HIGH and DRY
Bertrand W. Sinclair
If you met, in the wilds of B. C., a girl who looked like a Norse goddess, would you, to win her, abandon a certain career and a beautiful, wealthy fiancee?
HOLLAND comforted himself with the reflection that he was coming out instead of going in. An August sun baked the south-facing Slope of country rock where oncegreen moss was now scorched to a golden brown. An occasional solitary fir accentuated by its cool shadow the heat that brought sweatbeads trickling down Holland's forehead to make his eyes smart. His feet were sore. The muscles of his shoulders where the pack straps bore ached with a great ache. He had two things to be thankful for in his discomfort. One, that he was within sight of cool salt water; the other, that the Swan lay at anchor. He had marked her slender pole masts and buff funnel from a ridge two miles back. There would be a bath, a decent bed, good foodand Edie Moore in a lounge chair under an awning. He came presently to where the slope ended in an abrupt plunge to tidewater. As he sat resting for the last
stretch his eyes and his mind observed aiid considered briefly the mouth of the valley and the bay where his journey ended and a step upward and onward (or so he believed it to be) began for him in the business of living. An arm of the sea ran up from Queen Charlotte Sound between islands and through narrow passes to end under a ring of high mountains notched by a low valley. For six days he had walked in that valley, traversed its length, crossed its width in divers places. He had not been in there pursuing romance or beauty or even adventure, but on the simple business of esti mating the extent and quality of that valley's timber, with the matter-of-fact purpose of transforming that mass of living green into lumber for what profit should accrue. For a long time Holland had been looking at forests with a singularly practical eye. To him that valley represented so many thousand board feet per acre and he recalled it a hot jungle of salmon-berry and salal brush out of which great trees rose straight and tall and among which he had been vastly plagued by deer flies and mosquitoes. The mountains had been only landmarks to guide him; the sea only a distant place where cool airs blew. Now, for a moment, that indefinable magic which lurks in a wilderness broke through the outer crust of his literal habit of perception. He suddenly became aware of Claspknife Arm as a picture, various in its colors and contours, a picture that somehow pleased him. There were the eternal hills brooding under caps of snow, the vivid greens of their lower slopes running down to enfold a bay that gleamed like a moonstone shot with streaks of emerald, on which the Swan's white hull floated like a gull at rest. Nearer, in the mouth of the valley, a pennant of blue wavered from the chimney of a house and about the house itself spots of color glowed. Beds of flaming poppies, the banked white of Shasta daisies; beyond these and surrounding them spread the soberer hues of a garden, and the orderly rows of an orchard; all in a tiny clearing on the edge of a great forest-a small victory won in man's perpetual warfare against the blind fecundity of Nature. Holland found himself admiring it all, getting a curious inner sense of gratification in gazing at what he saw. And by some mysterious mechanism of the human mind, by intuition instead of by any reasoned process, Holland understood what his coming and the exercise of what power he represented meant to the people who had built that house, planted that orchard, and made the place a home. Very much to his surprise Holland found himself moved by a detached, impersonal sympathy. The setting was beautiful. He grasped the root of their reluctance, implied rather than expressed, to the arrangement he had come there to put in effect, diplomatically if possible, arbitrarily if necessary.
W HEN he got that far he accused himself, for the first time in an essentially practical and useful career, of being a sentimental ass, took up his pack and went on. Twenty minutes later he passed into the timber that flowed like a deep green wave from the valley halfway up the bald northern ridge. Another half-hour of descent brought him into Larsen's clearing. He passed the house on his way to the landing. As he turned that corner which gave on the sea he came upon Alexandra Larsen, variously called "Sandy" and "Alex" according to the mood of the brothers, two youngsters of seventeen and nineteen, like Alex herself of unmistakable Scandinavian ancestry. But where Olaf and Thorkill were merely lusty youths of good physique and high spirits, very blonde as to hair and florid as to skin, Alex had managed to convey to Holland at first sight the fanciful impression of a Norse goddess stepped bodily out of viking days. Her hair was yellow as old gold, her eyes as blue as the windflowers of early spring, and her skin matched eyes and hair in its perfect texture and delicate tint. She had a decided grace of carriage when she moved. Her voice was a delightful blend of depth and sweetness. Holland found her bent on one knee, snipping pink roses off a low bush. She stood up. Her eyes were nearly on a level with his, and he was above average height-a tall deep-breasted fair girl who met a man's eyes frankly. "Oh, you're back," she said "Your people came in this morning. Was it hot in the woods?" "Hot? Wow! And flies." Holland slipped off his pack and wiped his brow. Alex smiled. "I was going to send these roses out to the yacht. We have so many and they are such lovely ones. Will you take them?" "Surely. Thanks ever so much." Holland regarded the half opened buds a moment, sniffed their fragrance. He felt a sudden irritation. He was going to dispossess these people, build a great clutter of rough camp buildings on their homesite, drag fifty million feet of logs across their garden and orchard to its utter destruction-and this girl who had been born there could smile and make his party a gift of beautiful flowers without rancor. As if she were above such pettiness. Yet he had seen the tears creep into her eyes when her father explained the situation. "We're offering a liberal sum for the place," Holland had answered her first and only protest when, in the end, the matter was discussed by the entire Larsen family. "Can your money make trees grow, and the flowersand make all this overafter you've torn it to
pieces with your old logs?" she had demanded with a touch of passion. Then her eyes had filled and she fell silent, staring out the window at the sea. S HE was smiling now. If she regarded him as a despoiler-and he felt that she did, al though he had no valid reason for the beliefshe held no grudge. "Am I," he asked lightly, "forgiven for being a mere logger who must get out logs in order to make his way in the world?" She looked at him steadfastly. "What difference does it make?" she asked. "That's your timber in there. If our place hap pens to be necessary to your operations and you can force us to let you have it to spoii, why it can't be helped. If you didn't, probably someone else would." "Still, you don't like me for it, much, do you?" he persisted. "What difference does liking or disliking you make?" s h e answered with a blunt directness,
a touch of impatience. "What I want is nothing to you and what you want is nothing to me." "Oh," he said, with a deprecating smile. "Well, that's frank enough. Thanks very much for the roses." He walked on to the beach. The timber cruiser who had beaten him out by half an hour sat waiting. Holland raised the Swan with a shout. Immediately a boat came ashore. Holland sat on his pack knitting his brows in unaccus tomed introspection as the tender took him out. A girl he honestly believed he loved stood on the yacht's quarter deck waiting for him. He could see the flash of a wellknown orange sweater above the white or a satin skirt. Beauty and cleverness and uncommon charm wrapped up in one small energetic personality had chained him to Edie Moore's chariot wheels for a year past, just as a business association had chained him to the wheels of her father's timber chariot ever since he left school. Moore senior looked upon him with a kindly eye. So did Edie. Having graduated in the school of hard knocks, Holland, appre ciated this dual regard rather keenly. Why should the unspoken disapproval of a girl he had only seen twice trouble him at all? It did; he resented being told by a Norse goddess that what he wanted was of no consequence to her. She wouldn't eve~i trouble to question the ethics of getting what one wanted. It didn't occur to Holland that his masculine vanity was thereby touched. All he knew was that he had practically closed a deal for which he could expect to be congratulated and rewarded sub stantially by Mr. S. Wentworth Moore-and it didn't somehow seem quite so fine a stroke of business as it appeared at first blush. Nor could he understand why, when his thought should have been turning eagerly toward one woman it should persistently dwell on another who, obviously, could be of no concern to him. Holland was not accustomed to complexity, duality, of either thought or emotion. He was both annoyed and puzzled at himself as he climbed the Swan's short ladder. O N DECK, amid handshaking and bright, welcoming chatter, he might have put Alex Larsen out of his mind. But the roses persisted in keeping her to the fore. Edie herself had an eye to the uncommon, the picturesque. From the Swan she had marked by th&aid of powerful binoculars the striking appearance of this daughter of the vikings. Holland could not escape comment and specula tion about a personality which had already disturbed him more than he liked; not until he went below to wash up and change clothing. After that Moore senior waylaid him. "Get it fixed up with Larsen?" he asked "How does that timber show up?"
"Fine,” Holland answered the last question first. "Better logging show than it looks on paper. Easy grades. No, I have not got Larsen’s quit-claim to the waterfront. I made him a fair offer and he has sense enough to know that the timber should logically come out that way. He agreed in effect that he couldn’t buck us. Hasn't got the money. At the same time I didn't try to rush him, because he is just a little inclined to hang on. Kind of sentimental about that place. But I made it clear to him that we had the top hand. I’m pretty sure he’ll come through without wrangling, when I put it to him to sign on the dotted line. I’ll get it fixed up before we leave —probably in the morning.”
"Sounds reasonable. Anyway, we’ve got him over a barrel. If he wanted to scrap us he couldn’t do it without considerable funds, which I know he hasn’t got,” Moore reflected shrewdly. “Anyway you’ll have plenty of time to reason with him. We’ll be here a week or more. Crankshaft let go with a grand smash just as we came up to anchor. Got to get new parts from town.”
“We can take the steamer south from Minstrel Island to-morrow evening,” Holland suggested.
“'What’s the sense?” Moore grunted placidly. “Everything’s going good. We’re on a holiday. Good bunch aboard. Might as well lie here. Just as much fun as if we dropped the hook in a new place every night.” Holland agreed. He was surfeited with action. A week of hard going had put him in the mood to loaf, to sit under an awning and drink long, cool drinks, and talk to Edie. That was his reaction by the time he regained the deck in flannels.
By dusk he had begun to regard his prospective bride with strangely mingled feelings. He was amused. Likewise he was afflicted with a comical uncertainty. It struck him with considerable force for the first time that Edie was not precisely a restful person. As a matter of fact Edie Moore happened to be a young woman largely compounded of high spirits and wilfulness. Normally, on a coastwise cruise she left matters pretty much to the navigating members of the crew, contented to admire the scenery, the play of color on sea and hills, to be satisfied with bridge, swimming, brief excursions alongshore.
Being stuck, so to speak, solidly in one spot for a week Edie’s horizon immediately began to expand. She went ashore to satisfy her curiosity about those flowers and the fair-haired girl she had so carefully scrutinized through the glass. She returned full of an exuberant enthusiasm for the Larsens and a lengthy trip back in the woods. Olaf and Thorkill had grovelled at Edie’s shrine and stimulated her with tales of superlative trout-fishing in a small stream which dropped into the valley by a series of wonderful falls some ten miles inland. There was a trail which they had blazed and traveled themselves. They hinted all sorts of adventurous possibilities, deer that stood to gaze in wide-eyed wonder at the unaccustomed sight of man, primeval forest full of cool shade, fat, harmless bears seeking sweets in the huckleberry thickets.
“I’m for organizing an expedition back there for two or tjhree days,” Edie declared. “These Larsen boys will go along and be a help. That gorgeous sister of theirs is as good as any man in the woods, they say.What do you say? After about three days of sitting here it’s going to be rather slow.”
tJ ER guests, two bosom female companions, and two 11 young men supplied to keep the aforesaid female companions from getting bored with each other, said what they were expected to say; that it would be a lark, a peach of a trip. Edie’s father smiled blandly, and stated that so long as he didn’t have to lug a pack he didn’t mind going. Holland said nothing at all. He had just come out of that presumably alluring forest, hot, sweaty, rather tired, a little eager to have real food again and a decent bed to sleep in. He didn't commit himself. But Edie committed him to the enterprise offhand. She sent the tender ashore for the Larsen trio and organized henexpedition to start in the cool of the morning thirty-six hours following. She arranged the details very much as she would have arranged the details of a dinner at home. Everyone concerned acquiesced gracefully, most of them enthusiastically.
Things that are just a job to us look like great doings to them,” Moore said in a genial aside to Holland. “We’ll have some fun watching these Larsen kids jolly the tender-feet anyhow.”
Holland shrugged his shoulders. That wasn’t his idea of fun His sense of humor couldn’t rise to the occasion. Nevertheless he put a good face on the matter. If it pleased Edie he didn’t mind two or three days of camping, nor a few miles more or less under a shoulder-pack He was used to both.
Once on the trail they took it easy, the three Larsens, the two pairs off the Swan, Edie and her father and Holland, with a deckhand lugging an extra pack and cursing under his breath the vagaries of his employers. Olaf Larsen led them through thick brush and heavy t-rnher to the south wall of the valley, picked his way uphill over down trees and around boulders and suddenly
brought theta into a well-defined path marked by blazed trees at regular intervals. Holland grunted. Above them cliffs frowned. The forest was fairly open. That trail would have saved himself and his man some laborious pushing through the valley below if he had known. He reflected upon the power of a girl’s smile. Young Olaf grinned cheerfully over one shoulder when they halted for a rest. He knew what Holland was thinking about that trail. It skirted the upper edge of the heavy timber, rising by easy grades toward a deep notch in the frowning rampart of mountains.
By grace of an early start they covered the ten miles to the lower falls by noon, and the Swan party, barring Edie and Holland, cast itself collectively on the ground to rest and admire the sight of blue sky and snowy mountain crests framed between great cedar tops, while the others made a camp of sorts and boiled water for tea.
Once fed and rested, a piscatorial frenzy descended on them. A black pool into which from a sixty-foot granite ledge poured a lacy band of spray held out invitation. Above that lifted another, unseen but filling the forest with its murmur, and still higher, according to the Larsens, a third fall leaped a hundred feet clear. By climbing past these three to a sharp divide one could look down on a lake that fed the falls. Olaf Larsen had seen it once from a distance.
T> Y A perfectly natural sequence they fell into pairs.
Olaf took Mr. S. Wentworth Moore in tow. Thorkill appropriated Edie, or perhaps it was the other way about. Holland found himself climbing. uphill, to a higher reach of the stream away from the numerous rods below, with Alex.
The exertion brought a flush to her cheeks, a sparkle to her darkly blue eyes and miraculously loosened her tongue, so that after a half hour by the pool out of which they took a dozen plump trout on gossamer tackle they sat on a rock and talked. From the general they passed by the usual stages to the particular and came at last to themselves. Holland told her how as a youngster of fifteen he had quit high school to become a whistle boy in a British Columbia logging camp operated by the Moore combination, and how he served the weary apprenticeship which made him at last a logging operator with an owner’s interest under the aegis of Mr. S. Wentworth Moore. He did not know precisely why he bestowed these confidences. Sitting on a flat rock in the mouth of a small gorge cooled by the showering spray, shaded by leafy alders that made delicate tracery against a bright sky, he told Alex Larsen things he had never told Edie Moore. Not that it mattered. It just happened that way. And Alex told him something of the history of the Larsen family. They were Danes. They had been sailing-masters out of Copenhagen for generations. Her grandfather had come to the B.C. coast in the early days. Her father had been born in B.C. Her own birthplace was Claspknife Bay. They had lived there nearly thirty years.
“Then why in the name of Heaven didn’t you get clear title to that place long ago?” Holland asked.
The question rose out of some obscure impulse. His practical mind noted in the same breath that if the Larsens had title the prospective operations of the Moore Timber Company, Limited, would be thereby considerably complicated. As if the thought had been mysteriously communicated, the girl answered:
“The reason’s simple enough. But it is fortunate for your plan that we haven’t.”
“I suppose you’d bar us out in that case,” he said lightly. “Would you like to keep all that good timber behind your place for a private park?”
“There are thousands of square miles of good timber along the coast,” she said slowly. “If I could stop you tearing our place to pieces to get that timber out I would. But we’re living under a sort of truce for a day or two. Let’s not talk about that.”
They sat silent for a minute.
“If I could find the Gunhild, I’d show you,” she murmured at last.
“What’s that? I beg pardon.”
“Eh?” She turned slightly startled eyes on him. “Oh, I was talking to myself. Do you ever dream out loud?”
“I’m not much of a day-dreamer,” Holland replied.
“No,” Alex said impersonally, “I should imagine you are a very sensible, practical sort of person who always knows just why he does or says anything.”
“Well, yes; probably I am,” Holland admitted. At the same time he finds himself slightly uncomfortable under the implication of those desirable qualities; as if this girl rather pitied him for being practical and sensible.
“Let’s climb up on this next bench,” she suggested, as he was about to pursue this subject farther. “We can see the upper fall—the last one—from there, I think.”
They left their creels and rods and climbed another four hundred yards. Through a lofty aisle of enormous trees they could look into a black chasm out of which
the stream poured over the lip of a cliff to shower the pool below with spray like mist, a mist that held a perfect miniature rainbow. Beyond this fall a deep notch split the range of hills.
“The lake lies through that,” the girl pointed. “They say its only a couple of miles or so. There’s another outlet, a tiny cascade coming down hundreds of feet into a bay south of Claspknife.”
They stood awhile looking off into an immensity filled with distant valleys, far snowy peaks, scarred mountainsides where the winter slides had ripped paths to a lower level. Then they retraced their steps, joined Thorkill and Edie and came eventually to camp again, where, in the cool of the evening, they had fried trout and coffee and made their beds on cushiony hemlock boughs under shelters of cedar bark deftly erected by the Larsens. That was an old story to Holland but one of the woodcraft wonders to Edie and her guests.
Holland lay on his blankets to smoke a last cigarette before turning in. Through the open end of that rude shelter against the massive bole of a cedar he looked at a clear sky in which the stars were pin-points of silver paling before the onset of a moon which still lurked below the rim of the eastern ranges. No breath of air stirred leaf or bough. In that restful hush the rumble of the falls was a soothing monotone, the lullaby that crooned primitive man to sleep and seems still as potent over the tired minds of his more civilized descendants. As Holland smoked, a curious transformation took place before his drowsy eyes.
The night-wrapped gorge changed slowly to a sunwarmed valley upon which he looked from the brow of a bold cliff that ranged along the north shore of a lake. On the lake surface, riffled and sparkling under a summer breeze, an archaic vessel sailed. He could see the men leaning idly against her low bulwark amidships. She was small, very small for a square-rigged ship. Her canvas was grey with age and wear. She struck him as a strangely old craft, with her high poop and long raking bowsprit that spread to the light airs a full complement of headsails. He counted the tiers of her yards, fore and main, up to a tiny skysail bellied above the royal on a slender topmast. Holland knew something ^bout the rig of sailing vessels. He stood on this cliff and wondered sleepily:
“What the devil is an anachronism like that doing here on a lake in the mountains twelve hundred feet above the sea? And there’s a fellow in a cocked hat, by jinks. Huh! This is funny.”
And then Holland found himself wide awake on his blankets, the dead stub of a cigarette between his fingers, his body stiff, chilled by the night air. He sat up. The camp and the gorge, the valley below, the far hills were all bathed in mellow radiance from a fat moon now near its zenith. Holland looked at his watch. Two o’clock. In two hours it would be dawn. He reached for a sweater and went out. There was no more sleep in him, what of that vivid dream and the brightness of the moon. He was as alert as if he had wakened with the sun on his face. He moved softly past the sleepers who were silent all, save Mr. S. Wethworth Moore, whose large, free snores rivaled the waterfall in volume of sound. Holland left the camp behind, came into the clear space about the black foam-speckled pool—and found Alex Larsen sitting on a down tree staring up the hill, a shaft of moonlight through the trees making a curious shimmer upon her tawny hair.
CHE glanced at Holland composedly. Like himself ^ she was fully dressed. And whether it was the effect of the lunar brilliancy or simply a vein of romanticism hitherto unsuspected Holland uttered a long forgotten quotation entirely appropriate to the hour and the scene:
“A savage spot, as holy and enchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon lover.”
“It may very well be enchanted,” she responded quietly. “I can’t sleep any more. I’d like to go up over the hill and look at that lake.”
Holland sat down beside her.
“That’s queer,” he observed. “I was just dreaming about looking at a—by jove. That is queerer still.”
For he recalled now, as if a momentary revisualization had been granted him, that Alex herself had been with him—sitting on the mossy brink of the cliff. She had motioned him to silence. She had been sitting with her chin cupped in her palms, looking at that ancient vessel with a reminiscent smile.
“Why,” he said, “I was just dreaming about standing on a cliff with you looking at a crazy old ship sailing on a long narrow lake where no ship ought to be.”
He heard the quick catch of her breath. She leaned toward him, peering into his face.
“Do you know anything about telepathy—do you believe in such a thing?” she breathed.
“Don’t know anything; about it. Never thought much about it,” Holland answered. “Why?”
“What was your dream-ship like?” she went on.
Holland told her. She listened gravely, nodded, seemed to consider. And Holland reflected with one part of his mind how absurd it was to sit on a log in the moonlight discussing a dream, and yet what a perfectly natural thing it seemed. Alex Larsen made it seem a matter worth consideration. Edie would have used it as a basis for pert witticisms—supposing that Edie could be imagined getting up at two a.m. for any reason whatsoever.
“In two hours it will be daylight. In less than that we could get over the divide. There is a lake.”
“And a ship?” Holland supplied an inquiring inflection.
“Perhaps,” she returned in the same light tone. “Shall we go and see?”
“Why not?” Holland answered.
She rose, looked up the steep hill, looked back at him. “I’m going anyway,” she said. “Will you come— really?”
“To the end of the earth,” Holland told her with a smile—and wondered what put such extravagant words in his mouth—as if , he were half-drunk—drunk on moonbeams and the stimulation of this girl’s presence. It was an unaccustomed sensation to Holland, and it mingled with a sense of something tinged with mystery in which he was privileged to participate.
“Come on, then,” she said quickly. “It won’t be so far as that. We’ll see. I don’t know—well, we’ll see anyway.”
Halfway to the second fall she stopped, turned to him.
“Are you sure you want to come? You don’t think
I’m crazy because I want to climb over a mountain in the middle of the night just to look at a lake?”
“Why,” Holland said gently, “I must be crazy too. Because I have a feeling—without any logical reason— just a hunch—that it might be worth a look.”
“Ah,” she said. “I’m glad. I thought no one but me ever had such queer notions. I believe in hunches.”
SHE seemed to have an almost uncanny sense of direction, location. Holland reminded himself that she had grown up in the labyrinthine forests of the British Columbia coast and that she had probably climbed the slope to those falls a score of times. But in an hour they were beyond the upper fall, toiling over strange country where Alex had never set foot. The moon rode high. Its wan silver bathed every opening, each mossy glade. But where tree or thicket cast a shadow that shadow was inky black. In the forest which they mostly traversed down timber, hollows, snarls of exposed roots lay in an obscurity the eye could not easily penetrate. Yet the girl bore on steadily, never once faltering, and Holland followed with his breath coming quickly and the sweat beginning to stand on his face with the pace she held. Once they went hand in hand along a narrow ledge across the sheer face of a cliff, testing each foothold gingerly with a toe. Far below running water rumbled somewhere in the abyss. Above, the dawn wind sighed in the trees. The hand that grasped his firmly was soft and warm and very disturbing to Holland. The hour, the dark woods patched and barred with silver, her nearness as they stood now and then to catch their breath, the indefinite yet somehow urgent nature and impulse of
that strange journey, was beyond anything in his experience. But when he asked himself why the devil they were there the answer didn’t seem to be important. To be there was sufficient; to range, thus companioned, into the unknown spurred on by whatever obscure motive was sufficient. He seemed to be possessed by an almost complete detachment from what in the hot sunlight of yesterday had been matters of prime importance.
A paleness tinted the east, grew to a lucent band against which the ragged contours of the Coast range stood in silhouette. All about them unseen birds trilled and twittered their waking song. Every color from the palette of the master painter glowed and blended as the light grew until at last a wave of molten gold flooded the high places and they sat down on the shoulder of a great hill to watch Phoebus tool his flashing chariot up from behind a far horizon.
In another hour they stepped out of thick woods to the backbone of a ridge that ended abruptly in a high, mossy cliff. And from that vantage they looked down upon the gleaming length of the lake lying like a bright sword against a shield of green velvet.
“Huh!” Holland grunted. “If that wouldn’t get you.”
The girl looked inquiringly.
“Why, it’s just as I saw it,” he said perplexedly. “Except for the old ship,” Holland finished with a selfconscious grimace. He had never taken much stock in dreams, except at the natural product of indigestion. Yet there, lacking only a single detail, was his dream lake substantially embodied before his eyes.
Alex’s hair had come down in the last tangle of brush.
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It hung about her shoulders in thick, wavy strands. The morning breeze stirred it caressingly, and the sun struck glints from it as if it were fine-spun metal surpassingly burnished; and Alex stood tall and straight, unconscious of this picturesque confusion, peering down at the lake with narrowed eyes.
“It is just as I saw it, too,” she said at last. “Only I don’t find it queer. Only wonderful. I don’t know why you should see it too. But you did. There must be a reason for that if we could only grasp it.”
THEY stood silent, for a few seconds.
The breeze died away like the expiring breath of night. The sun stabbed at the dusky gorges with a thousand golden spears. For a moment a lull came in the singing of the birds, and out of that silence a thrush suddenly trilled a sweet, melodious phrase—a feathered Pan piping in the wilderness.
“Well, we came over the mountain, like the bear, to see what we could see,” Holland said. “We’ve seen it, and it was worth seeing, I’ll say. Shall we go back?” “Not I,” the girl said decisively. “I’m going to the lake.”
tf “What’s the sense?” Holland asked. “It’s steep down, and a deuce of a climb back here.”
“What was the sense in coming at all?” she inquired. “If you are going to gauge this by common sense—”
“None whatever—from where I stand,” he responded. “Still,” he added reflectively, “I’m glad I came.”
He shook his head. “Can’t say. I seem to be satisfied about something, that’s all.” “I’m not,” she replied. “I won’t be until I’ve reached the lake. Until—” She broke off short.
“Go on then. You’re the leader of the expedition.”
They bore to the right a few hundred yards. Through a stand of fir fairly free of underbrush the slope dipped sharply. They went sliding and scrambling down. In twenty minutes they stood on the shore, the strangest shore Holland had ever seen. There was no beach, rock, shingle, or sand. Moss, thicket and timber merged with water as if the forest had pushed bodily into the lake or the lake had lifted year by year above its natural height in a vain attempt to drown the forest. Bare, dead trunks lifted out of the water, bleached skeletons with melancholy boughs. Beyond these spread others until only clusters of dead
tips showed. As far as he could see the margin of the lake ran like that, fringed with a band of submerged, drowned trees, still erect.
The girl did not even remark this phenomenon. She turned at once to the right, bore along the shore, as if she had a destination and a purpose. She hurried, so that Holland had no breath to spare in futile conjecture. It was rough going. They clambered over down timber, gullies, rock ledges.
Before long they reached the western end of the lake and turned south. They crossed a hollow at lake level between two high mountains, a bare stretch composed of rubble, boulders, barren earth. Out of this jumble broken twisted timber thrust here and there, decayed and mossy. They Stepped over a small stream that went cascading down the western face of this strange formation.
Holland had seen slides, glacial erosions, faults, folded-over strata all through the Coast range. He looked back now and he saw that some time in the past all the face of the northern mountain had broken away, slipped into a gorge, millions of square yards of hillside. Looking on the seamed face of the slide and the detritus underfoot a rudimentary knowledge of geological catastrophes made it clear to him why those dead trees lined the shore. That colossal slip long ago had filled a deep, narrow pass and raised the lake—perhaps even formed the lake. A little pleased with his deduction, he passed it on to the girl.
“Yes, I know,” she nodded, without looking back or slackening pace.
They passed into a jungle of salmonberry brush, the many-thorned devil’sclub, out of which cedars lifted like pillars upholding the blue sky. The girl bent, parted the thickets, wormed through, Holland at her heels. The thorns stung their flesh, the scraggly brush scratched their faces. It was hot in there, heavy with the odor of vegetation in decay.
HOLLAND began to have faint misgivings—overridden at once by a wonder as to what will-o’-the-wisp this daughter of the Norsemen pursued so intently. What was it all about? Why did he follow blindly? He was at the point of speech when the girl stopped short.
For the first time she seemed to lack certainty. She stood with a hand pressed to her forehead, peering—not at anything concrete, but as if she tried to visualize something beyond the green wall that
shut them in. She put out herjjother hand to Holland.
Her fingers tightened on his arm. Her eyes closed. She kept her palm pressed tight to her forehead, and her lips were parted as if in effort.
“I must get it straight again,” she whispered. “I must.”
Holland held his peace as if a command to silence had been laid upon him. In a moment, without releasing her grip on his arm, the girl began to move forward again, very slowly. Holland fended the brush off her face. He was a little awed without comprehending why. He did not know if he were guiding the girl or if she were guiding him. But they moved as a unit. Holland had the incredible feeling that some inscrutable ; intelligence directed their otherwise pur' poseless steps. His brain grappled with this impression and strove to dissolve it, while his feet moved, carried him forward, and his free hand thrust the taggle aside.
The brush screen opened. There was a glint of sun on water. They stepped into the open, out on the edge of a crevice, a trough in solid granite, thrusting like a trench into the hillside.
When they looked over the edge of this, there, a little below the level of their feet, lifted the deck of a wooden ship wedged fast in the cleft.
Alex drew a long shuddering sigh, released her hold on his arm. Then she looked at Holland—standing stupefied with eyes that glowed and lips that parted in a tremulous smile.
“Here is the ship—our ship,” she said softly.
And Holland had recourse to the woodsman’s safety-valve to relieve his pent-up feelings. He said: “Well—I’ll
be teetotally damned!”
Fast in her rock cradle, shored up by the low walls of the cleft the old, old ship rested her decrepit length, a bleached weather-worn hulk. Her masts had long gone by the board. The metal of her fittings was corroded to the vanishing point. Moss lined her bulwarks and replaced the calking in her open seams. There was not a rope’s end nor a shred of her canvas left. But the imperishable lignum vitae blocks that had carried her running-gear lay about on her deck, by the rotted stubs of her masts, where they had fallen by her vanished iron chainplates. Brown rust streaks alone remained of her ironwork. Aft, a great hammered copper binnacle endured where her steering gear had gone down before the heavy hand of time. She filled the cleft with her ruin, a vessel of perhaps a hundred tons.
“I’ll be eternally jiggered,” Holland modified the expression of his astonishment. “I wonder how she got here and how long ago?”
“Over seventy years,” the girl answered.
“How do you know?” he demanded instantly. “You say you’ve never even seen this lake. And how does a ship this size come on a lake twelve or fifteen hundred feet above sea level? How do you know?”
“I do know,” she returned gently.
“Well,” Holland said impulsively, after an interval, “here she is, anyway. Now for the skeletons and the treasure.”
“There are no skeletons,” Alex said imperturbably. “There may be treasure.”
“You’re too mysterious,” Holland protested. “If you know all about this don’t be such a clam. Tell me. I’m just about googly-eyed over the whole business.”
“There is no great mystery about the ship—only about us finding her,” she replied. “I’ll tell you all I know about it presently. But first let’s get aboard.”
“She’ll fall to pieces if you lay a hand on her. She’ll be punky rotten from above and below. Didn’t you say seventy years? Exposed wood doesn’t last thirty in this climate. Better keep off her unless you want to break a leg,” Holland warned.
Alex shook her head.
“She’s all teak, copper-fastened. There are teak timbers on the China Coast where she was built that have stood two thousand years.”
ALEX put her foot down on the bulwark, shook it, stepped aboard. Holland stamped on the deck, found it solid. He tried the wood with his knife. Under the weathered exterior it was brown, close-grained stuff. Her old bones were firm yet.
“We must get below. Aft, under the quarterdeck,” the girl directed. She I moved quickly now, with an excited
eagerness. At a break aft of the binnacle a companionway lifted. The sliding cover was fast, swollen with long exposure to rain and wind and sun. But the low, divided doors came away in their hands when they tugged; the corroded fastenings were brittle as ship’s biscuit. A musty smell rose from the dim interior. Alex put her foot over the sill.
“Careful. Let me go first. This is no place to break a leg on a rotten ladder.”
She shook her head, went down the steps. Holland followed. They stood on the floor of a small cabin. In berths on either side lay the powdery dust of long-rotted bedding. Alex _ stood a moment, looking from side to side. Then she got down on her knees on the musty, warped floor and pawed in the litter until with a little triumphant exclamation she hooked her fingers in a copper ringbolt buried in its socket. But against her tugging it remained immovable.
“Here. Let me.”
She gave way to Holland. He lifted stoutly, braced himself and lifted again. At his best effort a square section of flooring came away. He threw the trapdoor aside. They bent over the hole, their heads almost touching.
“Lift out the box,” Alex whispered.
It was perhaps eighteen inches wide and two feet long. Its corners were bound with copper wrought in quaint patterns. A great hasp and staple held down the lid. At either end a massive copper handle wag riveted to the wood —wood that had once been lacquered but was now moldy green to match its corroded copper trim.
“Fine old antique,” Holland said tightly. He laid hold of one handle. “Good Lord!” he continued, “I can’t budge it. Is it nailed to her timbers?”
For answer the girl reached to the hasp, pulled it free, and turned back the heavy lid. They squatted there, gazing silently down.
For the box was half full of rotten bits of leather bags, and between these morsels of leather all the rest was gold, fine flour gold, grains like wheat and nuggets to the size of an acorn. There was no mistaking the weight and dull glint of that virgin metal. Alex lifted a handful.
“Sometimes,” she murmured, “dreams do come true.”
“This is simply incredible,” Holland said slowly. “Nevertheless it appears to be a fact. But you have knowledge of this that goes beyond mere dreaming.”
“Of course,” she admitted. “This was the Gunhild, my great-grandfather’s ship, in which he sailed from Bombay in 1841 on a trading expedition along the Siberian coast.”
She rolled a nugget in her palm.
“Isn’t it pretty stuff?”
“What about grandfather and the Gunhild?” Holland prompted.
“Oh, yes. It’s quite simple. This enterprising Larsen swapped a whaling bark for the Gunhild in India, loaded her with trade goods and went up toward Behring Sea. He had heard there was placer gold to be got from the natives as well as fur. And he did get the gold. Off the Aleutians a winter gale blew the Gunhild for days to the southeast. She brought up on this coast and sailed up these inland waterways. It was all uncharted then—known only by Vancouver’s description. They made anchor at the head of a long narrow bight to get fresh water and refit ship. And overnight the whole side of a mountain slid down and blocked the passage behind them. So they couldn’t get the Gunhild out.”
“But why,” Holland’s practical mind at once formulated the obvious question, “why did they leave this? Having left it why didn’t they come back for it? Here’s a fortune in portable form.”
“Remember,” Alex said, “this happened long before our time. There were no ports on this coast, no Seattle, no San Francisco. A few Jesuit priests in California and a Russian fort away north— that was all; on a wild coast peopled by bold savages. These men had to carry food, weapons, and tools. Their lives were worth more than gold. An axe or a flask of powder was worth more to them than all this. Consider the weight of gold
“As a matter of fact they never had a chance to take this. Their vessel was shut in a pond behind a slide. They couldn’t move her overland. So they set about building a longboat on the sea below the slide. There were only ten
in the original crew. One died of scurvy; one was lost at sea. Naturally they would not carry this down till their boat was ready. And she never got ready. While they were working on the shore a war-party of Haida’s surprised and took them prisoner; carted them off to the tribal stamping-ground in the Queen Charlotte islands. There they lived among the Indians for four years, escaped at last to Baranoff Island where a Russian sloop of war picked them up and eventually landed them at Hong Kong, whence they got passage home.”
“Why didn’t they come back?” Holland wondered.
“He tried to,” Alex said. “But he had lost his ship. It took him a long time to get another. He had taken his latitude and longitude. The Indians destroyed his notes. He had to rely on his memory. He told my grandfather—his only son— where the place was before he started. But he never reached it, although he set out in a small vessel after several years. He was wrecked on Tierra del Fuego. And that was the last of great-grandfather Olaf. The Gunhild and her treasure became a sort of family myth. Nobody took much stock in it. Only me, silly little me.”
“We northern people,” she said hesitatingly, “have a lot of queer things in our history as a race. We haven’t cherished Freya and Odin, Baldur and Thor, our trolls and elves, our enchanted swords and singing bells for nothing. We didn’t weave them out of pure fantasy. There is a lot—it’s difficult to explain—” She broke off short.
“I get glimpses of things now and then. I don’t know how. Like what you call hunches. Sometimes it’s a feeling; sometimes a picture—like that dream— only I’m not always asleep when I see it. The mind is a mystery. Why shouldn’t one’s mind—out of its racial continuity —reconstruct the past as an image, if one doesn’t put the brake on too hard?”
HOLLAND shook his head. She was taking him out of his depth, out into the deep waters which he had long ago found charted as a sea of mysticism and held unnavigable for literal-minded mariners like himself. Nevertheless, there was his own dream-vision of the night, an image reconstructed, of whatever substance, out of the indubitable past. Holland gave it up. The solid timbers of the ancient Gunhild_ were immensely reassuring. The gold in the wooden chest was a reality which he could and did consider to a purpose.
“What next?” he inquired, not because he was in any way at a loss, but because he foresaw certain steps as necessary and certain complications looming dimly on the threshold of the immediate future.
The girl, too, demonstrated a grasp of realities, despite her apparent dreamy absorption.
“Next thing is to get back to camp,” she said. “We can’t carry this heavy stuff. I shall take a handful of nuggets and some little fittings off the old ship to convince those sceptical brothers of mine.”
“We’ll have to keep it dark,” Holland commented. “Of course it is rightfully yours; a family heritage, of a sort. Still, the law covering treasure trove will deprive you of a good share—if this find gets to official ears. The Crown always wants a finger in the treasure pot.” “That’s true,” she acquiesced. “I’ve heard that. Well, we’ll keep it dark, won’t we?”
“We certainly will,” he promised largely.
They hunted about for some small object peculiar to and significant of a sailing-ship. After search they found in one drawer a small old-fashioned chronometer, fairly well preserved in its case of copper-bound mahogany. This and a few nuggets Alex bound up in a handkerchief.
So fortified with material evidence of discovery they left the Gunhild behind the leafy screen that enclosed her on every side. Looking back from a point on the shore the vegetation seemed an unbroken mass. They would never have suspected that rocky cleft thrusting back into the woods, into that jungle of foliage. A green wall masked its mouth. On every hand the dense thickets hid it away.
“Still,” Holland voiced a question when they had toiled once more to the crest of the ridge and paused to look
back, “it’s queer nobody ever stumbled on her in all these years. Trappers, hunters, timber cruisers, must have passed her many a time. Your brothers must have ranged all around that lake.” “On the lower end,” Alex said, “looking from the sea the slide stands like a wall. The mountains are very steep. So far as I know the only logical way is the way we came. We have lived here a long time. I have never known anyone who has ever actually been on the lake. No one ever mentioned those thousands of dead trees standing in the water. When anyone hunts it is in the valley or on the other slope. Olaf and Thorkill have seen the lake from just about where we stand now. That’s all. I don’t think it strange. There are lots of places in this country where no white man has ever set foot. There are places in the hills where the Indians never go. They say they’re bad. This lake is one of them.”
Holland nodded. Her reasoning was sound enough. And in any case it seemed only fit and proper that destiny—to name the inexplicable—should lead old Olaf Larsen’s great-grand-daughter straight to his derelict ship and turn other men’s feet aside.
HOLLAND sat facing Mr. S. Wentworth Moore across a polished table in the Swan’s main cabin. Moore eyed him coldly, with manifest disapproval.
“Three days ago you said you had it all cut and dried,” Moore observed peevishly. “You said—what I knew anyway—that he couldn’t fight us if he wanted to. Now you say he’ll go to the mat with us if we make a move.”
“He will,” Holland declared. “While we’d beat him in the long run, litigation takes time, and time is money. He might keep us from getting out a stick for three or four years if we go into court. Why not compromise? He will lease a boomingground. _ Cheaper to run our track along the hillside for half a mile than to fight for the flat.”
Moore disregarded the alternative. “If he couldn’t fight us three days ago,” he repeated, “how can he fight us now? Where’ll he get the money? What’s the joker up his sleeve?”
Holland shrugged his shoulders. He knew Moore’s stubbornness and short temper. He knew precisely where and how Larsen had secured ammunition to fight but he could not tell Mr. S. Wentworth Moore or anyone else. That light promise to “keep it dark” was as binding on Holland as an oath. It was, besides, almost too incredible a tale to repeat.
“I tell you straight, Holland,” Moore went on, “I think you’re the joker yourself. I don’t know why, unless that yellow-headed Larsen girl got your number while you were chasing around in the hills with her. It kinda looks that way to me.”
“It isn’t necessary to drag girls into this,” Holland answered. “This is simply a business proposition.”
“Girls have a lot to do with it,” Mr. S. Wentworth Moore returned acidly. “You’ve cooked your goose with Edie, young fellow, I can tell you that. And,” he went on, more slowly, “if you don’t show me a good, sound, logical reason why you didn’t close up this Larsen deal when you had him going—if you can’t show me how he’s going to finance a case through the Dominion courts—why I’ll say you’ve just about cooked your goose with me.”
“Consider it cooked then,” Holland flared up. “I merely tell you what Larsen says. You can call it sentiment, damfoolishness, anything you please. He says if we go after him on ,the ground that he hasn’t got a Crown grant to his land he’ll fight us to a finish. He refuses to consider selling. I tell you that I don’t think he’s bluffing. Beyond that I don’t go. If that cooks my goose with you, all right. What are you going to do about it?”
“About Larsen? Or about you?” “Either—or both.”
“Well, I have a hunch Mr. Larsen is throwing a large Scandahoovian bluff and I’ll call him with legal proceedings to expropriate. I don’t see Moore and Company building half a mile of damned expensive rock cutting alongside a nice, level flat. As for you—”
He paused, as if to consider.
“Shoot,” Holland said bluntly. “But don’t forget that I have a small interest in that timber myself. I’ve got a little money besides. Other men in our concern might listen to me as well as to you. If
you insist on making a scrap about this, I’d just as soon be on Larsen’s side.” “Blast your soul,” Moore roared in a sudden burst of anger. “I said your goose was cooked, and it is. Name your price and I’ll buy you out right now. I hand-fed you from a kid—and first time you have a chance to swing a big thing you doublecross me—and make a goat of me—both me and my family. For two pins I’d bust you one, right now.”
“I’ll take a certified check for the inventory value of my interest,” Holland said quietly, “if you want to have it that way. But I must say you’re acting like a confounded fool about this. It isn’t necessary for you to get in a temper and lose your head.”
This was a little too much for Mr. Moore. Edie’s temper—of which Holland had suffered some disturbing experience in the last forty-eight hours, was evidently a direct inheritance; for her father’s face grew purple. He made as if he would pound the table. Finally he found voice to gasp:
“You’d go in with them Swedes and give me the grand razz? You blasted pup! Get off my boat before I have you thrown off.”
HOLLAND smiled sarcastically. He knew where the shoe pinched most. He was a valuable man, and no one knew it better than S. Wentworth Moore. Holland knew timber; he could handle men; he had the quality of inspiring confidence.
“I’ll see you in town when you’ve cooled off,” he said quietly. “And meantime I daresay it will be best if I do get off this boat.”
He left the saloon, gathered up his things in a packsack, and got the yacht’s tender to take him ashore. The Larsens had a small gasboat. One of the boys would run him across to Minstrel Island. The fact that he would be a fellow passenger on the next steamer with the scornful and high-headed Edie, and her now equally irate and high-headed parent, troubled him little. He had had a promising career mapped out under the Moore auspices and that was all gone askew. For the moment Holland didn’t quite know where he should start in next. His most acute sensation was one of relief from a situation that had steadily grown more intolerable since the hour he and Alex Larsen walked into
camp by the lower falls, hot, tired, and rather incommunicative about where they had been and what they h^id been doing. And while this did not make him particularly sad, it did make him sober.
He sat on a log deep in these reflections looking back at the Swan for a little while before he went up to Larsen’s house. He wondered why these curious and disturbing events should overtake him all in a group. His mind dwelt musingly on the old Gunhild and her strange history, and upon the still stranger sequence that had led himself and Alex across the hills to find her. And while he was thus occupied Larsen’s daughter walked down the path. She stopped beside him, eyed his bulging packsack, smiled frankly.
“You look awfully glum,” she remarked. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything,” Holland replied, in a tone he tried to make light.
“What, mostly?” she persisted.
“Well, I don’t quite know. I suppose I feel a little at sea,” he answered honestly. “Certain things that seemed fixed and final turn out to be neither one nor the other. Papa Moore quarrels with me because I can’t deliver him your property on a silver salver. And papa’s daughter first blows me up and then gives me the cold shoulder because she thinks I couldn’t possibly have been wandering around in the hills with you part of the night and half the day without making love to you.”
“How silly,” Alex murmured. “You didn’t.”
“Well, no,” he admitted. “But I wanted to.”
“Oh, that was just a romantic notion,” Alex pointed out gravely—-although her eyes twinkled. “The moonlight, and the wild country and all that—they say it has that effect sometimes.”
“I’m not so sure,” he said thoughtfully. “I’m not so sure I don’t still want to.”
A faint flush tinged her cheeks. She looked out at the Swan where white flannels and brilliant sweaters made spots of color on deck. A flash of orange moved along the rail. A luminous glow warmed Alex’s eyes when she turned them again to Holland.
“If you want to,” she said in a tone that had the quality of a candid question rather than either challenge or invitation, “why don’t you?”