In which a lady in distress catches the wrong boat and a man in torment makes an astonishing discovery
BEN AMES WILLIAMS
The story: In Boston, Robin Dale, a girl artist, meets Will McPhail, an irresponsible student from Montreal who says he intends to marry her in two years but meanwhile is going to a temporary job inQuebec, where lives his older brother Angus, a thrifty Scotsman wlw dislikes women. Sketching in Cuspé a few weeks later, Robin decides to visit Will at a new pulpwood town on the Gulf of St. Lawrence called Moose Bay. En route she meets a man named Jenkins wlw says he's going to Labrador in his own boat and would appreciate company. A n embarrassing situation is relieved by a Government fish-hatchery man whom she ultimately realizes is Will McPhaiTs dour brother, Angus. Angus owns a boat, loo, and he tells Robin that he means to stop at Moose Bay for his brother Will, who will join him on a cruise. Robin thereupon decides rwt to visit Will because her visit would deter him from joining Angus. While her steamer is tied up at Moose Bay, Robin joins other passengers in taking a swim off the deck. A crane, working on the dock, suddenly falls into the water. Robin is told that the cranesman is drowned, and then she is horrified by the words: "He was Angus McPhaiTs brother—Will McPhail."
WHEN Angus McPhail stepped off the White Queen, he expected his brother Will to greet him. Will was not in sight; but Pat Donohoe was here. Pat was as ugly a man as you could meet in a nightmare, with red hair that stuck up in some places like sprouting grass; with a red face and a battered nose which suggested that it had met strange fists in its time and might again; with one ear half the size of the other; with a great scar on his upper lip—a horse had kicked him there—so that his mouth would not quite close. But he had a twinkling blue eye which made you forget the rest of his battered countenance; and he caught McPhail’s hand and squeezed it to a pulp, and he took McPhail’s heaviest bag and heaved it into an automobile which stood with the engine running, and he said:
‘‘Get in yourself, sorr. Here we go.“
‘‘Waiting for you, be sure.”
So Angus got in. and the car picked its way through scattered groiqw of men. and past piles of freight, and around switching engines, and then sixeded up for the half-mile run along the dixk to the shore. There the rough new road slowed them down; they bounced and grunted; and Angus thought Pat was driving faster than he needed to. But he did not complain. He wanted to see Will. Once he asked:
“Why didn’t Will meet me? All right, is he?”
“Sure. sorr. he’s fine. Busy, most like.”
“What’s he doing now?”
Pat chuckled. "Whatever they put him to, this thing and that. He’ll make a hand, that lad.”
Angus nodded, pleased and happy. He said: “1 see
they’re unloading the rollers?”
“Aye,” Pat dolefully agreed. “That means the end of the job’s in sight. I hate to see the rollers come. Another eighteen months and we ll t>e moving on somewheres else again." Pat would lx* engineer and navigator on this trip which Angus and Will meant to take; but he was a construction man by habit and by long love. “Here’s the bunkhouse, sorr. Like as not we’ll lind him here.”
But Will McPhail was not there. Angus, after one glance inside, said so; and Pat walked in and said in seeming surprise:
“Sure he is not. at that. I made sure he would be. We’ll wait, sorr. He’ll be coming in any minute now.”
But if Will was not here, other men were; and one of them volunteered information. "McPhail? He was out on the pier half an hour ago, running the traveller.”
Pat scowled at this man and muttered something and startl'd toward him; and the man backed hastily away. But Angus did not notice. He was already at the door,
calling to Pat to come along, wondering how he had failed to see Will in the crane’s cab when they landed, wondering why Will had not hailed him. “He knew Pd be on the While Queen," he told Pat Donohoe. “I don’t understand it.”
Pat said stoutly: “Sure, sorr, that lad when he’s at a job forgets everything else but. He’s a hand to work, he is.”
Angus chuckled, full of an almost boyish eagerness. "Step on it. Pat!” he cried. “Man, you drove fast enough coming ashore. You’re crawling now.”
“The road’s bad if you go slow, and worse if you hurry.” Pat argued. "And the car’s had a hard life.” But on the smoother going on the pier itself, they made better speed. As they approached the travelling crane, Angus saw a circle of men watching its operations; and when Pat braked to a stop, the men laughed at something. Will, in the crane’s small cramped cab, was in the act of lifting one of those heavy crates, to swing it out over the edge of the dock and lower it into the barge below him. Angus saw this, so, though he jumped out of the car and came around in front of it, he did not speak. When a crane is handling a heavy load, it is as well not to distract the operator.
"DUT AT the critical instant, something else distracted Will. As he started to swing the heavy load out over the water, there was a sudden movement among the men watching him, and someone whistled admiringly and pointed across the dock, and everyone turned to look in that direction. Angus saw Will look that way, and saw his brother’s eyes widen in a quick excitement, and then Will called:
“Oh, baby! Wait for papa!”
Someone laughed, and Angus himself instinctively turned to see what they were watching. The Whue Queen was berthed just opposite, and a girl in not much of a bathing suit, slender and beautiful, had just stepped up on the bulwarks in the bow. Angus recognized her as that Miss Dale; and then she dived.
While her slim body was still in the air. he heard a startled shout behind him. He whirled around and saw the crane, with W ill in the high cramped cab. toppling away from him toward the water. It leaned far out, poised precariously for a moment in a terrible balance— and then leaned farther, faster. It fell. Will had no chance to jump. There was a hideous crash when the crane struck the barge below, and a great crown of water rose and broke into white spray and fell back again.
Angus, when he saw what was happening, had reached out instinctively, as though his puny strength might catch the crane and pull it back to an even keel again. Falling, it seemed to pull him after it. He scrambled across the car between, reached the stringpiece in time to see the barge and the crane, locked together, just sinking into the water by the dock, lie jumped off the dock into the water, not thinking, acting by instinct. Will was in the cab of the crane, down there in the water, sinking. Angus was not much of a swimmer, not much of a diver. Yet not till by his own frantic, futile efforts he was dangerously exhausted did he let them lift him into one of the Ixuits that came to crowd around the s]X)t. He climbed weakly up the ladder to the dock level, and he thought remotely:
“Will didn't even see me! I didn't even have a chance to speak to him !”
npiIEN Pat Donohoe was helping him into the car.
driving away toward shore. Angus sat taut and still, and his chest heaved with fatigue, and Pat drove like mad. 1 le gave the car a cruel lx*ating till they came to the small first-aid station and hospital. He jammed down the brakes, jumped to the ground, came around to open the door and help Angus out.
“Come in, sorr!" he cried in a voice tender as a woman's. "Let the doc fix you up.”
Angus seemed to rouse. “I'm all right. Don’t be a fool !” He said slowly: “Pat, Will’s dead.”
“Aye. But they’ll get him out in no time, sorr.”
“He didn't see me. He was just starting to swing the load out over the barge.”
“He was that! It’d be too heavy for the crane, like as not. Sure and they’re working everything here double burden, sorr. The big crane out at dock’s end, it’s rated no more than forty-odd tons, but they lifted ninety with it the other day. Aye, it’s been hurry, hurry, hurry, all the time; and never any waiting to make sure, and men dying for the sake of hurry. A shame it is.”
Angus said, thinking aloud: “He must have swung it too far out, sw-ung it t(x> fast, started it swinging like a pendulum till it pulled the crane off balance.”
“Too heavy it w-as, to be sure.”
“No heavier than the other loads he’d been handling.” Angus reached his cold conclusion. “If Will hadn’t looked away at the wrong time—he’d be alive. He saw that girl
diving off the While Queen. He looked at her and forgot to stop the swing.”
Pat said apologetically: “I was looking at her myself, sorr. Who would not? She was a sight to see for any man. Ye'll not blame him for it. sure.”
“Blame him?” Angus choked with a hard rage. “No,
I don’t blame him ! But Patthat girl killed Will !”
“Her, sorr?” Pat protested. “Sure she just went for a swim. Can a girl be helping it if men are made so they’re bound to look at her?” Angus looked at him: and Pat winced, but he stood his ground. “Easy, Mr. McPhail !” he urged. “Easy, poor man ! Will’s dead, rest him; but hating her for it will no more than fester in yourself, sorr, and never bring the lad back again.”
Angus said without expression: “Curse her shameless soul !”
“Easy !” the big man pleaded. “Rest you. Mr. McPhail. If ye keep it an open sore, sure the hurt in you will never heal.”
Angus McPhail looked all around; he seemed to seek to anchor himself to reality again. He said: “Pat, where’s your gear? I want some of it.”
“I’m going into the woods.”
“Sure and a good notion that is. at that. I’ll go with you. We’ll walk off the black woe. together.”
“I’m going alone.”
Pat put the car in motion. “Eh, but you’ll need company at the first, be sure.”
“I’ll be gone two days.” Angus spoke curtly. “Tell them to have Will’s—funeral Monday afternoon. I’ll be back in time.” He added briefly: “And Pathave the boat ready to start Monday night. We'll go, just the same.” Pat pulled up before the bunkhouse where he lodged; yet he urged again: “Sure. Mr. McPhail. Romeo could do all that’s needful to the boat. No need for me to stay. I can go along with you as well as not.”
Angus gripped his arm so tight that Pat almost cried out at the pain. “I’ll go alone, Pat,” he said. “So be still.” Half an hour later Angus McPhail threw the raw new town behind him, tramping strongly away into the trackless forest. There were trails and work roads, but he ignored them. He plunged blindly straight ahead, bulling through
underbrush, scrambling up bluffs or sliding down them, wading thigh-deep through swamps. He had in mind no destination. He sought only complete physical exhaustion. He walked till it was full dark; and he was drenched with his own exertions before at last he stopped, and absently built a fire and boiled the kettle.
But the cold rage in him was unwearied still. That girl had killed his brother. His fists tightened into hard knots. He stared at them. He said in a sort of wonder at himself: “Why, if I saw her now, I’d rip her throat out with my hands.”
WHEN the purser told her that the crane, toppling overside, had carried Will McPhail to his death, Robin’s reaction was not emotional. It was physical. She seemed to be stiff in the grip of an icy cold; and she knew remotely that her lips felt dry and hard, and that her cheeks crawled as though small live things were burrowing in them. She was conscious of every physical part of her; conscious of the business of life going on in all her veins and arteries, in her nerves and sinews. She was conscious of her complete aliveness; she felt, as an actual tangible experience, blood rushing into the small vessels in her eyeballs. 11er fingers prickled as though they were asleep. The muscles in her legs twitched and contracted into knots. She thought. Why, I must be like a man in the electric chair. I feel as if a current were gripping me all over. Mr. Lewis was saying something which did not matter; something which, for the beating of a pulse in her ears, she could not even hear. She knew that her lips were moving, and wondered what she was saying, and she thought. I must get out of sight. I must hide from jxxiple. I must go somewhere quickly. I’m going to do something terrible.
Her hands brushed the walls of the companion, and she knew she was going toward her cabin, groping her way like a blind person, recognizing by instinct the narrow door, opening it, shutting it behind her. She looked at herself in the mirror; at this strange person who was at the same time so familiar. That was her face in the mirror. It seemed unchanged. She had seen it a dozen times a day for twenty years: she could not discover in it now any new line, any new mark or cut or bruise. She wanted to cower and cover
her head with her arms as though to avoid flying missiles. She felt herself the target for things unseen.
Will was dead.
Will McPhail, that gay, laughing, black-haired young man with the irresponsible light of lively mischief in his eyes, was dead. She remembered how she had seen him first, asleep on a park bench, a folded newspaper in his hands like a lily in the hands of a corpse. He might have caught cold, might have caught pneumonia and died from that folly of sleeping out the June night in the open air. But of course he had not died. There was too much life in him. Why, he could not be dead now. The purser was wrong. He must be wrong. Will could not be dead. Not Will McPhail.
She smiled to herself at the purser’s folly in supposing that Will could be dead. Out of nowhere, fragments of sentences came to her. She must have heard what the purser was saying without knowing it; she seemed now to be listening to him as he told her what had happened.
“Will McPhail, yes running the crane, sitting in the little high cab, lifting crates off the flat car . . . swung one load out too fast, and it pulled the crane off balance . . . started to tip . . when one of those things starts to go. you can’t stop it . . fell on top of the barge . . . smashed the cab, with him inside. . crates. machinery . . . handle them all right as long as the operator didn’t let them start swinging . . Angus McPhail’s brother . .”
It was some time before, as her cloudy thoughts like muddied water began to clear, she really remembered Angus. He was there in the background for a while, a figure with something grey about him, with still eyes that were grave and stern. Robin sat down on the narrow bunk; she lay down on it. lying on her back, her arm across lier eyes. Her cabin was very quiet. It was on the side of the White Queen away from the dock, so that any sounds of activity there came to her remotely. She thought, It’s just as well I decided not to stay here, not to see Will, because now of course I couldn’t anyway, because he’s dead.
'“THEN she remembered that the White Queen would be sailing in a little while. The cruise would go on. and she, Robin Dale, would play games with the jxxipleaboard, chucking little sand bags at holes in a board, playing “Going round the Mountain.” dancing, telling riddles; and she would come back to Rimouski in two or three weeks and pick up her car there and return home, or jx?rliaps to Percé, to make some more sketches. Back to Percé, she decided. The drive along the Gaspé coast was beautiful, was worth doing again from the opposite direction. Her stunned thoughts drifted back along that road, trying to fix upon scenes here and there, trying to find some anchorage in the chaos that was now her world.
It was then that Angus McPhail came fully into her thoughts. The salmon |x>ol and Angus McPhail. The hotel at Madeleine and Angus McPhail. Quai Rimouski and Angus and his battered old hat, and his battered old heart and the grey shadow of an old pain in his eyes.
Angus McPhail loved Will too. Robin wondered why she did not begin to cry when she thought of Angus, and then she remembered that Angus would not weep. There were no soft tears in such a man. He was hardened and tempered to grief. He was a little boy running up and down the shores l<x>king into dead faces, into the pale faces of the drowned, finding at last his mother’s face among them. I íe was a young man in love, looking happily forward to his wedding, till on the eve of their marriage the lovely woman who would have been his bride revealed herself as treacherous and damned. I íe was a grey man with quiet eyes who loved his brother more than all the world, in that deep way which can only come from long devotion and long service. But now Will was dead, and Angus was alone, robbed of everything. Thrice he had loved. Three times the one beloved had been hideously torn away.
Robin forgot herself, forgot Will too. Angus, as soon as he landed from the White Queen, had gone ashore. He could not have known then that Will was on the dock. It was strange that Will had not met him; but if there was an enigma in this fact, it did not
matter now. The important thing was that Angus had gone directly ashore, SÍ) he could not have seen the tragedy. Perhaps he did not know, even now, that Will was dead. But someone, soon, would tell him.
She wished to go to him, to share this grief w'ith him, to weep with him for Will, who had been all the world to Angus as he had been to her. She wanted to find Angus and somehow to comfort that grey, quiet, grief-scarred man. If she told him she too had loved Will, he would be willing to listen; he would understand.
She packed her bag, tied her damp bathing suit to the straps of the packsack so it would not wet her other things, and found the purser to tell him her change of plan. "I’ve decided to stop off here, after all.” she said.
Mr. Lew’is w'as sorry. “We’ll miss you, Miss Dale.” Then he looked at her more intently, as if he saw something strange in her eyes. “You’re all right, are you?” he asked.
She managed to smile. She had no intention of telling her secret to the world. No one except Angus need know that she had loved Will McPhail. “Perfectly,” she said. “But 1 think I 11 stay here long enough to see the place. They say the hotel is good.”
He offered to find a car to take her to town; and they went up the gangplank together, he carrying her bags. Across the dock, workmen were already at the task of rigging gear to lift the crane out of the water; and a hundred curious men watched the work. She wondered whether they had yet recovered Will’s body. The purser found a car; and he was putting her bags in it before she saw that Mr. Jenkins was driving. Mr. Jenkins said, in a pleased tone:
“Decided to stay, have you? Say, you change your mind, don’t you? You’re right, though ! It’s a great place. I’ll take you to the hotel.”
MR. LEWIS helped her into the car. She thanked him, and Mr. Jenkins started toward shore. She looked straight ahead, not as a defense against him but because she did not want to see what the workmen were doing; but almost at once he pulled over to the side of the dock and stopixxi and pointed. “That’s my boat down there.” She saw a grey motor cruiser, long and low with a high deck forward, moored beside the dock. “Care to go aboard her?” he asked. “She’s comfortable, neat as a pin.”
“She looks like one ol those what do you call them?— they built them during the War?”
“Sub-chaser?” He laughed. “She can run rings around one of them. Come aboard and have a look.”
“I’m rather anxious to get settled. Do you mind?”
“I have to stop a minute, myself. You’d better come see what she’s like.”
“I’ll wait here.”
So Mr. Jenkins dropped down to the deck of the cruiser and disap()eared into her cabin. A man came purjxraefully across the dock to look down at the boat, and then at Robin; and Robin closed her eyes and was very tired. W'hen Mr. Jenkins got in beside her again, and Bhe opened her eyes, the man had disappeared.
“We’re pulling out Monday,” Mr. Jenkins told her, driving on. “Say, I’m glad you’re staying. I’ll show you the town tonight. You’ll get a kick out of it.” They were approaching the landward end of the dcx’k. “Tough about young McPhail. The kid got fancy with that crane and it killed him. You can’t monkey with those babies.” The car jolted over the rough road, and suddenly he used the brakes and stopped and sjx)ke to a man walking toward the dock. The man was dresst“d like a workman, but he looked at Robin in a way she felt. He said to Mr. Jenkins: “I was looking for you.”
Mr. Jenkins asked the man a curious question. He asked : “Got the tickets?”
The man grinned faintly, and looked at Robin again. “All collected, yeah.” he sa id.
Mr. Jenkins nodded. “Then we’ll let ’em in tomorrow.” He added: “I’ll lx* taking a walk tonight. I might see you.”
“Okay,” the man assented. “I’ll be around.”
Mr. Jenkins drove on. Robin asked: “What tickets?” He looked at her quickly, then grinned. "Tickets? Oh. that was just a gag ! He's a friend of mine.” Robin thought indifferently that this was pretty obvious.
The road, with a railway along one side to carry freight from the pier head to the town, rounded a rocky point where the whole face of the precipice had been blasted away to let it pass. Robin began to bí* interested, to ask questions. Wherever a trickle of water came down the steep slopes, there were signs warning passers not to drink the water; and she spoke of them. He nodded. “That’s all bog water.” he explained. “It’ll make you sick. They cut a tunnel six feet square through that mountain up there and they bring water down from Bear Lake now.” They approached the first buildings; and he pointed to one. “There’s the police station. Five cops. They'll stay indoors and have a poker game tonight.”
“Saturday night. Three thousand men out for a good time can use up five cops pretty quick.”
“Oh! What do they do for a good time? Movies?”
He laughed. “Liquor up, mostly. No women here. Drink, and gamble and fight.”
She remembered a passage in Will's letter which had puzzled her. “What's ‘alky?’ Alcohol?”
“They drink that?”
“I leavens to Betsy ! Where do they get it?”
Mr. Jenkins seemed amused. “Sister, when three thousand men with their pockets full of payroll want to buy a drink, somebody will sell it to them.” He added: “They mix alky with water till they can swallow it without setting themselves on fire.”
"But why don’t they drink whisky, or beer, or something?”
"Can’t get it. Alky means smaller bulk, so it’s easier to run it in, and the men get quicker action when they drink it. Here’s the mill. They set up the machinery first and then built the mill around it. Here’s the warehouse where they’ll store the paper. Y'ou could play football in it. It’s big enough.”
“Imagine enough paper to fill it! Where will it all come from?”
“They’ve a tract of spruce here two hundred miles square. It’ll take fifty years to cut it, and by that time a fifth of it will be big enough to cut again.” He spoke as of a personal achievement. “This is big business, sister. They’ve spent a million dollars a month here now for over a year; building churches, freezing plants, schools, houses. There’s the bank.” The car bounced and groaned over bumps in the raw mud of the road, weaving among tractors and workmen and scrapers and teams, to turn at last into a gravelled drive before the hotel. “Here you are, sister. I’ll carry your bags.”
She followed him indoors. At the desk Mr. Jenkins said to the clerk: “Give her a good room. Dave. That corner room, second floor, is empty, isn’t it?” He winked, but Robin was registering, did not see him. The clerk named Dave looked admiringly at her bowed head and pursed his lips in a soundless whistle. He called a boy, and Robin turned to thank Mr. Jenkins; but he went with her toward the stairs, the boy with her bag and packsack preceding them. At her room, she thought for an alarmed moment
that Mr. Jenkins was coming in; but he put a key into a dix>r opposite hers.
"I’m just across the hall.” he said. “If you get lonesome, sing out. Want to take a walk before dinner?”
“I think not.”
“I ll see you at dinner, then.”
CHE LOCKED her door and told herself that he was just ^ friendly. She heard a steamer whistle, and went to her window and saw the While Queen departing, and that made her feel lost and alone, and she lay down, and for a while she cried, lying on her face across the bed. She cried, very quietly, for a long time.
Then she began to think about Angus McPhail. It was to find him and try to comfort him that she had come ashore. He would undoubtedly be staying at the hotel, so after a while she went down to the office to enquire for him. The clerk named Dave looked at her in a way which faintly she resented. It was as though he knew something about her: something at once interesting and discreditable. She lifted her head a little, defensively.
"Is Mr. Angus McPhail staying here?” she asked
‘Mr. McPhail?” He seemed surprised, as though his preconceptions were somehow shaken. He repeated stupidly: “Mr. McPhail, the fisheries man? Why—no, ma’am.”
“Oh ! But—where would he be likely to be?”
“I don’t know. He has stayed here, before.”
She thought Angus might be with Will; and she asked steadily enough whether Will’s lxxdv had been recovered. The clerk did not know. “If it has, it’d be at the mortuary,” he suggested. He asked: “Did you know him?”
“I knew his brother, on the White Queen.” She hesitated. “I wonder if you could find out for me where Mr. McPhail is staying?”
"This is the only place he could stay. He wouldn't go to Freel’s. Maybe he’ll show up here later.”
This clerk named Dave, she decided, was a little stupid. She asked: “How soon are you serving dinner?”
“Ready now,” he said. Then he asked: “Want to wait for Mr. Jenkins?”
“Oh.no!” Why should she resent that question? It was natural enough, since she and Mr. Jenkins had arrived together; but the clerk's tone annoyed lier. She went into the dining room; but before she could order, Mr. Jenkins appeared and without invitation sat down at her table. “Well, everything all right?” he asked.
She hesitated. “I want to see Mr. McPhail. Theone who was on the White Queen. Do you know him?”
“Met him today. I’ll find him for you. He might be on his boat. It’s tied up, out by mine. We’ll take a look after dinner.”
She could discover no good reason for refusing his insistent helpfulness; and—she needed help. After dinner, the clear twilight soft and beautiful, the sunset’s afterglow bright across the water below them, she and Mr. Jenkins began their search. They went in the car, and Robin was a little startled to see so many men everywhere, milling to and fro, shouting now and then for no apparent reason, staring at her in the dusk. Angus McPhail proved hard to find. They enquired first at the barber shop. Mr. Jenkins went in while Robin stayed in the car. A queue of men was waiting to be barbered; others, slick and shaven, at intervals emerged; and Robin felt the impact of many eyes. Their voices rose as though they wished her to hear; she thought with a faint amusement they were like small boys showing off when a new girl comes to school. Mr. Jenkins returned.
“Freel hasn’t seen him.” he said. “We’ll try the bunkhouse.” While he was inside, a fight started not far off, and men raced to form a shouting circle around the combatants. Mr. Jenkins, returning, had news at last. “They say he went for a walk,” he reported. He looked toward the yelling crowd. “Want to see that fight? It will beat anything you ever saw in the ring.”
She shook her head. “I’m really awfully anxious to find Mr. McPhail.”
“We’ll catch him at his boat when he comes to bed.” “Mightn’t he be there now, please?”
“Well, it’s easy to find out.” They drove out the long dock. Under floodlights, men were busy at the spot where the barge and crane had sunk. Mr. Jenkins w^ent down a ladder nailed against piles to the deck of v. hat he said was McPhail’s boat; but the cabin scuttle was padlocked, and he climbed the ladder again.
“Nobody home,” he reported. “But he’ll be along. See here, if you don’t want to mix with that crowd of drunks in town, let’s wait on my boat till he comes.”
“Do you think he'll come here?”
“He’s bound to. Either here or the hotel.”
“We might find him quicker, if we—kept hunting, mightn’t we?”
A GROUP of men. singing as they came out along the dock from town, approached and saw Robin. Mr. Jenkins was on the other side of the car, hidden from them. They stopped beside the car and pressed near, and one of them demanded cheerfully of his companions: “Say, do you see what I see?” He spoke to Robin. “Kid, you’ve come to the right place. You’re going to have lots of friends here.”
Mr. Jenkins moved around in front of the car so that the headlights struck him fair. He said to this man “Do I know you, buddy?”
His tone was quiet enough, but the man stared at him and mumbled sudden apologies; and he and his companions went hurriedly away. Robin said in some surprise: “Why, they were afraid of you !”
“I told you I’d take care of you,” said Mr. Jenkins. “You’re pretty enough to start a riot, you know. But you don’t want to do that. We’ll keep you out of sight. Come aboard my boat while we wait for him.”
In the end she consented. His boat proved to be almost luxurious. He began to talk about the trip toward Labrador upon which he was about to start; said it was a pity she could not go along. “You'd be mightily interested, and you’d see a lot to paint, up that way.”
“I’m sure I would.”
“I wish there was some way we could manage it.” He seemed to have a sudden inspiration. “See here, Marm
Continued on page 30
Continued from page 20—Starts on page 18
Freel has been after me for a year, wanting to go up there. I go once a month, selling my line. She’s Dad Freel’s wife, sixty-odd, a good sport. Suppose she came along? You and she could have the cabin here to yourselves. There’s room for me forward.” lie said he was leaving Monday night. “You don’t have to decide now,” he added before she could speak. “We’ll see Mrs. Freel tomorrow and talk it over, and if you like her, you might decide to come.”
“There’s no harm in talking it over,” she admitted, smiling a little. “But I’m afraid I can’t take the time. Who is Mrs. Freel ? ’ ’
“Dad Freel’s the barber,” he told her, and laughed. “Quite a character. Bald as an egg, tough as rawhide, kindhearted as a cow. Mrs. Freel—Marm Freel, they call her—is twice his size; big enough to lick any man in camp. Dad and Marm follow these jobs around. Everyone knows them.”
“Do you suppose Mr. McPhail has
They climbed to the dock level again; and she stayed by the car while he descended and went aboard McPhail’s boat. The companion scuttle was open now; and Mr. Jenkins called, got no answer, looked up at her, and then descended into the cabin. As he did so, someone spoke at her elbow.
“What’s wanted here?”
She turned and looked up into the ugliest countenance she had ever seen. A naked electric bulb on a pole behind her gave light enough so that she saw a battered nose, and a mouth with the upper lip pulled up by an old scar into a dreadful snarl. The man was huge, towering over her, swaying on his feet; and there was black rage in his scowl.
She said hurriedly: “We want to see
Mr. McPhail! We're just trying to find him.”
The affrighting man peered at her. “Did ye ever dive off the White Queen's bow?” he asked thickly. “Eh, bad cess to ye!” He gripped her arm with one hand, jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the men busy above the wreck of barge and crane. “If it’s Will McPhail ye’re wanting to seeye'll not want to see him. The diver’s just got him loose yonder. They’ll be bringing him up now.”
Mr. Jenkins appeared beside them; he spoke quietly. “I lello, Pat.”
The big man turned. “Eh, Mr. Jenkins.” He touched his forelock; but Robin saw that it was with respect, not fear.
“Where’s McPhail?” Mr. Jenkins asked.
“No, his brother.”
There was a wail of woe in the big man’s tone. "Eh, the poor man has gone to walk the black hurt out of him.”
“Back Monday noon.” he said.
Mr. Jenkins looked at Robin. “Miss Dale here wanted to see him.”
The ugly man looked down at Robin again; and he shook his head. “Let her not,” he said grimly. “Let her keep herself hid from the eye of him. Let her keep herself away.”
He turned and stalked off along the pier; and Robin watched him, strangely shaken. There was something mystic and uncanny about the man; an enigma in his tones, and an eerie wail of grief when he spoke of Angus McPhail. Mr. Jenkins, beside her, said:
“Well, we’re wasting time, then.”
“Who is that man?”
“Pat Donohoe. He’s McPhail’s boatman.” He said: “I suppose McPhail will be back for the funeral.”
“Oh!” He meant Will’s funeral! Will was dead, and they were going to bury him. She had not realized death till she heard that word. She was suddenly very tired. When she suggested returning to the hotel, Mr. Jenkins, after some goodnatured protest, agreed.
T30BIN slept fitfully; and she woke to find that rain had followed the starlit night.. Outside her windows the world was grey with it. She thought of Angus McPhail somewhere in the forest alone, drenched by this pitiless downpour. She saw him again as a little boy, running to and fro, peering into dead faces ... A great compassion fftr him filled her. He must be wet. Probably he had no shelter. He might fall ill, or suffer some injury, and lie helpless till this pelting rain whipped all warmth and life out of him.
She slept and waked and slept again. At noon she rang for coffee and toast. She wondered a little why Mr. Jenkins did not come to take her to see Mrs. Freel; but she was glad he did not. Slowly, during the long afternoon, she emerged from the protective numbness which had followed the first shock of Will’s death, so that she could feel the keen ache of pain; and that night she did not sleep at all. The rain drove against her windows all night long, and when dawn came, there was no slackening in the storm. She stared at the sluicing panes, and thought. Will would be buried today, and she hated this raw new wilderness town full of hard men, with mud underfoot and rain and gusty wind over all. When she dressed and went down, the clerk named Dave looked at her curiously.
“When will there be a boat for Rimouski or Quebec, or—anywhere?” she asked him.
He seemed surprised, and for some strange reason maliciously pleased. He said a cruise boat would touch here some time in the afternoon, bound for Quebec.
“Do you suppose I could get a cabin on her?”
“Yes. I know she’s not full.”
Afternoon? Will would be buried this afternoon. She could not go till then. “What time will she be here?”
“Can't tell yet.” he said. “We'll get word later today.” He hesitated. “Mr. Jenkins left a message for you. Said he’d be back tonight.”
“Oh!” She had quite forgotten Mr. Jenkins. “Thanks. Will you find out for me when Mr. McPhail’s funeral will be?” He promised to do so. “Tough day for it.” he said. She nodded, turned away. She would see Angus at the funeral, say to him wrhat little there was to say, then take the boat and go home, somewhere, anywhere away from here. She wondered idly where Mr. Jenkins had gone. Where could anyone go, from a place like this, so remote, isolated from all the pleasant world?
After lunch a man spoke to her in the lobby. There was something about him remotely familiar. He made conversation in a courteous way, without offense; and he spoke at last, too casually, of Mr. Jenkins. She recognized him then as the man who had crossed the dock to look down at Mr. Jenkins’ boat, when Mr. Jenkins stopped to go aboard her that first day. She asked suddenly;
“Why are you interested in Mr. Jenkins?”
“I?” His tone was too surprised. “You and he old friends, are you?”
A question to answer her question. Too many questions. She wondered, with complete irrelevance, why Will had not met Angus when the White Queen docked. Why had Will stayed in the cab of the crane and let Angus drive away to shore? Why were men afraid of Mr. Jenkins? What tickets? Who was it Mr. Jenkins allowed to come in? Where w-as Mr. Jenkins today? Too many questions. She asked :
“Don’t you know any answers?”
Before he could reply, the clerk named Dave came to her. “They don’t know when the funeral will be,” he reported. “Mr. McPhail’s brother hasn’t come back yet. They’re waiting for him.”
She nodded thanks, and suddenly she was dreadfully afraid that something had happened to Angus. Fear choked her so that she could not speak. She fled up the stairs to her room. Hours later the clerk knocked on her door. “Miss Dale, the funeral’s passing right now.”
She caught up hat and slicker and ran to the stairs and down. “The cemetery’s right up on the hill.” he told her. “They’re just getting there.” He pointed the way; and she went out into gusty wind and driving rain, and floundered through mud, and came to where a little group of people stood ankle-deep in miry clay around an open grave.
SHE SAW Angus, his garments wet and torn, his old hat more battered than ever, his cheeks gaunt, his eyes red and sunken. He stood by the grave; and the ugly man who had spoken to Robin and Mr. Jenkins Saturday night on the pier stood at his shoulder. There were a dozen men here, and two or three women; but as soon as it was over, they began to move away, hurrying to the cars to escape from the rain. Angus stayed behind: and so did Pat Donohoe; and so did Robin. When except for Pat and the men filling the grave they were alone, she went toward him.
As she approached, his eyes lifted to meet hers. His eyes were bleak as winter. They made her cold. She said tremulously: “Mr. McPhail. I want to talk to you. I want to tell you ...”
He interrupted her, in flat tones. She thought his voice wras like that of a deaf man. “I've nothing to say to you, and I don’t w-ant to hear anything you can say.” She could not believe her ears. She protested softly: “But I just want you
to know how sorry ...”
He said curtly: “Be off!”
She cried in a hurt bewilderment: “But Mr. McPhail ...”
“Then stay if you like! I’ll go.”
He turned on the word and strode away.
Robin was suddenly angry. He needn’t act so! She started after him, to tell him so. He walked so fast that, trying to overtake him, calling his name, she had to run; and she slipped and floundered in the mud. Then suddenly she was blind with tears of rage because he was so cruel; and she fell absurdly, her hands plunging wrist-deep into mire.
She cried out to him. even then; but he did not turn, Pat Donohoe lifted her to her feet and with awkward hands scraped mud off her garments, and he said gently :
“Let him go, ma’am ! Let the poor man go!”
Then he himself went after Angus, not seeking to overtake him, keeping ten paces behind.
When Robin came back to the hotel, her bewildered thoughts w^ere more in order. She was no longer angry; but she was puzzled now. There had been more than indifference in Angus McPhail’s eyes, and more than grief. There had been a cold and furious rage; and it was a specific rage at her! A dozen questions filled her mind. Why? What had she done? Did he know about her and Will? Had Will written him? Had he known all the time, on the White Queen? Even so, why did he hate her now?
She stripped off her soaked and muddy clothes, and she thought wearily that reasons did not matter. Clearly, she could do nothing to help him, to ease his hurt. She might as well go home. She changed into dry clothes, then went down to consult the clerk. He said the boat would dock at six or half past; w'ould sail at nine. It was already after five. She asked:
“Can you get a car to take me down to her?”
“There aren’t any taxis. Mr. Jenkins will take you, w7on’t he? He’ll be back any time now.”
Mr. Jenkins w'as nothing; but if he knew she was leaving, he might annoy her with urgencies to stay. “Oh, no!” she said hurriedly. “I'd rather he didn’t know I was going.”
The clerk nodded as though approvingly. “Sorry, I thought you were a friend of his. I can drive you down, myself, after six o’clock. I’m off then for half an hour.”
She thanked him. She arranged to leave her muddy garments to be cleaned and forwarded; then returned to her room to pack. At six she descended; at five minutes past, she and the clerk were in his car. He said:
“Steamer’s not in yet; but I have to be back at half past, and there’s no one around to take you down later.”
“I can wait on the pier,” she assured him. “If Mr. Jenkins asks where I am, don’t tell him. will you?”
“I didn't think you looked like a friend of his,” he said. When they reached the end of the pier, the steamer was not yet in sight. They sat in the car till he had to leave. When she was left alone, Robin looked toward where Angus McPhail's motor cruiser and Mr. Jenkins’ boat had been tied up two days ago. Mr. Jenkins’ boat was gone; but McPhail’s was there. She walked that way and saw that the cabin scuttle was open, so he must be aboard.
She decided to make one last attempt to talk to him; and shaking a little at her own temerity—she descended the ladder and called his name into the cabin.
BUT NO one answered. She was disappointed; but if he came before the cruise boat docked, she might still make him listen to her. She decided to wait for him; so she climbed up on the dock again and brought her bags to the head of the ladder that led down to his boat, where they would be under her eye.
A workman passed and said, “Hi, babe!” She wished she need not be so conspicuous. Then it began to rain again. It wras silly to stand here and be soaked. She climbed down the ladder and took shelter in the cabin to wait for Angus there.
She was interested in the compact
utility of the cramped space in which she stood. It was no more than eight feet long, and as wide as the boat itself; with a built-in desk and seat, a small dining table bolted to the floor, a narrow bench, lock fasts and drawers and shelves everywhere. In the bulkhead opposite the companion there were two doors. One was closed; the other, open, led into a narrow stateroom with two bunks, one above the other.
She heard an engine murmur and then bark more loudly as the reverse gear took hold. Another boat was mooring just aft of this one. It must be Mr. Jenkins, returning; so she kept out of sight. Then she heard Mr. Jenkins’ voice on the dock above her. He spoke French—which she did not understand — and someone answered him, and a moment later she heard feet coming down the ladder.
Mr. Jenkins must be coming aboard; and she did not wish to see him! She stepped into the stateroom and closed the door of it behind her. A moment later, she heard footsteps in the cabin, and two voices; Mr. Jenkins and another man. Mr. Jenkins’ tones were sharp and insistent. The other man seemed to argue with him. Robin wished she could understand French. If they had not talked so fast, she might have caught a word now and then.
She stood in the narrow space between the bunks and the fore and aft bulkhead which divided the stateroom from the compartment where the engine was. She was afraid they would open the door and find her. Mr. McPhail must surely be
here soon. She dared not show herself until he came; but she need not stand. She sat down cautiously on the lower bunk. The upper bunk was so near the lower that she could not sit upright without bumping her head, so she lay down. She was wide awake, listening to the voices, wondering what Mr. Jenkins and the other man were discussing so seriously.
She was very tired. She had not slept at all last night, very little the night before; and her eyes burned and ached. When she closed them, they were more comfortable; so she kept them closed, listening to the rapid-fire conversation in the cabin, wishing she could understand what they were saying. It began not to matter . . .
She was awakened by the opening of the cabin door, the sudden flood of light in her face. She rolled on her side, scrambling out of the bunk, scrambling to her feet, blinking and confused. The floor lifted and tilted under her. Silhouetted in the cabin door stood a man in a battered old hat. It was Angus McPhail’s hat. The man was Angus McPhail.
But the engine was running ! They were going somewhere ! The boat pitched under her feet, and she almost fell, staggered, caught at his coat to save herself. She cried: “Heavens to Betsy! What hap-
pened? Where are we?”
He said in a harsh, grating tone: “Three hours out of Moose Bay toward Labrador.” To be Continued