BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR
SOMETIMES the unreckoned course of a man’s physical activities—to say nothing of the mental or spiritual curves he may describe—is like that of a boomerang.
From a given point, like a missile cast from the invisible hand of Destiny, he returns, willy-nilly, to the spot where the initial impulse was given.
A fanciful comparison like that wras passing through Johnny Akhorn s mind passing not too pleasantly, for there was a sore spot yet in the tissue of his recollection—as he stood in the door of the pilot house staring through a narrow cleft in a rugged shore line of granite cliffs backed by dense forest. His gaze grew absent. A faroff look filled his eyes, as if he saw things beyond the horizon, things remote but vivid, such as anÿ man can see if he looks beyond the material solidities of his immediate environment.
That was precisely what Johnny Akhorn was doing in this quiet hour when the afternoon westerly was dying to a whisper and the sun was on its way to bed in the Pacific Ocean behind the saw-toothed rampart of Vancouver Island, that deep-sea barrier which loomed, purple and blue and white-tipped, thirty miles to westward.
The yacht of which Johnny was master lay at anchor in the lee of a rocky islet. The slow outset of the tide fiom Jerome Inlet made an eddy that held her taut against her chain.
Viewed from a little distance she was like a fat white duck at rest on the water; a sizable duck, however, since she was eighty feet between perpendiculars, with eighteen feet of beam and a nine foot draft. Within the body of this wooden sea bird rested on massive timbers the latest type of Diesel motor, surrounded by engineroom equipment to gladden a mechanic’s heart.
The West by horth had been designed, constructed and powered to follow the course implicit in her euphonious name, even to the Siberian coast. She was on her maiden voyage. She had ability, speed, comfort.
Johnny Akhorn was a little bit proud of his command. The only
lI'JIt'n Captain Johnny Jkhorn rang "Autead" on the engine-room telegraph of his yacht, little did he think that, instead of steaming mildly into a pleasure cruise, he was nosing the "West by North" into more trouble than the young skipper had hitherto encountered. A ship load of mysterious passengers and the riddle of a lovely girl in their midst supply three full cargoes of excitement. This is the first one.
thing he didn’t quite fancy about this voyage was being subject to more or less erratic day-to-day orders as to course and destination.
Of himself he would have shunned this particular spot. He had kept away from it a long time, deliberately. Of his own accord he would never have chosen to anchor in the lee of Granite Island, where he could look through Whispering Pass into Hidden Bay. Yet he didn’t have to be physically present to see it. Sometimes he could see that reach of shore when he was far distant. A word, the name of a place, a familiar contour, would flash it across his mental vision and give him a curious feeling for a moment.
A man can never quite escape buried memories. A color, an odor, a word serves to make them rise unbidden from the depths of that curious reservoir which psychologists have labeled the subconscious.
Deep in his own thought, staring with that absent gaze, Johnny neither saw nor heard the approach of two persons along the deck. Yachting shoes are noiseless. The man and woman—-or perhaps girl would be the more exact term—stood at Johnny’s elbow. The man spoke and Captain Akhorn did not hear.
The girl smiled. She had the face and diminutive figure of an elf. She looked innocently mischievous. Her companion made an excellent foil. He was a largebodied, slow-moving person, inclined to be pompous, impatient, to think well of himself, to be ponderously impressive.
“I say, Captain,” he repeated. “Sorry to disturb your cogitations.” Johnny came back to the present.
“Beg pardon,” said he. “Can you navigate that passage to a good anchorage in the bay?” Benjamin Allen indicated with a fat, white, hairy-backed hand the tiny notch in the line of cliffs. Within showed the faint sheen of water, a suggestion of open space.
“At high slack—yes,” Johnny replied without enthusiasm.
“Please do so,” Mr. Allen requested, “as soon as the tide is right.” “Yes, sir,” Johnny acquiesced. He hadn’t bargained for an anchorage in Hidden Bay. For four years, in his coastwise
trafficking, he had never put a vessel's bow into Whispering Pass. He didn’t wish to now.
But orders were orders, when they issued from a man who was paying the owner of the West by North a fancy price for her charter, which included Captain Akhorn’s services as navigator.
High slack came within forty-five minutes. The anchor chain rose grumbling in the hawse pipe. The big engine began its rhythmic turning. The yacht moved slowly into the mouth of the Pass.
An hour earlier from within that cleft there had risen a murmur like the drone of enormous bees. The tide race poured and broke to the lower level of the bay, a white-bordered, green incline that pitched down to a confusion of swirls, foam, broken water. Now it was still— the inner bay filled to the Gulf level—so still that as the West by North slid into that narrow water lane the loudest sound impinging on Johnny’s hearing was the whirr-oop, whirr-oo of wireless in the room abaft the wheelhouse, where Sparks was flinging out a message.
The depth shoaled under her keel. The granite walls closed in. The bottom seemed to leap up out of the pale-green sea. The little vessel filled the Pass, bulked large in it like a liner beside a dock. A sheer of twenty feet to port or starboard would have put her aground.
She moved at half speed, sedate, as a matron across a drawing-room floor.
Johnny gave the wheel over to a deck hand who stood by him.
“Hold her steady in mid-channel,” he said, and stepped out to the rail. Uncle Benjamin looked at him with an expression of alarm.
“We’re going aground!” he protested. “Look how shallow it is.”
Johnny shook his head. He leaned over the rail. The rocky bottom, brilliant star-fish, dun-colored scuttling crabs, streamers of brown kelp, showed like images in a mirror of greenish hue. It did seem as if the yacht’s keel must at any moment touch bottom. But she forged on while Johnny gazed calmly overside.
Suddenly the shoal vanished. There was nothing but immeasurable depths of gray green. The passage opened, widened like the flaring end of a funnel and the yacht steamed into a bay nearly a mile across, a bay ringed about by high hills growing shadow-haunted in the twilight. Johnny returned to the steering wheel, swung his Bhip toward a cleared spot on the northern shore where amid a low growth of paler green the weathered roof of a house stood gray against the dark forest.
Half a cable offshore the hook went down with a rattle and a splash. The throb of the engine stilled. For a minute or so the only sound in that tranquil harbor, in that fading pearly eventide, was the rasp of the wireless.
Johnny sat down on a forward skylight. The wireless annoyed, irritated him. Uncle Benjamin, he reflected, must have important connections to be so frequently having Sparks disturb the ether.
His glance turned aft to the petite figure of a woman staring overside, leaning on the rail, her eyes fixed on something ashore. Johnny’s gaze followed hers. Presently he forgot her in absorption that overtook him as his eyes dwelt on the object of her attention—the house on shore. The absent look crept back into his blue eyes.
A LITTLE later he roused from his deep reflection and went below to a cubby-hole of a stateroom. From this he presently emerged clad only in a bathing suit. The forward port landing stage had been lowered away for the purpose. The decks were empty. There issued sounds of laughter and phonograph music from the saloon.
Johnny went quietly down the ship’s ladder and slid off into the cool sea without a sound, with scarcely a ripple. He swam with a slow steady stroke to the shore.
Picking his way over barnacle-incrusted rocks he jumped a tumble-down picket fence, traversed a high growth of bracken and came out before the house.
Here Johnny paused only for a second. He didn’t even trouble to look in the broken windows. Perhaps a glance at the obvious desolation sufficed. Skirting the house he came out into a path, long untrodden. This led a hundred yards or so over a little rise from the top of which Johnny took a look into a neglected orchard. Apple and plum trees stood unkempt, scraggly, meagrely fruited. Grasses and ferns waved about their trunks. The evening airs rustled forlornly those twisted boughs and scant leafage.
Johnny turned back, his face expressionless. He came Blowly into the dooryard once more. But this time he stopped, sat down on a sawed-off section of cedar which had been used as a chopping block. He leaned his elbows on his bare knees and stared at the silent house, its broken windows, its neglected porch, up and about the ruotic pillars of which climbing roses and Virginia creeper and glossy ivy had twined a green canopy—vines planted by vanished hands.
In the dusk and the silence Johnny stared at this place. His imagination re-peopled its rooms, put lights in the
windows: he could almost hear voices and laughter within those abandoned walls.
Dark closed in. Johnny Akhorn didn’t need eyes to see. He knew every rock, nook, hollow, giant fir, branchy cedar within a mile of where he sat. He knew how it looked in sun and storm. He had heard the great winter winds, the south-easter off the Gulf of Georgia and the nor’wester issuing from the mountain passes, go screaming through those woods. He had lain on mossy benches and been warmed by April suns.
It was old, familiar ground. And it slowly stirred up in his breast a buried ache that made him suddenly cover his eyes with one hand and set his teeth hard. For a few minutes he sat like that—Rodin’s “Thinker” in a bathing suit, brooding in the night. Then he lifted his head with a curious, twisted smile.
“Hell!” he muttered under his breath. “I’m a fool to let that bother me again. It’ll be all the same in a hundred years from now.”
He nursed his chin reflectively. God only knew what he thought, but he thought hard. And he sat like that, immobile, silent, until a faint rustle that was none of the common rustlings of the small life which he could hear stirring in the thickets, made him turn.
The diminutive person off the yacht stood within arm’s length of him. He could see her quite distinctly. She knew he saw her. She laughed, chuckled rather, a little pleasant throaty sound, and coming nearer looked down at Johnny with a smile that somehow transformed her small, round, deeply tanned face.
“Is it a regular practice of yours to swim ashore and sit in the dark in a bathing suit before abandoned houses to think great thoughts?” she inquired.
There was a suspicion of mockery in her tone.
“Studyin’ navigation problems,” Johnny answered.
“Not local ones,” she observed—and dropped tailor fashion on the grass before him, where she peered, bright eyes, up into Johnny Akhorn’s slightly clouded face. “By the way you made that narrow little pass and came up to this anchorage I’d say you know this place rather well.”
“I know most of the British Columbia coast,” Johnny replied.
“Not the way you know this,” she stressed the last word. “Why didn’t you want to come in here?”
_ “Where did you get that idea?” he asked, with wellsimulated indifference.
“It isn’t an idea really—more of an impression.”
“I don’t go much on impressions,” Johnny drawled.
“Don’t you? You must miss a lot.” She smiled impishly. The segment of a yellow moon had thrust up above the hills and its glow lighted her face. Johnny steeled himself against the compelling quality of attraction that radiated from her. It was indefinable; but it existed.
She wasn’t pretty. She had too wide a mouth, that was only redeemed by the pleasant curve of her lips and splendid even teeth. Her hair was straight and black as night; bobbed square, with a smooth band of it drawn across her forehead and caught by a little barette. Faint, fine lines ran out from the corners of a pair of very large, wonderfully expressive brown eyes. When a man looked once or twice into Jessie Allen's eyes and marked the luminous depths of them, the subtle hints and challenges and messages they seemed to convey, he forgot about her lack of beauty.
Johnny had been observing her steadily for five weeks. There were other girls and other young men in the party. The girls hated her—not openly, but Johnny knew they did. The men were her slaves. And she was only amused.
Men, Johnny decided a little bitterly, were her game. They amused her: She could play with them. He didn't
feel flattered by her interest—real or simulated— in him. He was a burned child. But he did feel her uncanny charm. It did not reside so much in what she did or said. It was a part of her—like a magnetic field.
“Not subject to impressions, eh?” she continued amusedly. “Yes, you miss a lot. Now, I do get definite impressions. They’re pretty nearly always close to the mark.”
She looked over Johnny’s head, up at the waxing moon, and hummed a few lilting strains of a jazzy song under her breath. Her smile, when she looked back at Johnny, was direct, infectious, disarming. Her eyes seemed to imply a great deal more than her lips uttered when she said:
“You’re so darned serious. Are you trying to be like Uncle Ben?”
Whereat Johnny laughed aloud. Like Uncle Ben! That monument of pomposity. Uncle Benjamin Allen was Johnny’s idea of a little less than nothing. The man seemed to have wealth. In the beginning of this cruise Johnny had heard a great deal of loose chatter about B. J. Allen’s faculty for getting big things done in a big way. But Johnny had long since come to the unflattering conclusion that Uncle Ben’s big things were accomplished, if at all, by the left-hand process of buying the services of abler men—as this three-month yachting trip was being carried on. And Johnny Akhorn had all the plain-thinking, active, resourceful man’s contempt for gilt-edged incapacity. A mental picture of Uncle Ben marooned on an island in Queen Charlotte Sound quickened the tempo of his amusement.
“And yet you say you don’t go much on impressions,” Jessie reproached. “You’re getting a whole bagful out of that one little remark. Why can’t you be friendly with me?” she ended on a wheedling note.
“Gee whiz!” Johnny tried to make his tone casual, “haven’t you got territory enough for your operations, that you want to extend ’em to the crew? Seven weeks to go, and you feel your style cramped already?”
The moon was bright enough now to show him the quick flush. But if he meant to draw her fire he failed. She disregarded the gibe.
“You evidently disapprove of my feeble efforts to kill the idle hour,” she drawled, composedly.
“Uh-uh,” he grunted. “Not so long as you don’t include me as a fellow assassin.”
“You're improving,” she responded, brightly. “I knew I’d strike a spark.”
“Sparks sometimes start fires—or set off explosions.”
Jessie patted her hands in mock applause.
“Now you’re shouting,” she chuckled. “We could have a lot of fun, I know, if you'd act human like that once in a while. I rather like your style, Captain John Akhorn, even if you don't reciprocate.”
“You’re a grand little kidder,” Johnny muttered with the first trace of feeling that had crept into his voice. “I dare say you can even kid yourself. But you can’t kid me.”
Jessie rose to her feet with an effortless twist of her small lissome body. Her elfin features were masklike in the moon glare.
“I suppose I brought that on myself,” she murmured. “Do you think it’s really quite the thing to be insulting to a woman who is simply trying to be friendly—in a frank and natural manner? Is that the way you really feel about me?”
Johnny stood erect. He towered over her like a young god in the black shadow of a lone fir. He was a very fairskinned man. His hair had curled in waves and ringlets from the sea water. His powerfully muscled arms and neck and sturdy legs gleamed like marble in the moonlight. He folded his arms across his chest.
“Might as well have a show-down,” he said, tonelessly. “You were dead right when you got the impression that I didn’t care about coming in here. I don’t like a lot of things that are associated with this place—only that isn’t the fault of the place. I haven’t been here for a long time. Once you remember that old thing about sleeping dogs? The last time—”
He made a quick gesture with one hand—as if of brushing away some troublesome thing.
“Sounds funny to hear you say pretty much the same sort of thing to me that you once said to a shy, twentyyear-old kid sitting here on this same grass, by this same house with the same old moon shining. The difference is that the kid took you seriously. A man, if he fs a man, doesn't like to be fooled twice in the same place.”
SHE stared at him with a strange mingling of incredulity and surprise, an expression that might have been pity. It maddened Johnny to think that it might be pity.
“If you really are Johnny Barrett—and you must be— why are you using an assumed name; sailing under false colors?" she demanded.
“Little thing like that disturb you?" His inflection was
The Cover on this Issue
NATURE plays strange tricks. She creates two men, who, in consideration of a purse of a million dollars, will hit each other for thirty minutes while 100,000 people, who have paid two million dollars for the privilege, sit and watch them. Likewise does she create lower forms of animal life which, day in and day out, have to battle against tremendous odds for the simple privilege of living. For instance, take the wolverine. Of all the denizens of the Canadian forest, the wolverine seems to be about the least known. And yet, as a defensive scrapper, it can give points to many a larger animal. Arthur Heming’s painting, reproduced on the front cover of this issue, portrays a savage battle in which a wolverine, a powerful, bear-like beast, held four famished wolves at bay for an astounding period before it was finally overpowered. Attacked, the beast ran to a depression in the rock and rolled over on its back. Then, -with snapping jaws and all four sets of claws working at lightning speed, it slashed, ripped and tore at the leaping, darting and howling wolves, inflicting severe punishment on its assailants.
Bardonic. “Barrett might have helped you recognize me and saved you this slight embarrassment, eh?”
“You’re detestable—and you don’t understand,” she said, tartly.
“Maybe I am detestable; but nobody ever accused me of being stupid,” .Johnny commented. “As a matter of fact my name is Akhorn. Barrett was my stepfather. I was always known as the Barrett kid. But when—when things got all twisted here—when I went on my own, I used my legal name.”
“What happened here, .Johnny?” she asked, quietly. “I thought—I wanted to—it’s so desolate.”
“It was a home. Now it’s iust an old house abandoned to the rats and the weather,” .Johnny told her a little sadly “You know, things happen that way sometimes.”
“I’m sorry,” Jessie breathed.
“Sorry!” he snorted. “Why should you be? It’s nothing to you.”
“Oh, you’re impossible,” she cried. “You’re so—”
“If you had told me that those days,” Johnny interrupted harshly, “it would have been better. I was even more impossible then than I am now. Yet you went out of your way to make me like you. Then you spread your wings and flew. And I came down to earth with a thump that jarred the bones of every one of my ancestors.
“You were just playing a game. I’ve seen a lot of it since. The same sort of thing, I suppose, is on tap whenever a man happens to strike your fancy. It amuses you. Probably it tickles your vanity. Men are your pastime.”
“Do you really believe that?” she asked.
“That’s the way it looks to me.”
“That would make me feel horrid, if it were true.” she said, lightly.
She turned her gaze for a second toward the moon. Its silver bathed the distant hills, the nearer forest. Pools of Bhadow stood ebony black by contrast in the low places and along the cliffy shores of the bay. The girl flung her arms out in a sweeping, inclusive gesture.
“It’s too perfect a night to quarrel, or to feel badly about anything anything," she repeated with emphasis. “Let the past stay buried, Captain Johnny.”
“You couldn’t quarrel with me if you tried,” he answered calmly. “I wouldn’t take you that serious. Once is plenty.”
“Labeled and pigeonholed, eh?” she drawled, whimsically. “Like the road sign ‘dangerous but passable.’ Oh, you’re funny, .John Akhorn. You’re so darned sure sf yourself. I wonder
She spun on her tiptoes like a ballet dancer, did a graceful, artless little step or two—a small piquant figure in the moonlight, smiling at him, her lips parted. Her big dark eyes mocked Johnny; as if she knew that however he disclaimed emotion she could still move him.
Then she came up close to him, put her hands on his bare forearms and stared up into his face for seconds that lengthened to half a minute. She shook him gently at last.
“Kiss me,” she commanded imperiously.
Johnny looked down at her. His face hardened. He shook his head.
“On a night like this? Under a lover’s moon? Won't you?”
“Not in a thousand years,” he said thickly.
“So long as that,” she laughed, and pursed her lips impishly. “In that case — good night. And pleasant dreams. I’m sure you'll have ’em.”
She moved swiftly away. Where the grass met the tall bracken she paused to look back. Johnny could see the flash of her white teeth. She was laughing. Then she waved a hand and vanished beachward amid the tall ferns.
■Johnny drew a long breath, a breath that was half a sigh, and sat down on the cedar block until he heard voices hail her at the gangway. Then he went down to the beach and swam silently to the yacht.
His thoughts would have been worth a good many pennies in the open market— to say nothing of his feelings.
And as he sat on the side of his berth staring at the paneled bulkhead, a slither of disturbed water, the swish of a stem parting the sea, brought his eye to a porthole. He beheld a schooner-rigged yacht slide under auxiliary power like a white ghost up the broad moon path. She came abreast and let go her anchor with a clanking roar that woke a hundred echoes in the silent bay.
''WO things captured Johnny Akhorn’s attention in the morning. The first was an aerial strung between the schooner's topmasts; the second was her sailing master, an exceedingly hard-boiled egg named Joe McNaughton.
Johnny hadn’t seen him for years. In days of Johnny’s careless youth McNaughton had been credited with a hand in various shady enterprises. Although he had come in for a good deal of attention by the provincial police, immigration inspectors, and revenue service, none of them had ever hung anything on McNaughton; he was
too slippery. A moral certainty does not constitute evidence in court.
Then about the time the Volstead act began to function in the United States, Joe disappeared from the British Columbia coast. Rumor had him simultaneously making a fortune in whisky-running operations and being killed by dry-enforcement officers while landing contraband liquor. Yret here he was now in yachting cap, brass-bound coat and white-duck trousers, skipper of a topsail schooner yacht hailing from Newport, Rhode Island.
That in itself would scarcely have made Johnny ponder. McNaughton was properly qualified for such a job. He was a seaman, a past master in the art of getting everything possible out of small sailing craft; and he knew the British Columbia coast like a book. There was no place a pleasure cruiser might wish to go that McNaughton couldn’t pilot her with ease and safety.
What did interest Johnny in connection with McNaughton was the fact that theFafnir crowd was making Hidden Bay a rendezvous with the party on the West by North. They knew each other to the point of intimacy. Johnny was wakened by them hailing back and forth. Two men off the Fafnir came aboard and had a beforebreakfast drink with Uncle Ben under the aft awning. And with breakfast finished the West by North crowd piled in two dinghies and boarded the schooner.
Johnny had ears and eyes. This was no casual acquaintance. Uncle Ben paced the deck with a tall, youngish man, deep in converse. The others sat around in a group by the mainmast, laughing and chattering—all but "Jessie Allen and a man. They perched on the forward end of the low deck house. Johnny turned a glass on them from the wheelhouse door.
One glance was enough for him. He had thought himself pretty well immune from a certain virus, but when he laid the glass down he realized with a pang that he wasn’t, and for a second he felt as if he would like to strangle Jessie Allen and the man sitting beside her talking so earnestly.
He knew the man. He had seen him once, learned his name; and that once had been enough. Dewey Saunders had sailed into Hidden Bay on a steam yacht. From a distant hill Johnny had watched that yacht go out with an idle curiosity, with no hint that her going meant for him a blank bewilderment for days to follow, empty days that were full of pain.
Continued on page 58
FI e a d W 1 n d s
Continued from page 5
But that was long ago. When he looked across at Dewey and Jess, he reflected that if the wound had long healed the scar tissue was still tender. And he told himself that he was a fool to be stirred by any emotion whatever. It was nothing to him now, should be nothing.
From that conclusion, which wiser men than he have come to many a time where a woman was concerned, Johnny leaped to another. By some obscure mental process he got the impression that the messages Sparks had been flinging wide for three days had somehow brought the Fafnir into Hidden Bay. And he whimsically propounded to himself a question: When is a pleasure cruise not a pleasure cruise?
It was rather odd, he reflected with a sardonic grin. If he hadn’t been stung into revealing himself to Jessie Allen there would have been three persons aboard those two yachts whom he knew, but who didn’t know him—Saunders, McNaughton, and Jess herself.
He was quite positive Jessie Allen had not dreamed Captain Johnny Akhorn was the Barrett kid from Hidden Bay. He didn’t suppose Jess would mention him to the man beside her on the Fafnir’s deck house—and McNaughton didn’t matter. Probably the old skate had found it didn’t pay to be crooked and got himself a respectable job.
They didn't any of them matter. It was nothing in his young life, Johnny assured himself, as he went down into the crow’s mess room to eat a belated breakfast. Elaborate wireless equipment and messages, foreign schooner yachts, old loves and hurts, made no odds. The Il est by North was under charter to B. Jessop Allen and ho, Johnny Akhorn, was skipper of the 11 'ext by North. It was
his task to take Uncle Ben and party wherever they wished to go so long as they paid the freight. Less rattling of dry hones would have pleased him better. Nevertheless this was his job.
As for the Fafnir and Captain McNaughton and the tall, good-looking young man smiling down at Jessie Allen — they wouldn’t cut much ice with him if he didn’t let them. Thus Johnny, over his grapefruit.
At the same time he couldn’t help wondering why a windjammer on a pleasure cruise carried wireless, nor why the Fafnir should take a chance in Whispering Pass, when at top tide her keel would scarcely clear the bottom. He wished also that he could look at Jessie Allen’s piquant face without feeling those disturbing sensations of sadness, that ugly touch of resentment. And again he assured himself that it didn’t matter, that all he had to do was to do his job. It seemed simple enough.
The two cruising parties made a joint expedition in small boats and canoes all about the shores of Hidden Bay during the forenoon. After luncheon they went ashore. Johnny paid no attention to them once they embarked in the boats. He was responsible for them only when aboard and under way. It was no part of his duty to guide or entertain.
But he couldn't help hearing their talk and laughing voices as they moved about that abandoned homestead, and that annoyed him out of all reason. He mustered up a grin when the thought flitted through his mind that he could legally order them off those premises, since a halfmile square surrounding the house belonged to him in fee simple. He could Continued on page 60
Continued from page 58 I imagine those pert young women making pert remarks about the place. He wondered if Jess would take them to any of the quaint nooks they two had haunted during that wonderful three months, six years past.
Johnny’s practical mind didn’t take much stock in hunches or formless impressions. Yet leaning on the rail of the West by North in the quiet afternoon, marking the peace and beauty of air and sky and sea and forest it seemed to him a calm before some sort of storm.
There was no basic reason for that feeling; merely an obscure intuition. Hidden Bay spread like a great placid pool, a sheltered lagoon mirroring alongshore the trees and green hills that lifted in tiers and rude terraces to far heights. The Fafnir rested like a gull, her white wings folded on varnished booms, her masts two lofty spars of beaten gold in the summer sun, her decks deserted.
The exploring guests had vanished into the forest. Everywhere silence lay like an invisible blanket. No breath of air stirred leaf ashore or loose rope end aboard. Peace, utter peace, enfolded the bay and the two vessels and the green hills like a benediction. Yet there was that uneasy sense of impending clash, struggle; whether of persons or of the elements Johnny did not know. He only knew what he felt—and he did not trust his feelings. He had no faith in premonitions. He was uneasy; and he ascribed it to a mood.
The dinner hour revived all the varied noises of human activity. The two parties moved back and forth impartially between their own vessels. But dinner gathered them all in the West by North’s dining saloon, and gave Johnny a close-up of the Fafnir’s personnel.
The afterguard of the schooner was also her sailing crew. McNaughton as sailing master and engineer and a Chinese cook were the only paid hands. The other four might be guests or owners, but they sailed the ship. They were tolerably young men, this quartet, clean limbed, well dressed, well mannered.
It amused Johnny to notice that the noses of the two youths on the West by [ North were slightly out of joint so far as Miss Betty Marr and Ellen Carruthers were concerned. But it did not amuse him to note that Saunders, the outstand\ ing figure on the Fafnir, hovered persist! ently about Jess. Once dinner was served Johnny’s chance of observing them ended, and he went below to his own evening meal. Afterward he stretched himself on a lounge berth in the pilot house and buried himself in a book.
It was a good story. It took, him, oblivious of time, well into dusk, and he was i roused then by fading light and the 1 sudden snapping of the wireless for the first time in twenty-four hours. Johnny I didn’t know Morse. He had nothing to do with the wireless. Sparks was B. J. Allen’s private operator, a young man of an exceedingly saturnine disposition, who kept strictly to himself.
Johnny put by his book and went out ' on the forward deck. The long twilight ¡ was fading, deepening. Pearly shades tinted a segment of northwestern sky. The crickets and the tree toads lifted up their evensong ashore. A belated hermit thrush trilled once or twice and was still-
Johnny stowed himself on a coiled hawser. Besides the cook he had only two men in his crew. The deck hand remained below. The engineer joined him for a word or two before turning in.
PRESENTLY he had all the wide forward deck to himself. He lay there gazing up at the bright flicker of the stars until the Fafnir’s tender put off amid laughing good nights, until saloon and galley lights blinked out and the whiteaproned cook passed down the forward companionway to his bed, until the night silence shut down again.
When he lifted himself on elbow at last, to glance down the decks of his vessel be fore he himself turned in, he saw Jessie Allen leaning on the rail abreast of the wheelhouse door staring at the schooner, now a dim white shape under her high riding light. She was within fifteen feet of him. He could see her fairly well And as he stared at her she turned her head, looked at him, beckoned.
Johnny kept his place, his position. The girl waited a few seconds, came over to him, sank to the deck by his side, curled her feet under her, a feminine Buddha in a blue sweater and a white skirt, her black
hair darker than the night. She looked at him soberly.
“You’re an obstinate devil, aren’t you?” she observed in a low tone.
Through Johnny’s mind flashed the unwelcome, unkindly thought: “'When
there’s nobody else handy she doesn’t mind amusing herself with me. A man —just so it’s a man.” But he kept his thought to himself.
“You don’t think much of me, do you, Johnny?”
And when still he refused to commit himself she answered for him:
“I don’t blame you. Sometimes I don’t think much of myself.”
“Why?” Curiosity helped Johnny find his tongue.
“Lots of whys!” She shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t make things come out the way I want them to. At least not things I get serious about.”
“Are you ever serious about anything?” Johnny inquired.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she replied. “So I won’t tell.”
“No reason why you should.”
“Except that I might want to,” she retorted.
“That’s the only reason you ever have for doing anything, I imagine,” Johnny replied thoughtfully. “Because you want to. That’s a pretty good reason, too, I guess. Some people do things because they have to. You don’t.”
“How do you know I don’t?” she demanded.
“Don’t know. Just speculating.” “Speculating on a woman’s reasons for doing anything is more uncertain than speculating on the Stock Exchange,” she murmured. “Now I did something inadvertently to-day that I had no intention of doing when I went ashore.”
“Well,” Johnny filled in the pause, “what’s that to me?”
“It will have something to do with you pretty soon, if I’m not badly mistaken,” she said. “Johnny, old scout, do you care anything much about this old place of yours here in Hidden Bay?”
“How do you know it’s mine?”
“I happen to know,” she assured him. “Do you value it sentimentally or otherwise?”
“Sometimes,” Johnny’s ingrained honesty of soul urged him to truth, “I hate it. I don’t like to come here. It’s so lonesome it makes me ache. Still, I don’t know as that’s any reason for despising its value. It has a value of a sort; any land has. I might come back here some time and make a home. I don’t know. What are you getting at?”
“You’ll get an offer for it in a day or so,” she told him, “out of the blue sky. Will you sell?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Might. Might not. All depends on who, and how much, and the way I happen to feel at the time.”
“You can name your own price, in reason, I’m pretty sure,” Jessie said. “Sell it, Johnny. You’ll get it back for a song, by and by.”
“What’s the mystery?” Johnny asked impatiently.
‘Tf I knew for sure, I’d tell you,” she answered. “There is one and I’m going to be mixed up in it. I wouldn’t breathe such wild stuff to you, Johnny, if I didn’t know you were like a clam.
”1 want you to be wide awake the rest of this cruise. Eyes and ears open, mouth shut. If you see or hear anything that puzzles you, tell me. Maybe I’ll have the key. You'll do that much for me, won’t you—for old sake’s sake?”
“Yes," Johnny muttered the promise; he was troubled a little, and mystified. “But I don’t know why I should.”
The girl looked away to the eastward. Behind the broken contour of the hills .a mellow lighting of the sky heralded the rising moon. Her gaze grew abstracted, then moody. Johnny looked at her. His eyes grown accustomed to the dark lasted keenly on her face.
He had climbed those distant hills with her. He had held her in his arms and kissed those lips that were shut tight in a firm line. He had seen her smile and laugh and tease. He had never been certain of her moods and tenses even when she put her head against his breast and told him that she liked him heaps and heaps. But he had never seen her sad. He had never seen her even vaguely troubled.
The spirit in her small, rounded body seemed unquenchable, too vital ever to be Continued on page 62
Continued from page 60 cast down. And a queer feeling woke in him now to see a bright wetness gather slowly in her dark eyes. He reached both his hands to her shoulders. She didn’t try to evade him; but she did meet his gaze squarely and say:
“For God’s sake, Johnny, don’t try to pet me or make love to me, or even sympathize with me. I’ll go to pieces if you do. And I’ve got to be hard as nails, and play the game through. I’ve got to.” She ended on a low whisper.
“What is the game?” Johnny demanded. “Where do I come in, or you?”
“I don’t know yet. But they’ll ring us both in. I know it.”
“Who? This Fafnir crowd? Or Uncle Ben? Is he the villain of the piece?” “Uncle Ben? That stuffed shirt?” The scorn in her voice startled Johnny. “He’s only a smoke screen. I’ve told you all I can, all I dare, Johnny. I didn’t mean to tell you this much. Only there was this thing about your place. Ask a little more than you think it’s worth. Sell sight unseen. The offer will come left-handed, anyway. You’ll get it back if you want it, I’m sure.”
“I’ll see.” Johnny took his hands off her shoulders. In that mood and moment it was hard to resist the temptation to gather her into his arms—even though he distrusted both her and the impulse. “Sounds funny. I don’t like mysteries.” “I like ’em less,” Jess muttered. “But I can’t help this one—whatever it may turn out to be. I never was afraid of anything or anybody in my life till now. Will you stand by with a life line, Johnny? Just because—because I want you to?”
“If you put it that way—yes,” Johnny repeated his promise. “All you have to do is holler when you get into deep water.” “Thanks,” she said simply. “I take you at your word. I’m going to bed. Good night.”
She vanished below, through the deck house, leaving Johnny Akhorn to ponder deeply on the significance of the things she hinted, while a fat moon swam up and laid a broad, glimmering path across Hidden Bay.
WHEN he looked out in the early morning to find the Fafnir gone, Johnny wondered idly if the West by North would encounter Saunders and McNaughton anywhere else along the coast, and then dismissed the schooner from his mind. McNaughton didn’t interest him much. Joe was a bad egg on a coast where bad eggs were no novelty. But he couldn’t so easily get Dewey Saunders out of his mind, because Saunders was too intimately connected in his thought with Jessie Allen.
Jessie had come to Hidden Bay out of a clear sky six years earlier. She had funds to pay her way, a trunk full of pretty clothes, and with her an elderly, tightlipped woman who seemed to be a maid but who might have been anything.
Jessie wanted a quiet place to spend two or three weeks. She had prevailed on Johnny’s mother to accept her as a guest. The two or three weeks lengthened to months. She didn't tell him where she came from, nor why—and to Johnny it didn’t matter, because the mere fact that she was there soon became to him the only important one.
Dewey Saunders had turned up there one afternoon with a yacht flying the Stars and Stripes, with two or three guests aboard. Dewey was then probably twenty-five or six, a good deal slenderer than he was now. He came ashore and a tall, gray-haired woman came with him.
Jessie met them as casually as if she had seen them but yesterday. Johnny remembered as clearly as if it were but yesterday how Dewey shook hands with him, smiled a commonplace or two, and paid him no more attention than if he had been a stump or a boulder.
And the next morning Jessie and her elderly duenna boarded the yacht and steamed away while Johnny Akhorn was out in the hills hunting grouse to make a dinner for them.
Johnny’s worldly experience had since informed him that a woman could play with a man, help him build air castles, loye him by inference, and still brush him aside to walk her own road. But like other men Johnny found it hard to think of Jessie walking her own road alone.
He had somehow always visualized Dewey Saunders in the offing when he thought of Jess, lie hadn’t thought much about either for two or three years. Not
until the chartering of the West by North brought him once more in contact with this girl whom he had never expected to see again, whom he hadn’t wanted ever to see again. He had even been a little grateful that she didn’t know him. He was certain of that. He had changed a lot. Jess hadn’t changed at all.
He wondered if Dewey was involved in this promise of trouble Jess hinted at. There was such a gap between those old days and the present. He had no grounds for anything but vague surmise.
He knew nothing about either Jessie Allen or Dewey Saunders, indeed about any of these people. They were Californians. They had money. That was about all. Why should Jess go outside her own group to seek either moral or physical support against anything that threatened? Or was she just playing with him again? As a cat likes to play with a mouse. Stirring him up emotionally, for the fun of knowing that he would squirm.
Johnny shrugged his shoulders. He couldn’t tell. He couldn’t help thinking things like that. He was no longer a shy, sensitive, unformed boy.
Uncle Ben’s party swam, wandered in the woods, danced on deck through that day. In the evening Allen issued orders: cruise to the head of Jerome Inlet, anchor overnight in a lagoon famous for its myriad waterfalls, back to the mouth of the inlet the following day and berth at Paden River the next.
Johnny registered instant objection to the Paden River berth. There was a huge pulp mill at Paden River. Its waste discharge polluted the sea with acids that ruined a vessel’s paint.
“I don’t think the matter of a little paint is of great consequence,” Mr. Allen delivered himself with ponderous finality. “I wrish to be in the immediate vicinity of Paden River for possibly three days. A berth at the wharf will suit better than a distant anchorage.”
Johnny could only acquiesce.
Evening of the third day, during which interim Johnny did not exchange half a dozen sentences with Jessie Allen, found the West by North edging in to the pulptown wharf. The lines were scarcely fast when Sparks came out of his cubby-hole and presented a message.
“SCX is Point Grey wireless station at Vancouver,” he took the trouble to explain something Johnny-already knew.
Have offer twenty-five hundred for S.E quarter D.L. X95 N. W. District, registered your name. Wire acceptance at once if you wish to sell.
(Sgd) Parke & Son
18 Davis St., Vancouver, B.C.
Johnny sat down on a coil of rope to think about this astonishing confirmation of Jessie Allen’s prophecy. Two thousand five hundred dollars. The place wasn’t worth that, as land prices went in that lonely region. Apart from the plot of cleared ground about the house, and a few acres of natural meadow where the neglected apple and plum trees grew, it was a rock idle from which most of the commercial timber had been stripped long ago.
A few ancient cedars and massive firs rose amid a jungle of second growth. Its half mile of water frontage might or might not be of value some time in the misty future. What could any one want of that? Yet Parke & Son were reputable land agents. Any offer through them was genuine. Who was the prospective purchaser and what did he want of that particular spot?
Johnny sat in a maze of reflection. He didn't want the place. All that had endeared it to him was past, gone, not to be renewed. He could put that money with what he had and do something in the work-boat field. He did not intend and never had intended to remain contentedly a hired man. The best job in the world left much to be desired in the way of independence. To render efficient and loyal service for liberal pay was good, but to be his own master and take his own chances was better. And then he recalled Jessie's suggestion to ask more. If she knew this was coming she knew who was behind the offer, and how far they would go.
Johnny went down the gangway and took the path that led to where Paden River faced its sprawling area of pulp mill and employees' cottages upon a halfmoon bay. lie didn't care to use the yacht's wireless. He wasn't clear why.
Continued on page 64
Continued from page 62 unless it was a distaste for Sparks’ or Uncle Ben’s knowing anything whatever about his private concerns. There was a government telegraph station ashore.
He worded his reply thus:
Will accept four thousand cash.
Before noon next day a boy brought him a reply through the Paden River cable office:
Client will pay four thousand. Quick action necessary. If unable to come Vancouver at once to make transfer of title suggest you forward power of attorney enabling us legally to complete transaction. Parke & Son.
Johnny understood the value of quick action. He couldn’t leave his ship. He could go before a notary at Paden River and execute a power of attorney. And he did. The document went down to Vancouver on that night’s steamer and with it a letter asking who was the purchaser— a concession to the curiosity which grew steadily in Johnny’s mind. He wasn’t accustomed to bolts from the blue. He didn’t like mysteries. This deal savored of both.
FOR two days the West bp North swung between her fore and aft lines at the wharf and the fumes of the polluted water turned her white hull a dirty gray between water line and guard rail. She lay deserted from midforenoon till long after dark while Uncle Benjamin and his guests I lunched and dined and danced and played mah jong with the official clique of the great pulp enterprise which chewed up the forest and spat it out in an enormous tonnage of news print per diem. Then upon the day, almost to the hour, that Captain Johnny heard from Parke & Son, Uncle Ben issued fresh orders; sixty miles I northward to the Euclataw Rapids for salmon fishing.
Under way, up a smooth sea lane bordered by the upstanding mountain ranges ! of the mainland, rising sharply to their rugged heights on the starboard, and the J low-wooded Gulf Islands flinging themI selves away against the western sky to I port, Johnny got out his letter and reread its formal paragraphs. Beyond stating that title had duly passed, that the funds, less usual commission, had been deposited to Johnny’s credit in a Vancouver bank, there was little information. The property had been purchased by a local trust company, presumably acting on behalf of interests unknown. Johnny put away the letter. It was an odd piece I of business. While he thus reflected Jess Allen looked in the pilot-house door.
“May I be quartermaster for a while?’’ she asked pleasantly.
He relinquished the wheel to her. He didn’t know why she wanted to steer but he knew she could. He stood at her elbow half glad that she was there and half wishing she would keep her disturbing presence aft where she could not trouble him.
Her dark head came about to the level of Johnny’s breast. When she looked up at him with that cryptic, challenging smile Johnny struggled between two impulses; to hug her and to wring her neck. Suddenly she asked:
“You sold the Hidden Bay place?”
“Who bought it?” Johnny demanded. “I couldn’t find out I’d like to know— just for fun. You know, don’t you?” "I’m not sure,” she said. “I’m only guessing. I’m guessing at a number of things. If I don’t guess right, I may be out of luck.”
“You’ll find out soon enough.” She refused to be direct “I'm not kidding, Johnny. This cruise is something more than a pleasure trip. That’s about all I’m sure of. I wouldn't cheep a word if I didn’t want you to be wide awake. I don’t know exactly what’s on tap. But whatever it is I’m pretty deeply interested in it whether I want to be or not. And you may be, too.”
“I don’t know what license you got to be so darned sure of me in any way whatever,” Johnny grumbled. “If you’d talk plain English about what’s on your mind, I’d like it better.”
¡ “I can’t,” she replied shortly, irritably. Then: “Do you know Morse?”
Johnny shook his head.
“I do. All this wireless stuff that comes in and goes out is in some impossible code.
, Nothing but numbers and conjunctions. 1
wonder,” she sank her voice to a faint whisper, “I wonder if you could put that wireless set out of commission for keeps before we get into Queen Charlotte Sound. Would you?”
“I could, but I wouldn’t unless there was a mighty good reason.” Johnny looked at her in amazement. “And I don’t know that we’re going to Queen Charlotte Sound. It wasn’t reckoned a possibility when the cruise was outlined.” “Nevertheless I’ve an idea Uncle Ben will decide to go there. And you have to go where he orders, haven’t you, under the terms of the charter?”
“Well—anywhere in reason. She’s subject to his orders until the first of September. Still, I wouldn’t start for Honolulu, or even Alaska, if he issued orders and commands till he was black in the face. What the devil is coming up anyway?” Johnny asked point-blank. “Is your Uncle Ben some sort of a scheming crook instead of a perfectly respectable citizen? Is he mixed up in some sort of skuldugery with this Fafnir crowd? The bird that’s official sailing master on her used to be so crooked he couldn’t lay straight in bed. Maybe your friends that are sailing her aren’t any better. You know ’em better than I do. What is their game, anyhow?” The girl looked up at him with startled eyes.
“My God!” she breathed. “And you say you don’t take any stock in impressions—hunches. You’re a wonder, Johnny Akhorn. Maybe it’s more than just chance that you’re skipper of this yacht.”
WITHIN an hour of arriving at the Euclataw Rapids, Johnny Akhorn had occasion to revise his private opinion of two members of the cruising party aboard. From all he had seen of them in several weeks Bob Gentry and Walter Gage were simply gilded youths. He had classified them rather contemptuously as soft, lily fingered, and dismissed them from further consideration.
The Euclataw is a place haunted at certain seasons by tyee salmon, variously known as the Chinook, the Silver, the King, more commonly as the Big Spring salmon. Here the tidal flow pours through a constricted passage. On either side of the rapid current great slow eddies swing off, and in the slack of these eddies, close inshore, schools of herring take shelter.
The tyees feed on the herring and their dining hours are from the peep of dawn to sunrise, and all during the long northern twilight that comes between sundown and dark. The afterglow was painting scattered clouds a rosy pink when the West by North sidled in to a float landing outside the south narrows. Her lines were scarcely fast before her boats were out.
Within a hundred yards of her a flotilla of hand liners, rowboat men fishing for the market, drifted slowly back and forth on the edge of a great swirl. With them a strike meant a short, sharp tussle, a flash of iridescent silver yanked bodily inboard, and a blow with a club on the salmon's head to still his violent flopping.
Wherever Johnny looked some fisherman was struggling with a salmon. There was a constant succession of splashes, flops, thudding blows, jingle of spoon baits, and encouraging cries from one boat to another. They were not fishing for sport. This excitement was incidental, the result of swift action. The big fish were striking fast.
Into this piscatorial arena the yacht tenders put with rod and line. Hooked on slender tackle a forty-pound fish would run a hundred yards and make the reel scream and the rod bend like a drawn bow. When the salmon turned for a fresh dart he might go anywhere. Hence it was a matter of courtesy, a custom of the region, for rod-and-line anglers with their delicate sporting tackle to keep clear of the commercial fishermen. Otherwise fouled lines, delay, broken gear and lost fish for everyone ensued.
Jessie rowed a boat for her Uncle Ben. In a larger one Gentry and Gage with the two girls tried their hand at the game. Gentry struck a salmon just as he drew up to the score or more of rowboats and the first dash the fish made took him fairly among the heavy hand lines. In a few seconds he was well tangled. A fisherman flung an impatient curse as he dropped over to haul his fouled gear.
"You get wound up here again,” he said tartly, “and somebody’ll cut that darned fancy line for you "
Continued on page 67
Continued from pane 64
“Cut it,” young Gentry snapped back, “and see what’ll happen. You don’t own the ocean, you hunk of cheese!”
The man bent, drew a knife from under a thwart and doubled up a bunch of the snarled line.
“You blamed dude!” he roared so that all the fleet could hear, “I will.”
And forthwith he did.
Gentry plucked a short, heavy-handled gaff hook from its place and hurled it without a word, missing the man's head only by inches. He snatched the oars from Betty Marr. Gage had the other pair. They drove the heavy yacht tender straight at the frail skiff and were on top of the man before he could free an oar from its rowlock to use in defense. He didn’t seem to think of using the knife.
Tho two boats came together with a bang, and Gentry collared the man, ducking a swing of his fist as he did so. For a second it looked as if both boats would swamp. But they didn’t and Gentry methodically banged the fellow’s head until the rest of the fleet closed and put a stop to the fracas. There was a lot of profanity and a fine, free expression of fishermen’s ideas about cheap sports who interfered with men making a living.
When the boats finally drew apart to go about their business of fishing both Bob Gentry and Walter Gage were standing in the tender, each with an oar in his hand, apparently eager to do battle with the entire fleet. Johnny, watching this from the yacht’s rail, perceived that both the girls sat quietly. They were the least excited of all.
Thereafter the two West bp North guests hovered persistently on the fringe of the fleet. They struck another salmon or two and they did not seem to care whether their fish caused trouble or not. The man who had cut Gentry’s line came in to the float, bleeding, muttering threats. And when all the boats were in Gage and Gentry stalked the float surface, shouldering among the fishermen, making caustic references to a variety of things, patently spoiling for a fight which no one cared to precipitate.
Johnny watched this proceeding until ’ he was half minded to go down and call their bluff. It irritated him. But it was poor policy to quarrel with his own party and the fishermen were well able to back up their own resentments if they choose.
The bright deck lamps of the yacht cast a strong light all over the landing. Every detail of expression stood out as if it were day. He had certainly made a mistake in classing that pair as soft, Johnny reflected. They were tough and mean, more than willing to meet trouble halfway. The blaze of a quite-uncalledfor anger still glowed in Gentry’s eyes. It seemed a great to-do about a small matter, but there was no mistaking the vicious earnestness of those two young men nor their ability to take care of themselves in a brawl. It struck Johnny that they were quite at home in rough going. And that didn’t seem to fit in with their status as well-mannered sons of well-to-do people.
Ellen and Betty stood by themselves on one side of the float. Uncle Ben hovered about his party, visibly uneasy over the bellicose tactics of his guests. Jessie came aboard, halting, as she passed Johnny at the gangway head, long enough to say under her breath:
“Our two lambs have forgotten themselves long enough to show their wolves’ teeth.”
Thereafter Johnny regarded those youths with a heightened interest. Certainly they were far from tame. Dancing and playing cavalier to a couple of pretty flappers might not be the limit of their capabilities.
Johnny admired action and resolution. He didn’t like sheer malice, vindictiveness nor hair-trigger tempers. He ended up by being a little amused. Gentry and Gage had seemed such true samples of the lounge-lizard, jazz-hound type. They were much too dynamic for that. In fact, on that evening’s showing they might easily be thoroughgoing ruffians.
When he arrived at that conclus on Johnny decided to ask Jessie Allen what she meant by wolves’ teeth. But he had no chance that evening and the following day the West bp North ran the Euclataws and cruised up an arm of the sea to anchor in the mouth of a river that promised trout.
The yacht lay there exactly one week.
In that week Johnny had no opportunity
for more than casual sentences with ¡ Jessie Allen. She didn’t make opportunities; he wouldn’t. The day’s round for the I yachting party was an expedition upriver ¡ after trout, or exploring alongshore; in the ¡ evening mah jong in the deck saloon or dancing on the after deck to phonograph jazz.
Invariably Bob Gentry paired off with j Ellen Carruthers. Sometimes Uncle Ben appropriated Betty Marr and left Jess to young Gage. In any case they were three couples and they were sufficient unto themselves. Johnny himself had nothing to do at all. His years of coastwise trafficking had been full of activity. He agreed heartily, before long, with Thomas P leming Day that a big yacht was a lazy man’s palace and an active man’s prison.
He would much rather have been under way. Sometimes he would sit on the forward deck looking aft at this group of devotees to pleasure and wish himself bacK aboard a tug fighting tide and fog with a heavy tow, or a seiner working her great net in oilskin weather. Yet he knew it wasn’t because he objected to an easy life, but because the presence of this diminutive woman troubled him with vain longings, made a strange heaviness in his breast.
His feeling about her was complex beyond his understanding. She would pass him sometimes with her impish smile and he would wonder if those hints of trouble looming near, her pledging him to stand by if it came, wasn’t just mere byplay— something to keep him stirred up, to make him—well, he didn’t know what.
V\ hen he watched her deliberately playing with either Gentry of Gage just to make Betty or Ellen furious he wondered if Jessie Allen ever had a serious thought or a steadfast purpose. She was so exuberantly alive. She had more energy in her small body than seemed natural. She was rarely still. She could always laugh.
First on deck and last below; and sometimes when all the others were in their berths, Johnny, wakeful and staring overside, would see her steal down the gangway and put off alone to go wandering in one of the canoes. Whether she meant to or not she kept him looking for her, at her, thinking about her. So that Johnny was glad when Uncle Ben ordered the West by North under way, because it gave him something else to occupy his mind.
That was the last protracted tie-up. For days on end they cruised in varied waters, up long inlets that were mere deep gashes between towering mountain chains. The West by North saw glaciers like bluewhite diamonds gleaming in the sun, cascades streaming in lacy spray over bold cliffs. Her party exclaimed alike over the seal and sea-lion-haunted rookeries of War-cry Sound and the majesty of the I snowy summits hanging over Wah-shihlah Bay.
And at length, when the first third of August had joined the procession of vanished days the West by North poked her flaring bows out of the mouth of Knight’s Inlet and dipped gently to a long ground swell rolling up from Queen Charlotte Sound.
She drove out from a maze of islands and passages into this open body of water that reflected a blazing sunshine from its undulating surface. Yet twenty miles ahead, up where the Pacific came heaving in past the northern end of Vancouver Island, a bank of fog lay thick as smoke from shore to shore. And as they cleared the last rocky islet and let their gaze sweep the wide sunlit water to rest on that obscuring vapor, the eyes of every soul above decks turned with one accord to one spot, and each in his fashion uttered an exclamation of surprise, of wonder, of alarm.
THREE points off the starboard bow, perhaps a mile offshore, a vessel swung in that slow heave of the sea with a column of smoke rising from her, a pillar blacker and higher than ever rose from a steamer’s funnel.
Uncle Benjamin and his guests surged forward with a chorus of inquiry. The deck hand had the wheel. Johnny stood in the bow with his binoculars leveled. Powerful lenses made the vessel fairly leap at him.
Smoke poured out of her waist. A tongue of flame licked around her foremast. He could see figures in white heaving stuff into a pair of rowboats floating astern. She lay stern-to and on her varnished counter Johnny could see her name and port in carved gilt letters:
OF NEWPORT, R.I.
“It’s your friend’s topsail schooner,” Johnny said quietly. “The Fafnir. And from the look of things she’s a gone goose.”
Allen almost snatched the glasses out of his_ hand. Johnny heard young Gentry whistle and look significantly at Walter Gage. Out of one corner of his eye he saw Uncle Ben’s hands tremble. When he lowered the glasses the fleshy, pompous one’s face was livid, his eyes those of a man full of fear or grief, or some powerful emotion. He ripped out an oath, a shocking oath, a most heartfelt blasphemy. His hands clenched. And while Johnny marveled at the man’s passion, he regained his self-control with a visible effort.
Better put on full speed, Captain,” he said thickly. “We may be able to do something.”
Johnny spoke to his engineer through the tube. The big Diesel thrummed a little louder. Her propeller took hold until the West by North was smashing into the swells at thirteen knots’ speed. But long before they drew near Johnny knew by the up-licking sheets of flame and the angry swirls of black smoke that the Fafnir was a doomed ship.
T TNDER open throttle the West by North bore down on the burning yacht with a bone in her teeth that stood white and curling for forty feet on either bow. Before she had traversed two-thirds the distance the midship section of the Fafnir blew skyward with a dull boom! and a showering cascade of debris, sparks, a great puff of black smoke.
The boats at her stem pulled clear with hasty oar strokes when her mainmast went by the board. A banner of red flame leaped high, licked this way and that, a consuming tongue.
“Fuel tank went up,” Johnny said. “She’s gone.”
She was gone before they drew up to the boats. The sea poured into her through planks burst by the explosion. Her bow dipped with a loud hissing and a cloud of Bteam. Her broad counter lifted BO that the carved gilt letters of her name and port flashed a last time in the sunlight.
The weight of her leaden keel and inside ballast dragged her down. She sank like a diver sliding feet foremost and the little swirls and bubbles were obliterated by the slow ground swells that marched one behind the other over the spot.
Saunders, McNaughton, the Chinese cook were in one boat. Riggs, Helby, Boom, and a sooty-faced man whom Johnny took to be the engineer, sat in the other. They seemed dazed.
They came up the West by North’s ladder and one by one turned at the rail to look, as if still incredulous. All but Saundere. He turned to look like the others. His face was a picture of anger, chagrin. A curious silence gripped them all. Saunders stood a little apart, his hands in his trousers pockets, singed, sooty, his thin lips drawn back from his teeth in a wolfish snarl. He stared out over the empty sea for long-drawn seconds. Then he turned on Helby like a tiger, without a word, his hands grasping first for the man’s throat, then doubled into striking fists when Helby eluded his grasp.
He found speech. A curse snapped out I of him with each blow. He missed once, i twice, then backed Helby against the rail i and knocked him sprawling in the scup! pers.
Ignorant of the casus belli Johnny stood passive. If they wanted to fight, let them fight. But when Saunders, apparently demoniac with passion, jumped at the prone man and aimed a kick at his face Johnny stepped in—only to find the moment he put finger on Saunders’ arm that he bad a fight on his own hands.
Saunders was evidently in that peculiar state of fury which makes a man want to hurt some one, any one, regardless of consequences. He was no heavier than Johnny Akhorn, but he was taller, longer in the reach, a lean, lithe-bodied man, berserk in strength. He landed a blow on Johnny's cheek bone that made him see fiery sparks. And when Johnny went into a clinch to save himself Saunders wrenched him this way and that until Johnny thought the man would tear him to pieces. But he hung on until his head cleared then shifted his hold qnuickly and put everything he had in one heave that brought Saunders crashing to the deck, Johnny on top of him, his knee in Saun-
den’ back and the man’s right arm
doubled across his neck.
Johnny thought he had him. One eellike twist freed Saunders. He got to his feet like a cat. His fist grazed Johnny’s jaw, missed by the fraction of an inch. Johnny Akhorn knew better than to stay away where superior reach and rapierlike blows would murder him. He went to close quarters again, taking a deflected uppercut and a body punch that made him grunt.
This time he picked Saunders bodily off his feet and threw him clean over his shoulders. He came down on the solid deck headfirst and stayed there stretched on the flat of his back, limp as a wet sack.
Johnny stepped back, glanced around. Jessie Allen was at his elbow. She looked up at him and the expression of her face gave no clue to her feelings. Johnny couldn’t tell whether she was angry, grieved, or frightened. And for the moment he didn’t care. He had a private devil of his own that he kept pretty well chained up except when it came to personal combat.
Saunders had stirred him up properly. Without any definite reason, except that his blood was hot and the bruise on his cheek smarted, Johnny was ready to fight any one present. And he looked precisely what he felt. So much so that the other men stood very quiet, waiting for him to make the next move.
When Jessie dropped to the deck and gathered Saunders’ head into her lap and Johnny saw the look of pity and the quick tears start in her dark eyes, he motioned to young Gentry.
“Better get a basin of water out of the galley and revive your friend,” he said
Siietly. “The rest of you,” he addressed e others of the Fafnir’s company, “can go down into the crew’s quarters and wash up, if you like.”
They needed it. The grime and soot of the fire was thick upon them. Thus having coped with a situation which was not of his making nor seeking, Johnny went into the wheelhouse, into his own private domain, and shut the doors. The sight of Jessie with another man’s head in her lap, dabbing with a bit of a handkerchief at the trickle of blood from his nostrils, made him feel queer inside, made him distinctly unhappy.
HE SAT there a long time, until he had cooled off. He became afflicted with that strange depression that seems inevitably to follow an outbreak of passion, when some one rapped at the door.
“Come in,” he invited.
Jess entered, closed the door behind her. She stood looking at Johnny in silence, bracing herself against the slow heave underfoot as the yacht, lacking way, rolled a little in the trough of those smooth swells.
“Well, did the patient revive?” Johnny forced himself to inquire.
She nodded, let go her supporting grip on the door casing and seated herself on the lounge berth beside Johnny.
“He’s all right now. I almost wish you’d broken his neck,” she murmured. “Yes, it looked like it,” Johnny snorted. “I was sorry for him”—she caught Johnny’s meaning instantly—“until I got to thinking.”
“Don’t think,” Johnny counseled. "Bad for you—for anybody.”
“Now you’re being horrid,” she remonstrated.
“I’ll be horrider,” he promised, “if this particular friend of yours ever swings on me again.” He fingered his bruised cheek gingerly.
Jessie laid her finger warningly on her lips.
“Don’t talk so loud,” she whispered. “Don’t let anybody overhear anything like that, anything you ever say to me. Be careful what you say and do, Johnny, while this bunch is aboard.
“I don’t know what’s coming next, but I do know that burning the Fafnir complicates matters. I’m an emissary—sent to ask you to join the party aft. They’ve got over their excitement and they’re in conference with Uncle Ben. Dewey will be as nice as pie. I don’t like it, Johnny. I wish you could set them ashore on the first land we come to and leave them there.”
“I wish you wouldn’t be so blamed mysterious,” Johnny grumbled. “You’re getting me all fussed up. What are you scared of?”
“Im not exactly scared,” she said in an undertone. “I can only tell you this,
Johnny Akhorn. There are two things
that are pretty important to everybody
in this little, old world. One is personal freedom of action. The other is money. I’ve got a little of each. There are people aboard this ship right now who would deprive me of both. They think I’m simply a giddy little featberhead with a stubborn streak in me. I’ll show ’em, if they’ll just expose their hands a little more.”
Her own hands, lying idle in her lap, clenched into hard little fists. Then she relaxed and smiled
“Listen to me rave,” she said lightly. “My troubles are nothing in your young life, Johnny. Come along and join the schooner party, and be amiable. They’ll be on their good behavior. Especially Dewey. But keep your eye on him, Captain John. He might tip you over the rail the first dark night if he got a good chance.”
“Why?” Johnny asked, startled in spite of himself.
“He has just lost a ship. He and his crowd need one for some sort of job they’re deeply interested in. In fact, I’m sure they need one rather badly. The West by North probably would do very well in a pinch.”
“Good Lord!” he muttered. “Have you gone batty? Do you mean to say that Saunders is the kind of man who’d go in for murder and piracy on the high seas? That’s what getting rid of me and converting this yacht to his own uses would mean.”
“A man like Dewey might pull anythng he thought he could get away with, if there was a lot at stake,” Jessie replied thoughtfully. “I’m on the watch. Come along and meet them, Johnny. They want to soft soap you. They’ll wonder why I’m so long.”
“All right,” Johnny acquiesced. Then dryly: “If you’re not just grand-standing I’d better be heeled.”
He drew open a locker on the bulkhead, took out a Luger pistol and slipped it into his pocket.
The girl put her hands on his arm. Her lips quivered. Her big dusky eyes burned into his with a sudden fire.
“Do you really think I’m just grandstanding?” she demanded. “Why should I—with you?”
“God knows,” Johnny answered soberly. “You did once. You went away with this bird as soon as he turned up, after playing around with me for months. You didn’t even say good-by. I can’t figure you out, Jess. But I’m darned sure I’m a little less than nothing to you—unless you wanted to have a little fun with meor needed me to help you put something over.”
The strained, tense look on her face vanished.
“You and Dewey Saunders have one thing in common,” she said calmly. “You both hang to an idea like bulldogs. You can’t either of you think of a woman liking a man without making him the centre of her universe.”
“You took a lot of pains to make yourself the centre of mine,” Johnny reminded her, “and then you turned it into chaos without a word of explanation. I’m not kicking. I got over it. But I don’t fancy having my apple cart upset that way again. You could upset it, all right. I guess. You happen to be the kind of a woman a man can so easily make a damn fool of himself over.”
“I wonder why,” she mused. “What is there about me to get men so fussed up?” “I don’t know,” Johnny said with a trace of bitterness. “Whatever it is, it works. You’re an attractive little devil. You give a fellow the impression of wanting to be taken care of. You suggest affection. You—oh, darn it, I can’t tell you. Only most of your cute little ways are probably all bluff. I expect you're as cold-blooded as a fish.”
“I expect I am,” she said calmly, “and self-centered as the devil, too. A proper little egoist, if you know what that is,” a shade scornfully. “Anyway it doesn't matter about me. “Come on, unless you’re going to be toplofty about everything. Uncle Ben asked you to come aft.” Johnny followed her obediently. The two girls, Gage and Gentry, Uncle Ben, the crowd off the last yacht, were gathered in folding chairs about a table on the quarter-deck, said table being decorated with a bottle of Scotch whisky, a decanter of wine, a soda siphon and assorted glasses, several of which items held down the four corners of a small-scale chart of the northern British Columbia coast.
Saunders rose to his feet at once with a genial smile at Johnny’s approach.
“Captain Akhorn, I owe you the profoundest apologies for acting like a maniac,” said he, extending his hand. “The only excuse I have to offer is that I was wild over losing my little schooner. It takes a precty good man to stand me on my head, and I don’t hold grudges over things like that. I trust you’ll overlook my swinging on your jaw.”
In the face of that amiable‘frankness Johnny could only meet the man halfway. It seemed genuine enough and natural enough in the explanation. If Johnny accepted Saunders with a mental reservation it was only because Jess had, so to speak, put a bug in his ear beforehand. Barring that, he would probably have taken Dewey at his face value. The man had a personality. Jessie’s hint of his capacity for dark deeds seemed incongruous. His manner was disarming. His speech and appearance was all in his favor.
He followed this up by introducing Johnny to the other members of his party. McNaughton gave Johnny—or so it seemed to him—a keen scrutiny as he clamped a powerful hand over Johnny’s fingers. Captain John wondered if Joe recalled the “Barrett kid.” Probably not. If he did it scarcely mattered.
The other three were apparently wellbred, well-set up men around thirty. Helby in particular looked as if he could give a good account of himself. And Saunders seemed to get what flitted through Johnny’s mind.
“I was in wrong all around,” he grinned. “This bird might have trimmed me properly if he’d known what was coming. I blamed him for setting the Fafnir on fire. He would smoke cigarettes in his berth. But we’ll bury that along with the old schooner deep in the sea. Have a drink, Captain Akhorn.”
Johnny drained a glass and set it down. Benjamin Allen cleared his throat in his usual preparatory fashion and said in his heavy manner:
“I have volunteered to take these gentlemen to Sentinel Island, Captain Akhorn. They were to be joined there by another yacht which has been cruising Alaska and was going to sail in convoy with the Fafnir down the west coast of Vancouver Island. Unfortunately the other yacht is not equipped with wireless, so we can't get in touch with her. Therefore the best thing, it seems to me, is to make Sentinel Island and put Mr. Saunders and his crew aboard with their friends. You have ample fuel oil, I believe, and our larder is well stocked.”
CENTINEL ISLAND. Johnny knew the bleak hummock, standing in the path of the swells that marched endlessly across the Pacific. He didn’t need Mr. Allen's fat forefinger tracing a course. It lay beyond the wide mouth of Queen Charlotte Sound, offshore from the tidetroubled stormy headland of Cape Scott. A few acres of scrubby timber and a few acres of springy meadow atop of a granite knoll, with a little crescent of a bay on the eastern side. Why should two yachts make rendezvous at a spot like that?
No matter. He couldn’t refuse to go. It was no great voyage at the worst. The West by North was under charter. Legally B. Jessop Allen could order him anywhere within a radius that would enable the yacht to return to her home port of Vancouver by September first.
This was an emergency of a sort. Going outside of Queen Charlotte Sound, through which the Pacific Ocean throws the full weight of its rollers against the British Columbia coast hadn’t been included in the itinerary. Going to Sentinel meant going to sea. But the West by North was a seagoing vessel. There was no valid reason why she should not go.
Johnny agreed without cavil. If there was anything in Jessie Allen’s veiled prophecy of trouble—well, Johnny Akhorn was slightly skeptical of various things in connection with that fascinating young woman, and even if he hadn’t been he would still have felt confident of remaining master of his vessel under any conceivable circumstances short of shipwreck.
“Better get under way, Captain,” Mr. Allen suggested. "This roll in the dead swell is none too comfortable. We should make Sentinel Island to-morrow some time, eh?”
Continued on page 73
Continued from'page^O “Easily,” Johnny assured him. “Although the fog looks pretty thick ahead.” He went back to the wheelhouse. He set the engine-room telegraph for “Full ahead.” When the propeller began to turn Johnny laid the West by North’s head straight for the densest portion of the fog screen that masked the sound.
Two hours later the yacht slid into a moist, clammy obscurity. She drove through it blind, walled in by gray stuff that swirled and shifted like odorless smoke. A hundred yards on every point of the compass the sea merged into fog. Her air whistle shrieked a long blast once every minute.
On the other side of a double bulkhead from where Johnny stood his trick at the wheel Sparks kept up a steady whir—oop! whir—oop! on the wireless, as if he were groping for communication with some one or something far off while the West by North groped her way in the fog.
JOHNNY stared over the rail at the small half moon of sand and gravel pitching down at a slope that permitted the West by North to swing at anchor within two hundred feet of the beach. There was just the faintest heave from a ground swell that ran outside the two horns of the bay. Across Sentinel Island the surf broke with a spaced boom, boom! Half a mile either way the great swells marched past from the Aleutians, from Japan, from anywhere in the wide Pacific.
Beyond Sentinel Island there was nothing, nothing but another like hummock below the horizon on the west. And a man could see nothing beyond Sentinel Island now. The fog that filled Queen Charlotte Sound with its. clammy folds ay well offshore. The tides that swirled around Cape Scott, the cape itself, all that might be seen in clear weather were hidden in that gray veil. Sentinel Island spread in a luminous haze, muffled in the fog, in a silence. There wasn’t a sound except the beat of the ground swell breaking on the seward side.
Thirty miles offshore. A lonely bight on a lonely island. No scenery, no fishing -nothing at all except a wooded bit of rocky land surrounded by salt water. A queer place for pleasure craft to meet, Johftny thought. Still—if they were going down the west coast, one place, he supposed, was as good as another.
The West by North had left the rockstrewn mouth of Knight’s Inlet far behind, crossed Queen Charlotte Sound, driven through Goletas Channel and around the northern extremity of Vancouver Island with scarce a let-up in the fog. Just a brief, occasional lift now and then to give a glimpse of some known bearing. She had made good her time and courses and when the hook splashed down at Sentinel Island Joe McNaughton looked at Johnny Akhorn and said grudgingly: “I guess you ain’t got much to learn about finding your way coastwise with a ship.” So far as Johnny knew they were all ashore now. Occasionally he could hear a voice far off. On the beach both tenders and two canoes were drawn up. He and his crew were pretty well marooned aboard ship. But lack of a boat did not trouble Johnny Akhorn when he decided to go ashore. He simply put on a bathing suit and slid off the foot of the gangway. The water was cold enough to give him a fine glow when a little later he stepped on the beach.
The sun, shining down through the fog, warmed the air and the earth. Johnny found a log to sit on, roosted there thinking, until the heat made him drowsy, moved back to a small bed of white sand washed by high tides between two great driftwood tree trunks and stretched himself there. When the sun in his eyes bothered him a little he laid two or three pieces of flat driftwood across the logs above his head. Thus shaded he presently fell asleep.
The murmur of voices wakened him. He sat up and as promptly lay down again. Dewey Saunders and Uncle Benjamin roosted on one of his sheltering logs a few feet distant, their backs to him. Dewey was speaking with much emphasis, although his voice was pitched low. Once or twice he smote his fist in the palm of his other hand.
“Chances ■— simple matter — can’t monkey around at this stage of the game —damn fool—Gentry will have to—big money— the girls - puts us in the clear— one trip alone is as good—shooting at the moon—no use getting cold feet—”
All this from Dewey. Disconnected phrases, meaningless out of their context, Allen broke in once or twice with a reply, an objection. That seemed to be his attitude—uneasiness, objection. Each time Dewey beat him down. The tone he used toward the older man was tinged with contempt.
Johnny lay low, craning his neck. He would have given an ear to know what they were talking about, after he had twice caught something that sounded like his own name.
“We’ve got to make this play safe, and that means making it strong. Paste that in your hat. I wish to the Lord—”
Dewey had raised his voice a little. Now he broke off to stare at the yacht. “By Jove, he’s got her!”
Sparks stood at the rail fluttering a slip of paper. The distance wasn’t great. He could easily have called. But he didn’t. He stood silent, fluttering the sheet,until Allen waved a hand. As if that had been what he awaited, he lifted one hand palm out, held it so for a second, then turned back into the wireless room.
“He’s got her, sure as hell,” Dewey said eagerly. “Let’s get aboard. I wonder what the devil was the matter with ’em the last two days.”
Who had Sparks got? And what was the matter with whom? The “whom” that was a “her.” It was very odd, Johnny thought. The yacht that was to meet the Fafnir at Sentinel Island had no wireless. Yet Dewey was anticipating a wireless from some one, somewhere. “He’s got her,” rather argued a ship.
Johnny gave it up. These people were too devious for his direct mind. And he wouldn’t have given them a second thought only for Jessie Allen’s repeated warnings. Certainly Dewey had the Indian sign on Uncle Ben, for all his toplofty manner, and Saunders was up to something that Uncle Ben was in on, or he knew about—and didn’t much like.
IN THE course of half an hour Johnny sauntered casually into the water and swam out to the West by North. He dressed and went on deck. The explorers were still ashore, all but McNaughton and Saunders and Allen, who sat under an awning aft partaking of Scotch and soda.
Dewey called Johnny and genially included him in a round of drinks together with speculation on when the Sho-gun, the visiting yacht, would arrive. Dewey expected her any time now. His rendezvous with her was, he said, set for August fifteenth. This was the fourteenth.
None of this greatly interested Johnny —neither the men nor their conversation. He wandered away forward again, and there to his surprise he found Jessie Allen, whom he had believed ashore with the others, perched on a coiled Manila hawser. He would have gone into the wheelhouse, but she beckoned him.
“If I could put that wireless out of commission, I would,” she said in an undertone. “Can’t you do it, Johnny?” “Why should I?” Johnny asked.
“I think it would either stop something, or bring something to a head,” she told him. “You’ve noticed, haven’t you, how Sparks has been beating the air ever since we picked up this Fafnir crowd?”
“He’s been trying to get something, and he’s got it. Something at sea. I got that much clear. 133 west, 51 north. Does that mean anything to you, Johnny?” Johnny reflected.
“That’s longitude and latitude. Makes it about two hundred and eighty miles west and a trifle north of here,” said he. “Right out in the deep stuff. What of it? He’s liable to speak any station or ship within five hundred miles with that set.” “He’s been calling ‘XY answer Z’ for twenty-four hours,” Jessie murmured. “Dewey and Uncle Ben have been fussing because there was no reply. But XY did answer. I don’t know what the message was—it’s in that indecipherable code, all numbers and conjunctions. I hetr I Sparks mumbling to himself, he was so excited over picking it up.
“I was snooping. I’ve been snooping all the time. I came on this trip partly to get away from Dewrey Saunders and partly to find out what this precious uncle of mine was up to. Now that I’m on the point of finding out, I’m a little bit afraid.”
“ What of?”
“Mostly of Dewey—and a little bit of
that stuffed shirt of an Uncle Ben. I didn’t know he had his fingers in any of Dewey’s pies. The mere fact that thej ’re working together complicates matters horribly for me.”
“If you’d talk plain English instead of this mystery stuff,” Johnny replied irritably, “maybe I’d know where we were at, and what to do. I might be able to figure out something. If you know what you’re talking about you must have some idea about what this crowd has up its sleeve. If it’s something crooked—”
“It’s bound to be something crooked,” she muttered. “But I don’t know, I canT even guess what it is. That’s why it interests me so. That’s why I warn you to keep your eyes and ears open. If I knew exactly what was on the tapis I know ways and means to protect myself and put a very decided spoke in their wheel.
“If I could just get hold of something definite. I can tell you one thing, Mr. Johnny Akhorn. You didn’t commend yourself to Dewey Saunders by knocking him senseless. He’s very nice to you, but unless he has changed his nature quite recently, he’ll try to pay you off for that. He’s very keen about this vessel that’s talking to him out of the Pacific Ocean. If he should happen to need the West by North he might take her.”
“I’d like to see him try,” Johnny commented dryly.
“And if he did,” Jessie whispered plaintively, “he might take me, too.”
Johnny looked at her in frank unbelief. He had seen landsmen and seamen romancing, drawing the long bow, just for fun. Maybe this diminutive female, who seemed to enjoy disturbing him, was merely letting a too-lively fancy have free play. The pirate’s day was done. Men only dealt in contraband within a fairly elastic law, or were active in petty crookedness. The cutlass and the boarding pike, the treasons, stratagems and spoils of lawlessness at sea seemed too remote for any sane man’s consideration.
Ha laughed softly.
“You’re having a pipe dream,” said he. “Come down to earth. The idea that Saunders and his crowd might chuck me overside and steal my ship and start in to use her for some mysterious purpose is much too much. They couldn’t get away with it. They’re not fools. Good Lord, woman! this ‘once-aboard-the-luggerand-the-girl-is-mine’ stuff went out of date when steam came in. Come down to earth. What’s the use trying to get me all fussed up over nothing?”
“You think I’m just a silly little fool, trying to get you excited, do you?” she asked tensely.
“About that,” Johnny admitted. “I don’t know one good sound reason why I should take anything you say or do seriously.”
“Maybe you will—when it won’t do any good,” she flung at him. “The wisest thing you could do would be to disable this wireless set, for keeps unless you know a way to find out what all this aerial conversation is about. 7 know from scraps I’ve been picking up for weeks that there’s a setting of eggs in a basket that has to be hatched in the dark. People like Ben Allen and Dewey Saunders, and that hawk-faced Helby and these precious apaches, Gentry and Gage, aren’t up here for their health.
“Losing the Fafnir has upset their apple cart properly. Something they want to do requires a fast, able, roomy boat. And it isn’t something they can charter a boat for. This is a pretty lonely spot. Y ou can’t whistle for a policeman around the corner. Don't be a stiff-necked optimist, Johnny. Watch your step.”
She left him with that, and despite his incredulity the rather angry earnestness of her last sentences impressed Johnny. But the impression soon faded. Anything he could think of in the way of illegal but profitable undertakings which involved stealing a yacht in those waters was too melodramatic for serious thought. He concluded that Jess, along with her other alluring qualities, had a touch of hysteria perhaps from worrying over some complication that involved her and her uncle and Dewey. Whereupon he grew a little self-conscious and huffy in his mind, and dismissed the incident but not the woman—from his mind.
At least he tried. That was all bosh. In a day or two Saunders’ friend would come along. The Fafnir quartet would say farewell. The West by North would cruise by easy stages back through the
Inside Passage. She would roll up the Gulf of Georgia and berth at a dock in Vancouver harbor according to schedule. Jessie Allen would shake hands with a tantalizing smile, say good-by to him, and he would never see her aeain—nor want to, Johnny thought resentfully.
Then it occurred to him to wonder why Saunders and his three companions, if they were going to inflict themselves as guests on another yacht, didn’t have the West bv North stop at Alert Bay and ship home their paid hands. Why the devil did they bring along to Sentinel Island such impedimenta as a Chinese cook, an engineer and a hard-boiled egg like Joe McNaughton.
Under the circumstances their action was quite illogical. It troubled Johnny a little, until he decided that what Saunders did with his crew was Saunders’ own private affair. Johnny Akhorn thoroughly believed in letting other people mind their own business.
For the next twenty-four hours, Johnny simply killed time. He read, curled up on the lounge berth in the wheelhouse. He talked to his engineer, a worthy but saturnine man who had no ideas outside of internal-combustion motors, their design, operation, and care. He watched with some amusement the sudden exaggeration of the cook’s ego, now that he had Saunders’ Chinaman as his henchman in the galley. He paced the forward deck, wishing the Sho-nun would blow in out of the vapor—for the fog still shut them in. Sentinel Island was for them the visible universe. Elsewhere the sea ran out to merge with fog that rolled and shifted and swirled like heavy smoke.
That night Johnny sat up fairly late. He walked the deck before the pilot house, on planks slippery with condensation out of that clammy atmosphere. Aft, under the big awning there was music and dancing and laughter. He hadn’t seen Jessie Allen nearer than the length of the deck that day. He felt lonely, depressed, impatient with life in general as well as this special, monotonous phase of living.
“Man might as well be in the old men’s home as skipper of a pleasure yacht,” he muttered to himself. “Drive me crazy, this would, in a couple of seasons.”
Before he turned in Johnny paid a yisit to the galley. That was his nightly habit, born of long tricks on coasting vessels, where the cook always set out a night lunch for the men on watch. Johnny had instituted this same custom on the West by North. He was a regular patron of the buffet lunch before he turned in. A sandwich, a piece of cake, or whatever was provided, served him as a pipe or cigar at bedtime serves other men.
He ate and went below. His quarters were in a small stateroom apart from the forecastle. Jphn sat down on his berth. There was a sound of regular breathing with intermittent snores up forward where the Fafnir’s cre*' was mixed with his own. He felt himself grow drowsy. He yawned, stretched his arms.
“By the signs I’d better turn in,” he thought to himself.
The next thing that impinged upon his consciousness was an amazing brightness in his eyes. He sat up, gazed about him in sheer bewilderment. He was still fully dressed. He wasn't in his berth. He wasn’t even aboard the yacht. The brightness was the morning sun shooting golden spears from the far blue summit of the Coast Runge.
The fog was gone. So was the West by North. Johnny Akhorn was tempted to pinch himself in the proverbial manner to see if he were not dreaming. But the wide stretch of the sea between the beach at his feet and the rugged headland of G ape Scott, the silence and emptiness of the island at his back, were too definite, too real to be any part of an illusion.
He was there on the shore of the little bay on Sentinel Island. And his ship was gone.
He rose to his feet. His gaze, turning questioning this way and that, fell on a couple of goods boxes with a sheet of canvas spread on top. He turned back the canvas. The boxes contained a variety of foods, canned and otherwise. A slip of penciled paper rested on one of the tins.
“Make yourself comfortable. The West by North will be back in two weeks
Captain Johnny Akhorn crumpled the paper in his hand and breathed a fervent deep-sea oath.
To be Continued