FIVE thousand miles away from the smooth lawns and rolling fields of Sussex, Duncan was experiencing a vastly different aspect of life. In company with new recruits for the woods, a rough lot whose chief characteristic was extreme freedom of speech, he had crossed the lake on a scow drawn by a panting tugboat, and, much to his surprise, found a railway. This led some ten miles inland, its narrow gauge track winding through deep ravines, till its main line ended at Camp number one. Here, there were hastily constructed branches diving into the heart of the ancient woods.
He had not dreamed of anything so extensive before. Man, insolent, casual and generally blasphemous, was overshadowed by his gigantic surroundings. The cold tops of the mountains looked down on him, the giant trees, for whose destruction he had come, seemed to regard him with a proud contempt. How much finer were they than their human enemies!
The low-roofed, log built camps had heavy walls and small deepset windows like the eyes of drowsy birds. Duncan surveyed them curiously, then, with the others, went to the office which was similarly built, Here he found Haskin, the foreman, a little man, tanned the color of mahogany, with hard grey eyes and the step of a cat, very light and quick. He glanced at Duncan, and signed that he should wait till the rest had gone. Then he stuffed his pipe with a horny finger and began to emit little, volcanic jets of smoke. They suggested a hidden furnace.
“Had a note from the boss about you. Says I’m to show you the ropes.”
“I’m ready to learn,” said Duncan.
“What do you know, and what have you done?”
Haskin nodded contentedly. “That makes it some easier. Now, look here. There are two ways of learning— you can tag round after me and see what I do, or tell other men to do, and the other is that you can take your shirt off and start doing it yourself. In that case you’re just one of the crowd. You’ll find it tough—might as well know that at once.”
Duncan grinned. “Which do you suggest?” He asked this, quite anticipating the answer.
“I’m not suggesting anything.”
“Then I’ll take my shirt off.”
Haskin relaxed a shade. “I was sort of hoping you would,” he said with a steely twinkle. “You’ll get a lot more that way. If you tag round after me, the men will shut up if you try to talk to them. It makes ’em suspicious, and they’ll mark you as a private detective. Maybe, we have some already, and maybe we haven’t. I guess you’d better start in with the sawyers. Go and get some chuck first.”
“Yes—grub. Tell the cook I sent you. Then start up the west branch and find Burt’s gang. Tell him I sent you, too. That’s all.”
Half an hour later, Duncan was walking up the west branch of the narrow gauge into the heart of the forest. It intrigued and invited him. He swore blue jeans, heavy shooting boots and a flannel shirt. His whole body seemed alive. The air had a wild, sharp scent, so that, sucking it in, he felt extraordinarily young.
A grinding roar sounded ahead, and round a curve lurched a trainload of huge logs chained down to swaying flat cars. He stepped aside, marvelling at the size of this timber—a log to a car—just one—and each not less than six feet through. The train swung past him and downhill toward the lake in a dwindling tumult. Then silence. Next he heard the sound of saws.
That was the real beginning of his new life, one reduced to first principles, in which for the first time he found himself on terms of absolute equality with all men except three—Haskin, Burt and the camp cook. He slept in camp, in a long, log building, with bunks against the walls in tiers. In the middle a great stove, round which the men dried their clothes.
Here was a case-hardened community, battered by the knocks of the world, yet with a sort of aristocracy of its own. The aristocrats were those who had travelled the most, fought the hardest and could talk most familiarly about strange things and people. One did not ask questions. Duncan, keeping his own counsel, said little, and listened to extraordinary tales of adventure in f a r countries. He remembered what Berry had said about the sweepings of the seven seas drifting in to Ocean Bay. Berry was right.
He noted one group that consorted together, slept next each other and did not talk much, except amongst themselves. They reminded him of the stump speakers in Hyde Park near the Marble Arch, and he studied them with some interest. They happened to be all in Burt’s gang.
He had been toiling at one end of a ten foot saw, balancing himself on a small platform some six feet above the ground. This was supported by pins driven into the great trunk they were felling. In and out flashed the saw, its serrated teeth tearing at the yellow wood, while it spat forth a constant golden trickle. It would take hours to bring this giant down. At the other end of the saw, was a man, now invisible, and these two pigmies were for the time being quite alone. Duncan’s back was breaking when he heard a grunt.
“Spell off now, partner.”
His stiffened fingers slackened on the handle, and, climbing down, he lay in the moss, his arms over his head. It was good to be alone and rest like this, for in these vast solitudes the cares and affairs of the outside world seemed of small moment. How far he was from everything! The other man stretched himself a few feet away, and wiped! the sweat from his eyes.
“Your first trip into the woods, I guess.”
“Yes, the first.”
“Yes, I like it.”
“Get fired out of home?”
Duncan laughed. “I suppose you might call it that.”
Followed a little silence, with a whisper of wind in the tree-tops, which were very far up, and patches of white cloud sailing across the blue.
“How do you feel about it now?”
“Getting thrown out.”
It was on the tip of Duncan’s tongue to say he had been thrown out with his own consent when there came an odd impulse that it might be interesting to encourage this man to empty his mind of whatever moved in it. In a life like this, information of any kind might be useful.
“I haven’t had time to think much,” he said carelessly.
A pair of dark eyes were regarding him very closely. “Well, as it stands, you haven’t got anything now, and a while ago you had perhaps a good deal. Am I right?”
“You are.” There could be no harm in divulging that. “And now you’re working for someone else’s benefit, like the rest of us?”
“If you like to put it that way.”
“No other way, to put it. Is it good enough for you?”
Duncan lit his pipe very deliberately. “Why don’t you speak out?”
“That may come later, and I’m not afraid to speak either—when I know where you stand. What do you think of Ocean Bay?”
“A big piece of work isn’t it?”
The man spat contemptuously. “It’s evidence of what the top dog can do when he gets the under one where he wants him. It’s the power of money. Give me five million dollars and I’ll do the same.”
There was a hole in that argument, but Duncan thought better to disregard it.
“Go on. I’m interested.”
“My point is that the Cartright estate isn’t entitled to that money. It ought to go back to those who earned it. The same everywhere else. The fellow who digs the ditch gets the short end of the stick every time.”
Duncan felt like suggesting that one wouldn’t be in the ditch unless one had deserved it, but again he said nothing. There came another pause.
“The mistake money makes is in thinking us fellows helpless. We’re not. You’ll see that before—”
He broke off awkwardly, abruptly, and Duncan examined him at short range. A narrow face, high brows and a mass of matted, black hair. His hands were not those of a navvy, and his eyes, large and eloquent, held a sort of changing light. His body was delicately formed, his wrists small, and the signmarks of toil did not disguise the fact that he had good blood.
“If you don’t like it here, why do you stay? It’s a free country.”
The man whose name proved to be Hitchin, rolled a cigarette against his thigh, cowboy fashion.
“My job is to be here.”
“Well, so is mine.”
“You got your job here, but I—” He smiled meaningly.
“Cutting down trees isn’t your job then?”
“Not trees,” said Hitchin, significantly “Here’s Burt—we’d better climb up.”
He said nothing more that afternoon, and when their cut had reached a depth that satisfied Burt he looked on at the subsequent operations with indifference. To Duncan, they were full of drama. Opposite the first cut, was made another and shallower one, this being cleaned out with axes into a gash seven feet long and two feet deep. Then great steel wedges were driven into the first cut. The hemlock trunk was now all but severed, and stood balanced in the windless air.
Came the clash of steel on steel, while a shiver ran through that gigantic frame, and the highest, feathery branches trembled very delicately. Then, almost imperceptibly, the top of the tree began to incline in the desired direction, sweeping a slow and stately arc against the sky. Incredible that this massive growth was coming down.
A group of men had gathered, and now stood back. From the stricken heart of the tree, came a dull deep sound of sundered fibre as though its very soul were in travail. The motion across the sky became quicker. Then, with a swooping rush, and a tornado of wind whistling through its branches, the tree crashed its three hundred feet of length, flattening all lesser growths and smashing for itself a way to the moss covered earth, a prostrate titan over whose vast recumbent body rained the limbs of its ruined brethren. The sound of its fall was a roaring volume that vibrated and died away in a medley of softening echoes. There was something tragic about it all. Then came Burt’s voice, sharp and imperative. No sentiment about him.
“Go to it, boys, go to it!”
The scaler marked off a succession of sixteen foot lengths, and the saws began again—eating—tearing--gnawing. Duncan thought it looked something like butchery.
HE THOUGHT harder that night, knowing that Hitchen and his friends were eyeing him with ill-concealed curiosity. In a way, they seemed rather pathetic and helpless, but Duncan recognized in them the possible seed of much evil. They were destroyers, not builders, some of those whom Berry knew perfectly well inhabited Ocean Bay. And since he knew that, it was likely that he also knew why they had come.
Another thought was moving in Duncan’s mind. These men took him to be the disinherited and disgruntled heir of some English house. Why not let them think so? If he could do it successfully, there might be the chance of repaying Berry in some measure for his instant friendship. Dangerous reflections these, but they had a sort of fascination. One was aware of powers other than the obvious ones, powers that sought only the opportune season to display themselves. Perhaps that season had been decided on already. These men—the I won’t work lot— were the enemies of all straight and upstanding men. The forced sweat without which they would starve had poisoned their blood, and embittered it against the world. What grim possibilities lay here!
ON SUNDAYS, there was no work except for the cooks, and the men drifted off, shooting, fishing or picking the wild fruit which grew in abundance on the mountain slopes. No whiskey reached Camp Number One. Berry, Haskin and Burt saw to that.
Duncan was sitting outside the bunkhouse, when Hitchin strolled up, hands in pockets. He had shaved, and his smooth keen face looked almost ascetic with its rather hollow cheeks and thin flexible lips.
“Doing anything special, to-day?”
“Care to come with some of us? We’re going up on the foothills.”
“Yes, I’d like to.”
“All right. Get some chuck from the cook. I have the tea.”
Half an hour later, they struck off to the south, Hitchin, Duncan and three others, and, traversing a belt of uncut timber began a steep ascent. The moss gave way to harder ground when they had climbed a thousand feet, the big hemlock and spruce tailed out into stretches of coarse, rank grass, and they entered an open area intersected by a multitude of flashing streams and dotted with great boulders that had been precipitated from the heights above.
In the distance they discerned a small herd of elk, but no man displayed any interest except Duncan. Below stretched Ocean Lake, ringed with timber, its dark shores broken by jutting points that lay flat against the black water. One could see the camp in miniature. Westward was the gorge that led to Ocean Bay. The rest of the horizon was filled with an assemblage of peaks, sharp and austere, many of them snow-covered.
Hitchin, wasting no admiration on all this selected a dry spot near running water, and began to make a fire.
“Grub first,” he said cheerfully.
The others let him do the work. Duncan could see now that they differed from the ordinary run of men in camp, and their faces piqued his curiosity. One looked like a clergyman, with long thin hands, large sensitive mouth and rather mysterious eyes.
“Tea’s ready,” remarked Hitchin, presently.
They ate slowly, luxuriously, looking not at all at each, other but at the magnificent scene at their feet. But, it was palpable that their thoughts were not here. There came, faintly, the music of the steel triangle outside the cook camp. It announced that dinner was waiting, and a stream of antlike men, emerging from other buildings, trickled toward it. The air was very still.
“Heard from Colorado lately, Bob?” Hitchin sipped his hot tea with a slow, sucking noise.
The man who looked like a clergyman shook his head. “No, and I don’t expect to. But that’s all right. It came off on schedule. I got a Denver paper, this morning.”
“Sharp on time, eh?”
A little silence, then Hitchin jerked his chin at Duncan.
“I asked our friend here to come along, because he seems interested. Give him the general idea.”
The man took a slow, deliberate stare which was not provocative, but very searching. A faint surprise came into it. It seemed to be the stare of a man who had once known very different days.
“You see,” he began in a voice that had patches of obvious culture, “our theory is that the things in this world ought to be redistributed. That’s to level out the present unfairness of things. And the time is about due now.”
It sounded so like Hyde Park that Duncan barely repressed a smile.
“I know that some people feel like that.”
“More every year. It’s the only way to get a fair start again. Men aren’t born equal, say what you like, and it’s up to those who have most to fork out. Now, how is it going to be done?”
“That’s what I’m waiting to hear.” Duncan’s tone was very steady.
“Before Bob says anything more,” put in Hitchin, “here’s something to chew over. We don’t talk like this to every hobo who comes along. We’re talking to you because someone who’s been on your side of the fence might be useful here in Ocean Bay. And if it occurs to you that all this will be interesting information to pass on to the authorities, you’re making the mistake of your life.” He turned to Bob. “Thought I’d better clear that up first, eh?”
“Yes, go on, tell him.”
“So, if you happen to have the idea of tipping Berry the wink, you’ll only do it once. It isn’t good for the health. Now if you don’t want to hear any more just say so, and get to hell out of here.”
The voice was not angry nor threatening, but almost casual, which to Duncan was very significant. Hitchin spoke as if he had something behind him with which to make good.
“I understand. Drive on.”
“We have no secret signs nor passwords, if that’s in your mind, but if anyone gives us the double cross we know—and act accordingly. You can take that for gospel. Get ahead with it, Bob. Its his own fault now if he slips a cog.”
Bob had the look of the fanatic who is convinced of his own sanity.
“This distribution I’m talking about won’t be handed to us. We’ve got to force it. I dodged that conclusion myself for a good many years, but I accept it now, having seen both sides. We’ve started at a good many points in America, and England will come later. The way we start is to put the fear into those who have the stuff. See what I’m driving at?”
“Berry and others like him think the I.W.W. is broke. Perhaps we look it, but there’s a reason for that. We’re not broke, as you’ll find out if you get far enough. We’re getting money to-day from those who have sense enough to cough up something to save their property. Berry will too, later on, and be damned glad to do it. Do you know who your working for?” There was an odd inflection on the last word.
“The Cartright Syndicate.”
“Who is the Syndicate?”
“I never heard.”
IT’S a girl of twenty-three. Her father died two years ago,” at this point he paused and stroked his chin, “and his millions were emptied into her lap. They rest there now. Call that justice, when they were ground out of men like us? We don’t!” He broke off with a gesture in which was the first passion he had yet shown.
Into Duncan’s mind flashed the photograph over the mantel in Berry’s bungalow. He recalled the honest face, the frank steady eyes, the smile so understanding and infectious. Ocean Bay was then her property! These men, and himself, her employees! In that instant his decision was made.
“Many millions?” he asked evenly.
“Enough to build the Ocean Bay plant, buy the timber limits and have something left over. When you sign the payroll that’s the money you’ll be getting—thirty dollars out of those millions. How does it strike you?”
“Sounds like the short end of it.” Duncan took his first step without a tremor.
“It is—and too damned short.”
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
Hitchin gave a sinister smile. "Going a bit fast, aren’t you?”
“I’m following your lead. You say you’re not satisfied, and I say that, too. I know what happens if I split on you, at least I can guess pretty near it. And if there isn’t anything more to tell me I don’t see why you started this talk.”
“There is more,” Bob cut in coldly, "but you’re off the track if you take us for a set of fools who open up to a man we don’t know anything about. The first thing was, were you interested. You say you are. Well, our plan is to give a new recruit the chance to show how much interested he is. If he pans out we open up a bit more, and so on till he’s on the inside. As it stands now, you’re on approval only. Understand?”
“Yes—it’s reasonable enough.” Duncan was playing the game with all his soul.
“Then I’ll get down to brass tacks. You know Berry?”
“We know you do. You stayed at his house in Ocean Bay when you struck there. That afternoon you went off in his launch with & Jap called Kyashi.”
“I did.” Duncan was thinking hard now.
“Did Kyashi say anything about labor troubles?”
“Did Berry say anything about the I.W.W.?”
“He called it the ‘I Won't Work’, "said Duncan, without hesitation. Then, with an afterthought. “He doesn’t seem to take it very seriously.”
Bob gave no sign of protest, Hitchin laughed cynically and the others looked almost bored.
“We’re used to that, and from our end we’d sooner have it so. Now it’s with Berry and Kyashi you’re going to get your chance from us. You won’t stay here, and—” He checked himself harshly, and fixed on Duncan a quick, penetrating stare. “Can you swear on your soul that Berry didn’t send you here to spy on us?”
The other three leaned stiffly forward, faces set, their eyes hard, dominant and relentless.
From a group of haphazard lumbermen they were transformed into beings formidable and threatening. Well for Duncan that he could give the answer they waited.
“On my soul I swear that.”
The tension relaxed, and Duncan’s pulse steadied. This was a lonely place, and he realized that no outside aid could reach him. How easy for the rest to drift back to camp by various routes—and know nothing!”
Hitchin began to smoke again, sending Bob curious little glances as though to communicate his thoughts.
“I reckon this has gone far enough for to-day. Seymour knows what’s expected of him, so let him think it over. There’s time enough, and we’ve other things on hand. I’m not for rushing him into it before he’s made up his mind to go the whole course, and he’s better off if he doesn’t know any more now.”
He spoke very quietly, in the manner of one who is used to giving final decisions, and it seemed that the manner of the group had changed before he finished. There came an atmosphere of relief, the grimness vanished, and they were once more just a knot of men loafing on a hillside and whiling away a few hours of rest.
Talk became general, with no breath of I.W.W. Nothing sinister now, no hidden meanings that slowed the pulse and suggested mysterious powers that were all for destruction. Duncan heard stories of wild and stolen rides on western freight trains, of the underworld of great American cities, all interlarded with references to men who were mentioned by nicknames and seemed familiars of these four, men who formed the battalions of the road, and spent their profitless years wandering footloose from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from Mexico to the 49th parallel. There were but few allusions to anything that had happened in Canada, Duncan wondered why.
WORK progressed in Camp No. 1 with a sort of savage intensity, and for the next few weeks it seemed that Hitchin and the rest left things to ferment in Duncan’s brain. He felt aware that he was under continuous observation, but there was no attempt at any kind of compulsion. They were content to wait, and their attitude suggested that they were not anxious as to the outcome.
It was a period in which he gave himself completely to the task of self education in the woods. The thing meant more now, and he was grimly determined that, so far as he could secure it, nothing should interfere with his progress. It was on a magnificent scale, this slaughter of the ancient timber. He saw men swarm up hundreds of feet into the air, an axe dangling at their belt. Climbing ever higher, they cut off the great branches as they mounted, till at last reduced to the size of ants they were clinging to the slim tops of gigantic living flagpoles.
They let down light ropes, tackle was hauled up to them, and steel cables, so that the flagpole was transformed into a gigantic mast. To this mast, the enormous; logs were dragged from the surrounding forest, then, hoisted bodily and laid with titanic delicacy on the narrow gauge cars that transported them shrieking and grinding to Ocean Lake.
The days passed with the sound of the crashing of great trees, the panting of engines and the singing whine of saws, while, one by one, these monarchs of the woods were laid low, cut asunder and sent seaward to be prepared as food for Berry’s mills. Burt was everywhere at once, while Haskin, the general foreman, came up, frequently. It was a time of labor in'the scented woods, with the naked mountains looking down as though in stern disapproval. And the nights passed in an abyss of dreamless sleep.
Then, in the middle of all this, Duncan looked down one morning from his sawyer’s platform, and saw Haskin. The latter crooked an imperative forefinger.
“The boss wants you at Ocean Bay. Better go out on the scow this afternoon.” He glanced shrewdly at Hitchin and walked off.
The man at the other end of the saw—a new cut had just been started—waited till they were quite alone.
“Well, comrade, your chance is coming. I reckoned it would. I’ll tell them down there.”
Duncan was puzzled. “Tell who?”
“You can get on for a while without knowing that, and our friends will keep an eye on you—just in case.” He smiled meaningly. “What we want, is inside information, the kind that isn’t put on paper.”
“What are you getting ready for?” asked Duncan casually.
Another smile, even more significant. “You’ll know in time—and before long. It isn’t the sort of thing you’ll miss. What we want first is the date for starting the mill. Get that.”
“How do I get it?”
“We leave that to you. You’re a friend of Berry’s.”
"And when I do get it?” asked Duncan curtly.
DUNCAN sat on the stern of the tug that took him across Ocean Lake, swinging his heels over the black water, his brain full of many questionings. Why was he to tell Kyashi? Who was Kyashi, and what part was he playing in the game of destruction evidently contemplated? This had to do with the starting of the mill, and yet Kyashi was in charge of the erection of machinery without which that start could not be made. Did the man sweat over this only in order to destroy it? There came to him again the Jap’s inscrutable face as he worked with keen brain and strong sensitive fingers over that intricate mechanism. Was it of any use to bring in Oxford at this juncture, and appeal to those ideas of decent living and thinking one was supposed to acquire there? Could one speak out straight to an Oriental, and expect an equally straight answer? How much of all this did Berry learn from his private detectives, and would it be the best thing to face the personal risk, go to Berry at once and tell him all? Or was the whole thing just a wild dream of discontented men who really were not dangerous at all? Then, into this medley, was projected the face of the girl for whom the Cartright Estate existed.
Traversing the plank walk that led from the dam to the works, he found Berry in his office. Once here, the bustle and throb and pulse of machinery made Duncan feel rather foolish. Berry, looking up from his desk, seemed perfectly able to take care of himself and all under him.
“Well, what do you make of the woods?”
“I liked the woods, liked all of it.”
Berry scanned the brown face and strong young body. Here was the making of a good man, and he felt pleased with his own first conclusions.
“I reckoned you would, and Burt sent word that you were all right. That’s a good deal from Burt. Now it’s this way. You’ve got the gist of what goes on at that end of the job, but since you’re not going to spend your life there, you might as well get on with your education. Next step is the mill, where there’s a lot more to learn. What about it?”
“Whatever you say.”
Berry made a neat little diagram on his blotter.
“I take it you really want to get a grip of this business?’
“Yes, very much.”
“Well, it’s the same as most others. Two kinds of men in it. One does the dog work. The others have the knack of getting good results out of subordinates, and it seems to me you might develop into that. But it’s no use telling others to do things you can’t do yourself in some kind of fashion. They get on to you in a minute. Anyhow, you’ve got to understand how it’s done. Do you get me?”
Duncan nodded, having begun to see things very much in this light himself. It was the educating result of sweat, and a tired back and blistered hands.
“Then you’d better tackle a job in the mill on machinery. That’s the heart and soul of the place, and on it we stand or fall.’
“I’d like that,” said Duncan.
“I’ve been thinking of a good man to put you under.”
“I’m ready. Who is he?”
“Friend of yours called Kyashi.” He rose pacing the office, hands pushed deep in his pockets. “When it comes to erecting he’s one of my best. I guess he is the best, because if you know what I mean, he seems to feel machinery as though it were alive and could feel back. I like the way he handles it. He’s on the big paper machine now with the man sent by the contractors who built it under guarantee, and he knows as much about it as they do. You were at college together, and I thought maybe that would help. Don’t mind working under a Jap, do you?”
“No,” said Duncan hastily, his brain in tumult.
“That shows your sense. It’s ability that counts here, and nothing else. The machine is promised in run ling order in less than a month from to-day. It’s the most expensive contraption we’ve got, and the rest of the work is child’s play to it. It swallows wet pulp, spews out newsprint, and it’s got to be earning money inside five weeks. If it isn’t, we stand to lose a good contract.”
“In England. I’ve got a good rate through the Panama, and we can do it. Some folks are coming out to close up They’ll be here inside a month. I only heard, yesterday.”
Duncan felt very uncomfortable. He wanted to speak out, but could not do so without involving a man in whom Berry had complete confidence. After all, Berry knew Kyashi much better that Duncan did himself. There was nothing to repeat but the veiled threats made by a group of disgruntled lumberjacks on a hillside. Better first attempt to pierce the armourplate of Kyashi’s manner, and see if anything lay behind it. That might justify further action.
“Is Miss Cartright coming up then?” he asked vaguely.
Berry nodded. “Before then. She’ll be here with her aunt in a few days and stay for a month or so. You’ll meet her. Now, get a room at the Company’s boarding house. I’ll tell them to look after you.”
The young man leaned forward. “Mr. Berry,” he said, explosively, “why are you so decent to me? You don’t know anything about me.”
Berry grinned. “Perhaps, that’s why.” He chuckled softly to himself, then, his face becoming more grave, sent Duncan a very honest and friendly look.
“If you want to know, I’ll tell you. I’ve worked hard all my life, and never had your kind of education, and as I got on all right without it, I sort of thought it wasn’t necessary. Well, a lot of your kind have come to this coast full of confidence, and ignorance of what was really wanted. I used to watch ’em lose what little they had, and it sort of amused me. Then, about the time you drifted along, I got the idea that this wasn’t quite fair, and it was up to me to do what I could for the next Englishman, in spite of his education. Maybe, I was an mite jealous, because I saw you fellows had something I hadn’t—and never will have. I laughed at that idea first, but found it wasn’t so darned amusing when I thought it over.
“Then you blew into the hotel at Vancouver, asking questions about Pacific Narrows, and I knew darned well that, if I sat tight, it would be the same story with you. So I said to myself, ‘here’s my chance,’ and chipped in. I’d been sizing you up, you seemed to have some stuff in you, and I reckoned I wasn’t taking any particular risk. And anyone who’s good enough for me will do for the Cartright Estate. You’re a sort of experiment so far, but it’s working out pretty well.”
Duncan found it hard to express his thanks.
“That’s all right—you’ve earned your money, and in a business like this there’s always room for a young fellow you can trust.”
Again, Duncan was assailed by doubt. He did not want to be an alarmist. How much or how little did Berry know of the undercurrents of Ocean Bay? What he had said of Kyashi made the matter more difficult. Then, he found Berry looking at him with quiet amusement.
“Sort of asking yourself things, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Connected with anything you picked up in the woods?”
“Well—forget it. Nothing new there. You feel that I’ve spoken out, and you’d like to, also. Does you credit, but it isn’t necessary. I suspicioned there might be something of the sort, and that’s why I referred to a fellow you could trust. Every timber camp is a hotbed of talk. The foreman knew it, and that’s why he put you with the gang he did. I told him he might as well, and it was part of your education. If those fellows want to think me a fool, they’re welcome to. It suits me down to the ground The rest of it’s my job, not yours, so rest easy. Now fix up about that room, and report to Kyashi to-night. He’ll have his orders.”
“Right,” said Duncan, and got up.
“Hold on a minute. Sorry you came out here?”
“No, I’m glad. And—and you’ve never asked me why I came.”
“That’s your end of it. Maybe, you’ll tell me some day, but there’s no hurry. Do you miss England?”
“I haven’t had time to.”
Berry grinned. “You’ll have a chance to get a touch of home when those people come out. There’ll be three—a Mr. Wragge and two friends, a gentleman, one of the directors, I guess, and his daughter.”
“Wragge?” stammered Duncan. “John Wragge?”
“Why yes—know him?”
Duncan pulled himself together. “No, only by name. Who are the others?” he asked this with a little catch in his voice.
“Forget their names—wait a minute.” He hunted through a pile of telegrams. “Here—the man's name is Chester. Know him?”
Did he! His lips got rather dry. "I never met Wragge,” he said stiffly, “but the Chesters live next to my father.” Berry looked at him oddly, and jumped to a conclusion surprisingly near the truth.
“Well,” he remarked in a voice absolutely devoid of inflection, “you’ll have a chance to renew old acquaintance in a new setting. I hope they’ll like the place as well as you do. It’s with Wragge that I reckon to close that contract.”
DUNCAN found a room in the huge wooden boarding house that clung to a ledge overlooking Ocean Bay. Below, rose the gray mass of mile buildings, and, opposite, a little apart, stood Berry’s bungalow. Further west, along the broken shore, lay the Oriental quarter into which the whites of the settlement were rarely allowed to penetrate.
He stood for a while at his window, staring at the rugged scene around him, and trying to sort out the situation. The Chesters here with John Wragge! He had had but one letter from Lois, and that read as though it were written in a guarded spirit, and not the sort a girl would send to a man she really loved. Remembering this, John Wragge seemed to obtrude himself, and then the sections of the human puzzle began to fit a little better. He had a curious sensation of being jerked back into something he was willing to forget, for a little while at any rate. He was bound to Lois, but was Lois bound to him? Wragge came in again there. Was Lois journeying to British Columbia in order to put an end to an engagement made in Sussex? That seemed hardly credible.
Sounded a knock at the door. Kyashi entered, and it appeared that mystery came with him. There was a smile lurking in his almond shaped eyes.
“I have instructions to take on an apprentice tomorrow. Do you know anything about machinery?” Duncan laughed. “Not from your angle. I can take a motor car to pieces and get most of the bits back again.”
“Everything helps. How did you like the woods?”
“Very much—been up, yourself?” How did Kyashi know he had been in the woods?
“No, it was not advisable for me.” He smiled quite openly now. “You won’t mind if I work you rather hard? This is where Worcester gets back at Christchurch.” Queer, to have Oxford brought in now; that Oxford with its ancient towers and velvet lawns should be a factor in this crude setting where everything was raw and rough and uncompromisingly practical.
“I don’t mind the work,” said Duncan cheerfully. “I like it. You’ll find me a bit of a duffer, though.”
“It’s different from the woods. The machine you’ll be on is built like a watch.”
“How do you come to be such an expert?”
Kyashi rolled a cigarette with slim capable fingers. “My people at home are interested in these things, so I put all my spare time in the shops where they are built. And knowledge of any kind is useful,” he added smoothly.
“Many of your countrymen here?”
“About two hundred.”
Duncan had been thinking very hard. Two hundred disciplined Japs might accomplish anything.
“Are you organized?” He asked suddenly.
The eyes of Kyashi narrowed. “You mean do we belong to any union?”
“Yes, or among yourselves.”
“We belong to no local union, and as to among ourselves, surely that is a matter for us alone.”
Duncan reddened. “I only asked because I struck what seemed to me a queer lot in the woods.”
“That is quite possible. There are all sorts here.”
“And one of them told me that if I got—” He broke off fearing he was daring too greatly and going too fast.
“That would be Hitchin.” Kyashi’s tone was quite colorless. “What else did he say?”
There was a moment of silence.
“You need not hesitate to repeat what Hitchin said,” went on the Jap. “I don’t think much of him myself, but all men have their uses.”
“He said a good deal.” Duncan began again, with the sensation that this was like exploring a cloud. “He resents the fact that he and the others have nothing, while the Cartright estate has millions.”
“He harps too much on that string. Well?”
Another pause, during which the next move became, for Duncan, increasingly difficult. Kyashi admitted to knowing Hitchin and his arguments, and how could he know without being a member of that group of ill design? The only thing now was to handle this without gloves.
“He said so much that I’m not sure whether I should speak out to you or to Berry.”
“With what object?”
Duncan made a gesture toward the mill. “Protecting that property—and, perhaps, saving lives.”
“You are a free agent. You can do what you please.”
“No suggestion to make?” He had a passing impulse to bring in Oxford as a bond between them, one that entitled him to advice, honest advice. But Oxford, it seemed, did not count for anything here.
"You don’t care to say anything?” This with a straight look from the brown eyes.
“My experience is, that in a place like this, if one sticks to his job and says nothing, he’s better off for it.” Duncan stiffened a little. “No doubt you’re right.”
THE great paper-making machine was a giant a hundred and fifty feet long, and the cement floor around it was covered with a multitude of small parts all laid out in neatly arranged groups. Such was the importance of this job, that only those directly engaged on it were allowed in that portion of the mill. Kyashi, cool and imperturbable as ever, shared the responsibility with a Scotch engineer representing the makers. Duncan, surveying the dimensions of this mechanism, wondered if it were possible that it shortly would be completed. He was counting nuts and bolts when he became aware of two figures coming slowly toward him. It was Berry, with a girl. They stopped before reaching him, and he knew that this was Miss Cartright. Then he got very busy, and kept his eyes studiously occupied. Presently, he heard Berry’s voice.
“I’d like to introduce a new employee. This is Mr. Seymour.”
Duncan saw a slim brown hand put out, and felt the flush in his temples. His own palm was rather more than soiled, and he looked at it, ruefully.
“How do you do? Please—it’s quite all right. I’ll be as bad as you are before I’ve finished.”
He laughed. “If you don’t mind, I’m rather awful.”
“That’s the first time one of your own men has refused to shake hands with you.” chuckled Berry. “Well, Seymour, what do you make of the job?”
“I’m afraid not much as yet.”
“But you’re going to make eighty tons of paper a day, aren’t you?”asked the girl.
Berry nodded. “We hope so, and maybe a little more.” “What do you think of Ocean Bay, Mr. Seymour?”
“I like it, thanks to a good many things about it.” In spite of his garb, he looked very attractive when he said this, with his large honest brown eyes and those nameless, personal touches that speak of gentle birth and breeding. The oilstained overalls could not hide that. Something about him must have reached her, too, because the slightest possible change came into her manner, and she hesitated a little.
“Perhaps Mr. Seymour could come up to supper tonight?” she said, half turning to Berry.
He nodded. “Good idea. Come, won’t you?”
“Thanks very much.”
Sydney smiled, and her gaze traveled along the great machine with its massive frame, its nests of huge cylinders its complicated interlocking of gearing. This monster was hers. Kyashi was close by. He had not ceased work, and seemed excessively busy, but Duncan had an odd conviction that he did not miss a word of what was said. He might have been subdivided into two personalities— only one of which was occupied with mechanics. But he was more remote than ever and continued to direct others who were dispersed over the great metal fabric.
The girl saw him, was interested for a moment, then accepted him as part of the picture. Berry had moved on, and, to Duncan, the figures of these two, the Canadian heiress and her Oriental employee suddenly assumed a strange and startling significance. No reason whatever for this, but he could not escape it. Then she looked at him with a smile that he found very engaging.
“We’ll be very glad to see you, to-night, about seven.”
She went on to rejoin Berry, and Duncan’s eyes shifted to Kyashi. His attention was still concentrated on his work, but his expression had become an utter mask, his small brownish, yellow hand was clenched tight and he looked to be carved out of stone. A fire was blazing, somewhere, beneath that passionless exterior.
The rest of the day passed without incident, save that the Jap spoke hardly at all, and gave his orders almost in a succession of gestures. He moved like an automaton, and several times, Duncan found those dark eyes holding him with a fixed regard. No use asking what the look meant. His lips seemed frozen. One could imagine him going to his death like this, the secret still locked in his stoical breast. At six o’clock, he disappeared without a word.
Duncan changed his clothing, rather amused, a good deal puzzled, and greatly interested. This was the first time, since leaving home, that he had been asked to meet a woman, and, in this far angle of the world, a woman meant something novel and notably intriguing. Sydney Cartright, as she stood beside the huge machine which was hers, and moved through the polyglot swarm of her own employees, represented something quite new in women. One used to think of them as being quite apart from all this. They enjoyed the fruits of it, but kept at a certain and recognized distance. At Ocean Bay, however, the programe was otherwise, and Sydney looked as though she knew—and understood. There was comprehension in her face, a gentle decision on her lips. How different it all was!
SHE looked very charming that evening, he thought, with her hair low across her forehead, and, in her manner, a repose that suggested a quiet, latent strength. With her, was her aunt, Miss Brooks, her mother’s sister, a practical, bustling woman of few words and great activity. They were on the verandah watching the lights that began to twinkle on the opposite hillside, for power was cheap at Ocean Bay, and Berry had electrified every shanty, arguing that it meant greater security from fire. Light was streaming, too, from the large windows of the mill buildings, whence came a smooth dull rumble where sections of machinery were being tested. Soon, that rumble would be permanent, never ceasing till the last monarch of the forest had crashed to earth, miles back in the mountain ravines.
Sydney nodded, introduced her visitor, then held up a warning finger.
“Listen—do you know what that sound is?”
“The turbines. They drive the whole mill, and they’re running for the first time. An exciting evening, isn’t it?”
“It must be.”
“Wouldn’t it be more exciting if they didn’t run?” put in Miss Brooks, calmly.
“Too much so,” laughed Sydney.
“You know,” went on her aunt, “there’s something in what the Englishman said about Niagara, how much more wonderful it would be if the water didn’t fall over. You’re English, Mr. Seymour?”
“Yes, but I haven’t seen Niagara. I’ve never been in America, before.”
“This is Canada. We don’t like being lumped together as Americans. Geographically, you’re all right, but—well— you'll understand better when you’ve been here longer. Have you collected many impressions, yet?”
“Only of this coast, and the woods.”
Sydney glanced at him rather curiously. “I wonder what you felt in the woods.”
He hesitated. They were her woods, and being destroyed for her personal benefit, so this was a difficult moment. Then his impulsive honesty spoke for him.
“I felt rather sorry,” he said, with a touch of awkwardness, “which was, probably, idiotic cf me.”
“Sorry for what?” demanded Miss Brooks.
“To see such wonderful things cut down,’’ he answered, flushing in spite of himself. “Of course I know it’s quite unavoidable. Nice way to talk about other people’s business, isn’t it? It’s so different from England where there are no trees like that, but even so we hate to cut one down, and people write to the papers about it.”
“Is it like killing something that’s alive?” Sydney’s voice was low and very comprehending.
He glanced at her, and was struck by the extreme gentleness in her face. Her eyes had shadows in them, now, and a rare delicate comprehension. Odd, that one on whose behalf the woods were being laid low could look and speak like this.
He nodded gratefully. “Something like that.”
She gave a little sigh. “My aunt thinks I’m fearfully sentimental, but that’s why I never have liked going to the camps with Mr. Berry. It would be foolish for me to protest,” she continued with an eloquent gesture, “and I know that it’s unavoidable and means a great deal to many others. So,” here she hesitated, and sent Duncan a smile that he found very moving, “what I’m going to arrange is a sort of big timber sanctuary where everything will be safe, and no one may cut a single tree. It will be my apology to-to—”
“The gods of the woods?” he suggested.
“Yes, just that, exactly.”
Miss Brooks sniffed, and picked up a magazine. Childish talk, she considered it, but the girl was in a position to establish as many sanctuaries as she wished. Duncan thought differently, and it was in his mind to say that he had had the same idea himself, and there was a place all ready to be consecrated not many miles away, with a bald-headed eagle on guard, and bullet-headed seals doing outpost duty in the quiet waters. He would like to go there with this girl, and learn what she thought about it. That prospect was getting more and more inviting, when Berry’s step sounded, close by.
“Sorry for being late,” he said, “but I had to see those wheels go round. Haven’t spoiled your supper for me, have you?”
They went in, Duncan rather silent and occupied with secret thoughts. He took a random glance at Sydney, who seemed to have put away her regrets, and was asking Berry pointed questions about a number of practical things. And yet how modest she was, how unaffected by the fact that this commercial kingdom was all hers. He wondered what sort of man her father had been, and whether she inherited his brain.
“How do you hit it off with Kyashi?” said Berry presently.
“There isn’t much to hit off. I do what he tells me, and he doesn’t take any risks.”
“Picked up something?”
Duncan laughed. “Nuts and bolts and general information.”
“Is that the little Jap I saw to-day?” asked Sydney.
Berry nodded “Mr. Seymour’s boss, and a very skilled mechanic. They were at Oxford together, so they speak the same language.”
She looked enquiringly at Duncan. “Oxford?”
“Yes. He seemed to remember me, but all the Orientals there, were, to us, very much alike. And as they didn’t row or go in for games, I didn’t remember him.”
“Perhaps that’s the reason he’s such a good engineer.”
Berry’s eyes twinkled. “Score one for Kyashi. If the mill starts up three weeks from to-day it will be largely because a certain little Jap did not go in for games at Oxford.”
“Three weeks from to-day will be my birthday. How nice of you.”
“I was reckoning it would be sort of suitable.”
“An imposing birthday present,” ventured Duncan.
“Well, perhaps it fits Ocean Bay better than something tied up with pink ribbon. This is a big country, you know.”
The talk went on, but Duncan said little. What should he himself do at this juncture? Berry had absolute confidence in Kyashi. Was it prudent for a newcomer who had not yet got beneath the surface of things, to empty his mind and proclaim himself an alarmist without further proof? Berry knew of the presence of the I.W.W. So did Kyashi. It was, therefore, imaginable that the Jap was on Berry’s side, and that Hitchin, blind to the truth, was playing a losing game.
This idea took form and shape. How clever and how like Berry it would be to use Kyashi, a man who knew how to hold his tongue, for this purpose, then act, finally and completely, when the moment came! What better private detective could he have? Duncan grasped at this with sudden relief, and felt a throb of admiration for the subtlety of the scheme. Then he became aware that Sydney was speaking about labor in the works.
“No more than the usual trouble,” said Berry “There are a few soreheads, but we have them spotted. It’s all right.” He sent Duncan a shrewd glance. “You’ve been with some of them. Nothing much the matter, except that they’re born tired.”
“There’s a good deal of talk.”
“They always try that out on a greenhorn. It might be more serious if they didn’t talk, and if I had more time, I might be more interested in the arguments.”
It seemed odd that he should talk thus, openly, while Sam, with his pigtail coiled on his head, moved silent footed about the room. But this was evidently his custom, and Sam was safe. And, too, Duncan had heard that there was little love lost between Chinaman and Jap. Presently Berry looked at his watch.
“We’re starting some big pumps in about ten minutes. Anyone want to go down?”
“Yes,” said Miss Brooks promptly, “if I needn’t get my feet wet. Sydney, you’ve tramped about enough for one day.”
The weather had become damp and murky, and, moving downhill, they were instantly out of sight. Their voices were audible but, for a moment, Sydney and Duncan stood on the verandah, and the girl shivered a little.
“Let us go in and be comfortable.”
A pine knot was blazing on the brick hearth, and she stood for a while, hands clasped, her face very thoughtful. Sam had retreated to his own region. The silence continued, while against the windows the outer darkness seemed to press with an opaque solidity. To Duncan, it was as though he and this girl were utterly removed from the rest of the world. Presently she sent him a half smile.
“Is this all very strange to you, after England?”
“Yes, when I stop to think of it, though I haven’t had much time for reflection. Of course, I had no idea what to expect. And Mr. Berry has been awfully kind.”
“He always is, though there’s nothing in his life, now, but work. He lost his wife in an accident, years ago. My father died just before I was twenty-one, and my mother long before that. Everything that is being done here, had been arranged, with Mr. Berry as manager. Are you going to live in Canada always?”
He could not tell where he was going to live, because, how, he saw that men’s affairs are often remodelled very suddenly and unexpectedly.
“I don’t know. I can go back to England, of course.”
“Do you want to? I’m rather curious to know. I’ve been there several times, and love it, but it’s not like home to me —yet.”
“I’m not sure if I want to or not—yet,” he smiled. “I’d like to make good first.”
She made a gesture in the direction of the mills. “Make good here?”
“It doesn’t matter much where, does it?”
“Perhaps not. I want to, also.”
“But you have.”
She shook her head. “Everything has been done for me. That’s not making good.”
“You won’t live here?”
“No, but I’d like to use Ocean Bay for something even bigger. One can’t put it into words.” She leaned forward with a charming earnestness. “You’ve been with these men in the woods. Do they talk of other things—me, for instance? Or do I matter—and do they mind working for a girl. Are they jealous, and do they think it’s all unfair and that I have everything and they nothing?”
Duncan wondered what would have been the effect had Hitchin heard this.
“I don’t think that occurs to many of them.
She did not seem quite convinced. “It occurs to me so often. I seem to read these thoughts in their eyes and can’t remove them. And, whatever happens, I must not appear to be patronizing. Do you mind if I talk like this to you? I can’t, to Mr. Berry.”
He assured her that he did not, and she went on, giving him an insight into a heart at once gentle and very courageous His sincerity encouraged her to speak out in a fashion she would have hesitated to use with her practical aunt, and now it was youth that listened to youth with intuitive understanding. He saw her as one conscious of her burden, and praying that she might discharge it gently and well.
“So I’ll be twenty-three on the twenty-third. Then the Cartright Estate legally comes into my hands, but, of course, I won’t change anything.” She broke off, sending him a curious glance. “Sometimes I'm rather frightened of Ocean Bay. Mr. Berry would laugh if he heard that.”
“Perhaps it’s the Orientals. They seem to be full of secrets. Sam waits on me, and I wonder all the time what he thinks about. And the Japs in the mills—they look at one without any change of expression, and that makes me wonder again. One can’t get behind those masks of faces, and I get visions of horrible things beneath the surface.”
She had been sitting beside the fire, but now got up with a sudden motion, and stood, tall, slight, very appealing, and personifying, in a way, something that he had not so far discerned in any girl. The world was hers, if she wanted it, but it seemed that she had no desire, except some deep-rooted instinct at the strength of which he could only guess. He did not want to compare her with Lois, but the comparison crept in, and, against this picture, Lois inevitably appeared, rather narrow, a shade selfish and not nearly so capable of true emotion. But it was Lois who had his word, and she was coming to Ocean Bay. Curious, that just as this thought presented itself, Sydney should look up with a little shrug that dismissed her serious reflections.
“Mr. Berry tells me you know the English people who are coming out.”
“Not Mr. Wragge. I know the others.”
“Tell me something about them.”
“Mr. Chester doesn’t do much except golf, shoot and bridge. Lois hunts a good deal, and travels with her father.”
“How old is she?”
“Just about your age.”
Sydney smiled a little. “Is she coming to see you?”
“She doesn’t know I’m in Ocean Bay unless she’s heard from my aunt.”
He laughed. “I didn’t want to say too much till—till I got a bit settled, somewhere. There was a sort of a row at home, and I cleared out.”
“I’m sorry.” She was surprised, but, curiously enough, felt no doubt about any part he had taken in this.
“I don’t know that I am,” he said, pulling down his brows.
Followed a little silence, during which Sydney became absorbed in the embers of the pine knot, and it struck him that perhaps he had said too much. He was noting again the supple strength of her figure, and the frank reliance that was her chief characteristic, when, as though mesmerized, he felt his gaze drawn to the side window.
There, framed in darkness and pushing close against the pane, was a brownish, yellow face. Its lower part was covered by the collar of an upturned coat, and a soft cap was pulled down far over the forehead. Between these, only the eyes were visible, satanic and satiric. Oriental eyes, narrowed to pinpoints of light, shining in a sort of milkiness. They were invested with a nameless threat, and suggested unholy revenge. To Duncan, as he stared petrified, they seemed like the eyes of Kyashi. Then, as in a dream the thing vanished.
He suppressed an involuntary quiver and sat very still. Sydney had seen nothing, and he knew that she must never know of this. But Berry must—and at once. He wanted to go to Berry now, on the instant, but dared not leave the girl alone. Then, thankfully, he remembered Sam. The Chinaman could at any rate be trusted.
“By Jove,” he said, “I’m awfully sorry, but I must go. I have to help the night shift in an hour.”
She nodded understandingly. “I’m afraid my birthday is a fearful nuisance to everyone. You must come again, soon. It’s so nice to have someone to talk to.”
“I’d love to. Sure you don’t mind being left alone?”
“Not a bit. Sam has always looked after me, and you’ll probably meet the others on the way down. And—” she hesitated with a charming smile, “thanks so much for—for comprehending.”
He could not say what he desired to, which was that, for this past evening, he had been happier than since he left Moat House, and that he had begun to wonder whether an impulsive promise—a promise that was not fully returned—and given to a girl who, perhaps, did hot care at all deeply—should hold a man bound if he happened to find the ideal Companion, elsewhere. So, his mind being full of these and other matters he went into the kitchen. Sam was reading a month old Canton paper that would shortly go the rounds of the Oriental quarter.
“I have to leave, now, Sam, and Miss Cartright is alone.”
Sam put out one hand, opened the table drawer, and exposed a long, wicked looking knife.
'Me sit here till Mr. Belly come home,’ he said calmly, and went on reading.
Duncan glanced at the clock, grinned and went out. Fog was now drifting in from the Pacific in slow billows of fleecy vapor, a blanket soft, vast and impalpable through which the electrics below were only dimly discernible. The wooden plankwalk was saturated, and descending, lost itself in obscurity. Sounds struggled up vague and muffled. One felt marooned, suspended in an abyss of sluggish air.
He made a careful circuit of the bungalow, found no one, as he expected, buttoned up his coat and hurried on. Anything might take place on a night like this, and he felt thankful for what lay so close to Sam’s hand.
He was at a point where the plank walk wound between two huge boulders, a spot that was all darkness, when he heard, just behind him, a quick, light patter of feet. Turning, instinctively, he saw a shape loom out of the fog, slight, straight and agile, with features muffled and hat pulled low. There were no words.
“What do you want?” he said sharply.
The answer came from an arm that swung viciously. He felt a crushing shock over his temple, saw a myriad of lights that flickered for an instant ere they died, then all became black and he toppled forward on his face.
HE CAME to himself in the mill hospital, a long time later, with a dull ache in his head, and stared uncomprehendingly at the bare walls. At first he was conscious, only, of the steady rattle of rain on the shingled roof, rain that fell in sheets, so that through the window one could see only a vertical veil that completely obscured the rest of the world. The noise of it rather soothed him, and he slid off into a series of chaotic dreams in which Kyashi, Sidney and Lois were grotesquely mingled. When again he woke, his head felt clearer. A nurse, standing at the bedside was looking down at him.
“You are better?”
“Yes.” His voice was strange and weak to his own ears.
“It was a near thing, but the operation pulled you through.”
“A bit of bone was crushed in, and you were trepanned to relieve the pressure.”
“Oh,” he said, uncertainly. “How long have I been here?”
“Three days, but there’s nothing to worry about now.”
He turned that over in his struggling brain. Three days? The last thing he remembered was that figure looming up through the fog. And it looked like Kyashi’s figure.
“Was anything discovered? I mean who did it.”
“No-not yet. Don’t think about it. You’ve had a lot of visitors. Miss Cartright has been here several times a day, and Mr. Berry, and that man Kyashi. He’s been coming often.”
“Yes, and very upset. I never saw a Jap show as much concern, even about one of his own people. Try and sleep again. You can see your friends, soon.”
Silence—but no sleep! Was Kyashi pretending to be a friend? The riddle grew larger till Duncan was finally engulfed. Was this remorse, actuated perhaps by memories of Oxford days? Or was it all a mistake—or jealousy? But how could a Jap—a yellow man—be jealous of one’s ordinary civility to a white girl? That was ridiculous! Or had the face at the window not been Kyashi’s at all. He battled with this, and, turning on his side, saw several letters on his small table. Fingering them, weakly, he recognized Lois’ writing and that of Sarah Bannister. Another seemed to be from Bunny. Somehow, he was not interested in these letters, anticipating fairly well what they would contain. But he did look forward to his visitors.
Berry came in a little later, rather grave and obviously much relieved.
“Don’t talk,” he said, “I’ll do it. You’re wondering what happened, or rather why it happened. I. W. W. of course but I don’t see the object of it. Miss Brooks and I were watching Kyashi at the big—”
“Kyashi?” put in Duncan.
“Sure—why not? He was assembling the automatic control, and we’d been there for half an hour. Miss Brooks hadn’t got her feet wet over the pumps, wasn’t worrying about you two, and was mighty interested. Then the night foreman told me you’d been picked up outside the bungalow with your head stove in.”
“What time was that?”
Duncan took a long breath. So, it was not Kyashi after all, nor had it been the Jap’s face at the window. Then the figure of Hitchen presented itself, slight, straight and agile. He frowned a little, trying to weave things together, and Berry watched him intently.
“I can’t act because I’ve no evidence. Anything or anyone occur to you? That’s the only question I’m going to ask today.”
“Find out about a man called Hitchin.”
“Camp No. 1?”
Berry went into the next room for a few moments, and came back, his face grim.
“Hitchin left on the south-bound steamer the day before yesterday. I’ve wired Vancouver to keep him spotted. Now forget that end of it. I had a mind to open those letters and cable your people, but didn’t want to scare them, so waited twenty-four hours. Then, it didn’t seem necessary. Lie still, and you’ll be about soon. I’ll send you something to read to-morrow, or, if you’d sooner,” here he grinned understandingly, “I’ll send Miss Cartright. She acts as though she was responsible for this.”
Duncan grinned back though it hurt a good deal. “I’ll leave that to you.”
Sydney came, a little later, when the rain had ceased, and sunlight was struggling wanly through the succeeding mist. At sight of her, he felt oddly contented. The girl to whom he was promised was, perhaps, even now on the Atlantic, but for the immediate present that made surprisingly little difference. Sydney supplied just the touch he, unaccountably needed. She hesitated, then came forward and looked down at him, he thought, rather nervously.
“I’m quite all right,” he assured her, “and sorry to be such a nuisance.”
“Please don’t. I’ve been awfully anxious. How is the head?”
“I’ll be up in no time, they tell me. Nothing inside to hurt, you know.”
“But you were unconscious for nearly three days. I begged Mr. Berry to cable to England, to Mr. Wragge, but he waited and didn’t. Was that right?”
“Perfectly. I’m very glad he didn’t.”
“Have you no idea who it was?”
“I thought so, but was wrong. I must have been taken for some one else.”
“Were you robbed?”
“Never thought of that. I hadn’t much, nothing, in fact, except a watch and cigarette case.”
Sydney seemed troubled, and went in search of the nurse. She came back shaking her head.
“Not in your pockets when you were brought here.”
He was silent for a moment, then felt a strange sense of relief. The thing had simmered down to assault and robbery, and the face at the window now appeared less menacing. He had been using the case at that moment.
“That explains a good deal,” he said. “But I’m afraid they’re gone now.”
“It was awfully dark that night, and the man must have waited for you.” She made a gesture, and smiled at him bravely. “And now I’ve been doing exactly what I was told to avoid.”
“Talk about it at all. We want you to come to the bungalow as soon as you can be moved.”
He gave a quick look of pleasure. “It’s awfully good of you.”
“We wouldn’t dream of anything else, and my aunt is a splendid nurse.”
That sobered him a little. But, though Miss Brooks was undoubtedly capable, that angle of it seemed unimportant. He consoled himself with the reflection that all nurses must have occasional relief.
“Everything all right at the mill?”
She nodded. “That little Jap, your foreman, took it awfully hard when you were found. He must like you, and I suppose Oxford makes a lot of difference. It’s so unusual for them to be interested in anyone not of their own race.”
She sat looking at him with an odd expression, suggesting, in a fashion, that now they knew each other much better than before. She felt—she could not explain why—somehow accountable for his injury. Berry had laughed at the idea, but, in private, he shook his head and confessed to being temporarily baffled. There was not a more inoffensive man in Ocean Bay. What could Hitchin and that lot have against young Seymour? But, however unfortunate, the pressure of work was such that the matter could not occupy him for long.
And Sydney? She did know more about the Englishman, now, so much more that she had come to see him, wondering if she could conceal the extent of her knowledge. She had never been meant to know, and she honored him for that. But, the manner in which the discovery had been made was such that her lips were sealed. How strange that it should be so difficult to put aside the wandering talk of an unconscious man!
“I’ll bring you something to read in the morning,” she said, “and the nurse will let me know if you want anything. The doctor thinks you can be moved in three days.” Her glance rested on the letters beside him, and she noted a woman’s writing. “But you haven’t read these.”
What he wanted to say was that he would like her to read them to him. He had reached the point where he doubted if Lois really cared, and Sydney would be able to tell by that letter whether she cared or not. But, he reflected, there was no reason why she should be interested in Lois.
“One is from my aunt—you’d like her: another from a pal called ‘Bunny’— you’d like him—and the other from Lois Chester who is coming here.”
“And I wouldn’t like her,” put in Sydney swiftly.
“Perhaps—I don’t know. She may be more popular with men than girls.”
Sydney began to feel exploratory. “Is she a great friend of Mr. Wragge’s?”
He made a grimace, but it was not that of a man whose feelings are injured.
“I don’t know.”
“You’ll be getting about when they arrive, won’t you?”
“I hope so, or I won’t look much like a pioneer.”
“I wouldn’t worry much what you look like,” she said gently. “Now, if I don’t go I’ll be turned out. Nurse has been at the door three times already.”
She gave his limp palm a firm pressure. There was life in her touch, and a rare quality of strength. Then, he had a fleeting idea that her face had a slight expression of loneliness. But could a girl like this ever be lonely?
“You’ll come again?” he asked gratefully.
He lay very still for some time, with no further effort to patch things together, but thankful, very thankful, for this last half-hour. Understanding—that was what Sydney had. Were the visit from Lois, it would have been more professional. She would have smoothed his pillow, dabbed his cheek with a cool kiss and told him that on no account must he get excited or attempt to do anything.
And she would not have been so oblivious of herself at every moment. Compared to her sort of a kiss, the pressure: of Sydney’s brown fingers seemed preferable. It meant more of the sort of thing an injured man wanted. But, again, a girl of her type would probably have done that for anyone. What an imaginative ass he was!
Then, instinctively, he combatted this idea and went to sleep in the process.
CLEAR daylight when he woke, and, on the table beside him, something that had not been there the day before.
An oblong, shallow dish of old, red lacquer, half filled with sea water. In it was arranged a Japanese water garden with colored pebbles of agate, forming the shore of a miniature ocean, a few square inches of fine soft grass—such as never grew in British Columbia—and one pigmy tree. This stunted, twisted trunk expressed a century of age, and its dark Lilliputian branches, overhung, had a strange and arresting symmetry. None but an Oriental could have arranged this fairy setting, none but those of Nippon might thus set forth the delicate art of their country. The thing was quite perfect, and in an extraordinary way spoke of distance and spaciousness. Duncan examined it with a sharp and growing admiration.
“Kyashi brought it in at midnight while you were asleep,” said the nurse, who was vastly interested also. “It seems he’s well known for that sort of thing, and about half the Japs in Ocean Bay have asked to see it. He says the tree brings long life, and the way the stones are arranged means future success.”
Duncan felt both puzzled and touched. “It’s awfully good of him. When is he coming again?”
“At noon, I think. He’s got double work now, till the mill starts, and it’s hard to get away. A man was hurt last night, and is in another room here—the Scotch engineer who was working on the same machine.”
“The paper making?”
“I suppose so—they didn’t tell me—anyway, it’s very important. Here’s Mr. Berry now—ask him.”
Berry came in his chin thrust out, his face very thoughtful. He had the manner of one who is determined not to be beaten. He nodded to Duncan.
“How are you?”
“Much better, thanks.”
“You look it. Had a good sleep?”
“Hurt you to talk—or think? I’ve a reason for asking.”
“Not in the least. What has happened?’
Berry sat down beside the bed, and regarded the water garden with reflective eyes.
“Who brought that?”
“No, I was asleep.”
“That tree is worth a hundred dollars. What’s the big idea?”
“I don’t know, unless it’s his particular way of sending good wishes.”
Berry put his head a little on one side. “I don’t see it. There’s something more behind it. Matter of fact it’s Kyashi I want to talk about.”
“Afraid I can’t tell you much, except—’
“That night I was talking to Miss Cartright, after you left, I saw a face at the window.”
“Which window?” The voice was very sharp.
“The west one. The face was close against the glass. I could only make out the eyes, and they were Oriental. I’m sure of that. I wondered how I could get word to you at once, but couldn’t telephone the works without frightening Miss Cartright. I couldn’t leave her alone, so asked Sam to look after her, searched round the house, found nothing, and started for the mill. You remember how thick the fog was.”
Duncan told him the rest, which was not much.
“At first, I thought it was Kyashi, but you had been with him from ten till ten thirty. That lets him out. I told you about Hitchen, but the eyes weren’t his at the window. You say he’s gone?”
“Yes, and a man called Bob, and a couple more.”
“Well, they did it properly—and robbed me. Now I can imagine why.”
Duncan told him everything from start to finish.
“You see,” he concluded, “I argued that if I just sat tight and said nothing I might pick up something that would be useful to you. And they were waiting for news from me. But, why should they have told me to turn over anything I got to Kyashi? Is he in with that lot?”
Berry reflected for a moment. “I’ve a glimmer of light, but may be all wrong. Suppose,” here he spoke very slowly, “suppose that Kyashi let them think so for purposes of his own, though it beats me what that can be.” He shook his head. “No, that’s no good, considering what’s happened now.”
“You mean to Mackenzie?”
“How did you know?”
“The nurse told me.”
“Yes, it’s Mackenzie. He and the Jap were together, one as good as the other, and mighty careful, because they knew the mill couldn’t start without that machine. Last night, a cylinder fell on Mackenzie’s head and nearly killed him. It needn’t have happened, and no one seems to know why it did happen. Net result is that the whole thing rests with Kyashi. He has the say whether we get moving on the twenty-third or not.”
Duncan was now completely absorbed. ‘‘Well?” he said tensely.
"If the Jap was planning to control the situation, could he have planned it better. Mac is an experienced man. He’s been erecting these machines all his life. I’m forced to think that Kyashi is on the wrong side of the fence. I can’t afford to sack him now, so am just playing a game of my own.”
“What if you didn’t start up on the twenty-third? Is it so important?”
“Yes—and no. I hate to give an undertaking, then make excuses. And with this English party coming out, it would give the wrong impression. But, if the machine is wrecked, we won’t start for months. That’s what I have to guard against. I suppose you couldn’t get anything out of him by playing old times at Oxford?”
“I tried that ground once, but it didn’t touch him. Oxford doesn’t mean what it does to me.”
Berry’s eyes roved to the water garden. “
Look at that—made by an artist who is erecting most complicated machinery, who knows this coast like the palm of his hand, and—”
“I forgot something. I saw him one night with another Jap, who bowed as though to a king when they parted.”
“It doesn’t surprise me — nothing would, now. If you watch these fellows, you’ll see they’ve got something that most of us haven’t, and stick to it with their mouths shut. Every bit of information they get has its reason. Offered to buy your property, too, didn’t he?”
“Well, a man who can give away a hundred-year old miniature cypress can afford to. But, don’t trouble your head about this. Your job is to get well, and I want you on your hind legs when your friends get here.”
“I will be, before then.”
“Hope so. Coming up to the bungalow?”
“Miss Cartright asked me. It’s awfully kind.”
Berry smiled. “I’m sort of glad Miss Chester is coming out. There’d be hell to pay with the Cartright Estate if anything else happened. And Miss Brooks is what you might call stiffbacked at times.”
To be Continued