The Splendid Silence
London left behind, the scene of Mr. Sullivan's story shifts to British Columbia
The stcry so far: Duncan Seymour, son cf Rodney Seymour, of the Moat House, Sussex, England—old Oxonian and London man-about-town— learns that his father is to be married again. The wedding is a quiet one and Duncan does not meet his stepmother, Marian, until she is installed as the mistress of the Moat House. Throughout the course of the first dinner over which she presides, Duncan is tormented by the feeling that he has seen Marian, his step-mother, before, and in some scandalous situation. A few days later, he accuses her of having lived, at Santa Margherita in Italy, with a man not her husband. She pleads with him to keep his knowledge secret, and after a dramatic scene, in which he finally consents to this, his father comes upon them and accuses his son of making love to his wife. Duncan, realizing that he cannot èxplain the scene which his father has witnessed, takes farewell of his fiancee, Lois Chester and decides to sail for the west coast of Canada where he owns some property which was willed to him by his mother.
THREE weeks later, Duncan was in Vancouver, feeling rather fresh and naked, as a snake must feel after sloughing off its old skin. He had been fascinated by the journey across from Montreal, impressed by the mountains and had absorbed a set of entirely new sensations. He had not talked much, but listened very earnestly to all he heard, and was beginning to be glad he had come.
Also, he saw a good many other Britishers of his own type. That was on the prairies. Some of them looked down at the heels, and had forgotten to shave.
He was asking the clerk in his hotel about the country farther north, when a man who was smoking near by joined in.
“You want to go up the coast?”
Duncan nodded. “That’s what I came out for.”
“What part do you wish to reach?”
“As far as I know, it’s near Pacific Narrows—about here.” He took out a much studied map, indicating a spot marked in pencil. His mother had given him that map with the deed to the property.
The man examined it. “You ’re not far from me. Going to look at something?”
“Well,” said Duncan seriously, “I thought of staying for a while and doing a bit of work.”
“Excuse me—but what kind of work?”
“Er—practically any kind.”
His new friend was not quite successful in repressing a smile “Come and sit down.
We’ll talk it over.”
Duncan learned a good deal in the next half hour, and, first, that the man’s name was Berry— John Henry Berry said the card that was at once produced. It appeared that he had charge of pulp mills nearing completion some ten miles from Pacific Narrows. Th: t being established, and Duncan’s name repeated in a retentive, deliberate fashion, suggesting that it would be remembered for all time, further facts were forthcoming. There was nothing at the Narrows except water, solid rock and big timber. To stay there, meant to live in a tent—or without one. There were no neighbors nearer than the mills. The mountains stepped straight into the ocean except at the mouth of a small stream. Fish—yes plenty of fish. Big game—no doubt. Rain—a hundred inches a year between October and May. Berry drawled this out, with a stare of good natured curiosity.
“Don’t want to sleep under a tree, do you?” He had taken a fancy to Duncan.
“Not particularly. I don’t care much.” This with a dash of heroism.
“You would by morning. Better come up to-morrow with me and have a look round.”
Duncan thanked him, and felt much relieved, having acquired some misgivings about the breal-ing-in act ; s applied to British Columbia. From what he learned, so
far, the country had gone mad about pulp. Men very casually dressed, discussed millions with an intriguing off-handedness that made his own resources seem negligible. Later, he went down to the harbor, saw steamers loading grain for China, fed by spouts that vomitted a yellow, hurtling, torrent of grain, and watched the Japan mail-boat come in. She disgorged passengers, mostly English, who were swallowed by a special train' that presently bore them off toward Quebec and home. And that gave him food for thought.
He thought still harder when, next morning, he left Vancouver on an eighteen-knot, steel-built, yacht-like Clyde steamer. Eerry, who had made the trip very often,^ took it all for granted, but to Duncan the whole affair wasa revelation. He sat in a deck chair watching an amazing coastline, which they skirted always at full speed and sometimes only a hundred yards distant. His fellow
passengers were equally unusual, men of all types and ages, all bitten with the lure of the north.
Prospectors in hybrid garments, horny fisted, their hard eyes cloudy for the time with dissipation in Vancouver, careless and virile, tanned to the color of leather, talking of dust and ounces, sniffing the chill winds that called them back to lonely creeks and wide-strewn beaches, where fortune beckoned with a mocking inscrutable smile-—engineers going to report on timber limits and water power —Chinese laborers for the mills and canneries—lumbermen, who chewed tobacco with solemn lantern-jawed regularity and argued about the number of feet, board measure, in big trees they could see from the deck-—tourists busy with cameraswomen with lascivious eyes and sleek bodies who plied their trade where money was free—mining men from Oregon and • Australia—Jewish traders who had stores in the scattered settlements—all mingling in a queer cosmorama over which the lure of the unknown had cast its unnameable spell.
Duncan talked with a good many of them while Berry sat smoking. Nothing new here for him, and his brain was otherwise occupied. He told Duncan about himself in a sort of impersonal, casual manner that he generally used, and was invaluable because it cloaked a very keen vision.
“Ocean Bay is the property of the Cartright estate. Cartrightdied two years ago after planning the work, and I’m carrying it on for the estate. We’re going to make newsprint, the stuff you print newspapers on. Started from the ground up, you understand. Nothing there but trees, rock, water, seals, salmon and baldheaded eagles. Had to build something to live in before we did any work.” He jerked his chin at the broken shoreline, where cedar and spruce climbed in a vast green blanket that dwindled as it reached the foothills. “So the Estate handed me a couple of millions, pointed me for Ocean Bay and told me to go to it. You’ll catch on when you get there.” He laughed a little to himself. “You’ll catch on when you get there, and see how this country is broken - in. How long do you reckon to stay?” “Dunno,” said Duncan doubtfully. “Depends a good deal.”
• “You want experience, I take it?”
“Married?” The tone was almost indifferent.
“No.” Why should Duncan be thankful that Lois had not come with him?
“Well, the best way to get experience is at someone else’s expense.”
The boy grinned. “At whose?”
“Mine, if you’ll take a job.”
•“I don’t know anything,” said Duncan, marvelling at himself.
“That’s no news—and all the better. You’ve less to forget. Not particular, are you?”
“I used to be. I don’t think I am now.”
Berry chuckled. “That’s a good enough start.”
“What sort of a job were you thinking of?”
“Well, since you don’t know anything, it doesn’t matter much, does it?”
Berry fell silent for a moment. “Look here— tell you what to do. Have a squint at what we’re doing, then go round to your own place. I’ll lend you my launch—soak that in, and tell me what you think. If you decide on the job you can leave the rest to me. How about it?”
“I think that’s awfully decent of you.”
“Wait and see. The first month or two is all right—and •interesting, the next three or four are tough as hell to your sort; then you find yourself and feel patronizing to the newcomer. That means you’re a sourdough. Then, when you get out, vou feel restless and have a hankering to get back, and you cuss yourself, but go. That means the north has collared you, and you’ll hear it talking in a quiet persuasive way all the rest of your life, no matter where you are. It collared me. So I spend my days making one God-forsaken place after another fit for folks to live in. When its fit, I move on. Some people call that engineering, but I know better.”
THERE were a lot of things Duncan wanted to ask his friend about himself, but already he had a glimmering of the unwritten rule that, while you may be as curious as you like about mining, or lumbering, or any kind of work or locality, you are not expected to ask questions that are at all personal.
That imposed a little silence on him which Berry did not disturb, and he watched the peaks of the mountains, now snow-clad, climbing into the sky like a maze of ice cream cones. The shore, to which the dense timber marched unbroken, was precipitous, with gnarled roots of twisted cedars squirming down over bare rock and searching blindly for an anchorage. In the middle distance, were hanging valleys with purple slopes. Over their split lips, poured milky cataracts from hidden glaciers, cataracts that dropped vertically for hundreds of feet and were lost in the mattress of living green. This great expanse stretched beyond the vision, seeming big enough and deep enough to swallow whole nations. Here lay the country part of which Duncan proposed to break in, Good Lord.
He did not think nearly as much about England as he expected to, seeing it rather as a familiar and very comfortable picture that was in no way disturbed when he stepped out of its frame, and, to his surprise, the figure that stood out most prominently was that of Marian— the latest comer. In an odd way, she seemed quite in touch with the sort of thing he wanted to do now, while he could not imagine Lois having any part in it. He saw, too, why Berry had asked if he was married.
Lying in his bunk that night, he caught the steady beat of twin screws, and wondered what Bunny and the rest of his lot were doing. The season well under way—dinners and dances—the Derby and Oaks—Henley—Ascot—
Hurlingham! Gad, what a life it had been! Those chaps took it all for granted, ate it up and asked for more. Queer that a month could make such a difference. Then, even the vision of Lois dining witlîWragge and going on to the Embassy could not keep his eyes open.
The next thing he heard was Berry’s voice. “Better roll out. We’re entering the Bay.”
Cold on deck, early morning, with mist swirling and rolling in great fleecy languid masses on a dark green surface as smooth as oil. The steamer at half speed. Through rifts that opened and closed, Duncan saw shaggy flanks of hills on either side, scarred brown, here and there, where timber had been taken out. The air cleared, slowly. They were running into a great contracting throat, which, curving, seemed without beginning or end. Waterfalls everywhere. Seals bobbing up round bullet heads, and diving with a flip of muscular tails. A boom of logs under tow of a powerful tug. Then a turn in the throat, a lengthening vista, and, at the end, a mass of great grey buildings, with a straggling village of wooden houses plastered against the slopes. Some of these projected over the bay itself, supported on spidery wooden piles. The whistle roared, sending waves of sound booming and crashing inland with hollow reverberations that finally smoothed themselves out in a gigantic and troubled whisper.
“Two years ago, not a soul here,” said Berry’s even voice. “I landed from a launch at a spot you can’t see now. It’s built over. There was just me and that river. It’s wood and waterpower that brings capital here, and we’ve got ’em both—and nearly three thousand population.”
The steamer slowed, while the picture grew sharper. Long docks with a light railway. Streets clinging to mountain flanks, streets that were built of boards to make them level. Higher up, the cottages of mechanics and superintendents. Lower, a cluster of crazy shacks where women from Shanghai and Tientsin bent over American oil stoves while almond-eyed babies rolled on the floor. Farther back, the crest of a great dam with a lip of tawny water sliding over it. From the dam, two great steel pipes writhed downhill to the mills. A tremor in the air, as of
force under control. Still farther back, a gap in the mountains, opening into regions calm, vague and mysterious And to the west, the placid flood of the Pacific, stretching through silent channels toward the Orient.
It seemed to Duncan that man had attacked this place with savage determination, shattered its rock with dynamite and built what he desired with the fragments. Here was another world, other ambition, other efforts, with Martian contempt for physical difficulties. This in two years—and from nothing!
Berry stood beside him, nodding to men on the wharf who sent him—some of them the rough salute that in these latitudes means recognition and respect—of a kind. His eyes roved over his own handiwork.
“To look at it,” he said reflectively, “you’d hardly think we’re all sweating in the interests of a woman —would you?”
A PROVOCATIVE remark, this, but there was no time in which to ask questions, They went ashore, and, once on the dock, Berry immediately became engulfed in his affairs. He paused only to jerk his thumb at a neat wooden bungalow on the hillside.
“Better go up there, and tell Sam—that’s my boy— that the boss sent you. Y ou can leave the rest to him. See you at noon,” he added, and disappeared.
Duncan lit his pipe and looked curiously about. A very polyglot assemblage, with many Orientals. These were all in store clothes bought at the local emporium. They regarded him with a certain impassive interest as being a friend of the boss. Then a boom swung overhead, and there began a clatter of trucks, while bales and boxes streamed into yawning one-storey warehouses. It was all done at top speed. In half an hour the steamer backed away and made a long smooth curve toward the Pacific, her twin propellers churning up a mound of white water in her arrow-headed wake.
Duncan strolled up a twisting street of planks to the bungalow. Like everything else in Pacific Bay, it was very new, painted white, with green shutters, shingle roof and a wide verandah from which one could overlook the entire settlement. Behind, and opposite, rose the mountains.
There was no bell, so he knocked.
The door was opened by a Chinaman, broad, sallow-faced, a few straggling hairs on chin and upper lip, a pigtail coiled on his head, a wide slit of a mouth, and narrow black eyes whose expression defied analysis.
“Well?” he said indifferently.
“Mr. Berry sent me here. He’ll be up at noon.”
“You stay here?”
“I suppose so.” Duncan tried not to smile.
“You tlunk on dock?”
He waved the stranger into a big room, opening on to the verandah and equipped with big comfortable American furniture.
Magazines were piled on the tables.
“Hope you klomflotable. Me get tlunk. Gimme keys!” This, with a ghost of a smile in his inscrutable eyes. Then he vanished with a soft shuffle of slippered feet.
Duncan wondered about the keys, but assumed there must be a custom’s inspection, and, from the verandah, watched two other Chinamen go downhill toward the warehouse. He took a long careful stare at his surroundings. From this elevation, he could see inland across the lake whose outlet had been throttled by the great dam.
The crooked streets flowed zigzag everywhere, curving round mound and hummocks of solid rock, but they all led toward the grey mass of the mill buildings. The wide arm of Pacific Bay, reaching inland, meant that this corner of the wilderness was in commercial touch with the world. Two gaunt wireless masts were very eloquent. Queer to realize that in a few hours he could communicate with Lois and Moat House.
He pulled his mind back from that contemplation. What was there here for him?
That was the question.
Former dreams of being a bit of a hero, and hacking out a home for himself, began to fade.
From what he had seen so far, this was not a one man job on the Pacific Coast. And what would Berry expect him to do? Work in the mills? Presently he gave up this asking of useless questions, and turned to the magazines. An hour later came a voice at his elbow.
“Loom all leddy now. You come.”.
He followed upstairs. A big room, very clean and shining, overlooking the bay. The bureau drawers were half open, and he saw his own linen neatly arranged. His clothes had been hung in a closet, toilet things on the washstand, boots polished and neatly stowed. Manders himself could have done no better. He sent Sam a look of puzzled surprise.
“I say, thanks very much, but I could have done all this!”
Sam made his customary gesture with a flat hand— which might mean anything.
“Me long time in English consul house at Tientsin. All light.”
He vanished, and Duncan sat musingly on the edge of the bed. This was all so much better than anything he had expected. He saw, too, that it meant money, a heap of money. Nor did he make the mistake of assuming that Berry meant this visit of his to be at all permanent. It was only his very practical and kindly way of helping a greenhorn to begin gradually and get hold of the right end of the stick at the very start. Duncan was too modest to assume that his new friend had taken a real fancy to him. He probably would do this for any decent chap, strangers being scarce at Pacific Bay.
It was a most desirable room. Over the mantel, were framed photographs of the works as they had appeared in various stages of completion. These were all taken from
the same point. Berry used them to amplify his monthly progress reports to his principals, and they were very instructive. The wilderness untouched—the first clearing —the dam site with a foaming cataract where now the waters had been tamed and harnessed—construction. One could almost see the swing of axes and falling timber, and hear the boom of dynamite. In the middle of these photographs was a smaller one. Berry himself in long boots, a flannel shirt and disreputable hat. Beside him a girl. Duncan studied her face. A good sort, he thought, not what one would call pretty, and lacking the clear distinction that he found in Lois’ features, but with a frank honest expression one could not mistake. A rather large mouth, eyes far apart, and a quite charming ^mile. Her head was a little back, and this gave her a touch of attractive pride. She was dressed in what he took to be kahki, with a short skirt, blouse open at the neck and long boots laced to the knee. There was a date scribbled on the print.
“He must be a widower, and that’s his daughter,” thought Duncan, and just then a long drawn siren whistle sounded from the mill.
HE WENT back to the verandah. The grey buildings were vomiting streams of ant-like men, and presently Berry could be made out coming uphill with long, loose
strides, his hands clasped behind him, his shoulders bent. He saw Duncan and nodded amiably. “Sam fix you up?”
“Yes, very well indeed. In fact—”
“Not what you expected, eh?” This, with a chuckle.
“Nothing like it. I thought you—well—rather roughed it.”
“I have, and suppose I will again—when I move on. Don’t like running things after the wheels go round. Sooner build ’em Anyway, the roughing stage is over for this trip. Have a drink?” “No thanks,” said Duncan rather surprised with himself. He would not have said that in London.
Berry seemed to approve. “Never touch it myself. If you can without it up here, so much the better. The place is all right in this decent weather. You have thirty inches of rain in England, but we have two hundred here in nine months. And that plays hell with some men. Well, what’s in your head?”
Duncan did not understand the question, then discovered that Berry had a trick of renewing conversations just where they left off hours before.
“Would you like to go and see your own place this afternoon, or spend a day or two here, first?” “What do you suggest?” “Better go when the going’s good. I’ll fix you up with the launch. You’ll have a couple of Japs. Might do a bit of fishing as the spring salmon are running now.”
“That’s awfully decent of you,” said Duncan gratefully, “and I’m wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t met you.”
Berry smiled. “Don’t lose any hair over that.”
Then Sam rang a bell, and they went in to dinner, a meal that made Duncan open his eyes, especially when he looked up and saw the naked wilderness at arm’s length. _
“Size up those two Japs you’ll have this afternoon, and let me know what you think of ’em,” said Berry presently. “We depend a good deal on the Oriental up here.”
Duncan nodded. “I’ll try to— and Sam is a wonder. Where did you find him?”
“On the docks in Vancouver. I guess he smuggled himself over and saved five hundred dollars by doing it. Yes, he’s all right. He’ll fade away some day, and another just like him turn up to take his place. There won’t be any difference, at least I won’t see any.”
“And the Japs?”
“Different thing, altogether. Better blood, most of ’em. Know why they’re here?”
“To make money.”
“Only partly. It’s just as much to gain knowledge— experience-—-and learn our little tricks for the benefit of folks at home. It doesn’t do to ask too many questions of a Jap. They look sort of blank about the third one, and then you don’t get any further. Clever as you like, but—” He broke off and laughed. “Perhaps you’ll see what I mean before long. But they’re as tough as wire, and you can’t kill ’em with work.”
“What do you do in your spare time up here?”
Berry smiled. “That’s not hard to answer, but let me show you something first. Come outside.”
On the verandah, he took a telescope from a box, and, resting it on the rail, examined a hillsidg two miles away. Then with a little grunt he handed the glass to Duncan.
“Look straight opposite where that patch of timber tails out into that bare spot. Got it?”
“See two small black things—moving?”
“Bears feeding on young roots. They come there most every day for a couple of hours at noon. Black bear, you know. Well, there they are, and if you want to get after ’em I’ll lend you my rifle. Now what do you say?” There was a queer little lift in his voice. Stepping ashore, and moving a few yards inland, he found himself at the edge of a vast forest. The ground was covered kneedeep in a soft, grey-greeii moss in which giant ferns, with wide palmaced fronds, grew as high as his head. From this blanketed soil, rose the trunks of great trees, cedar and hemlock, unlike any he had ever seen before. Some of them towered, branchless, for a hundred feet, then spread into a vast canopy, through which the blue sky was visible in a myriad of tiny flecks. No sound here, save the call of the stream that reached him hushed and softened. No birds crossed his vision. No sign or trail of any animal. He might have been at the end of of the world.
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Duncan, very much to his own amazement, hesitated. There were the brutes, he could see them quite distinctly, and there was good cover to stalk within a hundred yards. His right forefinger twitched ever so slightly. This was what he had come to British Columbia to find. Then he seemed to hear his own voice, oddly unnatural.
“Thanks very much, but perhaps I’d better see that property, and stick to my job.”
“Dead right”, chuckled Berry, and that’s what I do in my spare time.”
“Do you never stop working, except to eat?”
“Maybe, for an hour or so, when I’m too tired to eat. Then I read a little and empty my head as you would a bucket. This place sort of talks to you, and you don’t have to talk back.”
A telephone bell rang inside, and Sam appeared at the door.
“Camp number one, Mister Belly.”
Berry went in, returning a few moments later. “That gives you a rough idea of things. A logging foreman wanted some instructions about the type of tim-' ber he was to cut. There’s a wire to his camp, of course. In an hour from now, crosscut saws will be chewing into hemlock trees a thousand years or so old. In a few days some of them will be in the water on their way to the mills. In a few months your friends in England will pick up the morning paper, and will have a few chips of that same hemlock in their hands. That’s why I’m here. Now the rain is holding off, and you’d better get away.”
In ten minutes, Duncan was speeding along the coast in a powerful forty-foot petrol launch that looked capable of living through a heavy sea. The Jap in charge, a slim fellow of indeterminate age, had smiled when he stepped on board, and sent him a swift scrutinizing look. Then he signalled to his compatriot to start the engine, and straightened out on a westward course.
“Bad luck in the boat race this year, wasn’t it?” he said presently with another smile.
IT WAS exactly the intonation to which A Duncan had become accustomed during the three years between eighteen and twenty one. He blinked a little.
“Eh, what boat-race?”
“We sank in Hammersmith reach, didn’t we?”
Oxford? Oxford in Ocean Bay? Oxford in an oilstained canvas suit, with a fine delicate hand resting lightly on the polished wheel, while a pair of dark Oriental eyes surveyed the passenger with a provocative smile as though inviting him not to show surprise—if he could? Words seemed difficult of finding. There came the swish of water and the throb of a perfectly balanced engine.
“I remember seeing you often in the High,” went on the impassive voice. “Christchurch, weren’t you?”
“Yes,” said Duncan, marvelling. “And you?”
“Worcester. I came down, three years ago.”
Duncan examined him closely. He had almond shaped nails, a spare, active body, very large, firm mouth, small eyes—very bright and black. One did see men like that at Oxford, but didn’t think much about them because they were generally swotting in their rooms and took little interest in sport. This man looked well born, and might be the son of a prominent family preparing himself for international business, or politics, or diplomacy. But what was he doing here? But what was Duncan doing himself? And the Jap had made good.
“Awfully sorry, but I don’t remember you.”
“No, you wouldn’t.” The tone suggested that remembrance was unexpected. “Did you take a science course?”
“Yes, physics and engineering. I put in my spare time on higher mathematics. I’m erecting special machinery here, but always get out like this whenever I can. Great bit of coast, isn’t it?”
“Wonderful. I say, what’s your name? Mine is Seymour.”
“I know that. I’m Kyashi.”
“How long have you been here?”
“I’m getting what I came for,” he said quietly.
Duncan reflected. It seemed that these chaps always got what they came for because they went after it with a certain inflexible precision and did not stop to ask whether they liked it or not. The same thing happened at Oxford, where they did not cut loose, but stuck to their job as though there were something much bigger and more important behind it. The contrast with one’s own method—or lack of method—of procedure, was rather marked. And that raised the question of what Kyashi really wanted here, which would not be merely the task of erecting machinery. He examined the face again. Good breeding and determination written all over it. Easy to distinguish that now.
“You’re not going to live here?” he hazarded.
Kyashi smiled. “Some of my people will, but I won't. And you?”
Again the difference. Kyashi had his plan or system of life. Duncan hoped to have one. It made him think of the property on Pacific Narrows.
“Y~ou know where my place is?”
“Yes, it’s like every other place here, and what Ocean Bay was like before Berry came—just wood, water and rock.” This sounded uninspiring, and they fell to talking about Oxford, while, all the time, Kyashi twisted through deep water channels, and cut sharply from point to point with the assurance of one who was no stranger here. If Duncan had only known it, he could have done practically the same thing at any part for hundreds of miles on either side.
Then the Narrows, and a wedge shaped bay that ended where a roaring stream came in from the hanging valleys above. By the mouth of the stream, a great dead tree, with a bald-headed eagle motionless in lonely watch on the topmost naked branch. A hawk rose from the water with a flopping of wet and burdened wings, a gleaming fish in its talons. It climbed heavily, the fish writhing like living silver. Suddenly the eagle launched himself, soared high and descended, splitting the light wind like a torpedo. The hawk strained at a swifter climb, failed and dropped his prey. At that, the greater bird made an Immelmann turn, dived into a spin, and flattening out with extraordinary velocity, caught the fish a hundred yards above the water. Then, to a distant rock by the shore, where he feasted royally.
Kyashi looned at Duncan with an unfathomable smile. “He lives like that so far as fishing is concerned, and the hawks work for him. Not a bad way to live.”
There was something so unconsciously significant in the tone, that Duncan wondered if this was the way Kyashi himself expected to live. It seemed almost possible, and he looked as if he could be very cold and ruthless. Then the engine stopped. The launch, losing way, floated in the mouth of a stream where tawny water slid over a bed of multi-colored gravel. Kyashi took out a long pole, and pushed the bows against the bank.
“Behold your property,” he said in a voice that was almost satirical.
Ordinarily, Duncan would have resented this, but now he remained silent.
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“He’s nearly done,” said Kyashi calmly.
Duncan’s nerves were thrilling. This was more like big game shooting than fishing, with something savage and primitive about it.
“Pull in now!”
He pulled. Twenty feet down appeared a large silver shape, darting and writhing. It came higher. Ten feet! Five! Then another huge splash, and the Jap’s arm straightened into a movement inconceivably swift.
“Let me take the weight now,” he said sharply. “There!”
The salmon was raging about on the floor of the launch in a tangle of line and hook, a great shining body, thick of shoulder, heavy of tail, with iridescent markings on its gleaming sides, markings that caught the light and changed while one looked. It was the biggest fish Duncan had ever seen. He was sorry it had been handled so brutally. His arm ached, having hauled that fifty pounds of fighting weight through hundreds of feet of green Pacific water. Kyashi picked up an axe, and battered in the shapely head. Duncan felt a little sick.
“That’s a spring salmon,” came a calm voice. “He’ll go fifty-five pounds. Want another?”
Duncan shook his head. “Not this way. I’d like to try with a fly some day. I brought my rods.”
“They don’t take a fly here. Probably, too much other food. We’ll get along. There’s a bit of fog coming in.”
THE fog deepened, sending long trailing arms that wrapped the launch in a ghostly embrace. No shore now, only suggestions of shore, visible for an instant, then blotted out. Kyashi held his eyes fastened on a binnacle compass and drove full speed ahead.
Duncan yielded to a growing sense of unreality. Every well known landmark of existence had melted away, and his future was dipped in vague obscurity. Kyashi and the other Jap were real, and the great salmon with its crushed head, and the launch, but they were all new and strange, pointing as it were to a complete remodeling of what was to come. In that moment he foresaw that nothing could be quite the same again.
Kyashi knew his way here; he rounded
jagged rocks that loomed up out of the fog and disappeared in an instant. Cliffs showed up and vanished, while always the launch sped on with never a suggestion of hesitation from the hand on the wheel. He might have been in his own room. His eyes were half closed but very much alive, his face expressed absolute concentration. How was it that, with only six months here, he knew his tortuous way so marvelously well? Why did he know it? What real use could it ever be to him?
Came the barely distinguishable loom of land on either side. The launch slowed, then, immediately ahead, the sound of men’s voices on something high and dark and seemingly solid. At a sign, the engine reversed, and they lay against a set of steep, wooden steps.
“Here we are,” said Kyashi, with a contented little noise in his throat. “I’ll send that salmon to the boarding-house. Berry won’t want it.”
Duncan was amazed, and a shade disappointed; amazed that he should have been brought back so surely and swiftly, disappointed that Berry should not see his prize. Kyashi seemed to discern this.
“Berry has eaten so much salmon that this one would only be sent down again,” he said, with a faint smile. “As for its size, that’s nothing unusual. Well, now that you’ve ¿een it, what do you think of your property? Going to live on it?” Duncan shook his head. “I don’t want a one-man job.”
“Want to sell it?”
Duncan stared at him. The question had been put in a voice so cool as almost to be indifferent.
“Do you want to buy it?”
“I might find you a purchaser—if you like.”
“I don’t know, yet, whether I’ll sell or not. And I don’t know what its worth. My mother paid a couple of hundred pounds for it, ten years ago.”
The Jap nodded. “It wouldn’t have cost more then. If you do decide to sell, might I have the first offer?”
The odd thing was that he said this in a manner that left no doubt as to his ability to purchase. Duncan was impressed, and tried not to show it.
“What is it worth now?”
Kyashi smiled again. “I’ll make my offer when you want to sell. Got to get back to work now.”
Berry had not reached the bungalow, and Duncan, not liking to intrude on business hours, waited till he returned. Sam was casually polite.
“You catch fish?”
“Yes, fifty-five pounds.”
“No bling him up here?”
“No.” grinned Duncan.
“Vellygood. Too much fish. You have dlink?”
“No thanks, I’ll wait for Mr. Berry. I’m all right.”
He told Berry about it at supper.
“Yes, that’s a fair size. You’d get a dollar and a half—say three cents a pound -—for it at the canneries. Personally, I’m salmon sick. Had too many of ’em. What did you make of the Jap?”
“Did you know he’d been at Oxford?” Duncan thought he had a surprise there.
“No, I don’t get that far with my men. Well, Oxford don’t seem to have hurt him any. He’s pretty well over it. You Oxford, too?”
“Yes.” Duncan tried not to look selfconscious.
“Don’t worry-—you’ll pull through in time. Everyone starts up here by shedding a lot of carefully collected stuff they’ve been taught to think is valuable. Maybe it is—somewhere else. Anything more about Kyashi, if that’s his real name. One never knows.”
“He came back through the fog at full speed in a most astonishing way.”
“He would, and I think I know how, but that don’t matter. Anything else?” “Well, he’s unusual. I felt there was a lot behind him that one couldn’t get at.” “There always is with his type. I don’t ask questions—too busy. They come here
for their own private reasons, but skilled labor like his is hard to get right here, so I take it with thanks. I can understand a Chinaman, but not a Jap. No white man that I’ve ever met could understand ’em.” “He asked me if I wanted to sell my property,” said Duncan, suddenly.
“I reckoned he might do that.”
“Search me. Those chaps have their eyes skinned, even when they’re asleep. I don’t know why. As to your land, I assume it’s worth more to him for some reason than to you. Have you got to sell it?”
“Then hang on for a while. Want to live there, now that you’ve seen it?” Duncan grinned. “I haven’t come to that yet. In fact,” he hesitated a little, “I’d like to keep it just as it is for as long as I can.”
“Sort of got you, didn’t it?”
“I thought maybe it might. Felt the same sort of thing when I came here myself first and found Ocean Bay without an axemark on it. But the Cartright estate was pushing me. However a bit of sentiment is all right at your age. What do you want to do?”
“Work for you,” said Duncan promptly. Berry chuckled. “Good lad. Not afraid of a stomach full, are you?”
“I hope not.”
“You’ll get it. Better go into the woods first. Like to start to-morrow?” “Whenever you say.”
“Well, I’ll ship you to Number One. You can go in with some others—on just the same basis, of course. I’m going up myself next week, but it couldn’t help you to get there with me. Makes the rest sort of suspicious. Want a bit of advice?” “All you care to give me.”
“Then, if the foreman asks you what you know or have done, tell him you haven’t done a damn thing. That’s true as far as B.C. is concerned, and you start from the ground up. You’ll believe it yourself pretty soon. How old are you?” “Twenty-four.”
“I began when I was sixteen, so I’ve got eight years on you. Another point is that the fellows you’ll meet here—I mean the ones who hold responsible jobs—are artists in their own way. Wait till you see a thousand year old hemlock come down, and you’ll see. They only know one job, most of ’em, but they’ve got that nailed tight—especially in the woods. You’ll sweat and swear, but, Lord, its worth doing! I’ll shove you on all I can. You may be bossing me some day.”
Duncan laughed outright. “Not in this life. I’ll do my best, and I don’t know how to—
“That’s all right. You’re just one more I don’t have to worry about, and I need that kind.”
“That’s an everyday affair, going on all the time. The I.W.W. are at the bottom of it—mostly, but, of course, the sweepings of the seven seas drift in along this coast. I have to shuHmy eyes to a good deal.”
“They call themselves the Industrial Workers of the World. Some title, isn’t it? More correctly it’s T Won’t Work.’ I guess they’re born that way, so they can’t. The men on top are full of half-baked theories—if you don’t work you can do a lot of theorizing—but the ones lower down make the trouble. Want to destroy everything established, and have the bright idea they can build something better out of the pieces. But building ain’t in ’em. They find peace and start strikes. We’ll have one here before long. I’m getting ready for it now.”
“Are the Japs in it?”
It seemed, in a strange way, that he had quite deliberately made the long journey to this distant spot, that his coming was not the result of any difference with his father or any desire to protect Marian, but that, in order to find and understand himself, it had been imperative to get clean away from comfortable old England, and strip off the easy going habits of a former life. Well, here he was. What did he propose to do about it?
He felt instinctively what he must do. It would be absurd, and a sheer waste of time, to hack out a cabin for himself and live here. Shoot? Yes, no doubt there was good shooting close by, but remembering the black bears on the hillside, that rather amused him now. Too pointless. He had seen the fruit of the labor of men at Ocean Bay, and admired it honestly. Something rather heroic about that. And Berry, whose remarks seemed saturated with quizzical common sense, had said that the wise thing to do was to get one’s practical experience at someone else’s expense. His-—for instance.
Added to this, was something quite different, another kind of influence. A profound dignity and austerity seemed to pervade this property of his, on which its owner, a puny and insignificant figure, began to feel like an intruder. The great trees marched to the edge of the stream, flinging their branches protectingly over it while they talked together. The stream had its eternal voice, and the burden of it all seemed to be that they would lil e to be left alone for a few hundred years longer, because they were bigger, deeper and finer things than the pigmy who called himself their proprietor. Sacred—yes— the place in a vast odd, odd, confusing way seemed to be sacred. Now why should that be? Had it some kind of a soul?
FAUNGAN went back to the launch, finding Kyashi whipping grey trout out of the stream. The Jap smiled at him, put away his rod and asked no questions. When his passenger was on board, he backed into the bay.
“Like to kill a salmon?”
“Rather!” said Duncan, with visions of» a river that emptied into a certain Norwegian fjord. And Norway was very like the country around him except that it was not so empty.
“They’re running now. We’ll get one.”
The launch slowed as it reached deep water, and Kyashi prepared his gear, which, to Duncan, was very strange. A copper wire, several hundred feet long, with ten pounds of lead on the end of it. On the wire a series of small metal rings, to which a lighter but very strong linen line was attached. The rings ran up and down along the wire. At the end of the lighter line, was a large spoon with massive hooks.
“The idea is, that the copper wire and lead go to the desired depth, and stay there while we move at slow speed. The other line can be pulled up while the lead stays down. It’s a sort of a traveling fixture. Wait till we strike a fish, and you’ll understand.”
'T'HEY slipped out past precipitous banks, washed by a million tides, toward some islands that lay in a low blue haze opposite the bay. Kyashi’s hand
was motionless on the wheel. Duncan waited, his arm braced against the drag of the lead. The Jap engineer did not stir, his beady eyes gazing astern. Around them, the Pacific lay in a vast refulgent flood. Seals bobbed up alongside, stared for a second with grotesque moustachioed faces and disappeared in an oily swirl. The bald-headed eagle had returned to his vantage poin t, and surveyed the scene wi th majestic indifference, the afternoon sun glinting on his snowy neck.
Duncan was half asleep, when there came a wrench that nearly pulled his arm from its socket. It was as though he had hooked the bottom. Then a series of heavy tugs, while the line tautened and sang, flinging off a shower of silver drops. He grasped with both hands and hung on, bracing his shoulders.
“It must be a seal!” he said excitedly.
Kyashi smiled. “Pull him in and see.”
“I can’t play him like this,” he grunted, because it seemed a monstrous thing to do, a mere battle of weight against weight, force against force.
“You don’t pretend to play them in this country. You just catch them as fast as you can. Pull! The tackle is made for it.”
Duncan set his teeth, and pulled. The line was alive now, swinging sharply from side to side, cutting the water with a fine sharp hiss. The weight of the lead seemed nothing to whatever was fighting down there under the green water. The line shortened. Then a rush, and, a hundred feet astern, there broke out a great fish that fell back with a huge splash, the biggest salmon Duncan had ever seen. Kyashi stood beside him now with the gaff. The copper wire dipped to the vertical.
“Darned if I know. I’ve never been able to figure that out, but I don’t think so. But for all I can tell, your friend Kyashi may be the chief push. You wouldn't agree to that. You'd argue that after Oxford it’s impossible. Well, nothing's impossible on Ocean Bay. I started saying that to myself when I began construction, and it pulled me through. But,” he added grimly, “it works both ways.”
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He broke off, and sat with a whimsical smile on his strong lips, seeming quite unmoved, and ready for anything. Duncan felt rather silent. The amazing thing was that since he landed in Ocean Bay there had been no time to think of anything outside its isolated cosmos, even to think of Lois. He had none of the vain regrets he anticipated but, instead, found himself confronted by a small world of totally new characters among whom he was offered a place.
The things that used to fill his life were from this angle quite small. Polo-hunting, fishing—why didn’t he hanker for them now? It couldn’t be solely because they were too expensive. Lois—well—perhaps he was not qualified yet for love and marriage. That would come later. Marian and his father—at this distance Marian’s secret was not nearly so important. No, curiously enough, the ones who were closest to him here were those who did not any longer exist, his mother and Eric, but for whom time and space had no barriers. He had a feeling that they knew •—and approved.
“And about to-morrow?” he asked half aloud.
“Go to the labor office at seven o’clock, and tell ’em I sent you. Leave your stuff here. The man in the office will fix you up. I guess that’s all—see you in the morning.”
Duncan wrote his first letter that night —to Sarah Bannister. Hopeless to try and tell her a tithe of his impressions. That would have to be done gradually. Then a line to Lois, wondering a little if she would understand as well as his aunt. Then, feeling restless and hungry for what lay just over the horizon, he went out.
The fog had cleared, and stars shone brightly. Below was a maze of lights, for work went on night and day in preparation for the starting of the mill two months hence. Opposite, was the oriental quarter, also picked out with electrics. Did Kyashi live there? Perhaps he was too aristocratic. Duncan smiled at the memory of Oxford, and, stepping off the plankwalk, settled himself in contemplation. This was broken by approaching feet, and he heard what he took to be the chatter of Japanese.
He made out Kyashi with another man of his own size. They halted where Duncan could see without being observed, and the talk became animated. Then Kyashi snapped out what appeared to be an order. At this the other man stiffened, made a bow of profound respect and turned back. Never had Duncan seen a salute more earnest and worshipful.
“Gad,” he whispered to himself, “I wonder who the devil that beggar really is!”
DURING the month that followed Duncan’s departure, that young man occupied a large part of Sarah Bannister’s mind. She had no fears for him, personally, because there was in her a good deal of that old school which holds that youth, in fairness to itself, ought to be tested, and that the test is best made at some distance from the home circle. So that part of it brought her no misgivings.
But the real cause for him leaving? This did occupy her. Undoubtedly, it had to do with Marian, and she puzzled over it constantly. Duncan was not the sort who would object to his father marrying again; and, anyway, what right had he to object? Nor was Rodney Seymour, with his mild and affectionate disposition, the man to make the situation at all difficult for his son. Rather would he be the more considerate and thoughtful. No, it all came back to Marian.
It was in this condition of uncertainty, that she wrote to Moat House asking if Marian, the next time she was in town, would come and have a cup of tea with an
old woman who would be very glad to see her. There was no suggestion that Seymour should come, too. Meantime Miss Bannister looked up the Eldridges, and got what information she could.
It ran something like this. Marian’s first husband had been in the army, getting his discharge, on pension, through disability. He was very good-looking, very bad-tempered and had a distinctly brutal streak. He developed a taste for continental life, in which he found the greatest freedom, and died in an Austrian Spa under circumstances which were never fully explained. For some years before this, he had treated Marian with a studied cruelty, which only increased her contempt for him, without breaking her spirit. Since his death, she, apparently sickened of men, had lived partly in England, but mostly abroad. It was with this in her mind that Sarah Bannister welcomed her visitor.
“It’s nice of you to come,” she said. “I’m a bit selfish, and very seldom go out now. And I did want to see you. How is Rodney, and where? He’s neglected me of late.” She began thus, taking in Marian’s charm with an approving eye.
“He’s very well, and at his club. We motored up. I’ve been hoping you’d ask me to come.”
“You like Moat House?”
“Rodney loves it. Of course, being born there means a good deal, but apart from that I think he has a feeling for every stick and stone of it. Do you hunt?”
“I did, once. Rodney wants me to this autumn.”
They talked in generalities for a while, each exploring the other, each carefully veiling the exploration. Miss Bannister was saying to herself that she had never seen a more attractive woman, wondering if Duncan had fallen in love with her, and, therefore, made an instant escape before worse happened. But that could not be, considering how he had spoken of Lois. Then what was it? And Marian was aware that she sat under the gaze of very shrewd and experienced eyes and that Miss Bannister’s brain was casting about for a clue to connect her visitor with the latest riddle of life—that of Duncan’s departure. But that she must never solve.
“I hope, my dear—you won’t mind if I call you that, because I’m a lot older— that you’ll keep Rodney in the country as much as you can. He’s really not a town man at all—isn’t made for it.”
“I want nothing else,” said Marian candidly; “and the prospect of life in the country had a good deal to do with it—I mean ourmarriage. It’s more than welcome.”
Something significant in that, thought Miss Bannister, and took a chance.
“I’m so glad, and you won’t be lonely. Of course, there would have been more going on if Duncan had not taken it into his head to go off and shoot grizzlies. I wonder if the brutes are as dangerous as they look. I can only judge by the Zoo.” Marian had been preparing for this, and was quite ready.
“He decided very quickly, didn’t he?” “Very, it seems.”
A little silence followed, during which Miss Bannister felt a throb of admiration. She liked this woman, her face, her poise, the expression in her eyes.
“Duncan and I have always been good friends,” she went on placidly, “especially since his mother died. And, while his decision surprised me, I’m not really sorry. There’s a good deal in the boy that might not come out so long as he did nothing on his own. Did he tell you how long he would be away? He only brushed in and out of here.”
“It-—it was practically a case of how do you do and good-by with me.”
Miss Bannister fingered her spoon. “May I speak quite freely? I rather think that you and I are going to get on very well, and we’ve both seen much more of the world than Duncan.”
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Marian’s pulse quickened a beat. “Please do.”
“Then, it was not the fact of his father’s remarrying that made him go off. I can quite see Rodney’s end of it, and why he thought it would be nice to surprise us with someone like yourself, as he has so very charmingly. What I warit to think is that Duncan, in a boyish way, felt a little de trop, and immediately jumped to an extreme that is really rather grotesque.” “No,” said Marian steadily. “When his father told him what was going to happen he was very pleased about it-—and very nice. Rodney told me that. It made me quite happy, because—you see-—a second wife has natural self-questionings when there are children.”
Sarah saw no light yet, but nodded. “Some women have them, but not all. You would, of course. And there’s something about Duncan you wouldn’t have had time to discover unless you saw it at once. In spite of London life, he’s a bit of a Puritan. He has heaps of friends, and they’re practically all men. Eric was like that, too. Have you met Lois yet?”
“Yes, she came to dinner last week.” Marian paused, took a long breath, and gave Miss Bannister a very straight look.
“You’re wondering about Duncan going, but can’t put that very well into words because-—’’.she made an expressive gesture, “for obvious reasons.”
“Yes, my dear, I am.”
“And you, quite naturally, assume that his father knows the reason.”
“And Duncan won’t give it, so you’re wondering whether Rodney will?”
“I have not discussed it with Rodney, because it’s not my affair. And when people don’t offer reasons, I find it wiser not to ask for them. If Rodney had wanted to say anything about it I’d have heard before this.”
“Well,” said Marian slowly, “Rodney only thinks he knows. Duncan has decided to let him think so, and that’s all I can say. In putting it that way I’m trying to pay Duncan the tribute he has earned. You love him—I can see that—but, Miss Bannister, I honor him. You’ve said we both know the world better than he does, I agree with that, and my knowledge of it,” here a faint flush crept into her cheeks, “my knowledge of it, puts Duncan into all the brighter light.”
Sarah was thinking hard. All this sounded very frank, but was really quite baffling. What it amounted to, was that Duncan deliberately brought the split with his father to such a point that the latter, mistaking the truth, had made it final. She knew enough of her brother-inlaw to realize that,'under his mildness, lay
a seldom aroused capacity for resentment. And, too, a man of middle age just remarried was apt to be supersensitive in certain things. It all indicated that the trouble had been over Marian herself Had Rodney’s suspicions been somehow excited, and was Duncan defending her? One could only tell that by seeing man and wife together.
Thus, argued Miss Bannister, feeling every moment a more spontaneous liking for the woman who was without doubt at the bottom of all this friction, and Sarah was seldom misled in these likings of hers. The thing to do now, was to have both Rodney and his wife to tea.
“Well, my dear,” she said, with one of her infectious smiles, “I’m not a Paul Pry, and I’ve too much confidence in Duncan to worry about him; also I’ve no doubt that you and Rodney are going to be extremely happy. These minsunderstandings are apt to smoothe themselves out in time, and often are not altogether in vain. In fact I’ve known them to be quite serviceable.”
Marian paused for a moment, debating a poignant question. Would she be safe in telling Miss Bannister all about it? She wanted to, wanted very much, and out of sheer loyalty to Duncan. No doubt about this woman knowing the world. That was written on her face. But, did she know it well enough, and was she big enough to hear the truth without feeling that Rodney’s new wife had not played the game with him? Miss Bannister’s mind was one big question mark at this moment obviously. Was it prudent to dispel the question with the fact? Did one know her well enough to take that risk? How much—or how little—would that fact mean to her? Perhaps, only a bad taste in her mouth that would soon vanish. But it was hardly the sort of news to impart during a first meeting.
“I do hope everything will come right soon,” she said, rising. “Also that you are going to like me. I-I rather need it.”
Sarah immediately liked her the more, because this suggested that Marian was going to do the right thing in this matter if she could. And she looked very beautiful, a woman any man would be proud to call his wife, with breeding, and grace, and that sort of calm that rests over those who are aware of their own attractiveness and are modestly thankful for it. And she certainly knew how to dress.
“Must you be off so soon?”
“Yes, I have to meet Rodney.”
“Well, congratulate him from me on yourself. And unless he comes here with you, inside the next fortnight I’ll never forgive him.”
[To be continued