in a slow, painstaking script. “Will you turn that in to the lawyer when you get back?”
Allaway nodded, then got up, moved awkwardly to the fireplace, and spoke with a little flush. “Look here, uncle, there’s just one thing I want to say. When I first heard about you, I was damned rebellious. It was—well—a bit of a shock to us both, and when I got here I still felt that way. It began to pass when you rolled over that grizzly just at the right time, and it’s been passing ever since, till there’s hardly any of it left now. So I can say I’m glad you’ve got that money, and if, a couple of years from now, you want me to come out and have a shoot over your private preserves I’ll be glad to come—and—that’s all.”
The little man listened without moving a muscle. At the end of it he stretched out a sinewy hand. “Shake. I reckoned you had stuff in you—now I’m sure of it. I don’t know what it would feel like to lose three thousand pounds a year, especially,” he put in shrewdly, “if I had just enough to make me want more. You see, I’ve never had anything—till now. I’m glad you take it as you do, but is your wife able to do the same?”
“No,” said Philip, candidly; “at least, she showed no signs of it when I left.”
“Maybe,” ventured the hermit, “you’ve been giving her just a mite too much of her own way.”
Philip chuckled. “Perhaps we’ve each had our own way. It was as much my fault as hers—always. But I think I can do better now, thanks to—well—thanks to ‘things.’ ”
The little man blinked approvingly. “If you hadn’t said that I shouldn’t have got any satisfaction at all out of my money. I’ll enjoy it now. John, through his lawyers, has offered me his house, but I couldn’t live there—not the right sort of things,” he interjected, with a grin; “so I’ll stay right on here and do what I can to chirk the place up. Any time you like to write, I’ll get it in a few months— more or less. I’ve salted down that grizzly skin—it will keep till you reach home— and here’s a couple of sea otter for your wife. Just as well not to go home quite empty-handed, eh? And I found another of those picture cards of that cannery— best take it as a reminder of a good day’s fishing. And I guess that’s all, so good night.”
TWELVE hours later the Venus bucked her way out of Poison’s Cove against a strong tide. Philip stood in the stern, waving good-bye to a diminutive figure that soon was indistinguishable against its background of big timber. The cabin faded into its primeval setting, and the ragged tops of great trees became silhouetted against the long flanks of the hills. Then the Venus rounded a point and set her stem toward Elizabeth Sound and more frequented waters.
Philip was heading away from “things” and toward a world of less pleasant realities. The past week had been like a dream. He stared at the point beyond which lay Poison’s Cove. Had any one described what was there, he would already have almost doubted it. But in his cabin was a bundle of evil-smelling furs— and in his pocket the hermit’s letter. And these were unquestionably real things.
The farther eastward he journeyed, the more impalpable it all seemed, till by the time he was half-way across the Atlantic it was as though he had executed a mission for some third person in whom he was not particularly interested. He was going home to a decent income, to a wife who would complain for a while and then settle down to a comfortable existence, and he was taking with him certain new and personal assets, which could not be called financial, but which, he was assured, would be of permanent value. He had found them on the slopes of the Selkirks, in the big timber, on the waters of the Pacific, and by a fireside in a cabin on Poison’s Cove. The really difficult thing would be to convince Marjorie that they actually were assets.
SHE met him with a question in her eyes that died in the first few moments, and gave way to honest disappointment. He had expected this, and his attitude was tuned to the occasion; but gradually it appeared that, during his absence, Marjorie had schooled herself for the inevitable. It struck him that she had been taking stock of things, and he was agreeably surprised when, during that day, she displayed no bitterness, but only a lingering wistfulness for what might have been. He told her of the letter he had left with the solicitor, and the manner of its writing. His description of the hermit interested and piqued her, till she began to conjure up romantic pictures of a kingdom of the wilderness, dominated by a brighteyed, steady-nerved recluse with three ■ thousand pounds a year.
“You’ll take me when you go—I’ll promise not to be jealous,” she said, with a smile. “I’ve been thinking things over while you were away. After all, we have enough; and if you can—”
“That’s just what I’m going to do. I’ll double it in two years,” he interrupted, with the strength of the salt Pacific surging through his veins. “Matter of fact, I found something more than an uncle. I found a philosopher of the kind I needed.” She nodded contentedly, perceiving that their common horizon had broadened greatly in the past few months. Philip drew his inspirations from a hermit, from solitude, trees and mountains and the magic of Poison’s Cove, while she had drawn it from an unexpected little personal backwater where she had unveiled her other self and communed with it during a profound and breathless period. She was not in any way exalted, but only cheerful—and saner than ever before in her life.
“Queer, isn’t it,” he said, presently, “we’ve both made the same sort of discovery? I don’t suppose we’d ever have made it if fortune had simply dropped into our laps. I wonder what the old hermit is doing now.”
“What time is it there?”
“He is nine hours behind us—that makes it seven in the morning. The hermit is washing in a tin basin on a hewn bench outside the cabin. Bacon is spluttering in the pan beside a salmon-steak. Coffee is ready. There is a fresh bannock and a jar of preserved fruit. Over the fireplace is a wooden box, and in that box is the letter that brought good news. Queer that he never asked me to read it! Out in the cove the seals are hunting, and a grizzly—the brother of the one I brought you—is looking for his breakfast five miles away. There’s a bit of a fog, and the tide’s coming in. Under the big spruce—” He was interrupted by the entrance of a maid with a letter, which, she said, had just been delivered by hand. _ Philip, glancing at it, saw the solicitor’s name on the envelope.
“What is it?” asked Marjorie.
“An acknowledgment of the one I left.
I asked them to send me one.”
“Then I’ll open it, while you tell me more. It’s all fascinating.”
He handed it to her, his mind still pitched six thousand miles away. In another moment she gave a little scream. “Philip!”
“Listen to this?” She began to read in a very shaky voice:
“ ‘Dear Sir,—Pursuant to the instructions of our late client, Mr. John Kingscote, we beg to advise you as follows:
“ ‘It is quite true that Mr. Kingscote left his property to his brother. Mr. Henry Kingscote, if the latter were still alive, but it was with the proviso that should his brother, after making your acquaintance,* deem you qualified to receive it. he was to
make what he might consider a suitable allowance to yourself and your wife.
“ ‘Pursuant further to instructions, you were asked to make such reasonable investigation as might prove or disprove the survival of Mr. Henry Kingscote. We are now at liberty to say that had you not evinced a complete readiness to undertake this mission honorably, we should have had no alternative but to apply your late uncle’s property to a purpose other than that to which it will now be devoted.
“ ‘When you proceeded to British Columbia, you carried with you a copy of your late uncle’s testament. That this was in due course delivered, we are now assured by the receipt from Mr. Henry Kingscote, at your hands, of a letter, a copy of which we have pleasure in enclosing. It requires no comment from us.
“ ‘We beg, therefore, that you will make it convenient to call upon us at an early date, when we shall be glad to receive your instructions concerning the funds already in our hands, and to discharge our duties as your late uncle’s executors.—Yours obediently,
“ ‘Winterburn & Hawley.’ ”
MARJORIE’S voice broke as she finished, but Philip did not stir. “What does it all mean?” she whispered.
He held out his hand. “There’s another letter—from the hermit. I—I think I’d like to read that one.”
She gave it to him with trembling fingers, while he saw again a lean, tanned, kindly face, and heard the scratch of a slowly moving steel pen and the sputter of a fire on a wide hearth. Then he read:
“ ‘Winterburn & Hawley,
“ ‘Dear Sirs,—Thank you for your letter and the copy of John’s will you sent along. The young man turned up allright, as you can see by this. At first I had a great mind to take all that offered, though I ean’t say I had any expectations from my iate brother. We got on without each
other fairly well. As to young Allaway, I have given the matter serious thought for a week. To begin with he didn’t seem to promise much, but I guess that was because he’s been handicapped—somewhat. The stuff was in him—or he wouldn’t have come at all.
“ ‘As to my brother’s estate, I reckoned at first I could use it nicely for some things out here, but on reflection have decided not to deprive people for the sake of things. You probably won’t understand this—but I guess Philip will. He’s looking at me while I write and wondering what I’m saying, but he’s enough of a gentleman not to show any interest. I was one myself a good many years ago.
“ ‘Anyway, all I want out of my brother’s estate is one of those1 new sporting Jaeger rifles that shoot pointblank up to two hundred yards, and a thousand cartridges—also The Voyages of Vancouver. He was the first Britisher along this coast.
“ ‘For the rest of it, this will be your authority to pass over to Philip my brother’s estate, and I will sign any documents that may be necessary. When you write, address me c-o The Captain, Coasting Steamer Venus, Vancouver, B.C. I’ll get it if she doesn’t pile up on a reef. In case there’s any question about my identity, I enclose the last letter I had from my brother thirty-five years ago—I got it in Singapore. It’s the only time he ever wrote.—Yours truly.
“ ‘Henry Kingscote.
“ ‘N.B.—You might remind Philip that I expect to see him here the year after next, and that those skins ought to go to a tanner before the hot weather gets at them.’ ”
Allaway’s voice trailed out. The letter slipped from his fingers and he sat motionless, his face like a mask. Marjorie, whose heart was fluttering, touched him on the shoulder. “Phil,” she whispered tremulously—“Phil, what is it?”
“Things,” he said, under his breath “just things.”